Maybe it was your first miscarriage. Or a surprising diagnosis. Or a loved one’s experience. Or month after month of negative pregnancy tests.
For me, it was after two years of infertility, when my husband and I decided to do IVF. That was the moment I started searching for answers and information. I didn’t know anyone else who had done IVF—or at least anyone who talked about it openly—so I started googling, learning as much as I could. I found hundreds of medical journals, articles, doctors’ opinions. The information was exhausting and overwhelming, cold and impersonal. It talked in averages and protocols and medications and studies—words that sounded impressive, but didn’t ease the aching in my heart. It didn’t really tell me what IVF would be like. And yet, I read it all anyway, spending hours late into the night, looking for something more I couldn’t yet name.
I stumbled across pregnantish almost by accident, on Instagram. I read a headline that hooked me, someone’s story about IVF. I clicked on it as if latching onto a lifeline.
This is what I needed, what I didn’t realize I had been looking for—stories, community. A place to find hope. A place to honor grief. A place to know that I wasn’t alone. A virtual hand to hold as I walked this lonely road. I binge-read several articles, feeling that massive whoosh of relief. I read the pain and tension and longing and hope in each writer’s words. Suddenly, I had words and frames for the emotions I was feeling, and even without knowing them personally, I felt embraced by a community of people just like me.
It didn’t take long before I felt that little tug in my heart to share pieces of my own story with pregnantish.
Have you ever thought of writing about your infertility journey to share with the world? If you’ve been part of the pregnantish community for a while, maybe you’ve felt that same little tug.
The thought of writing your story might intimidate or thrill you—writing is vulnerable, soul-baring work. But that’s exactly why we need it.
Why write your story?
Sharing our stories is natural and human.
Self-disclosure—the impulse we sometimes feel to tell someone else something vulnerable and private—is a key part of how we form relationships, and helps us cope with different stressors in our lives. Sharing our burdens really does make them lighter. Of course, self-disclosure is a powerful connecting force that we have to be careful with; we have to make sure that the recipients are safe havens to receive our stories. But know first and foremost that this urge you feel is 100% normal and good!
Writing is a powerful method for healing.
Dr. James Pennebaker has published several groundbreaking studies that show the power of “expressive writing”—putting words to our secrets, traumas, and shame—to positively impact both physical and emotional health. In one study, students who wrote for just 15 minutes a day four days in a row needed to visit a health clinic over the next six months at half of the rate of students in a control group! (Pennebaker, 2018) Translation: Write more, need to go to the doctor less. (You can read more about his research in his fantastic book, Opening Up by Writing It Down.)
Writing allows us to take ownership of our stories.
Writing inherently asks us to make sense of what we’ve experienced—and that gives us the opportunity to claim our agency, even in the midst of things we cannot change. We know that our stories don’t always have the happy ending we wish for—but that doesn’t mean we are powerless. Writing can help us explore the places where we do have influence and choice, and make the best decisions to honor our hearts and our bodies.
Writing inherently asks us to make sense of what we’ve experienced—and that gives us the opportunity to claim our agency, even in the midst of things we cannot change.
Writing builds connection with others going through similar circumstances.
Infertility can be an invisible kind of grief, because we mourn people we love but have never met. It can be hard for others (especially those who haven’t experienced infertility) to relate because our lives often look the same on the surface—which is exactly the problem. It would be impossible for people like us to find and support each other if we never said anything. The only way we can receive the encouragement we need is by raising our hands, by acknowledging what we’re going through.
When I shared that I had had my first miscarriage, women around me came out of the woodwork to share with me that they, too, had had miscarriages. I was stunned. I had known some of these women for years, was even good friends with them, and I had never known what they suffered! I know many women who say the same thing; that no one talks about this until they realize someone else is going through it, too. Your story might just give someone else the courage they need to connect and get support.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that sharing your story is important. But I won’t leave you there… As a book coach and editor with more than a decade of experience in traditional book publishing, I have the honor of helping authors write their stories every day. From reading hundreds of stories about overcoming all kinds of hardships, I’ve learned some lessons about how to do it.
How do you write your story?
I’ll be the first to admit that writing isn’t easy! Especially writing something meaningful and often painful that other people will read. Reading others’ personal essays is a good place to start, but here are several tips to help you:
1. Give yourself time to heal.
The pain of infertility is ongoing and leaves a scar, even if we do get a happy ending, so don’t push yourself too hard. Sometimes, it’s best to wait to write for others until you’ve healed emotionally and physically from the worst of the pain before you write about it. When we are still blinded by the hurt, we have a harder time seeing our own transformation. We may even retraumatize ourselves if we’re not careful. If you are still working through the rawness of grief and pain, try talking to a therapist, journaling just for yourself, and taking care of your body.
2. Choose a specific, meaningful topic.
While infertility may seem niche to the broader world, we all know that infertility is a big topic! Try to think about something specific within the world of infertility that you have experience with—maybe it’s endometriosis, or surrogacy, or TFMR, or using donor sperm. What has made your infertility journey special and unique? Ironically, it’s by focusing on specifics that our stories become more relatable.
3. Tell a story.
When you think of a general topic you’d like to focus on, then ask yourself: What have you learned about that topic that surprised you, that others might not realize? An article is a short journey of transformation—start by showing what you used to think, and end with how you’ve changed through that experience.
Remember that stories don’t always have happy endings. Don’t give in to the temptation or pressure to whitewash your grief. Instead, your transformation might be learning that you have agency when you thought you had none, or taking a brave step to advocate for yourself
Remember that stories don’t always have happy endings. Don’t give in to the temptation or pressure to whitewash your grief. Instead, your transformation might be learning that you have agency when you thought you had none, or taking a brave step to advocate for yourself in the face of resistance from others. Your story is your growth despite the circumstances, not your problems going away (even though we want them to!).
4. Don’t let your fear stop you.
So many of us struggle with feeling like we’re not enough—not a good enough writer, or that we don’t have a unique enough story. Trust me, ALL writers feel this way at some point, and it’s never true. That is the voice of what author Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance.” Resistance is the challenge we feel whenever we endeavor to take on an inspired, creative act. Resistance can take many forms: imposter syndrome, nightmares of realizing you misspelled something, a flood of memories from that one time you got a bad grade on a writing assignment in fifth grade. When you feel that Resistance, recognize it for what it really is: fear.
Whenever I feel the clammy cold claws of fear in my heart, I try to remember the Open Letter to Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, from her brilliant book Big Magic:
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
Remember, friend, story is why we’re here. It’s our source of hope and love and encouragement and joy, in the midst of the hardest times. I hope to read yours next!
Ariel Curry is an editor and writing coach with 10 years of experience in publishing. She enjoys brainstorming and outlining new book ideas, bringing clarity and purpose to prose, and helping authors find resilience in their writing journey. Ariel lives in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband and their dogs, Enyo and Tenaya.
Listen to stories, share your own, and get feedback from the community.