Listen Up! The Emotions of Infertility

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and it’s time to #ListenUp! When I sat down to write my story, I didn’t want to focus on my diagnosis. For me, it’s not about sharing the number of needles I’ve endured or weekly ultrasounds. It’s about my heart, the day to day emotions of waiting for the natural human desire of motherhood to be fulfilled. So when telling my story, especially to those that do not suffer from infertility, what do I want them to know? I decided to pour out my heart and share a recent, personal experience. Here is my most vulnerable self. Listen up, this is my life with infertility.

I try to be an optimistic person, and I try to see the silver lining most days even if it’s not immediate. Then some days, like today it’s hard to look for that silver lining. It seems to happen the same time every month, the few days leading up to my period. I’m sure this is an actual biochemical response. A sudden drop in progesterone or a surge in estrogen throwing my hormones out of whack.

At the same time every month I want to weep. I hold in this great feeling of despair, pushing it down as much as I can, wishing it away. I know it won’t go away until it can be released, so I wait until I can find a moment alone and sob. Sometimes I lock the door, and I cry in the bathroom. Sometimes in the car in a not empty enough parking lot. Sometimes I confine myself to my bedroom, pretending I’m busy folding laundry. Most of the time though, I cry at my kitchen sink while washing dishes. I don’t know why this has become my “go to” spot, maybe because it seems like I am ALWAYS doing dishes.

We have a window in front of our sink that looks out to the backyard. It’s the thing that makes cleaning tolerable for me, being able to watch the squirrels gather the walnuts that have fallen from the tree. I feel peaceful watching the rabbits eat the tall grass that seems to have grown way too fast since it was last mowed. When the lush, green southern Summer emerges, finding the cardinals’ bright pops of red in the trees becomes my favorite game. I watch the seasons change. The leaves eventually become orangey-yellow, until one good cold spell brings in winter. If we’re lucky here in Tennessee, we’ll get a snow storm with just enough snow to blanket everything in pure white. Spring usually comes a little too early for me, but the blossoming dogwood trees and tulips win me over.

I watch time pass season after season from my kitchen window. Everything changes, except for the fact that I am still not a mother. I am not pregnant nor do I have a child in my arms. I am not washing baby bottles or sippy cups or scrubbing tiny spoons with dried on sweet potato puree. The world moves on around me, but my ache to be a parent remains the same.

The same time every year, from the end of March to early May, I watch, from my kitchen window, the female cardinal prepare a nest for her eggs. She spends days flying back and forth tenaciously collecting two or three pine needles at a time to build a home for her future babies. In the first years of infertility, I’d watch her with jealousy and sometimes rage. When was it going to be MY turn? Even the birds are having babies!

As the years have passed, my heart has softened and the bitterness has quieted. I’ve come to realize there is no guarantee baby cardinals will fill her nest. Some years the nest is full of chirping, hungry babies and others it remains empty. The eggs may be eaten by prey or the nest may be destroyed by a powerful spring thunderstorm. Regardless, without needing to know the future’s outcome, the mama bird prepares her nest.

So the other day when I was at the sink washing dishes, preparing for my monthly hormonal cry, a female cardinal perched herself on the flower pot just outside my kitchen window. Separated from me only by a pane of glass, she stood there with a beak full of pine needles for what seemed like an abnormal amount of time. I kept waiting for her to be scared away by the window’s reflective shadows or by the clanking of the pots and pans, but she stayed. She stayed as if she wasn’t leaving until I got the message she was there to deliver. The message for me, despite my uncertainty, to prepare my nest.

And so it goes, every negative pregnancy test, every round of failed medicated cycles, every painful shot, test, and surgery, every heartbreaking miscarriage, every month finding the strength to dry my tears and try again… I am building my nest. Piece by piece. Giving permission to my maternal instinct to persevere, despite the odds. Season after season I will wait, and I will prepare my nest.