To Tell or Not To Tell

A few weeks ago, I got an email from an old friend of ours when we lived in the town before this one.  I knew her through her husband who I knew through Mr. X.  We probably wouldn’t have been friends if we had met otherwise.  We were just different.  But, she has faithfully kept up the correspondence, even when they moved away and I have (half-heartedly) kept up my end.

As an unspoken policy, we had not previously told any of our ‘old town’ friends about our current difficulty in reproducing.  It’s not something you just drop in a once in every six-months’ conversation.  But, at the same time, I found myself becoming resentful that they were prattling on about this and that and I couldn’t share that huge portion of my life that was consuming so much time and energy.

So, when she sent me an email last year after my miscarriage – when I was still raw and unapologetically sharing it with everyone – I knew I could not keep silent.  I couldn’t talk about unimportant things like my job or Mr. X’s job or the kitties.  It was infertility and miscarriage talk or she wasn’t getting a reply.  I was like a geyser – I had to tell or I would burst from the sheer effort of containing it all.  I was very diplomatic about how I told her, though.  No frowny faces, no woe-is-me my life sucks (even though I’m sure I said that at least ten times a day), just the straightforward, we’ve been having difficulty conceiving, sought treatment, had a miscarriage. So sad, blah, blah, blah.

She wrote a lovely note back and was genuinely sorry to hear of our misfortune, which was like balm on my raw wound.  So few people acknowledged what had happened and I was always so mollified when someone who we weren’t particularly close to was so giving. 

But now, we’ve had a second miscarriage, this time after IVF, do I give the sob story again? It is a huge part of my history, but not the only part. Would I feel as if I was betraying myself and our little phoenix if I didn’t tell her? Can I really let her believe that all is well in my world? I think that’s what it comes down to – this unabashed desire to be nakedly honest with her, put it all out there and let her pick and choose what she will respond to.  At least I know that I have told her and she now has the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

This plan has back-fired on me before, though.  After our first miscarriage, I wrote to Mr. X’s great-aunt, a woman I love and admire.  She’s feisty, loving, caring and just plain neat – all the qualities that I wish to have, particularly when I get older.  I told her of our miscarriage in my email and was waiting for her special brand of soothing.  A day passed, then a few, then some more.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I was heartbroken.  She has never said a word about it and it still breaks my heart. 

There were others who I told who never responded or acknowledged it: Mr. X’s cousin who I had to tell after she asked how our baby-making was coming along (not so well, my dear, not so well); our friends who had a baby last year – she called me recently after receiving my email and I could tell that she wanted to bring it up but didn’t have the heart (or the nerve). I can’t say I blame her.  But, still.  I knew she had read the email and still there was nothing.  And, of course, there was John*.

Am I committing some huge faux-pas here telling people that our life is not a bed of roses and shitty things happen to good people? Am I harshing on someone else’s day by sharing this? Am I being totally selfish by wanting to share EVERYTHING – the good, the bad, the ugly? Or, am I making it more acceptable to talk about these things, even if they are met with silence, so that if any of these women (the great-aunt notwithstanding) has the unfortuate luck to have a miscarriage, she knows at least one other person who has had one?  Why don’t more people share this information with each other? Are we all so ashamed of what happened as if it was somehow our fault (to which the resounding answer would be NO) that we can’t even begin to mention it until someone else has one?

After my first miscarriage, I seriously considered getting a t-shirt made that told the whole world what had happened.  I was hurting so much that I wanted everyone to know.  I never did it because the mere thought of it was comforting enough, but I still feel that stigma of being Debbie Downer whenever I tell someone what has happened – as if my bad news would taint the rest of their day. 

The bottom line is this: I had two miscarriages, both after infertility treatments and I am not ashamed of that.  I am still sad about it (and some days angry) but they are events in my life just like getting G or learning to sew and equally worthy of being shared.  For, they have to be shared, people need to know that this stuff happens and it happens to people they know and love.  I will still tell people in the hopes of meeting those few enlightened souls who ‘get it’ and educate those who don’t.

image: scottwills (used through Creative Commons)

The Dog and Baby Show

I can’t remember now where I heard the adage that couples just starting out in life should start small when it come to keeping other things alive.  So, start with plants, graduate to animals and then actual live human children.  The theory is that if you can keep plants and animals alive, then you can probably do the whole baby thing. 

I used to think this was a bunch of bunk mainly because it doesn’t take into account whether or not you actually want to keep the thing alive.  I’m terrible at keeping plants alive because I consistently forget to water them, and I am not remorseful enough to make an effort to remember.  I have no problem remembering to water the kitties, however, because I have every desire to keep them alive and purring until they die a peaceful death of old age.  The saying assumes that each has the same level of respect.  I love my kitties and I tolerate my plants.

I do think, though, that whoever came up with this theory was on to something when you apply it to dogs.  In fact, I think G, our new (to us) old Golden Retriever has (temporarily) cured my Baby Lust.  I honestly had no clue how much work a dog really takes.  Walks twice a day, daily grooming, playing twice a day out in the backyard, feeding, holy crap it is unbelievable!  And there’s the worrying about training, leash pulling, eating the kitties’ food, chasing the kitties (that happened yesterday), the thunderstorm phobia.  This dog is more work in one day than the kitties are in an entire week.

It is enough to make you question whether you really want to have an infant who is likely ten times more work. Yeah, I said it.  Is that heresy?

There would be some marked differences: Mr. X would share a whole lot more of the responsibilities, and presumably we would have 9 months to get used to the idea of an infant. But still. After the honeymoon phase ends and people stop coming by to visit to see the new baby, it is you and them and that’s it.  Of course, you can take the kid everywhere. The dog, not so much.

For now, I’m going to enjoy not being obsessed with the state of my uterus (or anyone else’s for that matter) and enjoy navigating my way through new doggy-mommyhood. Woof.

image: wader

Infertility: The Southpaw of Life?

My dad is a left-hander as was my maternal grandfather.  My father managed to emerge from schooling with his left-handedness intact, while my grandfather was forced by his teachers to become ambidextrous (which was back in the 20s and 30s).  The silver lining to his cloud was that he wrote beautifully – with both hands.  I never heard either of them complain about being lefties, though, or the difficulty of being a lefty in a righty world.  I do remember in school how there was always the one kid who was a lefty and had to fight with the other lefty kid for the lefty desk.  I was firmly a righty since I first picked up a pen (apparently at the bank with my father and to this day, I still hold a pen the same way I did the first time), so I did not appreciate the difficulties that one might encounter being a left-handed person in a right-handed world. 

But, this article the other day in The Washington Post got me thinking about the parallels between infertiles living in a fertile world and lefties in a righty world.  The article was about how the next president of the United States, whomever he should be, will be a lefty, and that lefties have been overwhelmingly represented in that highest office despite their minority status.  This line in particular got me thinking:

“Forced to ‘adjust to a right-handed world, [left-handers’ feel more marginal,’ Howard Gardner, professor of cogniition and education at Harvard, suggests in an e-mail. ‘Marginality has its costs, but it typically allows you to see the world different from other people,’ he explains, ‘and that can be a strength.'”

There is no doubt that you become a stronger person when you have had to deal with any major life tragedy or issue, be it cancer, divorce, whatever.  But, while infertiles feel that same marginalization as southpaws, we probably have a harder time getting used to it since we were not born that way.  Very few women or men grow up knowing that they will not be able to reproduce.  Most of us don’t even find out until we are well into our journey to have a child, at which point it is devastating news.  Kids who are born left-handed learn from an early age what it is to be a minority in that respect and most learn some type of coping mechanism.  Indeed, there is a sense of pride of a lefty who manages to function in a righty world.  Us infertiles, on the other hand, rarely feel pride at being infertile.  It is most certainly not a badge of honor and in no way is something that we want to either advertise or glorify.

But, the marginalization is the same.  That feeling that you are not like everyone else.  That you are the one who is not like the others.  And for as wonderful as diversity is, I’d just as soon be different for other reasons.

image: riacale

Twice Bitten, Infinitely Shy

In the back of my mind, wedged in between perpetual grocery lists and new tricks I want to teach G, is the theory – that has morphed into a belief – that it is impossible for any pregnancy I may have to progress past the 9th week. I’m reminded of this when I hear of others who have made it to 12, 15, 20 weeks and beyond. It seems completely abnormal and atypical to me. There are people who can do that?, I think. Much like when I hear that someone gets pregnant without medical intervention.  You can get pregnant without an RE and an embryologist? Where is this fantasy land?

I am so far down that rabbit hole of infertility and miscarriage that my new normal now resembles most people’s abnormal. The irony of this is not lost on me. For as normal a life I have in many other respects, I am constantly reminded of how much of a minority I am when it comes to my uterus (and what does or does not happen in it). But, the farther into the struggle I get, the more perversely proud I am of myself for making it that far and still being a relatively well-adjusted, functioning person. And, perhaps, still willing to take a gander at whether the third time will be the charm. 

It’s not even that I don’t think that I’ll get pregnant again.  It’s that I can no longer even imagine a scenario where I am at my 11 week or 12 week appointment and I hear that everything looks good, is progressing and now you need to find yourself a nice, normal OB with no drama.  Perhaps this is my defense mechanism to help shield myself from the pain, or the ultimate in pessimism, but I can honestly say that I cannot even envision it, much like people could not imagine a man on the moon or flight. 

But, these things did happen. After many attempts and many failures. The question, then, is am I willing to keep going knowing that eventually it may work but that failure is also probably in the cards?

image: Steve Rhodes

Experimental Independence

While I am pretty Rainman-esque in my habits, there are times when I get a whim and run with it. Today’s whim: switch to WordPress. I know there has been some controversy over their “best day ever” policy, but I am frankly in love with their templates. The simplicity, the professional look, the neato pop up thingy on the blogroll. I may decide shortly that this is a short lived experiment, or I may just declare my independence from Blogger forever.

For now, though, you may now find me at: The Young and The Infertile (now with more infertility!) on WordPress. Ta ta!