Does infertility ever go away? That was the big question I asked myself at certain strategic points in my fertility journey. One such point? When I was ready to give up and go cry myself to sleep under the covers. Another? When I looked in the mirror and could not recognize myself.
When it was all over, one way or another, would infertility ever really go away?
Have You Asked Yourself, What Comes After Infertility?
This battle of infertility (sometimes the first major one we face in our lives) is a big one. A huge one. Words like big and huge never really expressed how all-encompassing infertility and fertility treatment was—you know like, my whole life devoted to it!
Like most challenged by infertility, we dive in, with both feet, single-mindedly focused on building our families. We get so immersed in our quest to building our families that we rarely consider what will happen next. How can we really when we don’t know if there will be an “after infertility”? Or at least if the “after infertility” that we are hoping and working for is the one we will end up with? Through blood, sweat, tears, medication, procedures, many doctors appointments, and no guarantees of a baby… then what?
What happens at the end of the infertility journey, with or without a baby?
Is It Really Baby and Then Happily Ever After?
What I’ve discovered through thirty-one years of conversation, is that there are as many answers to that question as there are people affected by infertility.
I posed the question in a private FB page of mommies after infertility. Actually, I posted a set of questions. Here they are, mainly based on the questions that I had and that I hear over and over again from women who’ve completed their fertility journey:
1. Will I ever stop being jealous of pregnant women?
2. Will I ever stop being sad about how long it took and how old I became before I was a mom?
3. How do I become completely happy with having the child or children I have rather than the size family I always dreamed of?
4. Why am I still sad when I hear of a pregnancy?
5. Will my miscarriage date ever fade into history?
6. I get all choked up when I speak to my child about how they were conceived—am I the only one?
7. Baby showers are still tough, why is that and when will it stop?
Do Infertility Feelings Continue Forever?
Here are answers that were posted, shared here with permission:
Question: How often do you think of infertility?
“Rarely now that my family is complete. Until I felt it was complete, constantly. I still am very close to those feelings... like I haven’t forgotten but I morphed.” J.P.
“Pretty regularly, actually. We’re active and waiting for our second adoption, which is much easier this time around as my heart is full and has done a complete 180 from the struggle it was to try, try with RMA, and wait for our son to come to us. But I still think often about what I will have missed having never been pregnant (though I am pretty sure it’s not the right thing to force my body through). I also want a third kid, but it’s so challenging to weigh the cost/benefit analysis of going through the process for a third time, and then the sadness that comes with considering a cost/benefit analysis for a child in the first place.” S.E.
“I still think about it every single day, but it doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I always thought I would be a mom of two, but since the road, for us to get our son was a very, very long and complicated one, I am getting more and more comfortable with having one child. We have two tested embryos frozen that we will very likely never use.” O.G.
Question: How do I become completely happy with having the child or children I have rather than the size family I always dreamed of?
“We have two RMA of Connecticut babies and a couple of frozen embryos. Really want 3, but because of the Frozen ET factor, my hubby is a no on having a third. Makes me so angry - at myself even - for having the issues I do. And here we are - 4 years of paying for embryo storage because I just can’t seem to accept the fact that we are done.” M.K.
“I can’t help but think about it when I spend time with my sister and her three kids... when folks ask when we are having another.” B.V.
Question: Why am I still sad when I hear of a pregnancy?
“For me, it is always still tough when a friend announces a pregnancy. I am blessed with two healthy, beautiful boys, but still, sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy. Not sure it will ever go away.” J.G.
“I still think about it every day. Seeing pregnant moms or announcements doesn’t sting as much now that we have kids, but I’m always reminded of our long struggle and the negative impact that’s had on our lives.” W.K.
“I think about it whenever I see someone who is pregnant, and I remember the joy I felt being pregnant. I also always think of how hard it used to hit me to see a pregnant woman before I was pregnant. I will never forget those feelings.” G.S.
“I have a really hard time being around pregnant people who are complaining about being pregnant. Actually, my husband said he couldn't listen to one of our friends carry on any longer either, so I guess it isn't just me.” S.B.
“Pregnancy announcements for sure. Especially “surprise” ones.” P.L.
Question: I get all choked up when I speak to my child about how they were conceived—am I the only one?
“In the best way, I still get teary-eyed about my child’s conception—because I’m so grateful that I got the help I needed! Donor egg was a hard decision, but it was the right and best one for me because it brought me, my son.” D.R.
“I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say or when to say it. It turned out to come naturally, as part of our family's story. Wish I hadn’t wasted that time worrying!” B.N.
Question: Will I ever stop being sad about how long it took and how old I became before I was a mom?
“I think I’m at a normal level of wanting to hold newborns now if that makes sense. Maybe the colic was so bad it cured me? I would never want to have another infant. I would never want to go through all the things I’ve gone through. I like where I am now.” A.B.
“I think about infertility at special moments, like birthdays or first tooth. Otherwise, it’s just part of my history.” L.G.
Question: Will my miscarriage date ever fade into history?
“It’s been 10 years since I lost my pregnancy. I don’t think of it every day, but I don’t have to think hard about what my due date was, I just know. I do find myself noticing children of that age a little more than other kids.” E.P.
“Even though I now have my two beautiful RMA of Connecticut children, I will never forget my first pregnancy and the baby that isn’t here.” A.F.
What Should I Expect Now that I’m Done with Fertility Treatment?
My experience has been that some people get pregnant, have their babies, and never look back. Infertility is in their rearview mirror, they’re more than happy to wish it a quick adios! In fact, I've heard some heartbreaking stories about formerly infertile people (recovering infertiles?!) being more insensitive and awful to those still trying to conceive then normally fertile friends can be.
Hearing pregnancy announcements stung for a long time afterward. I think it was the ease of getting pregnant, which was something I hadn’t experienced, that made me feel so wistful about what hadn’t been.
It probably took me ten years to be truly empathetic towards someone unhappy with an unexpected pregnancy. Wrapping my head, much less my heart around a friend in despair about a pregnancy occurring was beyond me for that decade. But now that it’s been three decades, I feel, react, and respond differently, with more love and compassion.
My personal belief is that we all should be able to have our choices respected and supported. Whether it’s the decision to stay in fertility treatment, decide to stay childfree, give up fertility treatment even though there’s still insurance benefits available, adopt, foster, work with a gestational carrier, donor egg or sperm, become a favorite aunt or uncle, or something I've not mentioned here—it's about choice.
And that choice does include being childfree by choice. Deciding to delay parenthood.
Maybe it’s my favorite part of aging! Becoming less judgmental about the “shoulds” and the “shouldn’ts” and accepting that people make choices that are best for them, with the information that they have, in the moments they need to make decisions.
Lastly, it’s made me a different parent. This I know for sure. My biggest moment of healing came at a moment that I did not expect. We struggled with infertility for six and a half years.
The moment my daughter turned six and a half years old, I felt a lightness in my shoulders where I hadn’t realized that there was a still a weight. Somehow, being a parent for the amount of time equal to being actively infertile created a spiritual shift. I felt more complete. More whole.
More healed. It was a most welcome feeling.
What About You?
Infertility has become part of your life story. But like many parts of your life, it may sit obediently in the past, not very active. It may have been so far-reaching that it’s reframed how you see and even function in your life. It may have affected how you parent.
Have your feelings evolved?
Do you still think about your infertility journey frequently?
Do certain things trigger feelings?
Please consider sharing your “after infertility” experience with me for the simple but loving purpose of encouraging and inspiring those still trying to conceive and wondering about their future. I will keep all information confidential, of course.
- Mark Leondires, MD writes from a medical point of view about what to expect in a pregnancy after infertility.
- Are you a different parent after infertility? My thoughts.
- Infertility is Not the Price You Pay for Lousy Decisions. Just in case you are blaming yourself.
Ready to attend an in-person Pregnancy After Infertility support group?
Find the next meeting on our events page.