When my husband and I first married, we talked about our plan for building our family. We both felt strongly that two kids would be our perfect number and there was a part of us that wanted to start trying to conceive right away. So we decided to rescue a second puppy instead of having a baby right away. But (Oops!), we conceived our daughter the same day we picked our new pup out of an abandoned litter. During my first pregnancy, friends and coworkers who were also pregnant or trying to become pregnant seemed to multiply. I saw many struggle to get pregnant and even more struggle to stay pregnant. As my belly grew and I saw these women—some of them every day at my office—I began to feel guilty for my fertility.
PREGNANCY & GUILT Guilt is not a feeling one wants to have during pregnancy. But I couldn’t help it. I have friends trying to adopt after struggling to conceive for years. A woman I worked with had an ectopic pregnancy when I was four months into my own. A colleague miscarried her twins. Yet another had a baby with Trisomy 18, whom she lost just a day after delivering at 22 weeks. How could I not feel guilty that I had a healthy baby in my belly that I hadn’t even been trying to put there?
Yet I recognized quickly that feeling guilty for my fertility wasn’t helping anybody. Feeling the most sincere empathy for these women and their families could, perhaps, help them feel understood and less alone, so I channeled my guilt into compassion. This wasn’t so hard, as I’m a very sensitive person to begin with. What was hard was feeling I needed to hide my own pregnancy in order to keep them from feeling even worse about their own empty uteri.
COMING TO TERMS WITH MY FERTILITY It was in conversation with a woman I’d never met before that I came to peace with my fertility and others’ lack thereof. My young daughter and I happened to share a table at the local mall’s frozen yogurt joint with a woman who was getting In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) the very next day. I was newly pregnant (another Oops!) with my second little girl and my toddler was just starting to walk. We chatted for awhile and I confessed to this stranger that I felt guilty in the past for my ease in conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. She told me that she understood but that I was being silly. My fertility had no impact on her own personal situation and there was nothing I could do to help her except wish her the best.
She said that she didn’t want to be pitied for her infertility anyway (Was that what I was doing? Perhaps…) and seeing children made her happy and hopeful for her own growing family.
Thanks to that kind stranger, I began feeling much less guilty about my pregnancies and little ones.
I still feel empathy for those struggling with infertility and I’m still very aware of my own blessings. But, as this woman advised, I now am hopeful for them instead of pitying their situation.
The woman and I stayed in touch very casually after that conversation and I couldn’t have been happier to learn that she gave birth to twins just a couple months ago! I remain grateful to her for helping me give hope to other families who haven’t been given their own babies yet. It’s only a matter of time for most of them, I know it.