Infertility sucks. I wish it upon no one. It proved to be one of the hardest times in my life and in our marriage. If you are currently in the process or have ventured down the road of infertility…you know the feeling. It’s not fun. Through all the trials of infertility, my incredibly supportive husband encouraged me to grieve and process through our feelings together. But, he also challenged me to think of why we should be thankful for infertility. Thankful for infertility? That sounds like an oxymoron…but it proved to be a very good exercise and helped us be more positive when we were feeling negative. Based on our experience, here are 10 reasons why I’m thankful for infertility.
1. Our communication improved.
When you are going through infertility, you must communicate openly with your spouse or else you risk your marriage falling to pieces. For us, we learned how to communicate our feelings better to one another (because infertility is a roller coaster of emotions for the woman AND the man!); we learned how to better articulate what we needed both emotionally and physically. Now, this is not to say we didn’t fall flat on our faces at times and end up frustrating or hurting each other, but I am thankful for those difficult conversations as it ultimately improved our marriage communication for the long run.
If you are in the midst of infertility and your marriage is suffering, consider taking a step back and focusing first on your communication in your marriage. There were months where we took a break from actively focusing on infertility to allow ourselves to focus on our marriage and where we ultimately wanted to end up on the journey. You need to be strong and unified together during such a draining process, so that you can support, love, and encourage each other best, as you seek to grow your family.
2. Health issues were discovered.
During my initial fertility work-up, they did a smattering of blood tests to get a good picture of where my health was at. In the midst of all the blood panels, they discovered I had Hashimoto’s Disease (an auto-immune disease affecting the thyroid). Thankfully, the disease is easily controlled with medicine; however, if I had not gone through infertility, I might not have discovered this disease until much further down the road.
Many procedures, ultrasounds, and treatments later, we decided we would go in for an Invitro Fertilization (IVF) consultation. During the initial consult, they do some diagnostic testing to determine your candidacy for IVF. As they did an ultrasound to take a look at my ovaries and uterus, the doctor looked at us and said “I need you to go downstairs to the main radiology center and get a more detailed sonogram.” Without any more details than that, we nervously proceeded to get another ultrasound down. In the end, they discovered I had an aggressive ovarian tumor that grew to the size of a softball within a month’s time. During the removal of the tumor (including the ovary it had fully enveloped), they also discovered endometriosis (that was previously unknown) that was removed at the same time.
We continue to be thankful that the tumor did not spread, that the cancer was fully removed with surgery, and that the remaining ovary was never affected. Without going through infertility, we may not have discovered the ovarian tumor in time to save my fertility or my life! Within three months time, my tumor grew from non-detectible through ultrasound to the size of a softball. Looking back on the timing of the IVF consultation, if we would have gone even a few months later the tumor could have done far more damage to my body.
3. We gained a better understanding of sexuality.
When you are dealing with infertility, you begin to understand the full ins and outs of reproduction; however, you may not fully understand the sexual side of the process. Let me explain. I was pretty clueless regarding the male side of sexuality — meaning how the mind of a man really thinks, the link between the emotional and sexual, some of the biological areas, etc. My husband exhibited so much patience with me, as he explained some of the ways our approaches to infertility and treatments affected him sexually. We learned how to approach different issues (such as the best ways for “collection”), how to not make everything feel scheduled (even though sometimes it has to be, in a sense), creating an atmosphere of desire–not just conception, etc. He also shared with my some of the male infertility myths that he struggled with. Some of these issues are extremely difficult to discuss openly; however, having a husband willing to share with me and be honest really helped me to serve him better through the process (and vice versa).
4. We became more vulnerable with others.
Not only did communication improve between my husband and I, I also became more vulnerable with sharing with others. When we first discovered we were experiencing infertility, we kept things very private and personal. Not many people knew, outside of our parents; however, we soon started sharing with others. For me, as an introvert, this was a big step and at times was uncomfortable. Both my husband and I had to open up to others and say things weren’t “fine” or that we weren’t “doing good”. We were struggling and having a hard time. And sometimes people don’t know how to respond to that sort of vulnerability, but it taught us how to be true-faced and open with those we knew cared about us.
5. Others became involved in our lives.
Because we began to share more, we had many people involved in our infertility story. Yes there were times that people said things you should say to a friend going through infertility, but we had a plethora of people on our team and supporting us through the process. We had hundreds of people and dozens of churches praying for us. We had a group of friends who traveled with us in Israel who prayed for us in Shiloh (where Hannah prayed for Samuel) when we were in a deep valley of infertility. This group, to this day, remembers praying over us and God’s provision of our first daughter Shiloh. There are countless stories of people who continue to say they remember how often they prayed for us and for God to give us our first child. They are a part of our infertility story, and it is neat to celebrate our family along with them.
6. We have an opportunity to serve and encourage others.
Going through infertility gives us an opportunity to serve and encourage others, because we have been through it. We can empathize with the struggles and emotions. We have gone through it a second time with secondary infertility, as well. Having experienced the ups and downs of each passing month, we have a unique opportunity to serve, support, and encourage others going through infertility.
My husband has opened up to men going through infertility, as men tend to be forgotten in the process. When men don’t typically have a safe space to open up regarding their struggles and feelings of inadequacy, my husband has gotten the opportunity to tell them they are not alone, what they are feeling is normal, and they are not failing their wife and family because of infertility.
As a couple and individually, we have had the opportunity to coach couples through infertility and love the opportunity to serve individuals and couples through this volatile time. As you experience infertility, look at couples who have already experienced infertility before you to build into you during this time or build into other couples going through infertility as well. Some of my greatest encouragement came from other women and men who were going through infertility at the same times as us, as we could share our struggles together and grow stronger in the midst of our challenges.
7. We both became healthier.
Some of the first advice your OB or Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) will give to you is to make improvements to your lifestyle and health, in order to be healthier and try to boost your fertility. That translates into weight loss, more exercise, healthier eating, and better sleep patterns. My mom, who also struggled with infertility, said her greatest motivation to lose weight was when her RE told her he would not start any fertility treatments until she had lost a certain amount of weight to get her at a healthy level. How can you make some lifestyle changes now, which will ultimately help your health for the long haul?
8. It provided a legacy story for our kids.
I love the fact that we can tell our first child that we prayed and prayed for her. We can share how people all over the world (literally) were praying for her. God’s provision and faithfulness is evident in our infertility story, and I am grateful that we can share this with our daughter. What a perfect story of God’s love for us. When we talk to our daughter about how we really wanted children and we waited for God, she knows how much she was prayed for, how much we wanted her, and how much we celebrated when we found out we were pregnant. I love sharing that joy with her…and reliving it each time we tell her the story — even if I have to remember the difficult parts of infertility that got us to that point.
9. We don’t take our fertility for granted.
My parents had trouble maintaining pregnancies…thus the reason my brothers and I are almost 8 years apart. Early in our infertility experience , my dad said “don’t take your fertility for granted” and boy was he right. You don’t typically go into marriage expecting to go through infertility. You hear so many stories of people getting pregnant unplanned or “on accident” that it never even crossed our mind. Even after we got pregnant the first time (after nearly 3 years of trying), we weren’t sure what our prognosis for future children would be…and we ended up trying (almost immediately) for 2 years again as we battled secondary infertility.
Before you are discharged from the hospital postpartum, your doctor will typically provide you with a prescription for birth control to start right away. We never took the doctor up on that offer. Why? Because we don’t (and can’t) take our fertility for granted. With only one ovary now and our history of infertility, we don’t know how long it will take to continue to expand our family. Even if you don’t struggle with getting pregnant, remember that your fertility is a gift. Please don’t take it for granted.
10. Our children are a gift we don’t take for granted.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons why I am thankful for infertility. I think the majority of parents are thankful for their children; however, I feel like I have an additional level of gratitude for my children due to the waiting and uncertainty of being able to have them in the first place. When I have a seemingly mundane day, I remember that these little blessings are the reason we fought so hard and long to get pregnant. They provide joy and encouragement on a daily basis — even when they are ornery. If you have children — biological, foster, adoptive, or through some other means — remember what a blessing they are and take the time to learn from them daily. Children are a gift and sometimes they come through ways we least expect. Be grateful for your children. Some won’t ever get the chance.
What have you learned during your infertility journey? What areas have you learned to be thankful for infertility? Would love to hear your stories in the comments below.