I’ve been ambivalent about writing a blog post for a while now. With FET #2 looming, I’m afraid of getting sucked into that mindset where I live and breathe infertility. Been there, done that. I don’t want to do it again.
If only it were that easy.
Early on, before I had the official diagnosis of infertility, I encountered the advice to “just relax.” The conventional wisdom boiled down to this: Don’t think about it. Have some drinks, chill, enjoy your time as a couple. Go on vacation. Don’t plan. It’ll happen when you aren’t even trying.
Obviously, this is terrible advice for those experiencing infertility. But, in defense of my friends and family, their advice really wasn’t that bad for a normal, fertile couple.
I would love to live my life according to the “just relax” mantra. It’s a pretty sweet deal. You mean, we can just go back to our normal, care-free existence, and still get pregnant in a year or so? Sign me up!
Infertility Demands Your Attention
“Stop trying so hard.”
This one-size-fits-all advice starts to lose its relevance once infertility is thrown into the mix. Infertility demands your attention.
When we were diagnosed with infertility, we entered into a bizarre world of uncertainty where statistics offer guidance but no guarantees. Every day, we try to balance the hope that the latest ART (assisted reproductive technology) will work, with the reality that no acronym (IVF, ICSI, PGD) can predict the ending to our story. After a point, it boils down to trial and error.
Despite this, we have to move forward. And moving forward often means making too many decisions with too little information.
- Should we spend $4,000+ to have our embryos genetically tested? Will this decrease our chances of having another miscarriage?
- What if the miscarriage was caused by my screwy body and not a chromosomal abnormality?
- In that case, is it better to save $4,000 toward adoption?
- How can we afford adoption?
- Do I have the emotional grit to withstand more failed cycles or miscarriages until we choose the”right” embryo?
Moving forward also means hard work. It’s difficult to stay detached and unemotional when you find yourself…
- waking up at 4:30 AM to get blood work and ultrasounds
- giving yourself daily injections & taking a ton of pills
- waiting for the nurse to call when you’re at work and not knowing if today’s voicemail will be neutral, hopeful, or devastating.
- spending hours on hold with the insurance company
- scheduling an endless line of saline sonograms & minor uterine surgeries
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Alex and I are lucky enough to have embryos in the freezer and insurance coverage for infertility. I would imagine that list only becomes more complex for the many couples who are not as lucky.
Crawling Across the Dessert
The winter that I was diagnosed with infertility, I was kind of obsessed with Joanna Newsom’s song, Only Skin. As with everything Joanna Newsom writes, the lyrics are lengthy and cryptic. Despite having no fucking clue what the song was actually about, I latched on to one line at the end of the song:
but I’m starving and freezing in my measly old bed
then I’ll crawl across the salt flats to stroke your sweet head
come across the desert with no shoes on
I love you truly, or I love no-one
Dramatic, I know. Penchant for drama aside, though, the imagery of crawling across the desert resonated with me. If my second year of infertility had a theme song, this would be it.
I refer to infertility at that point in my life as a desert, because that’s what it felt like. I didn’t like being there. It was barren, harsh and alien compared to the life Alex and I used to lead. I know it’s easy to see the past with rose-colored glasses. But, the period directly before our infertility (2012-2014) was an overall happy, carefree time for us. Once 2014 hit, we entered a world of uncertainty, which was only further exacerbated by Alex’s unexpected job loss and subsequent hell-commute to his new job in the city.
By 2015, I wanted OUT of this desert. With a year of hardship behind me, I couldn’t turn around. I sure as hell didn’t want to stay where I was. So, I just kept on crawling forward.
You can’t “just relax” your way out of infertility
Alex and I spent most of 2015 pursuing fertility treatments. Meanwhile, everyone on earth seemed to be announcing pregnancies or having babies. I often felt I was crossing a metaphorical desert.
After we miscarried, we spent November 2015-June 2016 waiting to try again. First we were on a break, then we were waiting for surgery. Meanwhile, everyone on earth was still announcing pregnancies and having babies.
I still feel like we’re crossing that metaphorical desert. With two and half years behind us, we can’t turn around. So we just keep trudging forward. Trudging forward has meant giving up our apartment and moving in with my parents to save for adoption. Trudging forward has meant a third surgery and two saline sonograms to be extra sure that my septum can’t cause a miscarriage. And as excited as we are to FINALLY be in FET Cycle #2, we’re still trudging through that desert. I’m going for monitoring 1-2 times a week, taking 9+ oral meds each day, and injecting 1 ml of progesterone in oil into the muscle of my butt every night.
There’s just no way around it: Infertility changes your world.
Infertility has profoundly shaped the person I am today. It has been a part of my life experience for over two years now. I can’t just pretend my infertility doesn’t exist and carry on with life as normal.
Tending our Garden
So, yeah: We’re still in that desert. But that doesn’t mean life has to suck.
This summer, Alex and I applied for a community garden. Even though we were late in the game, we acquired the last 15’X30′ plot. A few weeks ago, we planted 30 different types of vegetables and herbs: bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, radishes…you get the idea. Even though we are relatively new to gardening, we are having a blast.
So, being the English teacher I am, I’d like to add to the desert metaphor for 2016: We may still be in the desert, but we are going to plant the shit out of that sucker this year.
Infertility is part of my life, but it doesn’t rule my life. Infertility is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am.
In the past year, we’ve done IVF, miscarried, moved, had more surgery, waited, watched our our would-have-been due date come and go, and still have no resolution.
However, in the past year, we’ve also acquired a lot of positives:
- Alex snagged a job 5 minutes away from home. No more hell commute!
- I’ve started yoga classes again at a great studio
- We’ve been hiking more
- We have time to brew beer again
- I’ve been reading, writing & listening to podcasts a hell of a lot more
- And, last but not least, the community garden plot
The truth is, we don’t know how long it’s going to take us to cross this desert. So we may as well make it as pleasant of a place as possible. I have a lot of good feelings about 2016. It’s been a tough year at times, but it’s also been lovely, with a lot of bright spots. Let’s keep those bright spots coming.