Do you ever get over infertility?

Kathy Krugeradoption, gratitude, guilt, IVF, motherhood, perspective31 Comments

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Do you ever get over the death of a loved one? Do you ever fully recover after trauma, or accident, or a life-threatening illness? Does divorce always leave love a little (or a lot) broken for you? Does financial loss always leave you feeling poor? Does failure always leave you feeling a failure?

When you get a second chance, renewed health, new love, all that you’ve ever dreamed of, do you still rue what you have lost, what might have been?

The biggies. Questions about what pain is acceptable to carry with you (for how long, forever?) and what has to be left behind so you can carry on. Questions about when and whether you have the right to regret, to hold onto grief as a badge of honour, an identity even – about how much of holding-on is just wallowing in victimhood, how much is survivor vanity (look how brave I’ve been), how much is simply survival because that pain got so deep into your bones and releasing it would only break you. Every. Bone. In. Your. Body.

I feel hugely guilty in that I can only honestly say I haven’t gotten over infertility. Not completely. Perhaps I will never fully get over infertility BECAUSE I feel so guilty.

I have wrestled with this guilt and pain for so long now. I can KNOW that the guilt serves no purpose and the pain doesn’t bear re-living. But my bones are getting older, and they ache with a sense of something I can only call regret.

We only recently sold the baby furniture – I held onto it long after its useful life. Why?

We only recently changed health insurance policies – we should have changed long ago and saved hundreds of dollars. Still I paid the higher premium to hold onto the useless coverage for pregnancy and birth. Why?

Such false hope seems as stupid as it is ungrateful, regretful.

I told myself things were done and dusted when I turned 43 – I thought I spent our year on exchange to Canada coming to final terms with that as I cradled our son, stroked his downy head, loved every bit of the baby he was and tried not to grieve the first nine months I’d missed of his life nor the nine months of growing him. Time would lessen that loss just as it had with our daughter. But it would never go away.

And then I turned 44 and felt like I’d lived half my life (lucky me) – surely the fertile half (for what it had not been worth) was finally over and I could move on. How lucky I was to have our two beautiful children, how could I possibly want for anything more? And I didn’t really want a third child anyway – who knows I’m impatient enough with two.

Now I’m nudging 45, and will soon have to officially admit middle-age, yet still that loss lingers. Niggling, like an old fracture that twinges whenever it rains.

Adoption has been a huge blessing in our lives, but it has not ‘cured’ our infertility (or mine anyway) and it was never meant to. I must ungratefully, selfishly say that it has not taken away all the pain. Not that pain that got right into the marrow.

I can write about loss turning into gain, about the magic of alchemy and the yin yang balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in our lives. I can write about going with the flow that I raged so hard against when we were doing IVF, before realising it was the very same universal flow that led us to our precious children! But there’s still that pain that won’t go away. I’m a fraud to my own philosophy.

I can admit to whimsical feelings of regret as I did in this post (Not another Baby Shower) but then feel guilty that I’m somehow grudging the gift of our kids, the privilege of parenting ‘someone else’s children’.

I can lay bare my private shame about still not feeling completely satisfied in life, despite being a mother, despite all that I’ve been given and all that others have lost, and wonder whether anyone could ever understand THAT.

I ache, in my bones, when I feel I have no right to. And it hurts.

For me, right now, I cannot separate regret from guilt. If I allow myself to cling to any lingering regrets, then I must feel guilty for doing so. To lament anything is far too indulgent.

Regret sits very uncomfortably with gratitude when you’ve been lucky to adopt two beautiful children.

Perhaps it also sits uneasily if you are ‘lucky’ to survive a life-threatening illness and gain a new lease on life, or to come out the other side of an accident or trauma, alive and thankful for that much at least.

Regret sits uncomfortably with life lessons learned the hard way through divorce or financial crisis, or failure of any kind.

Perhaps it provides a sense of false comfort in grieving the loss of a loved one, but in the end it only makes sense to remember the moments you had, rather than rue the time you might have had.

I want to get to the point where all trace of regret is gone but the pain got into my bones and it’s hard. And as for guilt, well I think that is in my Irish Catholic DNA! I certainly can’t seem to help myself.

So what do I do, what do any of us do to deal with pain that turns to regret and aches in our bones? Learn to live with it, I guess. Feel the creaks and twinges and remember, but build up our survival muscles so we can hold ourselves strong and resilient, so that the pain doesn’t turn our bones brittle. Heal in the only way broken bones do, never quite perfectly.

And then take on life as though it could never break you.

Now as they say in showbiz ‘Go break a leg’.

Linking up with the lovely Essentially Jess today for that great sense of community.

PS – If you want to read more about our infertility journey, I share some excerpts from my unpublished memoir, here and here.

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Kathy KrugerDo you ever get over infertility?

31 Comments on “Do you ever get over infertility?”

  1. BOYEATSWORLD

    I undertsand your pain and shed a tear reading this. I adore my kids but still have pangs for the bigger family I wanted but couldn’t achieve, for all the failed attempts at IVF, for the pain it took to get them, for the adopted babies I wanted but was rejected for because I was undergoing IVF and then became “too old” to apply for by the time I’d shut down my ovarian battery farm. I’m happy 99% of the time but just last night I shed a tear for the seven little embryos I met briefly during the IVF years who never hung around to become my sons or daughters. Feel grateful for the beautiful children you have (I know you do) but never feel guilty for your regrets – these two things are not mutually exclusive. x

    1. yinyangmother

      Aleney, thank you. It always feels comforting knowing that you’re not the only one feeling similar things (I’m sorry of course that you shared in the heartache). I do find it hard to explain to people – when we were going through IVF people could understand how hard it was (or at least try to) but once we adopted I think some think that all the pain disappears. A lot of it does of course, but not all of it. We had 8 failed cycles of IVF and lost a baby through an ectopic pregnancy. All of that is part of me, who I am now as a person and a mother, and those ‘lost years’ have really shaped my life. While the IVF days feel long ago, the emotion can sometimes still feel raw right now.

  2. redlandcitygirl

    Hi Kathy, it must be so hard, but I know you’re not alone in feeling you can’t get over infertility. My sister & her husband were told they would NEVER have a child. Miraculously, they did have 1 daughter who is now 16. Yet I know my sister still really aches over her infertility, and feels guilty because at least she has one child.

    She found going to playgroup etc really hard because the conversation so often centred around “And when are you having your next one”. She hated that other women just took it for granted that they could plan their fertility and have babies according to schedule. She felt very left out.

    So I have some tiny inkling of your pain – I guess it is something that will always be a part of you. Have you ever thought of counselling to help you through this (please don’t be offended) – hey anything that helps is worthwhile in my opinion!

    Visiting from #teamIBOT xxx

    1. yinyangmother

      Thanks for your support Janet. I did have counselling through the long process of infertilit/IVF and adoption. I guess I am hard on myself now thinking I should just ‘get over it’. Maybe I can achieve a better resolution somehow through talking it through with someone. Writing has helped a lot. I wrote this post this week because I am thinking of what story to tell Frances Whiting from the Courier Mail’s Q Weekend magazine – she’s interviewing me as an adoptive mum for a mother’s day feature and I’m torn about how much of my story and feelings to share. I want to be positive about adoption, but there’s a story of pain and loss behind it to.

  3. homelifesimplified

    big hugs to you – I offer my shoulder to a friend who struggles still (won’t adopt) and I feel for you both and every woman I know who has battled infertility – sending love and light – deb xx

  4. Have a laugh on me

    I think that guilt is an emotion that is hard to harness but I think we all feel it. I can’t imagine the pain you are living with but from the short time I’ve ‘known’ you I can see you are making a positive life for yourself and your children. I think there are some things we will always mourn but as long as they don’t consume us I think it’s okay. Em x

    1. yinyangmother

      Thanks Em – it would be great to get rid of guilt (or harness it as you say). I appreciate your support and it will be nice to meet up in real life sometime soon…kathy

  5. Keeping Up With The Holsbys

    It’s a funny thing, regret. It’s so pointless, but so very real. This was a brave and honest post, and I have no real words of wisdom, but I will say honour your feelings. Allow them just to be there, don’t tell yourself to ‘get over it’, because it is sad.
    Just because we have much to be thankful for, doesn’t cancel out what we have to grieve.
    You’re amazing. Thanks for your honesty.

  6. becc03

    I like the sentiment that your bones never grow back perfectly and to take on life like it cannot break you.
    I will take that with me.
    Becc @ Take Charge Now

  7. Jacinta

    You’re a very strong and courageous woman Kathy. You gave me inspiration through our IVF journey. Very moving blog.

  8. Dawm

    Thanks very much for so honestly revealing your inner experience Kathy. You have helped me to understand something about my own mom (who adopted me at 6 weeks), which I had no clue about before. It never occurred to me that no matter how blessed you (and my mom) are to have 2 healthy adopted kids, it cannot replace the grief that must come with long years of trying to conceive (my parents tried for 5 years). I have a new way to appreciate both my parents now. Thank you again :)

    1. yinyangmother

      Thanks Dawn – it was a bit of a cathartic post to write and I’ve had a lot of support and understanding which is good, since I struggle with the guilts. Glad it has given you a new insight in your situation.

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  10. coloursofsunset

    I’m glad you linked to this post on Lisa’s blog today, I needed to read it. I needed someone who really understands to say “it’s ok to not be over it.” I don’t think I ever will be. I feel guilty for wanting more when I am so lucky to have a great son. But I am slowly learning it’s ok to want more and mourn for not having them. I feel guilty for wanting others to know what it really feels like, to TRULY UNDERSTAND, even though I wouldn’t wish infertility on my worst enemy. It feels like there’s a gaping hole in my heart that will never be filled, and I think it will feel like that for the rest of my life. Thanks for sharing this post, and for your honesty.

    1. yinyangmother

      Hi Aroha – it was a hard post to write but I decided that other people (like you) could benefit in knowing that they are not alone in still feeling that sense of loss that stays with you. I totally get where you are coming from with secondary infertility. I don’t think either of us have anything to feel guilty about – it’s up to us allow ourselves to always be ok with our loss and regrets as being part of who we are.

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