Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Infertility Phenomenon

There is a phenomenon that, unless you have had a miscarriage or deal with infertility, you will never be aware of. A woman can go years and manage to see only a handful of pregnant women. Many of those pregnant women are probably on television shows or celebrity gossip magazines. But, if a woman is suffering with infertility, has a miscarriage or has multiple miscarriages, pregnant women start materializing before our very eyes. A simple trip to the grocery store can become a gut wrenching adventure full of pregnant teenagers and women dripping with children and sporting very round expectant bellies. Going to the mall is no longer a search for the most flattering outfit. It is a nightmare of ladies about to drop and give birth at your feet as they walk out of Baby Gap holding 3 bags full of adorable onsies and itty bitty tennis shoes.

Then there seems to be the sudden outbreak of co-workers or family members who have surprise pregnancies. They are the ones who claim they weren't trying or better yet, they were "on the pill" and really can't afford another child. Then they sit and complain about morning sickness, needing to pee all the time, and back pain from their growing bellies.

Facebook friends are another breed of anxiety inducing people who in most cases are just glorified strangers. All of the sudden every person that you ever went to high school with is expecting a baby. People that you barely knew, way back when, are posting ultrasound pictures and belly pictures. Just when you think every possible person on the planet who is of child bearing age has announced their pregnancy then the birth announcements come flooding in.

And just when you think it can't get any worse the phone rings. Your best friend in the whole world calls with that telltale shrill and giddy voice. Then, your voice begins to quiver as you try to say how happy you are for her. That feeling of your heart sitting so low in your stomach that you might either have to poop it out or throw it up. You want so much to share her excitement but all you can do is say congratulations and fake it through a few more sentences before making up some very valid sounding excuse to get off the phone. It is only a matter of seconds before the fake smile washes from your face by a waterfall of tears.

It is so hard to have a miscarriage or deal with infertility and then when "The Phenomenon" is shoveled into your face it is almost unbearable. This is how I finally decided to cope. When I came across a glowing pregnant woman in the grocery store or mall, I just reminded myself that I don't know her journey. She may have had 6 miscarriages too. She may have had to try for 3 years for that pregnancy. Not that I would ever wish a loss or infertility on anyone, but it somehow made me feel better to think she had "earned" that belly. She deserved that baby as much as I deserved one.

If it was a unwed teenager or someone who wasn't in a place to take care of a child I just had to remind myself that God sent them that child for a reason. Maybe that kid would save my child's life by donating an organ or becoming the doctor who cures cancer. While I very much wish that God would have put a baby in my belly or let me keep the one that had been there, there is not a finite number of babies. It isn't like God is going to run out just because someone else happened to get in line in front of me.

I think it is totally normal to be jealous, hurt, sad, and sometimes even crushed to know of others' good fortune (even if they themselves don't see it as good fortune at the time), even though you don't feel that way on purpose. When I see a friend's pregnancy announcement or ultrasound pictures on Facebook, I WANT to be happy for them. I want to send a message with a sincere congratulations, and give them a hug and pat their round bellies the next time I see them. But, right now, I just can't do it. I'm working on it though. Working on putting my jealousy aside, and realizing that it's not their fault I can't have the same thing. It's no one's "fault." Apparently, we are all players in this game called Life, and the game isn't fair...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A simple request...

I'm not asking you to lighten my load, God...

Just give me the strength to carry it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What Infertility Feels Like

I want to share my feelings about infertility with you, because I want you to understand my struggle. I know that understanding infertility is difficult...there are times when it seems even I don't understand.
This struggle has provoked intense and unfamiliar feelings in me and I fear that my reactions to these feelings might be misunderstood. I hope my ability to cope and your ability to understand will improve as I share my feelings with you. I want you to understand.

You may describe me this way...obsessed, moody, helpless, depressed, envious, too serious, obnoxious, aggressive, and cynical. These aren't very admirable traits, no wonder your understanding of my infertility is difficult. I prefer to describe myself this way...confused, rushed and impatient, afraid, isolated, alone, guilty, ashamed, sad, hopeless, and unsettled.

My infertility makes me feel confused. I always assumed I was fertile. I've spend years avoiding pregnancy, and now it seems ironic that I can't conceive. I hope this will be a brief difficulty with a simple solution. I feel confused about whether I want to be pregnant or whether I want to be a parent. Surely if I try harder, try longer, try better and smarter, I will have a baby.

My infertility makes me feel rushed and impatient. I learned of my infertility only after I'd been trying to become pregnant for quite some time. My life plan suddenly is behind schedule. I waited to become a parent, and now I must wait again.
I wait for medical appointments, wait for tests, wait for treatments, wait for my period not to come, my partner not to be out of town, for pregnancy. At best, I only have 12 opportunities per year. How old will I be when I finish having my family?

My infertility makes me feel afraid. Infertility is full of unknowns, and I'm frightened because I need some definite answers. How long will this last? What if I'm never a parent? What humiliation must I endure? What pain must I suffer? Why do drugs I take to help me make me feel worse? Why can't my body do what my mind wants it to do? Why do I hurt so much? I'm afraid of my feelings, afraid of my undependable body, and afraid of my future.

My infertility makes me feel isolated and alone. Reminders of babies are everywhere. I must be the only one enduring this invisible curse. I stay away from others, because everything makes me hurt. No one knows how horrible my pain is. Even though I'm usually a clear thinker, I find myself being lured by superstitions and promises. I think I'm losing perspective. I feel so alone and wonder if I'll survive this.

My infertility makes me feel guilty and ashamed. Frequently I forget that infertility is a medical problem and should be treated as one. Infertility destroys my self-esteem and I feel like a failure. Why am I being punished? What did I do to deserve this? Am I not worthy of a baby? Is this the end of my family lineage? Will my family be ashamed of me? It is easy to lose self-confidence and feel ashamed.

My infertility makes me feel angry. Everything makes me angry, and I know much of my anger is misdirected. I'm angry with my body because it has betrayed me. I'm angry with my partner because we can't seem to make this work.

I'm angry with my family because they've always sheltered me and protected me from terrible pain. My parents want grandbabies to show off and pass on family heirlooms to. Will they love me just the same if I can't provide this for them? I'm angry with my caregivers, because they control my future. They humiliate me, inflict pain, pry into my privacy, patronize me, and sometimes forget who I am. How can I impress on them how important this is to me?

I'm angry at my expenses. Infertility treatment is extremely expensive. My financial resources may determine my family size. My insurance company isn't cooperative, and I may have to make some sacrifices to pay medical bills. I can't go to a specialist, because it means more travel time, more missed work, and greater expenses.

Finally, I'm angry at everyone else. Everyone has opinions about my inability to become a parent. Everyone has easy solutions. Everyone seems to know too little and say too much.

My infertility makes me feel sad and hopeless. Infertility feels like I've lost my future, and no one knows of my sadness. I feel hopeless...infertility robs me of my energy. I've never cried so much or so easily. I'm sad that infertility may someday place a strain on my marriage. I'm sad that my infertility requires me to be so self-centered. I'm sad that I've ignored friendships because this struggle hurts so much and demands so much time and energy. Friends with children prefer the company of other families with children. I'm surrounded by babies, pregnant women, playgrounds, baby showers, birth stories, kids' movies, and much more. I feel sad and hopeless.

My infertility makes me feel unsettled. My life is on hold. Making decisions about my immediate and long-term future seems impossible. I can't decide about purchasing a home, vacations, and house guests. The more I struggle with infertility, the less control I have.

This struggle has no timetable, the treatments have no guarantees. The only sure things are that I need to be near my partner at fertile times and near my doctor at treatment times. Should I pursue adoption? Take expensive drugs? Should I pursue more specialized and costly medical intervention? It feels unsettling to have no clear, easy answers or guarantees.

Occasionally, I feel my panic subside. I'm learning some helpful ways to cope. I'm now convinced I'm not crazy, and I believe I'll survive. I'm learning to listen to my body and be assertive, not aggressive about my needs. I'm realizing that good medical care and good emotional care are not necessarily found in the same place. I'm trying to be more than an infertile person.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

967 Days...

It has been 967 days since we started on this infertility journey.
2 years, 7 months, and 25 days.
1,392,480 minutes.
83,548,800 seconds.
And my dream is no closer to coming true than it was that fateful day, November 7, 2008.
I would like to be able to say that I have learned so much from this experience, that I’m a much stronger woman now, that it has all been worth it. But truthfully, I can’t say any of those things.
What I can say, is that I’ve learned is I can be a really jealous person. That I can take other people’s joyous occasions and make myself so upset that I have to leave the room. I’ve learned that every time I see a pregnant woman, or a friend announces their pregnancy, all I can think about is how I wish that were me. Green can be a very ugly color…
I’ve learned more about my body than I ever wanted to know, and still, that knowledge has done nothing but take me two steps forward, and one step back. No matter how much you know, it doesn’t mean things work right or do what you want.
I’ve learned that my faith in God can be tested, month after month, year after year. It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in Him, or that I don ‘t trust Him, but I can’t help but wonder why He is doing this to me.
And I’m starting to realize that this journey we’ve been on for so long might not ever end the way I want it to. I may never be a mother, even though it breaks my heart into a million little pieces to even type those words, let alone think them.
Infertility is beyond expensive. Medications, procedures, time off work, all of those things add up. And I can look back into my past and think that if I wouldn’t have bought this, or if I wouldn’t have done that, I might have enough money to continue infertility treatments. But where does that get me? Nowhere.
All I can do now is hope that we get lucky and God blesses us with a natural pregnancy, or that I win the lottery, or find that mysterious money tree somewhere.
I’m taking the steps that I can that cost little money, like exercising and eating right, and visiting the chiropractor. I’m down 15.5 pounds.
And I can keep dreaming, hoping, wishing, and praying. While that hasn’t worked for me yet, maybe it will. Maybe I’m just wishing on someone else’s star, or maybe God is too busy helping other people right now to answer my prayers.
Hopefully someday it will be my turn.