When I was seven I wanted to be a butterfly.
At ten I thought I'd run for President.
When I was twenty-one I worked toward becoming a teacher.
Now I'm 36 and none of those things.
The one thing that has been a constant for as long as I've thought about my future? Wanting to be a mom, to have the two kids and the partner, to feel secure that the reason I do anything has more purpose than myself.
Yep, read that again.
Somewhere in my journey I stopped dreaming about what I could be for myself and started dreaming about what I'd be for everyone else.
We treat people who don't have kids like they're selfish or like their dreams and goals aren't as important because they aren't attached to little people, their genetic code not being passed along somehow invalidates everything they do. Sure, society doesn't directly state this to anyone. But we all know it's true: somewhere along the line, when you were trying to conceive, your worthiness as a human came into question in your mind.
You wondered if you'd ever truly get the title of becoming a mom.
You remembered back to that one time someone invalidated your family of two by saying you weren't actually a family yet.
You questioned who you'd be or how you'd cope if what if became a reality and you had to walk away from treatment and take a different route, no matter what route that might be.
We get so wound up in fear of it all that we're willing to sacrifice a lot of good in our lives because babies are "worth the wait."
When we found out we needed IVF I immediately started researching the trauma pieces of the journey. The truth is, the outcome felt so out of my control at that point. Sure, I could do my best and fight for what I wanted, but I also had to stop telling myself that a biological kid might be in the cards. We were at one of the final stages of treatment, when everything else had failed, and if I convinced myself it was definitely going to work I knew I'd start acting insane. I'd go one too many rounds or resent my husband if he wanted to stop.
I've been known to go so hard after the things that I want that everything else gets neglected and wrecked, because if I believe in something, I believe in it with all of my being.
Plus, my mind is a bitch sometimes. I take things too hard or too personally when others are hateful, and having a background of abuse makes me question if those thoughts are true OR if I'm crazy for believing them. I hardly ever give myself the benefit of the doubt when I'm struggling, so combine my give-it-everything tendency with my you-suck brain, and you could say I took on infertility like it was all my fault, my issue to fix, and every time I got a negative it confirmed how much I was failing.
Legitimately, on my worst days, when I wanted to lay in bed all day and sulk, because that's the kind of depressed person I am: I will lay in my own filth for days at a time and validate my own negative beliefs of unworthiness:
"How can you raise a kid when you can't even take care of yourself?"
"You're gross inside and out; you don't deserve to be clean."
I hadn't felt the heaviness in my soul for a few years, but I knew that pain, the isolation and longing to be understood and heard and held up, and I knew my own identity was going to take a massive hit if I didn't do something to process and move through those feelings.
We hadn't even started cycling yet.
That's when it hit me, that I knew these feelings because I'd survived them before, and so I thought back to my trauma therapist and what she would ask me about those beliefs and my behaviors.
"How are you taking care of yourself, Lindsay?"
In that moment I made two promises to myself:
Practice some kind of self care every single day, no matter what.
Let go of the idea that being rigid and forceful could change the outcome.
Self care, for me, isn't luxurious most days, because even though I practice it each day it's still work. I always feel better after completing it but always question if I should. On my worst days (in bed), I'd simply force myself to get up and do basic hygiene, like brushing my teeth and showering. On better days, I'd meditate or go on a walk, and on the best days, when I was doing all of the above for myself anyway, I would find a way to help someone else struggling.
Helping other people has always been a way for me to feel good about myself, if I'm honest. Mostly, because my soul knows what it's like to want or need assistance and then to receive it; to feel seen, heard, understood, and validated. To give someone else that moment of hope or grace felt like an easy way to ramp up my feel good endorphins.
And this type of commitment to myself is still necessary now, even after having success.
Because pregnancy after infertility can be very traumatic (and was for me).
And delivering your babies after a healthy pregnancy can also be traumatic (and was for me).
And parenting, no matter how much perspective you have or how happy you are to finally be a parent, still comes with its own unique set of challenges and heartbreak. And it's hard to wrap my brain around that, still. I feel guilty saying I struggle.
Life, with or without kids, is going to throw trauma on your lap. We don't get to control that. What we do have control over is our movement within those painful moments. We get to choose how to show up both in the world and within ourselves, and if you're practicing self care while you struggle you will not feel so drowned by the pain, at least not all of the time. Yes, you'll have hard moments. Yes, you'll still have to consciously make the choice to show up for yourself. But it will get easier and you will feel better.
You deserve to come out of this journey and feel good about how you showed up in it, no matter whether or not you have a baby on your hip. Society's bullshit ideas about who should be celebrated and who shouldn't should NEVER be where you base your worth, because each of us will always find a reason to feel invalidated, whether it's because of our infertility, our sex, our weight, a beauty standard, a political leaning...whatever...we're all inundated with bullshit that tries to make us feel like crap all of the time, and it's time we take back the power over who gets to tell us how we should feel.
Because you should be the one making those decisions.
You deserve that and so much more.