“Surely you’re not going to tell them the details of how they were created.”

“Well, you teach your kids what you want. I’ll be teaching mine about natural conception.”

“If God intends for us to have children, then it should happen without scientific assistance.”

Add to the list of hurtful things people have said about me and my children who were conceived using (*gasp*) medical interventions for pregnancy. Several interventions, actually.  But I’d like to give those who have not traveled the road of infertility some perspective. I share this in hopes that it will help others think before speaking to anyone who has their own journey (known or unknown) of dealing with infertility.

Related: When you’re struggling with infertility, sometimes you just need to break down 

Imagine this: You’re in a steady relationship. It’s to that point where you’re dreaming of growing your family together. You can almost see it. You picture your growing belly, the glowing smile on your face and the tears of exhaustion and pure happiness as you hold that small, warm bundle in your arms.

Your partner looks down at you and the baby, brimming with happiness as he caresses your cheek and lightly touches the baby’s head. Your parents walk in with exuberance, yelling, “Hey new mom and dad!”

Fast forward: You see your baby’s first steps, the day they get on the school bus for the first time, and suddenly you’re ready to start teaching them to drive. 

Related: It’s time to stop calling infertility a women’s health issue

Then POOF… it’s all gone. Your doctor is telling you that you’re infertile, but she doesn’t know why. Your dreaming ceases. You step out into a dark world filled with the kind of uncertainty that makes you feel like throwing up at any moment. After all the negative pregnancy tests and baby showers you’ve declined to attend, your heart is breaking one shard at a time.

The worst part is that you’re disappointed in yourself. You can’t do this one thing that seems so easy for most people. You glance at your partner and he’s staring out the window, deep in thought. Realizing you might never grow your family with him is the final blow. You are devastated

For days, weeks, months and years you trudge on like this. You go from smiling and making small talk at work to sobbing on a padded rug on your kitchen floor. You volunteer to be poked, prodded, cut open and medicated. You set aside your dignity and privacy because you are determined. Even in those moments when your darkest thoughts surface, one tiny sliver always makes its way to the top. That sliver is the hope that you’ll one day be a mom.

To all those dealing with infertility, I see you.

Every day you wonder if it’s been worth your heartache. The financial burdens, the hormone alterations, the incredible stress eating away at you. But then, that day finally comes. The one where your pick your weak body up off the bathroom floor, your limbs like wet noodles. The pregnancy test isn’t lying to you—it’s finally happened!

You don’t even want someone to pinch you. You wish instead that they’d smack you or shake your hard by your shoulders—because this is so wonderful it’s almost impossible to believe.  

Related: What to say when a friend is dealing with infertility

And then there you are, holding that warm bundle you dreamed about for many years—many more than anticipated. If miracles exist, this must be one of them. You smile up at your partner and together you marvel at this being you created. The fact that you had extra help doesn’t change anything. It is perfect.

You’re not a perfect parent, but you love being one. Your kids never doubt that you love them. And one day, you tell them this story. The honest story about how hard you fought for them. You’re not ashamed of any of it, but you are proud. The way they came to be a part of your family was different than most, but it isn’t any less beautiful. Science is just one extra part of this story.

Though dealing with infertility was an incredibly difficult journey, it still has silver linings. And this journey made me a more intentional parent. It created a fierce and loving mama heart. From the ashes arose an advocate for those with empty arms still longing to become parents. I wouldn’t be who I am today without infertility.

Now I dare anyone to repeat those sentences that I mentioned in the beginning of this essay. Using medical intervention for infertility doesn’t make my story any less beautiful.

To all those dealing with infertility, I see you. Please try to forget all the insensitive things people do or say to you. This might be the darkest part of your story, but it is just one part. I send you the sincerest wishes for brighter days ahead. 

Motherly Stories are first person, 500-1000 word stories, reflecting on the insights you’ve experienced in motherhood—and the wisdom you’ve gained along the way. They also help other women realize they’re not alone. Motherly Stories don’t judge. Instead, they inspire other mamas with stories of meaning, hope and a realization that “you’ve got this.” If you have a story, please submit it here: https://www.mother.ly/share-your-story/