Difficult Doesn't Mean Bad
I was at a philanthropic educational convention about two weeks ago where the members of our state P.E.O. chapters gathered at a dinner to honor recipients who were awarded grants, loans and scholarships. One of the recipients was a woman who had lost her job and was struggling financially after her husband walked out on her. She was left alone with no income and a couple of small children to take care of with no support. As she was telling her story, she kept repeating how difficult her life has been since her husband left her and what she had to do to rise to the occasion for herself and her children. She had no other choice.
Echos of my mothers voice rang in my head as I listened to this particular recipient tell her story in front of the group of P.E.O. members. "Difficult doesn't mean bad," my mother said when I told her how hard I was struggling with infertility. When I cried to my mom that I felt like such a failure as a woman and a wife, my mom comforted me by saying there should be no judgment associated with adversity. As our conversation continued we discussed how no one is immune to difficulties in life. We all have crosses to bear. Some lose loved ones early in life. Others suffer from crippling or deadly diseases. No one would say to a person who has cancer that they are bad or a failure, would they?
I often think about people who struggle with infertility. Why is getting pregnant such a natural occurrence for most people, but it is so difficult for one in eight couples faced with infertility.
Difficulties are not impossible to overcome. They are a puzzle that we have to deal with, even if we don't want to. I never wanted to experience infertility for a decade of my life. It was the most chronically difficult time I've ever had to endure. But the kind of difficulties that people facing the dreaded disease of infertility deal are unique. I'd like to share some with you:
*First of all your private parts are not private anymore. A woman's feet will be cupped in the stirrups of an examination table more times than a jockey in training for the Kentucky Derby. Sometimes she will be in those stirrups twice a day for days, weeks and months on end so doctors and technicians can measure follicle growth.
*You have to juggle infertility treatments around your work schedule. You wake up extraordinarily early in the morning to make it into the ultrasound clinic as the first patient of the day so you can have your follicles measured and your blood drawn. You may get caught in rush hour and you are frantically trying to get to work so you won't be late... again. Soon your boss and co-workers will eventually find out that you are can't conceive. They will know how many eggs you have and what your husband's sperm count is. Your life becomes an open book.
*After an extremely long day, you may have to fight rush hour traffic to go back to the ultrasound clinic, get back into the stirrups again and measure your follicles again. You just want to go home and put your feet up, but no... you have to deal with more stressful tests at the end of your day.
*When you finally get home, you are exhausted and can barely think about preparing a nutritious and healthy meal for you and your spouse to eat. Instead you wolf down any concoction you can put together at the last minute and down a couple of glasses of wine. You get to end your day by baring your bottom yet again for the most horrific and painful shots imaginable so that you can stimulate your follicles in the hopes to produce quality eggs.
*The days leading up to the egg retrieval day are challenging, but at least you are in a proactive stage. You are doing what you can to be able to conceive a baby this time. However, if you don't have a good embryo to transfer, or something just went wrong with your cycle, you have just paid a ton of money for nothing and cannot try again for at least another entire month. It is such a HUGE loss. It's like driving a brand new car off the cliff because that's how much it costs. If you are lucky enough to get a good quality embryo, you will be having your transfer very soon.
*Next is the painstakingly long two week wait. The minutes, hours, and days are the slowest of any in your life. It's as if you are living in slow motion and you can think of nothing else. Did it work this time? I pray to God it worked this time! What am I going to do if it didn't work this time?
*No one can prepare you for how cruel the side effects of the medications can be during the two week wait. Not only are the shots unbelievable painful, but they give you incredible mood swings. The cruel reality is that the meds make your body feel like you are pregnant. Your abdomen is bloated and swollen. Your breasts are tender. And your period doesn't come. Could you be pregnant this time?
*When you get the call that you are NOT pregnant again, your world comes crashing down around you. All of your hopes and dreams of becoming a mother are shattered along with your bank account. It is like suffering a death of a loved one... that hasn't yet lived. The pain is so deep that you wonder how you can exist in this fertile world without a child of your own to love.
*When you can't get pregnant, it is a gut-wrenchingly difficult. It is the death of a dream. Even though you are not sick, you are plagued by this horrible disease. Your life hasn't come to an end, but you just don't know how you are going to live without a baby or without a family to love.
Some of life's difficulties are harder than others. I would say that infertility is definitely one of them. It is not impossible to resolve your infertility journey. Although it is difficult, it isn't bad. It is a puzzle that you need to solve in order to reach your resolution. Will you go on to try another IUI? Will you take a leap of faith and try IVF? Once? Twice? Three or Four times? How much money will you keep throwing at the problem? How long will you put all other aspects of your life on hold to try to have a baby? Will you adopt? How will you feel about using a donor's egg or sperm? Could you give up control and let someone else carry your child? Will you remain child free? All of these questions are so difficult. But they are not bad. They are all unique parts of the infertility puzzle that need to be solved before you will reach your resolution.
It takes grit and courage and resilience and fortitude and stamina and perseverance and humility and strength and willpower and determination and commitment and vulnerability and burning desire and passion and love and yes... buckets of tears to be an infertility warrior. And those qualities are not bad.
In-Fertility and Friendship,