It took a long time for me to arrive at the conclusion that, although it wasn't what I'd hoped for, my diagnosis of infertility yielded a profoundly positive impact on my identity as a woman and as a general human being. And while it is still the most emotionally and physically draining circumstance I've faced in my 27 years of life, there is a silver lining that exists within it.
My feelings on this are still largely dependent upon the day, the week, or the month; when your future is hanging in the balance on a daily basis, your proclivity toward optimism often suffers the same fate. In my moments of quiet clarity, however, I am able to clearly observe all the ways in which it has permitted me the opportunity to shape and appreciate exactly who I am.
The delicate balance between grappling with a medical issue as maddening as infertility and all of the ways in which I have witnessed the positive internal growth it can inspire has created room for a deeply rooted sense of gratitude among all of the frustration and anguish. Gratitude, however, is just one of several ways that this intensely personal struggle has helped me to form a foundation to construct my identity.
Finding my version of happiness
It is so easy to let the rest of your life get lost in the shuffle when you're trying to conceive. It's a gradual slide into obsessiveness and one that could end up costing you. It didn't take me long to realize that this was not a route I was willing to travel. Make no mistake, my desire for my own family is encoded in my DNA. The love my husband and I are ready to give to a child is bottomless, and I will go to great lengths to give him, and myself, that gift. But how could I expect to be the kind of mom I know I am capable of being if I lose touch with everything else that is important to me in the process? In light of this realization, I made the conscious decision to channel that energy into developing hobbies, passions, and interests that support my well-being and continued growth.
Yoga, reading, writing, meditation, and hiking are a few of the things that became essential ingredients to the makeup of who I have become throughout this journey. Learning to devote time, energy, and interest to something that doesn't offer a paycheck or earn me a grade gave me back the quality of life I didn't realize I'd been missing. I will always credit infertility for giving me the incentive to actively seek out what makes me happy.
Going toe to toe with my demons
I am a firm believer that the human condition is such that none of us make it through life without an internal struggle of some kind. For me, that demon came in the form of an anxiety disorder. In my mid-20s that became an all-consuming problem that motivated me to seek out a specialized treatment specific to my brand of disorder. It has been a year and some change since my first appointment, and in that time I've been a witness to an incredible shift in the landscape of my psyche. It has already altered the trajectory of my quality of life in such a tremendously positive manner that some days I am still in disbelief.
My husband is of the camp that our bout of infertility has bought me time to tackle my most menacing demon without the added stress of a pregnancy or newborn on top of that. With his unwaveringly selfless support, I was able to dive into my therapy, dedicating the necessary time and monetary resources to give myself the best outcome possible. So while I didn't wish for the extra time sans children, in this particular instance it has been a blessing in disguise.
Choosing my company wisely
Maybe it's our journey with infertility or maybe it's just the typical process of getting older, but over the last couple of years I've become acutely aware of the need to surround myself with positive energy. Namely, genuinely good people. Facing infertility forces you to confront and acknowledge the lack of control you have in life, but the one thing we can decide for ourselves is the company we keep, and I have learned firsthand how essential it is to honor this by choosing wisely.
Even just a couple of years ago, parting ways or ending a friendship felt like an intolerable failure to me. Being that my two best friends have held that title since elementary school, it had never occurred to me that not everyone was as compatible as we are, and I often blamed myself for it. Slowly and deliberately, I began to retire this idea and realize the best people to invest in were those who understood the value of showing up on your toughest days, both physically and emotionally. These days, I fully understand that not everyone needs to hold a place in your heart or your life, and it has given me the insight to trust myself in navigating all of the relationships in my life with confidence.
Bravery is vulnerability
I wouldn't refer to myself as a brave person (re: anxiety disorder), but I would say that in certain regards, infertility has made me braver than I ever thought I was capable of being. Writing pieces on such a taboo and excruciatingly private topic makes a lot of people squeamish and often draws unwelcome opinions and judgments. It is to be expected.
It was nerve-racking the first time I submitted an article admitting to our infertility diagnosis…if I'm being honest, it still is. What I learned after deciding to be vocal about our struggles is that opening myself up to being a human—which is an intrinsically flawed and naturally vulnerable experience—creates a platform for honesty with yourself and with those who hear you. Learning to be honest with myself in the face of vulnerability has created a newer and even healthier environment for the relationship I have with myself.
I like to think I've always been the person I now know myself to be and that wrestling with a potentially life-altering condition has simply given me the opportunity to pay closer attention. I have come to learn, throughout our journey with a diagnosis that affects 1.5 million women nationally, that in the face of hardship or grief we often discover the most intimate details about ourselves—the things that really make us the people we are. Some are more subtle, and others are bold and obvious; all of them, though, are my silver lining.