Hopeful Healing

It has been a long time since I posted here, and in that time so much has changed..! The remaining two frozen embryos that we transferred in May not only implanted, but one also split into identical twins, and somehow, amazingly all three have turned into my beautiful children! Everyday this still surprises me. Everyday this still amazes me. It is still surreal and strange and wonderful that we have triplets and that I was pregnant and stayed pregnant after three long years of infertility and loss.

These changes have been wonderful and overwhelming and confusing at times! There are lots of things I don’t know… I’m not sure how or why our transfer in May was successful. I’m not sure why our transfer last February was not successful. I do not understand why we had success and others have not. I cannot explain why we ended up with more babies than we had embryos. I do not know why all of this has happened. I don’t think I ever will.

But one thing I know is that Matt and I are very lucky to have our triplets. There are no guarantees with infertility treatment or pregnancy, and I am so thankful that we had success and that my babies arrived safely after my hard, high risk pregnancy. And despite how overwhelming and exhausting caring for newborn triplets is, at the end of the day I know I have an opportunity that I thought at one time might never happen — I get to be the mom to living children! So I’m trying to enjoy the moments that I can, sleep when I am able, and do my best to take care of my little ones and raise them into kind hearted, loving people.

I also know that my pregnancy in some ways allowed me to connect with others who are experiencing infertility. Some people have opened up about their struggles with infertility after hearing our news, and I have been able to hear their stories, share with them our story, and remind them that they are not alone. I suspect a lifetime of questions regarding the conception of our triplets, so I’m prepared for discussions about this in the future too… I think part of my healing process will continue to be connecting with others to share the heavy load of infertility.

As for this blog, I intend to leave it here, untouched. It’s an honest record of my infertility experience, and until this post is untouched by our outcome. I hope my words will continue to be a source of comfort and connection to those who need it.

Even though I now have living children, I suspect that healing from my infertility and pregnancy loss will still continue for a long time — I would not say that I am “fixed” now. I do find that my babies are helping to heal my wounds from infertility, but I cannot count on them to do all the work for me. As I wrote in my post on rainbows, I believe healing from infertility needs to come from more than just a baby (or three!). So I continue to care for myself, process my feelings, and appreciate the multiple rainbows in my life.

I don’t know where this new adventure with triplets will take us, but I know we are headed there together, surrounded in love — Matt and me and our children, with our family and friends. We head into our new adventure with half agony, knowing that the world is a confusing and unfair place with loss and heartache, but we also head there with half hope that our sacred lives will still be beautiful and filled with love and rainbows if we look in the right places.

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Hope

I’ll be totally honest — when I started writing this “infertility is” series, I thought by the time I got to “hope” I’d be ready to write about it. I thought maybe by now I’d have some again or maybe even have some amazing insight about hope after all of my emotional processing following our IVF failure. But as it turns out, I continue to struggle with hopelessness, and I feel entirely unqualified to write about hope.

In an attempt to cure my hopelessness, I’ve been searching for hope everywhere — in books, blogs, quotes, exercise, therapy, sermons, meditations, you name it. I even desperately asked my therapist what I could do to feel hopeful again, knowing already that there was no easy answer for this, no checklist or homework assignment I could complete. She told me that I needed to feel my grief first. Sigh. “I’m tired of grieving,” I complained. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. But she was right. Hope cannot be turned on, just as grief cannot be turned off.

And after all of my searching, I can only conclude that which I already knew: hope isn’t “out there” waiting to be found — it is within me. As Emily Dickinson said, “hope is the thing with feathers” and it’s in my heart singing, or at least trying to. Sometimes it sings loud and clear. Sometimes it sings very, very softly. Emily claims that the thing with feathers never stops singing, but there I think she’s wrong — sometimes all hope is lost. Sometimes the hope inside me actually does stop singing… as if it has completely burned away, leaving only the ashes of my hopes and dreams.

When all hope for something is lost, I have to let go of that hope and find something new to hope for. In Resilient Grieving the author wrote about redefining what we are hoping for now when all hope has been lost. This really resonated with me because we’ve been redefining hope throughout our infertility journey: at each step in the treatment process we’ve had to let go of the hope that the previous treatment would work and grow new hope that the next treatment would work. Further, infertility has made me consider what I’m hoping for in my life and with Matt in the event that we do not have children.

The process of grieving and redefining hope takes a lot of hard work. It’s not quick or easy, and I try to be patient.  It takes time for my phoenix of hope to grow anew, to slowly rise out of the ashes and start singing in my heart again. I cannot just turn up the volume because I want to. I cannot just turn off all of my other prevailing emotions to feel only the things I want to feel. I have to feel all of my emotions, process and work through them. Only then will there be room for other emotions, space for the phoenix of hope to grow.

My infertility is trying to hold onto hope in the face of repeated disappointments, loss, and heartache. It is trying to hope when all seems hopeless. It is struggling to redefine hope after all hope has been lost. It is working through hard emotions and letting new hope grow in my heart again. My infertility is trying to maintain hope that this pain will end, that there will be more peace and joy in my future, and that our lives will continue to be filled with love and happiness regardless of the outcome of our infertility.

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Grief

My infertility is profound grief.

My infertility is constantly grieving for the family I desire to have with Matt, for the children I long to hold in my arms and share my life with. It is constantly grieving the loss of what has not happened yet, what could have been each and every cycle, and what may never be. It is grieving the loss of hopes and dreams for my family and my future.

My pregnancy loss is forevermore grieving the loss of our child who we never met, but wanted and love still with all of our hearts. It is grieving a life cut way too short. It is grieving what was and what should have been.

My infertility is grieving the loss of what I once expected for my life — what I thought this part of my life would be like; what I thought conceiving would be like; what I thought pregnancy would be like; what I thought the timeline of my family’s growth would be like. It is grieving the loss of the certainty I used to have about my future, and the innocence I once had.

My infertility is grieving every day, every month, every year. It is grieving every failed cycle and every failed treatment, and all of the time, money, energy, hope, and love that went into each and every cycle. It is grieving the months passed waiting for the next treatment to begin. It is grieving at every step as we’ve moved on to more and more advanced treatments.

My infertility is grief that builds over time. Every month that goes by is harder than the last for me. Perhaps when our infertility is resolved in some way and we have been able to move forward in our lives, the grief will stop increasing… but until then, it accumulates despite our best efforts to work through it.

The grief of my infertility is very complex and layered… in addition to the losses of our hopes and dreams for our family, infertility brings an enormous load of secondary losses that are not always obvious or apparent to an outsider. Infertility has caused the losses of my sense of sense, friendships, control, privacy, normality, and the perception of myself as “healthy”.

My infertility is grieving the loss of my sense of self. As I struggle through treatment side effects and the powerful waves of grief following each and every failure, sometimes I hardly feel like I know who I am anymore. The surreal experience of infertility and all of the emotions that come with it leave me questioning who I am and what’s happening.

My infertility is grieving broken relationships that have not withstood my infertility. Losing relationships during my infertility is pretty much the last thing I expected, but it’s happened and it’s heartbreaking. Unfortunately not everyone is able to sit in the darkness of grief with someone else.

My infertility is grieving the loss of control. We live in a day and age where our fertility is usually under our control… most people decide when to have children, are able to conceive within a reasonable time frame, and carry their baby to term. But infertility means that we have lost the ability to decide when and how to bring children into our family — regardless of treatments or other options we might pursue, the outcome is out of our hands.

My infertility is grieving the loss of the freedom to plan and live as we please. Our treatments, appointments, and medications are scheduled around the calendar at the doctor’s office, and as a result, our work schedules and lives in general are dictated by our treatments. I’ve even been put on birth control pills at times to align my cycles to their ideal dates. Infertility is also grieving the inability to plan anything beyond the next treatment — we don’t know if and when I’ll be pregnant, or if and when we’ll need to have appointments, or when I might be experiencing miserable side effects from medications. All of this makes planning anything from a night out to a holiday away difficult.

My infertility is grieving an extreme loss of privacy — of my body and of trying to conceive in general. Usually making a baby is a very private and intimate event, but treating our infertility and sharing about our experience has eliminated any and all privacy we once had. Infertility treatments have brought me to the exam table stirrups more times than I can count, and I have been poked, prodded, and ultrasound-wanded over and over. There’s no privacy anymore in our efforts to conceive; we’ve literally been examined under a microscope. Additionally, even though it has been important, sharing with others about my infertility has led to a loss of privacy too — people know many, many more details about our efforts to conceive than they would if I were fertile.

My infertility is grieving the loss of normality. “Normal” people conceive without trouble and carry their babies to term, but infertility, pregnancy loss, and treatments for infertility have thrown us into a surreal world — these experiences are not normal. It’s not normal to have an ectopic pregnancy. It’s not normal to be try to conceive for three years and not have a baby. It’s not normal to go through 14 cycles of treatment without success. It’s not normal to have injections every day, or have embryos created in a lab and stored in a freezer. It’s not normal for my friends and family to know intimate details about my cycles or doctor’s appointments. Grieving this loss of normality is so huge that one major benefit of going to our infertility support group is hearing others discuss their infertility — it helps to normalize our own experience and makes us feel not so alone.

My infertility is grieving the loss of a perceived healthy body. I am in perfect health in seemingly every other way… but infertility means something is in fact, medically wrong with us, even if there’s not a clear answer about what it is. Grieving the loss of my perceived health has been a frustrating, confusing experience… I feel healthy, but I’m an infertility patient with a calendar full of appointments and procedures and a closet full of medications. Aside from treatment side effects, I don’t feel sick physically, yet our failure to conceive over and over continues to prove that my body isn’t as “healthy” as it might appear to be.

My infertility is processing all of this grief — both the primary losses of our pregnancy and our family, and also the secondary losses that hit from every direction. My infertility is sitting with grief, time and time again. It’s letting grief overwhelm me when necessary. It’s crying until my eyes hurt, my head hurts. It’s asking Matt to sit with me and letting him wipe my tears. It’s telling Matt to please let me sit alone, quietly in the dark. It’s writing and writing and writing. It’s distracting myself with a book, movie or TV show, because sometimes I need to take an intentional break from grieving. It’s making myself get up, get dressed, go outside, text a friend, get back out there. It’s feeling exhausted because grieving is hard work. It’s wanting to feel happier, wanting to feel hopeful, wanting to feel optimistic, but knowing deep down that those feelings will only come once I work through some of my grief.

It’s been said that grief only exists where love lived first… While this may or may not be true for all kinds of grief, I do think it is true for the profound grief of infertility. Matt and I want to build a family together because of the love we share, and the love we want to share with children. We’re full of grief for the pregnancy we lost, the family we’re hoping for, and the unknown direction of our future. While we hope, and wait, and try again, we grieve the absence of our children with great love.

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Waiting

 Infertility is waiting… waiting… waiting…

Infertility is waiting for the small things. Waiting for appointments. Waiting to see doctors. Waiting to see nurses. Waiting to see phlebotomists. Waiting for test results. Waiting to start my next treatment. Waiting for the next phase in my treatment. Waiting two weeks. Waiting for more test results. And waiting to start over. Again.

Infertility is waiting for the big things. Waiting for a healthy pregnancy. Waiting to meet my child and bring him or her home. Waiting to hold her in my arms. Waiting to get to know him. Waiting to watch her smile and laugh. Waiting to soothe his cries. Waiting to watch her grow.

Infertility is waiting to feel like myself again physically. Waiting for the miserable side effects of treatment medications and procedures to subside. Waiting for the rashes from surgery adhesives and bandages to heal. Waiting for my bruising and injection sites to heal. Waiting for scars to fade. Infertility is waiting for when miserable side effects are from a healthy pregnancy or from keeping up with a child.

Infertility is waiting to feel like myself again emotionally. Waiting for my grief to lift. Waiting to feel content or maybe even happy. Waiting to feel fulfilled. Waiting to feel connected to others again. Waiting to feel relaxed and comfortable with the unknowns in my future. Waiting to make plans again. Waiting to feel joy when I see babies and small children. Waiting to feel whole once more. Waiting for my broken heart to heal.

Infertility is waiting for my lifelong dream of being a mother to come true. For three years we’ve been ready and waiting for good news. We’re waiting to begin our next chapter together. Waiting to move forward. Waiting for this agonizing wait to end.

Infertility is waiting… waiting… waiting for our child.

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Isolation

I was looking for an infertility book at my local big box bookstore the other day and came up empty handed… again.  Over the course of my infertility journey, I have repeatedly visited this store in person or looked online for local availability searching for specific books and I have been unable to find a single one locally. As I left the store feeling annoyed and alone yet again, various thoughts crossed my mind… “Of course they wouldn’t want to taint their perfect pregnancy section with books about infertility or loss” and “I should know better by now” and “Am I really the only one in this town who might want to read books about infertility or loss?”

The answer to that question is definitely NO — one in eight couples have trouble conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy — but after another failed attempt at finding support in my bookstore, I was still left with the feeling that I am very alone. It also makes me feel like our society values, validates, and supports only the topics I find on the bookshelves — pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, and grieving losses of parents, siblings or a job; but not infertility or pregnancy or baby loss. I know that it may seem like a minor problem, but it’s more than just not being able to find a book — it’s actually a symptom of a huge problem of infertility: isolation. Not being able to buy my books at the store where everyone else can buy their books makes me feel like I don’t belong, and it is just one of the ways in which infertility makes me feel alone and different.

Infertility is isolating because it feels like I’m *the only one* without kids, and as a result, it feels like we do not belong anywhere. Families with children are everywhere. I look around at my community, my neighborhood, and my friends and family, and everywhere I see children… everywhere but here.

Infertility is isolating when I’m around my loved ones and their children — I feel so left out. I’m not in their exclusive mom club, and it hurts of profound sadness, despair, and jealousy. Our children aren’t playing together. We’re not trading clothes and baby toys or signing up for the same swim class. While they move on with their growing families, I’m left behind with my infertility, alone with a broken heart.

Infertility is isolating when people make small talk about family or how my [bad] day is going. In a previous post about isolation, I wrote about how this makes me feel alone and like my experience isn’t acceptable or valid.

Infertility is isolating when people avoid me, do not acknowledge my experience, or do not make space for my grief. My reality is hard for people to accept, and it frequently makes people uncomfortable. Sometimes people avoid me or they avoid acknowledging what is happening to me and focus the conversation on anything else instead. Often people try to fix my infertility or change my feelings instead of accepting my situation and sitting with me while I grieve.

Infertility is isolating because it feels like nobody understands. I feel like no one understands all of the complicated emotions and the extent of my heartache. I feel like no one understands how awful it is to be disappointed month after month, year after year, treatment after treatment, or how devastating it is to lose a pregnancy or to be failed by IVF. I feel like I end up on the defensive too often, trying to defend why I’m still sad, or why something upset me, or why we’re making certain treatment choices. I feel like no one understands how broken I feel.

I have shared a lot about my experience and have provided many resources to try to help my loved ones understand… but I still feel alone, different, and disconnected. No matter what I do or how hard I try, I still feel like no one gets it, no one is comfortable with me, and no one knows what to say (for a refresher on what to do or say, please visit my post on support). The fact that it’s even necessary or important for me to blog about this topic should clearly show just how isolating infertility is — under normal circumstances I would have absolutely no interest in so openly sharing such personal thoughts and feelings, and I wish I did not need to.

Infertility is isolating when I need to give myself a break from social activities. I have written before about how I might decline invitations to social engagements or leave early. Sometimes I’m unwell due to treatment. Sometimes I’m just not up for socializing. Sometimes there is too much focus on children in social situations — I cannot bear watching children for very long or listening to too much conversation about children because it fills me with grief and makes me feel alone.

Infertility is isolating when I need to give myself space from communicating with others. Sometimes I’m not ready to handle follow up questions or unsolicited advice. Sometimes I do not think I can handle rehashing my current situation again — it can be difficult for me to relive my pain over and over. Sometimes I’m not ready to talk or share my feelings. Sometimes I have nothing to say. Regardless of the reason, part of caring for myself sometimes means intentionally creating some distance from others.

On the other hand, sometimes socializing is just what I need, and many of my loved ones are very eager to connect with me. That said, infertility can still be isolating even when I do want to engage socially, so I have found that it is helpful for me to spread out my social engagements and communications. Spreading things out gives me time and space in between connecting with loved ones to be alone with my grief if necessary, to recover if the experience was draining, and to prepare for my next engagement or conversation.

The best things I’ve found for reducing the isolation of infertility are going to support group and reading about infertility. Reading, listening to and sharing with others has helped to validate my feelings and normalize my reactions and experience. Hearing others’ stories reminds me again and again that I am not the only one going through this, and it has been so helpful to feel connected to people who truly get it. Having a safe place for understanding and acceptance has been so meaningful to me. However, I will also admit that the remedy of connecting with others still has its limits — support group has greatly reduced my feelings of isolation, but it has not eliminated them.

I think infertility is so isolating because the grief is very personal. My dreams are not coming true; my family with Matt is not growing; my heart is breaking. My heartache and loss is so deep and intense, and the powerful grief hits me at my core. I feel like no one can truly understand… not even Matt. But I know that is not fair — just as he doesn’t know what my experience is like, I don’t know what his is like. Our experiences are unique and personal, and so is our grief. Over time we have learned that our grieving styles are different and that we often need to grieve and process alone. So even though Matt and I are in this together, sometimes I still feel alone because infertility grief is personal.

On so many levels, infertility is extremely isolating. I constantly feel like the odd one out, the different one, the only one without a child, even though I know that I’m not alone. I know there are many others out there who know the pain of infertility and loss. I know we have loved ones hoping and and despairing along side us. I know that the best ways to reduce my isolation are to stay connected with people who understand and with people who can accept me. But sometimes I still feel alone… alone in the bookstore; alone in my quiet home; alone in this fertile world without children; alone in my heartache, confusion, and disappointment; alone in my grief.

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Jealousy

Infertility has made me feel like *everyone else has kids* and I don’t. (This isn’t even all in my head either… most people do have children) Families with children are all over the place: nearly every book or article I read mentions families with children; everywhere I go — from stores and restaurants to hiking trails or airports — I run into families with children; and on every social media site I visit, I see babies, children, and pregnant women. I feel like the world reminds me all the time that I do not have children and *everyone else does*. And I’m jealous.

Infertility is feeling jealous of complete strangers who I see out and about with their pregnant bellies or their children. Other people would look right past the pregnant mom at Target, or the family with kids at the grocery store, but I see them and despite looking away or trying to look past them, their mere presence has already upset me. As I turn green with envy, my internal voice cries out, “Why them and not me?!”

Infertility is feeling jealous of people I know and people I love — my friends and family who have children. I’m happy that their families are growing and I’m glad that they aren’t in the kind of pain I’m in… but infertility is overwhelming, profound sadness for myself and jealousy that they have children. I certainly do not wish infertility on my loved ones, but that does not stop me from feeling jealous that their routes to parenthood have been smooth and infertility-free. I’m jealous that they are rapidly growing their families and enjoying their children. I feel so heartbroken and left out.

Infertility is feeling jealous of the whole experience my loved ones are having with their children — even the parts they complain about. It’s so hard to be left behind while *everyone else* moves on to parenthood. I wish I had a child like everyone else.

Infertility is feeling jealous watching children interact with people and their world. I feel jealous seeing children play, laugh, and smile with their parents and their grandparents. I feel jealous of the bonding that is taking place. I feel jealous when milestones are reached and holidays and birthdays are celebrated. I wish all these things could be happening for me and my child, and I’m afraid that they never will. My heart breaks with sadness for who and what I’m missing.

Infertility is feeling jealous of the kinds of things my loved ones with children are studying and learning to cope with in their lives. I wish I were reading about pregnancy, childbirth, and how to best parent my newborn/toddler/growing child, instead of reading about infertility and pregnancy loss. I wish I were tired from pregnancy or from the demanding schedule of being a parent, instead of being exhausted from disappointment, heartache, and treatments.

Infertility is feeling jealous of the activities my loved ones are doing with their children. I wish I were taking my child to music class, soccer, or playdates, instead of going to endless doctor’s appointments, lab appointments, and infertility support group.

Jealousy is a hard part of infertility… it mixes with my grief, anger, and isolation, resulting in a terrible combination that makes me feel absolutely miserable and sick inside. I know comparing my experience to someone else’s is not productive; I know asking “why?” is not productive; but knowing those things does not make them stop. Feelings of jealousy do not go away just because I don’t like them… and all feelings are valid — even jealousy. So what do I do to cope with it?

Well, to start with, I know a lot of the things that trigger jealousy, so I try to avoid those things. For example, we prefer to go to the grocery store after dinner, when families with children are typically at home. I avoid reading books that I suspect will upset me. I avoid facebook and other social media sites that trigger me, and I’m very careful about who and what I follow and like. I say “no” to social engagements, especially when I’m feeling really vulnerable.

However, it is not always possible to avoid everything that might trigger jealousy. So when it strikes, I acknowledge it and work through it. I might write about what I’m feeling or talk about it with a safe person. If I’m in a social situation I might need to leave the room to give myself some space, or leave the gathering completely. When I’m jealous of strangers, I try to remember that I do not know their story — maybe their path to parenthood has not been as easy as it appears… perhaps that pregnancy is a result of IVF, or maybe those kids were adopted. And at the end of every day I give myself some perspective too — I practice gratitude and write down things I’m thankful for from that day.

Even though I know that someone else’s success growing their family doesn’t reduce my chances of having children, it is still hard to accept the feeling that everyone else but me has kids. Infertility has turned on some kind of hyper-aware-of-children radar in me, and activated a jealous streak that I didn’t even really know I had, but it’s there now. I just try to keep it in check.

For more reading about jealousy, please visit:
http://www.scarymommy.com/infertility-jealousy/
https://www.fertilityauthority.com/blog/amira-posner/2015/1/27/6-coping-techniques-handling-jealousy-infertility

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Anger

Infertility is anger.

I’m angry that I’m experiencing infertility and that all of this is happening to me.
I’m angry that I lost a pregnancy.
I’m angry that we don’t have a baby yet.
I’m angry that my transferred embryos didn’t implant and survive.
I’m angry that our IVF didn’t result in more frozen embryos.
I’m angry that I’ve endured months of treatments with no success.
I’m angry that infertility treatments are expensive and not covered by insurance.
I’m angry that everywhere I go I am reminded that I don’t have children.
I’m angry when I feel misunderstood.
I’m angry when someone offers a quick fix to my infertility.
I’m angry when someone tells me to enjoy my freedom from the burdens of parenthood.
I’m angry because this was not part of my plan.
I’m angry because infertility sucks and I don’t deserve it.
I’m angry at the world for being unfair and miserable.
I’m angry because I think I’d be a good mom, but I can’t seem to get there.

There are a lot of things about infertility that REALLY tick me off. This is just the tip of the iceberg… Get me going too much and I’ll raise my voice and shake my fist at the world!! INFERTILITY IS ANGER.

But no matter how angry I get, I can’t go around all the time being angry and shaking my fist at the world. So I’ve found that part of my infertility is finding ways to deal with my anger. I’ve never had much anger before, but infertility brings up a lot of it… so it’s important for me to address my anger appropriately. I need to feel it and release it in a safe way and safe space.

Infertility anger is wanting to yell or scream or tell someone off, but instead it is remaining as calm as I can be and biting my tongue in the moment, and then later ranting to a safe audience… Sometimes I talk to trusted loved ones, my support group, or therapist. Often I privately write about what is making me angry and let all of my feelings out. SOMETIMES I USE ALL CAPS OR CURSE ABOUT WHAT’S MAKING ME ANGRY. (Fun fact: people who swear tolerate pain better.)

Infertility anger is wanting to break things, but instead it is exercising and working energy out of my system in a positive way… To feel strong and controlled I might go to kick-boxing or weight-lifting. To find balance and quiet my mind I might go to yoga or take a walk.

Sometimes dealing with my anger means finding humor (usually dark humor) that hits on what’s upsetting me and makes me laugh. Not many fertile people seem to understand my infertility humor, but I don’t really care… sometimes laughing about infertility is the release and relief I need, whether or not anyone else gets it.

The anger that comes with my infertility comes and goes. More often than not, my prevailing emotion is grief… but anger takes charge every now and then. And at times when I’ve been angry, I’ve had people tell me that I shouldn’t feel angry about my infertility, that I shouldn’t feel angry when someone upsets me, and so on… but that’s just not right. Emotions aren’t right or wrong, good or bad — my reaction to my emotions might be good or bad, but simply having the feelings isn’t right or wrong. What I feel is what I feel, and that’s okay. Pretending emotions aren’t there won’t make them go away… so even if it’s unpleasant, I need to feel my anger and work through it in appropriate ways in order to move forward. Whether I like it or not, INFERTILITY IS ANGER.

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Uncertainty

I am one of those people who likes to plan things… and I’m not just talking about planning a party or a vacation, although I enjoy organizing those things too; I’m talking about planning my life — I’ve always had my next move figured out. In high school I always knew the classes I’d be taking the next year. In college I carefully planned out my courses way ahead of time in order to fit in all of my requirements for a double major. During our engagement we planned for our new lives across the country in addition to planning our awesome wedding, and since we’ve been married we’ve always been planning one or two steps ahead. I’m always looking into the future, working on achieving my goals.

But I never planned for infertility. I never planned for not being able to have children. I never planned to lose a pregnancy. I never planned to have to cope with such heartbreak and despair.  I never planned to figure out what to do with myself in the event that I’m not able to achieve my goal of being a mom.

I used to be able to see my life ahead of me so clearly, but now when I look into the future, I have no idea what’s coming — I only see the dark haze of uncertainty. Nothing is clear anymore in my future… and it’s terrifying. Thanks to infertility, the uncertainty of my future scares me daily. I truly have no idea where my path is going… Will I have children or not? If I don’t, will I be okay? Will I recover?

Infertility is uncertainty… not knowing what to expect, not knowing what to do, not knowing what the future holds. It is not knowing if any particular month will be *the month*. It is not knowing if the next treatment is worth it, or if I have it in me for another treatment. It is putting everything on hold while we pursue treatments… and as a result, infertility is not knowing when we will be able to work on certain projects, do this or that, or travel here or there. Infertility is not knowing when or how this journey will end. It is not knowing if I will ever become a mother to living children. It is not knowing if we will have biological children, or if we will adopt children. It is is not knowing what I’m going to do with my life if we do not have children in our family. It is not knowing how to cope with all of the disappointments of infertility or how to heal from the deep wounds it has created. The uncertainty of infertility has turned my once carefully planned future into a giant question mark.

For my whole life all I have ever wanted to be “when I grew up” was a mom… but infertility is crushing this dream more and more everyday. I no longer know for certain that I’ll be a mom; it actually might not happen. And unfortunately infertility isn’t one of those things I can work harder at to achieve my goal. Unlike most things in life I can’t study, learn, or work my way out of this problem — in the end the result is entirely out of my control. None of the family building options for those of us struggling with infertility are guaranteed… treatments, fostering, and adoption are all risky endeavors with uncertain outcomes. The uncertainty and the constant, repetitive disappointments make it very difficult to have the hope and courage necessary to continue trying to move forward in reaching our goal of becoming parents. Decision-making has become very complicated and almost paralyzing at times. It is hard to know what to do when we have absolutely no idea what to expect and when we’re already so heartbroken — we’re afraid of being hurt again. The uncertainty is overwhelming.

Sometimes I think to myself that if someone could tell me the future and end this miserable uncertainty of mine, it would be such a relief. If someone could tell me whether or not we will become parents to living children… if someone could tell me whether or not our treatments will be successful, or if someone could tell me whether or not we will end up adopting… I like to tell myself that knowing my future would let me accept it and move forward. I would be able to start making plans again. I would be able to know whether to keep pursuing treatments or not. I would be able to start finding my new direction and working towards closure.

However, when I consider knowing the future, I think I’d only find comfort in knowing the outcome if it is the one I want. If children are absolutely not in my future, then I probably wouldn’t want to hear it right now because it would not be a relief; it would be devastating. It is not safe, nor comfortable living in limbo, but while I’m here I still have hope that living children are in my future… and that hope keeps me going. If I were to find out that all hope for children is lost, I would be lost. I do not know what I am going to do with my life if motherhood is not in my future. I hope that I would be okay and find a new direction of some kind, but I am terrified of facing that reality and I am so uncertain of how to cope with that disappointment.

Either way, there’s no one who can answer these questions for me, and I’m left with my infertility and its uncertainty, and all of the heartache, stress, and hard decisions that come along with not knowing what’s ahead. I’m left feeling lost and confused, and I don’t know what I’m going to do now or what we’re going to do next or what we’re going to do down the road… Resolution, closure, and future planning are out of my reach in my painful, scary, uncertain world of infertility.

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Disappointment

Infertility is constant disappointment… to the point where you’d think I’d have so much practice being disappointed that it wouldn’t hurt anymore, but it does. As it turns out, no amount of practice makes a failed treatment easier to accept; no amount of living with infertility makes the disappointment of being infertile easier to live with; no amount of time passing makes it okay that I lost a pregnancy or that I don’t have children.

My infertility is repeated disappointment. It’s the disappointment every day that we don’t have a child yet; it’s the disappointment every month when I fail to become pregnant; it’s the disappointment every year when we make the same goal as the last year: have a baby. We’ve been trying to conceive for nearly three years now, and in that time I have been disappointed month after month after month; over and over. I have tried unsuccessfully for years to achieve one, seemingly simple goal.

My infertility is the disappointment and heartache of losing a pregnancy. It’s the overwhelming disappointment of not being able to carry my pregnancy to term, to meet my child, and to watch her grow up. It’s the disappointment of having the innocence and miracle of pregnancy taken away from me with the awful diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy.

My infertility is disappointment in never having a satisfying explanation for our infertility. There are some suspicions about what might be causing us to be infertile, but overall there are no good answers for what is happening. We’ve endured all kinds of testing and tried all kinds of treatments, yet we still don’t know. An explanation certainly doesn’t make infertility okay, but not knowing what is causing our infertility is very frustrating and disappointing.

My infertility is disappointment in natural conception and multiple treatments. I have been let down by natural conception, by ovulation medications, by intrauterine insemination (IUI), by in-vitro fertilization (IVF). I’ve nearly collected them all at this point, and I can say that the disappointment never gets easier… if anything, as the stakes get higher with each treatment, the disappointment, disillusionment, and despair grow more and more.

Our disappointing, unsuccessful transfer after IVF has been very painful. I hear in my mind all the “you can always do IVF” comments I’ve heard in the past, and those words sting — they did then, and they do now. IVF is commonly thought to be a grand cure-all for infertility, and it’s just not. It provides some couples with a wonderful chance to have a baby, but it’s not a guarantee. Sometimes IVF is a disappointment too, just like everything else that’s been tried. And even though I knew going into IVF that it wasn’t a sure thing, it didn’t stop our failure from disappointing us and hurting immensely.

Remember my post on the roller coaster of infertility? I wrote about how I try to stay cautiously optimistic in an attempt to guard my heart a bit. It’s important for me to be optimistic and have hope for any particular treatment, but I also try to stay realistic in the event of another failure. This is a tough balance to maintain though… and even though I have tried to guard my heart, in the end I have been let down after every single treatment and each time I end up crushed and heartbroken. Infertility is disappointing, even when I try to prepare myself for it… there just seems to be no way to prevent it.

Infertility has also made me feel very disappointed in and betrayed by my body. For most of my life I’ve had a good relationship with my body… Aside from a ski injury that has screwed up my knee a bit, my body has been strong, dependable, and trustworthy. But infertility has disrupted this good relationship with my body… instead of doing what it is “supposed to” do, my body has disappointed me — it has failed me in making babies. It is terrible to feel like my own body is letting me down month after month. And it has been a work in progress to restore and maintain a good relationship with my body despite constant disappointment.

It has been, and continues to be, very heartbreaking and disappointing to realize that my hopes, dreams, and expectations regarding becoming a mother are so very, very different from my reality. Like most people, I think, I spent my whole life assuming I’d be able to conceive naturally, without delay, treatment, or expense — I never expected to struggle with infertility. So this whole experience of infertility is a giant disappointment on every level. From the let down each month to treatment failures and my body’s limitations, to our pregnancy loss and the the overall situation: infertility is constant disappointment.

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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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