Infertility at Christmas
Christmas is a complicated time for so many. Particularly for our community struggling with infertility, Christmas can be bitter sweet. How many years have you promised yourself that next year will be different? How many years did you picture a Christmas card pregnancy announcement? Or a surprise gift at a family gathering?
In an effort to give voice to the parts of us we keep silent this time of year, I've written a letter to my Christmas past, present, and future. I know his has been done before - in countless different ways and I'm certainly no Dickens. But as I ask myself to accept the bitter and the sweet of this holiday season, I can't help but reflect on where we've been, where we are, and where we'll go.
It's so nice to see you, looking so happy. So blissfully unaware of the trail ahead of you. You laugh without a twinge of sadness. You are young and healthy and in love; excited for the life you're building and the adventures yet to come.
No one looks at you and sees sadness. People talk to you freely without fear of saying the wrong thing. Without fear of reminding you of the pain that you're not even familiar with yet.
As babies slowly trickle into your family, year after year, you remain hopeful that next Christmas it will be your turn. The people around you start to notice your yearning. They start to wonder why you laugh with traces of sadness. Yet you still laugh, because even in your pain you are surrounded by love and hope.
You commit that you will gather your courage (and money) to take the leap into IVF. Of course, you still hope for a miracle baby but you're finally prepared for the reality and you're saying "bring it"! You feel strong and empowered. Without a doubt, next year it WILL be your turn.
It's so nice to see you, looking so real. You took all your gumption (and money) and dove into IVF. A process which - for you - did not work. No BFP (big fat positive), no frosty embabies, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. You risked it all and you lost it all.
Except that isn't totally true, is it? You did risk it all and you didn't gain what you signed up for. What you signed up for was the real chance to make your husband a dad. And you got SO close.
What you didn't sign up for, that you got instead, is something you never knew you needed. You got a cozy sleepover with your sisters when you were crawling out of your skin with anxiety. You got to feel your husband's true strength as he - literally and figuratively - held you up when you collapsed. You got to see tears collect in the eyes of your friends who's hearts are huge and overflowing with love. You got to feel the hands of your parents as they sat and prayed over you when you sobbed on the couch. You got to let yourself be vulnerable and watch as people didn't run away terrified. You got to learn that you are not too much.
It's so nice to see you, looking so happy. Not unlike the you from years ago. Except this happiness is different. You laugh with hints of wisdom. You carry yourself as someone who is strong and grounded. Your eyes have changed. A few more laugh lines and a bit more sparkle. A sparkle that was earned from living through one of your worst nightmares and SURVIVING. A sparkle that was gained only through being gracious with yourself as you fell apart. An experience you never asked for but found a way to embrace.
People talk to you freely. Your vulnerability has allowed you to have deeper, more meaningful relationships with your loved ones. You carry on throughout the holidays and the year with a sense of peace. Life might not look the way you expected it to look but it's beautiful nonetheless. You embrace the beauty, the uncertainty, the vulnerability, and the future. This Christmas, you are happy. It's so nice to see.