Hi, my name is Bryant, and I’m addicted to my infertility journey.
I think every Type-A, overachieving millennial can relate to the sentiment "If you work hard enough, you can achieve or do anything you set your mind to!” Whether you heard it from your parents (like me), teachers, coaches, or the sweet grandparent figures down the street, somebody has probably told you that at some point in your life.
And throughout my life, I've proved that theory right. If I wanted something badly enough, all I had to do was work my butt off to get it.
And then I had my first miscarriage.
And then my second. And then my third.
Honestly, it was the first time in my life that I had really failed at something. Like, really failed. Hard. I always think of that episode of Friends where Chandler tells Monica (who for 10 seasons boasts, “If you’re on my team, you’re a winner!”) that he doesn’t want a back massage from her because she’s so bad at giving back massages. Chandler says “Look, hear me out. You give the best bad messages. If anybody was looking for the best bad massage and they were thinking to themselves, ‘Who's the best at that?’ They'd have to go to you.” And Monica, my spirit animal, was immediately placated with the notion that if she had to fail at something, at least she had succeeded in being the absolute worst at it.
That’s pretty much how I feel about my infertility journey.
Somewhere along the way, infertility became my entire identity
I don’t know when it happened. I don’t know how it happened. But just like that, my identity shifted from Perfectionist/Marketing Director/Former Ballet Dancer/Dutiful Sister and Friend/Tequila Enthusiast/Person Who Likes Podcasts Too Much, to just… Infertile.
Bryant the infertile.
I want to preface this by saying I have many people in my life whom I love dearly who are addicts. Most are addicted to alcohol. One is a sex addict. Several are addicted to opiates. Addiction comes in so many different forms, but they’re all rooted in the same behaviors.
For me, the quest to have a child completely hijacked my life. It became my drug, my high, the impetus that drove my every waking moment. My cravings manifested in the form of my day-to-day being meticulously timed around when I needed to take my meds, carving out time to research the newest evidence-based research in fertility, doom-scrolling fertility blogs, panic-tapping my Reddit IVF notifications, engaging with the infertile instagram community, freaking out over every morsel of food I put in my body and whether or not it fell within the guidelines of my current fertility diet, reading the back of every skincare label to ensure that it was pregnancy-approved, panicking in the grocery store if the clerk tried to hand me a receipt containing BPA, saying no to spending time with friends because I was scared that one glass of wine I had 3 weeks before my last transfer is what caused me to miscarry, laying awake at night wondering why the universe was punishing me, feeling uncomfortable grieving around my loved ones, juggling countless doctors appointments on top of working full-time and side hustling to even be able to afford IVF treatments, and with each passing day becoming more and more of a zombie.
I became a shell of a human.
With each miscarriage, the gut-wrenching crash that followed can only be described as what I imagine the distressing comedown experienced by substance users go through. For 5 years, I remained in a punishing cycle of euphoric hope and crushing disappointment. It was so easy to forget who I was before I became Bryant the infertile. That pre-infertility person didn’t even seem real to me. My singular focus on bringing home a baby usurped everything in my life, swallowing me whole, and spitting out a version of myself that I didn’t even recognize. Literally. Because even though I had cut out gluten, dairy, processed food, and pretty much all carbs, I’d still somehow managed to gain 40 pounds.
I was unrecognizable.
The bizarre punishment and reward system of shame I created for myself is something Brene Brown should study. In an odd twist of affairs, I figured out the only way I could feel less shame was if I tricked myself into feeling relieved when I failed, further proving to myself that my biggest success in life was being Bryant The Infertile. And don’t get me wrong, I want to be a mom more than anything I’ve ever wanted in this world. But something about the constant cycle of failure gave me a sick sense of relief as I continued to fall on the wrong side of statistics. And as long as I could continue to hold the title of being the best at being infertile, maybe my addiction to the journey would go unnoticed by my loved ones.
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I know I’ve opened a can of worms here.
Cue the chorus of toxic positivity from every fertile person I’ve ever met. But you can keep your God’s plan, all in good time, why don’t you ‘just adopt’, and meant to be’s to yourself, thanks. If keeping a positive attitude was all I had to do to manifest a baby, I would have seven children by now.
But here’s the bigger question. The one I’m really ashamed of. What happens if and when I can actually carry a baby to term? If I finally achieve success? I’ve become so accustomed to winning at failure that I’m terrified of not having a dependence on grief, loss, and community to fall back on. Research says a new mother thinks about her baby an average of 14 hours per day. And even though there are no official studies on this, I can objectively say that’s about the same amount of time I think of my 7 babies that didn’t make it earthside, and the hypothetical ones that I really hope do. Imagine how much mental space that would free up in my brain?
So, if I’m being honest, I’m terrified. If I succeed at the thing I want most in the world, that means I’ll no longer be the best at being infertile. And my cycle of being the best at failure will be over.
Who am I if I’m not Bryant the Infertile?
Bryant Liggett is a Freelance Marketing Strategist & Brand Manager and Co-Founder of The Fertility Resort.