In writing this blog, I have three primary motives: one - to help others dealing with infertility to know they aren't alone, two - for my own sanity's sake...getting things off my chest is a great form of therapy when dealing with the tumultuous emotions of infertility and finally - to help all the "normal" "fertile" people understand what a day in the life of someone dealing with infertility is like. Infertility is a disease - a disease of the reproductive system. Yet many people, from our closest friends to insurance companies, don't see it this way. So many other diseases and issues get such great attention. But what about infertility? It often goes untalked about - ignored. While we are suffering from physical symptoms including pain, our emotional pain and scars are much greater and often unseen.
In speaking freely about what I'm struggling with, I hope that somehow I can make a difference and impact someone's life is a positive way. I've been thinking of a way to try to help others understand and relate to what we, men and women with an insatiable desire for parenthood, are muddling through. I've thought long and hard about it. As humans, we have a natural desire to want to procreate. As women however, we have an innate desire not just to reproduce but to become "mommies". What if you think your life's purpose is to be a parent and come to find out that the one, singlemost thing you want and hoped for in life can't happen?
The best way I can try to relate what we are feeling is to think about the pain when a close loved one passes. Each person has a different way of dealing with the hurt, just as we do. The difference is that when someone dies, slowly they begin to heal; eventually the pain dulls with time. The problem is that living with infertility, we relive the hurt each and every month with every failed treatment and every negative test. We don't have time to heal because our wounds are re opened so frequently with bad news. Each time, the pain builds up and is greater. I don't need to explain to you the emotions you feel when someone dies. You have a multitude of emotions because of your loss. We too deal with loss, month after month and time after time. I have experienced both infertility and death and feel that these are the two most painful ordeals anyone can ever experience. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. The difficult part is that at least with death, people usually know of your loss, they usually know you are hurting. But my losses, month after month, seem to go unnoticed. There is nothing in the paper, like an obituary, to convey my loss. People are allowed time to grieve when they lose a loved one and usually others know a little bit how to comfort them. Infertility is a different beast entirely. If I don't speak up, no one will know my pain and even when I do it's expected I resume my usual day to day activities as normally as possible. People are often curious about the medical aspect of what we are dealing with, but FEW people ask us how we are emotionally handling this. The message the world is sending us at times is to "get over it." No one sends flowers, there's no memorial for the loss of a child I've never been able to have. This is why we feel alone, scared, and isolated.
We feel out of control with our bodies as there's nothing much we can do but let doctors poke at us with weird tools in private places, draw endless amounts of blood and inject and ingest endless hormones in the hopes that something will work. If you asked me to ingest anthrax, I'd probably do it. There's nothing worse than going through endless painful tests and procedures, but it's a small price to pay if you are blessed with a precious life in the end. Treatments are expensive, have some health risks and can be invasive but we would put ourselves through just about anything to have what comes so easily to others. At doctor's appointments you feel more like a body part than a person. With the insurance company, you are just a number. With the world, you are just a statistic. We fall incredibly vulnerable to what others say and often could lose it at the drop of a hat. We seem to be holding it together from the outside, but really are a hot mess inside. We have daily responsibilities like any other person, but also need to shovel through our emotions simultaneously. There's no break in thinking about baby making....ask any woman going through infertility and I bet they will tell you they think about it every minute of every day. It can be exhausting and draining. At times the voices in my head are louder than other people talk. It's hard to concentrate and live in the moment. We feel angry and envious of people who have what we desire so much, then guilty for feeling that way. We can beat ourselves up pretty good. Many of us are tapped financially as treatments don't come cheap.
In a world inundated with social media, babies and families are thrown in our faces. Try logging onto facebook or turning on TV and not hear pregnancy or birth announcements. While we are happy for others, we have uncontrollable sadness for ourselves. If someone was dealing with a death of a parent, would you respond with "my parents are still alive", or "at least you have your other parent" ? Probably not. While that may be true, it's insensitive. The difference with infertility is that people on TV, facebook, etc don't realize they are even doing this when making innocent and harmless updates - it's not like we announce every loss we have so how could they know what they are saying is painful for us? I'm not expecting people to not share happy news because I'd do the same if given the chance. There are many days I get bad news for myself only to hear another pregnancy announcement. It can wear on you after awhile is all I'm trying to convey. To put things into perspective, your biggest and proudest moment may be someone else's worst. You wonder, will I ever get a chance to experience their happiness?
Because we're fighting what seems like war, we have gained special insight and perspective on the meaning of life. We have learned many things by firsthand experience such as don't take things for granted. I believe each and every man (don't forget the men) and woman dealing with infertility will make extraordinary parents because we understand how fragile and precious life is by the wounds we acquired. Even for those who will never have the blessing of becoming parents, we are still in our hearts great mothers and fathers.
The Resolve foundation's theme for National Infertility Awareness Week this year is "don't ignore infertility." I can't ignore it. I wasn't given a choice. All of us dealing with infertility have amazing and different stories to be heard...we are all unique but share a common thread with one another. No one story is more important than the other because we are all important. I am choosing to speak up for every man and woman struggling with the same things I do. I can choose to speak up and ask that everyone gives us some much needed support. I can ask that people educate themselves on the topic and ask that people look at it with an open mind.
To start familiarizing yourself with infertility, log onto www.resolve.org