Written by Lauren Bennett, WTF Content Editor
For a majority of my life, I considered myself a typical, normal girl who would grow up to be a typical, normal woman. I would go to college, start my career, get married, have a few kids, travel, and grow old with lots of grandbabies by my side.
I never thought much about how I identified myself, because I never had to. When everything about your life seems like nothing out of the ordinary, you don’t spend much time considering how you categorize yourself.
But, then life throws you a curve ball. Your idea of having it all under the roof of a cute house surrounded by a picket white fence vanishes, piece by piece as your dreams to your “happily ever after” fade. That curve ball for me was infertility. The beast of infertility can take the most joyous occasion for others and turn it into your nightmare.
After years and year of living the reality of infertility every single day, I started to consider that part of who I was. I was no longer just Lauren. In my mind, every thing I did, was done by Lauren who is fighting infertility. Lauren became synonymous infertility and sometimes in my mind, it was hard to separate the two. When I checked out at the grocery store, I was a shopper with infertility buying groceries. When I went to work, I did my job all while doing it with infertility. I slowly began to take this horrible diagnosis and I wore it like a badge of honor. I became vocal about our experiences, advocated for better access to treatments, tried to mentor others through it, and barely went a day without bringing it up, let alone thinking about it.
Then, 5 years after we started trying and years of being an “infertility warrior,” I became pregnant after undergoing IVF. Nine months later, I gave birth to the most wonderful human I ever laid eyes on. And just like that, even though I could finally call myself a mother, I felt a little lost, like I didn’t know who I was anymore. For the past half decade, I made it my mission to make sure I was open about our trouble with fertility so others would feel less alone. I commiserated with others who lived in this world of unsuccessful fertility treatments and heartache.
What now? I had my miracle baby, but I felt stuck between two worlds: infertility and motherhood. Throughout my pregnancy, I would still find myself feeling so sad and hopeless even though I carried my sweet baby in my belly. My heart would still ache hard as if I was still waiting for my miracle. I could no longer “identify” with my peers in the infertility community because I had my baby I waited so long for. But I also felt like I didn’t fit in with typical moms because my heart was so scarred by negativity and the fertility treatment process. Even now, I find myself with pangs of sadness even though I hold my son in my arms.
So who I am now that I’m not “Lauren dealing with infertility?” Honestly, I’m still working through that. But I don’t feel like I have to live exclusively in one world or the other. Infertility was part of my life for so long that it isn’t something that I think ever goes away. All the fears, anxieties, and feelings of bitterness, hopelessness, and jealousy are still so fresh in my soul.
And you know what? I hope they never go away. Because of infertility and feeling all the connected emotions so deeply, it also made me who I am. Living with infertility taught me so much: empathy, patience, perseverance, and humor, just to name a few. I sincerely believe I’m a better mother and human because of my experience. I’ll never forget the 5 years it took to get to my son and I want to make sure he knows all about the journey we took to get to him. Infertility is nothing to be ashamed of and by acting like it never happened does a disservice to not only myself, but my support system who was there every step of the way. So I’ll continue to wear it like the badge of honor I once used to.
Getting my happy ending doesn’t mean my infertility story is over. It has just evolved, like I have. Now, I am Lauren, infertility warrior and advocate, who promises to use her story and experiences to fuel change, bring awareness, provide support, and offer comfort to whoever needs it most. Because no one should have to do this alone, whether it is for the first, second, or third time.