In infertility treatment, it's pretty easy to name the negative processes at play. The longing for, and not yet having, a child. The uncertainty and waiting for answers. The invasive, expensive, and time consuming medical treatments. The soul-crushing losses and disappointments. The havoc it can wreak in important relationships. The list goes on and on.
And yet, in my practice, intermingled among the pain and the losses, I can see moments of incredible heroism. Amazing acts of generosity and compassion. And profound expressions of love for an unborn or unknown child, made through hard work, risk-taking, and physical and emotional sacrifice. In order to survive all the difficulties, I feel it is important to step back and acknowledge these amazing moments and the profound impact they can have.
Chances are, your own personal struggles with infertility also contain such positive, love-filled, and heroic moments. But it may be hard at times to see them, because the pain of the situation obscures them from view. In this post, I will discuss the role of love and heroism in infertility treatment.
Infertility boils the desire and love for a future child down to its essence. When a baby doesn't come the easy and fun way, it forces the hopeful parents to really think about what they are doing. Now, in order to have a child, they must give something up, starting with their privacy and intimacy in the baby-making process. As treatment progresses, the sacrifices continue, whether they are physical, logistical, financial, or emotional. And sometimes, if it becomes clear that parenting will only take place through using donor gametes or adoption, they must give up their own genetic connection to their future child.
I feel that at the end of the day, the thing that gets most people through all of these sacrifices is their love for their wished-for child. In a "normal" situation, this love would be taken for granted, as the assumption is something like, "I love my child because he or she is created by and similar to me". But when this is all stripped away, it becomes clear that most people have the capacity to love a child no matter how he or she was created or if the child is genetically similar to them or not. People in infertility treatment, because of their situation, know this first-hand. I feel there is something very powerful in this self-knowledge. Sometimes, people without fertility issues have expressed to me that they doubt they could ever go through the hardships of treatment or be able to love an adopted child. This always makes me feel sad for them, because I think what they are really saying is that they doubt their own capacity to attach to or love a child if the conditions aren't exactly perfect. Knowing for sure that you have the capacity to love and care for a child, no matter how they came to be in your family, puts you directly in touch with the best part of yourself, and the best part of human beings in general.
It has often been said that being brave is not acting heroically in the absence of fear; rather, it is being afraid and acting heroically anyway. Infertility treatment, if it doesn't work initially, often requires these moments of courage. We must keep trying when the stakes are high and the fear of disappointment is strong. Or perhaps we must muster up our courage to accept an unwanted truth or outcome, and to come up with a new plan to make our dreams of a family come true.
Many times, we must perform these courageous acts even when we are feeling hurt, scared, and angry at our situation. Although it is difficult, I frequently witness "ordinary" people rising to the occasion, and performing profound acts of heroism. Although these acts may be private in scale, they are just as courageous as many of the more public acts of heroism we see on the news.
I feel that experiencing yourself as courageous, even in the face of adversity, is very powerful. It puts you in touch with the best and strongest parts of yourself. Also, it is something you can take with you to the other difficult situations that will inevitably come up in life.
So in those tough and demoralizing moments in your infertility treatment, try to think of the ways you have been courageous and brave, and the ways your love has helped you to transcend significant difficulties. I think that you will be impressed and encouraged by what you have done--and this may help give you the strength to pursue your next step down the path towards creating your family.