I Struggled With Infertility – These Are the Six Life Lessons I Learned in the Process

When my husband and I decided we were ready to grow our family, we thought that November would be a good month to start trying — if I got pregnant right away, I’d still be able to photograph the April and May weddings I had already booked as a wedding photographer. I didn’t realize at the time, of course, that not only would I be able to photograph those weddings, I’d book even more for the year after that, and still be able to photograph them… all with an empty womb.

After five or six months of “not, not trying,” worries began to creep in. I listened to a podcast episode by a woman who had had a miscarriage, and she was discussing worries that almost all women feel about getting pregnant, staying pregnant, and being a mother. I cried. I realized I had all of these worries that I’d simply been pushing down, trying to ignore and replace with positive self-talk. So, I sat down and journaled out these fears.

These fears I’d been suppressing were those that many women feel surrounding pregnancy and parenting: the fear of not being able to get pregnant, the fear of getting pregnant, and then miscarrying, and the fear of our child having a medical problem or disability.

It was relieving to simply to get these fears off my chest, and it gave me a push to move forward with my journey.

 

These fears I’d been suppressing were those that many women feel surrounding pregnancy and parenting: the fear of not being able to get pregnant, the fear of getting pregnant, and then miscarrying, and the fear of our child having a medical problem or disability.

 

I’m thrilled to tell you that, as I write this, I am 12 weeks pregnant. I can also tell you that the time it took to get here — the process and the struggle — has been life-changing in the best way possible. I am so glad I didn’t get pregnant as quickly as I wanted because now, I truly believe that I can not only live through whatever life may throw at me, but can thrive and find beauty through all of the hardships.

Here are six things I learned about life from my infertility journey.

 

You cannot plan your life

As a wedding photographer, I sometimes book jobs over a year in advance. In the process of trying to get pregnant, I would worry and stress every time I booked a wedding, thinking, “but what if I get pregnant? I don’t want to have to cancel it!” From me to you, girlfriend – book those jobs, keep living your life.

If an issue comes across with work or life in the coming months, know that people will understand. You have to continue to live the life you have and be able to enjoy it. You never know when you will get pregnant, and if and when you do, don’t you want to look back on that season of life and remember it being sweet?

 

 

Getting pregnant won’t solve your problems

As I worked to learn about my body, deal with my newly-diagnosed PCOS, and wondered if I would ever get pregnant, I found a podcast called The Happy Hour. I started listening because I was able to hear interviews with women who had walked in my shoes and dealt with infertility, and it was comforting to know I was not alone.

Not only had some of these women walked through infertility, but some had also experienced many other struggles in their lives. One woman finally had a child through IVF and then lost her husband to cancer. Other women went through cancer themselves. Another couple tried to adopt and the adoption fall through. Listening to other women’s stories helped me realize that life will always bring what it will and nothing is guaranteed to us.

There will be sweet seasons of life, and there will always be hard seasons, too. Happiness isn’t guaranteed because of one specific outcome. The best thing we can do is soak up the sweet times and live through the hard ones. We have to do our best to find joy regardless of where we are.

 

Beauty can be found in the exact things you didn’t want

I came across a woman on Instagram who had written a book, The Lucky Few. It’s the story of her life – desperately wanting to conceive, finding out that she would not be able to conceive naturally, and how she came to adopt each of her children — two of whom have Down Syndrome. In the book, the author opens up about her journey and about how adopting a child with Down Syndrome was not something they were initially interested in, but ultimately, their hearts changed and adopting her children changed their lives for the better. Her story was about how she found beauty in something the world teaches you to fear.  

I was so moved by her story. It made me realize that even if the story I had in mind for my life doesn’t happen, even if I never conceive, my story can be incredibly beautiful in ways I’d never imagined. My heart felt… relieved. I opened my mind and spirit to the greater plan, trusting that it might not be what I wanted, but that it might be even better than I’d wanted.

Because of this woman’s story, I began to let go of the fear of “something going wrong.”

And, just weeks after this change of heart, I got pregnant for the first time.

 

It made me realize that even if the story I had in mind for my life doesn’t happen, even if I never conceive, my story can be incredibly beautiful in ways I’d never imagined. My heart felt… relieved. 

 

You can and will survive your worst fears

When we found out we were pregnant the first time, it was incredible. I found out the morning that my husband and I had planned a little getaway to a beach town just north of us. We were overjoyed and marveled about how things can change in an instant.

My parents came to visit us two days later, and my mom cried happy tears when I told them we were pregnant. The whole week they were with me, we all just relished in the new gift we’d been given.

The day we dropped my parents off at the airport, my husband and I went on a walk and I had a bit of light cramping. I wasn’t worried until the cramps became stronger and I found blood in my underwear. I will spare you the details, but I soon recognized that my fear of miscarrying was becoming a reality.

I was devastated, but I knew I would make it through. Because of all the stories I had listened to on The Happy Hour, I knew I would come out of this stronger. Because I drew from those women’s strength, I was able to find mine.

During my time of infertility, I learned that suffering was a part of life, but I also learned that my hope and faith was much greater than any struggle. I knew that there is no way out of a struggle except through.

 

Being vulnerable is a sacrifice that is well worth the risk

I decided to share openly on my Instagram about our struggle to get pregnant. I had a sick pit in my stomach before pressing publish, because I felt like maybe I was oversharing and that people don’t want to hear about this kind of thing. I thought that people would just pity me, and that’s not what I wanted.

But, I had grown so deeply from learning other women’s stories. I knew sharing was deciding to become a part of the greater good – that there could be someone out there sharing this struggle, or any struggle, and that I could make them feel less alone.

 

It made me realize that so much of what we believe of others is based on the idea that everyone is living their best life.

 

Soon after I published that post, I was flooded with encouraging and loving comments and messages from women who had been through the same thing and wanted to lift me up, and even from friends who’d been feeling alone in the same struggle.

It made me realize that so much of what we believe of others is based on the idea that everyone is living their best life. It’s not true; what is true is that people care about you and want to support you through your hardest times; what is true is that that we are never alone; what is true is that sharing our imperfections actually draw people to us, because everyone, and I mean everyone, can relate in some way.

 

 

Don’t be afraid to have hope

At the beginning of the year, I decided that I was tired of worrying about and fearing our future. I decided that, eventually, somehow or in some way, there would be children in our lives. So instead of leaving that baby room empty, afraid to turn it into anything other than the nursery I desperately wanted it to be, I bought a nursery chair and put it in there. Putting that chair in there was my statement of hope. It may take a while, but I trusted that something would happen.  

And, I leaned on that: something will happen. Nothing stays the same forever. It may not happen the way I always planned, but it will come. It will be beautiful. And, it was ok for me to look forward to that.

So, take a deep breath, buy yourself those adorable baby shoes you keep passing in Target, and hold onto hope. But, don’t put your hope in the baby that will one day wear those shoes, but in whatever it is that you believe in – that you and your heart are seen and that your incredible life is a series of wonders, the magnitude of which you cannot yet know. At the end of it all, you may be surprised to find out that life’s plans for you are much bigger than the little shoes that you bought.

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