I Feel Isolated by My Struggle with Infertility

I Feel Isolated by My Struggle with Infertility
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“Why can’t I just be happy for someone else? Why am I still so hurt when this has been my reality since I was 22? There are other ways to have children — I should be grateful for that.” 

So many thoughts and questions come to mind when I think about pregnancy. At 29 years old, many of my friends are getting married and having children. My Facebook timeline has been filled with pregnancy announcements, pictures from baby showers, and ultrasound images. Feelings of guilt wash over me as I stare at the pictures and read the announcements, feeling crushed and defeated. Infertility can feel isolating. It’s easy to feel alone when I am ashamed of my own thoughts, when I feel hurt by situations that remind me of my infertility, and when others just don’t seem to “get it.” 

For the past nine years, I have tried to open up about my feelings surrounding my inability to have children, but every single time it is difficult. This conversation doesn’t get easier. Sometimes I try to shrug it off and convince myself I should be “over” how difficult it feels. I have learned to accept that infertility is not something I will ever “get over.” It’s a loss I will grieve for the rest of my life. Lately, I have been struggling with feelings of isolation surrounding this loss. I have tried to keep my difficult emotions inside, but this has only caused me more stress.

When others happily congratulate a person who posts an ultrasound picture, it’s hard to admit that it can make me feel sad and frustrated with my own body. I hate feeling like I am stealing joy from others in their moment. I feel selfish for feeling upset about pregnancy announcements because I don’t know what it took for that couple to become pregnant. These thoughts leave me feeling alone and ashamed of my sadness. My bitterness feels selfish and cruel.

Usually I am able to share in my pregnant friends’ joy and happiness, but last week was difficult. Going to an ultrasound and seeing the blankness on my own monitor made me break down and release the emotions I was keeping inside. 

At the ultrasound, I was asked, “Is there a chance that you are pregnant?” My answer is always followed up by more questions that make me think about my infertility. I usually have to explain to the doctor or technician giving the exam that “I’m not pregnant because I don’t have any ovaries or tubes.” At age 20, my ovaries stopped functioning and were removed. My fallopian tubes were removed because of a buildup of fluid in them due to damage from scar tissue. Even though this information about my infertility has been posted in my medical chart, the question still needs to be asked.

I have noticed that conversations about infertility make many people uncomfortable. Many will attempt to make a positive comment when the conversation is brought up. “Well, there’s always adoption. You will be a great mom however you have a child. Things happen for a reason; maybe something would have happened if you were pregnant.” I know people mean well when they say these comments. They are trying to make a painful topic a little less painful, but the comments make me feel even more invalidated and isolated. 

Talking about my struggles with infertility and being honest about the pain and difficult emotions I keep hidden really has helped me. There are so many others who have similar feelings of shame and guilt. Even though I will continue to go through difficult procedures and tests and be questioned about my chances of pregnancy, I am learning to acknowledge the difficulty surrounding these encounters. I am giving myself the grace to just allow my feelings to happen without judgment. I have given myself permission to grieve and to feel the loss of my fertility. 

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Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

I am a 27 year old from the smallest state in the US, Rhode Island. I manage multiple chronic conditions, some are visible illnesses thanks to my oxygen I carry around, but most are invisible illnesses. I hope my posts “Recharged and Rewired” will show those reading that just because I need oxygen charged daily and my body is wired a little differently, doesn’t mean I can’t be the best version of myself every day!
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I am a 27 year old from the smallest state in the US, Rhode Island. I manage multiple chronic conditions, some are visible illnesses thanks to my oxygen I carry around, but most are invisible illnesses. I hope my posts “Recharged and Rewired” will show those reading that just because I need oxygen charged daily and my body is wired a little differently, doesn’t mean I can’t be the best version of myself every day!

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4 comments

  1. Carol Volckmann says:

    Hi Brittney,

    I feel so terribly sad for you. But the feelings you have shared, your openness, your honest deep feelings will reach out to so many who have kept their feelings hidden and cry silently.

    I would hope by your speaking out loud here has helped you also snd giving you the opportunity to share in open conversation with the ones you love.

    I would also hope you will be able to put away your feelings of guilt and shame. Feeling guilt and shame is taking on fault- it is NOT your fault, it is not something you did or not do. Feeling guilt that you cannot always be happy for someone who is going to have a baby is real. I can really understand your feeling of loss and my heart goes out to you.

    You are such a string caring person that I have to believe that by sharing these honest gut wrenching feelings will help you through this.

    I too have gone through much of what you are. I am 76 now and over the years have done a great deal of work with children and hold such warm feelings of gratitude of what they have taught me.

    Thank you for your courage Brittney.

    • Brittany Foster says:

      Hi Carol,

      Wow ! Thank you so much for your kind words and your reply. I love reading about other’s journey and feelings about such a sensitive topic. I know that it is hard to write about and think about and the grieving process is very real, no matter what age you are. It is hard to get away from feeling shame and guilt from time to time, but like you said, it is good to remind myself that this is not my fault. I really appreciate your words ! Thank you again for reading and for your comment.

  2. Sara Vettori says:

    I enjoyed reading your words of reality! Society makes it so it’s normal for women to have children and many children without a second thought on the women who cannot or just choose not to we are felt like we are cast from society in this.
    I struggled with very serious endometriosis for 7 yrs then had a full hysterectomy 4 years ago Then now with my current pulmonary hypertension issues no chance of children in the current future! I’m 35 so this is the age were like you all the women around you are having babies and planning birthday parties etc. I think there also should be a a little more understanding at the Gyno’s office for a woman to just go for her check up that turns into almost needing another mental health visit because you have to sit in a waiting room surrounded women with children, pregnant women, pictures of all the babies that have been delivered and the parent and baby magazines! Then to wait in the back room with the same things plus photos of a growing baby inside of a woman the very thing that crushes your heart! I just wish there was a little better emotional understanding for the women who is dying inside staring at the reminder that she has to mourn the child she will never have even if your strong it is very difficult to be in the over sensory society of the office’s.
    Its not easygoing and people don’t understand I think you hit it just right on the comments society makes or you can adopt… the one that really gets me is I’m sorry and they look at you like your dead inside. I don’t think there is any right thing to say but don’t keep telling me there are other options Like saying you can always adopt because No most people cannot adopt that’s like me saying oh you can just pay for your children to go to college out of pocket. How does that feel you would like and say I wish I could but I could never afford it that’s what adoption is it’s paying for a college education before you get the child and the emotional turmoil that will throw your heart into a hurricane. I say adoption because that is the main source that gets brought up to me but for many fertility stricken families it’s, the cost of infertility treatments on trying to con sieve, it’s adoption, it’s foster care (still have all same expenses and care and no they don’t pay a lot) it’s all very expensive and society doesn’t have the knowledge usually unless you go through it or someone close to you does you don’t understand.
    I remember now I said that to someone years ago “you could always adopt“ I didn’t know then. I know now! So I try to understand there are uneducated people. Some I try to explain it some I just let them go about there business.
    I think the biggest thing parents of children need to know is appreciate the beautiful gift you have because there are many like me who would give there “left arm” to be able to be the one to tuck that little one in to bed and kiss them good night tell them you love them everyday, to hold them well they are sick, to teach them anything from brushing there teeth to casting out there first line from their fishing pole. Also when your not paying attention to your kids or letting them run like wild things in the grocery store I would give anything to have children to teach them those manners they need In life to be a better part of society and be proud of themselves.
    So yes we cry and our hearts break when we see your pregnant glow as your rub your belly and as we see you cuddling with your 3 year old helping put on there shoes as your singing some dorky current children’s song. So it hurts, it hurts a lot but we also appreciate the women who appreciate and love there children like they should because we know they don’t take it for granted we are thankful for them they are who we strive to be.
    So as I try to pack as much into this small expression for educating society on a piece of understanding another side of this I hope you take away knowing to appreciate the the children around you whether they are yours or not. This means in there growing up, there understanding for differences between us, and proper treatment towards men and women’s health as they start adulthood so we can try to save some of the emotional struggles from happening with proper health care and upstanding upfront. And remember they should be understanding on all sides of this for the ones suffering the ones trying to be happy in there own situation around the ones suffering and the uneducated. All the women hurting with this it does get easier over time still have pain and tears but easier to manage! We are all in this together! Also we are ok if we cannot bear our own children we are ok! We are loved, we are strong, we are ok!
    Thank you!

    • Brittany Foster says:

      Hi Sara,

      Thank you for your post and for sharing your own story and struggles. It am glad that my column could create conversation about this and I hope that others are able to talk about it too . I think it is so important, as women, to be able to share about these things without shame and guilt and just talk honestly about it. You are right that we are all in this together.

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