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    What it Feels Like to Be Infertile

    Dawn Davenport

    How does Infertility Make you Feel

    Are you one of the ones who fairly easily accepted your infertility or did your rail against the injustice feeling an intense, painful, enveloping loss?

    Different people experience infertility differently. There are some who grieve, but move relatively smoothly into acceptance of adoption or a child-free life. For others, infertility remains for years an aching wound-perhaps getting smaller and scabbing over, but always present. And then there are those in between where the pain is present, but usually manageable with the occasional pity-party and glass of wine.  Which one are you? Do you share any of the following feelings about your infertility?

    Infertility Feels Like_______:

    • I’m less of a woman (or man).
    • I’m a jealous _itch because I am sick and tired of hearing about other people’s kids.
    • My body betrayed me.
    • I’m a failure to my husband who wants kids so badly.
    • I’m a failure to my parent and in-laws who desperately want a grandchild.
    • Constantly being frustrated at the constant hassles of infertility (doctor’s appointment, taking off from work, shots, timed sex, etc.)
    • Being angry at God for giving me this huge desire to be a parent, but making it so damn hard.
    • Being intensely sad that I’ll probably never get to see the mixing of my husband and my genes reflected in our children.
    • Being angry at being told that Darwin says I’m an evolutionary mistake or that God would get me pregnant if I was supposed to be a mother.
    • Being aggravated at constant media (books, TV, movies) implications that only biology makes a true family, and that the delivery of a baby is what makes a parent a parent. (I despise delivery room scenes to a degree I cannot properly express.)
    • Being sad that my not-terribly-healthy parents might not get to know their grandchild(ren) and vice versa because infertility is making it take so long to have children.
    • I’m an abnormal freak.
    • Being tired of the loss of personal control and ownership of the story of how we became parents.

    How does infertility make you feel? Take the time to leave a comment to try to explain infertility to those who have been blessed to never experience it and probably don’t even realize how fortunate they really are.

    Image credit: patricio villarroel bórquez

    29/01/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 30 Comments

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    30 Responses to What it Feels Like to Be Infertile

    1. Susan says:

      I work from a medical tourism provider in Colorado and been helping couples and singles to solve their infertility issues for a long time abroad. I’ve seen from their eyes there eagerness and hope to have a baby of their own. They would do everything to have their own child and a family. Most of them have gone through a lot of hurdles and failures from not getting pregnant.

      I know also that their are thousands of singles and couples who were turning to surrogacy and are immersed in tough journeys whether at home or abroad without much support or reliable information.

      First time success rates at IVF are very low, doing more cycles is expected. The odds of getting pregnant is pretty much like a lottery. Sometimes you will really feel their disappointments but they remain positive all through their IVF journey. The only thing I’m glad to see from them while they go through this journey is that the couples and the family definitely got closer. I think it made them more stronger, couples have been incredibly understanding especially the husband, because most of the time the wife is not the easiest person to live with when they are going through horrendous pressure of having a baby.

    2. I must be glad if you gave a brief idea of the next step to put on.It’s obvious that one mustn’t feel well after facing such a major problem, which put a very bad impact in one’s life. It would be great we need to find out a better way to resolve this issue.

    3. Greg says:


      This discussion is about infertility and how it makes people feel. Perhaps it would be more relevant to the discussion if you discussed how your infertility made you feel to contribute to the discussion. That’s if you are comfortable doing so.

    4. Lily says:

      I guess I fit into “secondary infertility” but not exactly sure… having always my whole life wanted children and seemed like there was one hurdle after another…didn’t find the right partner, didn’t do fertility for health reasons. Then when I started pursuing fost adopt on my own, it seemed there were illnesses of people close to me one after another — incuding my beloved baby brother with leukemia (he is doing well now) and a father with a brain illness. I don’t want to regret caring for my family but I guess I struggle a lot with self blame for not putting my intense desire for a child first and foremost. So, I really struggle with not wanting to sound like a “victim” of circumstance or anything else –but in truth I vascillate between those kinds of feelings and these other annoying ones: jealousy, anger, deep deep grief that I am still afraid to touch, and haunting questions…”how could I — and sometimes how could God – have let this happen? How could I have let my life slip by now at 49.5 and having no kids and now not sure it makes sense financially and physically on my own.” Currently, I am thinking of doing respite care to see how my energy level is with different ages. I have always wanted a baby, however, and I am not sure it is wise to do that now on my own. So I am not sure what category I fall into as you can see! :-)

    5. Lily says:

      I guess I fit into “secondary infertility” but not exactly sure… having always my whole life wanted children and seemed like there was one hurdle after another…didn’t find the right partner, didn’t do fertility for health reasons. Then when I started pursuing fost adopt on my own, it seemed there were illnesses of people close to me one after another — incuding my beloved baby brother with leukemia (he is doing well now) and a father with a brain illness. I don’t want to regret caring for my family but I guess I struggle a lot with self blame for not putting my intense desire for a child first and foremost. So, I really struggle with not wanting to sound like a “victim” of circumstance or anything else –but in truth I vascillate between those kinds of feelings and these other annoying ones: “how could I — and sometimes how could God – have let this happen? How could I have let my life slip by now at 49.5 and having no kids and now not sure it makes sense financially and physically on my own.” Currently, I am thinking of doing respite care to see how my energy level is with different ages. I have always wanted a baby, however, and I am not sure it is wise to do that now on my own.

    6. Alone, frustrated, misunderstood, angry, mournful, yet enlightened to the suffering of others.

    7. marilynn says:

      Everyone said such very cool emotionally evolved/mature stuff. One person here commented that they adopted a waiting child. Which means that all other avenues were exhausted for that child and the reason for relinquishing was investigated and no shady dealings were discovered and the person commenting was determined to be particularly well suited to raise that specific child by a third party without a financial interest in the placement. All those really bothersome cumbersome steps the commentators here have gone through in order to adopt a child are critical in preventing minors from being exploited for profit by their bio parents/relatives or other shady characters. There is a lot about adoption needs to be fixed but it is still society’s best attempt to respect the human rights of minors who are not being raised by bio parents. For people facing diagnosis of infertility, as I did at one point, there are faster, cheaper, ways to obtain another person’s offspring than adopting in court. But getting parental authority of another person’s offspring off the record does not provide the same level of protection for the minor and won’t give rearing parents the same piece of mind and clear conscience as doing it the most careful and ethical way. All the commentors who adopted should be commended for having the patients and fortitude to have their lives examined with a microscope while waiting the required time to make sure the child was ethically relinquished and truly available.

      I just like reading the way they described how happy they are as parents of adopted children and if they were given the option of getting to have a bio child now if they had to give up the child they adopted they would say no way. I hope Greg reads the above posts because those are examples of gaining parental authority ethically and then everyone can go to sleep with a clear conscience.

      It sounds as if everyone that commented who wound up adopting feels confident about their decision and it does not sound like they view the child they adopted as having to play the roll of their never born bio child. Sounds like they like the individual they adopted and don’t need them to be their offspring in order to love them. I like reading stuff like this cause I get tired of reading stuff that objectifies kids as cures for infertility.

    8. Greg says:

      For me what being infertile feels like is:

      -Feeling outcasted from our child filled society where the majority of people can conceive a child with little effort.
      -Feeling helpless that there is nothing I can do to physically overcome it.
      -Feeling sad that my body is preventing me from living a normal adult life.
      -Feeling confused as to what caused my infertility,
      -Feeling hopeless that my wife and I will live out the remainder of our lives with an empty house.
      -Feeling scared that my wife and I will be lonely with no family in our older age when our parents pass.

    9. Emily says:

      Rosie – thank you! I’m infertile, but even if I wasn’t, adoption would still be our #1 choice. Fertility treatment is a moot point for us – the issue is way bigger than that. But I almost feel guilty for not grieving my infertility. To me, it’s just a fact of life, but if someone asks (because they often do…) I’ll mention it as a side note. Then I get the look of anticipated sadness and grief and I’ve got nothing for them. I just have to remind myself to keep calm and remember that it’s not my deal.

    10. MJ says:

      I’m not sure if this comment fits with the topic, but I’ll try to articulate it anyway. Here goes…..I find that sometimes my IF makes me rather indifferent to things that I care deeply about, because I feel like it’s not as much my concern because I don’t have children. My biggest example is how I feel about environmental issues. I have always considered myself to be a strong environmentalist, someone who does all that I can to lower my carbon footprint etc. I still care deeply about our natural world, but I find my concern for this important issue diminishes slightly whenever I hear someone else talk about it in terms of how environmental issues will have an impact on “future generations” (i.e. the children and grand children of those who are living today). When I hear this phrase bandied about as the ultimate incentive for caring about the environment, I feel for a moment that I really don’t have to care about this so much now, because there is a chance that for my husband and myself, there will be NO future generations-we’re the end of the line thanks to IF (the gift that keeps on giving), and adoption carries with it an uncertainty all its own-parenthood is not a certainty with this either. I still persist in doing all I can to care for the environment, but I must admit, I feel a little sad that I may be doing it for other people’s children and grandchildren only, rather than for children that my husband and I get to be parents to. In some ways I feel like the kid in that scene from Annie Hall-the one who gets dragged to a psychiatrist because he’s convinced that the earth is going to crash into the sun and everything is going to get burned up. His mother tells the psychiatrist “Because of these beliefs, he’s stopped doing his homework” To which the child replies in a perfectly deadpan tone “what’s the point?” Got to find new reasons for caring, I guess-even if the rest of the world is determined to make you feel that such concerns are only for those who are parents. I also echo the comments about the “monthly reminder” adding insult to injury-nothing like a reminder of what you are unable to do.

    11. Wendy F. says:

      It blows me away what people will ask that is none of their business!!!

    12. Elizabeth D. says:

      Its sad but im still grieving and still feel like all of those things

    13. Rosie says:

      I just get awkward when the discussion of treatments come up. Because if someone asks the “why not?” question and hears the “it’s against our religion” answer — life gets awkward real quick.

    14. Lisa says:

      Melissa P.– I think you make some very cogent points, and I think you are expressing what is natural doubt, given what you have been through, and the vagaries of life in general. Though I know it is a great comfort to some people, for me, the notion of fate, or “meant to be” or things similar just led to confusion and heartbreak. It implied that I somehow deserved to be infertile, or that I was unfit to be a parent. If I think of it now, it means my son was “fated” to have lost his first family, and his birthmother was “meant” to have to part with him. I spent so much time wrestling with “why”, my actual life sort of faded into the background. For me, it simply wasn’t a helpful way to look at it. I became a bit of an existentialist, I suppose, through all this. The notion that things just happen, and all we can do is roll with it and do the best we can, is comforting to me. I found that I felt more connected to things, more open and accepting, when I embraced the notion that things didn’t have to have a meaning or a purpose, that they just…were. And it was my choice how to move forward from there. If you had asked me several years ago what I thought my life would look like, it would never have entered my consciousness that I would adopt, and from a country 7000 miles away. And yet, leaving my preconceived notions behind and taking that leap was the best, most important decision of my life, and has led to joy I could not have fathomed.

    15. Kristine A. says:

      I understand what you mean…you didn’t TTC or go through fertility treatments, but also had infertility. I think that is more similar than not, and that there are others like you too :) (I’m different too, I’m an adoptee who is an adoptive mom now)

    16. Rosie says:

      It seems like most have chosen it after treatment or at least TTC. I knew that I would be unable to have bio at age 16, so our path was very different.

    17. Kristine A. says:

      I’m guessing the most common adoptive parents are those who have experienced infertility and choose adoption.

    18. Kristine A. says:

      I think you fit in with us, Rosie :)

    19. Rosie says:

      We are adopting now, yes. Midway through an international home study.

    20. Kristine A. says:

      Rosie, are you adopting now? We experienced infertility and did Clomid and two IUI’s and then were told in-vitro was the next step! We almost tried it, but then decided to try to adopt instead. (So we are different from some others who have experienced infertility in that we didn’t have extensive infertility treatments or IVF) I think people who have experienced infertility can be very different in their experiences.

    21. AC H. says:

      Rosie –I am with you. :)

    22. Wendy F. says:

      Lisa – I was intrigued by your post as I eventually reached the same point: grateful for infertility, in a way. We had always talked about adoption anyway, even before we knew we had fertility issues. I most definitely have grieved, and gone through many of the emotions described on the page (feeling betrayed by my body, etc.) However, it gave me a little smile to see the comment about a “mixing of my and my husband’s genes” as seriously, sometimes I wonder if that would not have been the best thing (we both have some issues that run in our families) and sometimes when I think about a mix of myself and my husband, I get scared! LOL I hated the whole ttc process and was honestly glad when it was over. For us it just worked out, I guess, because our precious son really needed a home -he was a “waiting child” in Guatemala and we really wanted him! He has just been such an incredible blessing to us. He is the most awesome kid. I have reached the point where if an angel appeared to me and said I could have a baby, but I wouldn’t have my son, I would say NO WAY. (I am also 41 years old and just the thought of an infant makes me tired!) but simply cannot imagine life without the precious boy we have. I also agree about it not defining me, about it making me more open and flexible, etc. Every now and then I have a moment – like when I was in my GYN’s office about a hysterectomy and there were couples there for obviously super-happy baby reasons – but overall this is something I have moved past. I know everyone has their own journey and my heart aches for those still struggling with this as I know how hard it is.

    23. Rosie says:

      I never grieved the ability to have biological children. I’m a bit of an outsider in the adoption and infertility world because of it. Because I can’t have biological kids, I don’t fit with the people who choose adoption over biological kids. But because we didn’t do fertility treatment (or even consider it, really), we don’t fit with the majority of adopting parents either. Welcome to limbo.

    24. Melissa P. says:

      I always think about what people said about infertile people when I was a kid, how they just weren’t meant to be parents or it wasn’t part of God’s plan for them, and they should accept it. I thought it kind of made sense then. Now that I find I’m infertile, I’m really struggling with that explanation. So many things in life have been difficult for me…I struggled in relationships, struggled in school…because things are difficult, does that mean they’re not meant to be? If a person’s house is blown over in storm, does that mean God wants them to be homeless? If a person’s spouse dies, does that mean God meant for them to be alone? I’m rather ashamed that I had to find out I was infertile in order to think logically about this.

    25. Lisa C. says:

      Even within the same person, at different times, it can be experienced so differently. I remember when I was going through fertility treatments, how central my infertility it was to me, how it hijacked my every waking thought (and many of my dreams as well). How defective I felt all.the.time. I mean, people get pregnant BY ACCIDENT, for crying out loud! I felt like my body had betrayed me, and my husband. Both of us were suffering because my body couldn’t do the one thing it was truly designed for. I felt like a failure, despite my husband’s assurances to the contrary. Despite everyone’s assurances to the contrary. And for a person who had, through some combination of ingenuity and persistence, been able to accomplish most everything I’d set my mind to up until that point, it was an enormous blow to my sense of self. Here was a hurdle I couldn’t overcome, no matter what I did. I was completely disoriented. I needed to step back and examine how I felt about almost everything…myself, my body, my marriage, my notions of what a family is, what my purpose on this earth was, whether there was meaning in anything and what that meant (geez, now that I write all this, no wonder I was disoriented 😉 ). And slowly, I was able to accept that the picture in my head, the dream I had, was just going to have to remain that. It was a difficult few years, especially when we were waiting for our son to come home to us from Korea. Now that he is here, actually, the minute he arrived, all the pain and all the waiting, all of it, felt….worth it. It’s going to sound strange, but I am now grateful for my infertility. Without it, I would never have met my son, never have had the last two years of joy and love that he has brought to me and to my husband. I know now that infertility doesn’t define me, and never really did. It defined a moment in my life perhaps, but one among many. And having gone through it, and all that goes along with it, has made me a more tolerant, open, and flexible person, even if I had to be dragged to that place, kicking and screaming :)

    26. Sue T. says:

      Interesting and thought provoking questions. But what about those who have secondary infertility and/or who moved on to third party conception (donor egg, sperm or embryos) or to surrogacy? I think many (maybe most) of them still consider themselves infertile and may have some of those same feelings (or other infertility emotions)-even if they are parenting.

      It is interesting how people self-identify, but it seems like a lot of people who suffer with infertility will identify with that long past the time that they are in family building mode. The emotions and feelings of infertility are complex and varied as you have well pointed out.

    27. Christie says:

      Unexplained infertility. That is my diagnosis several years back. It was just this past summer that I realized I was angry about my infertility. Why? This biological reproductive system from which I suffer (and yes I mean suffer) has been with me for ¾ of my life. I have been as regular as a calendar. Since it started I haven’t had a several week stretch where I felt the same emotionally. The monthly cycle effects my entire life. Probably in ways that I don’t fully realize. And It Doesn’t Work. Every month I am again ‘visited’ by this lie of fertility, so it isn’t something I can just escape. So darn straight I am angry. I have every right to be. I actively look forward to menopause and having it gone. I realize that none of the above address the childlessness aspect of infertility, but I guess I had always felt that it was worth all the trouble because eventually have a child…well…like most of life, it didn’t work out that way. So in that way I feel betrayed.

    28. Mia says:

      As a secondary infertile person, I feel many of those strong emotions you described in the post. I have NOT accepted any pieces of my IF easily, perhaps because we conceived our son so easily 7+ years ago. But since our efforts to give him a sibling have not been successful yet (plus a bout with a bit of blood cancer took us off track for a year or so due to chemo and radiation and fear of death and all that fun stuff), I also feel like I’ve failed my existing child. I worry that he will grow up believing the world revolves around him (because in some ways it does) and that he will always get lots of attention. I feel sad that I cannot do for my husband what my sister-in-laws have been able to do for my husband’s brothers. I feel like he picked a bad apple for a wife. Let me be clear, my husband is the best of the best and has never ever done anything to make me feel this way (in fact quite the opposite). I am able to work myself over all alone.

      I feel stuck. All of my friends have lapped me in terms of family building. My younger brothers’ peers are lapping me. And I am stuck. I am always on guard, that someone will be announcing a pregnancy, or that someone around the corner will have a giant belly. I see people from the belly up – it’s the first place I look just to make sure I am prepared for whatever is coming my way. It is all consuming and miserable. And I am trying desperately to get on board with an alternative way to grow my family, but none of the options feel right. It seems like there’s no way out.

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