Sunday, April 24, 2016

Infertility Awareness Week

Happy National Infertility Awareness Week!  Haha, gotcha.  There's nothing happy or fun about infertility.  I've not experienced feelings so dark or crippling as those that come when I dare to entertain the thought of a childless future.  It can be difficult to talk about this ordeal in our modern time.  From the growing trend of being "childless by choice" to the increasingly popular notion that humans are an environmental stain and population control is a moral necessity, there are rampant unsympathetic personalities at every turn.  I tend to keep our struggles out of  everyday talk, not only  because I want to avoid awkward interactions and don't want to dampen casual conversations by bringing up my personal problems but also because I have witnessed surprising hostility toward people with a desire to procreate, and I'd rather not open the door to those encounters.  I have a bad habit of reading the comments section on articles, and I've been shocked by the reactions from some people.  Everything from, "People who have the need to pass their genes on are selfish" to "there are thousands of children in the foster system waiting to be adopted and you have these egotistical people running around paying thousands of dollars to have their own child."  I fear one day such a confrontation will present itself, and I don't think that would bode well for the other person.  

On top of that, I have had all the "other" conversations with people already, and I've grown tired of having the same conversation.  You try to help others understand how bleak your situation feels, and they always have a suggestion which seems to invalidate those feelings.  Like you shouldn't feel as hopeless and empty and dead inside because you just haven't thought of things from THEIR angle yet.  I want to get it all out here today, for those people with whom I've not had "the" conversation with yet.  You'll find the answer to some of your most burning questions here below, and then some: 

-Yes I have tried relaxing, yoga, essential oils, ovulation predictor kits, charting, diets, exercise, supplements galore.  
-No, I would not like to hear about your husband's cousin's sister-in-law's niece and how she tried to get pregnant for 9 whole months before she gave up gluten then suddenly conceived.
-Yes, I gave up gluten.  And dairy, corn, 99.5% of processed foods and fried food and sugar.
-Yes, my husband has been tested.  He is fine.
-Yes, I know why we're infertile: because of endometriosis.  
-Yes, I've had surgeries, and no that doesn't mean I'll be able to conceive now.
-Everyone in my family is pretty fertile as far as we know.  Seems I'm the lucky one.  
-Thank you, but we're not interested in your womb.  
-No, we haven't tried IVF.  It's not a real option for me, for many reasons.  And I truly believe that if I am meant to carry a child it will happen anyway.  The question is- am I meant to?
-Yes, we have thought about adoption, (and are trying to make this work for us. By the way, have YOU thought about it?  If you're  about it, I hope you're considering it, too.)  Now let me tell you something about adoption.  Beautiful as it is, adoption is not a solution to infertility.  It is an alternative to living a childless life, but adoption is not the solution for the pain caused by infertility.   It can lessen that pain and bring healing to broken hearts.  But when a friend wants to share with you something as personal and tender as her struggle with infertility, suggesting she look into adoption does nothing to acknowledge her pain- the very thing she is trying to help you understand.  Of course it can be hard to understand, but it is important that others do- so they know why we avoid baby showers, why we seem to be in an endless funk, why we're tired, why we don't want to get together, etc.  And if they want to help you, understanding what you feel is critical.  Maybe this will help: 

Infertility is like being lost in a desert with a thirst so intense it penetrates your soul.  The thirst takes on matter and weight- you have to carry it, and it's heavy.  The only way to get to the water you so desperately desire is to keep wandering through the unforgiving terrain until you've reached the other side.  You encounter mirage after mirage: cool pools of crystal water that seem to taunt you as you fight to put one foot in front of the other- at times the water seems close enough to touch but as you approach it vanishes, leaving you overcome with confusion, despair, and an overwhelming sense of loss- though the water wasn't ever yours anyway.  You pass other travelers on the way and can't understand why you're the only one who appears to be lost.  They know exactly where they are and have water but are unable to give you any- your encounters with them make you feel even more alone and lost: it doesn't seem fair that they have the water you are desperate for; they aren't even lost and they haven't been in the desert as long as you have.  The longer you are lost in the desert, the more you come to believe you will never taste the water you seek.   This changes you as a person.  You used to be the kind of person who loved to think about the other side of the desert and all the wonderful things you'd find there.  You loved water and had always been drawn to it.  Now you are so consumed by its absence that you question whether you even believe it awaits you anymore, and as the symbol of what you lack, your feelings for it have become conflicted.  You are not sure whether you love or hate it.  You become weary as you trudge through the deep sand, each step more agonizing than the last as the weight of your thirst settles into every part of you.  Yet you forge ahead because the alternative is to stay lost in the desert with your unquenchable thirst forever more, which actually begins to look more appealing the longer your journey takes... 

(Adoption might be like finally arriving to the other end of this desert only to discover that you are at the beginning of a new desert and the water is on the other side of THAT one.  And there are also mountains in this desert you will have to climb despite the fact that you already feel like you could collapse from exhaustion.  Oh, and you have to pay $25,000-$40,000 to make the journey... We don't care where the water comes from, but we're not sure we have the energy and heart after traveling through one barren desert to make through another.  We will make that journey if and when we find the calling, the strength, and the resources.)  

-Yes, we know adopting from foster care is practically free.  But we are still wandering in our desert, having given everything to finding our way out.  We are not in a mental or emotional state to deal with the very broken foster care system.  We do not want to grow attached to a child that will be reunited with its birth family.  We are not ready to accept a child with severe emotional problems.   
-Yes we know "everyone" wants an infant.  So do we.  We want to bond with our child from before birth, but if that is not possible for us, we'd like to bond with our child from infancy. 
-My doctor says he can't give us a statistic on how likely we are to conceive because for each woman it is either 100 or 0 percent.  Part cop-out, part true.  
-Yes, I take shots, get blood drawn, have ultrasounds, and take fertility meds monthly.  
-Yes, I know I "have time."   (Saying this to an infertile friend is not comforting.  It translates to "I can tell you're really upset, but I want to deflect this discomfort I feel by changing the subject and offering a bit of encouragement that does nothing to speak to your feelings or struggle.")    

These are real conflicts that we grapple with every day.  Some days we can distract ourselves from how dreadful we feel, and other days it takes over and we have no control over our emotions.  There is never a moment we are not thinking about our journey and trying to put on a pleasant face for functioning through life.  Please be patient and understanding with us.  


  1. I am so glad that you are bringing awareness this week. You made so many good points!