Who? What? When? Where? WHY?

INFERTILITY.  Who is affected? What is infertility? When should you look into your fertility? Where do you go for help & support? Why is it happening? These are some of the questions I encourage you to ask about infertility.  I am asking and as usual, I have more to say….

Who? Me.  I am one in eight people/couples who suffer from infertility.  There are days it feels like I am one in one hundred. There are others it feels like I am one in two or three.  

What? Infertility is a MEDICAL condition…a DISEASE of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Okay….it’s a medical condition.  So it’s covered by my health insurance, right?  No.

When did I find out? Much too late in life.  Because I never actually tried to get pregnant before I was married to my husband at the age of 35. Because I never had a doctor take a serious look at the happenings (or more appropriately, the lack of happenings) of my reproductive system at a younger age or take my questions about my fertility too serious in my earlier adult years because at the time, I admitted I was not ready to start a family. I didn’t push for answers to the hard questions because I wasn’t educated enough about my body to know they were hard questions. 

Where do I go for help? If my doctors weren’t proactive at a younger age, and my health insurance doesn’t cover it because my State and/or Federal lawmakers don’t mandate them to, and my employer doesn’t offer assistance and I’m too ashamed or embarrassed (for no good reason) to ask people for help and no one talks about this sort of thing in public……where do I go? Who will help me/us? Where do I get answers? Why is this MEDICAL condition so difficult to seek help & support for?!?

Why did this happen to me?  To us?  To so many people. To one in eight couples? Why is there a secret society of women and men out there, posting on private Facebook group pages or forums, gathering at churches or at coffee shops, sharing tear after tear, whispering about & masking their pain, their defeat and the potential loss of their dreams? Why is there such a stigma associated with being infertile and so little understanding, dare I say, empathy, from those who are not?  The burden of the disease itself, finding the right treatment, figuring out how to pay for it and then fumbling to emotionally deal with it rests entirely on the shoulders of a person or couple who are devastated to the core to learn they will struggle to, or never be able to have biological children. It may not be a terminal disease, but make no mistake, infertility is a loss…..it isn’t tangible, like the physical loss of a loved one to another serious medical condition, but it is a loss of huge proportions.  Because the loss can not be seen, it can be confused by some as something one can “get over” because “worse things could happen to you.”  The old, “you can’t miss what you never had” adage, right? Wrong.  

This loss…of everything you ever thought your life would be…..of dreams you had with your partner of & for another human being…the ache to share a bond, share blood & dna, share a legacy….the moment you learn you are infertile, the instant the doctors tell you you have an unattainable dream….I promise, you will miss every first breath, all ten little  fingers and every teeny, tiny toe…you never had. 

By vast majority, the infertility stories shared in public, in the media and, if we’re being honest, in the infertility community as well, are the ones which have happy endings.  We know why, of course, it’s because happy endings spread a message of hope – which is a message desperately needed in the trenches of this war. Reproductive science is creating miracles every day…and there are family building options out there, to resolve the inability to conceive – like egg & sperm donors, embryo adoption in addition to surrogacy & adoption.  But what if, for whatever reason – you are limited in the family building options that you are open to. What if your journey ends with no baby? Where are the messages of hope for those infertility stories that did not end in pink or blue blankets in a Pinterest-perfect nursery?  These stories count too.  

April 24-30, 2016 is National Infertlity Awareness Week and the theme for this years awareness campaign is to #startasking questions.  The most notable infertility support & resource organization, Resolve, has asked and encourages us infertiles and our supporters to spread the message to get people to #startasking the hard questions…like:

*Employers for insurance coverage. 

 *Lawmakers and legislators to support issues important to the infertility community. 

*Friends and family to support us.

*The media to cover infertility and the real challenges we all face. 

*Those who have resolved their infertility to stay involved.  

*OB/GYN or healthcare provider to talk about OUR reproductive health – EARLIER. 

*For affordable care for treatment of a disease.

*Legal access to all family building options nationwide.

If you have questions about your fertility, ask your doctor now. If you have a friend or family member who is struggling, please ask them how they are doing.  Do some research on the subject to educate yourself or ask your loved one how you can be supportive.  

If you have no one to talk to or feel alone in your infertility journey, speak up, because you most certainly are not. You are not alone in the moment you first hear the word “infertility,” you are not alone in the two week wait, you are not alone in your happy ending with a baby in the nursery…..and you are not alone if you walk away with empty arms. 


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And then there were two

I adore my nephew.  I would give my life for him because I love him so and because I’ve no children of my own, he is the closest I’ll ever come. (I’m no weirdo.  I do not – nor ever have – fantasized or pretended that he is MY child.)

My nephew needs a sibling.  He is, because of all of us who love him, a spoiled boy and would do well to have a life-long buddy with whom to share everything with.

My sister and her hubby have been working on it for some time and as much warmth as it gives me to say she shared last night she learned yesterday morning is 6 1/2 weeks pregnant, I am equally (as usual) as heartbroken.

She was terrified to tell me.  But we are sisters and she knew she had to share her news.  In terms of our family, she & I pretty much only have each other.  

She told me in a panic.  By sending me a text message which included the sonogram photo and an apology for delivering the news that way but admitting she didn’t know how to do so.

I was 10 minutes away from meeting a friend for dinner.  Which I can now tell you is not enough time to recover from the shock.  

I know she didn’t mean to hurt me.  I believe 100% she had no idea how to tell her only & big sister that her dreams of adding a sibling for my nephew are coming true, while my heart aches for even one child – an ache that cannot be fulfilled.

I know I will love and spoil the new baby.  I know my heart will hold lots of pride for him or her. 

But I also know my heart can not be filled by my sisters wonderful news.  Her news that where there was one, there are now two.

I know what you think

  

You think I am moody, or selfish, or maybe, you just think I’m a bitch. You think your announcement has nothing to do with me, and therefore should not affect me.  That I should respond appropriately and smile and congratulate you, then ooh and ahh along with others.

You think it’s personal that I could not get more than one word out of my mouth, or even smile. It hurt your feelings when after sitting for as long as I could – which felt like days had passed to me – I excused myself and not only left the room, but left the office.

What I want you to know is I may be moody.  I can be selfish.  I often scold myself for being bitchy. I want you to know that I know your announcement has nothing to do with me.  And I want you to know that my reaction to your announcement in kind, has nothing to do directly with YOU.

What I want you to know is that more than a year after I was told I can not have children, I am not regularly able to watch television.  I go days & weeks away from social media and decline most invites from friends to avoid announcements like yours, photos and videos of babies & children.  

I want to tell you that I cry more than once a week – like last Friday night, at a busy restaurant, while having dinner with friends and their 3 month old.  And that more than once a week is an improvement from more than once a day. 

I want you to know that while I can be obsessed about my young nephew, I sometimes am not able to spend time with him because his little face and sweet voice hurt me deeply.

If I thought you could even remotely grasp the pain I felt ripping through me when you called an “office meeting” to announce you are pregnant with your fourth child, I would tell you that my entire body began shaking.  That I began to sweat. That I needed to run, but that I couldn’t move and then, when I could move, I knew I would be thought to be the asshole, so I sat and I endured for as long as I could. 

If I thought you could fathom how I struggled to breathe, or how I barely made it outside of the building, dropping my cellphone while trying to place a call to someone to talk me off the ledge, I would tell you that it was then that I sobbed.  Hunched in the corner of the downstairs lobby near the bathrooms.  The tile floor was frigid cold, but all I could think of was laying down there.  So I fled to my car, and sat crying on the phone with my husband, knowing there was nothing he could do but desperately needing the sound of his voice.

I want you to know that I cried again when another co-worker sent me an email later, acknowledging how shocked they were with your news, how it was delivered and how they said they were praying for me

I want you to know that I cried my entire 50 minute drive home. And that I went straight to bed when I got there.  Drenching my pillow in tears.  Then sleeping.  Then waking and crying.  And waking and crying. Cursing God.  Cursing my body.  Cursing the hand I’ve been dealt.

I want you to know that I’ve been up since 3am drinking coffee and looking for a new job just to avoid being in the presence of a pregnant woman while at work, 5 days a week for the next 34 weeks.

I know what you’re thinking about me, you think I am jealous and you wonder why I can’t just be happy for you.  

I want you to know that I AM jealous.  And while I think your news is lovely for you & your family, saying I am “happy” for you would be wrong.  Because I can’t remember the last time I was happy about anything.  

I want you to know that moving on with my life as a non-mother is not enough for me. Having the freedom to do whatever I wish with my time & money because I’ve no one to care for or plan a future for, brings me no consolation.  That going to work and returning home to care for only my husband – no matter how deeply I love him – and our home, does not completely fulfil me.  And though I know there are temporary things I could do or participate in to try to fill some void, they will not replace the longing in my heart to be a mom.  To have a child to love & care for forever.

So while you think I am jealous and moody and selfish and bitchy because your announcement has nothing to do with me, please remember that I know it doesn’t.  Which is why it does.

The Eve of 41

This is impossible.  I can not possibly be sitting here, insomnia ridden, listening to the hum of the clothes dryer, on the eve of my 41st birthday.

It’s ridiculous to me that another year has passed with nothing to be excited about, to brag or even journal about. Not a single thing has changed – for better or worse – not one thing.

Embarrassingly, I used to be one of those girls who counted down to my birthday, announcing to everyone the number of days left to shop for a gift for me or to remind them of my very own special day.  Truthfully, I think I wanted this “special day” since everyone who has a holiday birthday – a December holiday birthday especially – knows how “ripped off” we feel.  Either no one remembers your birthday, or they lump it in with Christmas and you’re left feeling jilted.  New Years Eve, I’ve always thought, was the worst, since no one is ever there ONLY for your birthday, they are there to party into the new year!

I remember the days leading up to my 30th birthday and how, in the midst of a divorce, I felt like a monstrous failure.  I had nothing and was humiliated beyond measure. I could not fathom the idea of turning 30. My sister orchestrated a huge party – of mostly her friends if I’m being honest – and though a good time was had by all, I recall being very coherent of the fact that I was now 30, that I had few friends and that my life – as I knew it to be – was ending.

I remember the months and weeks preceding my 40th birthday.  It was not so much the number of the age as it was the number of the age of the year that my life’s dream had ended.  I would begin my 40th year on this earth knowing I’d never be a Mom.  I was angry (still am) and I begged people not to acknowledge the day, which of corse, they did.  Which annoyed & angered me even more. Though my sweet husband planned a get away that was relaxing & wonderful, I came away from the birthdate hurt and sad and full of resentment about how my life was turning out and the theme has carried on throughout the year.

This birthday has snuck up on me.  I still feel incredibly sorry for myself for the one thing I can not change.  Jilted at the hand I’ve been dealt.  I truly could care less about acknowledging, much less celebrating my birthday, outside of receiving a card from my hubby since he does not express much throughout the year and with the piggy back of Christmas & my birthday, I get a good spirit boosting from getting sweet cards from him.  He writes the sweetest things and chooses the sweetest cards. It’s like oxygen at a time I struggle finding reasons to breathe.

I can not believe I’ll wake tomorrow a whole other year older than today.  I’d rather crawl in a dark hole and sleep, hopefully waking 10 years ago, but instead of the girl who counted down to celebrate her special day, I’ll awake as the middle aged woman who counts down the moments until it passes, politely saying “thank you” to anyone who offers cheers.

The Christmas that never was

And just like that, it’s gone.  The Christmas that never was.

The Christmas that should have been our last “first” Christmas.  The Christmas that should have been our most memorable, our most exciting, our most joyful.

The Christmas with no tree, no lights, no cards sent, not one Christmas song played.  The Christmas that had social media ignored and as many “regrets” RSVP’d as possible.

The Christmas I never wanted to be a part of. The Christmas, it felt, no one noticed I wasn’t. The Christmas I wish no one did. 

Blank Spaces

My thoughts on everything are just that. Blank spaces.

We took a trip to Las Vegas a few weeks ago.  Aside from a couple good meals, all I looked forward to was getting home.  Saturday night was spent in the hotel room.  5:30 on a Saturday night.  On the Las Vegas strip.  And I’m watching movies on my iPad. Blank.

Our annual Thanksgiving camping trip? Blank. It was neither fun or boring.  Mostly the same faces. Same weather. Same food. For some in our group, it was a trip of “first times.”  Not even the addition of my sister, brother in law & nephew made a difference in my overall feelings. When it was over, it only felt routine. Drive. Set up. Eat, drink, clean up. Drive home. 

The upcoming Christmas holiday? Blank.  I don’t care to send out greeting cards.  What could I possibly say about our last year that hasn’t been said the last several years?  “Here’s another photo of our dogs, but we wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”  Or, “Happy Birthday to Christ, who has done many great things for lots of people but chooses to bury some dreams so deep in our hearts and never fulfill them?”  I’ve opened zero cards sent to us, where I used to display them in our entryway.  I’m not even curious about them because I already know they are photos of everyone else’s families over the course of another year. 

I don’t care to decorate the house – something I’ve done for years. As a college student with tinsel & beer tabs, a 20-something year old with Dollar Store finds and even after my first marriage ended in shreds, I would venture out on my own, put a tree in the trunk of my car, blast the Christmas music and decorate the whole house in my Pj’s. 

This year, I bought a smaller, “table top” tree at a nursery and a vintage tin pail I found at the antique shop in town….a look I found on Pinterest.  I forced myself to make the purchases in a conscious effort to  get in the spirit.  And yet a week later, the tree sits in the corner of the family room, no decor, barely watered.  Blank.

I do not look forward to gatherings, gift exchanges or sweet holiday movies.  Because MY life doesn’t end like those movies do. I am exhausted of faking a smile.  I have a sweet, strong, loving husband and a cozy home.  And yet, I cannot recall the last time I felt happiness.  The last time I laughed from my core in sheer joy.

I am full of sadness, broken pieces and of fear that what’s left for me in this life will not be quite enough.  I am full of blank space.

Stop Asking How I Am

Here’s the thing….there are three types of people who ask how I am. 

1. The person who doesn’t really care, but asks in a socially appropriate conversational way.  

2. The person who cares, but has a preconceived expectation I should or will answer in a certain way. 

3. A person who cares.

If you are a person who falls into any of these categories….stop asking.  And here’s why….

Person from #1:  It’s not that you aren’t polite and simply being conversational, it’s just that I KNOW you don’t actually care.  So as much as society thinks it’s polite, it is more a waste of your energy and mine to respond than it is worth in politeness points.  Be original.  Ask what I think about the weather, or the like.

Person from #2:  Quite the opposite of person from #1, I know YOU care.  But I also know how awkward it will be if I answer truthfully.  I know because I see your fear when you ask the question.  You are hoping that if I am not okay, that I will lie and say I am.  Most folks do, don’t they?  So, avoid the awkwardness and the burden it will put on us both, just don’t ask.

Person from #3:  Of all of these people, you care deeply.  I know you do.  I feel it.  I wish you wouldn’t ask how I am either.  Because you should already know the answer.  

I realize the request makes me the bad person, the bitch, the whatever….but I think the point is, if you don’t want to know the truth, the real answer to the question, then don’t ask.