I'm in the midst of drafting a post about the losses of infertility. What a downer! So I thought I'd pause for a moment and reflect on the things I've actually gained through this experience.
A greater sense of compassion. I believe that infertility has made me much more sympathetic and less judgmental of people with all kinds of struggles, not just those related to family building. If someone acts like s/he is having a bad day, or week, or life, I now suspect it is because s/he is having a tough time.
Attempting to model the behaviors of others that have been helpful to me, I've become a better listener and don't always try to "fix" an unfixable problem that a loved one shares with me. I've become less prone to avoid people I know have experienced something tragic and more ready to offer a simple "I'm so sorry you are dealing with this. You are in my thoughts."
I realize now something I should have clued into much earlier: you cannot judge a book by its cover in regards to painful life experiences. I know some people who've managed through some incredibly difficult situations who have wonderful, sunny dispositions. And I know others who seem to live charmed lives who still manage to see the glass half empty. Through coping with my own challenges, I now recognize that I really have no clue what other people are going through or have experienced - or how it has shaped their world views - unless they tell me.
A stronger sense of self. Not being able to have biological children has forced me to ask myself all kinds of questions that I could have otherwise avoided but are undoubtedly healthy to explore. I've pushed the boundaries of my ego, redefined personal success, made peace with many of my limitation, and been reminded again and again to try to live in the present rather than the past or future.
I've also proven to myself that I am a tough cookie with a good head on her shoulders and an open heart.
More time with M. When I'm feeling down, I often reflect upon all of the great things I've been able to experience with M. that I couldn't have if I had become a mother nine months after we started TTC. Chief among them is all of the amazing trips we've taken (including Turkey, Guatemala, and Ireland) and the camping we've done. And there have been so many nice evening runs, weekend hikes, museum visits, bottles drunk, meals prepared and consumed together, and lazy weekend naps.
While we'll try hard to continue many of those small and big adventures as a family of three, I know that life will be very different once a little one arrives.
A stronger marriage. Throughout the process of preparing for parenthood and adoption, M. and I have REALLY had to be good partners. We've had to learn to ask for some extra support when we needed it, and even better, we've learned to recognize when the other needs some extra support and offer it lovingly. We've had to sort through our own feelings and share them with each other when we were most vulnerable. We've had to negotiate and readjust our dreams for the future. And not to be understated, we've had to get a lot done - mountains of frustrating paperwork and other sh*t - together.
I feel lucky every day that I am sharing my life with such a wonderful person. Our ordeals have provided proof again and again that he will be not only a fabulous husband but also an incredible father. So, in addition to looking forward to parenting with M., I know there will be a great time to look forward to when our little one(s) has flown the coop and we will again be able to snuggle together as late as we'd like on Sunday mornings.
New friends. Searching for others who could truly relate, I have been prompted by infertility to connect - in "real life" and online - with people I might otherwise never have encountered, and I am richer for it.
A better sense of how my body works (and doesn't). I've charted my cycles and recognize what little changes signal. I've seen ultrasounds of my insides. I can talk more knowledgeably than anyone without an diploma from a fancy medical school should about cervical mucus, trailing follicles, and estradiol levels.
I'm a believer that knowledge is power, and I appreciate all I've learned about the human - particularly the female - body. It's amazing, interesting stuff. And it's so complicated, it's now hard from me to understand how anyone ever actually does conceive successfully.
Better preparation for parenthood. The delay in becoming a parent has given me more time to "marshal our resources" for when we eventual have our kid. Specifically, we've been able to make more money and have now been able to afford to buy a great home for our little family.
I've also had more time to learn about what it may eventually be like be a mom. Obviously, I've done a lot of reading and talking with friends and family members with kids. Particularly, I've done a lot of observing, and M. and I have done a lot of reflecting on parenting, which I think will be very helpful. (If I've learned one thing, it's that I can't truly predict what it will be like and need to be prepared to take back my "I'll-never-do-that-with-my-kid" assumptions!)
No more fear of needles. Yeah, that's one small benefit of becoming a human pincushion.