Infertility, grief and acceptance… I was wrong. Maybe time does heal?

I’ve had some thoughts churning around in my brain for a while now, and I wanted to try and crystallise them by writing them down. I don’t know if I will be able to express them adequately – they feel rather like wispy vapours drifting around on the edges of my brain, and I fear I might not be able to gather them into a coherent concept. But let me try.

These thoughts started with my own experience of finding myself in a better place this year, despite the fact that I still do not have a baby in my arms. I said for a long time that the worst thing about infertility was that it just got worse and worse over time. It wasn’t like a once-off traumatic event where, despite the devastation of the event, time would pass and with it would come healing. Infertility felt like a bad event that just kept happening over and over again – like being caught in some kind of warped Ground Hog Day where time did not heal but rather, the more time passed, the worse things got. However, my own journey has shown me that this is not necessarily the case. From a personal perspective, my husband and I have moved beyond the absolute devastation of our miscarriage last year, into a space where, through giving up on using my own eggs, we have been able to find a new sense of hope. This has been an interesting experience for me. If you had asked me a year, or two years ago, how I would feel about using donor eggs, I would never have anticipated feeling relief, or being able to view it as a positive experience. I remember vividly sitting in our previous fertility clinic on Sunday 23 February 2013 for our last attempt at Artificial lnsemination. I remember the date because it is my birthday and I was convinced that this amazing alignment of the universe’s timing would result in a take-home baby. We were sitting waiting for our sperm to be processed and we got chatting to a young couple next to us about why we were all there. They had recently received the diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve and I remember feeling absolutely horrified for them. I remember walking out the clinic, turning to my husband and saying, ‘thank God that is not us’. Famous last words. If anyone had asked me on that day, how I would feel about using donor eggs, I would have reacted with absolute shock and horror. I could not have imagined a future self that would not only feel OK about using donor eggs, but who would feel relieved and hopeful. I guess what I’m saying is that I was wrong. Time does heal. Events may get worse and you may not have a baby in your arms, but somehow if you keep moving forward, the darkness can lift. You may even find yourself embracing options that might at one point have felt unimaginable.

These thoughts extend to my experience of other ladies who I have met through blogging. Recently I have been struck by the enormous courage of the women whose blogs I read and who I feel have become my virtual friends over the past months. There are women here who have suffered unspeakable losses – physical losses, like the loss of their babies, due to miscarriage or pre-term delivery. And then there are women who have not been able to get pregnant at all and so have suffered the loss of hopes and dreams, the absolute heartache of unchosen childlessness. These women have been through hell and back. There have been days where they have cried, wailed, suffered, raged and questioned. But over time, I have witnessed them working through these emotions…. and coming out the other side. Certainly not unscathed, definitely not unchanged… but they’ve made it. Some have made it with babies in their arms, some have not. Some have had their own biological children through sacrifice and perseverance and enormous amounts of courage. Some have been equally courageous by admitting that their dreams for a biological child are over and they have found a new way forward – whether (like myself) through egg donation, sperm donation, adoption, surrogacy or choosing to remain childless. For each of these women, the journey has been different and the way through the darkness is unique for everyone. For some women, the journey is circular – finding a way forward and reaching a point of acceptance and then circling back again into the darkness due to some kind of change, be it external or internal triggers. I fully accept that although I have found renewed hope, I may very well circle back into despair depending on what happens next. But I do hope that I remember this newfound perspective which is:

1. Time does heal. Emotions evolve and the storm does pass. There is no way of knowing how long the storm will last, how long it will take to pass, or what it will take to get through it. But trust that, Somehow. It. Will. Pass.

2. The storms make us stronger, and I truly believe that we end up better people and better parents as a result of the challenges we have faced. In trying to make sense of some of these thoughts I turned to the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, whose work with the dying has helped inform a lot of understanding into the experiences of loss in more general terms. I read a beautiful quote that made me think of many people I know in real life, but also a lot of the ladies I have come to know in cyberspace. I’ll end with it:

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