Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reason 4 Infertility Sucks: Because unless you get it, you just don't get it.

It's like a club.

A club you're not in, til you're in.

The Infertile Club. The Gimpy Uterus club, or perhaps the Drowning Swimmers club, or anything in between.

A club we don't particularly *want* more members in, we wouldn't wish this on anybody, but when someone new arrives we are welcoming, and frankly, we are somewhat relieved. Because it means we aren't freaks. Our abnormality, as it were, is normalized. The more people that are freaks like us, the less we feel like outcasts.

And those who aren't in the club, will never understand what it's like to be in the club. They may try to understand. Or they may not bother.

Those who don't bother say things like "Oh, just relax. You're too uptight about it." I agree, my stress level is up. After not getting pregnant for 5 years (that's 60 cycles, thanks for asking), undergoing exhaustive, expensive, invasive tests, after telling a room full of strangers about my sex life, after being told my best shot at getting pregnant is $10K and a test tube, my zen is strangely lacking. Can't imagine why.

Or like "Why don't you just do IVF? It worked for J-Lo and Brangelina, how hard can it be!" While I appreciate the comparison to slightly psychotic A-list entertainers, I'd like to inform you that the mass media is perhaps not the best source for IVF information. Just sayin.

Or maybe "Oh, you don't want kids anyway, I'd give anything to be able to sleep in like you do!" Yes, two hours of sleep on the weekend is something I've striven for my entire life and I find it extremely fulfilling, much like motherhood would be, I imagine!

Those who try to understand will say things like,

"I'm sorry." Yeah, so am I.

"It's so unfair, and I wish I could do something to help you." Yes, it is unfair. And I wish you could, too.

But those who get, it, those who are in the club, will say things like:

(After you get a pregnancy announcement) "I'm coming over with a large jug of wine." God, thank you.

"I'll pick you up at the hospital after your D&C." You will understand that I don't feel like talking. You will leave me with a bottle of advil and a blanket. And you will check up on me to ensure I have enough trashy magazines to get me through.

"I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but this is totally going to happen for you." I needed to hear that, because there are days when I'm ready to give up.

Those who are in the club get it. Those who are in the club really understand why every pregnancy announcement sucks. They really understand why IVF or Clomid or any other medical intervention are nothing to sneeze at. They understand why there are days you can look at the kids' clothing section, and days when you put your head down and rush past it as fast as you can. They understand how there are times you can totally hang out with your Mommy friends who are all going to talk about poop and when to feed solids, and then there are times when you totally can't bear it.

Not everyone gets it. And it seems in order to get it, you have to really get it. And that sucks for everyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reason Three Why Infertility Sucks: Mind Games.

Oh come on, you know you've thought it too.

Maybe the reason we aren't able to have kids is because we aren't supposed to.

It's insidious. You can't help it, especially when you get a diagnosis that everything is your partner's fault or even worse, when they can't find any good reason for your uterus to still have a "for rent" sign on it.

"Dunno, perfectly good wiring and piping, entryway's to code, nice fresh coat of paint, good neighbourhood, price is right. No idea why nobody wants to move in." If you ask prospective tenants, they say "I'm not sure what was wrong with it.. the vibe just seemed off."

The vibe is off indeed. On a bad day, that's the only reason my brain can muster for a diagnosis of "unexplained infertility". His Ys aren't feelin my Xs. We have a basic chemical conflict. Our genes don't match. I married the wrong man.

It's all crap, of course. Our marriage is good. We love each other, and what's more, we usually even like each other. Moreover there is no scientific reason to believe that he'd be any more successful at procreation with anyone else, nor would I.

Except you can't help but think it.

There's the practical, scientific brain: "Maybe there's just some little thing wrong with me, and combined with some little thing that he must have wrong, it means that we can never have kids, but if either one of us was with someone else, we'd both be OK and be parents by now, except we'd have to be sleeping with each other on the side because I couldn't live without him, OMG I'm a whore."

OK, maybe not so scientific.

There's the irrational, selfish brain: "IT'S HIM and this is all his fault."

There's the irrational, self-loathing brain: "IT'S ME and this is all my fault."

And then there's the irrational, completely psychotic brain: "OMG, it's the universe saying that our progeny would be the antichrist and we never should have gotten married and I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE HIS CHILD. But that means my supposed to be husband is off having kids with someone else! But whose child should I have had by now? Brad Pitt's? OMG."

It's hard enough to be married. I'm a realist. There's enough difficulty in sharing a home, a dog, a life with someone without having to deal with infertility. And as if the struggle of infertility itself wasn't enough, it brings with it an innate insecurity about our choice of life partner, even a little teeny subliminal bit, a little piece of you that says This Isn't Supposed To Be Like This, and Did I Make The Wrong Choice? It doesn't make you a bad person. It doesn't mean you're *right* when you briefly think "if I was but married to someone else everything would be fine", because of course it wouldn't be. In that case, you'd be married to the wrong partner and even if you were having kids, you'd be having kids with the wrong man. Your husband is the right man to be married to, rest assured.

But it sucks that this infertility business makes you question that, too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Infertility Sucks: Pregnant people.

Reason number two why infertility sucks.

There are things that everyone wants in their lives that they can't get.

You want to buy a house, but you can't afford it.

You want more than anything to be a doctor, to get in to Medical school.

You want to travel to Italy, to see that beautiful country.

You want to have a baby.

A dream is a dream. None are more worthwhile, more beautiful, than any other. Dreams are the precious heart's desires of someone, of anyone. My sympathy, it is boundless for those who want something, want to move on with their lives and reach a goal, live a dream, and who cannot for some reason.

With each kind of suffering, there is a certain uniqueness, a certain kind of pain that no other suffering faces. It's not a "worse" pain, it's not a more "noble" pain, and by the way that's a great way to alienate people, to tell them how much worse your suffering is than theirs. Because the thing is, no suffering is "worse" than any other. It's not a contest. Each miserable person is miserable in their own way.

The uniqueness, then, of the infertility suffering, is the constant bombardment on all sides of people who are having babies, who are getting the thing that you want, the thing that consumes you, that is always in the back of your mind, but that you can't have. Our pain is going into a bakery on a random Thursday afternoon and bumping into yet another friend giving you the news that they're pregnant, that the thing you want is the thing that they are getting. It's turning on the TV or open the latest gossip rag to see yet another flaky celebrity pregnancy rumour.

And you know, you don't begrudge them, you know that there's not a limited amount of fertility in the world. You know that someone else getting pregnant has no impact on whether you will get pregnant, but you still feel kicked in the gut that it was so easy for them, that it should be so easy for everyone, and yet another cycle, another month, another year is passing you by, and everyone else is doing what you wish so dearly you were doing but that you cannot do.

And the real kicker here is that you is not just hearing the stories of pregnancies, but the stories of unwanted pregnancies, of people who get pregnant and who don't want to be pregnant, for whom pregnancy is a disaster. And you aren't angry at the person, you know that every life is different and babies aren't for everyone, but you're angry at the universe for just not fucking making sense.

And you sit there, and you know how much this sucks, and you don't want to alienate anyone who's facing their own demons by telling them how much better it is to be suffering the way they're suffering than the way you're suffering because that's bullshit anyway. Every kind of suffering, of want, is unique. And there are things about not achieving every other dream that us infertiles don't have to face.

But this, this constantly being surrounded by fucking pregnant people, this is the pain that is unique to us. And we've learned to adapt. We get the "I'm pregnant!" announcements and we'll smile and say "congratulations" while we silently absorb a kick in the gut and try to extract ourselves conversation as quickly as possible, not willing to break down in front of them and become a massive downer while they want to celebrate their happy news, not wanting to face the sympathy in their faces when they say "So, any news with you....?" And we know we're being rude, but the thing is we don't *want* to make the pregnant person feel guilty by crying in front of them so we run, run as fast as we can in the other direction in order to not lose our shit publicly. Or we quickly change the channel or slap the magazine closed, wanting to watch or read about something other than babies, because babies consume everything that we do and it is just nice to do something that doesn't have anything to do with babies, to go to the bakery or turn on the TV and not have the reminder that someone else is pregnant and you are not at every turn.

So that's why infertility sucks: because the bottom line is, it fucks with our ability to be happy for anyone else. It's totally perverse.

Why Infertility Sucks: Friends Without Benefits

Here is the first reason infertility sucks.

Everyone has friends. At least, I hope you do. Or at least I hope that if you don't have any, you like it that way. At any rate, let's go with the assumption that people have friends. Lovely friends. Friends in their peer group - people they met through school, through work, through other friends. People who are generally in the same age bracket with some of the same interests, although not everything because that would make it all pretty dull to hang out with a bunch of people exactly like you, because as much as you rock, 30 of you would be kind of mundane.

And the thing is, they are really not exactly like you anyway, because through some miracle, all of these friends are somehow able to have children. And even though they don't mean to, even though they swear they won't, eventually, you see your friends less and less. You simply don't fit in to their lives anymore. And soon, sooner than you think, you find yourself pretty much friendless.

It's natural. Life changes, when you have a kid. And when your friends start making all their changes with their children, you simply get left behind.

The family eats earlier, because the kid needs to eat by 6 pm to be able to go to bed by 7:30. Non-parents don't eat til later, because good lord, why wouldn't you? Dinner plans between parents and non-parents are logistically impossible.

Non-parents can go out after work for a drink, socializing with their friends. Parents have to go pick up kids at daycare. Socializing is impossible.

Non-parents don't get invited to events where kids are present, things like birthday parties or playdates (and let's be fair, playdates are just as much for the Mom/Dad as they are for the kid) because what's the point? They don't have kids, they won't want to spend their afternoon surrounded by them. Won't it just remind them of the fact that they don't have children? No, best not to invite them to the cottage/birthday party/whatever other event you're spending with other Grownups With Kids.

And besides, you're not an ideal companion anymore anyway. You're missing a "part". You don't have a kid for their kid to play with, so that automatically makes you less fun, less desirable as a weekend companion.

I could go on, but you get the point. I am also not crazy about the idea of listing the many ways in which we've been neglected, because despite the fact that this is my blog, I don't want to spend the entire time whining. I don't begrudge parents their children; I do understand why they've made the changes in their lives that are resulting in me seeing my friends less and less and less.

I'm just trying to tell you something here, that when you're trying to understand what it's like for people who want kids and can't have them, the pain isn't just the empty spare room. It isn't just having to duck your head and scurry by the cute kid's clothes that you'd love to be buying when you're out shopping. It's the fact that everyone around you is moving on to the next phase of their lives, the parent phase, and you are unintentionally but inexorably left behind. You've been with your friends for years, through the thick and the thin, through the school and the job and the bad boyfriends and the good boyfriend and the wedding and the crazy parents. And this is the first time your friends are doing something that you are not, that you want to do but you cannot. You are solely and uniquely left behind.

And it sucks.