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The One Thing I'll Never Say to an Infertile Friend

Photograph by Twenty20

I remember it clearly.

It wasn't that long ago when my husband and I were in the throes of our fourth failed IVF cycle. Emotionally, we were worn out, battle-scarred and defeated. Physically, I was exhausted, with too much weight gained and no baby inside me. Financially, excuse the pun, we were spent. I had cried too many times to count. I lost babies and we had taken out almost our entire retirement savings. Maybe down the road, we thought, maybe we'll look into fostering if this last cycle doesn't work.

One more try. That was it. We would try one more embryo transfer and if it wasn't successful, we were done. We had just discovered I had a gene mutation along with my crappy eggs and even though we had a whole new protocol this time around, we went into it with our emotions carefully guarded.

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It ended up working for us. Our tiny embryo stuck around for the long haul and grew into an almost full-term baby. I will give birth to her in less than a month. Words cannot describe how joyous I feel at this miracle we've been given. We took the chance—that leap of crazy faith that to this day I don't know how we mustered up—and are getting our baby.

And yet.

I remember the terror I felt that this may not happen. That feeling in the pit of my stomach, asking myself how I could ever live without children. Trying to explain that to someone who hadn't experienced the hell called infertility was futile at times. Even the cheers of infertiles-turned-mothers would fall on my deaf ears.

"I was in your shoes. I thought it would never happen, but then came my miracle baby. It can happen to you, too. Never give up!"

It was like I was drowning. My head kept slipping under water. My nose and throat filled and I would struggle to take a breath, but would only get air for a moment before slipping under again. My rescuer was standing on the shore, hands cupped around her mouth yelling, "Don't give up! Never give up!" The life preserver was sitting forgotten beside her.

Some of us never get pregnant. Some may drain their savings on an adoption only for it to fail. Some will never be able to bring a baby to term.

These words are uttered by well-meaning people, most of whom had already found success. Bouncing their babies on their knees at the restaurant as they confidently tell you that you too can have success. The fertility forums are filled with this sentiment, mainly by mom's who are pregnant or have their littles ones. Their IVF worked. Their adoption was successful. They gave up trying only to spontaneously find themselves pregnant on their own.

Now that I am pregnant, weeks from giving birth, I could be one of those people. After all, I'm a success story. But here's why, after years of infertility, I will never tell someone still in their journey to "never give up": Because it doesn't always happen.

Some of us never get pregnant. Some may drain their savings on an adoption only for it to fail. Some will never be able to bring a baby to term. I understand these words are not intended to be malicious. They are intended to give hope to someone still in the throes. They are meant to be an encouragement. But what happens when a couple decides to stop treatments? Are they failures because they gave up? Did they not try hard enough?

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As much as we want to hope that all of us will "beat" infertility, there will be those who will never have a child. I know. I faced that. And when I think back, had this cycle not worked, would I have the strength to do another? After five failed IVFs, what would have been the point?

I never tell my friends and loved ones in the trenches of infertility to never give up. I encourage them. I tell them I am there and available if they need to talk, or hash things out. I bring wine and chocolate and cry with them. And if they tell me they're done, that they can't do any more cycles, I respect that decision.

Because it's incredibly personal. It's heartbreaking. Hearing, "Never give up" can be painful to someone who had no choice.

Infertility is exhausting. It can seem like a continuous uphill battle and eventually, a limit is reached. And there may come a moment when a couple throws in the towel and says, "I'm done. I tried. And I'm done."

And that's ok.

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