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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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.

Unbelonging

There is a medium in which I exist.  A space not fully defined.  A life with little reason.  A place of unbelonging.

I do not belong at the company picnic.  Where the men shift weight around the barbecue or cooler, discussing the work and cracking jokes at one another’s expense. And where the women gather at one table, talking about the small town daycare options, making lunches and t-ball practice while keeping one eye on the bounce house at all times for their little ones.

I do not belong at the beauty salon.  Sharing congrats and “you look amazing” compliments and stories of how, “when it’s over, you just can’t believe that your body could do such a thing!” While the nail technician rubs her perfectly round belly and bites her lip in anxiousness.

I do not belong at the office.  Where everyone else has a special schedule to accommodate school pick ups and jog-a-thon meetings.  Where calling in sick applies to not only the employee but for their children and where the childless must accommodate vacation times for those with. But those with do not for the childless.

I don’t belong on social media.  Where my online life has little meaning because I’ve not a child to give it as much.  Where “there is no better feeling” than sleepless nights.  Where my life is incomplete since I do not have a family of my own for whom the waiting & struggles were well worth.  And where the rest of the world rushes by, one post post or one photo at a time, while mine is frozen still – with no changes or new news to report.

I am unbelonging.

Night

Night is time for the stars to shine. For friends to gather in loud, fun places. 

Night is late dinners, later movies and frozen yogurt.  It is time to kick back, be lazy or even prepare for the next day.

Night is cuddle up, snuggle in, kisses and sweet dreams.  Night is a time for sleep. 

Night is also dark.  Quiet and lonely.  It is solitude unmatched.

Night is the daily reminder that the light will always dim.  Night is tossing, turning, lay on the couch.

Night is tear filled. Wishing. Hoping. Realizing there is nothing to hope for.

Night ends.  Night returns.

Your Pregnant Belly, A Love Story

I stood on the beach not far from you, but enough so I thought your glow couldn’t physically touch me.  I knew that the rays would burn if they grazed my arm.

I watched, knowing your every movement would cause me deep pain, but I couldn’t peel my eyes away.  Your hormonally thick hair, in an easy ponytail, a perfectly comfortable but fitting t-shirt dress for your eight months to be displayed and your 20-something year old legs…thin, but strong enough to carry your tiny + baby frame.

The moments came, as I knew they would, when you rubbed your belly in mid conversation, then stopped and just like a shield, held your hands in place around your bump.  You would smile. The deepest happiness exploding from the corners of your mouth.

And I thought awful, jealous things. I thought desperate, sad things.  And I swiped tears away, pretending that sand had blown in my eyes. 

But mostly, I thought how beautiful you were.  I wondered if you knew how lucky you were.  And I thought how I’d give anything to be standing there, with my hair in an easy ponytail, in a perfectly comfortable but fitting t-shirt dress for my eight months to be displayed and shielding my belly while smiling – the deepest happiness exploding from the corners of my mouth.

The Worst Day

It was yesterday.  But not present yesterday.  Yesterday one year ago yesterday.  365, now 366 yesterday’s ago that was what I’ve come to call “The Worst Day.”  As if I’d need a reminder, it’s even in my calendar as such.  

It was the day our RE said, “based what we know today, you can not get pregnant.”  

It was the last time I took the call to hear her say “I’m sorry but your blood test is negative.” 

It was the the last time I heard her “explain” that she didn’t know why it wasn’t working.

No one else on the planet recognized the day. Not my sister.  Not my best friend.  Not even Hubby. I am not certain how I feel about that, but I am certain of this….that I will likely never forget the date upon which my life’s dream ended.

If I’m being honest, yesterday’s anniversary of “The Worst Day” was not much different than any other hellish day that’s passed since.  

I started my day exhausted from lack of sleep.  I fought to get dressed in clothing that no longer fits for the weight I’ve gained and done nothing about.

I drove to my job – which I’ve come to be utterly uninterested in.  And then I drove home to do chores well into the night, not having real contact with anyone and hardly seeing my husband at all.

And , like every. single. day. since “The Worst Day” I thought regularly of the fact that I am not a Mommy.  

Instead of wondering how baby was doing at daycare all day, I thought of the papers from the RE’s office sitting on Hubby’s desk for a year. They require our signature and yet Hubby refuses to sign them to finalize the end of this.

I was reminded that I had no one to rush out of the office for to pick up from school or to help with homework as I stayed till 5 watching others leave at their specially scheduled earlier times to accommodate “mom-life.”  

I was reminded that I had no little one to cook a healthy meal for as we ate bowls of cereal for dinner.

I wish I could feel like the day not being significantly worse or better was a good thing, but like the other 365 days since “The Worst Day,” I feel the same emptiness, lack of purpose and sadness.

What I can say is that the anniversary of “The Worst Day” has passed.  And I survived it….which I only know to be true since I’ve risen this morning – exhausted from lack of sleep – to repeat another day like all the days since “The Worst Day.”

 Répondez s’il vous plaît 

RSVP.  Join us as we celebrate…. A little lady is on the way….. Bring a book.  Bring diapers.  Bring a joyful smile for this wonderful couple who are so deserving of this miracle.  And they are.  

They are deserving because they are good people.  J is my hubby’s best friend and served as Best Man at our wedding. He is one of a VERY small number of people who know everything about my hubby. He is a good man and a good husband to D.  D would drop everything to help you move, fold laundry or put sheets on the beds.  She is thoughtful, the girl who sends you two, or three, or four birthday cards which drives you insane, but which you secretly appreciate because you know she meant to brighten your day and it does.

They are deserving because, like my hubby and I, waited until a little later in life to find one another, spent time dating and getting to know one another to build a strong and very real foundation before marrying and have both a friendship and a marriage built on real values and deep love.

They are deserving because, like me and my hubby, they tried to start a family “the old fashioned way” and yet found themselves down the same road of infertility we had been on for 3 1/2 years already. The road of failed treatment cycles and more heartache than can be counted.

Except their heartache has now evolved to Joy. Their last cycle resulted in pregnancy. Their daughter will arrive in a few weeks.  Due on the hubby and my’s 5th wedding anniversary and strangely close to what would have been one of my due dates.

These people are our dear friends. They are MORE than friends. How erie it is that our journeys were so similar. 1 in 8 couples feels more like 7 in 8 couples who will suffer from infertility when I consider the odds of our situation.

D and I discussed more than once how the reason for all of the heartache MUST have been so that we could raise our children together.  That the 3+ years my hubby and I had already spent trying with no success was so that they could catch up with us in marriage and having children. Even while deep in the trenches of the War on Infertility did either of us anticipate that it would not work for one or the other.

So while being on such a close schedules during our last cycle/transfers was wonderful because we had each other for support, it has ended quite the opposite. Every milestone that D has passed in her pregnancy cuts like a knife – I should be passing these milestones also.  And let me be clear….out of respect for my brokenness, she has not shared anything unless I ask – which is very, very little.  I am only aware of the milestones because I am a woman.  Because as infertiles, I think we are more acutely aware of what & when the milestones are…reaching the “safe zone,” finding out the baby’s gender, etc. 

Though SHE has been amazingly supportive and kind, I find myself inable to support her in any capacity other than from a distance….in fact, I’m certain she must feel I haven’t supported her at all since the only support I’ve outwardly given is one or two emails just to say I hope things are going well. She can’t know that I think of her every single day and wish her well.  I wish J & D nothing but the absolute best and yet I’ve been the lousiest friend on the planet – not intentionally by any means – but I have.  I tried once to explain to my sister how I actually feel physically debilitated when I think of seeing D.  How my hands shake and how my eyes well up.  

Once, shortly after J & D received their positive pregnancy test, J stopped by to chat with my hubby…..they were in the garage discussing something mechanical (as men do), as I pulled into the drive from running errands and when I saw him, immediately my hands began to tremble on the steering wheel.  I felt confused and as though I may pass out. So with nothing more than a “hey” to acknowledge them, I gathered my things and disappeared into the house.  I never told anyone – not even my hubby – that I spent the next hour or so curled up in a ball in a dark corner of our bedroom. That was how I reacted just seeing J……I’ve no idea how my crummy body (or mind) might react if I actually saw D.

So as the time drew closer for her shower….imagine my surprise when she emailed me to ask if I wanted an invitation mailed to me.  D explained she wanted me there, of course, but that she remembered how much those invites hurt her before…and she did not want to add to my pain.  After the months of my being a horrible friend, I was embarrassed by her kindness.  Humiliated, more accurately.  I explained I would be honored to be invited and to of course have one sent…..but then asked if she could tell me the date, (so I wouldn’t have to open the invite until I was ready).

I was never ready.  It sat in the top drawer of my desk for weeks, under a notebook and some old receipts.

When I finally opened it, knowing there must of been a date upon which I must RSVP by, I cried – no – sobbed.  For hours. It would stop. And then start again.  I felt lower than low.  My stomach was in knots.  What a silly thing to cry over.  A beautiful 5×7 card of cream and pinks, grey print and happy news.

I tried to order from her registry (online so I didn’t have to go into the baby section of the store) but I couldn’t.  I knew I wanted something special for them, but became incapable of putting in the effort.

Of COURSE I had to attend her shower.  Again, these are dear friends of ours. J was the best man at our wedding for crying out loud.  These are people who will forever be in our lives.  And what would people think if I didn’t attend….I knew what they would think, they would think I was awful and selfish. And, they’d be right to a certain degree.

In the end, the brokenness won. I knew I couldn’t be there, no matter how important it was that D knew I supported her and genuinely am happy for her.  I knew I wasn’t strong enough to smile, to “ooh” and “ahh” over all the sweet baby girl gifts she would receive and I knew I couldn’t play the silly shower games. I knew I couldn’t sit in a room full of women who would inevitably discuss this pregnancy or that toddler mishap or labor stories or take inquiries from those who don’t know me or my journey for children, asking when I’ll have them or why I don’t.  I knew I couldn’t do it without crying. Without making some sort of scene. Without at least one person asking what was wrong.  I knew other women who would be guests and who knew my “story” would try to console me, rather than dote on the guest of honor

I’ve been a lousy enough friend, selfishly stuck in my own sad world and I knew I couldn’t attend her shower.  Because I knew I couldn’t weather it.  But more, because I refused to ruin her day even just a little bit by having any sort of breakdown and taking away one smidgen of her well deserved – well earned joy.

It took me several days of uneasiness to tell someone how I was feeling.  I confided in my sister, who assured me it was okay to feel the way I was and told me she had a feeling D would understand as long as I was honest with her.

I was nervous to tell my hubby how was feeling.  I was certain he would be angry that I couldn’t pull myself together for our friends.  And I was fully prepared to play the “it’s not fair that men don’t have to attend these things” card.  But he wasn’t angry.  He didn’t criticize. He fully supported my decision and asked about the registry so that he could take care of choosing a gift. 

Feeling validated and supported, I RSVP’d the very next day that I was unable to attend.  I’ve attended many baby showers in my adult life.  Three during our infertility journey.  They were each very difficult and I recall being emotionally exhausted after every single one, but each of those were during a time when we still had hopes of becoming parents.  Though the events were bitter sweet, I could fantasize that it would be our turn one day…..

This shower was different.  It’s the first since we’ve been told we will never be parents.  It is, as I mentioned before, at a time too close to when we shouldve been having a shower for our last embryo, had he made it.  

When I told D I would not be attending, she once again showed kindness that I will forever appreciate. She said she understood which I fully believe. She was also honest and said she was disappointed. Not in me, but for me.  I wanted to tell her its okay if she s disappointed in me.  I wouldn’t blame her or hold it against her for one second, but I didn’t.

I have told many people what a good person D is. But she is more than good. And she is definitely better than I.  I am fairly certain that she would have found the strength and attended my shower if the roles were reversed. This thought leaves me with a sense of guilt, the depth of which that I cannot fully explain, but it doesn’t help me find the courage to get out of bed today, the day of her shower, and attend. 

I hope she reads this one day and knows I hope she has an exciting day full of joy and happiness.  I hope her daughter has a heart like hers and that she grows up knowing how very much she was wanted and loved before she ever took her first breath.  I hope our friendship will survive these awkward times and that I have the strength and opportunities to witness what a wonderful mother I know D will be.