It’s incredible to think that I’ve been hosting stories for almost a whole year. So many sobering, emotional, poignant, inspiring strong stories. Today I welcome Anne to the blog, all the way from Midwest USA. Anne’s outlook on life is simply quite remarkable and I found myself nodding in agreement through so much of what I read. I hope Anne’s story inspires you as much as it did me. As always, I’m so grateful for everyone’s commitment because it is such a personal subject to open up about. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
I’ve also started to build a resource list, for those of you who are either childfree by circumstance or childfree by choice. A combination of blogs, communities, individuals who are doing wonderful things in this space. Please do let me know if there are resources you use I can add.
We Are : Anne and Brad, 40
Home Is: Midwest, USA
I Do: Program Manager for a Religious Institute
Living A Good, Full Life
I was with my husband’s grandmother at a hobby store. My husband was out of town for work and I was on a three month sabbatical from youth ministry. I decided to spend the day crafting with his Nanny. I think we spent more time shopping and eating than we did creating anything!
So, I was standing in the middle of the store looking for a small candy cane she could use in one of her potential projects when my phone rang. I recognized the number as my OBGYN’s office. I didn’t think anything of it, so I answered it.
She told me my estrogen looked good and something else was fine, but what I heard next was this: “your AMH levels are low, very low.” I didn’t know what this meant, but I could hear the sadness in her voice, so I knew it wasn’t good. I tried to reason with her: “so I just need to start Clomid then, right?”
“No. Anne, the levels are so low that you will need to get an egg donor if you would choose to try IVF. I am so sorry.”
It’s never good when your doctor says, “I am so sorry.”
From that point on I dissociated. Nanny was not a confidant. I couldn’t talk to her about this, so I just kept walking along the aisles trying to keep myself from falling apart. I made it through store, back to her house, and then back out to my car before the tears came rushing out. I’m not really sure how I made it back home in one piece.
For those of us suffering from infertility, we have a story like this. A story of when we found out. We can remember where we were. The strangest details stay in our memories — like those little candy canes we were trying to find.
Of course, I was devastated and heartbroken and angry and confused.
Early on I knew that I couldn’t walk this journey with bitterness and anger as my constant companions. I knew I needed to make a different choice. I was content to keep grief along for the ride — I knew she had a lot to teach me. But rather than bitterness, I looked to gratitude. And instead of anger, I found love.
I also knew I couldn’t think my way out of this. There wasn’t a fast track to healing. I was going to have to go through it, not around it.
From the beginning I just let myself feel. If I needed to cry, I cried. If I felt like laughing, I laughed. As much as I could, and in the most socially appropriate way possible, I chose not to censor my feelings. I went on a lot of walks with my dog and just cried. I did my best to keep the big ugly cries at home! But, I wasn’t ashamed to let the tears fall while walking down the street. I acknowledged my feelings each time they showed up, in whatever way they needed to be seen.
I also worked really hard at staying present. Now for an organized, plan the calendar months in advance kind of person, this was really hard for me. If I’m not having children, now what? I needed a plan. I needed to know what we’re going to do instead. However, pushing for a plan was rushing my healing and I knew that wouldn’t serve me in the long run, so I stayed present.
When I felt my mind wandering to some future plan, I pulled back and paid attention to where I was in that moment. Staying present might mean lighting a candle and smelling the scent. It might mean having a conversation with my husband. It might mean sitting on the couch with my dog and watching TV. Or, and this was often the case, being present meant taking a nap.
Infertility wreaked havoc on my self-esteem. I didn’t go through fertility treatments, so I can’t speak to all that comes with that. However, I can speak to feeling not good enough, being weak or broken. This one thing I was told would happen to me, being a mom, never did because my body wasn’t capable. My ovaries shut down before it was time and there was nothing I could do about it. Being infertile made me feel like a failure.
So, I paid attention to what made me feel strong and capable and then I did those things. I’m a runner. In April I will finish my 20th half marathon. I didn’t start running until my mid-twenties — in school I had an aversion to running or anything athletic. And now, here I am, running half marathons several times a year. My body is strong!
I’m a yogi too. During the fall of 2016, the same fall that I was diagnosed, I started going to yoga regularly. At first it was hard, I couldn’t hold plank for very long. I felt weak. But the more I showed up, the stronger I felt. It wasn’t about mastering the pose — that’s not the point of yoga. It was about paying attention to my breathing and listening to what my body was telling me. It was about small progress over months and months of practice. After three years I was finally able to do a forearm stand against the wall. I could hardly believe it! But once again my body was telling me — you can do this, you are strong, believe in yourself.
Acknowledging my feelings, staying present and trusting that my body is strong were key steps in moving toward a good, full life. However, I think the most important thing I did was to change my mindset. In 2017 I chose a word for the year. I knew I would need something to help me get through that really hard time — so I chose gratitude. And every night as I lay in bed, I made myself think of three things that happened that day for which I was grateful. Sometimes I had to stretch and say things like: I’m grateful for these sheets or I’m grateful for this house. Of course, I was grateful for my sheets and my house, but I tried to be a bit more specific, like: I’m grateful my coworker gave me a hug when I was having a hard time today. Or I’m grateful I went on a walk with my dog and it was actually warm outside. Or I’m grateful for eating a tasty dinner with my husband. I started that practice in January 2017 and I still do it today. Every single day I acknowledge my gratitude for this life.
We all know it’s really easy to live in a dark place when your life takes a turn you didn’t expect. None of us expected infertility, but here we are. We didn’t choose to be infertile, but there are many other things we can choose. We can choose to be grateful for the life we have — the only life we’re given. We can choose to trust our bodies and find ways to build that trust. We can choose to stay present to the now, rather than worrying about the unknown ahead of us. We can choose to feel all the feelings and return to gratitude every time. We have a choice in the kind of life we will live. One of bitterness or one of gratitude. One of anger or one of love. We have a choice to live a good, full life. What choice will you make with this one life you’ve been given?
Thank you so so much to Anne for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Anne’s story and leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.