Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height.
Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III
I will write about infertility at least once more to help with National Infertility Awareness Week, April 24-May 1, and to get one step closer to complete acceptance. There are a lot of things that I could write about, but I think the question that got me most was this: What if I always feel like less of a person because I wasn’t able to reproduce?
I am still somewhat angry. I am not angry at any person or being (although pregnant women sometimes tick me off a little – I’m working on that!) because there is no thing responsible for infertility. We didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t believe in a god (although having something to yell at would be nice sometimes). I don’t believe this is meant to be or a learning experience or any of that crap. If it makes you feel better, more power to you, but that doesn’t help me at all. Life is life. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it is amazing. The important part is making the best we can of what we have.
I do feel somehow like less of a person because I can’t have a child, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. (Apparently that’s a piece of rap music. Shows how much attention I’ve been paying.) Having a doctor say that there was no way we could get pregnant without spending enough money to buy a reasonably nice new car, with a 60% chance of success, was not a good thing for me. I felt inadequate and unhappy with my inability to produce eggs on a regular basis.
Hmm. That makes me sound rather like a disappointed chicken, doesn’t it?
In fertility terms, to continue the fowl analogies, I’m no spring chicken. The doctor suggested, with no proof, that my eggs might not be particularly viable even if I managed to produce any. I know he was using the same things to push me that marketers often do – fear, uncertainty, and doubt – and it worked. It hurt. It made me feel like I ought to be able to do better, and I can’t. That was one of the many reasons that the first fertility doctor upset me so much. Why would someone use those kinds of tactics in a situation like this?
I’m a control freak, for those of you who don’t know me. I like being on time. I like getting things done, having everything organized, and making sure I completely understand. Pretty much every other obstacle in my life has been amenable to being overcome with work, creativity, and amazing friends and family. This, though, was a problem that no amount of work, stubbornness, or creativity could solve. This was a wall made not out of brick, which can be chipped away, but out of some indestructible alloy. I couldn’t fix this. I can’t make it better. I feel somewhat bereft and like I’m not quite good enough.
I don’t have any tangible loss. I don’t have anything I can point to where I could say, “Look, I lost that.” I don’t have any way to connect people to what I’m talking about. All I have is a hole labeled “Barren. Unlivable. Infertile.” and it’s a hole I can’t fill.
I am not devastated by this, at least not now. I am not going to live my life circling that hole, desperately wishing for something to fill it. We will have other peoples’ children in our lives, to spoil and talk to and enjoy, to be part of their lives. That hole is not a black hole, sucking in the rest of life. It is there, though, ragged edges flipping in the winds of change, and it will be like a sore tooth for a while.
I always thought having a child would be easy, like breathing, like having sex, like trying something new, a little scary but not too hard. It turned out to be one of the few things in my life that was completely impossible. We had to choose to walk away.
There is a small voice sometimes, during bad three-o’clock-in-the-morning moments, that whispers that I am not truly a woman, that I am proving my grandmother right in her belief that I wasn’t feminine enough.
I’m learning to take that small voice and slap it silly. Metaphorically, of course.
Infertile. Barren. Dry. Desert-like.
I live in a desert. Things grow here, live here. There is a good life here. It’s just not the same life you’d get in a rainforest.
So yes, this is hard. I may never feel as sure in myself as I would if we had successfully conceived. There is a somewhat off-balance feeling in this acceptance that we will not have children. I may always feel a little inadequate around pregnant women. I am, happily, mostly over the urge to kick them in the shins (I never did! Really! I just wanted to.).
I am working on remembering that everyone has joy, loss, pain, anger – everyone has different experiences, and mine does not make me less of a person. Not as successful a biological entity, perhaps, but, put in those terms, it’s a little easier to take.
What if it had been easy? What if we had a child now? I would not be who I am today. I would not understand the pain of a dear friend who has been through her version of this, be able to sympathize with another whose choice was taken away. I don’t think our marriage would have been as strong, at least in the same ways.
What if? I don’t know. I would not be the “me” that I am accepting, the one with a new, ragged hole in my life, the one who can look at pain in someone else’s eyes and understand a little more. The one who is learning how important it is to actively look for happiness, because sometimes it isn’t handed to me. The one who is humbled by knowing that I can’t overcome everything.
What if it had been different? What if it had been easy? What if…it doesn’t matter now. What matters is the life we have chosen, the joys we will find, and the strength we have taken from this frustrating and painful journey. We are better, stronger, more gentle for this. “What if” is not something I will ask about this anymore.
For more information on infertility, please visit: www.resolve.org/infertility101