I am infertile. I have infertility. I am struggling with infertility. There…I’ve said it. It’s out there now.
I can’t hide it, nor can I hide from it. I am a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist who delivers babies, takes care of pregnant women and who many friends turn to as soon as they get that positive pregnancy test.
Although I have been going through infertility treatments for two years now, no one has really held back from telling me they are pregnant, asking pregnancy advice or inviting me to pregnancy-related events. I am not surprised, though. I was very available to everyone before I started trying to have a baby, and I have purposely tried to remain available despite how difficult it can be at times to hear the news, see the photos, answer the questions and buy a baby gift from a registry. I know I am a great obstetrician, and I know my friends trust my knowledge. Of that, I am proud.
There is really no escape for me, though. I am surrounded by pregnant bellies every day.
I knew early on if I let my infertility consume me, I may lose my passion for a job that I love. I may ruin the relationship with my husband whom I cherish. I may lose friends who are going through the next phases of their lives and who recognize that they have something that I desperately want. I have already lost so much though infertility. I refuse to lose everything. I refuse to let my infertility redefine who I am.
I realize that my friends may be hesitant to tell me their baby news or may even feel some guilt when the words leave their mouths. I sense it. I can hear it in their voices and see it in their faces. That sometimes makes the moment awkward, especially when they are so excited then realize that they just told someone with infertility that they are expecting. I know it must make them feel some sort of way.
Everyone struggling with infertility handles it their own way. Some people may not feel the way I do or handle it the way I’ve handled it. I think it’s important, though, for anyone who is struggling let those close to them know how they really feel. So for anyone who may be wondering how I feel when you tell me you’re pregnant, here is what I want you to know…
I don’t feel angry, sad, or resentful.
I really don’t. My struggle with infertility has taught me many things. One, of which, is that having baby is a basic human endeavor. One that should be celebrated. It will continue to happen regardless of what my future holds. I am truly happy anytime a child is brought into this world under the best possible circumstances, whether I am delivering that child with my own hands or you are making a family. I choose to not occupy my mind with negative feelings about something that is so beautiful.
I do feel a bit jealous.
How can I not? I may have been fortunate to accomplish many things in my life that others never will, but I have yet to experience that basic human right that is childbirth. Something seemingly so simple and routine is something that makes me turn various shades of green. Something that many people take for granted, I see as a miracle. I admit it. I get jealous.
The toughest part, though, is when you catch me off guard. When I am finally in a moment of not thinking about my infertility, and I am suddenly jolted back into reality when you say, “I’m pregnant!”
After two years, I truly cherish those moments when I am not living in my infertility. I feel normal and am actually able to have a “good day”. When I hear you are pregnant, I get a pit in my stomach and immediately feel panicked because I am not there yet! I suddenly start to think to myself, “Oh my God, I am running out of time!”
My moment of peace is interrupted and that moment often doesn’t return. It’s not your fault. I am not mad at you. I am just reminded of my own reality. A reality that I am trying to escape for just a moment.
Fortunately, infertility has made me stronger in some ways. Although it has been by far the toughest thing I have ever had to go through, I know myself well. I know I will be OK no matter what happens. I want you to know that.
So I am happy for you. I want you to be a good mom. I want you to cherish your miracle. But most of all, if you are my friend, I want you to never allow my infertility to consume me or change who I am.
So please believe me when I say I am happy you’re going to be a mama.
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
Check out the products for TTC through parenthood in the Babies After 35 Amazon shop, online courses and other services that come "Dr. Clark-approved"!Check out my favorite things