The first time a nurse used the word “infertile” to describe me, it felt like someone had just punched me in the gut. I knew that’s what I was, of course. I’d spoken to the doctors, I’d seen my health records laid out before me, and I was in the process of pursuing my first round of IVF.
But this nurse just used the word so nonchalantly. I had asked a question, and she said, “You know, I don’t know. Let me ask the nurse who usually works with our infertile patients.”
And there it was. That was who I was. An infertile patient.
The next few years were hard. Really hard. Failed IVF cycles. Increasing pain as a result of endometriosis. And the heartbreaking reality that this was it, that I really and truly was never going to be pregnant.
But four years after that nurse first used “infertile” to describe me, I adopted a little girl. And, suddenly, the years of heartbreak prior made sense. I understood. I was at peace. And I was in love with my daughter. A daughter I would swear to you I am a better parent to today because of infertility. Here’s why:
1. I have patience
If there is one thing infertility taught me, it’s that I can’t always force my will on the world around me. I am not a naturally patient person. And the wait-and-see nature of infertility was brutal for me. I had to learn to breathe through circumstances that weren’t going my way, and to wait for answers I wanted now. To be honest, I hated it. But you know what requires even more patience than infertility? A toddler. And you know what requires even more patience than a toddler? A preschooler. Lucky for me, infertility taught me how to breathe.
2. I have gratitude
You don’t have to endure infertility to love your child. But I truly believe that going through years of not knowing for sure whether I would be a mother or not instilled a deep sense of gratitude in me now that I am. I look at my daughter every single day and know how lucky I am to have her. I know how hard I fought to be here. And it makes everything about the experience of motherhood shine a little brighter — even the hard stuff.
Because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would take my hardest days as a mother over my best days as an infertile woman yearning to be a mother. That doesn’t mean I never complain or get frustrated. But it does mean I’ve got some perspective that not all moms are lucky enough to have when those harder parts do come around.
3. I have endurance
Infertility turned me into a fighter. It also trained me to endure the tough times — to keep pushing forward, even when it seemed like nothing is going to work out your way. That’s an incredible skill to have when you’re going through the fun stuff of parenting. You know, the stuff like potty training, or getting your preschooler to stay in her bed. Endurance is a key component of happy parenting … and thanks to infertility, I know that I can endure better than most.
4. I have knowledge
Recently, my daughter has been going through a bit of a health scare. We’re not entirely sure what’s going on, but it seems to be something autoimmune. Throughout the search for answers, I have found myself feeling gratitude for my infertility experience more than once. Because of that experience, I learned how to navigate confusing medical situations. I learned how to be my own advocate and how to get doctors to advocate for me too. This knowledge base has served me well now that I am my daughter’s advocate.
5. I have peace
As someone who is pretty Type A and who tends to struggle when things don’t work out as planned, infertility was really hard for me. I’ve always believed that if I want something bad enough, I just have to be willing to work hard enough to get it. Well, I worked harder than I have ever worked at anything to get pregnant, and it didn’t happen.
And somewhere along the way, I had to make peace with that. I had to learn to let it go. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t long after I reached that point that I met my daughter’s other mother. And just a week after that introduction, I was in the delivery room meeting my daughter for the first time.
Everything about that experience has taught me this: Things have a way of working out. Even when you fear they never will. I’m still someone who struggles with Type A tendencies. I probably always will be. But when things aren’t going my way these days, all I have to do is look at my daughter to remember that there is a plan. I have to trust, breathe, and be patient. It may not be a plan I understand yet, or even a plan I think I want. But … things have a way of working out.
And remembering that I can step back and breathe when I feel control slipping out of my hands? It doesn’t just make me a better mother; it makes me a better person. And for that, I will always be grateful.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. A single mom by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah has written extensively on infertility, adoption, and parenting. Visit her blog or connect with her on Twitter @sifinalaska.