I read two posts this week that really affected me and I wanted to talk about them a little. But if you'd like to read them, they were Adi over at The Second Bedroom in "What I Lost" and Marcy at Sensitive Ginger in "Another Twist." Adi is dealing with the aftermath of her miscarriage in late December and for me, she perfectly encapsulates what I felt after my miscarriage. And Marcy just had IUI#3 canceled when it was discovered that they had just missed ovulation. Adi wrote, "But I feel beaten. I don't feel equal to the task. I feel far lesser, far smaller, than this." Marcy talked about having to muster strength in the waiting room of her clinic moments after the cancellation of her cycle when another patient came in with her three year-old daughter, and how she had to fight to keep from crying.
I'm a pretty big Downton Abbey fan, and if you've never watched it and you don't want it spoiled, I'll try to avoid doing that here. We'll just say that at the start of season 4, one of the main characters, Lady Mary, has had to deal with something devastating. Mary is normally a tough lady, but this blow has set her back and has her walking the house like a spectral, black-clad presence. No one really knows what to do or what to say to her. But she is a shadow of her former self and it is a surprising turnaround for the naturally prickly, iron-backed lady. At one point, she breaks down crying to Carson, the butler, and he tells her to have a good cry, and when she's ready she can get to work, "because you are strong enough for the task."
Infertility is great at making us feel weak and powerless. Because we are powerless. Powerless over the outcome. Powerless to make our bodies do what we want most. And once we get pregnant, powerless to ensure that the pregnancy will last. But if it makes us feel weak, we do that to ourselves.
I've dealt with tough things in my life, most of us have. Those tough things are ultimately what made me strong. I don't think I was particularly strong before my mom died. When she died, apparently Kate and Wendy had discussed that they were worried I would have a nervous breakdown and have to be hospitalized. I was offended when I heard that. "You think I'm that weak?" I asked Kate. [This is a very silly thing to say, as though having a nervous breakdown and being hospitalized is a result of weakness, which I absolutely know it is not. It's not weakness at all.]. Kate assured me that she did not think I was weak, only that my mother and I had been very close and she and Wendy were worried about how I would handle it. My friend Roxey, who is also very close to her mother, called and told me she just didn't know how I could function, that she just wouldn't be able to do it. I bit back what I wanted to say, which is that someday she would have to deal with it. But instead I just said, "You keep breathing, you get up, and go to work, and you put one foot in front of the other because that's what you have to do." This is not to suggest that I handled my mother's death in stride. It was awful and I was a mess for a long time. But there's no right or wrong way to grieve and I did the best I could with the tools I had.
When Dad got sick, the experience toughened me. It toughened me in the same way that infertility has toughened me. But there have been so many moments along the way with Dad's illness where I felt weak, lost, like a 10 year-old in a 35 year-old's body.
The conclusion that I have come to from all this is that strength, real and true strength, is not constant and unflagging. It doesn't mean no tears. It doesn't mean unwaivering confidence and optimism. Real strength comes from what you do in those moments when you feel defeated and ground down. It comes from putting one foot in front of the other. And it comes from people who love you and tell you that you do have the strength for the task ahead. It comes from repeating that until you believe it yourself. I have yet to meet a woman dealing with infertility who is weak. It's okay to feel weak and have those moments of doubt. It's okay to feel lost and adrift and to struggle to find the strength to move forward. But please don't doubt that you have the strength. You do.