The Business of Hope: Part 1 of 5


It's hard to believe that our first little one is due this week!  I'm so excited to meet her (and evict her) that I can hardly breathe sometimes! (Of course, that also could be because she has her feet firmly planted in my lungs...) 

Because this week is so different from every other, I've also chosen to write about something very different.  

This week I'm posting a 5 part series about my experiences being diagnosed and treated for infertility.  I can't lie - it's personal and somewhat painful to share. But I also feel it's incredibly important to create an open dialogue about the topic (something that is strangely lacking or taboo) and share the experience in the hopes that those who don't know much about it can become more familiar with the journey and those who are going through it are reminded that they're not alone.  

Friends, as you read this, please do so with an open heart and mind.  Please know that the intentions are not for pity or grandstanding but for a greater understanding of something that is still so isolating for so many.


Infertility, Part  1                                                                                                                       


“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I believe you’re clinically infertile.”

I was sitting on the table in a cold examination room.  The paper crinkled under me as I shifted slightly.  Don’t cry. It’s not like you didn’t know this was coming… The corners of my mouth twitched weakly upwards in a grim impression of a reassuring smile.

“Okay. Okay.  Ummm, how do you… I don’t know. How do you… know?”

The doctor looked genuinely pained.  He cleared his throat, took his glasses off and began cleaning them as he talked.

“Well, 80 -85% of women who have unprotected sex for a year become pregnant.  After a year and a half, that number jumps to anywhere from 90-98%.  Anyone who falls into that remaining percentile is considered infertile.  And in your case…” He trailed off.

It had been well over two years for my husband and I.

I attempted a smile again.  “Wait, we were supposed to be having sex?”

The doctor looked at me uncertainly.  Ahhh, Emily-Grace: Master of awkward humor.

The lump in my throat was throbbing horribly and the back of my eyes burned.  One or two tears managed to slip past my gates and I pushed them away.  Damn it, don’t you dare.  At least let me have my dignity.

The doctor looked terrible as he handed me the tissue box.  I set it beside me without taking one.  Breathe.  You’ll get through this.

The doctor cleared his throat again and attempted to get back on track.

“Plenty of people who are diagnosed as clinically infertile go on to have kids.  It just may mean you need some extra help.  It can be as simple as a hormone pill.  The good thing is that you’re relatively young and otherwise healthy.  The first step will be to figure out what the underlying issues are.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing more that we can do for you at this practice, but I’ll have the front desk give you a referral to an infertility clinic that we’ve worked with before.  They’re good people.”

“Okay.”  Emily-Grace: Master of awkward humor and witty repartee. Just a jack of all trades, really.

The doctor moved to leave.  At the door he turned around.

“I really am sorry, Mrs. Smith.  This is the worst part of my job.  I hate making people hate me.”

I laughed a short dry laugh.  “I don’t hate you, Doctor.  I appreciate your kindness and honesty.  Onward and upward, right?”

He smiled.  “We’ll see you back here when you’re pregnant.”


I checked out of the office as quickly as I could.  The nurses at the reception desk gave me pitying smiles.  Lovely.  Nothing quite like pity to give a shot in the arm of the ol’ wounded pride.   As I strode to my car, I slipped my hand in my bag and grasped my phone.  I should call Scott.  I released my phone again.  Not yet.

In the parking garage I stood behind my car as I waited for the woman in the car next to me to strap her baby into his seat.  She gave me an apologetic smile and shrug as if to say “you-know-how-it-is.”  Yeah.  Good to know God and the universe have a sense of humor. I smiled an automatic smile back and waited for her van to pull away.  Finally I climbed into my car and closed the door.

I should call Scott.  Once again, I pulled my phone from my bag and stared at it.  It looked back at me with its dark, unblinking eye- expectant.  What are you looking at?  You think you can tell me how to handle this? You think you know best what I should do?  You have no idea. Hell, I have no idea…

I threw the phone face down on to the seat beside me.  Good, Em.  Good to see you holding it together like this.  Emily-Grace the proud, Emily-Grace the strong, Emily-Grace the mentally stable.  I took a breath.  Emily-Grace the…infertile.  I started to cry.  Hot, angry tears seemed to explode from within me.  My chest ached and my shoulders shook with the pain and shame.  I thought I might never breathe again.

One hour later, as I finally left the garage, I dialed my husband.

*  *  *

A Retrospective on Feelings

It’s difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t gone through infertility what it’s like.  I think that’s why so many people don’t talk about it.  It’s a cacophony of emotions: frustration and overwhelming sadness are certainly the most obvious, but there’s also anger, shame and isolation.

Anger: The aimless, bubbling anger of the completely unanswerable “Why Me?!”  Left unvented – unconfronted - it can fester and bloom into a frightening inner rage… something far more dangerous and primordial than you’ve ever felt before.  Like a virus, it seeks to bellow forth and latch itself to all of the happiness around you.  How DARE you have joy when I have none?  What gives you the right?

The truly detrimental thing about this creature is that the only person it generally hurts is the person who is already hurting.  For example, I knew that it wasn’t anyone else’s fault.  I wanted other people to be happy.  But this monster inside of me was there whether I wanted him or not and I felt deep and abiding shame that it lived.  It’s a Jekyll and Hyde sort of secret.  I lived in constant fear that someone would look deep into my eyes and actually see this scaly, snarling, selfish and wounded beast that was so incongruous with who I am as a person.

Shame:  Often this is the feeling that people understand the least. Why on earth would you feel ashamed?  You didn’t choose this. That’s just silly. You need to get over that.  Really?  If only it were that easy.

There are certain things in life our bodies are just meant to do.  Certain things that are preprogrammed in our DNA (for the record, I’m not saying that everyone should have children or should want to.  It’s just an ability that we take for granted).  As illogical as it may be, when you find out that you can’t, it makes you feel like you’re somehow less of a woman (or less of a man).  This factor is underscored every time some well-meaning but tactless person asks “so when are you going to have kids?”  It’s as though when you reach certain milestones – For example, I’m in my thirties, I’ve graduated, married and have a stable home and income – you’re expected to take the next step because that’s how the game is played.

I would imagine if you’re someone who just doesn’t want kids or isn’t ready for them, it’s already an incredibly frustrating and belittling question.  But for someone who does… for someone who’s trying but can’t… it’s salt in a gaping wound.  It’s as though society is saying “This is the bar that you must meet.”  And here I am physically unable to accomplish this task that billions of women have done for thousands of years.   Girls who are 14 years old can pop out a kid no problem, but, I, somehow, am not worthy of the task.  I am less of a woman.  Shame.

Isolation:  Like many of the other emotions, this one is multifaceted and reveals itself at varying times and for varying reasons.  But the first is simply the one aforementioned: billions of women can do this, and I can’t.
When you're in the midst of dealing with infertility, there is a feeling that everyone in the world is pregnant except you.  Of course that's illogical, but emotions are seldom logical.  Suddenly it's as though social media has conspired against you and is filling your news feed with stories on everyone else's joyous news.  Every store you step in seems to be brimming with young moms and dads proudly escorting little squirmy bundles, or women with beautifully blossoming tummies.  And as you walk through the aisles that all seem to be festooned with tiny clothing and shoes, you feel like you're wearing a giant scarlet letter "B" for Barren.

The reality may be that there are MANY men and women who have also struggled with infertility.  The reality may be that there is no rhyme or reason to why.  But it doesn’t change the fact that in that moment – in your own private timeline – you feel like you’ve slipped into some ghostly and hollow dimension.  You see everything and everyone, but no one sees you.  Even your partner, who may be going through similar emotions, is in their own dimension.  Some strange spectral divide. 


Click HERE to continue on and read Part 2 of the series

Please stay tuned for the rest of the rest of this series!

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
**This article is strictly our experience with infertility and not meant to be read as medical advice or fact.

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