While I can’t say I think about my past dance with infertility all the time, or how I must look to some people who don’t know better, I do think about it a lot while I’m grocery shopping.
I try to imagine how I would have reacted to seeing me now, five years ago.
When you look at me now, you see a mom pushing one of those comically oversized carts with a molded plastic car anchored to the front that the grocery store graciously provides for moms of two.
In the cart, my gorgeous blonde-haired, blue-eyed, three-year-old daughter is perched upright, smiling at everyone and talking non-stop. Her equally adorable18-month old brother is buckled in beside her and whining for cookies, which you’ll instantly forgive once he fixes his doe-like brown eyes on you. A flick of the eyes towards me will reveal a six-months-along pregnant belly.
I am positively oozing fertility.
I know exactly what I would have done. Feeling a stab of pain straight through my heart, I would have grabbed my cart and strode off purposefully in the opposite direction, forget the produce.
But that’s not the whole story.
Five years ago, I was on the other side of the fence.
Escaping into bathrooms at baby showers and children’s birthday parties to sob, praying every prayer, trying every trick (even the weird ones), exhausting every homeopathic option—I was getting shot up with powerful drugs nightly, and all I had to show for it was a lot of stab marks and bruises. No baby to hold in my arms.
Lots of my infertile friends, who are now parenting, express how hard it is for them to celebrate Mother’s Day or do certain trigger-activities now that they’re parents. They hold the pain of infertility close to them, even now that they’re on the other side of it.
I’ll be honest, I do not feel this way.
I remember what it felt like, but in the hazy, out-of-focus way that I remember how it felt when the mean girls in high school ignored me, or how badly I wanted a pet hamster when I was nine.
I remember it happened… but I can’t quite conjure the same emotions, now that I’m so far removed from it.
I respect the feelings I had at the time, but I will never, ever relive them. Everything prior to having a child has essentially been erased by the very nature of the act. Even as I try to remember and feel sad… I don’t.
Everyone’s experience is different.
I do wish I could show my five-years-ago self a snapshot of Future-Me-at-the-Grocery-Store. “There,” I would say, “There you are. Stop crying. It will happen so fast. It will be so immense, and nothing will ever be the same again. It will be a million times better than you can even imagine right now. And, it will also be hard, but so, so, so worth it.”
I can’t say the same to the infertile stranger in the grocery store. Not everyone will have the same outcome—that’s the cruel reality of the world.
But I can say that where you end up is often so far from where you expect or dream to be—whether that involves children, or something else that will ultimately fulfill and soothe your soul in unimaginable ways.
All I can say with truth is that five years can change everything.
I see you. I’m sorry you are suffering this pain. But please know, I suffered it once too—and what you see now isn’t even close to the whole story.