This week has been National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) in the United States. It has me hugging my son a bit tighter and thinking of my own personal struggle with infertility.
My husband and I got married when we were young and still working toward our bachelor degrees. We decided we wanted to wait some time before having kids. I love looking back on the first years of my marriage. We were just kids! We were trying to figure out what we wanted out of life. We traveled to many countries, started our first jobs, and applied to medical school. And having two incomes with no kids was great!! After about 4 years, we decided that it might be time to start our family. We both knew we wanted kids and each of us had spiritual experiences that made it seem like now was the time for us to become parents.
For several frustrating years after that, my husband and I desperately tried to get pregnant with no success. One in eight in the United States struggle with infertility. You never think that you will be the one that has to go through infertility until it happens to you. Why would you?
In retrospect, I now realize that a large group of women and men experience the excruciating pain and depression associated with infertility. However, at that time and in those moments I felt so alone. I found myself in a very dark place of comparison and shame for not being able to do something that I thought I SHOULD be able to do. We saw many doctors and went through countless tests to try to figure out what our “problem” was. I regretted the many years I had “wasted” by not trying to have kids sooner. All the while, friends were announcing their pregnancies with cute announcements on Facebook and unknowing acquaintances were asking, “When are you ever going to have a baby? You can’t wait forever!”
What I didn’t realize during this time of anguish is that I was losing out on opportunities to enjoy current, past and future memories. As someone who now runs a company dedicated to memory-keeping, this breaks my heart. Now that I have been able to pray, talk and meditate about this trial for years, here are some of the lessons I learned about memory-keeping through my struggle with infertility.
Lessons I Learned About the Importance of Memories from Struggling with Infertility
1. Should is SUCH a stupid word.
Why do we “should” all over ourselves all the time? I can’t think of a time that the word “should” has ever created positive feelings for the recipient. It’s nature is to create worry, shame and guilt. For years, I beat myself up for being “broken” and unable to have kids. What for? Where do “should” expectations and standards even come from? Our perception of what “perfect” friends on social media do? Newsflash: they are also imperfect people!
“Should” is so often found in the heads and hearts of moms who want to be better at memory-keeping. And the truth is, there just really isn’t any time or space for it. Instead of focusing on what you should do, focus on what you can and get to do. Who else knows your family as well as you do? Who better to document your family’s story? Any effort in this area you make is incredible. And besides, there are so many options for those who want or need help with memory-keeping. See some of the ways Savor Your Story can help by clicking here.
Since this time, I’ve tried my best to remove this word from my vocabulary, and to take it with a grain of salt when it is said to me. There are things I will do. There are things I won’t do. But things I should do just need to leave.
2. Comparison is TOXIC.
Comparison during infertility was eating away my soul and keeping me from enjoying the things I had been blessed with like an incredible husband, supportive family, and healing friends. I wasn’t grateful for pretty much anything during the time and resented bitterly those who had what I couldn’t have. So many couples experience infertility for much longer than we did. So many couples don’t experience infertility at all. Why did I spend so much time trying to figure out where on the spectrum of tragedy I was?
This applies to memory-keeping as well, and pretty much everything else in life. If we spend our time trying to keep up with other people, we will be unhappy. After all, as Maya Angelou put it, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Comparing our memories or memory-keeping with others is unproductive. If we compare our scrapbooking style or level of accomplishment with others for example, we will always be able to find someone who has done more and someone who has done less than we have. Enjoy your own memories and don’t spend so much time worrying about others’.
3. There is no such thing as normal.
During my struggle with infertility, I felt incredibly broken and like I wasn’t normal. I had a talk with my dad where he said to me, “Create your own normal, live it and love it. I just love that so much. It was a mantra I repeated to myself often to help me through dark days and helped me to love exactly where I was and what I was learning in my life.
When it comes to memory-keeping, create your own normal, live it and love it! Do what works for you. Some people love to journal. Some do not. Some love to scrapbook. Some hate to scrapbook. Some take lots of pictures. Some wish they took more. Some use video. Some do not. There are tons of different styles and ways to express yourself when documenting your story. Embrace what feels right to you. Needing some ideas to get started? Click here.
4. Life is a journey to be enjoyed.
This is one of the most important lessons I learned from struggling with infertility. I was focused way too much on accomplishing specific milestones and events and not enough on enjoying the incredible journey along the way. It kept me from learning from and experiencing the present. I looked at fun memories we had in the past with regret, and I had no hope for any memories I could create in the future.
As a modern-memory keeper, I find this so sad! It’s ok to be sad, and it’s ok to struggle through things, but I believe that overall, life is meant to create joy and teach us how to be stronger. Your story is worth savoring. Even during the sour moments. Hard trials can be the times that we learn and grow the most. Isn’t that something to celebrate, document and remember?
When it comes down to it, my struggle with infertility isn’t over yet. If my son will ever have a sibling, there will be many more visits to the fertility doctor in my future. I’m not even sure we will be able to conceive again. This is why I’m going through old albums and holding my son just a little tighter today.
If you struggle with infertility, you aren’t alone. So many suffer in silence. Don’t forget, miracles happen every day. Don’t lose hope! Things always work out how they are meant to. But even if you don’t struggle with infertility, savor the story and memories you have been blessed with just a little more today. Stop should-ing on yourself and embrace your beautifully messy moments. Learn to be happy for others. Learn to appreciate and love your own personal normal. This is where true happiness and peace lies.
To get started with your next memory-keeping project, click here.