Most people don’t think of postpartum mood issues (in short, PPD) in relation to infertility. I sure didn’t.
I’ve written numerous times (here, here, and here) over the years about my struggle with infertility. It was a struggle of 4+ years and I dreamed that once I had my child, all would be right with the world. The dream I had desired for so long would come true and I would get to hold my baby in my arms and love him immediately.
Because I have struggled with bipolar disorder and anxiety issues in the past, I was a prime candidate for suffering from PPD. But I tried to remain optimistic. A baby is what I had long wanted. I would get it; PPD be damned.
Often, you hear the stories about how women overcome infertility and their dream of having a child comes true. And it’s the best thing ever. They instantly fall in love with the baby of their dreams and everything seems wonderful except for that darned newborn period when you don’t get sleep. (But that’s pretty much everybody, right?)
What about the stories of women who struggle with infertility and then get PPD? No one talks about them. We feel guilty because for so long we wanted a child and now that we’ve received one, we don’t feel a bond. We don’t feel a connection. We worry too much about hurting the dream we had so longed for. We lose touch with reality and nearly harm our child or even ourselves. Panic attacks over losing our baby or taking care of our baby are a daily occurrence. Or we simply cannot get out of bed, too depressed to care for this human being who is completely and totally dependent on us.
Then there’s the added guilt of knowing that there are mothers—tons of other mothers—who are silently suffering the loss of what could be. Many mothers grieving month after month over not having a child. And here we are, finally over that hurdle. And we feel horrible. We don’t want this child. We don’t care for it. Take it away. I don’t want to see it. I’m a bad mother; I can’t care for this kid. But there are so many women who want a baby just like I have one. I have to love this kid—for them.
But those who suffer from PPD after infertility should know they are not alone. The internal pressure we give ourselves to be happy during (what should be) a joyous occasion can often be a tight cord around our neck. It’s OK to admit that after your years-long struggle that you’re not exactly overjoyed to be holding that “bundle of joy” in your arms. What’s NOT OK is pretending that everything is fine and trying to suck it up. This isn’t the time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This is the time to seek help. And there is no shame in admitting that you’re feeling sad, anxious, or worried about your mental health.
Reading this and don’t know where to turn? Here are a few resources:
- Postpartum Progress – Katherine Stone runs this advocacy organization to help raise awareness about postpartum issues among mothers, clinicians, and the general population. You can also discover great information via the Postpartum Progress blog.
- Postpartum Support International – Another organization that helps guide women through the changes surrounding them during the postpartum period. It offers resources, such as a toll-free hotline specifically catering to those with postpartum mental health needs.
- Postpartum Stress Center – This center provides professional support to women suffering from postpartum mood issues. It’s worth noting that PPD tends to be a catch-all abbreviation for conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, and psychosis, to name a few. The Stress Center tends to serve residents in the eastern PA area but will help those outside of the region find a local resource.
Remember, PPD can affect anyone, infertile or not. Don’t be afraid to seek help as soon as you recognize that something isn’t right. The sooner you get help (even if you think it’s just the baby blues), chances are, you’ll recover more quickly. Get your life back. Get help today.
Although I have a son, the pain of infertility still resonates with me. I still want to assist others who struggle with having children. I want to encourage others going through fertility treatments. I don’t want to look down upon the different options of fertility treatments. Each couple has their own path to parenthood. My husband and I chose the path that we were most comfortable with.
Stigma surrounds infertility. If you read through the Bible, it’s something women have struggled with since ancient times. Children are often seen as a blessing. What appears to be the “withholding” of children seems to be a curse. I struggled long and hard with feeling like I was cursed. That God was holding out on me. Each month of “no” that went by stung deeply. I simply wanted to be a mother. And that’s the desire of so many women. Some couples who get pregnant easily can be quick to deny alternate avenues of pregnancy for others.
The struggle with infertility is hard. I experienced it for nearly 5 years. Here are some of the things that I faced:
- Friends getting pregnant with their first, second, or FOURTH(!) child while my husband and I waited to conceive
- Invitations to baby showers that I either had to refuse or attend but leave early
- Failed intrauterine insemination (IUI), once known as artificial insemination
- Ridicule from a doctor who is supposed to be a top regional doctor in reproductive endocrinology
- The decision to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF)
The decision to pursue IVF was somewhat difficult. From a Christian perspective, my husband and I at first weren’t sure if we were “playing God” by taking matters into our own hands this way. But we came to the conclusion that God provided a miraculous way for infertile couples to conceive. We aren’t Christian scientists. We believe that God provided Tylenol and technology to help people recover from illness. Why can’t God be involved in the process of creating a child scientifically?
When I spoke to Christian friends and family about our decision to pursue IVF, everyone was supportive. My husband and I agreed beforehand that any viable embryos would not go to waste. Five eggs were extracted from me . While all five eggs fertilized successfully, only two were viable. We chose to freeze (cryopreserve) one and transfer the other. “The other” is now our 11-week-old son. We have a picture of him before he was transferred into my uterus.
I praise God for the existence of modern medicine, technology, and science that gave my husband and I the ability to conceive when we would otherwise likely be childless. Some Christians, however, have issues with infertility treatments, such as egg freezing, donor eggs, donor sperm, and surrogacy. I think each couple has to come to a decision that they’re comfortable with. My husband and I were not comfortable with donor options and surrogacy. There was no need for egg freezing in our case. But for those who struggle with infertility, egg freezing, donor options, and surrogacy might be legitimate fertility routes although there may be legal complications with surrogacy.
A Christianity Today article, The Overlooked Ethics of Reproduction, questions the moral ramifications of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). I couldn’t help but feel a little indignant in reading the article. It was as if the author was passing judgment on Christians who chose to pursue various fertility options, namely surrogacy.
The fact that so many people fail to consider the moral implications of IVF suggests that in the age of fertility treatments, surrogates, and modern family-building via parenting partnerships, a woman’s womb has come to be seen as a somewhat arbitrary location.
As Christians, I think we need to consider the moral implications of ART but not be quick to dismiss them as evil or ungodly. Every couple (or perhaps woman) has a certain comfort level with ART. And if a Christian couple decides to do something that doesn’t seem to line up with biblical principles, such as abortion or discarding viable embryos, I think that is something they will have to eventually explain to God. That couple’s final authority is God, not man.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about anything on this blog, mainly because I haven’t had much to write about. But after Shady Grove Fertility, which I will henceforth refer to as SGF, highlighted the brief mention I gave them on my end-of-summer update, I decided that I want to write about my TTC (trying to conceive) experience and the incredible role SGF and its staff played in my fertility journey. (I will be using the pronouns “my” and “me,” but please recognize that this fertility journey is really an “us” and “we” experience that includes my spouse.) P.S. This post may be a bit on the long side, so settle in with a nice cup of coffee or tea. Read more…
I haven’t blogged regularly for quite some time, mostly because I’ve had nothing to say. I still don’t have much of anything to say, although this post will disprove that.
My expectations of fertility clinics has changed now that I’ve been through the ringer twice. I used to expect (naive little me) that fertility clinics would be warm, welcoming places for couples who were suffering through infertility. Now I know better. Now I know that it’s a business, and fertility clinics are only out to make money—helping people get pregnant is just a means to an end.
The first time around at the fertility clinic, the nurses were nice, but the doctors cool and impersonal. My husband and I were just another number, just another dollar sign. I still get upset when I think of my first and last IUI (intrauterine insemination) there. The doctor was so flippant about how he thought it wouldn’t work. It’s like he took a dump on our $800 before flushing it down the toilet.
But I’m going back to a fertility clinic—a different one this time. I’m not as naive as the first time around. I get it. I’m a huge dollar sign. The more advanced the treatment (see IVF), the better. But I’ve got limits. I will have these doctors, however impersonal they are, help me get pregnant. I’ll attempt IUIs but not much more than that (mostly because I can’t afford it).
I guess I should admit that I’m grateful that the nurses weren’t impersonal, but were even kind, warm, and caring. But there’s nothing caring about getting a cold internal ultrasound shoved in your uterus. But ovulation kits don’t work for me so I need to rely on the advanced, expensive stuff.
After almost 4 years of trying to get pregnant and not succeeding, I know we need medical intervention. At the new fertility clinic, we could have up to a 2-hour consultation with the doctor. I hope the detailed history and visit will prove beneficial to producing a child later this year.
I have the funny feeling if I get the privilege of being a mom, I’m going to have one high-maintenance kid (a lot like his mother).
My mother will be visiting for Mother’s Day, which I’m thankful for because it takes the sting out of a holiday that’s become painful in recent years.
In dealing with infertility, I am well too aware that I am not a mom and the normal, everyday of life of baby showers, pregnant women, and children remind me of this. I don’t have much to say on this topic except that it’s not the happiest or joyous occasion for every woman. Some women are crying over the fact that they have not been able to have children of their own—whether it be through adoption or natural childbearing.
When I started the journey toward having children, I never anticipated that the journey would be so long and arduous. It comes so easily and naturally for those who want it and those who don’t, why not us?
This is a time when I must remind myself to hope in God regardless of how I want to feel toward Him. Because I want to be angry. I want to be bitter. I want to blame Him for my barren womb. But I remember so many of the women who came before, especially Hannah, Samuel’s mother, and I try to remember their faithfulness to God. I want to not give up. I want to have hope. I want to hope because that’s part of my faith.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I struggle with childlessness. I have not willingly chosen to be child-free as some couples have. It’s just a matter of not having been blessed with children at this time. As my husband and I determine our next course of action, I recognize that there are benefits to not having children. There are things that I would be willing to give up if we are blessed with kids, but at this time, I might as well enjoy myself!
1. Waking up without having to tend to someone else’s needs.
If I plan to balance my checkbook for an hour, I don’t need to worry about anyone crying as he or she wakes up from sleep. I can go about my business as planned.
2. Eating out when I want to.
Although eating out regularly gets expensive, I’m not a fan of cooking. With a child, eating out will become a luxury because we wouldn’t be able to afford the extra expense and getting an active toddler to sit at a meal for a while would be a challenge.
3. No extra anxieties.
I’m already an anxious person. Can you imagine the anxiety I’d develop as I worry about a toddler trying to get into all the cabinets or climbing the dishwasher onto the counter? I’m not constantly freaking out about being put in jail because I failed to get the most secure lock on the cleaning products cabinet.
4. Traveling isn’t a hassle.
Travel and packing is already stressful for just me. Having to pack for myself and for another one might drive me insane. And if we’re stuck in traffic for 4 hours, we don’t need to pull over for anything except maybe refilling the tank. Oh, and I’m not that mom in the plane who everyone wishes would shut her kid up.
5. Earning money is rewarding.
Being a mom is a thankless job. So are a lot of other regular jobs but that paycheck is not thankless; it’s rewarding. Being a mom sometimes doesn’t feel so rewarding when you do the same things day in, day out without a thank you or any kind of paycheck. Right now, I feel like I’m contributing to my family in a way that yields instant rewards.
6. Relatively clean and intact items around the home.
We don’t have animals either so nothing has been pooped on, drooled on, or torn apart. The worst my books and furniture have to endure are dust and wear and tear. (Okay, maybe I scribble on a few things…)
No babies crying, no children pestering me with questions like “why” for everything, no teens constantly asking me for cash. If my husband is silent and I am not talking, it is quiet. I should relish this for as long as I can.
Again, these are things I am reminding myself to enjoy as I pursue a dream of having children. Is there anything else you can add that I’ve missed?