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An Open Letter to the Ladies of Infertility

Dear Ladies of Infertility,

Maybe I know you in real life. Maybe we've been blogging buddies, commenting on each other's posts for so long that we've really gotten to know each other.

Maybe I don't know you. Maybe you've been keeping your infertility—or your babies you lost too soon—a secret.

Whoever you are, whatever your story, today I am speaking directly to you.

We are a unique group of women. You've gotten the look before, from family or friends. You tell them how many shots a day you have to take, how many doctor appointments you have a month. How many times you have removed your underwear and placed your feet in stirrups, so medical professionals can insert a wand and measure your follicles. You know the look people give when you try to explain what you're going through. Their eyes get wide, their mouth gapes. They shake their head before telling you, "I could never do that."

Ladies, we can do hard things.

A few days before my husband and I left the state for our second donor egg cycle, I remember talking to my friend on the phone, leaving my last monitoring appointment in tears. I was so terrified of this cycle. It was our last one, the money was gone, and after four embryo transfers, I started questioning if I was even meant to be a mother.

Everything about this journey was so fucking hard and I endured so many roadblocks that the whole thing was just starting to look completely ridiculous. Just give up already, I imagined people thinking. My voice shaking, I told my friend that I don't think I could emotionally handle another failed cycle. "What if it doesn't work again?" I cried.

She answered back in her calm confident voice, "Listen to me. We can do hard things. You hear me? You can do this because you have known struggle; you've known pain. You can do hard."

I've been bitter. I've completely fallen apart more times than I can count. I've been angry, I've cried until the numbness took over. I'm not "brave." But I can do hard.

She had to use that same voice with me almost every day for the last two months of my pregnancy, until it finally seemed to sink in.

Ladies, now I tell you: We can do hard things.

When you cry in front of the mirror, staring at the bruises from injections and the weight you can't seem to lose no matter how hard you try because you've taken so many hormones.

When you feel like you can't handle going through another IVF cycle, but you do it anyway.

When you have lost yet another baby and your relatives reassure you that this was God's plan.

When you've been through multiple failed cycles and your friends advise you to "just adopt."

When your closest friends stare at you in horror as you describe having to do daily PIO injections.

When your stomach turns looking at your bank account, knowing you have to write yet another check to the fertility clinic because you have no infertility coverage.

When you make the decision to live child-free and have to endure the comments of "What if you tried one more cycle?" "Have you thought about IVF?" and "Never give up! It will happen for you!"

Ladies, we can do hard things. We can. We can do things that not everyone can go through. We can give ourselves 4-5 shots a day. We can take out a second mortgage for treatments. We can go out of state, out of the country for a treatment that has no guarantee.

I'm not telling you to never give up. I'm not a fan of that mantra. Stopping treatments doesn't mean you failed. There is a reason living "child-free not-by-choice" is an actual lifestyle. Sometimes, stopping treatments doesn't mean peaceful acceptance.

Ladies, listen to me: We can do hard things. We can do what other people can't. We can keep going.

I'm not telling you that you are "so brave" for surviving a second or third trimester loss, or stillbirth. "You are so strong. I could never go through what you did." "I have three kids and I could never imagine going through what this person did. What a brave soul." These are comments I've heard over the years when someone loses a baby. One blogger phrased it so perfectly: "People tell me they could never go through a stillbirth like I did. 'I can't imagine,' they tell me. 'Yeah,' I tell them, 'Neither can I.'"

So I'm not telling you to never give up, or that you are "such a brave person." I fell apart after my miscarriage. There were days I didn't want to be here anymore. Infertility and miscarriage didn't make me a valiant superhero.

My dear friend, who endured miscarriage after miscarriage and now has a beautiful boy—she can do hard.

I've been bitter. I've completely fallen apart more times than I can count. I've been angry; I've cried until the numbness took over. I'm not "brave." But I can do hard.

Ladies, listen to me: We can do hard things. We can do what other people can't. We can keep going. We can try again after the death of our babies and give birth to living, breathing miracles. We can try another cycle, not because we are superheros who never give up, but because we've already done hard.

Maybe you aren't where you want to be right now. You also aren't where you started. All of us have known struggle, and that struggle has refined us. It strengthens us. Through the struggle and pain, we have learned to endure. I'm not brave. I'm not extraordinarily courageous. But I can do hard things.

And so can you.

Image via Twenty20/anafbmac

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