Mother鈥檚 Day can be a difficult time for many women 鈥 especially those facing the pain of loss or infertility. Defined as the inability to get pregnant after a year or more of trying, infertility is a widespread issue, impacting 10 percent of American women. Inspired by last month鈥檚 National Infertility Awareness Week, we spoke with women in various stages of their infertility journeys about their stories, what they learned, and what they wish they had known when they set out to grow their families. Here鈥檚 what they had to share.

A concerned couple sits in bed

Caitlyn, 32

We have been waiting for our children for seven years. Initially, everything just seemed like a timing issue, but about four years ago, our hope started dwindling when I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis. We went through a really hard season of failed [intrauterine inseminations] and a disappointing end to adoption. Now, three years later, we are faced with last-chance options, which are looking pretty bleak. Infertility has been humiliating, devastating, and exhausting, and now I鈥檓 in a season where I鈥檓 feeling like this might never happen for us, which is new territory. Throughout this journey, I have really struggled to believe that anything else in life could be as significant as our attempts to grow our family and now feel like we have missed out on so much. At the beginning of this journey, I wish someone would have told me that infertility doesn鈥檛 define me, no matter the outcome. Infertility can be part of my story, but it鈥檚 not who I am.

Julie, 30

I spent most of my life decided to not have kids because of my chronic pain. I was pretty sure it would be difficult if I did want to because of severe recurrent ovarian cysts and my parents鈥 struggle with infertility (before they had six kids!). Before we got engaged, I had a serious talk with my husband, telling him I didn鈥檛 want to have biological kids, and I didn鈥檛 think it would be easy if I did want to. Seven years later, we decided we wanted to have a baby; I downloaded an app and read a lot of baby name clickbait. Almost a year later (going by the textbook infertility definition of one year of trying without success), we decided to tell our impatient families we鈥檇 been trying, so please stop nagging. I did a ton of research to find the infertility specialist who would be as close to a midwife as possible, and I found out I was pregnant the week before my appointment.

Joyce, 27

My husband and I were 鈥渘ot not trying鈥 for three years before we got pregnant. The whole time, I thought something was wrong with one of us, but I didn鈥檛 really want to know, so we just kept living our lives. Because that reality was so painful, I think I didn鈥檛 let myself want to get pregnant so I wouldn鈥檛 get hurt. When I did get pregnant 鈥 we just had our first child three weeks ago 鈥 I was anxious something bad would happen and I would miscarry. I wish someone had been open with me about their infertility struggle when I was struggling. I felt like no one else in my world went through what I did.

A stressed woman sits in front of crumpled papers at her kitchen table

Christy, 37

I鈥檝e been trying to get pregnant since last summer. The whole time we鈥檝e been trying, my periods have gradually been getting heavier, so I finally went to the doctor and they found fibroids all over my uterus. I鈥檒l find out next steps soon, but uterine fibroids do prevent women from getting pregnant, so we鈥檙e hoping once they are removed, things will work out. I just turned 37, so I would technically be a 鈥済eriatric鈥 pregnancy.

Ashlee, 31

My husband and I tried to get pregnant for four years, and I was diagnosed with PCOS after I had two miscarriages in a row. One thing I wish I knew is people just won鈥檛 understand. You hear people say, 鈥淚t happens,鈥 or, 鈥淚t鈥檒l happen in due time,鈥 as if it鈥檚 no big deal at all. And to this day, even though I have two little girls, it feels like people still don鈥檛 get it. It鈥檚 hard to explain because you鈥檙e surrounded by people yet you feel completely alone and isolated. No one knows what you鈥檙e going through or how challenging it is. You feel like you鈥檙e weak or broken because you can鈥檛 get pregnant or go full term, while certain friends just have to look at each other and, voila, they鈥檙e pregnant and nine months later have a beautiful, healthy baby. You鈥檙e constantly torn between the feelings of happiness and jealousy, the will to keep fighting and trying yet pushing back hopelessness.

Chris, 30

My husband and I tried for a total of almost three and a half years, with two miscarriages sprinkled in. For interventions, I took Clomid and had a laparoscopic surgery to check out my insides & clean out my endometriosis. (Fun fact: He also drilled my ovaries while he was in there!) We did intense natural family planning charting and naturopathic supplements. I also took metformin, James had semen analysis done, and I had a hysterosalpingogram [radiography of the uterus and fallopian tubes with the assistance of an injected opaque material] to make sure my tubes were open and my uterus was normal. I鈥檓 now pregnant with our first baby!

A couple smiles as they look at a pregnancy test

Melanie, 40

I wrote a whole book about infertility! I have endometriosis and battled infertility for five years before finally having our son through IVF when I was 29. We attempted it again a year later, but it didn鈥檛 work, and I experienced secondary infertility. I wish someone had told me how to survive and cope during the monthly cycle of hoping and grieving. It鈥檚 why I wrote my book. I read so many books about how to get pregnant, how to 鈥渇ix it,鈥 but I couldn鈥檛 find much about how to survive it with my marriage intact, with my relationships healthy. I also wish I鈥檇 had someone helping me with a holistic approach to infertility 鈥 not just a biological one.

Shannon, 43

I had secondary infertility after having my son. It was unexplained for a while, and after three years of medicine that did nothing but make me gain weight and cry a lot, the tide turned. All of a sudden I was able to get pregnant, but within a few days of seeing the pink line, whoosh 鈥 away 鈥渋t鈥 went. I probably had a dozen positive tests that were gone as quickly as they started. 鈥淪pontaneous miscarriages,鈥 they said. We finally got off the roller coaster after 10 years and about 15 or so heartbreaks. My big, puffy dream of lots of children had slipped away into a mist and was gone. I realized later that my son was a miracle. I didn鈥檛 know then that my body would never be able to stay pregnant again. I just assumed I would have the chance to grow another and another. So now I look at my son and marvel that he is here.

Rebecca, 34

I have two little girls after facing several years of infertility. After losing two babies, I felt discouraged, like my body just didn鈥檛 work. I was nervous to try to get pregnant again and, honestly, emotionally burned out. A year and half after our second miscarriage, I tried a different approach. I started doing acupuncture, which helped me to focus more on my thoughts and nurturing a positive relationship with my body. Taking control of my thought life really gave me faith that we could get pregnant again 鈥 and we did! I think being in a healthier place physically and emotionally made a huge difference in the process.

How have you or those closest to you coped with infertility? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)