Acceptance and the art of letting go are some of life’s trickiest sons of bitches. They are topics I often work on with clients and I, myself, practice daily. They also seem to be some of the most difficult hurdles in the infertility journey. The acceptance of my childfree, yet childfull, life does not mean I do not have the losses. It does not even mean that I like it most days. Acceptance is simply practicing my work every day to accept what is, what I cannot change and how to be okay despite the lifelong losses of infertility.
I am beyond thankful that infertility education is continuing to be in the spotlight and therefore hopefully fertility compassion will continue to grow. However, I believe, some of the messages being delivered by some voices with a huge platform are contributing to the loss of ourselves to this painful, difficult, long and oftentimes heartbreaking journey of infertility.
One of the biggest punch in gut messages that is probably one of the most spoken is the never give up message. Time and time again we hear celebrities or families with the “traditional” happy ending (read baby) saying never ever give up.
I do not believe this to be a message of hope and light but rather one that dims our light and can leave a lot of us in the dark. Because, sometimes it is okay, and the healthiest option for us, to say no more and to accept what is. And, I don't think this is giving up in the least but rather fighting for and finding our ever upward.
And so, here are what I think are the 9 biggest untruths in the never give up message:
1. Minimizes the difficulties.
- Infertility is expensive, and in most of our cases, we don't have endless resources and our insurance does not cover it.
- Every cycle can feel like a loss. We live by the timelines and the waits. We oftentimes feel like no one understands and try to cope with it all on our own. The emotional difficulties of infertility feel endless.
- The money, the losses, the stresses, all of it are so hard on our relationships. If we do the work to turn towards one another then many times our relationships gain strength but for many infertility will do undeniable and sometimes even irreparable damage.
2. Breeds comparison
- It seems like no two infertility stories are the same, causes, medical and family history, treatment protocols, etc. and yet we compare so much.
- Add to that that not all of us have the same financial resources, faith or religion, family and social support.
3. Triggers shame
- Some of us did make the choice to stop treatments. Some of us do not choose adoption. Some of us choose to keep trying. These are choices sure, however, more times than not they are choices between two shit-ass choices.
4. Puts stress on the relationship
- How long do we try? What if one partner only has one more round in them? What if one partner is not open to full IVF? What then?
5. Denies some truths
- There are some of us that the all ends of the earth in fertility treatments will never work. Sometimes there are genetic or chromosome issues, sometimes our bodies completely betray and fail us, sometimes we will never get to know the reason.
6. Invalidates those who define their enoughs and everythings
- Only we can determine when enough is enough and what our everything is. For some of us, that is only a the first step in the infertility treatment road but not full IVF treatments. For some of us it is two rounds, for others it may mean 8.
7. Makes us doubts ourselves and abandon our truth
- These pressured messages, that may be completely inaccurate for ourselves and our situation as stated above, make us completely deny and abandon our truth, what we want and who we are.
8. Reduces us to our numbers, our losses, our ability to procreate
- We must be so much more than this. We deserve to be so much more. We are so much more.
9. Sometimes it is okay to stop
- This does not mean we are giving up but rather defining what our own happy ending is. This is finding and moving ever upward.
As both a survivor of infertility and a mental health therapist who works with clients every day I see the lifelong devastation that is created by the infertility journey. Every day I see people who have lost their light and lost themselves somewhere along the two week waits, the waiting rooms, the pokes, prods and meds, the losses, the judgement, the loneliness, the gravity of this battle. Every day I see people who are making decisions out of fear that are resulting in more pain.
The conversation must change. The education must continue. The compassion must grow. There are simply too many casualties to the infertility journey.
It is not about never giving up on treatments or the dream of parenthood but it must be about never giving up on ourselves. This is the hope of this journey, to not lose ourselves to it and in it. The hope of never giving up on our happiness and health, no matter what our ending may be, we must do the work to define it as happy.
This is the work. To stop proving it. To truly own it. Embracing it all. Living wholeheartedly brave. Owning it all.
This is my story. This is our story. This is ever upward.