It took three years after the birth of my daughter for me to be able to talk about my infertility.
I applaud people who have struggled with infertility, then once they are parents are immediate advocates for infertility awareness and can easily share details of their journeys. I was not one of them.
Our story isn’t unique. We had a rough 4 ½ years of needles, experimental drugs, frustration, and heartache. I had assumed that once our daughter, Hannah, was born the pain I felt from going through the journey would magically go away. But that didn’t happen.
I love my daughter and once she was born I happily threw myself into my new role. I quit my job to be a stay-at-home-mom, found every mommy-and-me class available in Charleston, and happily sported my new uniform of yoga pants and a pony tail.
But I didn’t want to talk about how she got here.
It wasn’t shame I was feeling, but disappointment and sadness. I had wanted the dream…first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. It was supposed to be that easy, right? I had wanted this kid, and I wanted her now, but it didn’t happen that way and I couldn’t shake off all of the difficult parts of the path to have her.
At unexpected times, I would recall how anxious I was during my pregnancy. How I would burst into tears at the doctor’s office assuming something was wrong because I didn’t feel nauseous or gain enough weight. How I didn’t take maternity photos or have a baby shower because I was too nervous that something bad was going to happen to my pregnancy.
Many places in Charleston are forever connected to bad memories. A restaurant across from my RE’s office called Five Loaves Cafe makes the best soups in the universe. Every time we had a meeting with our RE after another failed cycle, my husband and I would have dinner at that restaurant. And once every three months for years, I would be at that bar with my husband crying over a bowl of soup. Like, ugly-crying at the bar in front of everyone. The bartenders thought I was nuts. I have not been able to set foot in that restaurant since Hannah was born.
I had assumed that once our daughter, Hannah, was born the pain I felt from going through the journey would magically go away. But that didn’t happen.I remember spending some two-week-wait periods wanting to do nothing but lay in bed and watch Will and Grace re-runs. Since Hannah was born, whenever I flip through channels and an episode of Will and Grace is on, my heart sinks and I have to change the channel.
As she grew from infant to toddler and beyond, I would think about all of the time that had passed that I as well as my grandparents could have spent with Hannah. Knowing that their time is precious, it made me sad that Hannah could have had four more years with them.
It may seem irrational to focus on all of these negative things, but these were the memories and thoughts that kept me from feeling free to talk about my infertility experience. When people would approach me about the topic I wound respond very politely, with as little detail as possible. I made clear the topic was not open for discussion (an art I picked up by living in the South).
The Birthday Surprise
Fast forward to three years after her birth. Hannah requested the coolest three-year-old birthday party on the planet. She wanted a fresh peach cake with ombre peach roses for decoration (I have no idea how she came up with that but it was the best thing I have ever eaten), a Gwen Stefani soundtrack, a kiddie pool big enough for the grown-ups, too, and ONLY her best friend Rosie and her parents. She even requested rosé for the mommies (not sure if I should admit that my three year old can verbalize that the mommies drink rosé). It was the best party ever and I was in heaven.
I had a moment where I was soaking in the entire evening, really watching my daughter in awe. She was laughing and splashing with her best friend, and then ran over to her daddy and planted a big kiss on his cheek. I had an overwhelming moment where I suddenly didn’t feel sad anymore. I felt peace. I was watching her in her element and thinking about the timing of her birth. She has made some amazing little friends, and in turn I have made some mama friends that have become family to me. I cannot imagine my life without them.
I gained so much from the experience that I didn’t realize until now. I am a much stronger person, I am more empathetic, I am a better wife, and I now have the ability to write large checks without stroking out (ha!).Had Hannah been born two years earlier, I would have never met these women. She wasn’t meant to be on this earth until it was the right time. Three years ago was the right time. Looking back, I wish I had listened more to the advice of “trust the universe.” It still sounds so “crunchy” to me, but it is true. I was doing all that I could to get pregnant and there was only so much I could control.
Sometimes sitting back and trusting that everything happens when it is supposed to happen is the best thing. I gained so much from the experience that I didn’t realize until now. I am a much stronger person, I am more empathetic, I am a better wife, and I now have the ability to write large checks without stroking out (ha!).
Now I Can Help
Now…the floodgates are open. I have gone from 0 to 60 talking about my journey and sharing resources that I wish existed when I was struggling. It has brought me relief to be able to speak openly about my experiences and feelings; it just took longer for me than for others.
My infertility journey showed me how much of a need there is for evidence-based nutrition resources for couples. I’ve been a registered dietitian since 2004, and I was shocked by how much bad information “Dr. Google” gave and how little nutrition information I received from my doctor during my ART process.
Now I finally have the courage to do something about it. I provide personalized nutrition advice to people going through infertility, as well as to women in pre- and post-pregnancy stages.
It feels good to help people achieve their dreams of a family in a healthy way. My business has also helped me feel like there was a purpose to my struggles—it would never have been born had I not gone through the process myself.
Hannah had made me ecstatically happy, but was also a reminder of some hard years. I thank the Lord that something finally clicked, and the sadness went away. I now feel gratitude and joy when I see her and when I look back. It surprised me how long that feeling took, but I finally got there.
Lauren Manaker is a registered dietitian-turned-entrepreneur. She launched NutritionNowCounseling.com in 2018 after struggling with infertility and becoming a mother. Her personal experiences shed a spotlight on how much anecdotal and unsupported information is out there, and Lauren has made it her mission is to make accurate nutrition advice more accessible. You can follow her on Instagram at @NutritionNowCounseling.
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