By Rachelle Bernard
1 in 8. Did you know that one in eight couples deals with infertility? Did you know there is such a thing as National Infertility Awareness Week? Yeah, like you I had no idea. Why would I? I’m almost 42 years old. I have two children, 19 and 16. Why would I know?
Motherhood is the greatest, hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It is what I was meant for in this world. And I thought I was done. I raised two children and was getting older every day. And then I met the love of my life.
Nick and I began trying to get pregnant 16 months ago. We had been together for a few years, and while we weren’t married or engaged yet, we knew we were forever. When I turned 40, we decided trying to have a baby needed to come first because age waits for no one. Even though I knew I was on the older end of trying to conceive, I was so naive that I actually thought I’d get pregnant immediately. I was literally shocked the first month when it didn’t happen and I had no idea what was ahead on the road I had just began to travel.
At the beginning, you talk to friends and family about what you’re going through, but the thing is, no one knows what to say. As time dragged out, I began keeping it to myself. It was too painful to repetitively discuss how yet again, I had failed… and most people just do not understand. They think they are being helpful or saying the right thing and it almost never is. “Maybe you should try to relax and then it will happen”. Really? Because I’m 41 years old, I want this more than anything and every day that passes the window closes a little bit more. But if I RELAX, it will happen?? Or, worse “oh I never had that problem, I always got pregnant so easily”. Well, isn’t that peachy? You want to say that to me again to slap the other side of my face with your insensitivity? Yeah, I thought it would be easy too when I was uneducated about it, because it was so easy at 21 and 25. We take our bodies for granted when we are young, and how delusional we are to think it will still be easy when we get older. How about “But you already have so much to be thankful for”. Yes, yes I do. No sh*t. And to imply that I can’t see that or that I am selfish for wanting more is just cruel. Yup, I have two healthy grown children and I found the love of my life. I have family and friends and a career and a home. Yes, I have so very much I am thankful for. But why the hell does that mean I can’t want this? That I can’t have this? That I should just settle and be ok with what I already have? Excuse me, but no. It is more than ok for me to struggle with this not happening in my life, regardless of what I already have.
And my personal favorite: “Maybe it just isn’t meant to be.” Shut up. Just shut up. Why do people think this is an acceptable thing to say to someone when what they want more than anything in the world is to have a child? To love and raise a human being? The most basic human desire. It is primal. It just isn’t meant to be???? For real? Do people say this to other people when they lose the love of their life, or someone dies, or develops a life threatening illness? NO, they don’t.
I assure you, it is that devastating when you can’t conceive a child. It is a hollow feeling in your heart and gut. Waiting for a life that never comes. This isn’t not being able to go on vacation because you have to work, or plans falling through with friends or a job you didn’t get. So spare me your “it wasn’t meant to be”. Might as well follow that up with a “sorry not sorry”. Just say nothing. Please. Just listen and tell the person you love going through this that you love them and you are sorry this is what they are facing. And make sure to tell them that they are still incredible people with so much to offer and they are needed and loved. Because I promise that is what they want. That’s it.
It is hard to put in to words what happens to your heart, mind, body and soul when going through this. Your heart breaks every month. Why was it so easy before, but now when you want to have a baby with the love of your life you can’t? The suffocating guilt you feel that the person you are going to spend your life with will not be a parent because of your body. Because they chose you. You just want to give them a child. You feel such guilt that you question if they should be with you, they deserve to be with someone who they can have it all with. Your mind goes unspeakable places. You see or hear about people having babies who shouldn’t be parents, some terrible people allowed this miracle and we aren’t? And even those that you love and are genuinely happy for, you are irrationally jealous. You can’t help that small nagging voice that says why them and not me? And you know it is so wrong, but you can’t help it. It makes you feel like an absolute terrible person to feel that way. What have you done wrong in your life that this is happening to you? Your body is no longer yours. It belongs to the medicines, shots, procedures and the cycles. You gain weight. You swell. Your hormones are all over the map and you feel constantly emotionally out of control. You feel like you are renting space in a body you no longer know. Last but not least, your soul. That will never be the same. You begin to doubt your self-worth. You feel unlovable, worthless and like a failure. Never mind all you have done in your life or all that you are. You can’t accomplish this fundamental natural thing, the very thing your body was created to do. What the hell are you good for? It breaks you. Literally.
Yet, all the while, life goes on. No one knows what you’re going through. You put on the face and you go to work, family functions and events with friends, take care of your kids, clean your house, pay your bills. You do what you’re supposed to do and keep moving. If you’re lucky, you have a partner that loves you and supports you and feels everything you feel, and you put one foot in front of the other together. It all feels incredibly unfair. It makes you question life in a way you’ll never understand unless you go through the same thing. I’ve always thought I was a very strong person. I’ve been through a lot in my life. And I’ve always gotten myself through it, but this has broken parts of me. As I began to fall deeper and deeper in it, it began to shake me to my core, question my love and value of myself, and made me try to close off to everyone I cared about. I realized I would drown if I didn’t get this out. If I didn’t let anyone else who is experiencing anything similar know they are NOT ALONE. It is time for me to now love myself again, to feel my value again and recognize that I am not a failure and I am most certainly NOT ALONE.
Rachelle Bernard resides in Portland, Maine with her two teenage children Dominick and Dela and her fiancé Nick Cliche. She is a Legal Assistant for a national Consumer Financial Service law firm. She has volunteered with various youth organizations and spends time supporting youth athletics in the city of Portland.