Monday, May 4, 2015

Thoughts on Infertility: Part 1

I've tried to put down my thoughts on this topic several times over the 6 years we've been working toward starting a family, but it was always really hard because it was too fresh and we were in the middle of it all. Like an argument you just had or the recent death of a loved one, the subject would make me too upset when I tried to accurately describe it. I decided I'd keep it between myself, my husband, and family and close friends. We're now nearing the end of this long and trying part in our life with one IVF cycle left and I can honestly say it will be a relief whether it's successful or not because it's time to move on and I'm ok with that.

The medical details of everything we've done would bore you, so I'll summarize: this book that everyone suggested with all the body temperature charts, Clomid, A.I., mandated weight gain with protein shakes, IVF - four fresh cycles interspersed with many frozen cycles, 3 miscarriages, 2 D&Cs, and tens of thousands of dollars. This upcoming cycle will be our 5th. We sometimes realize that we could have had several cars and foreign vacations under our belts at this point.

Infertility was hard at first. I went through several stages, and the angry part was by far the worst, but I think it's normal. Emotions were high combined with Clomid and other medications as I got used to how I felt on them.  The first year we started IVF was the most difficult. Two of my best friends and two of my sister-in-laws all got pregnant within a month or two of each other. I read their blogs and Facebook posts and would either get mad or cry. Even though it had nothing to do with me, each pregnancy announcement was like a personal attack. I felt like I was somehow falling behind everyone and felt very much alone.

People complaining about their pregnancies or their children invoked bitter mutterings of "at least you can have one. I would give anything for just one child." I hated mommy blogs and wanted to punch multiple women I had never met.

Infertility sucks because, like some other situations in life, you can work really hard and try to do everything right and there can be zero pay-off. Money also can't solve the problem. I wasn't used to this. I would work hard and put in extra hours at my job or at school and then reap the results.  I tried to apply that to our treatments. I was very good at taking all my pills and injections, racing to my appointments for blood draws and ultrasounds during my lunch hour at school and missing fun activities, photography classes, and vacations to go to my surgeries and appointments. I didn't flinch at needles. I took my meds like a pro. I exercised and ate right. But nothing worked. We'd also planned out our lives in what I thought was the textbook "responsible way" so that we'd be prepared for children. I picked a solid major that could bring income immediately, we didn't go abroad for work or pursue extra degrees, we put down roots in an affordable area, we bought a modest house, and we saved a lot. I had the plan down perfectly:
  1. Graduate.
  2. Work for 2-3 years and save.
  3. Have child #1 and stay at home.
  4. Have more kids but space out the rest by at least 3 years.
I was naive. Obviously these types of plans don't work out exactly for anyone. For some reason I just thought they would because I was doing what was right. 

I read a slew of church articles on infertility one day thinking they would boost my spirits and most of them just annoyed me. The majority of them ended in adoption and those stories didn't help. I needed help for now. I didn't feel like there were guides for dealing with the waiting portion gracefully. I also think I wanted to be mad because it felt good. I remember one night I read that someone said it felt good to yell at the universe about your frustrations. I tried that. It was terrible! I turned into a raging lunatic screaming every possible swear word I've ever heard with tears streaming down my face. It didn't help me feel any better but instead quickly escalated into throwing things. I probably cursed every pregnant person I knew at the time - sorry if that was any of you!

John and I had some long talks after that. John is really good at reasoning with people, even people in highly agitated states. First of all, he quickly helped point out that the "let it all out" method doesn't work, at least not for me.  Yelling and getting mad only makes things worse. Reasoning things out calmly and letting go of negative thoughts requires more mental discipline but has better, lasting results. One thing we decided together that has helped immensely through the years is that we would celebrate everyone else's successes. Along with that I had to acknowledge that our infertility and our lives didn't need to be compared to others. Infertility wasn't a punishment from God, a sign I would be a bad mother, a sign of a bad marriage, or that we had to learn specific "lessons" that others didn't. It just was. After this baby showers weren't hard anymore, we tried to be at all the baby blessings we could, and we rejoiced when our friends and family rejoiced as they brought more children into the world.

(Part 2)


Emily said...

Oh Melinda I just want to cry for you. I think you're right; infertility just is. Thanks for your honesty and perspective. Hoping for the best this time around and peace in the waiting. Hugs.

Mary said...

Love this. Love your honesty. You are awesome!

Amanda LeSueur Berns said...

This made me cry. I love you both so so much.

luvsfun said...

So beautiful, poignant, heart-wrenching and honest. Thank you, Melinda.

Your story about screaming and yelling at the universe echos Buddhist beliefs. That type of response is "practicing" anger. Instead, you chose to "practice" embrace the joy of others and have "practiced" love. You, my Dear Friend, have always been an example of love to me. In my darkest hours, YOU were one who loved me.

Camille Ridge said...

Hugs Melinda! I totally get this. My turning point was similar to yours, when I decided I couldn't begrudge others for doing the same thing I would do if I could. I decided baby showers were the only chance I had to buy baby stuff, so I looked forward to them! The pregnancy announcements never got easy, but finding ways that I could enjoy them helped a lot. Infertility is definitely not something we can control, no matter how hard we try, and that's super frustrating. We have to find a way to live a life of joy and service despite the gaping hole. I completely believe in the law of compensation, and know that you and John will be blessed in other ways. It doesn't take the pain completely away, but it eases it just a bit. Keep focusing on the good. You're awesome!

The Carlson Crew said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on such a personal subject. You and John are both amazing people and I look up to and admire you both!

ellen said...

I appreciate your honesty.