Infertility has taught me many things. On good days, it has taught me patience, strength, and self-loyalty; on bad days, it has relegated me to fear, doubt, and insecurity. Infertility is a consuming captor, and there are never days anymore when I escape it. I find I am in a continual state of self-preservation. I have become the master of avoiding child-rearing discussions; I have become the Houdini of exiting a room when a pregnant woman enters. I wish I could say I’m proud of these skills, but I’m not, and I wish I didn’t have to employ them. I do, however, realize their necessity in this world that has become my life.

When we first started trying to conceive, in January of 2018, I allowed myself daydreams. The nursery would be Winnie-the-Pooh themed; the cradle would fit best along that wall. I would play Beethoven in early development, and I would teach the importance of being kind. But as the months passed, and menstrual cycles came and went.

The dreams were still there, carefully guarded in my heart, but I didn’t visit them as often. I entered bargaining stages. If I could get pregnant now, I would forget these sorrows and first attempts. I battled denial and anger, then that resolve changed too. I went from being 27 to 28 to 29. Birthdays and holidays passed without my being a mother. Outsiders were everywhere, and they incorrectly took my husband and me to be “the strange couple who doesn’t want kids.”

What outsiders don’t understand about infertility is that it is a grief that thrives on what never was. It is led by nothing; and it is this void that drives everything. It is fear of having lived an insignificant life, of being deprived of unconditional love towards someone you created and raised, of being alone. It is a grief of what isn’t.

This past fall I spent 12 nights injecting myself with hormones followed by morning monitoring. My ovaries were critiqued on how well they performed. I had never thought to judge an organ on its job before, but here I was. I was told I was a “delayed responder;” I was jokingly instructed to “pep talk” my ovaries to encourage follicular growth. Eventually, I went through my first FET, which resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. My first pregnancy became a nightmare draped in despair and cloaked with loss. I lost the misguided embryo.

I have learned to accept this heartbreak as my own. Previously, I didn’t want it. I still don’t. If I could have a baby, I used to believe I could discard these years from my mind, but I can’t any longer. I have changed too much. My husband and I accept this heartbreak as distinctly ours. I am now more self-sufficient. I rely on daily exercise, meditation, and prayer to provide me with measures of calm. I have become more and not less, and I will #changetheconversation.

Susanna A.