One of the traits we are most inspired by in this community is the ability to be heartbroken and hopeful at the same time. Very few have illustrated this juxtaposition quite as well as Sarah Shockley, also known as @while_we.wait. Since launching her instagram account last year, Sarah has shared her strength, vulnerability and creativity with the infertility community to help bring people together and spread hope, despite heartbreak.
We are so excited to feature Sarah’s story as part of our #HumansOfInfertility series!
1) When did you first discover that infertility was going to be part of your TTC journey?
We knew we were most likely infertile once we hit the one year mark. As each month continued to pass without a pregnancy, we knew something was wrong. It was around this same time that my husband, Kevin, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. And then I suffered a miscarriage (from my one and only pregnancy) a month later. It was a very tough time for us. A year and a half later, I was diagnosed with PCOS, which we now know is another factor that plays into our infertility.
2) Why have you decided to open up about your journey on such a public platform?
Kevin and I struggled silently with our infertility for two and a half years. Last year, during National Infertility Awareness Week, we finally “came out” to our family and Friends on Facebook. It was such a relief. Everyone was very supportive and we didn’t have to hide our infertility any longer. It was around this same time that I created my infertility instagram account @while_we.wait. I wanted to have a place to document my journey while also helping others feel less alone on theirs.
3) From the “I’m fine” series to the more recent “not pregnant. Still hopeful” series, you have encouraged others going through infertility to share more of their journeys in unique and moving ways. What inspired you to make those requests?
So many people reach out to me and tell me how much they relate to my posts. When I share my journey, it helps me cope with my infertility. So I wanted others to be able to express themselves in the same way. It can be very therapeutic. I created the “I’m fine” challenge right before we started IVF. I was so not fine at the time and wanted to express that in the photo. I created the “Not pregnant, still hopeful” challenge a few weeks after we found out we had zero normal embryos following IVF. I wanted to show others you can still be sad and hopeful at the same time. There’s a quote: “If you have hope, you have everything.” I love that quote because even with the tiniest bit of hope, you still have something to hold onto.
4) Your post on what you thought infertility would impact vs what it actually does impact has resonated with many within the community – what has been the most surprising realization for you during this process?
So many things! My finances, my sex life and my mental health for sure. I guess the most surprising thing I’ve realized is that in order to create a baby, I’m not allowed to have sex with my husband. During fertility treatment, especially IVF, there are very strict guidelines on abstaining from sex during specific times. It was almost 4 weeks of abstinence during our first IVF cycle. And if we would have made it to transfer, we would have to wait again.
5) What is something you wish you knew earlier?
That I’m not alone. After two and a half years struggling silently, I felt so isolated and alone. I didn’t know anyone else who was struggling with infertility at the time, so I felt like I was the only person in the world dealing with it. Finding support on social media has been a game changer for me.
6) If the current you could give yourself a message at the beginning of your journey, what would it be?
You have a long road ahead of you, sister. Stay hopeful. Find support. Seek out fertility treatment as soon as you can.
7) What was the least helpful thing someone said to you?
The list is endless lol. Some of my least favorites are: “Just relax and it will happen.” “Why don’t you just adopt?” and “When the time is right, it will happen.”
8) What has been the most helpful statement or message?
“I’m sorry for what you’re going through. Is there anything I can do to help?” In my opinion, the best way someone can help support an infertile person is not by giving advice (unless they have gone through it themselves and have legit advice on the subject), but by listening and trying to be supportive.
9) What has surprised you about yourself? What has surprised you most about your partner?
How strong I am. I also learned how strong my husband is too. We have been through so much together over the past three and a half years. Infertility and fertility treatment is so hard. It can be a very dark and lonely place. Being able to count on each other for support is what keeps us going.
10) What has been the hardest part of your journey?
Going through IVF and have nothing to show for it. Out of 26 eggs, only 2 embryos made it to day 6 blastocysts. When I heard how many dropped off, I knew it wasn’t good. The two week wait to hear the genetic test results was pure torture. I had a sick feeling the entire time. And when we found out that neither of our embryos tested normal, we were absolutely devastated.
11) Is there anything else about your journey you think is important to mention or that you believe people should know?
Allow yourself to feel your emotions. So many times people want to push their raw and real feelings away. But that can be damaging in the long run. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re jealous, be jealous. If you want to cry on your kitchen floor, go ahead! If you don’t allow yourself to feel your emotions, you can’t grieve them properly. Being able to grieve and express my emotions through pictures and words is what helps me cope with my infertility.
Follow Sarah’s journey on Instagram at @While_We.Wait.