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.