By Alexis Brannan, MBB Team Member
Infertility was the most emotionally challenging experience of my life.
I say this not to evoke pity but to underline and emphasize the impact this kind of pain can have on a human.
I learned so much about fertility and how we treat women in our medical system, how biologically raw the desire to have children can be, how hard I am on myself, and how to shift negative self-talk.
I also learned about hope, asking for help, and understanding what surrender can feel like.
I know that if my story only helps one person, it’s well worth it. This is what I learned, and it’s the only story about infertility I can tell.
I spent 2.5 years trying to get pregnant. I was 34 when my husband (then fiancé) and I decided we would try. He had to get a vasectomy reversal. He had already had 4 kids before he hit 30, so he had closed the door on more at some point along the way.
I was undeterred and believed that regardless of this minor detail, we would have no trouble getting pregnant. I had spent almost 20 years actively preventing unwanted pregnancy and somehow felt that I now deserved to have what I had waited so patiently and responsibly for. I felt that this was and should be easy. I had signed up to be a stepmom. I was raising someone else’s children! I had gotten sober! I was a yoga teacher! This body was such a temple, and I deserved this baby.
This is the first thing I learned about infertility: it has nothing to do with what kind of person you are, how kind, or how giving you are. Biology is in charge, and you are not gifted with a baby for good behavior.
This belief that I was “good enough” and had waited long enough to get pregnant was a thought that haunted me throughout my journey. When we were given an “unexplained infertility” diagnosis, my critical self-talk made me miserable. I felt that it was my fault, morally, that I was not pregnant. It was because I had spent my 20s drinking. It was because I waited until I was 35 to get married. I was because, I don’t know, I had dated the wrong people or because I hadn’t worked out enough. I felt like I was being punished. My rational mind would tell me otherwise, but that wasn’t the voice I was listening to.
There is nothing fair about fertility. My husband’s ex, my friends, my coworkers…it felt like everyone was getting pregnant ON ACCIDENT. “We weren’t even trying” was a phrase that made me cry, especially as time went on.
I cried every month when I got my period. A week of “scheduled intercourse,” followed by 2 weeks of waiting and hoping, and then a big no, and then this idea that I needed to quickly prepare for the cycle all over again. After about 18 months of this, I dreaded having to try again, had lost all interest in sex, and felt like I was spending most of my time grieving.
The more months that passed, the darker my thoughts became. The thought at the bottom of that dark hole? That I would never be a mom.
As I write this, it sounds dramatic. It was. My opinion is that if anyone tries to tell you it’s not awful, they are not helping you, and you don’t need to listen to them. You are grieving. Even if you’re only 3 months into trying, you thought I was going to be easy, and it turns out it’s incredibly difficult.
If this essay was depressing, you accurately picked up on how I felt during my journey. I wish I could say it wasn’t that bad. But it’s hard, and it will change you. If you’re reading this, and you’re on this journey, please, know how strong this has made you. Find your people. Ask for help. Make caring for yourself your absolute first priority when you can.
As I write this, my one-year-old daughter is sleeping peacefully in her room. We hit the jackpot on our first round of IVF. Everyone’s story will be different, but I hope that knowing that I made it through offers you some light, and makes you feel less alone.