Well, the day finally came. My four-year-old asked the dreaded question. Nothing to do with body parts or sex. My husband and I have always used anatomically correct terminology with her and have welcomed any question. However, until last week, I was hoping to have glossed over this particular topic. In fact, I had just had a conversation with my supervisor about her not inquiring. “Mom, when are we going to have more babies in this house? When I grow up, who will be with you and daddy? I want more than three people to live in this house.” GULP!
As much as I wanted to rush through this conversation, I knew I had to slow it way down to address all of her questions, and more importantly, acknowledge her and join with her in her sadness—along with mine. My daughter was my husband’s and my second IVF attempt and our chances with ICSI were only about 15%. I had always dreamed of a big family and longed for lots of children. Nevertheless, my body chose another path and after a grueling 8-month health deterioration, at the age of 38, I had to have a hysterectomy.
Back to my four-year-old, through our tears, I explained that mommy and daddy were only able to have one baby—which just so happened to be the best gift ever! I explained how she was conceived. I had many times before, but I believe her processing and the timing of her questions were different this time. I said that an amazing doctor took one of my eggs and one of her daddy’s sperm and put them together to create an embryo and then implanted that embryo back in my uterus where she grew and grew and grew until her birth. She asked why we couldn’t do that again because she wanted to play with a baby. She knew only women could carry babies but didn’t understand why this woman could not. I spoke with her about my surgery, etc.
We spoke about having friends to play with and share toys. I do not know what all she was able to process and fully understand. I’ve always spoken to her as if she understood all that I was saying. Babies are born with all the emotions that adults have. They just can’t verbalize and express them the way adults can. And sometimes even adults can’t fully express our emotions in an appropriate or sound way. I’m grateful that my daughter was able to share her hurt and pain and ask the hard questions. I’m equally reminded how my infertility struggles and journey has never gone away. It’s always there. There are times when I’m able to go about my day and a thought pops up and it has no affect. There are times, however, when a wave of sadness washes over me. It’s in those times I must grieve and recognize this void and longing that will never be filled. Do those emotions mean I’m ungrateful for my daughter? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite. By going to and visiting that dark place, I gain my strength back. As Brené Brown writes, “When we acknowledge our pain, hurt, and grief, we get our power back.” I, for one, would rather eat and tackle my pain than be eaten and tackled by it.
If you struggle or have struggled with infertility, reach out and talk about your pain and experience to a friend or therapist. Tell your story to a trusted person who uses both of their ears. Find someone who does not judge, shame, pretend to have all the answers, or wants to ‘fix’ you. You are not broken. Your body is not a defect. If you need help conveying your feelings or story in a way where you feel validated, heard, and/or understood, I’d love to work with you, and have you own what’s rightfully yours. Infertility is such a unique suffering and struggle. I encourage you to walk this journey with someone and not in isolation.