Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hi. My Name is Glam-O-Mommy and I'm Infertile.

Me: "Hi. My name is Glam-O-Mommy and I'm infertile."

Me: "Hi Glam-O-Mommy."

This is me imagining myself at an Infertility Anonymous meeting. And how many people are in the meeting besides me? NO ONE. I'm having the conversation with myself.

I've documented my battle with infertility in somewhat graphic detail here on my blog before. I am one of the lucky ones. I emerged victorious from my battle with a beautiful baby girl.

Still, I wish I had known someone like me when I was in the trenches of my battle. Someone willing to talk about it.

My battle had been going on for over seven months before I even realized I was in a battle and I was losing. We had been trying to get pregnant faithfully each month. My doctor told me to come in and get a blood test to check to see that I was ovulating. I was at work when I realized I'd missed a call on my cell phone from his nurse. On the message, she told me I got a "two" on the test and needed to call her back. Being EXTREMELY naive, I called her back. "I got your message," I said hopefully. "Is a 'two' good?" "You need to be a 14 or above to be ovulating," she informed me matter-of-factly. "So, I failed the test," I said stupidly.

I remember vividly how at that moment I felt like icicles were sliding through my veins, when in fact the temperature was in the 90s with high humidity and I was sweating. Things were about to get VERY DARK and emotionally torturous for months, with no end in sight.

And the worst part of it was...no one I knew, except possibly my husband, could really understand what it was like to be me.

Or, the ones who did know, weren't so big on talking about it. Many women feel that battling infertility is something shameful, and I understand that feeling. You feel like a failure as a woman. Women were made to give birth. That is our role in the circle of life. We carry the babies. So it is devastating to find out that something so elemental, something you spent years and money trying to PREVENT from happening at the wrong time, is never going to happen now that it's the RIGHT time.

You feel damaged and broken. And the majority of people you encounter just have absolutely no capacity to understand or relate to how you feel and what you are going through, even when you try to half-heartedly give them a little insight into the fact that you are having DIFFICULTIES without going into graphic detail. And they say stuff that they think is absolutely well-meaning, but in reality STABS you in the heart repeatedly.

I mean, when you have gotten a "two" on a test that you should've scored a 14 or above on, and the doctor tells you that means you do not ovulate (which is totally weird because you seemingly have a period every month, so what is that about?) and you, being an educated person, understand that no ovulation=NO BABY, you don't really know how to respond when confronted when these kind of statements from Well-Meaning People [WMP]. Because most of the time, it's none of their business, so you just keep things to yourself, but other times, you just want to come out with the truth so they will shut the H-E-double-hockey-sticks up. Although most times, these people are the truly clueless, who upon hearing you have a problem, continue with these statements, not understanding they should just shut up.

Things Never to Say to Anyone (Because You Have No Idea If Someone is Possibly Infertile):
  • "You just need to relax, then you'll get pregnant." (Um, no I won't. I am barren.)
  • "The minute we stopped trying, we got pregnant." (Um, that won't happen for me. I am a failure!)
  • "I heard if you put your legs in the air for 20 minutes after sex, that will help you get pregnant." (Um, no it doesn't. Believe me, I tried. Stupid waste of time. Besides, I'm barren.)
  • "Maybe you should adopt. I heard that when people adopt a baby, they usually get pregnant right afterwards." (Hello...adoption is a wonderful choice, but that's not a good reason to adopt a baby!)
  • "I know how you feel. It took us two months to get pregnant." (Please kill me now.)
  • "I just don't understand why you don't want to give your parents grandchildren!" (Speechless devastation.)
While I heard all of these things and many more, the last one was a real doozy. It was said to me by an Annoying Aunt of mine, who is not a WMP by any stretch of the imagination, at a family reunion. Loudly and haughtily. So most of my relatives could hear it. As if I was CHOOSING to be childless to spite my parents!! I was literally rendered speechless and just walked away. I had to avoid her for the rest of the weekend because every time she came within 10 feet of me, she started in on the topic of my selfish childlessness like a dog refusing to let go of a juicy bone.

Believe me when I tell you that if a woman says to you she is having problems getting pregnant, she does not want you to say any of the statements above, or anything else. What she wants is for you to simply say something like, "I'm so sorry. That must be really tough." And then LISTEN and be a friend.

Anyway. I am getting a little off-track here. What I feel passionate about now is speaking up about my infertility battle. I tried to talk about it with people as I was going through it, and I mostly got blank stares or the aforementioned comments, because it's just impossible for people to understand it unless they go through it themselves. And today, when I bring it up in conversation, most people still don't get it. But I bring it up very specifically, so that if the person I'm talking to IS facing that battle themselves, they know I am someone they can talk to and someone who will listen and understand.

Here's how the conversation generally goes:

WMP: "So how many kids do you have?"

Me: "I have one daughter."

WMP: "How old is she?"

Me: "She's almost two."

WMP: "So, are you going to have another one?"

Me: "No. I had to take fertility drugs and do fertility treatment to get pregnant with her, because we couldn't get pregnant without help. I don't want to put myself through all of that again, but I'm just so grateful I have one healthy baby."

WMP who has no trouble getting pregnant: "Oh, well, some people still get pregnant on their own after fertility treatments, you know. I have a friend..."

Me: Trying to not roll my eyes....

or

WMP who is having trouble getting pregnant: "Really? You guys had trouble? We're kind of going through that right now."

Me: "Ask me anything. I'm happy to share my experience with you."

I've actually had this conversation with several women who started asking me questions because they were facing infertility. One was a coworker, and I met with her almost monthly, kind of like a little infertility support group for her, for over a year until she finally got pregnant through treatment. Her baby was born recently and I'm so happy for her! And she is grateful to me for being there as someone who can understand and relate, which makes me really happy, like something good (besides my amazing miracle child) is coming out of the pain and loneliness I felt during my infertilty battle.

NOW, I know there are tons of infertility-related blogs and online communities out there. I wish I had known about them when I was going through my own experience, because I am sure they would've provided support to me and helped me feel less isolated, but I didn't. Either way, both online and in person, I am now all about speaking out about infertility. It is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is a MEDICAL CONDITION and we need to support women going through it rather than making them feel like there is something shameful about it. (We also need to get insurance companies to cover more of the costs related to infertility treatment because it is a medical condition, but that's another post entirely.)

I really admire the actress Constance Marie. She is 44 and has a young baby. She's currently blogging on People.com in their celebrity baby blog section about motherhood and wrote an in-depth entry the other week on exactly what she went through to have her daughter. Her battle was WAY worse than mine. Her honesty prompted lots of comments from other women facing their own infertilty battles and I think it's terrific that she is speaking so openly about her experience, as it can really help other women to know they are not alone.

This last week, actress Catherine Bell was also featured on People.com's celebrity baby blog. She is pregnant with her second child. The headline was "Catherine Bell: Son Was Conceived 'Pretty Much Naturally'". In the article, it says: "'We were totally trying,' the Army Wives star, 41, reveals. 'I conceived pretty much naturally.' In fact, it was just two months after starting the fertility drug Clomid that Bell became pregnant."

I like her, but this really rankled me. And it's probably completely irrational on my part, I know, but I was disappointed. Why couldn't she just say, "We needed some help, so we used Clomid." Instead, she's trying to make it sound less shameful that she had help, when there is NO SHAME in getting help. Actually, from the article, she makes it sound like they just wanted to get pregnant quickly, so they may not really have needed help anyway, they just used Clomid to speed things along, but still! I have to tell you, there is nothing 'pretty much natural' about Clomid. Clomid makes you a raging menopausal crazy person, which is very unnatural. But it does help you get pregnant, so it's amazing. And that is what I think we should say.

I feel so grateful that medicine and technology (gifts from God in my opinion) have given women like me a chance to be a mother. Even with all of that, there are still women who will not be one of the lucky ones. Who will still not get pregnant with all of that in their corner, for reasons mysterious and unknown. But all of us, the lucky ones and the unlucky ones, have nothing to be ashamed of. We need compassion, support, and understanding. And we need to use our voices to help fight the stigma of infertility. So that's what I'm doing.

Yes, I have a beautiful baby. But I am indelibly changed by the experience I went through to have her. Sometimes I feel like I walk around with an invisible red "I" on my chest. I am still an infertile woman. My experience colors how I view the world. So I am going to keep speaking out and hope that sharing my experience helps others in some small way to not feel alone. And I am going to hug my baby tight and love and cherish every moment I have with her. Because, while all children are miracles, I know mine really is. :)

5 comments:

  1. I somehow found you while surfing. Your story touches my heart in many ways. Though I am not infertile I walk a similar journey. I have four children but three are not with me. Losing them in pregnancy, each one in a different stage. The last one , Lydia, two weeks before she was due. I can relate to the feelings of shame, I do try to blast that feeling though whenever it peeps its head up.Its not my fault, I am not a failure, my journey will not be in vain. I have a friend who is walking in a journey more closely related to yours. After years of not being able to conceive she is found to have cancer. She has survived it but the doctors say she can't try even try to conceive for another two years.

    I say all this not to discourage you but to encourage you that there are others walking similar journeys , who can relate and even give hope! You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you walk this out.

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  2. I think your writing and your authenticity is inspiring. I do not know about infertility, but I have plenty of friends who do. For them it is heartbreaking, and like you, they struggle not to be defined by it. Many of the words in the this post are similar to the ones they speak. I admire your courage to write about your journey. I am confident other women will find comfort and a place that feels like home in your writing.
    Thank you,
    Heather

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  3. Danielle, thank you so much for your comment and your encouragement. I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine how devastating it must be to lose a baby. I am keeping you and your friend who has survived cancer in my prayers.

    Heather, your comment really means a lot to me. Thank you for taking a moment to share it. When I started the blog, I just wanted a place to write about my life as a mom, and I found I can't really do that without sharing the experience I went through to become a mom, because it is very close to the surface of things, always.

    I feel very blessed by both of your comments. You've made my day. Thanks so much for reading!

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  4. Sonya,
    As you may have known from reading my blog, we went through horrible infertility (caused by a malformation in my uterus) and several pregancy losses. I have heard everything you did and more. I was in fact ovulating but my body wasn't allowing implantation over 90% of the time and the other 10% I was losing babies, so I know the pain of feeling like a failure. As you also probably know, once my issue was surgically corrected, I had and have trouble not getting pregnant. Very feast or famine with me.

    I too was rankled by the Catherine Bell interview. I think she should have been more up front.

    Ironically, my older son's godmother was also not ovulating. I say ironically because she did not want to get married to her current husband if he could not have children (they had this discussion early on) he went and got a check-up and was fine. After they were married and she stopped any kind of birth control, she actually did stop having a period. When she went to the doctor and they confirmed this, she went on Clomid. Luckily she was pregnant quickly (she is a very impatient person, so as bad as infertility is, it's worse when you are impatient the way she is) and is due with her son in September.

    While it is rough to know your body is betraying you the way you and I found out, I think unexplained infertility is much worse. Because there is no "cause" it's almost impossible to treat.

    And for me, the absolute worst part of the infertility process was trying to figure out how all my friends and family were having children and I couldn't. I kept trying to figure out what I had done wrong.

    I didn't mean for this to turn into an essay but I really appreciate you posting on this. It is painful for so many women to talk about, so telling our stories is important.
    Kristen

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  5. Kristen, I did not realize you had faced infertility too. Your situation sounds so heart-breaking, and I'm so happy for you that things have worked out and you have three beautiful children!

    I completely understand what you mean about trying to figure out why everyone else could have children and you couldn't...this is what I meant by "dark nights of the soul" when I commented on your blog. Every month, every day, every week, I prayed to God to help me understand why I wasn't getting pregnant when all around me were. And then, when we had several high-profile cases in SA of mothers murdering their children...well, that is when I stopped talking to God, because I just couldn't understand how He would let those women be mothers, only to kill their children, and not let me, a seemingly good person, be one. I just gave up on Him and stopped talking to him.

    Then, a few months later when I got pregnant, I was so grateful and I continue to be so grateful and blessed to be a mother, that I'm ashamed I didn't have more patience and faithfulness to Him at the time. I hope He understands and forgives me.

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