Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Infertility Identity

After my last post about constantly being asked about my reproductive plans, it occurred to me that perhaps I should take a little more responsibility for all of this. Maybe instead of being part of the Problem I should be part of the Solution.

Statistically, how likely is it that I've made it to my mid-30's without having one friend or acquaintance that I know of who has undergone fertility treatments? Over the past year, I've heard of a few "friend of a friend" stories ("my sister's husband's co-worker's former roommate did IVF twice and now she has triplets!") but I've never actually known anyone personally who has struggled with infertility.

But then I wonder, how many of my friends and acquaintances would say the same thing? Little do they know.

It seems that when I joined the Infertility Club, I actually signed up for a secret society where all the members make up fake names like "longingforbaby35," and gather in underground chat rooms to discuss the intimate details of our cervical mucous and number of times we have sex a month and to lament about another baby shower at work for Fertile Francine in Accounting. Yet, few of us actually tell people in our real lives that we are going through this.

I recently saw an interview with Mariah Carey where she went as far as to tell Barbara Walters about taking progesterone during her pregnancy with twins, and yet, the words "IVF" were never mentioned. At one point, Barbara asked Mariah, in the same "about to dig up some dirt" tone that she might use to ask Lindsy Lohan if she's still snorting coke, "Did you use any....fertility treatments?" Mariah, of course danced around the topic, and who could blame her for not wanting to tell Babs about how she took twice daily shots of hormones derived from a pregnant woman's pee (bet you didn't know that, did you?) and yelled at poor Nick Cannon not get to close to her or he might burst her bulging ovaries, only to see the headline "Mariah Carey Gives Birth to Test Tube Babies" splashed all over the tabloids next time she's in line at the grocery store.

It just seems easier to simply smile and say "we're thinking about it" than to actually tell people the truth about trying to get pregnant. Or, in my case, smile, say "we're thinking about it" and then make a list in my head of all the things I wish I could say, such as:

"Oh, we'd love to have kids! My husband told me that if I swallow the sperm, it will get to my stomach faster, but we've been trying that for months and it's not working."


"Well, if we had kids, I'd have to give up my heroin addiction, and rehab is so expensive."

or perhaps,

"We plan to have kids someday, but first my husband needs to get his gun collection out of the closet or there will be no place for the baby to sleep."

It's as if actually saying "we've been trying for months, we can't get pregnant, we're doing IVF" would somehow be more shocking.

I'm sure that for some of us, the questions and discussions that would follow a revelation like that seem more taxing than the questions that we are hearing now. But I wonder if for most of us, the reason that we're not telling is that we are not quite willing to turn "Infertility" into a part of our identity. Suddenly, we're not the childless friends--annoying, but it implies that at least maybe we had a choice. We're the infertile friends.

But when we keep quiet, we turn infertility into Something to Be Ashamed Of, like being an unwed mother or watching porn. And then we start to feel ashamed. Something is wrong with me. Everyone in the entire world can get pregnant except me. I did something to deserve this. It's my fault for not being nice enough/thin enough, for being too selfish and focusing on my career or waiting for the perfect partner while the clock was ticking.

Personally, I'm tired of being ashamed. This is not to say that I will stand up at the next dinner party, clink my fork against my glass and say "We have an announcement! We are infertile!"

But maybe I'll try a little harder to stop blaming myself and to start thinking more along the lines of:

"Thank god I waited for the right man and didn't marry my college boyfriend or I'd have 4 kids and divorce papers right now."

"Thank god I focused on my career so I could afford a nice home for my eventual child."

"Thank god that I did all the wild, fun, selfish things that I wanted to do before having kids or I might resent them and feel like I missed out."

"Thank god I didn't spend my life as a size two, or I might be an unhealthy diet-obsessed person who passes that onto my daughter."

"Thank god I went through this infertility thing because it made me so much clearer on the fact that I am meant to be a mother. I will be such a patient and loving parent when this baby finally arrives."

And maybe the next time someone asks about my reproductive plans, I'll say "we've been trying for months, we can't get pregnant, we're doing IVF." and someone who overhears me will come up after and say "me too."

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Infertility?

"So are you guys thinking about having kids soon?"

I counted 5 times last month that someone (different) asked me this question. 5 well-meaning Fertile Myrtles whose little bundles of joy toddled through my living room or screamed through lunch while they interrogated me about my own reproductive plans. I understand why they're asking, and a few years ago, before I stumbled into the Land of Infertility and no amount of clicking my heels together could get me back home, I might have been oblivious enough to ask a friend the same question without even thinking twice.

After all, I'm a happily married 30-something with a flexible part time job and a husband who is gainfully employed. We own our own house, have savings and retirement accounts and family nearby who are dying to babysit. We spent our 20's getting advanced degrees, traveling, and spending leisurely weekends sleeping in, reading the newspaper and going out for brunch. What is there left to do? What could we possibly be waiting for?

Right. What could we be waiting for?

Intellectually, I understand that when someone easily becomes pregnant after a couple of rolls in the hay, (or even worse--one "Oops! He promised he'd pull out and now look what we got 9 months later!" moment) it doesn't occur to them that it might be hard for some people. But emotionally, I can't help wanting to smack those people. Because I've come to realize that if someone makes it to their mid-30's and seemingly has everything going for them on the kids front, except for actually producing the kids, then maybe it's a sign that you should quit asking.

I don't mean to sound bitter, and most of the time I'm actually not. I'm usually thrilled for my reproductively-talented friends and I adore their little darlings, but as I approach my second IVF cycle, after a year and a half of TTC, months of blood tests, HCGs, ultrasounds, discussions about my sex life with REs and urologists, hundreds of trips up and down the stairs carrying food, drinks and movies after my husband's varicocele surgery, thousands of miles logged on the drive from my house to the RE's office and back at 7 in the morning, more needles used than your average heroine addict (blood draws, acupuncture, hormone injections), giving up dairy, giving up wheat, replacing dairy and wheat in my diet with the most vile herb concoctions you could possibly imagine, enough green tea to hydrate a small Chinese village, supporting the entire staff of the Whole Food's Vitamin department with my purchases alone, one extremely invasive procedure where a bunch of eggs were snatched from my over-ripe ovaries followed by another extremely invasive procedure where they were shoved back inside me, all culminating in...drum roll giant BFN, I'm a little over "So are you guys thinking about having kids?"

Um, are we thinking about anything OTHER than having kids????

So here I find myself, suddenly a Platinum member of the Infertility Club, full of advice on how full your bladder really needs to be for ET, what is an ideal FSH number, the best way for DH to administer POI and how to de-stress during the 2WW until you can POAS or AF arrives. (If you don't know what any of those abbreviations mean, lucky you.)

As I mentioned previously, IVF #1 was a bit of a bust, but onward and upward for IVF #2! The first time around I left it all up to the doctors, thinking that they had it under control and I could finally chill out (vile herb concoctions? down the drain! cheese and bread? my new BFFs! ) and let them do all the work. This, obviously didn't work so well for me, and all I got for my IVF #1 (lack of) effort was a month of migraines and a stress level that could shatter glass. So for IVF #2, I plan to be more intentional, as they say, and spend some time focusing on things that will make me feel as healthy as possible, and as in control of the process as one can possibly be during the insanity that is the world of ART.

This is my record of my journey. To anyone else who is also going through this process--I hope my experience can help you in some small way, or at least help you to realize that you are not alone. And baby dust to you!