The 5 Stages of Grief

We’ve all been there. We’ve all lost a loved one, experienced a favorite team we know deserved to win, end up losing that big game. We try to accept that the Packers will NOT be going to the Superbowl (sadly, that was our household last night over the Packer loss), and/or had something unimaginable happen to ourselves personally, etc. Whatever hardship you are going through, big or small, we’ve all experienced what the 5 Stages of Grief are like.  We’ve all experienced the stages of Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance.  We know that grieving looks and feels differently for different people & that we all have different coping skills.   Yet, why is it that we continue to advise others because we think we know what is best for them, hold our high expectations of them over their heads, and judge their journey of grief when we truly do not know exactly what they are going through? What ever happened to a good listener and a nice shoulder to cry on, and loving and sensitive support?  It is my wish that more people could show empathy, compassion, kindness, and understanding of one another’s journey in grief.  Instead of offering up answers for them, just simply be there for them.  This is a big lesson I have taken away from my grief in coping with and trying to deal with Secondary Infertility.  

Since becoming a bit more open with our family and friends on our struggle with Secondary infertility, I have heard it all. Here are a few sample phrases, some, but not limited to: “Don’t stress, and it will happen.” “Be happy that you have Etta.” “Have you thought about adoption?” “Maybe it just isn’t meant to be” “Maybe look into a surrogate” “Try not to think about it and do other things.” “You’ve lost all hope and maybe that’s why you are not getting pregnant.”…and the list goes on.  Now, I know that all of this “advice” was offered with good intentions.  I also know that most of this advice is offered by others who have either never dealt with infertility and/or are very uneducated about the topic. Therefore, I try to shake it off and not let it bother me.  However, if you are already emotional about an already sensitive topic, the likelihood you are able to shake off other’s comments, judgement and advice is not very good…more so, you will become upset, get hurt, obsessively think about what was said to you, mull over explanations to give to these people in your head, feel isolated and alone, and/or cry buckets of tears either by yourself, or with your significant other. I know because I’ve been there many times, unfortunately.

Now, I would like to address each of the above phrases, so that one may better understand why they get under my skin, why I am sensitive to your unmerited advice and why I have learned they deem inappropriate to say to someone who is struggling with infertility (but will be speaking in terms of why it bothers me personally).

“Don’t stress, and it will happen.” -I am the first to admit I am a high stress, rather worrisome individual.  We know that bad stress can affect the body in a negative way.  However much stress this issue causes me, I do have positive coping mechanisms people.  I exercise, I cook/bake, I read, I write, I enjoy time with my daughter, I spend time with my husband and/or other family/friends, watch a favorite movie/TV, do a little retail therapy, try to master a new hobby (recently, crocheting), and the list goes on.   Typically, Secondary infertility is either unexplained or deals with a physical condition that is out of your control as to why you can’t conceive.  Truth be told, I do try to cope with the stress of it all as best as I can, but stress of this nature is unavoidable.  Another way of looking at it that may seem harsh to some, but the only way I can make you understand what I am trying to say is:  If someone you loved had cancer, would you tell them “don’t stress and it will go away”.  We know it just isn’t that simple.  Well, the cards we have been dealt with are not that simple either. It isn’t just going to go away if we stop thinking about it.

“Be happy you have Etta.” -If you know me…if you really know me, you know Etta is my world.  I love her more then anything and I would do anything for her.  She is one of the best gifts I have ever been blessed with and I couldn’t be more happy then to be her Mama. She truly is a miracle from God.  I have sacrificed so much for her and I am beyond happy to do so.  I am over the moon happy that I have Etta in my life.  I do not take her for granted.  When I hear this phase I hear “You are selfish for wanting another baby because you have Etta”.  Now, to put it in perspective for those of you who have more then one child. Can I ask you,  which of those children that you have could you live with out?  I bet your answer would be something along the lines of, “that is not a fair question, I couldn’t live without any of my children.  I love them all.  They are my world.”  Well, every month that goes by and I am reminded that I did not conceive, is a day I grieve the loss of the child I wanted so badly, but never was able to have.  Knowing the joy that comes from being a mother already, is why I long to be a mother again.  I know my journey in this isn’t done.  God has placed it in my heart.

“Have you thought about adoption?”  -The word adoption has came up. Trust me, we really  have thought of all our options.  Brief conversations between Zach and I have been made.  However, it is not selfish to want our own flesh and blood.  We would like to exhaust all our options we are able to before going down the route of adoption.  At this point, it is an open discussion, one that is left up to much consideration.  However, that avenue hasn’t fully been placed in our hearts yet so we have not explored it more.  Adoption isn’t always an easy journey either and can come with just as much stress, hardships, tears, and heartache.  Nothing in this world is a guarantee.  There are many children in this world that need loving families, and that thought breaks my heart.  It pains me to know that there are women who just throw their babies in dumpsters or leave them at gas stations and never look back.  I often think, why were they blessed with a miracle yet a loving couple like Zach and I would love a second baby and give it the best life, and it is not working for us?  These may be selfish thoughts but I told you I would be real and raw.  So yes, we have thought about adoption before BUT we just are not quite there yet.  The thought of adoption though, will never take the desire to have another child of my own away regardless.

“Maybe it just isn’t meant to be” -This phrase just rips at my core and gets me in tears every time someone mentions it to me.  No, I am not in denial about my situation either.  I firmly believe that this desire to be a mom and have my own children was placed in my heart for a reason and I just simply am not ready to give up on my dreams yet.  Would you give up on any of your children or give up on any of your dreams just because there is a block in the road?  Probably not. You would do what you had to to get to where you need to be.  That’s what we are doing.  Just because a second child doesn’t exist for us and it has been a struggle to happen, doesn’t mean this isn’t meant to be for us.  That isn’t for you to say, or to decide.

“Have you ever thought of a surrogate?” -Simply, no.  This question can be offensive to me, until I remind myself that you have no clue about the physical reason why we can’t have children.  Have you even taken the time to ask us? For your information though, carrying a baby on my own is not the issue as to why we can’t have a baby.  We do have physical issues as to why we are having trouble getting pregnant, but being able to carry a baby is not one of them.  Again, this phrase always shows me how ignorant people are about the topic of Secondary Infertility. I am once again reminded that I can’t take things that people say too personally because the person making the statement really just has no clue.  It makes me sad that it is something that isn’t talked about openly more.  This is where I come in, to educate and to share my story.

“Try not to think about it and do other things.”  Trust me.  I do try NOT to think about it and I am forced to do other things daily. Everyday I have to muster up the energy to face another day.  However, thinking about this is unavoidable.  Even when I’m trying to NOT think about it there is always a trigger.  This could be someone asking us, “when is Etta going to have a brother or sister?”, seeing a pregnant women at the store, seeing a family in public with more then one child, getting a baby shower invite, seeing a birth announcement, being surrounded by pregnant friends and family, having countless doctor appointments, etc.  Even when I don’t want to think about it, it some how creeps up and is smack dab right in my face daily, sometimes hourly every single day…  It’s much easier said, then done to just not think about it.  Plain and simple.

“You’ve lost all hope, and that’s why you’re not getting pregnant.” -Is this a fact, do you know that this is why we are not getting pregnant? If it isn’t a fact, just refrain from saying it to me. The first time I was told this was when we were doing our first IUI procedure and I said that I was basically gearing myself up for disappointment as statistically there is only a 10% chance that it works the first time around (stats vary of course).  I first want to say that I have hope.  I have more hope then anyone or I wouldn’t even be trying for this anymore. I wouldn’t be putting myself through any of this.  We’ve been trying for about 17 months and the only thing keeping me going is hope, it’s been the anchor to my soul.  Without it, I would be completely lost in this journey.  Sometimes though, when you have gone through this much heartache and disappointment you need to be real with yourself, you need to look at the statistics square in the face, and more importantly gear yourself up for disappointment as a way to safe guard your own feelings.  I have hope.  I have very high hope and I believe in miracles.  However, hope can also have a double edged sword.  Again, it’s a physical condition as to why we can’t conceive where facts are facts.  At this point, it would be a miracle.  I have a right to feel the way I do without any judgement.

Now, I am not saying I do not have a support system, because I do.  In the midst of this struggle, I have been working on my relationship with God. My husband has been amazing and continues to be optimistic, patient, and supportive.  We are in this together 110%.  I have made a couple great friends who have been there for me along in this journey and who also have infertility struggles of their own.  I have both family and friends who ask me how I am doing on a regular basis.  It’s just very frustrating when you need empathy, compassion, understanding and kindness and it is lacking in so many when it comes to this topic.  This is a sensitive topic for many women/families, not just us, and it needs to be treated as so.  I just ask, that before you offer what you think is good advice on something you know nothing about, really consider my views on it, take others feelings into consideration and become educated on it yourself if you are not already.  We need your support.

Lastly, the 5 Stages of grief are present monthly for me…sometimes daily.  I experienced the stages again this weekend when we were told we had to cancel our 2nd IUI due to yet another roadblock.  Our first IUI was done in December, and it failed.  We made some tweaks gearing up for IUI #2 that did not work, resulting in us not even being able to proceed with the procedure.  As you can imagine, this was devastating news to Zach and I.  As first we were like, the tests must be wrong, this can’t be happening (Denial).  Next we were upset and mad and wondering why this is happening to us.  Why is something that is supposed to work just not working (Anger).  Then we were thinking, ok…if we do this differently and that differently for this next time it has to work, we’ll be able to still go through with it.  Right? …nope, wrong (Bargaining).  Then, we simply got melancholy over the idea that our hope for this month simply was shattered (Depression) but know this isn’t our last chance at an IUI and hopefully we will be able to proceed next cycle (Acceptance).  This vicious circle is not easy-Physically, Mentally or Emotionally.  Again, something we battle with all of the time.  It just doesn’t go away and this is why being open about it, I believe is the best policy.  It’s my hopes that sharing our story, we will get the support we need, educate others, and possibly help reach out to others in our same situation.  Nobody should have to go through Secondary Infertility alone.

I wanted to end with sharing this great resource link, check it out as it has some great tips:

http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/25-things-to-say-and-not-to-say.html

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