To the woman in the fertility clinic,

I don’t know your name. I don’t know your story. You sat on the other side of the waiting room, but when our eyes met, somehow our broken hearts connected.

I watched you tap your toes and flip through a magazine. I watched you bite your nails and turn towards the TV. You pulled out a book and then scrolled through your phone. None of the distractions seemed to be working.

I saw you glance at your flat stomach and breathe a deep sigh. I saw a single tear fall down your cheek as you tucked the hair behind your ear. You were strong, but you were hurting.

I don’t know whether this was your first time at the fertility clinic. Maybe you’ve tried for a baby month after month, only to find disappointment after disappointment. Maybe you were looking for answers of why you weren’t pregnant but feared what the doctor might say. He might find that it’s impossible for your body to grow the child you’ve so desperately wanted. Or he might give no answers at all and leave you even more overwhelmed and confused. He might find that you have options, but they will cost more than you can possibly afford. You hope for good news, but the unknown is frightening.

I don’t know whether you’ve sat in this waiting room day after day. Maybe you’ve been through more tests and treatments than you ever knew possible. Maybe you’ve experienced deep heartache as the doctor told you that nothing worked. Maybe you hoped that somehow this time would be different. Maybe you anxiously wondered whether to cry tears of celebration or grief, depending on the results of this appointment.

A health condition may limit your ability to conceive. Maybe you’ve been told that getting pregnant is unlikely, but you cling to the hope that they never said impossible. Maybe you feel guilty because your body isn’t functioning the way you want it to. Or maybe your body is ready, but your partner’s is not. Maybe he feels like a failure and doesn’t want to let you down. Maybe you are sick and tired of people speculating which one of you is “the problem,” because either way you are in it together.

I don’t know whether you have babies at home. Maybe your first was easy, but for some reason this one is different. Or maybe you’ve been pregnant before, only to endure a heartbreaking and traumatic miscarriage. Maybe you’ve known the joy of a positive pregnancy test and the devastation of a negative one. You might carry the weight of no one knowing what your heart is missing. Or you might face constant questions about what’s taking so long.

Or perhaps you are like me. After all, I probably look just like you as I sit in the fertility clinic. Fidgeting, worrying, holding back tears. You might not have guessed my situation—a cancer diagnosis that threatens my husband’s life and fertility. Maybe this would surprise you, or maybe you face a similarly overwhelming illness.

In that brief moment when our eyes and souls connected, the details of our situations didn’t matter. Many of our emotions and fears were the same. The uncertainty of wondering if we would be lucky enough to have a child. The heartache of knowing that our path would not be easy. The disappointment of not having a baby to carry in our arms or belly. The desperation of hoping that one day that child would come.

Woman in the fertility clinic, I may not know your name or your story.

But I know that you are hurting, and I feel for you.

We are in this together.

Julieann Selden

Julieann Selden is a chemistry graduate student and non-profit volunteer. Her husband, Ken, is recently in remission from sarcoma cancer. On her blog,, she examines the thoughts and emotions of life through the lens of an aggressive cancer diagnosis.