Monthly Archives: December 2014

From the archives of my mind

I saw a great link on Facebook the other day, “The 8 biggest misconceptions about infertility” (oh my gosh, number 7 in droves – I can’t emphasise that point enough and definitely can’t write it better myself!). There are quite a few of these kinds of posts floating around, a never-ending attempt to get fertiles to understand the many intricacies of being infertile, but this was one of the best I’ve seen so far so I thought I’d share it and add a few of my own observations to boot.

For a while now I’ve had friends and family requesting I write a blog post about what they can do to help – what to say, what not to say, how things look from my perspective – and until now (despite a few attempts at starting posts) I’ve held off doing it. There really are so many out there it always seemed a bit unnecessary for me to add to the pile. However, I’ve decided to go ahead and contribute. One, because if this reaches even just one more person and aids in their understanding then it’s worth it; two, because of the post mentioned above; and three because of a line in an email I received that, while intended in the best possible way, has really stuck with me and made me realise that some people still just don’t get it. So here we go:

From my own experiences these are some things you should never say to an infertile:

 

“You guys just need to relax” / “You just need a holiday”

Uh, no. Believe me, we’ve tried relaxing, we’ve tried having a holiday and we’re still not pregnant. Funnily enough because our infertility is not related to any level of stress or busyness in our lives. I have a/various medical issues that are stopping us from having children. I have endometriosis and my eggs, while I have plenty of them, are (to put it very bluntly) fucked. This has nothing to do with my age, my sexual history, or any of the many activities I’ve done throughout my life. It’s simply a truckload of bad luck that has befallen my reproductive system, and no amount of relaxing is going to change that.

 

“If you just give up it will happen”

One of my personal favourites. No, if we give up, we remain childless*. As per the above paragraph, our infertility is a MEDICAL CONDITION. Much like relaxing or going on holiday, giving up is not going to make my endometriosis damage disappear or magically make eggs start working. Giving up means no more chances for children. Zilch. Nada. None. Giving up means us throwing in the towel and accepting that we will never have a child to call our own.

 

“Well you can always adopt”

Yes, we can certainly TRY to adopt. While this can be quite an inflammatory statement for many infertiles, a minimisation of their desire to have a child that is biologically and genetically theirs, this is not the case for my husband and I. We yearn for a child and whether they are genetically related to us or not isn’t a concern. Yes, we’re grieving the fact that we will never have a child that is genetically related to both of us but in reality that is a very minor part of our process. We will and are openly pursuing adoption, unfortunately it’s not as easy as you would think. The statistics rolled out at the adoption evening we went to stated only 5 adoptions in our area in the previous year and 54 couples on the waiting list. Those are not good odds. Even if we make it through the endless tests, evaluations, home visits and referrals, and manage to get our names into the adoption database, the chances of us actually being chosen by a set of birth parents is slim to none. So no, we can’t “always adopt”.

 

“Such & Such’s uncle’s friend’s cousin-in-law tried for years then just did blahblah and surprise they were pregnant!”

While it may seem an inspiring story, and in the initial stages of infertility they often can be, we’re not Such & Such’s uncle’s friend’s cousin-in-law and we never will be. Please don’t compare us to these amazing hard-to-believe success stories, they’re hard-to-believe for a reason, they’re rare. [Insert random person here]’s journey will more than likely be completely different to our own and is therefore likely to have entirely different reasons for success/failure. Not only can it make us feel bad that we’re not doing enough or doing too much, but it can also add extra pressure both financially and emotionally when we feel the need to try and emulate that other person’s journey in the hope it brings success for us too.

 

“Oh, you can have mine!”

I know it’s intended as a joke and I don’t lose my sense of humour entirely just because I’m infertile, but trust me, this far down the infertility track offering up your children is far from helpful. I’m nearly at the point now where I will take people up on this offer and respond with a “Oh sure, totally! Now if you’ll just sign these adoption papers”, only I’m not sure the joke would go down so well when thrown back at the joker. Lord knows I don’t need another stare and awkward silence of ‘this woman is crazy’.

 

“You wouldn’t want children so desperately if you had them, they’re such hard work/so naughty/a handful”

Yes, I would. I know what children can be like, I was a nanny in my younger days, have babysat many a child, and was also pretty much an adult when my younger sister was born, I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. But that’s beside the point. Surely infertiles deserve to experience the joy, trials and tribulations of having children the same as everyone else, regardless of whether they know what they’re getting themselves into or not. I’m pretty sure a large percentage of parents, fertile or otherwise, have no clue as to what having a child involves, so please, allow us the same civilities as the rest of the population. There aren’t many parents who would voluntarily give their kids up once they have them.

 

“I struggled with infertility too, we were trying for [insert number of months less than 12 in here] before we got pregnant”

Now believe me, I’m not trying to minimise your struggle to get pregnant, I know that every month that you’re not pregnant when you’re trying to conceive is a massive disappointment. I know it hurts when you don’t get that positive result month after month, but it is considered perfectly normal to try for a child for up to a year before you conceive. A baby conceived in under a year is not a child conceived following infertility (recurrent pregnancy loss excluded). It may feel like it, once again I know those months can be devastating, but medically speaking infertility is “the failure to conceive following twelve months of (frequent/perfectly timed) unprotected intercourse”. You may be trying to connect and empathise with us in our ‘common struggle’ but, from my perspective at least, you’re more likely to invoke jealously and anger or a conversational disengagement from me. Yes, I feel like a bitter old lady having this reaction but it certainly feels that, when it comes to infertility, I’ve been around the block more than once and would almost kill to have been able to conceive a child in less than a year.

 

So what CAN you do? Well, it’s hard to say because who knows how we’re going to feel on any given day. Best you can do is enquire.

 

Ask us how we’re doing, what’s going on, how we’re feeling.

We’ll soon enough let you know if we don’t want to talk about it. More often than not I’m happy to discuss anything and am just glad that someone’s cared enough to ask. But if we don’t feel like talking, please don’t be offended if we brush you off and change the subject, on those days it’s pure survival mode, we either distract ourselves & change the subject, or cry, and believe me there’s enough crying behind closed doors we don’t want to be having a breakdown in front of you too!

 

Invite us along to your gatherings.

We may decline to attend your child’s birthday party or a social event with loads of kids. We may decline these events often, but please don’t mistake this for us not wanting to attend. The majority of the time we desperately want to join in but the reality of being surrounded by kids, and parents talking about them, is sometimes more than we can bear. Once again it’s survival mode. We’ll try and come along to as much as we can so please continue to ask us. It may seem like it’s not worthwhile, that we’ll say “no” anyway, or that you’re putting everyone in an awkward situation by extending the invitation to ‘the infertiles’, but the alternative is so much worse. By not being invited to events that everyone else gets to go to, and finding out after the occasion, we feel even more alienated from the crowd; that we’re not only losing our child but that we’re losing our friends as well.

 

Remember that we love your kids.

We may not see them often or we may seem a little sad when visiting but please remember that we absolutely adore your children. They’re not only awesome kids, fun to play with, an extension of you (our friends and family), but they also help us to remember why we’re going through this hell of fertility treatments and why we cling so desperately to this rollercoaster of hope. They are all beautiful souls and we love them as if they were our own.

 

Be considerate when announcing your pregnancies.

Take us aside or let us know privately that you’ve expecting a/another bundle of joy rather than including us when you broadcast it to the wider group or pop it up on Facebook. We will be thrilled for you but remember we’re also grieving for ourselves and we need time to process this information and work through our sadness for our own situation before we face the wider world. This may seem selfish but bear in mind we so desperately want what you have (in this sense) and a pregnancy announcement is yet another reminder that we’re lagging behind, unable to participate in the joys (and trials) of parenthood. Please believe me when I say our reaction has nothing at all to do with your happy news, we are absolutely stoked for you and will be there for both you and your child/children always, we may just take a moment to display the appropriate social graces, pop a smile on our face and congratulate you.

 

Don’t get angry or upset when we gaze longingly at your baby bump.

We’re not trying to stare or be offensive, we just so desperately want to have a bump of our own.

 

Understand that we may not publicly congratulate you over social media.

I’m sure some people think it weird that I’ve personally messaged them over Facebook or the like rather than add to the ever-growing congratulatory comments that follow their pregnancy or birth announcement. I may ‘like’ your pregnancy/birth post but I will very rarely comment publically on it. I’m not trying to be strange, I’m merely trying to avoid the onslaught of notifications telling me that someone else has wished you congratulations. Those constant reminders that we may never be in your shoes can be totally soul-destroying. Once again we are truly happy for you but need the space to continue our battle without being reminded of what we’re missing out on.

 

So that’s a start, I hope it helps. If you can add to this list from your own experiences please feel free to do so, I’d love to hear of other people’s thoughts/reactions/experiences too.

 


*I say childless here, for all those up with the ‘childless’ versus ‘childfree’ debate, because for us it will always be childless – while we can handle living without a child and will enjoy life to the fullest were that to happen – it will never be the choice we wanted and hence we are ‘child-less’.


Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas. Possibly the worst time of the year for infertiles. Certainly around here it’s a very child-centric time. For weeks now the conversations at work have revolved around the presents the kids are getting and what everyone is doing with the kids these holidays. Everywhere you look is a reminder of the one thing you don’t have yet desire so desperately. I wish I could say I was a bigger person and could let it all wash over me, but I can’t. This year especially it’s really getting to me. Perhaps it’s because we’re ever closer to having to give up our dream of a child, as failing donor egg IVF the only option is adoption, and to be honest adopting here is rarer than winning the lottery.

It’s awful feeling sad through what should be a happy time. It’s not like I’m having a bad Christmas outside of missing a child. My family are hanging out together, it’s sunny and warm, we’ve got good food and drinks, we’re having fun. There’s just this hole in my heart and an ache in my tummy of something missing. Had everything gone to plan we’d have a two (nearly three) year old now. Heck, even if our first IVF had worked we’d have a near one year old. It hurts.

There are posts all over Facebook of happy family holidays, kids making sandcastles, running around the beach, opening their stockings and other Christmas presents, and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll be able to ever do the same. Even on our walk today there was a sign outside someone’s house announcing the birth of their child. Oh yeah, and my cousin announces he’s going to be a grandfather, his 17 year old daughter is pregnant. Fuck. My. Life. And Merry Christmas.

I haven no idea why people think Christmas is a great time to announce pregnancies. Even if I was fertile I think I’d feel this way, Christmas is already a time of excitement and celebration, why get all the thrill out of the way at once, to drown the pregnancy in the standard buzz of Christmas. If it were me I’d want to spread the hype out over the year, to celebrate Christmas then create a new buzz a month or two down the track. There’s not enough excitement in adult life as it is (not like when you’re a kid and the world is an exhilarating and mysterious place), doesn’t it make sense to extend what excitement there is as much as possible?

Hopefully one day we’ll have a Christmas where we’re creating excitement for our own kids, planning treats and watching their joy as they open their presents. Hopefully this won’t always be a time tinged with sadness and longing, but as we edge ever closer to a childless life, it’s hard to believe that will ever be the case. So we struggle through another Christmas, slap on a smile, hide the tears, and try our best to have a good time. A life split in two and put on hold, living in hope of one day mending our bruised and broken hearts.


Babies & Bahamas

I’m in the Bahamas! I can’t believe I’m actually here. Despite meeting a fair few Kiwi’s while I’ve been here (all but one are involved with the Vertical Blue free-diving tournament that we’re here for), it seems like a place so far away from home and somewhere generally off the itinerary of most New Zealanders. It’s certainly not somewhere I would have thought to head. But I’m here and I’ve never felt more grateful for a trip. A holiday is just what I need right now.

I’m not saying it’s all been smooth-sailing, the trials and tribulations of infertility don’t leave when you cross the border, but it has been nice. The island we’re currently on reminds me a lot of an island back home where we spend a great deal of time over summer. Relaxed, rustic, rural. Somewhere where it’s easy to unwind. I only wish we were here longer.

Despite being the middle of winter, the temperatures have been between 23 & 27 degrees Celsius (73.5 & 80 Fahrenheit) and, other than the warm storm passing through today, it’s largely been sunny. The water is so warm you could stay in it all day (the locals say it’s cold, but to me it’s like a warm water day in NZ), and with all the tagging along I’m doing I’m being well entertained and learning things without feeling like I’m working.

To be honest, I’ve largely managed to ignore my infertility. We’ve seen heaps of babies on our various flights and instead of the pangs of jealousy and hurt I normally feel, I’ve actually smiled, and been happy for the parents. Our second flight from LA to New York was the only time the pain hit hard. I was tired so of course that makes it more difficult to keep a handle on the negative feelings, harder to stay positive, and I’m separated from my husband by the price of our tickets (him in business class, myself in economy). Across the aisle in the plane sits a couple around my age, struggling to find the best way to secure their infant’s capsule to the airplane seat. Oh how desperately I wanted to be in their place! I bit my lip and turned away, distracting myself with a movie and trying not to think about it.

Other than that there have only been a handful of times that I’ve been reminded of our infertility and felt sad on this trip (I think about our infertility all the time so it’s only the reaction to it that I can control). Once was on the beach today, sunbathing before the storm hit. I’m lying in the sun enjoying the surroundings, I’ve watched some diving both from in and out of the water, and am trying to relax, when onto the beach walks a lady with a newborn wrapped tightly against her front, protected from the wind. PANG. I force myself to keep looking, to deal with the emotions and work through the pain. Lucky for me it eases quickly and I can get on with my day.

Until the next pang hits as I check my Twitter feed over afternoon coffee. A Twitter friend has just learned that the donor route is the only way she is likely to have a child and her grief, oh so fresh, drags up my own grief from all those months ago being told the same thing. Despite being completely fine with a donor egg child (should we be lucky enough to have one), and knowing that they will feel like my own child no matter what, the grief at not being able to have your own genetic child never really goes away, and hovers just below the surface ready to pounce on you again and again. The good news is that it definitely gets easier to deal with, easier to manage, to control and to banish back to the depths of your psyche. I can only hope that one day it will be gone completely.

The only other time was a little harder to deal with and took a little longer to work through. We arrive on the island and are introduced to the crew my husband is working with. The girl running the show looks really familiar and it bugs my husband and I for a large part of the day until my hubs thinks he knows who she is and asks her. Yep, it turns out, in the small-world-only-in-New-Zealand way that this girl is the good friend of an old friend, and we actually all used to hang out a bit way back in our early twenties, clubbing, dinner parties, total small-world stuff.

Anyway, early in the evening she mentions she has a young daughter and that this trip is her first time away from her. I know it’s hard for her, being so far away, but I can’t help but feel jealous of that difficulty, knowing that she has a gorgeous child to head home to. Still, I cope and I empathise. Then she casually mentions that the other girl we used to hang out with also has a child, roughly the same age. I have to clench my jaw and fight back the tears. It hurts.

I’ve often wondered if something I’ve done in my past somehow contributed to our infertility, although on the whole I don’t think that’s the case, but hearing that these two have both had children helps to confirm that for me. I haven’t done anything worse than any other people I know in fact, if anything, I was probably a little more well-behaved than many. Luckily it’s near the end of the night and I soon escape back to our room to deal with my emotions in a more private setting.

It’s difficult to explain, especially to fertile people, the pain that even the simplest event or statement can cause. Things that should be all happiness and joy can turn sour in your mouth, can evoke a sadness so deep that you struggle to behave like a normal human being. I often wish that, just for a second, I could transpose my thoughts and feelings onto a big screen to show other people just how hard infertility is to deal with. To illustrate how excruciatingly painful it can be to make that “congratulations” passing my lips heartfelt and genuine (it always is, it’s just hard to make others believe that through the layers of hurt). To illuminate the emotions behind my sadness-tinged smile, an “I’m so happy for you, but so sad for us”, as I meet your gaze across the room. I know that that won’t ease my pain but at least I would seem like less of a freak to those looking on, a hope that there might be a glimmer of understanding that would allow me to progress through my emotional rollercoaster faster.

As much as I love rollercoasters, this is one ride I’d rather get off. Much like the life of a thrill-seeker repeating their thrill, the pain of each infertility reminder does ease with repeat exposure, but it’s always there in some way, holiday or not.

 

 

 


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