The Thing About Infertility

Infertility is, hands down, one of the most difficult things either of us has struggled with in our short twenty-odd years. When we began seriously trying to conceive two years ago, we were naively sure that it was going to happen right away: we had stopped preventing pregnancy many months before, and we knew we were ready to start this next phase of our lives. We jumped right in with symptom-spotting and calendaring and dreaming of what the next year would bring. This was our greatest hope, and we were so excited to soon have a little one of our own.

When nothing happened, month after month, we were crushed. Over and over and over again.

See, the thing about infertility is that the pain never really goes away.

Each month, we hope and pray that this cycle will be different, that things will finally work out. As time goes on, our hope has become dampened. It is difficult to remain positive when, each month, we grieve the loss of a child that we have never met and may never meet.

We know that we are young. We know that we have time on our side and that modern medicine is able to work miracles. We have faith that we will one day become parents, although we don’t know when or how.

However, we also know that none of these things truly takes the edge off of our sadness and grief. The struggle that we are experiencing is real, and it has changed us.

The thing about infertility is that the pain comes and goes in waves.

Some days, we are fine. Life is good, and we are happy.

Other days, out of nowhere, the pain rushes up and blindsides us, washing over us and threatening to carry us to out on a dark sea of grief.

Infertility is something that has become a constant in our lives. It is a part of us, always with us and always out of our control. We do our best to take things in stride, and, in many ways, we have become stronger as time has gone on. However, there are times when the pain is too great, when we have to take a step back so we can nurse our hurting hearts.

Infertility is a constantly changing journey, one that we must face day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute.

Even though we do our best to continue forward on our journey, hand in hand, with our heads held high, the thing about infertility is that there are reminders everywhere.

When we see pregnant women, when we see happy families, when we see nursing babies, when we see children chattering and playing at the park, the sight of their sweet beauty is marred by our own deep sense of loss.

When we hear the news that those we love have conceived and are joyfully looking forward to the future, we rejoice with them, but we also struggle to hide our pain. We are truly happy for them, yet we cannot help but wonder when it will be our turn.

When we go to church each week and hear people share their thoughts about the blessings of children and parenthood, we silently ask why we have been denied those blessings. We want more than anything to expand our little family, and we don’t know why it is not happening for us.

When friends and acquaintances casually complain about their difficult pregnancies, fussy babies, or rambunctious young children, we smile and try to be sympathetic, but inwardly we cringe in pain. We know that parenting is difficult, but we also know that we would give anything to have the challenges that these parents deal with on a daily basis.

When people give us well-meaning, but unsolicited, advice about when or why or how to have children, we do our best to be cordial even though their comments chafe at the raw edges of a wound that never seems to heal. We know these people have no way of knowing or understanding what we are going through, but we still wish they would keep their advice to themselves.

The thing about infertility is that we are not the same people as we once were, years ago, when we looked forward to our future with careless hope and expectation.

Infertility has changed us, in ways both blatant and subtle.

We once talked and dreamed about what things would be like when we have kids. Now, we only talk occasionally about how our lives will change if we have kids.

We once loved to stop by the baby section at the store, to cheerfully pick out our favorite outfits and examine the car seats and cribs. We now walk by quickly, pretending not to notice the tiny clothes and sweet toys.

We once spent hours discussing baby names, reading through websites and forming lists of our favorites. We were so excited, and we assumed that we would be calling our little ones by these names before we knew it. Those lists have now sat untouched for longer than we realized, and we sometimes wonder if it was all a waste of time.

We once eagerly devoted our spare time to researching, reading everything we could find about pregnancy and parenting. Now, we avoid articles on the topic because it is simply too painful. We don’t want to know more about the incredible experiences that we may never have.

We once had no inhibitions as we held others’ babies and played with their cute children. We have always loved kids, and we still do, but our interactions now are tinged by our sadness and our wistful hope that someday the children we hold and play with will be our own. We long to be the ones that a little one reaches for when she is sad or scared. We long for a day when the warm bundle in our arms will be our own, when we no longer have to hand a sweet baby back to his parents and leave, just the two of us, to go back to an empty and silent home.

We once had a simple plan for our lives, a plan that involved settling down in a comfortable home to raise our children. Now, we are not sure what we should be planning for or what our future will look like. Everything is uncertain, and it has made it difficult to retain our sense of purpose as we move forward each day.

The thing about infertility is that it is difficult to explain to others who have not been where we are now. 

We wish our infertility were easier to share, but it is something that we have largely kept to ourselves. We do this not because we want to shut others out, but simply because it is a coping mechanism. Talking about our experiences and feelings is draining, even when those around us are understanding or sympathetic, and it can be completely devastating when they are not. As a result, we have withdrawn, in some ways, and have come to rely more heavily on each other instead of on our family or friends.

However, we know that there is strength that comes through the vulnerability of opening up, so we are trying to have the courage to reach out to others despite the difficulty. In case others want to learn more about what it is like to be struggling with infertility and what they can do to be sensitive and supportive, a few resources and tips have been posted here.



There are many resources online that can help others understand what it is like to be struggling with infertility and what they can do to be more sensitive and supportive, such as this fantastic article from RESOLVE (the National Infertility Association) and this video from Tears and Hope (an infertility awareness project).

In addition to these resources, here are a few tips that I would give to anyone wondering how to help support us or anyone else who is struggling with infertility:

  • We want understanding and sensitivity, but we don’t want people to be walking on eggshells around us. One of the reasons we have been slow to open up is because we don’t want people to be overly afraid of upsetting us by sharing news of their children with us. We want to be included, so please don’t be afraid of talking to us about your kids. Just remember that we would love to talk about things other than babies, at least once in a while.
  • When talking about your pregnancy or children, a little sensitivity goes a long way. We know that pregnancy and parenting are both amazing and difficult, and of course you have every right to talk about your experiences. Please be kind when talking to us, though. We want to hear updates on how you are doing, but we appreciate it if you don’t complain to us too often; it’s very hard to hear complaints about something that we want so badly.
  • Recognize that our loss is real, even though it is not tangible. We are both lucky and unlucky enough to be struggling with unexplained infertility. Despite being perfectly healthy, we have never been able to get pregnant, and our doctors have not been able to tell us why. Our pain is different from that of those who have lost a pregnancy or baby, but it it is equally real and valid. Please do us the kindness of recognizing that we are grieving a loss even though it might take a different shape than more public losses. Our journey is not over, but we are still grieving the loss of a dream, the loss of hope, the loss of a child that we might have known.
  • If we miss a baby shower or other baby-related event, please know it is not because we don’t want to be there, but simply because it is too hard for us to be there. We love our friends and family and are so happy when they welcome a new little miracle. There are times, though, when we just don’t have what it takes to put on a brave face and spend a few hours happily discussing babies at a shower or celebration. Everyone has their limits, and sometimes we reach ours.
  • If we seem sad, it’s probably not because of you. Infertility is a constant battle, and we will have bad days every now and then. If we have a strange reaction to something you say, or if we simply seem more distant than usual, it’s probably just because we are going through a hard time. Be patient with us in our times of difficulty.
  • If we seem bitter, please help us overcome it. Infertility stretches us and challenges us each day. Our perceptions can become clouded by the difficulties of our situation, and we have found ourselves becoming bitter at times. If you notice this, feel free to sensitively call us out on it, or just offer a little more love and kindness to help us through. We don’t want to be bitter, but this is a difficult battle, and we can use all the support and love we can get.