Surreal

A friend recently gave me something that reads, “If by dream, you mean nightmare, then yes, I’m living the dream.”

We had a good laugh over this and I put it where I can see it every day and have a chuckle. It’s good for me to find humor where I can… and this one hits the truth in just the right way — it is spot on.

Infertility is like having a bad dream that you can’t wake up from. In my nightmare of infertility horrible and unexpected things keep happening, yet time just keeps marching on. I’m standing here watching this strange, surreal world spin around me and I’m trying to make it stop so that things can reset and my life can get back on track… but I can’t. This nightmare of mine is real — my whole experience of infertility has been one bizarre thing after another.

To start with, I did not expect to have any trouble getting pregnant in the first place, and when I think hard about it, my infertility *still* surprises me. Truly, how can this be happening? Is this actually real? I feel like that kid in that youtube video who asks, “Is this real life?” Because seriously, is it? What is happening to us doesn’t make any sense at all. Shouldn’t my infertility and these last few years just evaporate and disappear forever so that my life can go back to the way it was supposed to unfold?

I look back and cannot believe how much time has passed. Matt and I are approaching our third anniversary of when we started trying to conceive. This blows my mind. How can it be this long? Has it really been nearly three years? Yes, apparently. Calendars confirm it. The date and time stamp on my phone confirm it. So do the birthday celebrations of the children born to my loved ones these past few years.

It is totally surreal to me that we’ve been treated multiple times, in multiple ways for our infertility and haven’t had success yet. It baffles me and my doctors. Our “new normal” in this bizarre world of infertility treatments consists of enduring strange things at every turn: having surgeries and other procedures; taking tons of pills and receiving numerous injections; having my blood draw over and over; sitting in the stirrups for more ultrasounds than I want to count; and keeping such close track of medications and appointments that I write them down on paper and in our google calendar in order to double check everything. It’s surreal that, due to lots of practice, Matt manages to get the measurements on all of my follicles at nearly the same pace as my nurse. Even more surreal is that Matt has managed to give me many, many injections without fainting, despite his fear of needles. It’s strange that we are used to this new normal where we set alarms and wake up to administer injections on time; where there are four sharps containers in my bathroom closet; where we save money so that we can give extremely large sums of it to our infertility clinic; and where I have a 24-hour infertility pharmacy saved in my phone. It’s bizarre to me that we went through IVF and that we have two frozen embryos waiting in a laboratory across town… Infertility treatment is a very strange, unreal experience.

Infertility feels especially surreal anytime someone I know first shares with me that they are pregnant. My loved ones have been lucky enough to conceive within only a few months of trying, and as a result, pregnancy announcements always throw me into a confusing state of disbelief… Questions like, “What are we doing wrong?” “Why was it so easy for them?” and “What is wrong with me?” rattle around in my mind, throwing me into confusion and despair as I struggle to accept my surreal situation where nothing seems to make sense.

Even becoming pregnant after infertility is surreal. You’d think pregnancy would set an infertility patient back on track or something, and life would make sense again, but it didn’t for me. I think once you enter the world of infertility things are permanently changed… because when I was pregnant it was very hard to believe, even though it had been such a long time coming. After two years of trying it had finally happened! We were thrilled! We had worked so hard to get there… it felt wonderful and strange to be pregnant and imagine finally being able to bring home a baby after waiting so long.

But then, things got even more surreal — the unexpected just keeps happening. That long awaited for pregnancy was diagnosed as ectopic and I was sent to the hospital, not once, but twice to be treated for it. While I was there, I had surreal discussions with my nurses about how it was my first pregnancy after trying so long… I couldn’t believe I had finally gotten pregnant, and then suddenly I was at the hospital and it was all ending… and as I was receiving the strange, neon colored injections of chemotherapy, over the hospital speakers they played a clip of a lullaby, indicating that a baby had just been born to some lucky couple elsewhere in the hospital… I still can hardly process that strange, surreal feeling of hearing the lullaby… After my injections I was sent home to miscarry and somehow work through this enormous loss.

The months of failed treatments that have followed my pregnancy have only added to the strange, surreal experience we’re having. Why did that first IUI work, but not any of the IUIs that followed my pregnancy? Why did Matt’s sperm counts suddenly plummet? Why didn’t the transfer after our IVF cycle work? Why is any of this happening? I know asking “why” isn’t very productive, but knowing that doesn’t stop me from wondering… We continue to be surprised by our infertility — we thought I’d be pregnant by now. We thought we’d have a baby by now. None of this makes sense.

My nightmare of infertility just keeps going on and on as the months tick by. Stranger things have happened, sure, but I certainly didn’t think trying to have kids would be such a nightmarish disaster. Pregnancy happens almost effortlessly for so many people, and I continue to be surprised at how difficult it is for us. It’s just so surreal. I truly never thought I’d go through all of this… and I wish I just could wake up from this strange nightmare-life of infertility and be able to build my family the way I’d imagined.

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