The Real Battle of Infertility (And How I’m Winning)

infertilityHi, I’m Brooke. And I’m the infertile friend.

It sounds strange saying that. I have 3 beautiful healthy kids. But they took a long time to get here. Of the 13 years I’ve been married, 6 of those years have been spent praying for a baby.

Those who struggle with infertility each have a unique story. For example, I’ve never experienced IVF. In fact, I’ve never been told something was wrong with my body, making it impossible for me to get pregnant. (Although that comes with its own frustrations.) There are definitely parts of infertility that I haven’t dealt with. And although you may say some have it easier and some have it harder, that doesn’t make your pain less real than mine, or my pain less real than my neighbor’s.

BUT–some of your pain…I have felt. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on tests and procedures. I’ve charted my cycles to the point I can almost tell you the exact hour I’m ovulating. I’ve watched as my friends and family members get pregnant, and I can’t. Baby showers and baby announcements in the mail felt like a personal insult. And I have asked that ever-damaging question “WHY is this happening to me?” So. Many. Times.

im-sorry-i-spent-your-entire-college-fund-trying-to-conceive-you-e5082 When you struggle with infertility, everyone has the answer. “Try this pill!” “Drink this water!” “Take this herb!” “Eat this/Don’t eat this!” And my personal favorite—“Just relax! Don’t think about it!” With that first baby I was convinced I would only get pregnant if I were in the desert during a full moon, drinking cactus juice and meditating to understand my chakra while acupuncture was performed on my abdomen.

But over the years I’ve learned some important things about being the infertile friend. I share these not to add to your list of “unsolicited advice”—heaven knows you don’t need that. Nor do I share these to make light of the heartache you carry. I share because having experienced it myself, AND having watched so many other go through the same thing, I’ve discovered the REAL battle of infertility.

The real battle isn’t about children. It’s about choices.

Infertility can destroy us in some pretty serious ways, but how we choose to react to the struggle can help us survive the storm. Let me explain.

1)    Sharing is caring. I remember during my first infertility experience, I was a wreck of emotions. Anger and sadness, yes. Frustrated, impatient, confused, yes. But a big part of me felt ashamed. Having babies was something women did—our bodies were designed to do this. Clearly I must have done something wrong, eaten too many cinnamon rolls or something. So I was silent about our struggles for a long time. I remember the moment I decided embarrassment was no longer a feeling I wanted to have. I decided to share my story. I was shocked at the women coming out of the woodwork with similar situations. I made so many friends, had so many heartfelt chats, and cried with so many couples. It was HEALING. Granted, I’m not a private person. But even if you’re not ready to share it with the world, find someone you CAN share this with. The burden will seem lighter.

I choose to share.

2)    Sad/Glad is a feeling. During my latest infertility run both of my sisters AND Whitney got pregnant. They are three of my very best friends so of course I was thrilled for all of them. But I also sobbed. And that’s OK, it’s going to hurt, but it’s also so good to be happy for others. I would hate for my situation to ruin someone else’s happiness. So I will have a good cry. But after that I will throw showers, and buy baby blankets, and sit out their labor with them. Because I am crazy glad for new babies, and I want to be a part of their happiness.

I choose to be sad/glad and not feel guilty about it.

3)    I don’t have to be offended. I remember after 2 years of trying for my first I hit a bit of a breaking point. We had just met with an infertility specialist and had gone over the cost of IVF. I was so discouraged. We had already dropped a TON of money and had zero answers. For that week I didn’t want to try anymore. So I bought a new rug for my kitchen—a small one that cost me $15. A friend came over that night, saw the new rug and said, “Oh you have money for a new rug but not enough for IVF?” I didn’t know whether I should swear at her or start crying so I sat there with my mouth open, saying nothing. Add that experience to the many other comments that will sound familiar—“you need to pray harder,” “you could always adopt,” “maybe you and your husband need to make some changes in your marriage first,” “should you be eating that?”…

Look, people say dumb things. Heaven knows I have said hundreds of dumb things. So I’ve learned to have compassion for them. Most of the time they don’t know what to say, so they blurt out whatever’s on the tip of their tongue. I’m sure they have moments in the middle of the night, waking up with pits in their stomach as they recall that comment. I’m sure that happens because I’ve had moments like that. Forgive them. They’re not always trying to hurt you.

I choose not to be offended.

pregnancy_test

4)    I don’t have to be totally consumed by infertility, although the hardest part of that test is preventing it from doing that very thing. The advice I hated the most, “Just relax” has a sliver of truth. Not because it will get you a baby, but because it can prevent infertility from destroying you. I’ve seen it ruin women, marriages, testimonies, and faith. This is the real battle- holding tightly to those blessings while pushing through an infertile storm. Sharing our pain, embracing a wide spectrum of emotions, and not taking offense all take great strength and endurance, but we can be so much more when it ends. This challenge is not meant to destroy us– we must fight against bitterness, anger, jealousy, and faithlessness. The fight to stay afloat is worth it.

I choose to fight.

Lastly, to those of you who love the infertile friend—don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. I for one, appreciate it. I’ll let you know if it’s too painful, but for the most part, it’s nice to know that you think about me, and care enough to remember my struggle. I appreciate you telling me about your pregnancy before you tell Instagram. Don’t worry if it makes me a little sad. Tears dry and underneath those tears I’m so happy for you.

Although I would certainly pass this trial up if given the chance, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. Infertility doesn’t define me, and it hasn’t destroyed me.

Hi, I’m Brooke. And I’m the happy, strong, and victorious infertile friend.

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  • Erin - Thank you for your vulnerability. Beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • michelle Dudley - Brooke
    (Sandra Turley’s mom here!)
    Thank you for such real, yet inspiring thoughts.
    Just want you to know that mothers of ‘infertile’ daughters/daughters in laws, feel your discouragement and your hope. While I always felt my role was to encourage and be positive, I remember other times just sitting with Sandra and crying together and many telephone calls, since we didn’t live close to each other, crying over the phone…
    Can’t even count the prayers and fasts our entire family participated in for josh and Sandra for a l o n g time. Their test impacted all of us; the struggle and increased patience and learning to accept Heavenly Fathers will no matter what it was. Blessings came – even before the miracle of little Ava (and then Davis, Ella, Gwen) ; increased faith, greater dependence on the Lord, a stronger bond of love for everyone in our family, tenderness to others experiencing similar things, deeper meaningful prayers, the power of a fast… I used to ask myself, ‘couldn’t we have learned these things a different way? It hurt too much to see Sandra and josh hurt for such a righteous desire. Yes, I guess we could have,but this was how Heavenly Father was teaching us. BLESSINGS always outweigh the trial. Testimonies become more solid, the atonement more personal. I’ve seen your testimony in song and word and in your vibrant countenance. You are amazing…keep on. I’m sure you also have a mother and sisters and friends who are on their knees more than you realize in your behalf…you can add me.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - Thank you for sharing. I can completely relate. I wrote this analogy years ago to explain my journey with infertility.

    http://throughrose-coloredglasses.blogspot.com/2008/01/story-from-my-life-that-is-not-at-all.html?m=1ReplyCancel

  • Kiahna - This was beautiful!! I too have struggled with infertility and have been blessed with 3 beautiful children. We call them our fresh, frozen, and organic. Our two older boys are IVF and our youngest was our surprise little girl, who knew my body worked right? So much of what you wrote is exactly how I felt. Thank you for sharing and giving hope to so many women who struggle with Infertility.ReplyCancel

  • Shelley - Thank you for sharing your story of infertility. I too have struggled with this for almost 5.5 years. It is too expensive for me and I long for a child. You are truly an inspiration to me. I am tired of people asking me how I have dealt with this. For example my sister who had two kids from a previous marriage and got married and she wanted a baby soon after she got married. She found herself crying at all commercials with babies in them. She came to me when I have dealt with this for 4 yrs and asked how I dealt with this. 2 weeks later she found out she was pregnant. That felt like a kick in the teeth. Thanks for listening. Trying to deal with this.ReplyCancel

  • tam - Thanks for your honesty and authenticity. My husband and I have been dealing with infertility for 11 years. The Lord blessed us with a beautiful daughter who we adopted…we received her at birth which was such a gift! I even had my own hospital bed:) We have gone through 6 IUI’S and we are on our 6th and very last round of IVF. Before you think we are incredibly wealthy…it just so happens that my husband’s insurance has covered the majority of the cost! So why wouldn’t the Lord allow me to get pregnant???!! I don’t know the answer, but I know our faith has grown exponentially during our times of grief. The Lord has provided and blessed us with amazing people to love us through the *messy* times. I sit and reflect on two miscarriages and a tubal pregnancy…I ask the Lord *why*…then I look at my beautiful daughter and remember we serve a sovereign Lord. As we enter into this last round of IVF, our prayers have changed. *Please give us a child* is still our prayer, but we have added *thy will be done.* It’s a restful place to be among all the uncertainty.
    Thanks for being real♡ReplyCancel

  • Julie - Brooke,
    Not only am I a big fan, but I can also relate to your experience with infertility. I was eventually able to have 5 wonderful children, but it was a long, hard journey filled with years of negative pregnancy tests and multiple miscarriages. It was devastating at times. I had always dreamed of a big family, and had hoped for 8 children. Even now, at 46, I still contemplate trying for one more! I will tell you, however, that I have learned a lot over the years. Looking back, I can see God’s hand in every detail. The spacing of my children was no accident. He knew, perfectly, the struggles that each of my children would experience in this life, and how those trials would affect our family, and He planned accordingly. I could not see the wisdom in the midst of my yearning, but now I am keenly aware of why my children came when they did, and I am grateful for a loving Father who always knows best. I also know, without a doubt, that the children I was meant to have were not withheld from me. The timing might have been different than I expected, and the numbers fewer, but I have been blessed with the testimony that God is in the details of our lives. The children you are meant to have will come to you, however few or many, in God’s timing. No child will be left out. That is a truth that has brought great comfort to my mother’s heart.ReplyCancel

  • LaDonna - beautiful story and comments from all. I have never personally struggled with infertility, however I was blessed to be able to provide two wonderful people who did/are struggling with infertility with a child. I was single, 36, and not prepared to raise this baby alone. I chose adoption. That was 9 years ago in January, it was the best decision of my life. The two parents that adopted my son are amazing, wonderful people!! I keep in contact and updated as to how they are doing, they adopted another beautiful little girl about a year and a half ago! What a wonderful family they are!!ReplyCancel

  • Camie - I loved this post. I liked the advice of “just relax” in the sense that infertility could destroy your marriage, faith, etc. So true! I have a friend struggling with her faith because of infertility. Sad/Glad is totally a feeling. You’ve made me ball my eyes out when you’ve shared your struggles in church but I’ve also felt your love and joy each time I’ve been pregnant! 2 showers and so many meals!! You’re the best! I feel like I can relate a tiny bit since it took me 1 1/2 years to get pregnant with my first. Late periods and negative tests are the worst! I pray all the time for you to get a sweet little baby. Great post! Love ya!ReplyCancel

  • R Fuller - My husband and I tried for 13 years to get pregnant. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent on everything until we agreed enough was enough.

    We were never blessed with our own littles, but my sister is what I refer to as “Fertile Myrtle”. 🙂
    Her husband and her were blessed with 3 babies, 2 of which are Autistic. We live right next door and we are able to give all of our free time and love to them. We enjoy every second with them. I have my morning bonding with my little peanut girl and we share toast every morning and as soon as she hears that back door open I can hear her yelling “Toast! Toast! Toast!” as she runs down the hall. The Autistic babies I bond over quite a few things with them. Little monkey and I get to line up cars and trucks together and Princess and I get to swim all the time. I know God has a plan for all of us and for me I always thought my husband and I would have 2 to 3 kids and I still have days where I want that. Then there are weeks to months where I am so busy with my little’s next door that I barely have time to think. The urge and regret will always be there and maybe one day we will adopt, but the closer I get to 45 the more set in life I feel and how blessed I really am. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Being the Fertile Friend » Mercy River - […] a mini microcosm of the modern fertility spectrum. We mirror the women of the world. For example, Brooke has spent almost half of her married years praying for a baby. And then there’s me– the one who can get pregnant right away. Ten years ago, when she […]ReplyCancel