Survivor Guilt … Moving On From Infertility!


There are a lot of emotions attached to the infertility journey. These emotions start from the time the trying to conceive journey starts; the pain, the ache of seeing Aunt Flo, month after month, the hope accompanying the start of a fertility treatment, and the deep sorrow that comes when the treatments fails.

The mechanical manner in which subsequent treatments are embarked upon, hoping for the best, but yet steeling oneself for the worst. And finally, when those double lines show up after countless pregnancy tests and blood work, not to mention all the injections, there are still emotions attached- the survivor guilt; the guilt over getting something when others are yet to get it as well.

Margaret knows this feeling so well. When, their fourth cycle of IVF finally worked, she and her husband were overjoyed that, after all this time, after the PCOS and the numerous other reasons the doctors gave for why they needed help with conception and even why the first three IVF cycles failed, they finally had their BFP.

However that happiness was tinged with guilt. She felt guilty that she was finally pregnant, while a lot of her TTC friends were yet to their BFP. For weeks, she did not know how to tell her IVF buddy, a lady she had she cycled with, that she was finally pregnant.
And this was not because she did not want to share her news with this particular friend, but because she did not want to be the one to hurt her. She recalled the feelings of envy, or streaks of pain that shot through her whenever anyone told her they were pregnant, or even whenever she saw a random pregnant person, or anyone holding a baby. She most often recalled her own empty arms.

While, she often managed to maintain a happy demeanor, and be really happy in such instances, deep down she wished it was her, and then she always ended up hating herself for coveting someone else’s gift. She and her IVF buddy had had this conversation several times, so Margaret knew that, her sharing her news with her friend was going to birth mixed feelings in her, hence she held off telling her as soon as found out.

When she eventually opened up, her friend was hurt, but they mended their friendship after lots of tears. In addition to not sharing her news with her friend early enough, she refused to post any bump picture on social media, knowing she had friends who were still in the waiting room.

As she continued trying to hide her bump, her husband asked her if their pregnancy was now something for her to apologize over, because that was the way he saw it. Upon closer observation, Margaret admitted that she was indeed apologetic for being pregnant, while many other women were not likely to ever know how pregnancy feels.

If you think Margaret went overboard, then you don’t want to be anywhere near Itunu, a voracious and staunch supporter of the infertility gang. She tried to conceive for three years and got lucky on her second IVF cycle, when she got pregnant with her boy/girl twins, who are now three years old. But, like an elephant, Itunu never forgot, the pain, the trials and the rollercoaster that was the infertility journey. Every time she looked at her twins, she was often reminded of the struggle she went through to have them, and she made it known to everyone who asked, that she got them through IVF, the second cycle in fact, and that the twins did not come easily to her…just to show that she deserved them. At her workplace, one of the things that you definitely did not talk to Itunu about was a woman’s struggle to get pregnant, at least not in any disparaging manner. And if you ever mentioned a preference for one gender over the other, she was sure to tear into you.

She left the TTC gang behind, as she became a yummy mommy with twins, with her fridge door filled with creative works of her kids. But she was yet to leave the TTC world behind. Her heart remained with the women still on that journey, wishing she had the powers to grant them their heart desires…a baby.

This guilt is not limited to only first time moms. Moms, who already have a child, can feel guilty for wanting another child, when some people they knew on the TTC journey are yet to have even one child. But these feelings can come on naturally; after all, infertility can swamp one’s life both physically and physiologically. After overcoming it, it might take a while before necessary adjustments can be made.

While these feelings of guilt can bring on empathy and sensitivity to other women’s feelings around a pregnancy, it is no use feeling guilty all the time. In truth, that could signal a deeper problem. Fertility challenges can rob people of enough joy; don’t let them impact the miracle of a longed-for pregnancy too.

You can also take solace in the fact that time is the ultimate healer, and this is true. As time goes on, Moms will learn that it is normal to have a range of feelings resulting from fertility treatment, conception, birth and adapting to parenthood. It’s a whole lot of emotions but the negative emotions need not live with us for a long time.




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