First, an apology. It has been a while since we have posted a new blog article. Some of you might have been wondering where all the creative, snarky infertility writing has gone. Some might have thought that we have left the land of IF and closed up shop. Well, we are still here and still in pain.
Over the past half-year we have been back on the rollercoaster dealing with all sorts of medical and attorneys as it relates to our situation. We are trying to maintain positive attitudes as we are pursuing multiple angles and trying to throw the kitchen sink of possibilities at our IF trials and tribulations.
As we sit in waiting for some of our doors to open and for our ideas to pan out, we would like to find some like-minded IF folks to help revive our blog. If you read through our previous articles you will get a good understanding of what we are looking for…we would like to keep the theme of being an infertility emotional outlet for people who want to let their feelings out online so they know they are not alone.
Humor and irony are appreciated as well as plain old pure venting.
Please use the contact us section of our blog to get a hold of us. All articles ideas and submissions will be reviewed with their guest authors for fine tuning.
Thank you for reading and we hope to be back on the blog wagon soon.
Isolation is a feeling and an emotion that we all feel from time to time. Whether we isolate ourselves because of pain or otherwise, we become more and more lonely as our infertility progresses along its path.
In a previous article we mentioned that sometimes we become estranged from friends and family because we just don’t want to face their children-filled realities. That’s fine, we suppose, but what about those folks that actually care and want to hear from us and want to try to help and understand?
All of us here in infertile-land have (or should have) a couple of close confidants that we keep very tight inside our inner circle. These are the folks (friends and/or relatives) that know when our next round of IVF is or if we are considering adoption or surrogacy. These people know some things our families don’t and they keep it to themselves sans gossip. They are so well versed that they seem to have gone through a part of that “sensitivity training” that we wish so many others would go through. They go miles above and beyond anyone else even made an attempt to. We can label these folks as true friends who care.
What happens though when these people start to drift away too? This, to us, is a sad state of affairs. The writing on the wall starts to show when the infertile couple becomes the only one’s reaching out by phone, email or otherwise. Communication is a two-way street, for sure, but since they are a source of our comfort, we generally are blind to the fact that it slowly becomes more one-way. Even though they respond when contacted, they seem not to contact first. Is there a pattern here? Anyone else seen this?
Since these so-called wonderful people have been our only in-person emotional outlets, are they now sick or fed up with this since it has gone on so long? Has our depressive tone run them off? Did they even care in the first place? Were they just keeping us around so that they can compare their much better off “having children” situation to our failures so that they can say, “Well, at least we’re not like the so-n-so’s.”
Are our contacts going to dwindle down to none? What then?
Since the holiday season is upon us, we would like to take a brief moment to acknowledge a known sore spot with those of us who are infertile. On an almost daily basis we are sifting through a larger amount of physical (snail) mail which has been growing post-thanksgiving. Tucked into these piles of online and store catalogs are the little things that seem to send those of us sans-kids into our dark places. Yep, we’re talking about Christmas cards.
However, these just aren’t any normal Christmas cards like the one’s you might receive from an out-of-town grandparent that has a $15.00 check inside. Nope. These are the cards that come as a postcard or in an envelope that display our overly fertile friends and their grouping of kids all in their holiday best. Most of these tend to be themed, quite poorly, to show how children are growing year after year. The worst ones may even include a family update newsletter but that is a rant for another article.
Not to say that this is an entirely awful thing to want to display your family in a photograph to keep up with minimal correspondence every holiday season, but to send them out to those of us who desire to have the chance to one day create these pictures for ourselves is bad taste. After a while of infertility most friends should be aware of our feelings and understand that viewing a holiday card with them showing off their children front and center can, unfortunately, make us upset. Especially since the holiday season already brings its own set of sad emotions.
Here is our plea; DO NOT SEND US ANY OF YOUR STUPID, STAGED HOLIDAY CARDS THAT FEATURE YOUR FAMILY IN A PHOTO OF ANY KIND. We do not care to see your entire family in matching red and/or green holiday sweaters in front of a phony snowy forest backdrop. We do not care that it took you all afternoon at Sears or Kmart or JC Penney’s photo department and do not want to hear the story of how the photographer coaxed all the kids into only one good shot. Please do not make us waste paper and postage by throwing these straight in the trash or better yet using the “return-to-sender” feature of our postal system.
A lot of us infertile folks may think this in our heads, but we wanted to say it out loud…Please stop rubbing it in our faces that you have children and we do not!
I’d like to offer up my congratulations to the ITNB blog hosts for stating outright that “Stories that end with a child can be found elsewhere… if you want to find those type of comments, there are plenty of other forums out there for that purpose.”
Amen! My husband and I have had a theory (long before we found out we were infertile) that when people have babies, they sort of lose their frontal lobes, you know that part of the brain the helps you understand other people’s theory of mind—that perhaps not everyone is quite as enamored with your little one as you are. This phenomenon can manifest itself as anything from a 3 year old running amok during a funeral service to the endless clucking of mother hens about this birth weight and that milestone. We had postulated that perhaps the deep breathing of Lamaze, a few sleepless nights, or strong diaper fumes had somehow asphyxiated the brain cells of previously grounded and reasonable people. We had not considered that the force could be so strong as to extend to people whose child-rearing gong show was prefaced by a lengthy struggle with infertility. I expected more from these people.
I expected that the ability to empathize and relate to the struggles of the infertile would most easily be mastered by someone who has (to borrow Melissa Ford’s metaphor) previously been an inhabitant of the Land of IF. In fact, this is not so. As I take my own private and painful journey through infertility, hoping to quell my loneliness in the warm blanket of shared experience, I google and ogle my way through infertility blogs. In my thirst for descriptions of the patience and emotional angst of infertility, I find myself constantly barging straight into someone’s online shrine to their miracle child. Pictures of said miracle baby (replete with birth weight and milestones) abound. Sorry, wrong room, my mistake!
My plea to the newly (and happily) fertile: Please, when the infertility door in your life closes, and for god’s sake shut down your infertility blog! Flex those frontal lobes and recall for a nanosecond how it felt to have no baby in your arms. Then, by all means start a new blog where you and your precious gift can cavort about in virtual nirvana without creating awkward and painful moments for the rest of us online who are still here. Infertility is clearly not your focus anymore, stop throwing it in our faces!
What is behind this behavior? This is another of my theories, but I think infertility is an inherently inwardly focused experience: we keep it secret; we scrutinize our levels and counts; we listen for every cramp, every twinge; we work in our bedrooms; we live in our underwear; we search (literally within ourselves) for answers. We look and we look and we forget that we are not alone. When people say goodbye to that time in their life, I assume it’s like childbirth, you forget the pain every time you look at the child—and that’s good. It’s why my friend who was in my position at one time thought it was a good idea to go out for coffee so she could surprise me with her 5-month bump! But no matter how good your memory, how big your frontal lobes, how inspiring you think your story is, it is your story, not mine and you have no business blogging about your parenting experience on a blog with an infertility tag line.
ITNB would like to thank Paige for this Blog Post the nice congratulations and her welcome feedback. We couldn’t agree more!!
F is a loaded letter. F is for Frustration. F is for F#@K, this sucks! And yes, F is for Fertility.
When my husband and I first started this process, we quickly amassed a mounting pile of paperwork from our various doctors. So I organized it and neatly tucked it away in my filing cabinet under F for Fertility. I very intentionally chose to label it “Fertility” rather than “Infertility.” You could say that I had a beef with the word “Infertility.”
Though there’s an accepted medical definition for infertility—no conception after one year of regular intercourse—that’s not my interpretation. Perhaps I could accept something milder like “Subfertility,” but to me, “Infertility” sounds like more of an absolute: No Chance for Fertility, Ever. It just sounds so negative, so final, so harsh. Especially when I was just starting the process…shouldn’t I be allowed a glimmer of hope, without being slapped with such a drastic label?
I decided to boycott “Infertility.” I refused to utter it. When I confided in a friend, I used an alternate term. “We’re fertility-challenged” or “we’re seeing a fertility doctor,” I would say. When I first called up the reproductive endocrinologist’s office and was given the choice between a gynecology appointment or an infertility appointment, I asked for a fertility appointment. In my mindset, it seemed absurd to ask for an infertility appointment. Infertility? Why would I want to sign up for that? No, thanks. I’ll take fertility, please.
As long as I am struggling to remain optimistic about the process, I would like the outside world to offer me some optimism. But when I hear the word “Infertility,” I just think about the past and what hasn’t worked so far. Personally, I try to redirect my negative thoughts as much as possible—though it’s often a challenge—to something more hopeful. Whenever I hear “Infertility,” it just drags me down.
I think my semantic choices have been based on a combination of optimism, denial, and a touch of superstition. Admitting that my husband and I were infertile meant acknowledging a possibility that we might never be able to conceive. It was hard for me to admit that then, and it’s still a difficult scenario to think about now, though only time will tell.
And though I’ve resigned myself to the term “infertility” by now, I still wince a bit whenever I use it. Semantics can be quite significant in the way that we perceive something. As long as we’re on this emotional journey, perhaps a better label would help us all feel a little better?
ITNB would like to once again thank to Jane for her article. Sometimes we would all just like to say “F-THIS!!”
Infertility is a very personal battle. And this struggle…this fight…this abyss of sadness is something we tend to keep to ourselves. We don’t share it with the people who we see everyday or those who love us most. We retreat to our computers where we find amazing support on message boards and blogs from people who don’t know us and wouldn’t know us if they walked right into us on the street. But this is a huge thing that we go through. It is physically and emotionally draining. (I’m not even going near the financial implications, see The Price of Money below.) It is a lot to keep from the people you love and share your life with, isn’t it?
The majority of people decide they want to have a child and get to make love to their partner in the privacy of their bedroom. They get to surprise the world with a pregnancy whenever they see fit to share it. We don’t get that. Those of us fighting this battle get phone calls and emails asking when our next doctor’s appointment is…when the next procedure or cycle will be. Our sex lives (or lack thereof) are out there for the entire world to know. (Doesn’t it feel like that sometimes?) We can’t have a baby the “old-fashioned” way. We need doctors and embryologists and anesthesiologists just to have a chance at having a baby. We get looks of pity and pep talks. (And who needs or wants those!? Or is it just me that gets really angry from that crap?) We get poked and prodded and used as pin cushions. We don’t get to surprise anyone with the news if …IF…we actually get pregnant. And we don’t even get definitive results…we have percentages of success based on age and a whole host of other things that are beyond our control.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve skipped lot…and I mean A LOT…of family functions over the past two years because I couldn’t handle seeing kids or because I had just gotten a BFN again (see Becoming Estranged below). In a way, it feels like I’m hiding from my life. I hate that. How much of your life have you missed since finding out that you were infertile? How much of your struggles with infertility have you kept from the people you see every day or those you love? Telling our loved ones may make this fight easier to bear but telling them comes with questions…the ones about when you decided to have kids… what have you done so far…are any of us ready to answer those questions? Do we even have to?
I mentioned all this to a good friend of mine who is also struggling with infertility. And in all her infinite wisdom she said to me: “If they ask questions, you can say with impunity, ‘This is a really difficult process for us, and we’d prefer not to talk about it. I hope you can respect our wishes.’ And who knows, maybe having the visible support of your extended family will help us cope? Maybe in keeping it private, we’re giving ourselves a heavier burden to bear?”
And you know what? She is 100% absolutely positively right. How many of us suffer in silence daily only to cry to our computer screens because the people we talk to in cyberspace are the ONLY people who can even begin to imagine what it is that we are going through. We get by on virtual hugs instead of trusting those who can actually hug us. We go through the motions of every day life. We suffer through the intrusive and insensitive questions such as “Are you having kids?” We smile at family gatherings and hang out at the bar (there should always be a bar at family gatherings) because it’s easier then facing the kids that are running around laughing or the talk of so and so’s pregnancy.
But the question remains…are we making this harder on ourselves then it needs to be? Maybe we should have a little more faith in those we love? Maybe we should come out of the infertility closet?
It is well known that discussions of money and finances inevitably lead to awkwardness within relationships. That is a general view. In today’s trying times with the current economic recession it is cliché but true to say that “everyone is feeling the pinch.” Within the trials of infertility, the “money” topic tends to rear its ugly head more often than not. Although it is not something that is often talked about beyond the private conversations of the affected couple, we would like to deal with the issue here for a bit.
Most infertile couples would state that they are willing to give anything just to have one child. That list would include body parts, religious affiliation and, of course, piles of money. Whatever it takes! Since infertility treatments require multiple and seemingly endless trips to doctors and specialists, we also gladly give our time, our patience and literally our blood to this process. What we begin to see during this struggle are the mounting costs associated with every visit inside those same sterile medical rooms.
Insurance, while it is a serious hot-button issue in the political and media arenas, is an important factor in which treatments we can and cannot pursue. For those lucky enough to have insurance that covers the majority of these procedures, there still seems to be enough out-of-pocket costs to create a dent in any budget. Others have the even more difficult decision as to whether or not to even begin treatment as they might not be covered at all and everything would have to be paid for by the infertile couple. Even though infertility is blind to class structure and income levels, for all of us going through this it is an added expense we never thought we had to build into our financial plan.
We all realize that children cost money. Our friends and family have made that point inexplicably clear. Infertility costs money too, sometimes more than an actual month-to-month newborn budget. Let’s consider this example which is close to our own hearts; a couple is covered by insurance so most procedures are covered after deductible etc. For years they try the medical route with the maximum IVF attempts and everything leading up to that. Costs could run close to $15,000 or more. The couple then changes gears and looks at adoption ($30K) or donor eggs/sperm ($15K) or surrogacy ($60K++). By the time any of these scenarios play out the couple is out between $30K (min) and up to approximately $100K on the high side. Did I mention that they had insurance?
For those who don’t readily have this cash on hand, it can be difficult to start taking out loans or running up credit cards. So if there is a baby at the end of all that, wouldn’t it be safe to say that the family is then starting off “in-the-hole” money wise? With emotions at an all time high and adding money questions or problems on top makes for a very stressful mixture. We can cry foul or scream that this is unfair until we’re blue in the face. But maybe, just maybe, a child at no matter what the cost, will dissipate any and all problems, even money concerns…
Looking back, when my husband and I first started trying to conceive, we had this idea that only beautiful lovemaking was going to create our child. Plain old ordinary sex was just not going to cut it, we thought. Nothing but passionate and loving intimacy was going to get us pregnant.
During our first year of trying, I recall a month or two where we decided not to have sex, even though the timing was right. We were tired or otherwise not feeling up to it that day, so we intentionally skipped it. No child of ours is going to be a product of obligatory sex, we insisted. Our mantra became, “Only the most beautiful kind of lovemaking will create our child.”
As it turned out, that was far from the truth. The doctors have since told us that it will be no lovemaking of any kind—obligatory or otherwise—that was going to get us to our goal. Our only hope for conception was going to be quite the opposite of our original thoughts.
Unromantic, indeed! It is far from intimate; mediated by doctors, nurses, and lab technicians. Forget candle-lit dinners; we use thermometers, pee sticks, and specimen collection cups. In fact, there is a great irony to be found in our fertility treatments: My doctor told me that I can bring the semen sample with me when I go for my intrauterine insemination. My husband’s physical presence is not even necessary.
So, no, there will be no romance in our quest for conception. And that’s not to say that there is no romance in our relationship. Sure, it’s still there. What we’ve really lost is the romance of an idea. This idea which now, in retrospect, seems a bit naïve. We’ve lost the romantic notion that our child, if we are blessed with one, will be created from a physical act of love.
ITNB would like to express our thanks to Jane for her article. We think it is something we can all relate to!
While traveling down the different paths of our infertility journeys we encounter many people who offer advice. The majority of these suggestions come from our close friends and family because they are aware of what we are going through since we made the decision to let them in on our little infertile skeleton in the closet. For those who we choose to tell, there will always be a major disconnect between what they think is going on and what is actually going on.
Looking beyond the comments that are off-the-cuff (see the article Why don’t you just adopt? posted below), lets delve further into some conversational pieces that arise now and then. Two specific examples that we have encountered illustrate our point.
First, we have a couple of close friends (have drifted as of late though) that went through infertility problems and tried IVF. Both were successful on their first try. Originally this gave us hope because they did the treatment prior to us starting our journey. At first, they were very sympathetic, understanding and full of useful information in regards to process. Now that we have gone through the medical ringer a few failed times, the relationship and conversations have changed. A snippet of the last in-person contact we had went like this;
Successful IVF Couple: “So how are you guys doing / handling everything?” Us: “We’re trying to get by you know…(distant)” Successful IVF Couple: “We totally know how you feel.” Us: “Did your treatments end up with you having children (sarcastic)?” Successful IVF Couple: “Yes, but…” Us: “Then you don’t know how we feel because you’re not in our situation, it worked for you. You got your children (upset).”
While they might understand the medical process aspect of what we’ve gone through and what we are still going through, at this point they have passed us by in emotional feelings going from bad to good. We are stuck with bad.
Our friends and family might have the best intentions and only a small few might inquire as to our feelings just to be nice. Reality is that since they’ll never understand, why should they bother to take time to hear us out completely? On a more negative note, do they really care at all?
Second example; we have some relatives that have actually said, “We cannot pretend to understand what you’re going through.” That is true enough. We have tried to explain to folks that want to listen how we are feeling emotionally over and over again. Lately it’s not worth the pain. Every time we have to talk about it, it just takes us down another step on the depression ladder. If they wanted to really understand more, they would do their own research online or in books as infertility battles are very well documented. Maybe since it does not affect them directly, the motivation is not there. Maybe it is a time issue.
And why wouldn’t they have the time to research our feelings and issues? Oh yeah, they’re busy with their kids.
Avoidance. It is something that we infertile couples tend to do when situations arise that will be emotionally difficult to handle. Strong examples of this would be to decline any and all invitations to baby showers, children’s 1st birthdays, baptisms and the like. Turning these events down does not mean that we don’t care, but rather it brings us face-to-face with the reality of what we are missing and what we are not celebrating. The upset-o-meter tends to rise quickly if all we see are happy parents and happy children to boot.
After a while of non-attendance, we begin to lose touch with those folks that we used to be very close with pre-kids. Since our lives are going in different directions, or better yet, their lives are going in a forward direction and ours has halted, being able to relate becomes more difficult. Even if we were courageous enough to participate in these functions, conversations are difficult because we’re not sharing the same anecdotes related to children’s’ first this and children’s’ first that.
This estranged feeling is not limited to just friends with children. We happen to observe the same awkwardness within our immediate family. When a family member or relative says or does something insensitive to our infertile situation, we again crawl into our shell. These periods of non-contact can go on for months. Even when apologies and forgiveness are issued, there is still a sense of need to be walking on eggshells from all parties.
We are in charge of who we let into our lives. At this point, in the middle of all this madness, it might just be ok to keep the inner circle very small. There is the old saying that we should not run from our problems, we should face them head on. There is also something to be said about avoiding things that make us uncomfortable. Which one is more relevant?
Infertility is the New Black is looking for people who can relate emotional stories about the unsuccessful quest to conceive to contribute to our blog. So come on, let it out! Please use our Contact Us page if you are interested.