Overcoming My Fear of Infertility
A couple of years ago, I was beyond fed up with my period. I desperately needed relief from the severe PMS pain I was experiencing. So, I went to my doctor hoping to find answers. Because of my family history of fibroids and other women's health problems, my doctor referred me for an ultrasound to rule out any serious issues.
The radiologist spotted what he thought was a polyp. He also said I had a tilted uterus, which was certainly news to me! My MD referred me to one of the top women's health specialists in NYC to determine how we were going to treat my polyp and symptoms.
While I waited to see the specialist, I did what any curious and worried Gen Y woman would do. I consulted Dr. Google. And Dr. Google assured me everything would not be ok.
According to the search results, polyps, a tilted uterus, severe menstrual pain, and my family history were a crappy combo. A combo that would possibly leave me struggling to get pregnant.
That week, I cried and prayed, prayed and cried. The possibility of infertility became a certainty in my mind. I was certain I would never feel little kicks from my growing belly. I was certain I would never breastfeed. And I was certain my boyfriend would give up on our relationship. He wanted to be a dad, so why would he stay with a woman who couldn't be a mother?
Later that week, the boyfriend and I took a walk at The High Line. Between steps and sobs, my fears spilled out. The fear of never being a mom, the fear of losing him. All the fears. He reassured me. He calmed me. And he pretty much demanded I lay off the medical googling.
Not long after that, I saw the specialist. She was unimpressed with the quality of the first ultrasound and ordered a second.
All was well. No polyps. No fibroids. No more reason to fear, right?
Even though everything turned out fine, the whole ordeal unearthed a fear I'd tried to bury. But stuffing fears down doesn't make them go away. They just wait to surface, just as big and ugly as ever.
I finally had to allow the question lurking in the corners of my heart, mind, and womb to surface. "What if I can't have children?"
I was approaching thirty. I had read the articles and the question, "When are you going to have children? You're not getting any younger," was something I had been hearing more often (seriously folks, just stop asking people that question. It's rude and frankly, nonya business.)
My chances of conceiving were declining according to everything I read. My family history sure as hell wasn't reassuring. Hysterectomies due to heavy, painful periods that resulted in anemia. Premature ovarian failure. Fibroids. Not exactly the picture of optimal fertility.
While I didn't have any definitive proof I would experience infertility, I didn't have a guarantee that I wouldn't, either. And it was that uncertainty that left me unsettled and fearful.
I like to know what's ahead. It gives me a (false) sense of control. And there's nothing I like more than to feel like I'm in control, completely in control of my life, my body, and most certainly my fertility.
I knew I had to do something to overcome my fear of infertility. So I faced it head on. Below are the three steps I took (and continue to take) to get back the peace and confidence I had lost.
Steps I Took to Overcome the Fear of Infertility
1. Embraced Influence Over Control
I've had the amazing privilege to chat with the most generous, resilient, and beautiful women I've ever met over the last couple of months.
They've shared honestly and openly about their infertility. They've shared the good and the bad. They've shared their hopes and their doubts.
They've talked about the huge sums of money and time they've invested into their dream of being a mommy. And they've talked about the countless number of foods, teas, supplements, herbs, and exercises they've tried to get pregnant.
They've done everything they know to do. They've changed the way the eat, exercise, and think. They've done everything right but they're still not getting what they long for.
As highly educated, ambitious, and successful women, life has taught them if they work hard they can achieve anything they put their minds to.
Except now. Except with their fertility.
Input doesn't always equal output. Eating well, staying active, and positive doesn't always get you what you want when you want it. And as someone who wholeheartedly believes in the powerful impact lifestyle can have on our fertility, that has been a hard pill to swallow.
Life, our bodies, and our fertility can't be forced. They can't be controlled.
But they can be influenced.
While we can't control our fertility, we can influence it.
We can increase our chances of conceiving. We can improve our fertility. And more importantly, we can live in a way that supports what it truly means to be fertile - productive, fruitful, creative, womanly, and nurturing.
Eating delicious, nutrient dense foods, moving our bodies in enjoyable ways, surrounding ourselves with loving people, and doing things that bring us joy can help us be more fertile in every sense of the word but they may not include getting pregnant the second you decide you want to be a mom.
2. Reassessed the Stats
When you spend most of your time reading about, writing about, and thinking about infertility, it's easy to assume it's your fate. But last week, I started to question the stats. I wondered if the stats I'd been reading and quoting were a true reflection of most people's experience.
Turns out, I had the wrong idea.
Most women, will not experience infertility. And many women who receive an infertility diagnosis will get pregnant and give birth at some point down the road.
We tend to think of infertility as being immutable. We think it's permanent and unchanging. But the majority of women who want to be mothers, will eventually be mothers. And many will achieve that goal without medical intervention.
Receiving a diagnosis of infertility does not mean you're indefinitely infertile.
3. Sought and Listened to Truth
One way I guard myself against fear, is by arming myself with information from reputable sources like Resolve, ASRM, ACOG, and The Egg Whisperer. I also seek out (and give equal weight to) spiritual truths about fertility from Judeo-Christian scripture as well as ancient medical systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Talking with women who've experienced infertility has also helped. Hearing and seeing the journeys of other women have done wonders to help me overcome the fear of the unknown.
Based on what I've seen, infertility absolutely shakes a woman's identity but it also uncovers a strength many women didn't know they had.
I'd be lying if I said I never feel afraid about what the future may or may not hold. Every now and again I catch myself wondering for a little too long about whether or not I'll experience infertility. But those thoughts no longer rob me of all my peace and confidence.
Come what may, I know I can handle it. I know no matter what I can and will live a full, fruitful, and fertile life.