Beth (USA): Finding Joy through infertility
Have you ever wanted something so bad and it took a long time to get it, or you never did? Me, too.
I grew up wanting to be a mom. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say a teacher or a mom. Even in High School, I didn’t think a college degree was necessary because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I enrolled in classes and honestly thought I would never finish because a handsome and well-off man would whisk me away and we would have babies. The joke was on me though. I finished my bachelor’s degree and then got married, my husband not in a hurry to have kids. I started (and finished) a Master’s degree programme to pass the time away until I would be a mom.
I went off of birth control in the early summer of 2014. Infertility ran in my family, and naively I thought, “well it will probably take about two years, but then I’m sure to be a mom”. HA! Not so. After about a year and a half, I started feeling depressed. My husband and I had moved to a new state, with no family or friends nearby and the one thing I had always wanted looked so far out of my reach. I felt like my world was caving and that once positive girl spent many nights crying herself to sleep.
By January 2016, I knew something needed to change. I had read Gretchen Rubin’s book, ‘The Happiness Project’ a few times and decided I would create a theme to choose joy for the year. I started reading about happiness and quickly learned happiness comes from within. While external factors can influence the way we feel, happiness is ultimately up to us. I started keeping track of things that made me happy each day. Sometimes it was a walk around the block, sometimes a hug, but I found something every day that made me smile.
Choosing to be happy every day, reading happiness books, and actively writing down what was making me happy distracted me from wanting to be a mom, for a while. I was ignoring the fact that I wasn’t a mom and I was trying to be “happy” even though inside, I was still hurting. Eventually I realized choosing to be happy is part of it, but to really experience happiness through this unwanted challenge was to create a life I was happy with.
For me personally, I knew IVF wasn’t an option. My husband and I had discussed fostering and private adoption, but at the time, knew we weren’t in a place to pursue either. Knowing this meant we were putting our dreams on hold, which killed me. I knew if I wanted to be happy, I needed to find out how to be happy without being a mom. This was no easy task and is one I continue to work on every single day.
My journey to find joy through infertility has taught me infertility is a complex situation to be in and I’ve learned grief is a huge part of it. Your heart feels broken from all the things you wish you had and the plans you made. I ignored this for a long time. I acted like I was fine and that I was happy living the way I was if I couldn’t be a mom. I tried to be positive about it and I think instead, I wasn’t being authentic or vulnerable about what was going on deep down. It took a couple of years, but I learned the first step to finding joy in the sorrow is to admit that there is sorrow. It’s okay to feel disappointed at what you wish could be. I learned it’s okay to be open about what I’m going through and sometimes, by sharing my experiences with infertility, infertility itself was more manageable. Vulnerability is not always an easy thing, and I carefully choose who to share my vulnerability with. I’ve seen that the more open I’ve been about this process, the more I’ve connected to others about it.
My project of finding joy through infertility is an ongoing process. While I haven’t given up on the idea of being a mom, I’ve learned how to be happy with the life I have. I concentrate and fill my time doing things I love. I surround myself with people who lift me up and don’t judge me for the choices I’m making regarding my infertility. Infertility has taken something important from me, but it’s given me time with my husband, an ease to get an education, the ability to travel, and much more. Rather than focus on what I don’t have, each day I try to focus on what I do have. I’m learning to live and to live a life I love.
I wish I could say my story ends with a happy ending, but that happy ending (baby) hasn’t come yet. It breaks my heart, but every day, I choose to accept it and move forward instead. My infertility story isn’t over. My husband and I are finally in a position where we feel like the timing is right to pursue fostering and this next step in our infertility experience both terrifies and excites me. I know fostering will come with so many challenges (I have work related experience in this area), but I’m ready. I may never have biological children of my own, but I can honestly say that’s okay. I could’ve easily let infertility tear me down, but instead I decided to fight back, and I’m so glad I did. Choosing joy through infertility is not easy. It feels like a gut punch month after month, but when I learned how to fight through with joy, I learned how to live a life I’m happy with.