Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stop the silence

There are so many things we just don't talk about. I'm a fairly private person. When I crash over those bumps in the road, I retreat inward to manage through them. I think that's a fairly common approach. Which means that many of us have been through similar challenges...but never know it.

Infertility is one of those silent struggles in life. Though it's becoming more openly discussed, there are still so many that internalize their struggles.

Most experts define infertility as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying. And even with that narrow definition, the infertility club has a large membership. (12% of women in the US aged 15-44 in 2002 according to the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) How many more have tried for 3 months or 6 months or 11 months unsuccessfully? It's an astonishingly large club. Though a quiet one.

To have so many people come along side me after Lillian died has been a blessing. None more than those who have also lost a child. We speak the same language. We just get it. I can't help but think it would have been equally as helpful to have an equivalent community during the height of our fertility battle. So as an offering to those of you whose dream of parenthood has been delayed, I give you a glimpse into my story and what it has taught me.

  • I have been pregnant. It only took one try.
  • When we lost that child at 7 weeks gestation, my doctor tried to console me by saying "at least we know you're fertile." Famous last words.
  • Miscarriages aren't instantaneous. They can take days. It may sound irrational but it felt like I was slowly losing pieces of my baby.
  • I had been working in the yard on a hot day when the miscarriage started. I thought it was my fault.
  • I have recorded my basal body temperature daily for a year. That involved a lot of "holding it" first thing in the morning.
  • I have bitterly regarded unplanned pregnancies and the unfairness of it all. Then quickly dismissed this as unproductive. Who am I to determine what is fair?
  • I have peed on countless ovulation predictor sticks. "Holding it" first thing in the morning while waiting for your temperature and then opening the ovulation predictor package is double the fun.
  • I have prayed and prayed and prayed for a baby. God answered my prayers in His perfect time. I wanted them answered in my time.
  • I have taken Clomid for six months. It gave me migraines and dizziness but no baby.
  • I have cried over Johnson & Johnson commercials. "Having a baby changes everything." Thanks for the reminder.
  • I have had two Hysterosalpingography tests. Both of them were normal. Both of them caused painful cramping.
  • I have attended baby showers where I was simultaneously thrilled for the expectant mom and devastated by my own delayed gratification. And then felt guilty for being jealous.
  • My cervical mucus has been admired more than the Mona Lisa. That may be a slight exaggeration.
  • Men and women process infertility grief much, much differently.
  • After a year of tests and trying and disappointment and heartache, I was done with fertility stuff. DONE.
  • I know pregnancy is really important to some people. It just wasn't that important to us.
  • I wish adoption wasn't viewed as the last resort. It wasn't for us.
  • Adoption has it's own set of struggles and challenges. They have been worth it for us.
  • There are multiple roads to parenthood. Only you can pick the right road for you. That's why I've added "for us" in the last few bullets.
  • Though I'm a mom, I'm also still infertile. And it still stinks.

What has your road to parenthood involved? And what has it taught you?


Maverick's Momma September 9, 2008 at 1:39 PM  

I don't have a lot to contribute to this list (I belong to the "11 month" club). I just wanted to add that I have learned to open the OPK wrapper the night before and set the stick right by the toilet. It saves maybe 10 seconds, but they are very very precious seconds. :)

Megan September 9, 2008 at 2:15 PM  

This post is still a gigantic can of worms for me. While adopting has made *most* of the pain go away, it hasn't erased all bitterness, nor has it stopped my desire to be pregnant. Thankfully (and as I was 90% sure was true), it has confirmed that, for me, this is all about the pregnancy and not having a biological child. I'm in that group of infertile women for whom the pregnancy itself means so very much. I wish this weren't so. If I could wave a magic wand, I might actually wave it to force myself to be over this rather than wave it to make myself pregnant. I wish this desire would just go away. But it doesn't. It remains.

I experienced almost no bitterness at the unplanned pregnancies, or the teenage girls you hear about getting pregnant. Much more difficult for me were the ones that were planned and worked at and then poof! pregnant. When you do all the same things, yet yield no positive results, it is frustrating as hell.

I, too, took Clomid for 6-9 months (it was on and off and I lost track of the number of months I did it, but it was around there). It wasn't too bad at first, but towards the end, I had terrible insomnia.

One time, D told me of a pregnancy while we were out to eat. Almost immediately, I went into a quiet bawl and put my head down. I just remember sobbing and chips pouring out of my mouth and not caring what anyone else around us thought. He has learned to tell me these things are better moments. :)

We've had tests galore and all is well. In fact, with each IUI we attempted (six in all), both of our stats got better and better. I ovulate like clock work, have an excellent uterine lining, and my cervical mucus ain't bad either.

I still am rarely happy for people when they announce their pregnancies (there are exceptions to this). I hate to admit it, but it's true. The moment that baby is born, it completely switches. I'm thrilled for them. I think this is because it is the pregnancy I'm jealous of. I've always known adoption would make parenthood possible - the baby would eventually happen. The pregnancy remains an elusive object.

I am glad for what I've gone through because it makes me a better person when I am able to rise above my bitterness. Not a single day goes by that I don't feel immense gratitude for Avery being my daughter - even the really crappy days. I'm not sure I would have been the person with that gratitude had this all not unfolded the way it did.

So what it's taught me:
- I can't expect others who haven't been through this to Get it.
- I can't make D want the pregnancy as much as I want it; I probably wouldn't want him to anyway
- Admitting the bitterness is the first step to getting rid of it - at least I hope so. :)

LCM September 9, 2008 at 6:01 PM  

I can get pregnant at the drop of a hat, at least I used to be able to. Of course, those pregnancies try to kill me. Now, I have diagnosed endometriosis, where ironically my fertility wasn't affected. Having one more kid might cure of me of my endometriosis, but on the other hand, will more likely kill me.
Buttercup wasn't planned. I never had cold feet about getting married, maybe because I knew TD. I freaked out about a kid.(I was only 23) We planned Fiona, I wasn't sure the puking would happen again. It did and it has to have been the worst time in my life, Fiona's illness and my cancer included.
I always wished I could sign away my fertility. I clearly don't want it any more.
I am so sorry you had to go through so many awful things.

Sara September 10, 2008 at 3:48 PM  

I don't know, yet. I've taken birth control pills for 13 years now and only have a period 4 miserable times a year (I take Seasonale). The irony is, I don't know if I'll be able to carry a pregnancy full term because I had a portion of my cervix removed due to cancer at age 26.

It's a strange feeling, to worry that I might be pregnant now (even though I take my pills religiously) because we're not ready for kids yet, and moments later to worry if I'll be able to get pregnant or make it full term AT ALL.

When we talk about how many kids we want to have, we also talk about the reality of my medical history, of how 'advanced maternal age' may be much more of an issue to me than most and how we'll keep me from going insane if I have to be on bed rest for long!

Truth is, I may be cancer-CELL free (4 years in October), but I'll never really be cancer free...you know what I mean?

Frankly, I've never liked baby showers, but I don't really think that has anything to do with my medical history and pregnancy anxiety...I just hate the silly games. I don't like bridal showers much either :)

Portraits In Sepia September 12, 2008 at 6:07 PM  

Oh gosh, where to start. I am a very private person as well and have never admitted to anybody that I am infertile. Wow, just now realized I have never even written or thought those words until just now either. I have thought about it in abstract terms of course and in terms of "what are we going to do next". If I let myself I get really angry and bitter. But I don't want to be angry and bitter so I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to do with my life. And then I realize that I think my life is less meaningful without kids. Now, we are in the process of doing the paperwork for a homestudy to adopt but somehow I am struggling with being honest about how I really feel about it.
If a child between the ages of 4 and 8 knocked on my door and said "here I am and I am going to be your son/daughter" I would be thrilled and excited. I think the process itself though is discouraging.
I know I am rambling but your post provoked a few thoughts.

Anonymous September 17, 2008 at 3:09 PM  

Took me over a year to conceive but acupuncture worked for us.
It's worth a try if you're willing to relax(!) for 30 minutes with tiny needles sticking out of various parts of your body.
It was worth every pokey moment and really didn't hurt much.

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