A trip to the mall. A stop at the grocery store. A dinner out. Simple, every day tasks.
Unless you struggle with infertility.
Then these “simple” activities can turn into painful and challenging events. And sometimes even make you feel shameful.
I’m not just saying this as someone who has heard a lot about infertility or has friends that have dealt with it.
I’ve been there. Really been there. I’ve had to say no to invites from friends that were expecting because I just couldn’t be around them. I’ve had to try to put a smile on my face while listening to someone talk about how they were upset that they found out they got pregnant again without trying. I’ve had to excuse myself from conversations about how overjoyed someone is to be done having kids.
In addition to the hurt I’ve also felt the shame. The shame of being different and feeling like I don’t fit in. The shame of having a body that doesn’t work right. The shame of not feeling like a true woman.
But there is one more aspect of my struggle with infertility that has made me feel the most shame. The path I chose to deal with it.
In 2006 I had my first appointment with my endocrinologist. It led me down a path of a variety of fertility drugs and treatments. After various attempts and a diagnosis of both male and female factor infertility, my husband and I proceeded with in-vitro fertilization.
We were very blessed that I got pregnant on the first try. And now I have a beautiful, smart, creative little girl who just turned 5.
But the journey was far from over. In early 2010 I was first starting to learn about real food and natural health…while in the midst of trying for another child. I had already been through two failed attempts via IVF. And was in the middle of a third.
As I learned more and more about real food I became more and more hopeful. Maybe I could heal my body and restore my fertility without all of the medications and procedures. Maybe.
I went on to do 3 more IVF transfers. And after a lot of heart-break and physical endurance I now have a wonderful son who is just about to turn 2.
I was overjoyed when I got to this point. I was opening up and sharing my story in hopes of giving others hope. But I didn’t expect what came from sharing my story…more shame.
In the world of real food and natural health, saying that you conceived via IVF is kind of like saying you feed your kids fast food and candy bars every day for lunch. I got some nasty remarks and questions. How could I promote a natural lifestyle and support “unnatural” fertility treatments at the same time?
I’ve thought and prayed about it a lot. I’ve felt the shame…and I’ve let go of the shame.
Although I fully support natural means of improving fertility and health, I also know that this was my path. I started my journey with infertility before I even knew what real food was. I’ve also learned that real food doesn’t always work. It really can help most of the time. But sometimes no matter how hard you try there are things that you can’t change.
No matter how many raw egg yolks and plates of liver I eat, no matter how much raw milk I drink, no matter how many detox baths I take, no matter how many supplements or vitamins or herbs I take, no matter how much yoga I do or how much sleep I get…my fertility status will not likely change.
I have a condition called polyfollicular ovaries. And to this day I’ve never heard of any real food remedy for it. I’ve never found any research that explains what causes this or how to treat it (aside from working around it with IVF). I don’t know what hormones control it. The only solution I know of is time…some day when my egg supply diminishes my body will hopefully work normally. It could be tomorrow. It could be when I’m 45.
But I still deserve to be a mother. God created my children and gave them to me. Not a doctor. Not a pill.
I don’t know what is going on inside my body. But I do know that I don’t have to be ashamed. This is the way God made me. I didn’t cause this. I’m not eating the wrong food. I’m not lacking in effort to give my body the nourishment it needs. I am fully supportive of natural fertility, health and healing. I strive each day to keep my own family healthy.
But I also know that sometimes things don’t go the way we would like. And sometimes we have to let go of our ideal situation.
If you’ve struggled with infertility please don’t be ashamed. You are still just as complete and worthy as any other woman. No matter what road you’ve been down know that you are right where you need to be. Be kind to yourself. Accept yourself. Let go of the shame.
This is National Infertility Awareness Week. Get informed. Be aware. Never be ashamed or make anyone else feel ashamed.