Most people who have grappled with infertility have developed their own narratives about this experience and how it has shaped their lives. I often am amazed at how many people have found a silver lining in their infertility cloud. This past week has provided several experiences that heighten for me the connection between infertility and emotional resilience.
My first experience was with a group of about 20 women, ages 25 to 60, who conduct workshops and training sessions in their communities about issues affecting families. They had asked me to speak with them about my book When You're Not Expecting, and I encouraged them to ask questions and offer observations during the course of my presentation. Well, I had only spoken a few moments when the conversation turned quite quickly to their own personal experiences with infertility. Who would have imagined that 15 of these women had difficulties conceiving, pregnancy lossses, or lived in a childfree marriage? No matter what the experience was for each, the way in which they shared their infertility experiences ultimately came down to "It's not what I expected, but I know I am a more understanding and compassionate adult because of learning how to come to terms with my infertility." Personal examples ranged from adapting professional goals so they could be more generous in helping troubled families to ways that they redefined their own families that put them in closer touch with young nieces and nephews. The tone of the meeting was definitely upbeat, although there was a fair amount of Kleenex passed around the table as various women delved into their emotions to connect with the shared topic of infertility. What struck me very poignantly was how each person disclosing her thoughts had moved from emotional pain to resilience as she found a new way of shaping her future than the one she initially had envisioned.