Decisions

I’ve meant to write a new post so many times over the past few weeks, but haven’t been able to figure out what to say. I feel like I should be writing an obligatory 2014 wrap-up post, but I don’t really know what that would look like for me. It’s been an incredibly hard year – one of my hardest – and I don’t want to focus too much on the details. In many ways, though, I’ve been feeling like I have a pretty significant crossroads in front of me, and I’m not sure where I want life to take me from here. I have plenty to say on that topic, so I guess this is my version of reflecting on where I’ve been and what might be in store for the next bit of my life.

Graduation is coming up in just a few short months, and it’s time to start planning for life after school. It’s time to decide what kinds of jobs I want to apply to and which places we might like to move to. As we’re closing one chapter of our lives and moving on to another, it’s also time to decide where we want to go on our infertility and family building journey.

We started trying for a baby a year before I entered my Master’s program. It’s hard to believe that I am now almost finished with that program and still don’t have a baby. If I had gotten pregnant quickly, as I thought I would, I probably would have postponed grad school for a year or two. Pregnancy and a baby was our first choice, but since that dream was not realized right away, we decided that we would both move forward with our career goals until our non-pregnant status quo changed.

I think back on all the conversations we have had about how we would work things out if we had a baby while going to school. Each month, we would think forward to where we would be in 9 months: what semester we would be in, where the breaks would fall. We stayed up late, wondering if it would be too difficult to balance studying, teaching, and being pregnant at the same time, but knowing that it would be worth it in any case. We discussed who would work what jobs and how much time we would take off and what kind of class load we each could handle, and we reminded ourselves that our student schedules afforded us a large degree of flexibility that would serve us well as new parents. As it turns out, none of that conjecturing was necessary.

28 cycles later, I’m tired of pretending that my sole focus is on my schooling and my work, when in reality this is only my plan b, the path I have followed because I didn’t know what else to do. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I am studying and am excited to be moving further along in my career. It seems so hollow, though, when I can’t have the one thing I want most.

At the same time, I’m tired of the unending ups and downs of infertility. I’m tired of constantly being aware of what cycle day I’m on and of keeping track of how often and when we’ve had sex. I’m tired of waking up early every single morning to stick a thermometer in my vagina. I’m tired of peeing on test after test and of subjecting myself to ultrasounds and blood draws with doctor after doctor, watching my bank account decline just to hear, time and again, that they can’t find anything wrong and that I should move on to treatments.

The thing is – I don’t know if I’m ready to jump into treatments. A couple of months ago, I thought I was ready for an IUI. We decided to wait until after the holidays, though, and now I’m not so sure. Part of the problem is that moving on to treatments seems so final. My doctor has told us that they would do three IUIs, then recommend that we move on to IVF. There is of course a possibility that all it would take is one IUI, but I think I’m scared that we would fail all of those treatments, and be left completely broken and hopeless. I would almost rather stay where I am, where I still have hope that it could happen naturally, especially since we are unexplained. We really don’t know if there is anything wrong, and it’s hard to pour so much money into fixing this when it is all so uncertain.

And that’s the other thing – money. As grad students, we don’t exactly have a luxurious income. It’s more than enough to meet our needs and it would easily cover the costs of a baby, but it’s not enough for all the costs of treatments, especially since we have no infertility insurance coverage and would be paying out of pocket. The costs of what we have done so far have already been quite overwhelming. We have a good chunk of money in savings, but I’m not sure that draining it at this time is the best way to go, and we’re not willing to go into debt for treatments at this point in our lives. Maybe it would be better to wait until we are more settled, with stable jobs and incomes, before moving forward.

I don’t know. On the one hand, perhaps I’m being naive, and we should try at least one IUI in the next few months. At this point, it’s pretty unlikely that we would conceive on our own, and postponing treatments just means that we’ll have to wait longer for our baby. On the other hand, I think it might be good for both of us to take a break from the whole baby-making business for a while. The sadness and emptiness wouldn’t go away, but perhaps some of the stress and anxiety would dissipate if we took a few steps back. I feel like we’ve been living under a fog for so long now, and I want to break free and enjoy our lives by diving into something else that can provide meaning and fulfillment.

We still can hope for a miracle, and maybe we’ll get lucky on our own. The way I see it right now, if we absolutely do need help to get pregnant, we might as well wait until we are at a better place in our lives before getting that help. We have age on our side, so there is no pressure from my biological clock for a few more years.

I worry, though, that we might have a problem that will get worse over time. What if we miss our opportunity by not being more proactive? I don’t know if I could forgive myself if we found out down the road that our issues could have been solved, but it was too late because we waited.

Also, does my reluctance to jump into treatments mean that I am not ready for a baby, or that I am not committed to becoming a parent? I don’t think it does, but I worry about that as well. I worry that those we have told about our situation might judge us for our decisions, assuming that we don’t really care if we’re not willing to do anything at all and make any sacrifices necessary to get pregnant as soon as possible. I have to remember though that people will judge no matter what we choose, and I know my heart. If I were to get pregnant naturally, I would be 100% ready and committed. I am ready for a baby, but I don’t feel ready for treatments, at least not right at this moment. I’m not sure I’ve let go of the old dream of how I thought it all would happen.

I know that most women who have gone down these paths no longer care how they get pregnant; they would give anything just to get a positive test, regardless of how it happened or how many doctors or procedures were involved. These women might be shaking their heads at me, and I hope I don’t make light of their situations by saying this, but I’m just not sure that I’m at that point yet.

I’m not sure I want to relinquish my fragile hope that we could still conceive on our own, and, somehow, in my mind, starting our first treatment cycle seems to signal giving up that hope. I desperately want a baby, but I also want to be sure that we’re doing in this in the best way, especially since we do (presumably) have time to spare. I want to be sure that we’re taking our mental health and our financial situation into consideration. If we have the possibility of making this whole process that much easier for ourselves by waiting for a while, shouldn’t we at least consider it?

These decisions of where we should go next have been hanging over me for the past couple months, and I really don’t know how I am going to resolve them. There are pros and cons each way, and I know that no one else can tell me what we should be doing (although I am sure everyone could offer an opinion). At least in this moment, my heart is telling me to take a break. Not a permanent one, but at least for a month or two, to gather myself back together. Maybe even for a year or longer, to allow us to get settled into the next new chapter of our lives, which will probably involve a move and new jobs, before returning to the world of doctors and needles and ultrasounds.

I’ve been reminding myself that my story is my own, and it’s okay if it ends up looking very different from that of those around me in real life or in the online infertility world. Sometimes it almost seems like there is a competition of who’s been at this the longest and who has endured the most treatments. Really, these comparisons don’t help. My story is my own, and I need to do what is best for me. I don’t know when this journey will end, or what that ending will look like, but I really do want to be sure that I am careful and intentional in each of these decisions that I am making.

Unexpected places

I’m doing something new this week and writing my first Microblog Mondays post. Head over to Stirrup Queens if you’d like to read more #MicroblogMonday posts. 

Microblog_Mondays

I’ve been taking a few steps back from the craziness of actively trying to conceive and infertility over the past couple of weeks, letting go just a bit so I can try to climb out of the misery that was taking over my every moment. I’ll dive back in in the future, after I’ve had a chance to regain some of my strength and confidence.

As I’ve been trying to enjoy all the wonderful parts of my life instead of always focusing on this one terribly difficult part, I’ve really been feeling much better most of the time.

But, every once in a while, in an unexpected place, something completely mundane comes up and threatens to knock down the fragile walls I’ve been constructing around my heart. This afternoon, for example, I was completing a health history form in preparation for tomorrow’s dentist appointment when I came across one innocent line of text, crowded in among dozens of other lines asking about illnesses, hospitalizations, medications, diets, etcetera, etcetera, and finally: “Are you pregnant?”

It has never hurt so much to place a checkmark in a plain little box next to a simple little word: “no.”

Words

People often say things that are unintentionally hurtful and insensitive. I know that they don’t mean to. They are simply going about their regular lives, trying to make conversation or chatting about their experiences. For me, though, as one who is struggling with something so intense and personal as infertility, these offhand remarks can often sting and leave me hurting long after the other person has likely forgotten the exchange. Seemingly simple words can have the power to stir up the overwhelming emotions that I work hard to hide each day.

To be clear, I understand that I can’t expect others to be constantly walking on eggshells or be afraid to speak to me about their personal lives in fear of upsetting me. And, of course, when most people I interact with don’t know that I have been struggling with infertility, they would have no way of even knowing that their comments might hurt. I recognize this, and I’m trying to be better at giving others the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they simply had no idea how their words could impact me. Even if they are unintentional, though, these words can still be hard to hear.

So, this post is not written with the intent to offend others. I’m certainly not trying to put myself up on a pedestal or to cast blame; I’m sure that I have said many things in my time that have been hurtful to those around me who were silently struggling in one way or another.

Instead, this post was written with the intent of simply explaining how a few words, spoken by many different people over the years, have affected me. If we were all more aware of the impact that our words can have on others, perhaps we would be more compassionate and sensitive when we interact with those around us.

One final note – My responses to these comments are given in italics. (Not responses that I actually said, but just my thoughts about how each comment made me feel.) In sharing this, I’m not trying to justify my reactions, and I fully admit that they are not always fair. Rather, I’m simply attempting to illustrate how some of these comments, even when they are said with the best of intentions, can come across to those who are struggling.

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 I was holding a friend’s baby to help out while she was busy at a church activity. An acquaintance walked by and casually remarked, “Careful, that’s contagious!” [Oh, if only it were that easy.]

We were having dinner with two different couples, each of whom have two kids. We were playing with the kids, having a great time humoring their crazy antics, when one guy said, “Just wait until you have your own kids. Then you won’t like it so much.” The other couple laughed and one said “Yeah, we’ve been ready to post ours on eBay so many times.” [Want me to take them off your hands? I know parenting is hard, but I also know you don’t really mean that. We would give anything to have the challenges you deal with, and the rewards that come with them.] 

Two acquaintances at work were talking about Toy Story 3 and mentioned that it would be a great movie for us to watch with our child, asking “How old is your kid, again?” When reminded that we don’t have a kid, one of the ladies responded by saying that it would still be fun to watch on our own. After all, “you’re pretty much still a kid until you have a kid.” [Ouch. Just… ouch.]

After I was introduced to one woman, she asked if I had any kids. I said “no,” and she responded by laughing awkwardly and saying, “Not yet?! Well, you just wait…” [The first question is totally normal. It’s hard, but it’s part of small talk, part of getting to know someone. I get it. But the response? Lady, you have no idea how long we have been waiting.] 

After we explained what we were dealing with, one individual asked if we had thought about adoption yet, and then told us a story about a couple she knew who had had four children through IVF. [Adoption may be a wonderful way to become a parent, but it does not solve infertility. I’m glad that your friend was successful with IVF, but her story doesn’t have much anything to do with our situation. Both adoption and IVF are very expensive and difficult options that we may choose eventually, but not without significant consideration. Thanks for the advice, though?] 

While a guest in our home, one acquaintance made several comments about all the things we can or should be doing now to prepare to have kids as well as to enjoy this time together while we are still in the “new phases” of our marriage. [We have been married longer than this person. Why does the fact that he has two kids make him an experienced marriage “veteran,” while we are still in the “new phases?”]

After we opened up to one individual about our struggles, he helpfully said that he would never impose, but we could feel free to ask if we ever wanted to hear about what he and his wife had done to get pregnant (on their first try). [What? Uh… Don’t even know what to say to that one. Pretty sure I have lots more experience trying to conceive than you do, and I’ve read about (and probably tried) just about every trick in the book. Having successfully conceived does not make you a fertility expert.]

After a church meeting in which we sat next to a family with active little kids, the dad turned to us and said, with an exasperated sigh, “See what you have to look forward to?” [Yes, yes we do see. And it hurts to see, because we don’t know if we do actually have that to look forward to.] 

While I was out to dinner with some girlfriends, the conversation shifted to birth stories (a couple of the girls there were pregnant – per the usual, these days). As they all cheerfully shared their experiences, one looked at me and laughed, “And you’re over here thinking – hooray for birth control!” [This example’s not so condescending as the others, but still… really awkward, and probably not something you should say to someone if you don’t know their situation. How do I respond to that when I haven’t used birth control in three years and still don’t have a baby?]

After being told that we want kids, but it was taking longer than we had planned, a coworker helpfully suggested that if we just relax, it will happen. [Thanks so much for your advice! I can’t believe we didn’t realize that all we have to do is take a break and relax! Why didn’t my doctors tell me this before now? (Ok, I know this was probably awkward for her, and she didn’t know what to say. Fair enough. But still, that “advice” really doesn’t help; it just invalidates our struggles.)]

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I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I know these people are not trying to be hurtful or rude. They’re just being people, trying to make conversation the best they know how in the moment. When infertility is such a pervasive part of my every day, though, it is hard to not be affected by these types of comments. I’m trying to develop a thicker skin and am learning to navigate these moments more gracefully, but I don’t think words like these will ever be easy to hear.

Thankful

I’ve been thinking lately that I’ve become too discouraged and cynical. Life has been getting me down, but this is not the person I want to be. I want to be optimistic and upbeat, focusing on the full half of the glass.

It can be so hard to focus on the good things in life when there is something difficult that seems so huge. And, realistically, I don’t think I will ever be the type of person who never complains or who can always manage to smile. Life is hard, and I think it’s ok to recognize that it is hard and to be sad when hard things happen to us. Grief is a part of being human, and I don’t think our society should be as wary of it as we often are.

When it comes down to it, though, there are more things going right in my life right now than there are going wrong. Since today is Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to take a few minutes to remember a few of those things that I am grateful for:

  • An amazing husband, who is always at my side and who will support me through anything this life can throw at us.
  • The most adorable and mischievous cat who knows to snuggle when I’m sad and who makes me laugh every day.
  • The incredible world we live in. There is a winter wonderland outside my windows this morning, and it is truly beautiful.
  • The chance I have to further my education. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I know what a privilege it is for me to be attending grad school, and I never want to take it for granted.
  • A hot cup of (herbal) tea on a chilly morning.
  • Modern medicine. Navigating the health care system can be frustrating, but I am so grateful for the miracles that are worked at the hands of competent doctors and for the fact that we have options for building our family.
  • Books. And libraries. And the internet. How amazing is it that we have access to so much information and that we can connect with each other around the world in so many ways?
  • The peace that comes to my heart from following my faith.

What are you thankful for today?

Remembering

It has now been just over two calendar years since I finished my first cycle of actively trying to conceive. This will be my third Thanksgiving since we started this journey, my third Thanksgiving that I have been hoping to have good news to announce by New Year’s.

It is interesting for me to look back on the person I was two years ago and the person I am now, and to see the ways in which infertility has shaped me. Infertility does not define me, but it is a huge part of who I am, and it has influenced me and changed me in so many ways.

Last night as I went to bed, my heart was heavy. I had spent the afternoon with a wonderful friend and her little baby. I had a great time chatting and holding the sweet little one, but then I came home to find a hefty doctor’s bill in my mailbox, and the weight of my situation came crashing down around me again. I tried to distract myself all evening, but my mind kept running back over the past two years, remembering the many heart-wrenching, embarrassing, and absolutely devastating moments that I have endured throughout this process. I couldn’t help but think how absolutely unfair it all seems.

Two years ago, I knew that the time was right for us to start trying to have a baby. This was a change in plans for us; we had originally been thinking that we would wait a while longer. We felt that God was calling us in this direction, though, and I couldn’t deny the impressions I felt. This was a huge act of faith for me, because, in a very real way, I felt that I was completely changing my life direction and giving up many of my personal goals. I will never forget how I felt that first month. If it was the right time for me to become a parent, I was going to be completely dedicated to it. I was going to do whatever it took, sacrifice whatever was necessary: my body, my soul, my time, my dreams. It seems dramatic now, but this really was a big deal for me at the time.

In those early days, we assumed that a baby would come right away. I knew it could take a while, but everything just felt so right. I remember feeling a connection with another woman I knew who had been in a similar place in that she had decided to start having kids earlier than she and her husband had once thought they would. They got pregnant fairly quickly and were then planning for the arrival of their little one with faith and anticipation. I was so inspired by this story and felt sure that I was on a similar path. Well, now this friend has two little boys, and I am still trying.

Exactly two years ago this week, I was on my way to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving after attending an academic conference. I had spent the weekend sharing a room with two wonderful women who I was working with but didn’t know well. We had a great time at the conference, attending sessions, exploring the city, and getting to know each other. As luck would have it, this was right when I was at at the end of my very first cycle of trying to conceive. My period was late (of course) so I had convinced myself that I might be pregnant.

I would never do this now, but I actually told the two girls I was staying with about my situation and that I was hoping for a baby. They were excited for me, and we chatted about what this meant. I decided I’d buy a test the next day if nothing had happened. Before I got a chance to use that test, though, my bleeding started, and my heart was crushed for the first time. I knew my friends were right when they comforted me and reminded me that it’s normal for it to take a while, but I was still sad. After this conference, I continued to see one of these women regularly, but I didn’t mention babies or trying to conceive to either of them again. I eventually moved to a different state, and we only stay in contact occasionally through Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if they remember this experience and if they wonder, when they see me pop up in their news feed, whatever happened to me. As it turns out, two years later, I am still trying.

I know that my problems are not the worst that can be experienced, by far. They seem pretty small when I turn on the news and see what is happening in the world, but they are still so real and significant to me. Infertility now dominates my life to the point where I have to consciously push it aside so that it does not completely take over. I’m trying to remember lately that, although infertility may be shaping my life in many ways, it does not have to control me.

I never imagined two years ago that this is the path my life would be on now. I’m sure that I will eventually resolve my infertility, although I don’t know how, but it is so difficult when I am in the middle of it. I just hope that something good will come from this, that there will be some small silver lining that I can find underneath all of the struggle.

Lately

Things have been looking up in some ways for this little family. Even though we’re still struggling, I think we’ve had more happy moments in the last couple weeks than we’d been having previously.

As far as infertility goes, we’re just moving forward one step at a time. The second HSG was much better than the first. I was nervous but took a relaxant beforehand to make sure I didn’t spasm, and I’m grateful for that. It was much less painful, and the dye flowed through my tubes before I even knew what was happening. They were completely open and clear. I almost couldn’t believe it was true, but I was so relieved.

This means that I either spasmed last time, or that the first HSG loosened things up so that everything was able to get cleared out this time. I had a lot of unusual cramping and ovarian pains throughout my cycle this past month, so that’s definitely a possibility. Either way, this was amazing news that lifted a huge weight for us. I am so grateful that we were able to get this test performed as soon as possible instead of having to wait a few months to get an appointment with the fertility clinic, as we had initially believed would be the case. It is such a blessing that we didn’t have to continue until December believing that my tubes might be completely blocked, as this was such a difficult thing for us to deal with.

Even though the results were great, the rest of the appointment was a disappointment. I’d had my misgivings about this particular fertility clinic ever since we first started looking into it, which is part of the reason it took me so long to set up an initial consult. There’s only one fertility specialist in our entire city, so we didn’t have much of a choice about which doctor to see. The doctor is board certified and is perfectly qualified, but for some reason his style just rubs me the wrong way. From the very beginning, it just seemed like everything on the clinic’s website was almost too good to be true, and was a bit more flashy than I would like. I was hoping that my feelings would change once I actually met the doctor… but that didn’t happen.

Instead, I was pretty upset with the way the doctor talked to me. I wanted him to explain my options and give me the information I needed to be able to make an educated decision, but I felt like he was a bit demanding, telling me bluntly what he thought we should do next without offering any explanation of his reasoning. I was in such a fragile emotional state and wasn’t feeling up to making a decision to go forward with an aggressive treatment plan right away, so I asked him if it would be possible to start slowly with a medicated cycle. His response was to assert that combining medications (letrozole) with an IUI would be the best option.

Now that I’ve had some time to do research on my own, I think that this is what we will likely end up doing. At the time, however, this was all very overwhelming for me. Infertility treatments, such as IUIs, carry intimidating emotional, physical, and financial costs, and deciding to start the first treatment cycle seems like a huge step. It’s been so hard to come to terms with the fact that I will most likely need help to get pregnant, especially when my doctors haven’t been able to point to anything that is actually wrong with me. We know that I ovulate, that my tubes are clear, and that there are no male-factor issues. If nothing actually is wrong, it might just be taking more time for us, and we might have a chance of getting pregnant naturally; if this is the case, it seems pointless to put ourselves through all the stress of an IUI. On the other hand, if something is wrong on such a deep level that my doctors haven’t found it yet, an IUI might be completely ineffective and a waste of money.

Anyway, when I hesitated, explaining that I didn’t feel ready for an IUI and that I was worried about spending too much money without being sure it would be necessary or beneficial, he quickly responded that if I wasn’t ready for an IUI, I wasn’t ready to have a baby. He continued to say that babies are expensive, so I might as well get used to paying an extra $500 a month; if I wasn’t ready for that, then why was I trying to have a baby?

I was absolutely shocked that he would say something like this to me, and I couldn’t really hold it together after that. These are the sort of comments that I might expect to hear from a random acquaintance who knows nothing about infertility, but never from a doctor who spends every day working with infertile couples. Of course I understand that babies cost money (and we do have the means to care for one) but that doesn’t mean that I want to spend thousands of extra dollars trying to get pregnant, something that most couples are able to do for free. It doesn’t mean that I am ready to commit to an invasive and expensive treatment plan that would only give me (at best) a 20% chance of success. Being ready to have a baby is a very different thing from being financially, emotionally, or otherwise ready to begin fertility treatments. We have been at this long enough now that we know we are ready for a baby, and our commitment to making whatever sacrifices are necessary has been tested over and over again throughout the past two years.

This is especially difficult for us right now because of the fact that we are unexplained. If we knew that there was a serious problem and that we couldn’t get pregnant without help, our choices would be clear. However, there is always that hope in the back of my mind that it could still happen without treatments, although it is unlikely at this point. We also don’t have insurance coverage for infertility, which further complicates things. Infertility treatments are very expensive, and it is difficult to be at a point where we are trying to decide whether or not to drain our savings account in order to take a gamble on a treatment plan. Having children is our top priority in our lives, so we will ultimately do what is necessary, but we also want to be sure that we are going about this in the right way. We want to be careful in our decisions to make sure that we will come out of this ok, emotionally as well as financially. As it is, it may just take us some time to come to terms with the options before us.

I was upset enough that I actually stood up to the doctor, something that is a bit out of character for me, and he ended up backtracking a bit. He apologized, saying that he misspoke, but then reiterated that I should schedule an IUI, without giving any further elaboration. I was in tears at that point (I’ve been such a basketcase lately), so I simply asked him to stop pressuring me because I just wasn’t ready to make this decision yet. At that point, he finally realized he needed to back off. He gave me a few minutes to change and pull myself together, then we met him back in his office, where he said that they would put in an order for medications for us and that we could call them when we were ready to start a cycle – either just with meds, or with an IUI as well.

I was too upset at that point to really want to consider it or to ask questions, and he didn’t offer any other information about our options. I now wish that I had had the strength to ask him for more information, but I just wasn’t able to at that time. It would have been nice if they had scheduled a follow-up consultation so we could come back after having some time to think through the possibilities. As it was, we didn’t stay long, leaving after telling the nurse we would probably wait a month before calling to start a treatment cycle.

For the time being, our plan is to take a break from doctors for a cycle or two. Having had an HSG, our fertility should be boosted for a few months, and we’re hoping to take advantage of that. If we have no success by December, we’ll call the clinic and decide where to go from there. Depending on what we can get insurance to cover, we might go ahead with meds and an IUI right away, because that does have a higher chance of success than doing either one on its own. It can pay to be more aggressive with treatments, because the cost of having to do several cycles of less-effective treatments can add up over time and surpass the cost of doing a single more intense treatment. However, there is a reason that doctors don’t start every patient with IVF, despite its higher success rates. There is something to be said about starting small in order to minimize the emotional and physical costs, if not the financial. Because we’re young and have time, and because the stress has been so difficult recently, we might start out more slowly despite the fact that it might take longer or cost more in the long run. We’re just going to take it one step at a time and see what we feel ready for.

Lost

I should be finishing up my work and heading to bed, but I can’t focus. I’m already exhausted, worn down to my core. I’ve been taking too much on lately, yet also struggling to stay on top of the most basic tasks. I’m overwhelmed, but at the same time I have a hard time finding the motivation to care about achieving my goals. I’m tired. I’m sad.

One of the hardest parts of infertility is all the waiting. I’ve been waiting for 8 days to know if I’m pregnant or if a new cycle is starting. I will keep waiting for 4 or 6 more days, and each one will be a challenge. It may not sound like a long time, but it feels like an eternity. All the uncertainty, and the secret hope, and the determination to not hope at all, can really wear you down.

I am at a point where I think I won’t even know how to react if I do get pregnant. It seems so foreign to me. I see pregnant women around me and I wonder how it happens. I mean, of course I know, but conceiving a child is such a miracle, such a crazy improbability, that I have the hardest time wrapping my mind around how it happens so often. How it happens for couples who are not trying, or who do not want their miracle. How a tiny human being can actually grow inside a woman’s body. How people actually have kids who look like them. After we have been trying for so long, it seems so incredibly impossible.

Lately, I’ve heard several stories of miscarriages. Miscarriages are tragic; I know that. Miscarriages are traumatic and painful; I know that. My heart breaks for those who go through such a terrible experience, but, at some crazy, irrational level, I also grieve, selfishly, for myself when I hear of another’s loss. It might not make any sense, but my heart breaks that I have never even been in the position of carrying a child and having the possibility of a miscarriage. To be clear, I’m sure that if I were to actually experience a loss, there is no way I would prefer it to what I have now. I am positive I would be crushed, and I do not mean to minimize or trivialize the devastating loss that so many I know and love have had to endure. I think it is important to be honest with myself and others about the process that I have been going through, though, so even though I am not proud of it, I am still sharing this small aspect of my struggle.

When it comes down to it, grief does not always make sense, and I feel that I am struggling far beyond my capacity right now. I think my thoughts above stem from the fact that, at times, I wish I had something tangible to grieve. I wish my loss was something I could share more easily, something that would bring others forth with words and hugs and gestures of support and concern. Sometimes, I think I wish I were in any situation other than the one I’m in. I suppose this is probably a “grass is greener” phenomenon, and my friends who have dealt with loss would probably shake their heads at my naivete.

I think it is a natural response to try to find ways to justify our own pain, although it is not healthy or constructive. I sometimes find myself thinking, “Well, she might be struggling, but at least she [knows she can get pregnant / already has a baby / has the financial resources to jump right to IVF / anything else that I might be jealous of].” I’m sure that others might look at me and think similar things: “At least she [has a husband / hasn’t lost a baby / ovulates on her own / is still young / anything else I might take for granted].”

No matter what our situation is, there is always something that we have that someone else might be envious of, there is always something that could be worse. When it comes to grief and suffering, though, comparison is never useful. When you are going through an all-consuming and tragic experience, the “at leasts” seem dismissive and do not offer any comfort; we are aware of and grateful for the ways in which we are fortunate, but they do not actually diminish the grief that we feel. For those on the outside, these “at leasts” only serve to create bitterness and divide us from those we should be supporting. Our experiences are diverse, and I am sure that our emotional responses are equally varied. Because there simply is no use in comparing our pain to others’ and trying to determine who has it worse, I am trying to eliminate these “at leasts” from my thinking.

Our struggles may be different, but I’m sure they are all devastating in their own ways. When it comes to infertility and loss, there simply is no pretty. There is no easy. There is only heartache and grief, intense personal sadness that no other can truly comprehend; it is so deeply personal, and it can be so very deeply isolating. It’s hard, plain and simple. It’s just hard. If we can learn to respect each others’ experiences as valid, even if they are different from our own, if we can support each other unconditionally through the various challenges that come our way, I am sure that we can each become that much stronger, individually and as a community. And isn’t that something worth striving for?