Written by Jessica Hansen, Guest Blogger
I rang in 2017 in my pajamas on my couch. I was recovering from a stomach bug that most of my in-laws had caught (but my husband had somehow avoided, naturally). Still, I was optimistic about the new year. Having tried to get pregnant for six months or so by then, I was confident 2018 would be our year.
I was right – and more so than I even thought. What I had thought was my lightest period ever actually wasn’t, and on December 31st of 2017, I was already pregnant. It would be a few more weeks until a growing hunch prompted me to take a test which would confirm it.
And then, just a couple of days later, I wasn’t. I was just under six weeks, but to say “just” or “only” minimizes my grief. I’ve learned since that we are entitled to our pain, no matter which unique circumstances we face. Still, that loss and infertility as a whole have left me wrestling with some ugly emotions I’m still sorting through.
And, 2018 would bring even more loss for us. As my husband lay his mother to rest in the summer – the second parent he’d lost in 18 months – I couldn’t help but grow angry at the injustice of it all. Weeks prior, my family had to say goodbye to the dog I’d had growing up. Certainly, these losses cannot be compared, but pain is still pain. And it’s been a painful year.
But resolutions can be about looking forward without necessarily “getting over” the past – because we all know infertility and loss aren’t simply gotten over. As I look ahead to 2019, infertility is indeed at the top of my mind. While I may be a bit more jaded than I was back in 2017, I try to look at this year as having made me perhaps a bit wiser – and a hell of a lot stronger. So, here it goes. These are my infertility resolutions for 2019.
- Become more vocal.
I mean this in a few different ways. For one, with my doctors and nurses. While I’ve been extremely pleased with my clinic so far and they’ve given me every opportunity to ask questions, I still find myself holding back in fear of sounding stupid or coming across too needy. Enough. I am putting too much on the line to be shy.
I also need to speak up with my husband. He is my biggest supporter, but sometimes I go into “shutdown” mode to avoid talking about the painful stuff. He knows this is when I need to talk most. I’ve always been comfortable sharing my emotions but infertility is a different beast; it’s created feelings and thoughts which I don’t even know how to process. I’m learning how to do my part in opening up, even if it comes out as a jumbled mess.
Finally, I’d like to become more open about infertility everywhere to continue building this conversation and bringing awareness to the challenges that one in eight couples face. My immediate network of friends and family has been outstanding in terms of offering support, but in my experience, many others who are unfamiliar with infertility tend to say the wrong things. I believe it’s because they don’t know what to say – which is because infertility isn’t discussed enough in our society.
- Try something new.
On a lighter note, cooking was my “thing” this year. I bought a few healthy cookbooks, learned how to use a pressure cooker, and even tried a couple of meal delivery subscriptions. Channeling my energy into creating something has been very cathartic for me, especially when it feels like the one thing I want to create so badly, I can’t.
What will my new thing be for 2019? I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited to find out. I know distraction isn’t always the healthiest way to handle challenges, but at the same time, I also believe having outlets for creativity and self-exploration are important through this process.
- Go on more dates.
Infertility takes up a lot of space in my marriage. We’re doing injections, going for ultrasounds and blood work, and planning for the “what ifs.” To think that I’ll look back on the first few years of my married life and associate it with such stress and heartache is upsetting. In 2019, I’d like to work on creating happy memories and actually dating my husband again. I know it’s unrealistic to think we can be completely carefree, but I do believe there’s room for the pain of not having the family we want yet to coexist alongside joy, love, and lighthearted moments.
- Take a vacation.
We’ve taken a couple of vacations while TTC, but all have been slightly marred by the emotional roller coaster of infertility. If a babymoon isn’t in the cards for us, I’d like to plan a trip for a time when we might actually take a break from trying – and purchase trip insurance. You know, just in case.
- Take on a realistic workload.
Speaking of breaks, I need to know when to take them at home, too. I’m a freelancer and don’t get vacation days or PTO. On the one hand, this makes me extremely fortunate because I can build my schedule around appointments. On the other hand, I tend to punish myself by playing catch-up until I’m working into wee hours of the night. I realize that this is unhealthy and I’m working on building boundaries into my schedule for 2019.
- Unplug occasionally.
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. I have found a few support networks that I absolutely adore, which is the reason I started an Instagram to chronicle my own infertility experiences. At the same time, social media is also a place where you’ll find unexpected baby announcements that knock the wind out of you. And, our community has its share of heartache, too. I absolutely love hearing about the successes of other infertile couples, but I also feel the pain behind their bad news, perhaps too acutely at times. I think taking mini-breaks can be refreshing. Plus, there’s comfort in knowing this wonderful network of strong women will always be here when I’m ready to come back.
- Control my self-criticism.
This is something I struggle with daily. It’s bad enough to have the flood of thoughts and feelings that come with infertility: sadness, frustration, anger, jealousy, and impatience. But what’s even worse than these thoughts themselves is the way I judge myself for having them.
I think to myself, I should be more optimistic. Then I counter that by telling myself I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I also feel immense guilt, because my life isn’t bad – by any means. I’m fortunate in more ways than I can count.
But at this point, I’ve become exhausted with judging myself for my own thoughts, and characterizing them as “good” or “bad.” For 2019, I’m going to try this meditative practice instead:
I will not judge my thoughts and feelings. Instead, I will simply let them pass, like cars on a highway.
- Nourish my body.
I don’t eat poorly, but there’s definitely room for improvement. Instead of eating a granola bar for breakfast because it’s quick and easy, I’d like to set aside time for three whole meals a day. Some weeks I’m good about this and meal-prep in advance; others, not so much. I’m aiming for consistency in 2019. While I know my diet isn’t the cause for not getting pregnant, I do want to give my body everything it needs to support my someday baby.
Likewise, I’ve put running longish distances on hold for now, and will continue to do so for 2019. Again, I’m not saying running 10+ miles has anything to do with infertility. I’ve always hydrated and listened to my body, and I know there are plenty of endurance athletes who have given birth to healthy babies. But this year, I’m approaching fitness in a way that rewards my body instead of feeling like punishment. Activities like long walks and yoga are good for not just my physical state, but my mental health, too.
- Connect with a real-life infertile friend.
As I said before, I have an incredible support network of family and friends, as well as online groups. But I also know how desperately I’m craving a real, human connection with someone who’s been through (or is going through) this.
I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone in the world. But, going through it with someone else might make it a little less painful. I’d love to have an infertile friend to meet up with over coffee, to laugh (and probably cry) with, to cheer on, and to just talk about all of the absurdities of infertility.
Here’s to hoping we’ll both be drinking decaf.