I’ve never considered myself a runner. I’m that chick who listens in awe when others describe a running high (I still think this is made up. Change my mind).

Over my life, I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym trying to learn to be a runner. While it’s not much of a goal of mine lately (life is too short to force something that doesn’t make you happy), a friend recently offered me the unused treadmill that has sat in her basement for years. 

It made me think about how life during/after infertility is like being on a treadmill. Especially when you think you’re doing well. You find a good pace. You feel strong. You feel tired. You’re breathing.  

Then, someone comes and pulls that red button. You know, the one with a string that is only for emergencies. It stops the treadmill without notice, no slow ease back to stillness, the inertia leaving you flat on your face.  

The red button could be anything. An unexpected pregnancy announcement. A phone call (the mere fear of a pregnancy announcement). Seeing a pregnant belly. Someone asking how many kids you have. A smell in the air that reminds you of the time of year you were pregnant.  

What makes the people who go through this so unique? They get back up, brush burn on their face, and know that the only way out is to get back on the treadmill. The red button could be pulled again at any time, but they get back on. There is no other option. 

I’ve had my fair share of red buttons being pushed. Even in the most unlikely of times, after two failed IVF cycles and wrestling with the idea of moving forward child free, I’ve managed some long stretches on my treadmill run without falling. Each time, feeling a little stronger and more hopeful that I’ve dealt with my last fall from infertility.  

Today though, I came to the realization that there will never be a last fall. And that is scary as fuck. It’s unrealistic to expect that I will keep running without ever getting tripped up again. Trauma doesn’t work that way.  

Trauma lingers in your cells, in your gut, in the air you breathe and the food you taste. It lingers in a certain holiday or temperature in the air. It lingers in the stretching of summer days and the dark winter.  

Trauma is there to greet you when you think about your future. It can also make your past feel very present - your worst fear happening all over again right now.  

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So what do we do, even when we know we’ll get tripped again by that pesky red button? We lace up. We set our sights on our movement and we breathe.  

Because there is no alternative. We’ve lived with brush burn on our faces before and we can do it again.  And maybe along the way, we string together longer button-free stretches. We find that steady pace and breathe even more.. 

We learn to tend to our bodies when we’re bruised from the fall. Figuring out how to be less “why didn’t you see that coming, idiot” and more “I’m so sorry you got hurt again” with ourselves. 

I’ve never really considered myself a runner. Until now. I wear my running shoes and my running bruises with pride. I didn’t ask for them, but I’m learning how to rock it. Loving myself through the miles and the falls. Maybe someday I’ll even find that elusive runner’s high.

Ashley Fina is a licensed therapist, online infertility coach, and yoga teacher based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is also a fellow human who is on year five of her infertility story. She lives with her husband and sweet one-eyed border collie. After two failed rounds of IVF, she is still figuring out what’s coming next. What she knows for certain, though, is that she is dedicating her professional life to serving the infertility community. She believes that every single person deserves to be seen, heard, understood, and supported through this incredibly difficult season of life. Through her own personal and professional experience, she helps you stay grounded - love yourself and your partner - and get back to YOU even when you’re dealing with infertility. And she does so with creativity and fun. Core values include: the healing power of the outdoors, dogs, yoga, friendships, music, good food, and great coffee. Ashley is always happy to answer any questions you may have about how therapy or coaching can help you on your journey.  For more on navigating grief and infertility, check her out here.