A few months back, a client and I created a metaphor that I feel captures the experience of infertility. In this metaphor, the task of building a family is akin to climbing a big mountain. This mountain is criss-crossed with thousands of different paths and passes of varying levels of difficulty. Most women are able to follow an easy path, without much of a climb. But for those of us struggling with infertility, the easy path is blocked. Instead, we find ourselves assigned to one of the paths less traveled. All of these passes are harder than the standard path, but some of them are harder and longer than others. In many cases, we must climb the mountain without seeing any evidence that the summit is in view. We may climb for a while, and find that yet again our path is blocked, forcing us to change course, often with great difficulty. We may be lucky enough to find others with whom we can climb alongside, and that makes the journey easier. Conversely, we may find that we are forced to climb alone.
At times, the climb can be unpredictable. The path can become incredibly steep and rocky, and the weather can change for the worse. Occasionally, something terrible happens and there is an avalanche. Sometimes, we make the difficult decision that the cost of climbing the mountain is too high, and we make our way back down--and find another mountain to climb.
Usually, however, if we keep climbing, the path eventually clears and becomes smooth, and the sun starts shining. The top of the mountain, with its beautiful view, comes into sight. We are most likely quite changed by our journey--hardened, seasoned, matured, and incredibly grateful to have made it to the top.
As someone who's spent a lot of time on this mountain, both personally and professionally, I've observed that if someone is really determined to have children, then they will make it over this mountain, no matter what. It may take more time than they'd hoped, and they may have to change course more than once to surmount the obstacles before them. But mainly, they just have to keep climbing.
However, during the climb, it is very difficult to feel confident that it's all going to turn out alright in the end. After setbacks occur, we can come to feel that nothing is ever going to get easier, and that bad outcomes are inevitable. It's hard to realize that even though it is not in plain view, the top of the mountain is there waiting for us. At these points, we must use our courage, and the support of others to help us keep going.
The client with whom I collaborated on this metaphor, after a long and difficult journey, recently found her own short-cut over the mountain, just when all hope seemed lost--a true miracle. But even without such a dramatic miracle, we can still climb to the top. Despite everything, no matter how you get there, or what path you end up taking, the view from the top is the same. Perhaps, if you've been forced to take a longer and more difficult path, you will appreciate the view that much more.