I am a stepmother and mother of a daughter who died of SIDS in 2003, and had an ectopic pregnancy in 2004. I have also struggled with secondary infertility since my daughter’s death. Despite this tragedy and challenges, I have went on to get my PhD and start a small press.
One of the challenges I have had to face in terms of infertility is the constant grieving process that resets itself every month. Much of this grieving has to do with hope, in which I have wanted to get pregnant so much means the end of each cycle is when my hopes seem futile. Despite wanting to get pregnant, my hopes have no power.
Two years ago, I decided to edit and publish an anthology on motherhood and loss called Joy, Interrupted. Many of the contributions were about infertility. Reading about other women’s experiences with their hopes being dashed every month has been healing for me. Seeing my infertility in the context of the universal theme of motherhood and loss has helped me accepted reality as it is, rather than what I hope for. I believe hope has its place, but healing means accepting the disappointments and appreciating what you have, rather than dwelling on what you have lost.
I used to pray that I would get pregnant. Overcoming my infertility was my overwhelming goal, and it intruded on my daily life. This longing strained my relationship with my husband, who felt helpless when I mourned every month. This longing put a shadow on my daily life, making my other goals seem less important. I felt so helpless, like a failure, that I could not feel proud of my other successes. My joy was interrupted, and I didn’t know if I would ever get it back.Infertility is a constant grieving process that resets itself every month.Click To Tweet
Part of the source of pain I struggled with is my equating having a child with the only way I could feel true joy. The most joy I have ever had in life was having my daughter. So, wanting to have a child has been the longing for getting back that joy, and so every moment sense has paled in comparison. Thus, an important part of my grieving process and accepting life as it is has been learning to find joys in other ways. My identity and happiness are no longer contingent on having a child. I have found other foundations for leading a fulfilling life.
Editing Joy, Interrupted has been an important part of my healing. Seeing others express similar hopes and these hopes being dashed helped me process my own grief. I became more aware of how my longing was affecting my love through the insight in the pieces in the anthology.
Also, I became more aware of losses that occur even when a child doesn’t die. I had a romanticized idea of motherhood because I hadn’t seen my daughter grow up. She died before I ever had the chance to feel disappointment, to feel a sense of a loss of identity in being a mother, or ever feeling sad when she grew up and was no longer my baby. I think when we struggle with infertility we also tend to romanticize motherhood. Our longings don’t take in account the losses we will feel in the mothering process. We are so focused on the getting pregnant and having a baby part of mothering. We fantasize about motherhood and our longings are linked to this fantasy.
So, seeing different types of losses that often come with motherhood has helped me accept what is, rather than be stuck on what I have lost and what I don’t have. I still feel hope every month, but I am no longer as crushed when and if the plus line doesn’t show up on the stick. I am getting my joy back and I am learning to live with infertility. Infertility no longer defines my life.