I have two friends that are going through fertility treatments. This weekend, thanks to a serendipitous series of small events, I had a chance opportunity to talk with them simultaneously. As an (unsuccessful) survivor of the fertility treatment experience, I'm in a unique position to view the process from beyond the finish line. What I didn't expect, but am grateful to report, is the overwhelming amount of empathy I feel for my friends.
Empathy, to me, is a unique feeling, born from struggle. Had I not experienced the rollercoaster ride that is the fertility process for myself, I would not be able to understand the depths of the emotions, fears, and struggles my friends are feeling. They are alternately hopeful and anxious, excited, yet afraid to be too excited. Nervous, yet trying to limit their stress because they know how much stress can affect your body. I know this place. I was a resident for well over a year as we struggled with adding to our already lovely little family. But when our experience was over, and we had reluctantly admitted defeat, I rarely talked with anyone about what we went through. It felt too personal. And, in truth, I also felt a little guilty for feeling so sad because we do have a daughter who rocks our world on a daily basis. "What about people who don't even have a child?" I'd think to myself. "Suck it up. You're lucky." I am. It's so very true, and I am so very grateful. However, I know now that it was okay to feel sadness for the loss of what we thought would be. In fact, once I gave permission to feel that sadness, it led to even more thankfulness for the gift of our daughter.
Having our experience come up over a decade later has turned out to be a gift. As my friends share with me the small moments of their fertility journeys: the tempered hopes, the expectations they are trying to manage, I find myself being both their cheerleader and their sounding board. I can empathize with what they are both going through, and in turn, they both trust me with their vulnerability. It's a honor, a lovely place to be, and one I didn't ever think my experience would bring me. For this, I am grateful.