I remember back when I was sad all the time, back when I first found out about my infertility. Even though I was devastated and in the throes of grief, every now and then I’d hear something or see something that would cause me to smile. At first it felt really weird and almost sacrilegious — like “something horrible has happened, how dare you smile!” But then I realized, the horrible thing happened to me and if I want to smile, I can smile. I learned early on that it’s okay to smile.
It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to sing. It’s okay to be silly. It’s okay because all of those things are part of me. It wasn’t always easy to do these things — sometimes it felt awkward or maybe a bit unnatural. Laughing especially, that felt particularly strange to do when everything else within me was telling me nothing is funny right now.
I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I recently updated my website. Before I could do that, however, I had to get some pictures taken. So, I asked my friend Joy if she would do the honors. Of course, she said yes.
I had to remind Joy — I don’t have a gentle, unassuming smile. My smile is BIG! I can’t help it — that’s just the way I was made. I try to do the closed mouth, peaceful smile and it looks painful. I can’t pull that off at all. And that’s okay because that kind of smile just isn’t me and this website needs to represent me — so, big smile it is!
I admit, it’s a little strange coming to a website about infertility and being greeted right away with the face of a smiling woman. It’s not what I would expect either. However, I wanted to make a point right away — it’s okay to smile. It’s okay to be yourself, fully and completely, even when life is hard. And, with the premise of my work being “choosing to live a good, full life in the midst of infertility” I didn’t think it would be appropriate to have a crying face greet new guests on the site.
No, what I want to show is that it is possible to live a good, full life in the midst of infertility. I want women and those who love them to know that there is more to life and that each of us (ALL OF US) deserve to live a good, full life no matter what the circumstances.
People coming to my site are well aware of the challenges of infertility. They know about grief. They know about puffy eyes and piles of tissues. They know about deep sadness. They know about the two week wait and the disappointments that follow. They know about a body that doesn’t work the way they expected. They know about loss. They know all of these things very well. And though I may write about these at times, most people coming to my site don’t need to be reminded.
What they do need is to hear it’s okay to smile. They need to know that life will get better. They need to see that it’s possible for someone with infertility to make a good life in the midst of it all. They need to be reminded of their goodness. They need to hear that laughter will come again and won’t feel so weird after awhile. They need to know they are not alone.
Over and over again I hear people talk about how infertility is so lonely. They are right, it is. So very lonely. But, the more we talk about it and the more we share our stories, the more people will see they are not alone. I hope that my smile greeting them first thing on my website will be one reminder that they are not alone.
It’s not easy to put pictures of myself all over the website. It is easy for me to nitpick and criticize how I look. It is easy for me to think of myself as vain or conceited for using my photo as the header of my website. Those negative thoughts come much easier than the positive ones. However, I had to push those negative thoughts aside and remember why I’m doing this…
I’m creating this space because when I was first diagnosed I couldn’t find a book or website or person who was going through the same thing. I could find online and in person support groups for women trying to conceive. I could find books about how turning it all over to God and praying harder would fix my infertility. But, I couldn’t find anything about a woman who chose not to seek any medical treatment, who chose to trust her body to know what’s best, who chose to be present to her grief as painful as it was.
If putting my story out there and my photo on the header of my site means someone experiencing that same circumstance will feel less alone, then it’s all worth it.
So yes, it’s okay to smile. It’s okay to be joyful and celebrate life. And, when those hard days come (and they will), it’s okay to cry and snuggle up under a quilt waiting for the pain to ease up. Both are okay. Both are welcome here.
You are welcome here.