It has been three years since my last fertility “intervention”. When I say it like that with “quotes”, I mean medical intervention of medicine, procedures etc. I sit here on my couch, feeling confused, excited, heartbroken, and hopeful. You’re probably asking…Why? How? Are you losing it? Nope, it was just a heavy day. My fertility journey had started years before many of my close friends and family started to think of raising a family. I went through 5 years of wishing, praying, pushing meds, questioning each month's cycle, by myself. No one else in my close circle was on the pathway to motherhood. At the time, I wanted nothing more than for someone to talk to and empathize with. But no, I was on my own. Partially because I was ashamed of not being able to naturally have a baby. Yes, I said it. I was ashamed and fearful of the pity that follows the term “infertility”. Not to mention the sympathy and good wishes that seemed so superficial from family and friends because they just do not understand the depth of the story (nor do they need to…its my story). I cannot hold this against my friends and family, but I needed someone. Knowing the sadness, grief, loneliness, I knew that when it was my time to be on the other side of support, I wanted to be there for my closest friends and women.
Well, with all due respect, our society does not celebrate the non-traditional fertility journeys or the discussion of difficult sh*t in our lives. As a woman who has not “yet had a baby and is getting to be of geriatric gestational age”, I am not welcome on the other side. Nope, friends and family have trouble sharing the secret of “being pregnant”. WHY? Is it I am “that girl who has struggled with pregnancy and we want to protect her. We don’t want to see you upset.” No, please no. I want to share in the excitement. I may burst into tears of sadness in my heart with each social media announcement, baby shower invite and 1st birthday party, but I want to share in knowing that women, as a whole, are vital and can create life within their bodies. This fertility journey can be lonely. I do not want to be lonely anymore! Whether I’m actively walking the path seeing 5 providers a week for treatment, or chatting with other “infertile” women figuring out what's next. Sharing stories of excitement and difficulties is a way to make it less lonely! We are not alone. Telling our story is not a way of comparing who’s story is better or worse off. No, it is to connect us as a storyteller and story listener. Knowing the unknown of the future is truly unknown, we desperately need to be part of this community together on the path through womanhood. Baby or not, I need to celebrate and grieve pregnancies, miscarriages, births, baby loss with the community as a whole. This is a sacred part of womanhood which connects each one of us to our Creator and our inner beauty.
The path through womanhood is marked by milestones of first period, pregnancy, menopause, but what are the milestones for those who are not (whether by choice or not) walking the incremental steps on the societally dictated path. We give high praise to women who cross those milestones, but forget that every day, each woman is navigating a body, mind and spirit that changes cyclically from morning til night; without conscious thought. And it is miraculous! But what happens on a day like today when two women share both victories and tragedies. How do we honor this day? Today, when one friend shared that she is pregnant, one friend found she is miscarrying and I got my period with ferocious cramps. Where does that leave me…ugly crying in both excitement and grief.
All day, every day, I have the privilege to care and treat women who are pregnant, post-partum, menopausal, post-menopausal, and some who desire not to have children, but struggle with the everyday ups and downs of being a woman. As a therapist, it is an honor to step onto another woman’s path; to hold her hand as she walks, brush the dust off the next step on the path or just listen to her as she sits down on the path. I do this every day as a pelvic health professional, so the same is true for me as a friend, sister, cousin, or as a woman.
My place on the path, regardless of having a baby or not, does not change my emotional and physical investment in myself or other women. Whether you are my friend, family, colleague, client, Instagram friend, we are in this together. Stand! Share your story! Listen to a story! Be the woman to celebrate and grieve with other women! To happily ugly cry on the sidelines for your friends through a miscarriage, fertility journey or traumatic birth. Be the woman on the path who is hurting and sprawled out like a 2 year old throwing a temper tantrum (just don’t unpack and live there) because sometimes life is not easy. Be the woman who can say, I made a baby and I’m excited, scared and may have just peed my pants. Be the wiser woman, who quietly prays for others, not looking for anything in return. Be the woman, like me at this moment, who is reminding you, YOU are welcome in the womanhood community. Because my story, your story and her story, together each woman will see her true value and be strengthened along her path.
Everything is going to be alright,
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Dr. Amanda Heritage, PT, DPT is the owner of Breathe Life Physical Therapy & Wellness, LLC located in Collingswood, NJ. She has been practicing physical therapy for 10 years with a strong focus on pelvic health. She enjoys encouraging women and men about pelvic therapy as a treatment option for those suffering with pelvic pain, incontinence or constipation.