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The Five Lessons I Learned From Infertility

a blog by Suzanne Rico, May 31, 2012

  1. Humility. It’s not like I thought I was perfect or anything, but I never dreamed I’d be so imperfect at having babies. Being a goal-oriented person, when I finally made having children top priority, failure brought me to my knees. It was hard to accept that the sheer willpower I’d always used to achieve my goals was ineffective in this kind of battle. It was hard to accept that I couldn’t do this most natural of female functions — and even harder to ask for help.
  2. Loyalty. Infertility can ruin a marriage. The emotional stress piles on top of financial worry, which piles on top of envy directed at friends and family who can serve up kids like pancakes. Fuel this with the heavy drug and hormone blast that comes with IVF and the situation can spontaneously combust — kind of like a forest fire. I often threw this gob of negative energy straight at my husband, who had no place to take cover. But even when infertility pushed me halfway in the asylum door, he held my hand (even when he didn’t want to), and I finally realized I could not do this without him. Not only did I need him as a sperm donor, but he had broad shoulders to cry on. And so, ultimately, infertility strengthened our bond instead of breaking it.
  3. Creativity. When I first began dealing with infertility, I thought the cure was simple: pay my money and get a baby. I was only 37, so how hard could it be, right? It took two miscarriages to realize a lot more might be involved. Finally, I began participating in my own reproductive future, approaching my issue (unexplained infertility) from a Western and an Eastern medicine perspective (the two do not have to be mutually exclusive) and researching self-help avenues like lowering stress levels, eating right, and trying to turn on my maternal switch. If all this sounds a little new age-y — well, perhaps — but taking a creative approach to high-tech baby-making worked for me.
  4. Persistence. “Have you considered donor eggs?” That question came from my first RE right after my second miscarriage. Apparently I was dragging his statistics into the dirt. And when I looked up the odds of my having a healthy, biological child on age charts, it did seem like I was banging my head against an inflexible uterine wall. But the refusal to quit is sometimes the only thing that makes the ultimate difference — and somehow I found the strength to continue, determined not to listen to those who told me “no.” I opened the door to all options — donor, adoption, surrogacy or another IVF — and made strategic choices, never giving up on my goal of becoming a mother.
  5. Letting Go. All that I learned from the challenge of infertility is wrapped up the lesson of letting go — of realizing I could never fully control this journey. I could be humble, loyal, creative and persistent, but until I stopped rejecting and cursing the crappy fate that made getting pregnant — and staying pregnant — more difficult than juggling chainsaws, I could never allow the right blend of science and soul to take hold. Dr. Randine Lewis, author of “The Infertility Cure,” once described to me a Taoist view of true fertility. “Instead of struggling to the top of the mountain,” she said, “roll into the valley, where the whole universe can flow to you.” Letting go helped me begin unwinding the vortex of stress created by my infertility — and allowed me to understand and accept the limitations of human life, while still inviting in all its infinite possibilities.

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