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The Lasting Impact of Infertility

Written By: Abbe Feder



I went to pick up my four-year-old twins from preschool recently and two moms were waving at me from the parking area, both with glorious, beautiful baby bumps springing into the summer sun. For one family this was a second baby, and for the other a third. Immediately, massive pangs hit my heart and while I knew I wouldn’t actually shed a tear, it felt as if I might cry. I held it in, of course. It was a feeling I knew well, but one I hadn’t experienced in a long time. For six years I’d tried to get pregnant, for six years I dealt with infertility, and the pangs of jealousy I’d gotten so used to living with during that time came rushing back in a heartbeat. Never mind that I did, finally, get pregnant and have healthy twins. What I felt at that moment wasn’t anger at or even jealousy of these moms, it was more of just a familiar feeling of loss for me. The thing is, seeing these beautiful round bellies brought me right back to the trauma of my six-year journey: daily grief, attempts at hope, lost hope, doctors’ waiting rooms, and awkward family events during all those years while I was waiting to become a mother. Seeing these swollen bellies brought in a rush of thoughts and questions. Was it easy for them? Did they plan it? Do they want more? Do they have morning sickness? Other symptoms? Are their partners being supportive? Have they told their firstborns? And it isn’t just real-life pregnant bellies that trigger me. I still—and always will—hate pregnancy announcements. It isn’t fair in some ways, I know. Everyone should have the right to share their big news with whomever and however and wherever they want. But I felt so much betrayal along the way - women I’d see in fertility clinics, friends who were in the trenches with me, and when they finally received their good news they’d plaster it around as if it had been so easy, forgetting those of us who wiped their tears and held their hands along the way, and who were still waiting in those trenches. Hadn’t many of these women themselves once been in a position of seeing all those announcements on social media and feeling the heartbreak that we #infertilitywarriors all felt on a regular basis?

I remember seeing a friend (read: “friend”

used extremely loosely here) I’d run into at the clinic who made an elaborate fake movie poster that announced her “greatest production” coming soon or a photo of my friend’s first child holding the ultrasound of their soon-to-be sibling with a swath of pink balloons after a brutal bout of secondary infertility. Throughout my years of infertility, I was used to seeing these kinds of announcements on social media and feeling a stew of jealousy and hurt. But I like to think that over time, these deeply uncomfortable feelings made me—and all of us women struggling to become mothers—compassionate. So I guess it struck me as disdainful to make this tacky movie poster, or photoshopped balloon child portrait and post it with no acknowledgment of the heartache and struggle that led there. I realize this may not be fair, but to me, it just felt wrong. When it came time for me to make my long-awaited pregnancy announcement, I didn’t say a peep. Not a word, not a photo, not a clue. I was terrified throughout most of my pregnancy and didn’t even believe it was real until my twin babies made their physical appearance in this world. (Sometimes I still don’t believe it.) During my pregnancy, I would run into people on the street, my pregnant belly in full swing, and they’d say “Woah! We didn’t see this on Instagram!” I’d laugh and explain that mum was the word because of our past, because we’d had multiple miscarriages, because we were scared . . . I’m not saying that my way is the only or best way. All I ask is that we have a little heart. Let’s take care of each other. I remember when Anne Hathaway announced her second pregnancy in an Instagram post; it was elegant, classy, and projected solidarity. It went something like this:

"For those of you struggling to have children, know that our line to both pregnancies wasn’t straight."

YES. Heart burst. She is IN IT with us. Reading that one small line, I felt a sense of unity. I saw another pregnancy announcement recently from a friend of a friend. She shared a beautiful photo of her toddler holding her pregnant belly and wrote something like Feeling grateful for how far we have come. Also, for those going through loss or the tiring road of infertility, or anyone triggered by a pregnancy post, I send my love out to all of you. YES. These announcements are acknowledgments: feelings of sisterhood, shared struggle, and shared grief. To me, that’s what it feels like to take care of each other.

I thought that once I emerged on the other side of my rainbow babies and became a mom, my fertility woes would disappear. I’d be done with infertility—as a label, as a feeling—because, well, the actual physical proof of the happy ending was here, earthside, in my heart and in my hands and in the cribs down the hall. But it isn’t so. Infertility is a diagnosed disease, and diagnosed or not, it stays with many of us forever, I’m learning. Abbe will be one of our THR Speakers in early fall. Keep your eyes peeled on our events page to RSVP and join!

 

Meet the Author

Abbe Feder

When Abbe emerged on the other side of her fertility journey, she founded InCircle Fertility to hold the hands and hearts of those struggling to build their families. She bridges the gaps between the clinic, doctor, patient, and therapist experiences and knew there was a niche to provide support from someone who’s been there - literally everywhere. Abbe has a background in Behavioral Science and is a Certified Life Coach. She is also the host of the podcast, “The Fertility Chick.”




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I’m 60 years old and SO UNDERSTAND THIS! Even though we eventually adopted a child and he is grown now, I still have feelings of jealousy and sadness regarding my being unable to have a child on my own. Thank you for explaining this to others that didn’t or don’t understand the unspoken pain.

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