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My Infertility PTSD

I was only 26 years old when that word was first used to describe me: infertile. I was basically still a child, at least in my mind, one who was supposed to have all the time in the world to figure out the big stuff.

Only now, I had no time at all.

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Every doctor I spoke to pointed to my age as a positive. “You’re young,” they all said. “All it will take is one good egg. Your age will be in your side. We’ll get you pregnant.”

Only, they didn’t.

I was 27 years old when I first embarked upon IVF, told that pregnancy had become a now-or-never proposition for me. I was single. None of this was ideal. But I had known all my life that I wanted to be a mother. If this was my only chance, I couldn’t lose it.

Only, I did.

Sperm donors, consultations with social workers, tens of thousands of dollars down the drain and self-administered shots directly into my backside … none of it worked. By 28 years old, I had two failed IVF cycles under my belt, and I knew that I would never carry a child beneath my heart.

A lot of women will give it more attempts than that. I have heard of those who will go through eight, nine, 10 and even more failed cycles before walking away. I wasn’t one of them. I knew I couldn’t go any further down that path. My heart was broken into 1,000 different pieces, my funds were completely tapped and my body couldn’t take any more.

I was done.

It wasn’t because I didn’t want it enough, but because I honestly couldn’t endure any more. The strongest thing for me, the healthiest option, was to accept defeat and walk away.

I have never been a quitter. My entire life, I have been someone who fights. But in this situation, because of the sequence of events and the gut feeling I now had that none of it would ever work, I knew that I had to be done.

And while there was peace to be found in making that decision, there was also a soul-crushing reality to face.

The future I had once pictured for myself would now be drastically and forever altered.

It is estimated that 1 in 8 people will struggle with infertility at some point in their lives.

Three years later and with my beautiful daughter now by my side through the miracle of adoption, I have more clarity surrounding my infertility than I ever did before. I understand why I had to endure all that I did, and I get where it was all leading me to.

I can even honestly say that I would do it all again 100 times over, so long as the end result would always be finding my way back to her.

My perfect little girl; the beam of light that brightened up even the darkest corners of my life.

But as happy and as at peace as I am today, infertility is always lingering in the background. It is a piece of me that I cannot escape. The conversation I always fear having with the new men who may enter my life, the emptiness I forever feel in the space where I wish I had been able to carry and nurture my daughter from the start, and the tears that have never fully been wiped away. It was this isolation and pain, this loss and sense of being so alone that marred those years of my life I will never get back.

Infertility is the space on my closet floor where I collapsed after my first failed IVF cycle, unsure of how I would ever survive the searing pain I was sure must be visible to the world.

Infertility is the jealousy I try to push down whenever a close friend announces a pregnancy, or complains about the morning sickness and stretch marks that I will never have.

Infertility is the picture of my embryos, pictures that I have never been able to get rid of; the embryos created during those IVF cycles that never amounted to anything beyond the babies that would never be.

Infertility is even the PTSD I still experience when someone I care for opens up to me about her own struggles to conceive, looking for an understanding ear and the voice of someone who has “been there.” What she doesn't see is the way I cower, even as I attempt to support, like a car backfiring, sending me right back to the place I never wanted to be.

The dark place I worked so hard to dig myself out of.

National Infertility Awareness week is April 20 to 26. I speak out about my experiences, even though it sometimes feels like picking at a scab I just wish would heal, because I realize there are so many others who feel as though they haven’t yet found their voices.

I am forever astounded by the people who come out of their shells and begin telling me about their own struggles when I open up about mine, like friends, neighbors, family members—people I never realized had fought so hard to conceive or failed every step of the way. It is estimated that 1 in 8 people will struggle with infertility at some point in their lives.

It turns out I wasn’t all that alone after all.

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I will never carry a child. This is a truth I have come to terms with. And, most days, I am in a pretty healthy place with that. I look at my daughter, and I know that I don’t have to carry a child to love one with my whole heart.

I am a mother. As real and whole a mother as there ever was.

But infertility is still there, forever hanging on to a tiny piece of me that will probably never be the same.

I am the 1 in 8.

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