Today, we’re taking a bit of a risk and giving you a news feed full of stories reflecting on the joys and struggles of parenting after infertility. We wouldn’t normally post so many stories in one day (that’s the risky part). However, when we interview people who have “resolved” their infertility, even if decades before, a theme that comes up time and time again is the long lasting effects of infertility. Having a child, whether through treatment or adoption, means becoming a parent. It’s not a cure for infertility.
So, we’ve invited several parents after infertility to share their experiences with us today. First up, Candace Wohl of Our Misconception. Candace is an amazing infertility advocate and it was through her sharing her own story on MTV’s True Life, that I was able to really start grieving my own traumatic IVF procedure and subsequent miscarriage. I’ll forever be grateful to her for sharing and am honored to bring you more of her story through our first post of the day. This post does contain an image of a child.
Parenting After Infertility
by Candace Wohl
For National Infertility Awareness Week I thought I would expose a raw topic that some of us really do not talk about. We are even more ashamed to mention it. Somewhere tangled and twisted in the kudzu vines of our infertility, we hold it in. Funny how I am so open to talk about everything from my broken lady bits to reproductive injustice but this, THIS topic is hard.
For the first time, I had been asked to share my thoughts on something I am terrified to talk about. The ART of IF wanted to #StartAsking about parenting AFTER infertility. Not the beautiful bouncing baby part, but what people may not know.
It took 7 years before I became a mother through the gift of surrogacy. I remember waking up at 12:22 am on my first Mother’s Day to the cry of my baby in tears, asking for “momma.” It was the first time I heard it and I felt like I had waited my whole life to hear that one single word. I sat in the rocker for hours that night sobbing tears of joy as I held her while she slept thanking the powers that be that brought us together.
The next day I felt guilty.
There is so much more to peel back and reveal about the aftershock of infertility that tends to happen to the 1 in 8 that finally become moms. Many think once you get to the other side of the ever evasive Promised Land of Motherhood, that everything, the heartache, the desperation, the loneliness will vanish. When your miracle baby is placed in your arms all is washed clean and the curse is lifted like a passing dark cloud. For me, I can say that some of this faded but it was still there.
We openly fundraised and shared our story. My infertility was no secret and our financial infertility was what stood in the way of us having a family. Strangers, friends and family did everything imaginable to help us. The birth of our daughter was one of hope and beating odds and she was a headline baby. Shortly after our daughter was born, I started feeling an overwhelming sence of pressure. It was all internal, not once provoked by anyone. There was this irrational and totally self-imposed expectation to be the flawless Donna Reed example of motherhood. This is what I have wanted for so long right? I felt like everyone was watching every move I made from how I interact with her to what type of diapers she wore, things like choosing homemade baby food versus jarred, I even stressed over the type of cleaner I would use in the house.
There were so many people who wanted this for us and there are millions, (7.4) who want to be in our shoes. Infertile guilt sets in. These thoughts play in my head daily:
How can I be frustrated at 3 am when I’m covered in vomit? Someone right now is praying for this.
My kid just pinched the living crap out of another kid at the park, the other mom probably thinks I do not discipline because she is an only child and I am a parent after infertility.
I feel like a horrible mom for handing over our daughter on a bad day, as soon as my husband comes home from work so I can leave the house for an hour to decompress.
I wanted this so badly and I am failing everyone around me.
These thoughts, this great feeling of social pressure, although I know is self-induced is part of my infertility. I don’t quite fit in with the fertile moms at the playground because my perspective is different. I don’t always fit in with the women who are still working on their first set of double lines, because I do have a child now and I am afraid to share my joy because I was once there and understand the painful uncertainty. It’s a lonely feeling.
For those who know me, I am really positive person. I’ll take a steamy pile of poo and figure out how to make it into a less-steamy, more gold-like poo-casso. That has not left me. But I am scarred both physically and mentally. The infertility PTSD is there, just repressed now that my whole world was changing. I am able to finally hit the play button on my future which I had felt had been on pause for so long. Still though, that song that was on repeat for so many years titled, “You can’t have a baby because something is wrong with you” still plays in my mind. With that playing and a new song, “Don’t be anything less than 100% grateful and a perfect mom … this is what you prayed for” it can sometimes be tough to remember that, being human means not being perfect. It means messing up every once in a while, listening to that voice that says, “Damn, I just washed those sheets.” Being human means, I/we are capable of feeling all of these emotions, no matter how contradictory, at one time. I am glad ART of IF decided to #StartAsking about Parenting After Infertility, they exposed this other side of me that I thought it best to just hide under my bed of feels. Although this isn’t the fairytale painting of a picture for this very broad topic of parenting after infertility, I know it is the painting I am supposed to be a part of and I wouldn’t change a single brush-stroke in it.