Saturday, April 9, 2011

Every Month - my experience with infertility

There are times that I think I am ready to write about this topic, and then there are all the other times. There are times that it resonates so clearly even after all these years, and then far more times where I feel unworthy of writing about my experience with it.  I look around at people I know who have struggled far longer and endured more heartbreak.  And then I deem myself vastly unqualified

This is something that people ask me about because of my experience as a doula.  Something that I have helped clients with.  Something that I have listened to friends cry on the phone about.  Something that I had to confront personally, albeit relatively briefly.    It is something that you never think will happen to you.  Until it does.

Though no one who knows who I am now without knowing who I've been before would think it, we once struggled with infertility.  It's hard to believe it was a struggle for us, especially given that we can't seem to stop having kids these days. 

That wasn't always the case.

There was a time when we were told we would never be able to have children without a lot of medical assistance.  There was a time when we were told to give up and wait a few years.  There was a time when we didn't know if we'd ever be able to have kids at all.  There was a time when we pooled resources to investigate fertility options.  There was a time.

People who see my children today and don't know the whole story tend to be skeptical.  Surely, there is no way we struggled.  And yet it is the truth.

The hard and painful reality that many couples learn is that getting pregnant, having a baby and forming a perfect little family often doesn't happen the way you envisioned it.  Infertility is one of those things that young people are peripherally aware of, if at all, and assume will never happen to them personally. 

I know that I never thought it would happen to us, certainly not before we were even attempting to get pregnant in the first place.

Our children arrived earlier than we had ever intended, but for a reason.  We had always planned to wait a few years before even starting to try, always assuming that it wouldn't be a big deal to get pregnant.  Then, one day, cancer showed up.  And years before we were even contemplating starting a family, we were being told that there may never be a family at all.

It's not a good place to be in. 

If you are anything like me, having someone tell you something may not be possible only makes you want it more.  We were determined to do everything in our power to try and make it happen.  I was determined.  It worked.  Until it didn't.

I got pregnant, but I didn't stay pregnant.  I lost the baby just shy of 12 weeks.   And then, for a long time, nothing.  That could very well have been our only chance, and it was gone.

Overall, we had about 9 months of trying to get pregnant after that, all the while knowing that it probably wouldn't work.  He'd had radiation treatments which come with a high chance of permanent sterility, but we refused to give up.  Technically, we only had a few weeks of formal infertility.  Of an official diagnosis.

I would never ever want to go back to the place I was in for those 9 months and three weeks.  This is what that time was like for me.

One thing that no one ever warns you about when you are young and in love and idealistic is that sometimes life is cruel and unfair.   Sometimes you can't get pregnant.  And when you want to be pregnant and you aren't, it seems like every other woman in the world is. 

Everywhere you go, all you see are bellies and babies.  Why can they do this?  Why can't I?

You have a friend who gets pregnant.  Or a family member.  Or a co-worker.  And they don't tell you because they don't know how.  You find out eventually.  You smile because you are happy for them, really and truly happy for them.  But inside, you are crying.

You spend too much money on pregnancy tests.  You think this new one that says it can test a few days earlier might be better, so you spend even more on it.  You pee on them and there is nothing.  Every day. 

Every month. 

And then you don't need to waste the money anymore that month.  You bleed. 

And you mourn the loss of something that was never there.

Every month.

Every single month.

You resolve yourself to try again.

You hope.

You chart.

You schedule things that shouldn't be scheduled.

You hope.

Eventually, you buy more tests and start the morning ritual again.

You start to hate your body.

You decide it has failed you.

You decide that maybe you aren't meant to be a mother.

You cry.

You pick up the pieces and do it all again.

You start to feel nauseous and can't decide if it is all imagined in your head or real.

Every month.

Until one day when you swear you see a line.  Except it isn't. 

You get your hopes up, then they are crushed. 

People tell you to relax.  You want to tell them to shut it, but you smile and thank them for their advice.

You cry.

You have dreams about babies and you wake up and there is nothing.

Every month.

I've often wondered what the purpose of the trials of infertility are.  There are plenty out there who believe that everything happens for a reason, but I struggle to see how this could be reasoned. 

Some people get pregnant without trying.  Some people try without getting pregnant. You just don't know in advance which category you will be in.  Until one day when you find yourself justifying buying the 3-pack of pregnancy tests in the drug store because you know you will use them all.

This is a topic that I could write volumes about.  The things we went through, the things people I love have been through.  The things some of my clients went through to get to the point where they hired me.   Every story is different and yet we all share one thing in common.

We know how it hurts to want something you can't seem to have.

Today I am not going to write about all the reasons for infertility or the treatments,  how we eventually had babies or how it shaped our roles as parents.  Because that isn't what today is about. 

Today is about trying to communicate what it was like for me when I was in that place. 

About letting other women who are in that place know that though their struggle is uniquely theirs, they are not alone.

And today, even though it's been more than ten years since I was there, it still hurts.

It still hurts.

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