Infertility never really goes away. That’s one of the truths we’ve learned as we’ve collected stories over the past four and a half years. It can move below the surface for a time but it always comes back up. Some days and months are easier than others. When you’ve been dealing with infertility as long as we have, you can even go for years with everything being pretty okay. Then, the pain and anxiety come rushing in again.
While you’ve heard plenty about the events we’re hosting and the new projects we’re launching, it’s been quite some time since you’ve really heard from us, Maria and Elizabeth. In honor of learning that we’re receiving the 2018 RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association’s Hope Award for Innovation, which recognizes an “individual and/or organization/corporation who have demonstrated the creation and application of an innovative product, service, or medical procedure that has enhanced the lives of those diagnosed with infertility,” we’ve decided to speak the truth about what life with infertility is truly like for each of us these days. First up, Elizabeth.
I see them as I round the corner. A group of children dashing across the lawn. Their presence and the long line of cars along the curb tell me that this get-together out our friends’ house isn’t the small affair I was led to believe it would be. Before I can make it to a parking spot, my twins cross my mind. That group playing on the grass should be larger by two. It would be if I hadn’t had a miscarriage. The tears come, as they often do these days. At least once, usually twice, sometimes three or more.
I’ve now been on a break from trying to conceive for nearly as long as the five years I tried. I’ve been dealing with infertility almost a quarter of my life. After my diagnosis the first few years were the hardest. Then I began attending, and later hosting, a RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association peer-led support group. I found my tribe. Life improved again when Maria and I developed The ART of Infertility. I was no longer alone. I felt heard, seen. Seven years later, I’m feeling invisible again.
I think of what my children would be doing today at 4.5 years old if they’d survived. Milestones in the lives of my friends and family mean fresh wounds for me. Two of my best friends send their daughters off on the school bus together each morning. My sister mentions volunteering with them at school on popcorn day. Several of my last remaining friends without children are moving into parenthood now. I’m thrilled for them but I worry about what it will mean for me. How it will change our relationship.
I already avoid many social situations with parents and children I love. I’m afraid I’ll become further and further isolated. The space that I’ve occupied with my friends without children has been safe but now that safety is jeopardized. I don’t want these things to hurt me the way they do. Each day is difficult in a way it hasn’t been in years. I don’t know how to work through these emotions when I feel like I already try so hard. I have many tools at my disposal. My art, my therapist, my work with the ART of IF. It scares me because I feel like I need more. What will it take? Or maybe I won’t ever feel better. Then what? Will I feel this way every day? Feel this stress, this heartache? Do I even truly want these feelings to go away? If they do, will it mean that I have lost the connection to the children that I wanted so badly and had for only a very brief time before they went away?
Working in the world of infertility has become my passion but I find that it’s now sometimes hard to personally relate and to feel relevant. I’m no longer in treatment but I’m not firmly in the camp of the childfree. This break I’m on has no end in sight. Maria and I work so hard and feel the work we do is so important but it’s hard to see so many others in the community move forward when we feel like we’re at a bit of a standstill in our own lives. I feel burnt out, exhausted, and many times I feel left behind. Receiving the 2018 RESOLVE Hope Award for Innovation comes at a time when I really need a boost. I need some wind in my sails.
Maria and I see the impact we make on others when our exhibits make them feel seen. Receiving the award from RESOLVE makes me feel seen at a time when I’ve really been struggling. The award is especially meaningful to us because RESOLVE brought us together when we met at Advocacy day in 2014. We’ve done so much in a short time but there is still an incredible amount of work to do. We hope that this recognition from RESOLVE will make more people aware of the work we are doing so we can continue to make experiences of infertility visible through art.
I ask that those of you who can relate to what I’m feeling, reach out. Let’s be there for each other. We don’t need to do this alone.