Archive | April, 2018

#FliptheScript National Infertility Awareness Week

28 Apr

I’ve thought all week about what I want to say on this, our umpteenth NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week).  I thought about the hashtag they chose for the week (#FliptheScript) and about what it means and how it fits in with our journey.  I had a blog all set to go in my head. And so I sat down tonight to write, and I re-read last year’s blog, and I realized that not much has changed, and I essentially wanted to say the same thing.


My whole life, I dreamed about the day I’d become a mother. My whole life, I’ve been surrounded by kids.  I never really dreamed about my wedding as a kid, but I made lists in chalk of the names of my babies-to-be on the sidewalk out front of our house. I can still remember the excitement and the amazement when we decided to start trying to have a baby–a combination of “oh my god are we old enough for this?” and “what will it feel like to be pregnant and grow a human?” and “can i really handle the pain of childbirth?” and “will we completely fuck this up?” But after a couple of years of trying on our own, then came all the tests, the procedures, the elation and hopefulness and then the crushing blow each time we were told no. I had never dreamed of it being like this–this process of becoming a parent was supposed to be so fun, so loving, so exciting.  And didn’t I deserve it? Hadn’t we done everything “right”? And wouldn’t I be such a good mom? Wouldn’t we be such cool parents?  Working through all of that…it was hard. It is hard. Because even with all the progress we’ve made, I am a work in progress.  And sometimes I have to remind myself of that.


When we moved to the new house, I guess I saw it as a kind of break from that part of our past somehow.  We were moving, so we cleaned things out, eliminating the stuff we didn’t need or want anymore.  So when we moved, I got rid of most of the things I’d kept in my infertility hope chest...I had secretly stored a bunch of baby things I’d accumulated over the years, thinking that we’d need them someday, but also feeling ridiculous, especially the longer that treatments went on without any glimmer of hope.  When I read the blog linked above, I remember feeling a sense of relief…I wasn’t the only one secretly storing things away.  I donated most of the things in the box I’d been keeping, except for one blanket, the blanket Eric bought one day and proudly presented to me as our kid’s first blankie.  As we packed up our things and prepared to move to a new home and start a new chapter, I was convinced I wouldn’t need the things in that box–there was no way any treatment was EVER going to work, so why continue hoarding it? Throwing that stuff out was hard and sad but also so liberating…all except for that blankie…I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.  So it’s the one relic that remains, tucked safely in the bottom of my bra drawer, as a just-in-case.


I had all but forgotten it, but somehow found it before going in for my first surgery ever this fall (which I naturally took as a sign of good things to come).  I’d been having problems for forever–incessant bleeding and cramping and general misery.  “Just take all my shit out,” I told the doctor. “None of it works right. If it’s not gonna give us babies and it’s gonna make me feel like this, get rid of it. I’m sick of dealing with all of it.” She told me how I didn’t want to go thru menopause, how I was too young, how things still might happen for us.  Just waiting for that lucky cycle. Let me go in, explore what’s going on, remove any problems, and then let’s do another medicated cycle.  I agreed to it, if for nothing else than to stop the bleeding.


So I had surgery, and it was ok [minus having to sit in my hospital gown with no bra in a spot where I was positive everyone could see me (y’all I don’t NOT wear a bra around people–this may have been the most traumatizing part of my experience, which I wrote about extensively in my post-surgery questionnaire), and also minus them needing to try multiple times to get an IV in (I fucking hate needles and I hated both those nurses for digging around in my elbows until the third person finally came in and efficiently started one in the back of my hand), and also minus sobbing the minute they injected me with whatever shit they do first to make you start getting sleepy (apparently I blubbered my way all the way back to the OR), and then again sobbing upon waking up when I realized I’d survived (because death was a very real fear of mine)]. Suffice to say that my first surgical experience was not terrible–I did wake back up when it was all over with, after all.  Recovery was not at all what I’d anticipated, but then things finally started to feel better.  And since then, I’ve secretly been holding out hope that things would just happen…on their own…the good old-fashioned way.


Because while I still really want to be a mom, I don’t think I can stomach the crazy hormones, the emotional roller coaster, the needles and tummy bruises, the weeks of it (because god forbid my body react the “normal” way and take just one week), the rushing around before/after/during work to try to get to the doctor for every-other-day ultrasounds, the every-other-day-when-you-aren’t-at-the-doctor-for-an-ultrasound blood draws til the phlebotomists know your name and start asking how much longer they’re going to have to poke you because this is ridiculous and your poor arms. So I have just been being stubborn–if my ovaries want to be stubborn, then so can I, right? But in my head, I kept hearing my doctor, saying we should try one more combination of medicines, because maybe this will be the magical combination and the magical time.  [I have added the word “magical” here because it seems like something she meant to say…]


I think what bothers me most about the idea of going back to medical treatments, aside from all the pain, discomfort and general misery of fertility treatments, is that it might not work.  It often doesn’t work.  I just read yet another article today citing statistics from 2015 that only 26% of IVF cycles result in live births.  IUI (the procedure we’ve had done multiple times) has an average 10-20% success rate. There are absolutely no guarantees in all of this–and if the past history has anything to show, as my doctor said last time I saw her, “Well….nothing really has worked at all so far, but I guess the best cycle we had was with Clomid, so maybe we could try that again and add in some injections and see what happens.”  The reality is that some people will not be able to have their own children.  Sometimes medicine will fail us, there will be no real answers for why, it just won’t work out.


So when I think about NIAW and the theme of #FliptheScript, I think that’s one thing that needs to change about how we talk about infertility.  ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) is really amazing, and so many people get to become parents thru medicine.  It’s amazing and something to celebrate! But others don’t, and it’s really damaging that our society sells IUI and IVF as panaceas. And it’s literally being sold.  I’ve heard “just do IVF” so many times over the past almost decade that I could scream.  IVF and IUI aren’t for everyone and don’t work for everyone, for a variety of reasons, not limited to but including financial, emotional and medical concerns.


It is so easy to get sucked into this endless (for some of us for whom the “normal” treatments don’t work) downward spiral because society tells us that women should be moms, that being a mom is the only way to have a fulfilling life.  Don’t get me wrong…I still think that being a mom is a truly fulfilling job–one that I’d love to have a shot at.  But the societal norm that women should be moms, and women who choose not to pursue that goal are somehow damaged or flawed is a huge problem in our culture.  It creates mothers who shouldn’t be (they aren’t ready for it), it causes too many women to lose their sense of self outside of their identity as a mother (because a “good” mom sacrifices it all for the sake of her family), and it makes women (and men) who are dealing with infertility willing to go to great lengths (and a lot of money and time) for the HOPE that maybe they will have the lucky cycle.


The reality is that just like any other personal identity–sister, wife, daughter-in-law, aunt, cousin, friend, teacher, mentor–being a mom is just one facet of any person’s life.  And just because it’s not a facet of my life, doesn’t make me any less of a woman, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, aunt, cousin, friend, teacher or mentor.  It’s just one hat that I don’t wear. I likely never will.  When I finally started accepting that, I found so much peace and comfort.  When I finally decided that I couldn’t take one more needle if it was going to be followed up by the doctor sadly shaking her head and telling me how frustrated she was which was then followed up by one more tearful conversation with Eric about what our next move would be…I felt peace for the first time in a long, anxiety-ridden time.  The past couple of years, on our “break,” I’ve felt peace with my body (except right before and after surgery this fall ha).


If we were to get pregnant on our own (and crazier things have happened and everyone knows someone whose cousin’s aunt’s sister’s best friend got pregnant when she was least expecting it), we’d be thrilled.  But the idea of more medical interventions and fucking with an already fucked up body and system…it just has no appeal to me right now.  And the reality is that saying enough is enough is ok.


I used to think that stopping treatments, that saying “I can’t do this anymore” was weak.  And I’m not fucking weak. But over the past couple years, I’ve realized that it’s not “I can’t.” Because I could.  I know I could.  It’s not “I can’t.” It’s “I won’t.” And it’s not weak. I don’t have to be what I always thought I’d be (a mom).  I can flip the script and pick a new path, one that hasn’t been planned out in my head since the time I was a little girl.  I can say that we will be ok (and we are ok), whether we somehow end up pregnant or we never have kids of our own.