She sits in the chair across from me showing more of her pregnancy. Her face is filling out, her breathing becoming more and more labored and her belly growing each week as her baby gets closer to breathing this earth's fresh air.
"How is your anxiety?" I ask her with both love and accountability. "Getting any better since you passed the week of Sarah's loss?" referring to her pregnancy loss and making sure to name her baby girl.
"Maybe a little," she replies as she tries to push the tears down and away from springing to her eyes.
"There is enough room for both. Give yourself permission to feel happy and scared and anxious and sad and joyful all at the same time. Fighting any of it, or denying it, will only make the anxiety worse."
She looks at me with a look of both disbelief and peace.
Infertility and loss steals so much from us but most of us only realize how much it actually steals as life goes on.
In the fight to become parents, many of us will become shells of who we once were, knowing we can never go back to who that was.
It is the identity theft of infertility.
She's pregnant! Most would look at her like she should be fine. The treatments finally worked. She's having a baby!
Both as a survivor of infertility and a therapist who walks with clients through and after the journey, I know it is never this simple.
Infertility is lifelong, and eventually you must choose how it defines you.
No matter how your story ends up.
For me, it didn't work. Our family portrait is not complete with the 2.5 kids. The losses and costs of the infertility journey, and the loss of our three babies, are the stones I carry in my pocket every day for the rest of my life.
For some of my clients, it has ended with children, and yet, they too are left with scars for a lifetime.
The scars of the babies who never took a breath of this earth's fresh air.
The scars of the financial burdens.
The scars of the damage to their relationships.
The scars of losing themselves to the journey.
The scars of anger and bitterness.
No matter how the infertility journey ends, like anything in our lives, we choose how it leaves us. These scars leave us with plenty to be bitter about. There is also plenty to find joy and gratitude in and for.
We simply must choose it.
"Are you okay every day?" my client asks me referring to my own recovery.
"Oh gosh, not every day. But more days than not now," I reply with my usual authentic truth.
"I fight for it, I define it and I am grateful. I was chosen to be their mother, even if only in the capacity I got them. I choose to know that God gave them to me. And for that, I am forever grateful. But in the same breath I give myself permission to also long for them and wonder always."
"A choice," said more as a statement than a question.
"Some days an easy choice, other days one that I have to fight tooth and nail through sadness and anger for. My lesson through it all has been this complicated gray. When I give myself permission to feel it all in the same breath, the longing and the gratitude, I find my life again. The awakened life in color."
"The complicated gray, huh?" she muses back both as a challenge and an acceptance.
"The damn complicated gray."