Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Infertility 101- Ch1.The handbook no one gives you

So you're now a card carrying member of the infertility sucks club. Also known as "I cry when I see children, babies, pregnant bellies,diapers, bottles, baby clothes,maternity clothes, and sometimes out of the blue because I'm so damn frustrated and sad" club. The best thing I can say about your new found membership is that there are many other members in here with you and lots of us are fabulous. I promise, you're never completely alone. The worst part about this however is you will feel all alone many times. For that I am truly sorry. I wish I had discovered a way to get through this while avoiding heart wrenching pain. I wish I could create a way for future members to avoid all the tears and agony, but there simply isn't a way. You have no doubt been waiting for your infertility handbook to arrive in the mail, full of fun tips and detailed next steps. Well, I regret to inform you there is no such handbook. This may just be the best you're going to get, as written by a a woman of very little emotional stability, and who occasionally can be found in the diaper isle of any drugstore crying. If that's not enough to assure you of my experience in this area, I don't know what is.

So I thought I would do a weekly segment on my own journey through infertility and adoption and pass on the best advice I can. Perhaps you are experiencing infertility, or perhaps you know someone who is. Perhaps you've moved past your own infertility and merely want to reminisce on the good ole days of peeing on a stick EVERY month, or perhaps several sticks a month, even months you can't possible be pregnant, because Mary got pregnant and so can you. I'm hoping as I share my own experiences this will in some ways help shed some light on this roller coaster ride.

Statistically speaking it takes most couples approximately one year to get pregnant. There is also a 75% miscarriage rate for first time pregnancies. So speaking strictly in terms of what's accepted as "normal" via the medical community, those are the facts. Once you've passed a year they label you as having fertility problems. You will most likely than be referred to a specialist if you choose.

As stated above you will become obsessed with peeing on blue sticks. You will test at the first sign of bloating. You will test two days into your period, 'because it might just be spotting'. You will test on a month where you didn't even have sex since your husband was away, but maybe your last period wasn't a real period, and you're not only pregnant but two months along. You may even use several tests a day, because you read somewhere of the inaccuracy of these things, and want to be certain they are right. You may even write an angry letter to a pregnancy test corporation, indignant that while you know for certain you are pregnant their stupid tests keep coming up negative. You also might start pretending you work at a free testing clinic to account for all the pregnancy tests you buy each month that has the Shoppers Drug Mart clerk giving you the side eye. You will undoubtedly spend hundreds on these tests. I probably could have bought that vintage Chanel dress I coveted, and taken it on a trip around the world with all the money that went to tests. This will be a thankless time in your journey...

While spending copious amounts of money and time in the bathroom with little blue sticks, you will most likely also receive numerous tips for how to make that little pink line appear. You have probably been bombarded with well intentioned advice during this time that is in no way useful. I fondly recall 2004, as the "people made me feel like crap while thinking they were helping" year. Sadly these years may continue depending on your situation. Tilt your pelvis for half an hour after sex. Do a headstand. Be on top. Be on the bottom. Do it on the side, at a 44.5 degree angle. Do it while doing a sun salutation, covered in jasmine oil, and chant continuously "my uterus welcomes you". Further gems like "just relax", were thrown at me from all angles, even before we started trying. This saying I would grow to despise most of all. Honestly, it just piles on extra pressure from the start. Now if you don't get pregnant you're thinking it's your own damn fault for not relaxing enough! Even if the person saying it truly believes in their heart of hearts this is the answer to getting pregnant, it is not at all useful to share with someone who's trying. As the months go by, relaxing becomes harder and harder and frankly being told to relax comes off as extremely condescending. Some of the most uptight, anal retentive, high maintenance people I know have had no problems getting pregnant. There are also heart breaking stories of people who are raped and abused who become pregnant. I am not one who subscribes to the theory of relaxation. Not to mention, why is pregnancy all about women? 50% of infertility causes are due to male infertility problems, so why are we assuming it's all the women's responsibility? I will cover this at a later date, as I have a mental filing cabinet full on sexism and infertility. Now back on point...

As you maneuver your way into the world of infertility you will need to take care of yourself. I don't mean 'just relax'. I mean being really generous with yourself. As you can see I am still angry and bitter at times, and while I don't dwell here everyday (only days that end in y), when I'm angry I allow myself anger. When I'm sad I allow myself to sit with my sadness. For every pregnancy announcement made in the last few years I have cried. I no longer feel bad crying, or guilty for feeling sad. If I don't feel what I'm feeling, it only piles up and eats away at me. No, I don't cry in front of the pregnant person and tell them how miserable I am, but in the privacy of my own home I cry. It's normal, it's healthy, and it's ok. This isn't easy, and it doesn't get easier. Honouring your feelings are very important! Even if you're surrounded by people who don't understand, I promise you a thousand times over, it's ok to be upset. I am giving you permission to be an emotional fruit cake for as long as you need. I'm on year six, and I swear I grow battier by the year.

So more than a year has passed, you're sick of everyone and their well meaning advice, and you're emotionally depleted.You're entering a world of numerous tests, possible surgeries and other invasive procedures. What do you do next? This is the last point I'll cover today and something that requires careful consideration. You need to build your support network. You may have close friends and family who you may not feel comfortable opening up to.That's ok. Or perhaps you are naturally open and sharing, and have no problem divulging your struggles. That's ok too. This is a very personal experience, and however you chose to share, make sure it's best for you. My husband and I shared primarily with his long time best friend and wife, and my best friend. My Mom has been the biggest familial support for us and a God send numerous times over. We were very private people about our infertility when this all started, and I stand by our decision to not open up to everyone in the first few years. It's what we were comfortable with. Really it is not any one's business but your own, and you are not under any obligation to answer questions about your experience. It's a very vulnerable time, and you need to protect yourselves, while still having people you can reach out to. I also recommend on line support groups. There are a couple I've perused over the years, and while I've rarely participated, reading other's experiences always makes me feel less isolated.

So that is the beginning of my pearls of wisdom being strewn on the internet. Remember, we all experience things differently, and if you think I'm completely bonkers on any of my points that's fine. There are no wrong feeling or decisions on your journey through infertility. I commend anyone who makes it out in one piece.Take care of yourself and each other. xxoo


  1. I really like your blog. I think this post and having a weekly dedication to this topic will be really helpful to others (and hopefully helpful to you too). Thank you for sharing such personal feelings.

    Hypothetically, is there anything a newly expectant parent could do to be more sensitive when sharing with a friend/family-member/coworker with infertility problems that they're expecting?


  2. That's a fantastic question, and one I'll answer as honestly as I possibly can. Pregnancy announcements made in person have been the hardest for me. In my experience I've preferred those by phone or e-mail. It allows me to process without the added pressure of pretending I'm ok... It doesn't mean I"m not happy for the person, it just means I'm really sad for us.

    One of my best friends made it very clear she understood that I was happy for her, and sad for us. She also understood if I couldn't be around her for a bit, and didn't feel comfortable coming to her baby shower. It took the pressure off of me, and I really appreciated that.

    There's really no easy way to say it, and no easy way to hear it... Just remember if they need space it's not personal to you, it's something they may need to do for them.

    I recently told a friend of mine I couldn't see her right now because she's pregnant and we're having a really hard time. She completely understood, and said she's here if I need her. It was a great relief that she understood, and it took a huge weight off my shoulder.


  3. You took the words right out of my mouth with this one. It's so weird to read this and say "what she did that too?" "i'm not the only one?" Although we know in our hearts that we are not alone we often feel that we are and explaining it is so hard. Would you mind if I share your blog with others, as you explain what I feel so much better than I ever can?

    As for the comment post, I agree, a phone call or email are better to help us process and I think understanding is a big thing. Once a women gets pregnant she has every right to shout it out to the world and have everyone rejoice...I know I would, but understanding that not everyone can be shouting with you and not taking it personal is the best thing a pregnant friend can do for an infertile friend. \

  4. had to come back and say "I had to pee on the stupid stick again" because ohhhhh i'm feeling sick...I must be pregnant...why can't we ever learn. ;(

  5. Hey, how about when acquaintances ask, "So when are you two going to have kids?" You can't just say, "Probably never" and leave it at that, and I'm really sick of saying things like, "Oh we're trying" with a fake smile plastered on my face. What do you say to people who have the nerve to ask a personal question?

    We are in the adoption process, so I suppose I could tell them that we're adopting and let them sit and wonder nosily to themselves if that's all we're doing.

    Thanks for sharing your experience so that the rest of us feel normal and have someone to relate to. <3

  6. You are the first person that I have been able to relate to in 3 years!!!! I thought nobody in the entire world understood why I cried, got bitter and angry. It made me feel like a horrible person for secretly despising those who could conceive. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your journey. I am going to save your experience to show my family and friends who thought I was just being over dramatic.

  7. You took the words right out of my mouth with this one. It's so weird to read this and say "what she did that too?" "i'm not the only one?" Although we know in our hearts that we are not alone we often feel that we are and explaining it is so hard. Would you mind if I share your blog with others, as you explain what I feel so much better than I ever can?
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  8. Eng Sara,, I am flattered you want to share my blog. Please do! Honestly that is the highest compliment. I am sending you big hugs and I know that feeling of isolation and loneliness. It is heartbreaking even knowing there are so many others who also are suffering from infertility.

  9. Jessa,
    Thanks so much for this post. It really is the missing "handbook"! I have read it several times since finding it earlier this week and also circulated it to my Washington, DC-based fertility and miscarriage group. I know I'll reread it again and forward it again (maybe too many times).


I love your comments & read each and every one of them!!!
Thanks you!!!