1. For a former needlephobe, I am now a pro at getting my blood drawn. I still don't like it, but somehow I know which veins are good and where the tech will have the best luck (outside of my right elbow pit is a go-to spot!). Which is helpful because my veins can suck and not knowing the good spots results in lots of sticks.
2. I can say the words vagina, sperm, and ejaculate without blushing or batting an eye. I can say them in mixed company, I can say them to my mother or mother-in-law. They are as natural to me as sunshine, margarita, and music.
3. I have learned to be very, very efficient at work. I can't stay as late as I used to or do as much at home when I am embroiled in infertility treatments--I am too tired, too emotionally fragile, and I need to take care of myself first. I am not used to this, but I have realized that most things, if not finished today, can be finished tomorrow. I accomplish far more in my planning periods than I ever have in the past. I have let go and realized that I cannot (and should not) control every aspect of every thing. And I have learned to not apologize for that. It is what I need, and, quite frankly, I still rock the socks off my job.
4. I have learned to give myself injections quickly and without fanfare. The first injection took me 15 minutes--I counted down and then started over at a higher number over and over again. I couldn't plunge that needle into my tummy (even though it is relatively small and thin) without major anxiety. I needed moral support from my husband. Now I am a pro. I can inject myself while on the phone, in the car, talking to someone in the other room, and I can do it in seconds, not minutes. At least the subcutaneous 1/2 inch ones. The 1 1/2 inch scary intramuscular needle that goes into my hip/butt is still all about Bryce administering it--but I am not nervous about it anymore. Shots at the doctor's office? Used to hate them. Now? No big whoop. I could probably do it myself.
5. I have learned that infertility is a sisterhood that comes out of the woodwork when you open up about it. I have so many friends through support groups and email groups, but I also have friends at work or who I meet in classes or who send me notes via Facebook who are also going through this or have gone through it. I have forged friendships with these women or strengthened existing friendships, because while our stories are very different the heartache and difficulties are the same.
6. I have learned to ignore insensitive comments or advice. Usually people are very well-meaning, and that they said anything at all means that they care. If I think it helps, I will educate (on my particular situation and how it differs from their perception, on infertility facts and figures, on what really happens during procedures, on what options truly are). But if I don't think it will help, I smile and say (or write) thank you or change the subject and let it go. If it's a recurrent thing, I have learned to protect my well-being and to avoid these situations when I can. I am getting better at letting go.
7. I have learned that despite the odds stacked against us and the repeated failures that we face, that I can still have space in my heart for hopes and dreams. I have the ability to still think about baby names and think of nursery decor and create binders of useful articles from the magazines I bought for the vision board pictures. I can still walk into my guest room and envision it as a nursery and mentally move furniture in and out and around so that it is a baby's room with baby furniture and not the placeholder room it currently is. The dream is very much alive and I feed it every day.
8. I have learned more about the human reproductive process and all the detailed ins and outs of how embryos and fetuses come to be and all the techniques that can be used to assist that process than I ever thought I would need to. I know all kinds of crazy things about cycles, and follicles, and hormone levels, and sperm counts and quality, and timings for different processes. I have learned all sorts of details about early pregnancy (that I have yet to put into practice, but still, I know things) that most people don't even realize because they happen before the first OB appointment. And I have learned that I love to share this information and help others navigate this crazy process.
9. I have learned to be my best advocate and to speak up for myself. I have learned to respect expertise and authority but to question it and not worry about hurting someone's feelings. I have learned to ask question after question and not stop until I have the answers (or the admission that are no answers) I want and need. Am I a high-maintenance patient? Maybe. But I feel confident that I am getting the best possible care when I understand it fully and can stand up for my differences of opinion when it comes to my care, and have that difference respected.
10. I have learned that infertility is one of the biggest stressors I have ever encountered, and that I am so lucky to be going through it with my husband. As lucky as we can be to both be infertile and compound each other's dearth of properly functioning gonads. Because I can see why this process can tear apart relationships--how it can expose the weaknesses of your marriage and push you apart. I can see how there can be cycles of blame and guilt and inability to understand wild mood swings or infuriatingly even logical thinking. But I don't see that in my marriage. We have our ups and downs, to be sure, but overall I think that infertility has strengthened us. We are learning to be explicit in sharing our feelings, wants, and needs. We are learning how to diffuse each other. We are learning how to bring one of us out of the depths of despair and find new ways to cope. We are learning to love each other in the time of Infertility -- a turbulent, desperate, financially draining, self-absorbed time. But we are doing it, and building a strong foundation of love for the family I know we will have when all the stars align and the baby fairy finally graces our home.