Does everything really happen for a reason? I don't know, but no matter how gut-wrenching the experience, I can't help but look for the silver lining. It's the little graces that get you through the emotional devastation of infertility and pregnancy loss. After three failed IVF treatments and several early miscarriages, here are five things I learned that ultimately prepared me for motherhood:
1. Be Resilient. Without a blues band backing me up, it's difficult conveying the lows to which I've sunk (see detailed hardships above). But eventually, I learned to adopt some bounce-back tricks—like visualizing myself knocking out infertility as I punched the air while dancing in my Zumba class. This is the brand of resilience I hope to model for my daughter as she grows. But for now, whether exhausted, sick, stressed, or just having an off day, I know I can shake it all off and tend to my baby's needs whenever she calls.
2. Have Faith. My struggling friends and I agree that infertility would be halfway bearable if we were just given a guarantee there was a healthy pregnancy and delivery in our future. The not knowing is what torments you. Soldiering on for years in one-month intervals is a strenuous exercise in faith. Remaining hopeful despite the unknowns molds your resolve into a "Hallelujah"-shouting old lady in a fancy church hat. I tapped into this grit through the frightening first trimester when I finally did become pregnant, just as much I do now when a million alarming child health and safety reports are flung at me from all directions. Leaning on that same faith muscle de-clutters the mommy fears polluting my mind, one day at a time.
3. Never Lose Sight of Who You Are. Going through infertility and pregnancy loss is like stepping into some sci-fi conversion chamber. You enter as a bright-eyed, buoyant being and exit as some grey-haired, green-eyed goblin. It not only has the potential to change you physically (especially if you're taking hormone injections), but also on the soul level. Believe me, I did mental check-ins like the evil queen consults the mirror, mirror on the wall. (Who is this the new me? I know I'm not a hard, bitter, closed-hearted person.) Holding on to that person I was before those painful years—and now, before motherhood—keeps me centered. It's this is a part of me I want my children to know.
4. Show Compassion. Lots of people say having a baby deepened their empathy. They credit parenthood with infusing them with more understanding for others. Well, infertility and pregnancy loss have the ability to do the same thing. I've never met people more kind and nurturing than the women and men on fertility threads who support each other as lovingly as I now dote on my child. This journey also breeds compassion because it reminds you that anyone you meet may be privately nursing a heavy heart. You never know.
5. Laughter Heals. Before she died, my mom asked me to laugh when I think of her. She knew the power laughter holds. She would laugh through her problems, which made them look smaller, and taught me that we are more than our circumstances. Years later, I held on to my humor as I endured infertility and suffered miscarriages. And now when the baby won't sleep or when, as happened recently, she lets loose a poop mudslide at the voting polls, I'm grateful to be adding to my arsenal of funny stories.