A journey of hope and healing after a decade of infertility and two maternal near-misses.

Listen Up: Infertility Isn’t a Choice

My husband and I were newly married and had it all figured out. We would start trying for a family by the time our fifth anniversary rolled around. We would have four children, raise them in a house on a beautiful, one acre property with a white picket fence and a dog.  Maybe we would have a pool too, maybe not. We figured we had some time to decide on that.  We had so much time to figure it all out.  That was fifteen years ago and life hasn't exactly gone according to our plan.  Not even close.

So often, the vision young people have about their future is entirely trouble free. No one plans on anything tragic.  No one hopes for a laundry list of diseases or medical conditions.  No one ever thinks they will struggle to achieve their dreams.  But for one in eight couples, the struggle to start a family is very real. 

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, a campaign to spread the word and reduce the stigma by bringing attention to the details, issues and costs surrounding all ways people can build a family.  When I heard this year's theme was "Listen Up!", it sounded a bit aggressive at first but maybe that's what we need.  

So often, I hear judgement dripping from younger women about an older mom.  I cringe because I am simultaneously that young woman who thinks she knows how her own story will end and I am also that battered, older mom who knows that the war for a family isn’t pretty.  Experience is the best teacher, right?  I am guilty of saying things like:

Then: Oh, I'll be a young mom.

Now: I hope you're right and your body cooperates.

Then: Oh, we are going to have a big family.

Now: I hope pregnancy comes easily for you.

Then: I will be DONE having all of my kids by the time I'm thirty!

Now: I hope that choice is yours to make when the time comes.

Then:  Why are they waiting so long to have kids?  

Now:  You have no idea how this waiting is killing us. 

It pains me to think how my words back then could have impacted someone in the throes of infertility.  You see, no one thinks or expects infertility to set up shop outside their own front door.  No one expects it to bust down that door like a freight train and wreak havoc on every plan you ever made for your life.  Infertility is not even a consideration until you are staring it in the face wondering how on earth your plans went so horribly wrong. As a young person, I, too, was under a cloud of ignorance that a family would come easily for us.

I never planned to be a first time mom at thirty-six.

I never expected to wait FOURTEEN LONG YEARS for a baby.

And I sure as heck never thought I'd join the ranks of women in the two time maternal near-miss club.

Life has a way of blazing its own trail despite your perfect mapping skills. It is not my intention to give you anxiety about the probability you'll encounter infertility but the fact of the matter is that one in eight women will. Let that sink in. One in eight.

To the women who are nose to nose with the beast of infertility, I want you to know that you aren't alone! I get it. I used to be there and someday you'll be able to look back and say that too. This pothole stricken road won't be forever. I know it feels like a never ending nightmare of a road trip most of the time. It will end someday… maybe not how you think, but it will end.

To the women who are blessed to have their families when they are young, please resist the temptation to categorize or label the women around you. Their circumstances may not be a choice. Be thankful for the gift of fertility knowing that so many of us fight for it every day.

To the younger women who think it won't happen to them, I hope you are right. I hope you never, experience the heart wrenching cycle of grief that comes every 28 days and often lasts for years. Before you cast judgement or look down on that older mom, just remember, you are one diagnosis away from being like her.  You could also be one in eight couples who struggle with infertility.

Listen Up!  Infertility is never a choice.


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About the Author: Casey Cattell struggled with infertility for more than a decade before giving birth to her son, Nathan, in 2015. She is a two time Maternal Near Miss Survivor writing to give hope to women in the midst of hardships that challenge their faith. She also enjoys sharing her latest creative exploits. Casey and her husband live in the Northeast, USA and in their downtime like to explore new places and hike with their young son. If you liked this post or were encouraged by it, please consider passing it on. Find Casey on Instagram and Twitter.

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