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Infertility myth busting: Just relax!

When I was invited to participate in a debunking of infertility myths, my main problem was figuring out which one myth to tackle. There are so many frustrating and annoying things that people under the influence of these myths do and say that choosing just one to write about is a difficult task.  In the end, I decided to go with the comment that most often made me want to kick people.

It goes like this:  I’ll be explaining to you that my husband and I don’t have any kids because we are infertile, and you respond with, “Just relax! All you need is to destress. Get a massage, take some time off, make sure you are relaxed and happy, and you’ll get pregnant in no time!”

This is one of the most obnoxious and hurtful things you can say to anyone dealing with infertility. It is bad enough that the statement is utterly unsupported by the evidence, but the problem is exacerbated by the fact that telling a woman to “just relax” implicitly blames her for the couple’s infertility. It suggests that the couple cannot get pregnant because the woman worries too much, or because she has a controlling, Type A personality.

If nothing else, the advice “just relax” is virtually impossible to take.  Trying to get pregnant if you are infertile is not a relaxing thing.  Oh, sure, it can start that way.  Initially, my husband and I had a very relaxed attitude about getting pregnant.  We paid a little extra attention to cycles and made some attempt to plan our euphemistic activities in accordance, but we figured that it would happen when it happened.

After the first year, it was clear that this strategy was not working.  We paid more attention to cycles, and eventually marked the calendar with the days that we were supposed to have sex. We got a fertility monitor, which not only had to be peed on every morning, but which utterly controlled our sex life.  And this was the fun part of the problem!

Over the next three years, there was a litany of stressors:  consultations with medical specialists, exams, specimen collections, needles, pills, hormones, and, in the end, a glorified turkey baster (I believe that the medical term is “intrauterine insemination” or IUI). A massage might have been nice, but it would have done nothing at all to relax me. In fact, I can’t think of anything that would have made that time in my life easier to take. It was hard and painful and unpleasant and I never want to go through anything like it ever again.  Infertility is stressful, and there is not much that can be done about it.

So, when you told me to “just relax,” you were talking to a person who was already under a great deal of unavoidable stress.  And you know what?  You made it worse.  Allow me to explain: when you told me to “just relax” during that period in my life, I had several simultaneous reactions, none of which were relaxation.

First, I wanted to yell at you for giving useless advice.  I wanted to tear your still beating heart from your chest and eat it as you watched.  I wanted to rip off your head and spit down your spine.  I wanted to punish you for saying something so utterly inane.  You probably wouldn’t have noticed this reaction, but it was there.

Second, my fight-or-flight reaction went into overdrive.  Telling me that I would get pregnant if I would “just relax” was an attack on my character.  You were telling me that I can’t get pregnant because I was doing something wrong. You were saying that our infertility was not one of those unfortunate but random events that are a result of living in a large and uncaring universe, but a deep, personal flaw, which could be corrected if only I were a better person.  I already felt broken and useless. I felt like less of a woman because I had not yet done the one thing that billions of years of evolution suggested I should be able to do. I tried to convince myself that our infertility was not my fault, but you were saying it was.  Ouch.

Third, I made the decision, then and there, to never speak with you about anything personal ever again. You blithely came in and offered an uninformed opinion on a very painful subject, and, instead of helping, you did the equivalent of poking me with a sharp stick.  On some level, I understood that you were trying to make me feel better, but you clearly lacked basic human empathy.  I didn’t need to put my hand in that beehive again.

The reality of the situation is this:  in most cases, ours in particular, infertility has nothing to do with relaxing or stressing out. We had clear biological reasons that we were unable to conceive. Sometimes that happens, even to perfectly nice people. No matter how much we relaxed, we would not have been able to conceive on our own. Even with a turkey baster (sorry–IUI), we were told that we had less than a 5% chance of conceiving over three cycles. While that may sound like a reasonably good chance, that is medical speak for “You would have a better chance of being struck by lightning.”  IUI is not particularly cheap, our insurance didn’t cover it, and the chance of conceiving was quite small.  We elected not to go through the procedure more than once. We could have tried IVF, but we were told we were not good candidates, and the costs for even one attempt are exponentially greater than several IUIs.

Here’s the point:  telling me to relax was counterproductive. It only made me angry, which actually increased my stress level.  If you really believed that all I needed to do was relax, then the last thing you should have told me to do was “just relax.”

Right.  I’ve told you what not to do, but that probably isn’t the best way to end this discussion.  It’s just going to leave us all hurt and angry.  Instead, allow me to offer some advice for interacting with infertile couples.

First and foremost, you need to understand that infertility provokes a grief response somewhere on the spectrum between losing a good job due to a bad economy, and finding out via text message that your baby brother has just had a stroke and died.  If a couple knows that they are infertile, it is certain that they had planned to have children, and that the diagnosis of infertility is threatening to rob them of that dream.  This is a real, tangible loss for those couples, and you need to treat them as though they are in mourning, because the reality of the situation is that they are.

Think about how you would speak to a grieving widow.  Would you ever say, “Just relax!  All you need is to destress.  Get a massage, take some time off, make sure you are relaxed and happy, and you’ll land a new husband in no time!”  I’m guessing not, and if you wouldn’t say it to a grieving widow, then you probably shouldn’t say it to an infertile couple.

You also need to realize that there is no advice that you could offer that the infertile couple has not already heard.  We’ve all been told that we should relax, and which fertility treatments we should try, and how your best friend’s second cousin’s freshman year roommate got pregnant after taking a trip to Barbados.  Unless you are a physician with experience in the area of reproductive health, your advice is unwanted.

Like anyone in mourning, what we really want and need is to know that you are there for us.  Instead of telling us what to do, why don’t you ask what you can do for us? If you know someone who is infertile, think about what you are saying. “I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Is there anything I can do to make it easier?” is a perfectly valid response. Offer to take us to lunch and give us a shoulder to cry on for an hour.  Come hang out at our house for an afternoon and help us fight off the zombie hordes on the PlayStation.

Trying to fix the problem if you’ve never dealt with infertility, especially if you are fertile, will most likely just make us feel hurt, sad, or angry–or all three! You probably don’t know what we are dealing with, and you probably never will unless you ask. In short, think before you open your mouth.


This post was written in response to Resolve’s “Bust an Infertility Myth” blog challenge. I think it is an excellent idea. One problem with infertility is that there is so much misinformation surrounding the subject that, often, people just give up on trying to talk about it. Here is a link which might help give you a basic understanding of infertility, and here is one giving a background on National Infertility Awareness Week. You can read all of the submissions so far here.

Adoption process frustrations

I figured out one of the things that makes the adoption process so hard. It’s like the two week wait, but it takes a lot longer and there are more people poking at us.

For those lucky enough to have avoided infertility treatments, the two week wait is the period between the time that the egg and sperm are supposed to have joined and the point at which you can do a pregnancy test. It’s a bad time. Hope wars with fear. You know the chances of everything coming out well (generally not great chances, just to be clear). You can try to keep your mind off of it, but that date on the calendar is looming. When that date comes, you will either be cautiously joyful (you still have to get to the second trimester, after all) or you will be sad again and have to either gear up for the next month of trying or make the decision to stop.

Two weeks of holding your breath, hoping, fearing, and daring to dream a little is pretty exhausting.

Imagine how much fun that would be if it were extended indefinitely. Add in social workers, doctors, a home study, applications, and awkward communication.

We don’t know how long this will take. We don’t know if or when biological parents will like us enough to choose us. We don’t know if we will find someone who wants to give us a healthy child.

There are a lot of variables. Just as with the two week wait, we’ve done all we can. We’ve submitted fingerprints, medical records, applications, proof of employment, and anything else we’ve been asked for. We have a few things left, but we’re reaching the point at which the best we can do is sit back, relax, and hope for the best.

I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings so I can understand why this process has felt so frustrating and invasive. The more I understand, the easier it is for me to get through this process.

Scattered

I usually have some clue what I’m going to write about, but today I don’t.

I’ve been sick off an on for a while now. It’s probably the stress beginning to tell. Much of it will be removed by the end of August, but until then I will just keep moving forward and keep trying to stay healthy. I’m not very good at it. I know I push too hard. I have slept 10 or 11 hours every night this week (although the morning that Nyx woke me up at 4:00 AM wasn’t quite as restful) and I am still tired. I’m on antibiotics, and whatever it is seems to be clearing up slowly, but even today I had a fever spike rather unexpectedly.

I’ve been pushing somewhat hard for over a year and a half now, and the past year has been unrelenting. It’s my choice, but it hasn’t been an easy one.

I know I’m being cryptic. I’m sorry. I just can’t explain a lot of what’s going on. Suffice it to say that my job, while challenging and interesting, can also be tiring, and, on top of that, foster children can need so much that I come home drained. We don’t live with any of them. I think good foster parents have to have an amazing amount of patience, because I couldn’t do what they do. I make jokes about not getting bitten or kicked in a while, but they aren’t very funny jokes.

I get to spend some time with kids in stable, strong families with intelligent and loving parents. Sometimes I forget how good it is to just be able to hang out with kids without having to actively work with them or keep an eye on them or make sure they aren’t doing things they shouldn’t. It’s a whole different level of awareness, working with kids who are so damaged, and it can be exhausting. Our friends’ kids are a relief, a balm to what is sometimes a very weary existence.

I think I am still grieving a little, too. Scratch that. I know I am. Friends of ours recently told us that they are expecting. I was, and am, very happy for them, but on the way home I cried. I wanted to be able to raise our child with Xander. Mostly it’s ok. If I get enough sleep, enough exercise, enough down time, it sinks into the background and doesn’t bug me. Once in a while, though, if I am particularly vulnerable and something triggers it, the feelings are there again, raw and sad. My response? We stopped and got good chocolate, and I am eating my share a little bit at a time.

Monday I have completely off. I may not do anything interesting with the time. I may spend the day on the couch. If I feel really motivated, I’ll take Nyx out for a nice long walk. If not, though, I’m not going to feel bad about it – she’ll share the couch with me all day quite happily.

The last year has worn me down. I am tired even when I have had enough sleep. I feel like I used to be better at things than I am now. I know that my attention is too fractured at the moment to do as well as I have in the past, and I am very glad I’m not trying to take classes right now, because I think I’d fail them.

Next week is a short week. The week after that I am actually taking some time off. I’m trying hard to make it through August, to have enough money set aside so we don’t have to worry about money for Australia whether or not a certain job market improves. My job is stable, and I’m happy there. I’m learning a lot.

It’s just a few more months. I just have to keep moving, and if I get too tired, I’ll skip a day, one way or another. I’ve been pushing too hard for too long and I think I can’t do it for much longer. I don’t have to, though. We’re almost there.

Thinking about kids

I recently came across the term “sparents”, people who don’t have children but still have a powerful impact on the lives of children. They can be relatives or friends. They take an interest in the child and provide another safe adult to help get through life.

First of all, I really hate the term. Just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean that we are spare anythings. It is a cute nickname, but not my style at all.

Secondly, while “It takes a village to raise a child” is an overused cliche at this point, on some level I agree. The more people children have around that they can trust and talk to, the better off they’ll be. It’s important to have different viewpoints and it’s important for children to be able to talk to people other than their parents. Some discussions are just easier if you can have them with another adult or even just try them out before getting it together enough to feel like you can talk to your parents.

Third, though, I really don’t like the insinuation that people aren’t worth anything unless they have something to do with raising children. That’s ridiculous, and it makes me angry.

We’re lucky enough to be honorary aunt and uncle to two children. At some point, we may have nieces and nephews. Hard to tell. I enjoy having children in my life and I look forward to watching them grow up. I like seeing how they see the world and, sometimes, tilting it a little so they see things slightly differently.

That’s me, though. I don’t think that any person who doesn’t have children should be expected to have a drive to be part of the lives of children because otherwise their lives would not have meaning. I don’t think it should be assumed that someone who doesn’t have children automatically yearns for that kind of relationship. I’m pretty sure at least a couple of friends of my parents left our house at times thinking “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with those on a regular basis!”

I think what I’m trying to say is that it shouldn’t be assumed by anyone that someone else wants to spend time with their kid(s). The two for whom we are honorary aunt/uncle are kids whose parents are very important to us. In the older one’s case, we like her in her own right, too. She’s smart, interesting, and funny, and she has had enough experiences in her life that she loves to learn new things. We don’t know the younger one very well yet, but with parents like hers, she’s bound to be an interesting person.

I’m not really talking about infertility here, but the effects of it. We can’t have kids. I’m mostly all right with that (although mother’s day is not my favorite day of the year!) and I’m looking forward to being part of the lives of other peoples’ children, as much as the parents and the two of us are all comfortable with. I don’t want people (other than those two families) to assume that because we don’t have kids and we did want them that we are automatically going to be happy to be extra babysitters.

Hmm. This is coming out a little bit angrily, and I don’t mean it to. If we offer to babysit, it’s one thing. If, however, someone says, “Oh, you’re good with kids, and you aren’t busy that night anyway, are you? So you could spend the evening chasing after my little perfect peach,” that’s something completely different.

We’re going to continue to have an interesting life. We’re going to be happy to include some children in that life when it works out. I don’t think that anyone should make assumptions about how much we, or any other person who doesn’t have children, should be willing to include children in our lives. The article irritated me on some level because it felt a little like the author was saying that unless people were involved in a child’s life they weren’t really important, and I disagree with that. It may feel true from a parent’s standpoint. It certainly isn’t true from mine.

If you have kids, if I like your kids, if I would enjoy spending time with them, I’ll let you know. I’m pretty sure most people would. I don’t like people making assumptions about me or us just because we did want children and can’t have any.

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!

15 comments:

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.

ICLW

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.

ICLW

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.

~ICLW

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.

-K
http://mypottyseat.blogspot.com/

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

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Love and moving forward

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about love, how it is different depending on the person and the situation. I’ve been thinking about this because of everything else that has been going on and because I’ve had to re-center myself, I guess. It’s an interesting proposition, starting over without something that I didn’t expect to have to work at much in the first place. That isn’t nearly as cryptic as it sounds. Let’s try this – the future we thought we had just underwent a metamorphosis, and I’m running like crazy trying to catch up.

Somehow I always kind of thought love was being swept off your feet and carried off into the sunset. I said I hated most princess fairy tales, not that they didn’t have an effect on me. The problem I always had, though, was that I wondered what happened after happily ever after. I wondered that more after seeing Sondheim’s Into the Woods, which is hilarious and hits rather close to home on the fairy tales. A prince says, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere” after he is caught screwing around on his wife. The princes always seemed to say the right thing, but they were never really people I’d like to spend any time with. If the most interesting thing a guy does is wander around the countryside looking for maidens who look dead so he can kiss the maiden, my first thought is not that he’s looking for a wife. He could be looking for something much more disturbing.

Happily ever after is a damn sight more interesting to live than to dream about, and it’s pretty great when I’m getting to do it with a guy who described himself, after seeing Into the Woods, as having been raised to be “sincere, not charming,” although he can certainly manage charming when he feels so inclined. To quote the musical yet again, this time from Red Riding Hood’s perspective, “Nice is different than good”.

So. Life is different. Love is stronger than I thought it could be, and is fed not with romantic gestures (although there are certainly some of those) but with laughter, puns, long bike rides to nowhere in particular, almost constant bantering, a noticeable dollop of silliness, and the willingness to bestir ourselves to do something for the other person when we’d rather be curled up with a book.

Love may be as small as making chocolate chip cookies when we’d rather be sleeping. They were good cookies.

It’s okay, surprisingly. I like looking at a future with the two of us moving forward. I was afraid there would be a giant hole where all of the hopes about a child would be, but apparently the first initial grief worked through more than I thought. I spent part of an evening talking to friends (and bawling on them, to be completely honest) and I’ve been in a funk, which I’m sure will come and go, but it isn’t as bad as the many long, dark days after the first IUI.

We will go on trips, and we’ll only take along kids if we want their company, not because we have to. We can move whenever we want to and not worry about whether or not the schools or the playgroups are good enough. Not that we probably would have anyway, but that’s another discussion. There are freedoms now that we would have had to work harder to get to had we gotten what we wanted.

I’m not happy that we can’t have a child. There is still grief worming its way through thoughts and ideas and a lot of other pieces of life. There are things I need to get rid of or give away (“What to Expect when You’re Expecting”, for instance) because they make me sad when I see them. I am finding myself moving forward again, though. I want to do some decorating in the house, replace blinds with curtains, hang pictures we never quite got around to hanging, finally paint the kitchen.

Infertility takes up a huge amount of energy. I didn’t know how much until we walked away. I’ve been sleeping better and feeling more…open? I’m not sure how to describe it. Relaxed, certainly, less held in, wound tightly, held together, afraid of failing at something once again, especially something I can’t control. This was something I couldn’t fix, couldn’t even mitigate.

We’re figuring out what we want, now that the earlier version didn’t work out. OS crash? Heh. Grief isn’t gone, but we’ve done this before, and the rhythms are familiar. We will get through, and we are finding other things to move towards, and we are all right.

Love is…well, love is weird and unexpected and sometimes it hurts like you wouldn’t believe, but sometimes it’s as simple as chocolate chip cookies cooling on the rack, filling the house with good smells and better feelings.

Walking through fog

I’m just going to ramble today. I’m trying to write three days a week, but I won’t promise that what I write is going to be fascinating. Right now I’m just working through things.

I’m not unhappy with the choice we made. It was the right choice for us. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was a good one. We can relax and enjoy each other more than we’ve been able to for a while. We know, now, what to expect, at least in broad strokes. We also made a choice rather than trying and failing again. There was action rather than reaction. We chose. We decided.

At the same time, it isn’t an easy walk through this for me. I did not want children with anyone else, but somehow, with him, it was a really positive idea for me. I was not expecting that. I started looking at and hoping for things that were different from anything I had wanted before. The idea wrapped its way through our lives, that someday we’d be parents.

It didn’t work.

That’s life. Things change, they don’t work the way we expect them to, and we adjust. Humans adjust. It’s one of the reasons we didn’t go the way of the dodo bird. We get through, change, do what we need to, find new paths. It isn’t the first time that I’ve had to change my expectations of the future, and I’m still here, and still happy.

Life changes. Life is strange.

I’m relieved. I’m more settled, even now, even so close to the decision. Talking to friends has helped, and knowing that other people have walked the same path makes it easier. I know there is a good life past this. I see friends with children who welcome us in their lives, and I see friends without children who are happy and fulfilled with their choices. I am grieving for that which will never be, but it is a calmer grief than the first time around. I am walking forward with a free and loving heart, having made a choice to stop adding to pain, worry and sadness.

There is pain. We will never have what we dreamed, and that will always make me somewhat sad. I know, though, that we will walk through this together and that we will be stronger for it. We turn to each other for strength, not away.

There are always things that will make me smile and laugh. Peter’s post made me smile. I know that I will keep seeing things that are good, and I am already looking for them. I can still smile. In my life, as long as I have been able to smile, I have been able to move past pain.

I grew up in California near the coast, and fog was always a good thing. I loved walking in it and waking up to it. I’m walking through fog right now, living with it, surrounded by it. I remember a quiet joy in fog, so I can live with a bit of it right now until I work my way through grief.

Opportunities are opening up. The world changes, and we change with it. I will keep walking, one step at a time, moving forward and knowing that I will be fine. I will get through this, as I have gotten through stranger, harder things. I have my friend, love, and partner to walk with now, and we will get through and be happy.

It’s just a little foggy here at the moment.

Decisions

Infertility is one of those things that no one from the outside can help much with. The decisions made are very hard to deal with and there is always a question about whether it is the “right” decision.

That being said, we’ve made a decision about our infertility issues. We’ve decided to walk away.

After the really awful last meeting with the first fertility doctor, we grieved. We talked. We cleared the house of everything baby related – not much, since we weren’t sure, but there were still little reminders. We got almost to acceptance, and then we found another fertility doctor in the area.

We decided to get a second opinion.

The second opinion was that over the course of three cycles we had, at most, a 5% chance of conceiving. The doctor was willing to do the IUI as long as we understood exactly what we were looking at. It didn’t cost as much as the other place, at least. We talked about that for quite a while and eventually decided to do one more cycle. We had to wait until we could afford it, though, which gave us a few months to think and gave me a few more months to hate having my hormones unregulated.

We would have been able to do the next IUI cycle next month. We’ve been discussing off and on exactly what we wanted to do. I’ve been very much on the fence about it. I would love to have a baby, our baby, but my reaction to hormones is not good and the possibility of having to terminate a pregnancy at my age is definitely there. It would have been utterly devastating to get pregnant, against the odds, and then have to terminate. We don’t know half of each of our genetic background, so we don’t know what might pop up.

We talked again Monday night. Both of us were refraining from saying “Let’s just not do this, let’s be done” because we were trying to leave space for the other person to keep wanting to do the IUI. I didn’t want him to feel pressured into not doing it. He didn’t want me to feel pressured. The result was that neither one of us said that we actively didn’t want to do it.

Monday night, I finally said it, and Xander agreed that he didn’t want to, either.

I am sad, relieved, and a little confused. We’ve poured time and energy into this. We’ve cried and gotten angry and wrapped much of our emotional energy in trying to have a child. It has been at least three years since we started this journey, and now that path, with this decision, is closed.

The primary feeling is relief.

Many people have gone through much more before giving up, and in some ways I feel like a coward for walking away. At the same time, though, we have a good life. We have each other and a dog and two cats, we have good friends, and we have a lot to look forward to. There is a hole where there might have been a child, but we have friends with children, and eventually, possibly, family, too, and the hole will not hurt for too long.

I’m going to spend a little while adjusting my image of the future, though. We lost a dream we both shared and hoped for, and that will take a little work to get over. I never knew before this that dreams could have such a hold on my heart.

We can be the honorary aunt and uncle now, I guess, and I will be happy with that. I’m looking forward to traveling and learning and living. The focus is a little different, but it is a good life.

Infertility sucks. I quit. I can live with that decision.

Infertility sucks

We started actively trying to get pregnant in 2006. We knew we were going to get married, had (still have!) every intention of staying together, and it seemed like a good time. I went off the Pill and we expected to be within average – a year or so, and we’d be pregnant. We had friends who were getting pregnant by accident. How hard could it be?

For twelve months we did what all of the “Want to get pregnant?” books suggested. No pressure, no big deal, just puttering along. I’ve been teased about having baby making hips all my life. We both have big families – four kids in my family, five in his – so there was no reason to think anything was wrong.

After a year or so, I went to see my OBGYN. She did a few blood tests, said I might possibly have PCOS, said to give it a few more months, and let it be. A few months later we went back, and more tests were ordered. Something came up which indicated fertility treatments might be necessary. The doctor who did that test said he really thought we would make amazing parents. At the time, it made me cry. In retrospect, he probably says that a lot. I mean, is he going to say “Well, good thing your genes won’t be passed on!”?

I was starting to have a hard time when, every month, I got very clear confirmation that we were, yet again, not pregnant. This was supposed to be easy.

We discussed our options. Insurance didn’t cover anything having to do with fertility. Neither one of us wanted to go through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Cost benefit analysis, for us – well, $15,000 for a 60% chance at having a baby was not reasonable to me or to Xander. We didn’t have that much money to play with, and even if we did it would be a lot of heartache for a chance that wasn’t good enough. We knew we had to make that decision before it became a question, because when emotions run high, no one is good at being sensible. We went into this knowing that intra-uterine insemination (IUI, which is much cheaper) was the only procedure we were willing to do, and if that didn’t work, that was it.

We were referred to a fertility specialist in town. I will not name names, but he’s an ass. He talked down to us every time we were there and tried to make us feel like idiots. We said, at our first meeting with him, in the interests of laying all of the cards on the table and being very clear, that we were only going to do IUI and that, if it came to IVF, we were done. He sat and nodded his head, and we thought he understood. He explained the IUI process in very small words (usually the sperm has to get from here to China, but with IUI we give it a head start and it only has to travel from Hawaii!-really? That’s the best example you could come up with?). I would have much preferred that he treated us like we had brains, but that was not his style. He was very…paternal. I don’t appreciate feeling like a doctor would, if he thought he could get away with it, pat me on the head and say, “There, there. You aren’t a doctor, so you couldn’t possibly understand. Let me make all of those difficult decisions for you so you don’t have to worry your pretty little head about it.”

Ick.

Did I mention that he irritated me?

So. Fertility doctor, not the best rapport, whatever. Mostly we interacted with his staff, anyway. His staff who did not once call me by name. Instead I was sweetheart, darling, dear, or whatever else they could come up with.

I overlooked it, although it felt much too sweet. We weren’t there for the social interaction. We were there to try to have a baby. I can put up with a lot if there is a goal that’s important to me.

Ultrasound. No problem. HSG was not comfortable, but not too bad. First results were fine, then they said they might have seen a mass on my uterus, so they had to do a water ultrasound. “Mass” is one of those words that scares me when it comes to medical tests, so I worried for a week. The water ultrasound showed that it was just a slightly misshapen uterus, not a mass. The uterus shape was not odd enough to cause issues with implantation.

So, we were good to go.

Clomid sucks. I mean, the whole process sucks, but apparently I react rather strongly to hormones. (One more reason I miss being on the pill – twice a month I get hormone swings. Argh!) Have you ever seen Cool Hand Luke? Not generally a deeply moving movie, right? I mean, yes, the ending is sad, but not *that* sad. At the end of the movie, the first evening of Clomid, I was weeping copiously. It was so sad! I couldn’t get over it! I figured I was just tired and ignored it. The next day, at belly dancing, I was having a great time and ended up in tears. Clomid takes my good mood and slams it, hard, between about 7 and 8:30 PM. Before and after those times, I was fine. In that stretch of time, I would weep about anything. TV commercials, someone smiling, a moth landing on the window – anything. It was ridiculous. I knew it was ridiculous and it didn’t help or change anything.

5 days of being hormone slammed later, we were finally through that.

Clomid makes me ovulate. 2 follicles, one on each side, good sizes. I got a trigger shot to make sure I was really ready, and we did the IUI.

Two weeks later (we’ll just ignore all of the in-between pain-in-the-ass-ness that is the two week wait) I wasn’t pregnant.

A week after that, we were asked to come in for a consultation with the fertility specialist. Xander had a meeting he really needed to go to. No big deal, I figured. It would just be a “Yes, that was sad, let’s try it a few more times and we’ll see where we are” kind of meeting.

I walked into the doctor’s office and sat down.

He walked into his office and sat across from me.

“You will never have children without IVF. I am ethically unable to do another IUI cycle for the two of you.”

“What?” Just like that, I was crying.

“In this office, we never want people to go without having a child due to financial constraints. Here is some information about IVF. We have several very good programs to spread out the cost, low interest loans, and possibly a grant to help with some of the costs. You see, IVF is like taking that sperm, which had to swim to China, and putting it on a helicopter and getting it right to the egg.”

I was very upset, furious, and a little part of my brain was thinking, “There aren’t any helicopters that can make the flight without refueling, asshole.”

“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want a child. You wouldn’t have come this far if you weren’t serious. IVF is not that expensive. I don’t want you to get 30 years down the road and think, ‘If only we’d done IVF, I might have grandchildren by now!’ I know you want a baby to hold. There’s really nothing like the experience of having a child, knowing that you and your husband have added to your wonderful families.”

“We aren’t going to do IVF. It’s much too expensive. I know it sounds cold, but we basically did a cost benefit analysis, and we can’t do that. We told you that the first day we were here.”

“We have programs to help, though. You really can’t put a price on a baby! It really rounds out your family, and you and your husband clearly want one. Let me call my finance person and she can talk to you about the options.”

(I remember thinking, “You can’t put a price on a baby? You just did!”) “But we don’t…”

“Hello, I’m sending Wendryn in to you to talk about financing options for IVF.” He hung up the phone, walked out the door, and asked a passing nurse to take me to the financial person’s office.

I was crying. You can’t tell from this, but I don’t cry much. This was too much to handle, though, and I felt like I was getting steamrolled by the equivalent of a used car salesman. I sat in the financial person’s office and numbly answered questions, was handed a wad of papers regarding the procedure we didn’t want, then left as fast as I could.

I was angry. I felt cheated. I felt like the doctor was looking for money, not working with our best interests. I felt kind of…well, slimed. I was very unhappy with how the whole incident had been handled, and I wanted to curl up in a hole and pull it in behind me.

After over three years of trying, all of the tests we had done, everyone saying how good we’d be as parents, to be told, flat out, that we couldn’t have kids…it was immensely painful.

There is more to this, but nothing I can write about yet. Infertility sucks.