Sometimes it feels like the world is an incredibly fertile place.
Sometimes, despite the fact that infertility affects 1 in 8 couples, it feels like I live in an island of inability to conceivedness, and no one else in my day to day life is infertile.
Not that I wish infertility on anyone, JEEZUM that is not what I meant. And I know quite a few ladies who share my struggle through support group connections, but that is a bubble where EVERYONE is infertile. I'm talking about every day life, where it seems like 1 in 800 couples are affected by an inability to conceive/carry.
I am a teacher, and so I work at a school. Two schools, actually. And schools are fairly family-friendly places. And teachers, you know, LOVE kids. So it's no surprise that schools are hotbeds of fertility. People are always getting pregnant and having kids. Talking about their kids. And why not? I mean, that's where life is! And there are so many people to talk about pregnancy and kids with, because just about everyone is in that same boat. Except me. I am off in a sad little raft made of a door that refuses to open, listening to these conversations but I just can't get on that raft. That beautiful, fun, join-the-club raft.
I am sure I am extra sensitive to all this because my fake cycle to test out my new meds is over and I am just waiting for the go-ahead to get started. I am in this limbo where I am sort of on my way, but also stagnant. I feel like my new beginning could be right around the corner, or it could be months away, and I don't know PLUS I have no control over it. Which is incredibly hard for me. So I am super sensitive to talking with people at school in the hall or in meetings or at lunch and having all of the conversations be about having children. I smile and nod and laugh at the funny stories (because there are a lot) but inside I feel like crying because I am incredibly left out of the reality of all these things. Several times this week I had conversations with teachers who share students with me either in the hall or in their classrooms and "because I have kids..." and then a launch into a wonderful story about living with toddlers came up, and it was like being the freaking Little Match Girl, standing outside in the freezing cold, holding my little blue fingers up to a frosted windowpane, watching someone else's warm life with golden light play out in front of me, but on the other side of that glass. I can't get to the warm side of that glass.
Then, yesterday was an oddball Friday faculty meeting, and there was time for announcements. Anytime there are announcements I steel myself for the inevitable pregnancy announcement. Yesterday there were several, most of them second babies. There were so many announcements about babies coming in August/September that someone behind me said jokingly, "Must be something in the water!" Ha ha HA ha ha. I have to stop bringing in my water from home because maybe THAT's my problem. I hold myself together for the most part at school, but yesterday between that and some very confusing information about APPR, I was in tears on my way home and not the most pleasant sight for Bryce to come home to later in the afternoon. It's just so hard to continually be the odd one out. I am left out and a passive observer in so many conversations because people with kids love to talk about kids (I will too someday, this is not a criticism in the least), and when we have meetings everyone asks "How are your kids?" or something along those lines. No one asks, "How are your cats?" because that would just be weird. And for some reason, I don't get a lot of small talk that starts with "How is your husband?" I am in a no-man's land. A no-baby-land. I have a core group of people who know about my situation and they will ask me how I'm doing with things, which is nice. But then there are other people who kind of sort of know my situation and it sort of feels like they have given up on asking how things are going because the answers are just always so depressing, or at this point it's obvious that I'm not pregnant, so why bother asking because the answer won't be good. It hurts just a little bit. I just hold on and keep telling myself, someday this will be you... someday this will be you... someday this will be you... but it feels like someday is just so far away, even though we're on the cusp a new opportunity, because someday keeps sneaking up on us and then passing us by. Someday keeps almost coming, but just missing us.
I haven't been too active on Facebook lately, partly because it is IEP-writing season and so my life is not my own, but also because it is like a freaking time bomb. Pregnancy announcements run rampant. Pregnancy posts run rampant. Bump pictures and nursery pictures and hospital pictures and first weeks home pictures and all those super cute month birthday pictures with the round stickers on the onesies... they are everywhere. It's great, for those people immersed in the happiness of their new and exciting lives. But it seems like it is everyone, EVERYONE but me. I know this isn't really true. I know I'm being hyperbolic. But there has been a rash of second babies that are being born to people who got pregnant with their first baby when I was already heavy into fertility treatment. That hurts. That really brings it home to me how long we have been struggling and how easily life goes on all around us. I do not begrudge people their pregnancies. I live in awe of people who get pregnant easily or even relatively easily. I just don't understand how the Baby Fairy has so completely skipped over my house. I feel horrible, but I find myself dreading engagement announcements too, because at this point some of those people have passed me by on the road to parenthood and I start wondering if this newly minted couple will be among the lucky who get pregnant immediately and whose pregnancy announcement I will be reading long before I share my own. So when I log in to Facebook, looking for, oh, I don't know, funny things my friends say or memes about how Friday is your second favorite F word or videos of a loving relationship between a barn owl and a cat, and I am instead barraged by evidence that fertility is everywhere but here, it hurts. I feel horribly left behind. I want to be writing about when our baby is arriving. I want to be writing about the funny things my firstborn wants to name my secondborn. I want to be writing about the trials and tribulations of stroller/crib/glider assembly. But I'm not. I just watch it all scroll by.
I almost feel like this one is a little taboo to talk about. I feel horribly left behind by so much of the infertility community, too. I am pleased as punch for all of the long-awaited, battled-for babies out there. But it is a little startling to go to your blogroll for your infertility blog and find that almost everyone you follow is either pregnant or has had a baby recently. Again, PLEASED AS PUNCH, but when you start a search to find some people who are still fighting the good fight in your particular area of treatment and are really struggling to find someone who isn't pregnant, who is feeling similar things that you are feeling on the journey, that is hard. But, don't get me wrong, this situation is also incredibly hopeful--because if they are all pregnant that means, eventually, THIS WORKS. But for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, could it please work for me at some point before our world collapses around us? So many of those facebook babies are fertility babies, and that makes me happy. But then there are some tricky associations. For instance, I read an email from a fellow infertility fighter recently and she mentioned that she is 35 weeks and anxiously awaiting the arrival of her baby. On the one hand, this is awesome news--she is so close to having that baby in her arms! She's almost made it! Hurrah for the third trimester in a world where the first trimester and even the second hold no guarantees whatsoever despite all you've done to get there! On the other, slightly bitter hand... I felt punched in the gut when I read it. Because this fabulous mom-to-be got pregnant two days after I did in July. And she is almost ready to give birth, and I am...not. To realize that it could have been me sitting on a couch with my hand on my giant belly, maybe feeling some movement while typing this message of incredible hope, was really hard. I am not a mean-spirited person. I don't wish ill will on anyone. But I just don't understand why we BOTH couldn't have been in a position to bring babies home in late March/early April. Why did the stars align for her and not me? This is not a pretty side to infertility, but it exists.
I have a lot of joy in my life. I am so fortunate to have so many things in life that others struggle for. I have a good job in a highly competitive field that is relatively secure-ish. I have a wonderful husband who loves me and treats me spectacularly well and is supportive in a way I didn't know existed in another life. I have a beautiful home and the means to take care of it. I have wonderful family who supports us in every way imaginable and awesome friends who are the best cheerleaders ever, and when we finally do make it to babyland they will be so ecstatic. I don't want to imply that I live this dark life in the shadows, lurking around other people's happiness like an infertile Gollum. But it is incredibly, heartbreakingly true that my wonderful life has a giant hole in it. A hole that we have tried to fill for 3 1/2 years of medical treatments with very little success but always great hope for the future. A hole that feels like it increasingly sets us apart from...almost everyone else. I know that even though my 37th birthday is looming in the not-so-distant future I am "still young." But I don't feel it. I was upset to find that a teacher that I work with was several years younger than me a month or so ago--not because he was younger than me (and not by much, so who cares?) but because he has multiple small children and so I thought that he had to be at least my age. I forget that people have children in their late 20s/early 30s. That not everyone gets started later only to find that this journey will be incredibly long and arduous with no foreseeable end that is trustworthy. I would love to believe that this next opportunity is going to do the trick, and I will be on the other side of the glass. But I just can't trust it anymore. I will feel differently once we are truly on our way. I always do, because I am an optimistic sucker. But until we are headed towards our transfer, I am kind of living in this gray limboland. And, despite my awesome support network, it is incredibly, incredibly lonely.
I also want to put out this caveat--I am sharing how I feel because I think a lot of people in this situation feel the same way, and aren't sure that it's "OK" because it's dark and/or less than the positive thinking that infertility patients are encouraged to display ad nauseum because somehow having a negative thought could make you less likely to get/stay pregnant. Which is crap. I think that validating ALL of the feelings that come with infertility, pretty or not, is super important to mental health. Get positive again when you are ready, but great jehosaphat, if you've gotten to this point in your journey to have a child and are still unsuccessful I think it's ok to have dark days, sad days, gray days. Even weeks. However, sharing this honesty does not include an expectation that I want people to change their behavior around me--at times I have written honest posts about how certain situations feel only to have people take it completely to heart and feel awkward or distant around me afterwards. I want to hear your stories about your kids. I am happy for your pregnancy announcements/births/milestones (I just might "Like" it on Facebook rather than commenting, because if I comment then my notifications are bombed with comments congratulating people on their baby which turns my phone into a torture device). Please don't leave me out of those moments because you don't want to make me feel sad. I am GOING to feel sad, but I WANT to share your joy. I don't want those things to change. I want my situation to change so that I don't feel this way on the inside every day. I want to join you. I want to leave this lonely space and move on, leave this stagnant period of my life behind and go forward to the world of parenthood.