Three and half years ago my husband and I were in a wonderful place, we had just bought a new house that we were renovating, we both had great jobs and hot on the heels of my 29th birthday we decided that we were ready to start a family. The jubilation continued as we took our first pregnancy test after only a month of trying and saw two pink lines confirming what I had suspected; that we were pregnant.
Eight weeks later that jubilation seemed like a distant dream, after a few anxious days of spotting, my doctor sent me for an ultra sound, suggesting that I had probably miscarried. The ultra sound nurse broke the news to me as I looked at the screen in tears. My husband ran 3 blocks through the city to meet me and we embraced shaking and shocked.
That day started a fateful journey through something I never thought I would experience, infertility. After a few months to recover from the miscarriage we started trying again and three and half years down the track we are yet to have another pregnancy. In a frenzy of despair and desperation I read every book on getting pregnant, we cleaned up our diets, took herbs, got pinned with acupuncture needles and even tried a course of assisted reproductive therapy last year. But each month we had a glorious high of hopes and dreams only to be crushed when my periods came over and over again.
For part of this time I was fortunate to have a friend who was going through the same thing, she lives in Italy but we emailed and talked on the phone about our frustrations and fears. When she fell pregnant early last year I began to feel like the only women in the world who couldn't have a baby and there seemed to be pregnant women and cute babies around every corner to remind me of the fact. It was after this that I just melted out my life. Work lost all its meaning and I spent my days getting through them and hoping that I wouldn't cry, my relationship with my husband was frayed, I stopped seeing friends and family out of a strange feeling of shame and a constant fear that someone would announce that they were pregnant.
At my lowest point my husband told me that a friend of ours was pregnant, she was forty and wasn't even trying so the news was like a stab in the heart. We were in the middle of Woolworths and I started sobbing as we stood at the checkout. It was shortly after this that I decided that I needed help and I saw my doctor and a counselor and went on anti-depressants. I have always felt very ambivalent about taking drugs I rarely even took a Panadol but I felt like my life and emotions were so out of control that I had no other option.
Thankfully I also discovered, an online infertility forum where I could chat with other women going through same thing. I set up a profile, made friends and starting connecting with women all around the world who were struggling with infertility. It was incredible to talk with these women and hear their stories and experiences; it made me feel like I was part of a community and not alone on my journey. Inspired by the women I met, I started blogging as a way to express my feelings and to have a creative outlet to express what I was going through. I was determined that whether I had a baby or not, I was not going to waste this experience, that it was going to bring some meaning to my life even if I created that meaning myself. Infertility can feel like such a random, senseless experience and this is often what it make is it so sad and difficult to deal with.
Over the last nine months I have been on a journey of healing; an exploration to find out how to feel better and deal with this sucker called infertility and come out the other side with my sanity in tact. My focus has been on dealing with the mental and emotional turmoil and anguish that infertility can bring, below is a culmination of everything I have discovered along the way:
- Watch your language and what you say to yourself. I have actually renamed infertility 'pre-fertility' on my site because infertility just sounds so final and draining.
- Join online communities, forums and chat rooms about infertility, they provide a great outlet for expressing your feelings, hearing about other peoples stories and realising that you are not alone.
- Find a creative outlet that you can invest yourself in, for me it was writing but it can be anything from scrapbooking to volunteering. It just needs to be something you enjoy.
- A counselor gave me the best piece of advice I have heard "make sure that everything else in your life is perfect, otherwise infertility can sour everything". If you hate your job look for another one, if you have some weight to lose get onto it. Sorting everything else out gives you a sense of control and positive movement in other areas of your life.
- Read about other women who have experienced infertility, their insights have provided me with guidance and hope, there is a reading list on my site.
- Take up meditation or learn relaxation exercises and practice them daily so that on those particularly hard days they are second nature.
- Talk to your partner, family or friends, although this can be a very personal journey it helps to have someone who can give you a big hug and hear your feelings.
- Join a support group, although talking to strangers about your intimate problems might seem like a scary step, there is no substitute for talking to people who are experiencing the same things you are.
- Don't be afraid to see your doctor or speak to a professional counselor you don't have to deal with things on your own.
- Plan ahead and make sure your two-week-waits are filled with activities, date nights and gatherings with friends.
- Most importantly try not to put any other area of your life on hold in anticipation of a pregnancy. Stress is one of the biggest impacts to fertility and having your life in a holding pattern only compounds that stress.
Studies have found that infertility can be as stressful as having cancer; this really surprised me considering how little it is truthfully and openly talked about. For me it has been a life-changing journey and I can honestly say that although I have been to hell and back it has been for the better. I have learnt a lot about myself; my relationship with my husband and family has gotten stronger and I have been able to harness this experience as a way of helping and connecting with other people.
I hope your own journey brings you a much hoped for baby and that this information brings you some comfort along the way.
Author: Tanya Demello is a blogger living and working in the Illawarra. She runs an Infertility Support Group every 2nd Wednesday of the month. For more information you can contact Tanya on 0409 668 560 or visit her blog www.fertilehealing.com