For two and a half years I suffered in silence with infertility. As a very private person I didn’t want to share any information about my desire to have a child or my failed attempts to do so.
When friends asked about having kids I’d say, “We’ll see what life has in store for us.” Then I’d immediately change the subject. I was ashamed that my body didn’t perform the way I wanted it to. The way it should.
I stayed quiet to keep my emotions in check. It was important for me to appear strong and capable rather than admit I felt terribly weak and vulnerable. I also feared pity. I didn’t want people to delicately step around my complex emotions or feel sorry for me. It was a lonely and isolating time in my life.
Despite having two beautiful children I still hate hearing a woman say, “I got pregnant on the first try.” My oldest is seven, I don’t plan to have any more children and I still don’t like the sound of those words in my ears.
I’d love to say I can rejoice in statements like that, but sometimes life feels incredibly unfair. Why did my journey to motherhood have to take so long? Do I feel jealousy, anger, frustration when I hear those words? A mix of all three? I don’t know.
Fertility is a taboo topic. Most of us don’t walk around saying, “Hey, I want to have a kid but it’s just not working out for me.” Many of us sit in silence as friends announce their pregnancies. We buy baby gifts for others while longing for the child we wish to hold in our arms.
In the fertility clinic no one looks up when another patient walks into the room. Small talk doesn’t exist there. Women read magazines, flip through their phones or stare down at the floor.
Men meekly step off the elevators with their tiny, brown paper bags filled with sperm. First timers unwittingly attempt to hand it to the receptionist. In a soft voice she tells them it will be collected privately in another room. They jerk back their arms quickly. The crinkle of the paper bag audible in an otherwise silent room.
Female patients walk quietly to their sonogram rooms. After undressing from the waist down the technician puts cold gel on their bellies and begins to count follicles. Those eggs must be just the right size and number, (not too many, not too few), to continue. After just one cycle all patients know the routine.
There is an unintentional separation of men and women in those clinics. Men drop their goods at the door. Women walk slowly to the examination rooms. In this environment there is no need for a man to be with a woman.
Ninety-nine percent of the time it seemed like women sat alone in those waiting rooms. Patiently listening for their names to be called and their follicles counted, but every so often a couple waited together.
The sight of two close bodies leaning towards one another typically meant one thing and one thing only. They were waiting for a sonogram of their baby. The blood tests confirmed pregnancy and they were waiting to see that little bean swimming and that tiny heart pumping.
The first time I saw a man and woman emerge from a sonogram room I knew their fertility treatment worked. They were holding a shiny, square, black and white photograph of their child and smiling.
I loved seeing those couples. I wanted to know I had a real shot at getting pregnant and when I saw those happy faces I knew that this whole crazy process might actually work for us. I yearned to see their success.
There are rules at the fertility clinic. The number one rule is: no children allowed. But you know what? I desperately wanted to see children in those waiting rooms. I wanted to see the favorable outcomes of weeks of drugs, exams and treatments.
Sometimes I wanted to chat with the women who sat in silence around me. I wanted to ask, “How many cycles have you been through?” Do you have any other children? Do you know anyone who has gotten pregnant through IUI or IVF?
Because what I saw were sad, solemn women silently hoping. I knew the statistics, but I wanted to see those beautiful children in person. I wanted to see those happy, smiling couples stepping out of exam rooms.
Of course, I understand why fertility clinics want to keep children out of their offices. When we are struggling we may not want to visualize other’s success. I respect that and sometimes I felt that way myself. I also recognize that every patient is not guaranteed a happy ending.
But more often than not I yearned for those positive stories. Thankfully, I had two of my own. My fertility journey stopped just short of IVF for both of my children.
How does any of this relate to personal finance? Well a friend recently told me she didn’t want to read about the financial success of others. That reading about those who have FIRE’d was tearing her apart. Her goals seemed to stretch out so much farther, her path was so much more difficult, her life on a trajectory far from FI.
In that discussion I thought about the boundless months I spent in that fertility clinic. I thought about the need to look away at times as well as the strong desire to see success.
Sometimes I felt the need to shield my eyes and other times I wanted to open them wide. Neither option was right or wrong. It was my decision to make and mine to make alone.
Overall I tried to hold out hope for the best. I allowed myself to search for stories of triumph. When times were tough I rejoiced in reading infertility blogs that ended in healthy deliveries. In the world of personal finance I craved stories of economic progress.
The journey to procreate was not an easy one for us. The path to financial abundance took nearly two decades. Along the way I searched for solace at times and encouraging words at others.
I hope my story sparks hope for you. When I began to weave this tale I had no idea how high our net worth would grow. This blog, (my online journal), is not a get rich quick story. It’s a steady progress to meet our goals.
But I also understand that sometimes it’s hard not to feel slighted in life. When those angry, frustrated, sad feelings arise it can be difficult to read about other’s success. Along my path I wish I’d acknowledged my own emotions more often.
Your journey may feel incredibly long and unfair. Take time to process your emotions and seek the comforts and inspirations you need when you need them.
Also remember that happy endings aren’t always easy to come by. You are not alone. Many of us encounter tremendous bumps along the way. Even if it doesn’t look that way on the outside.