Once more unto the breach


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

I am blessed to have a community that supports one another in this journey!


OnceIwas said…

I’m so glad you posted your postive “What Ifs”. I get so focused on all the negatives that it’s never occured to me to think about better what ifs. Thank you!

HopeBPatient said…

Great post! Here from ICLW and while I’m sure most every parent feels their child(ren) is/are their greatest treasure I do also feel that those of us who will have struggled for so long to have children will feel it most intensely (or maybe differently?) I hope 🙂

Lollipop Goldstein said…

I am so glad that such a kick-ass post is the first one on the list. This is beautiful and wistful and it made me want to give you a big hug. I hope you get that positive stick one day (and soon).

Sooz said…

Thanks for the poignant post! I’ve never seen a + either and we’ve been trying for 15 months. Sometimes I want to give up, but we’ve got to keep on trying. It’ll all be worth it in the end.


Claire said…

Just over from ICLW. I have seen a + but never held my baby. It never got that far. It’s all a bit crap really until that baby actually arrives. My family are also super fertile so I never thought this’d happen. Hey we’ll both get there in the end. xxx

Gurlee said…

Beautiful, just beautiful.

I have seen the What IF project and I must admit I cannot bring myself to name my fears. Saying them out loud or acknowledging them out loud is TOO scary. The list scares me too, I just can’t get through it, way too heart-breaking.Your approach ROCKS! It brought tears to my eyes, I love it!

I also love the thought of IF being a season in my life. Seasons inevitably change. Thank you for such an inspirational and moving post. Your words strike me.

Here’s to hope and love and peace and the promise of a new season!

🙂 Gurlee

Mrs. Gamgee said…

I love your positive what ifs! It’s so important to keep our eyes on what the dream really is… beyond the positive pregnancy test.


spyderkl said…

Terrific post! I loved your positive “what if” too – I hope it comes true for you.

Kristin said…

What an incredible post! The positive what ifs are what kept me going through our IF struggle.


Sweet Pea said…

WOW, what a absolutely beautiful post. Hoping all your dreams come true.

~ICLW #159

-K said…

Thank you for posting this and hang in there. Great blog, can’t wait to read more. I’m your newest follower from IComLeavWe.


Jenny said…

Thank you for this post. These are things I ask myself all the time.

I found you on ICLW and I’ll be following you. 🙂

christine said…

Thank you, ladies, for all of your comments! They were appreciated more than I can express!

fertilelychallengedblacksheep said…

This was beautiful. One of favorite lines was “When I started this journey I had no idea what it meant to want to bring children into this world. Infertility has shown me that they will be my greatest treasure.”

I feel the same way. Thank you for putting this into words.

..Soo.See.. said…

I agree with Mrs. Gamgee. Having these exact positives will help you through this season. I pray for your positive digital and think it’s beautiful what your hubby said. Sometimes they’re forgotten in this. Lots of positive thoughts and prayers! Xo

Post a Comment

7 thoughts on “Once more unto the breach

  1. as a single man, infertility is not something i have thought much about. but you take me into the desert here, make me feel the pangs of loneliness you have experienced.

  2. Love as always to you. This is one of those few occasions where I will not offer to hold down the object of your ire for ease of shin kicking. 🙂 Well, unless said object says something unconscionably thoughtless, in which case, she’s toast.

  3. susie – Thanks. I appreciate the comment.

    ed – sometimes all we can do is try to let others see through our eyes. You’ve done it for me a few times, too.

    magpie – 😛 I don’t think any of them deserve shin kicking. The worst I’ve gotten is “You’re so lucky you don’t have to put up with (nausea, swollen feet, take your pick)!” That ticks me off, but it isn’t malice, just stupidity. Stupidity, in the end, hurts them more than me kicking them would, however momentarily satisfying it might be.

  4. Powerful. Thank you for sharing this. I live in Reno too and have gone through infertility here. I can so relate to your eloquently expressed feelings. So similar to my own experience, and so sad that we have to carry this in our lives like an old secret that others forget we have but that we can never stray far from in our minds.

  5. Stacie – it’s one of those things that people can’t see and don’t think about. It’s something that I think will get easier to carry, though.

    Thanks for reading!

  6. I can relate, not in the way you think because I did the IVF and I got my twins, but what I feel like you in is that after 4 yrs of Trying, we were getting to the point of just saying no, we will be ok with us…beaten and dazed but not broken.

    and if the truth be told, even after children you never stop being/feeling infertile, it’s always there that place in you that feels like you are never going to be enough , even to yourself.

    thanks for sharing your powerful words.

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