Monday, August 29, 2011

A letter to my friends

I've written this letter over the past couple of weeks, and it's essentially what I wish I could say to my friends when they ask about when we're starting a family, how things are going, etc. It's basically everything I wish I could say if I had the time and their attention, and if I felt brave enough to be truly honest with my friends about what's in my head.

Dear Friend,

I may or may not have shared this with you, but Buddy and I have a sort of secret. We are two of 7 million Americans (one in eight couples) with fertility issues. Both of us are affected – not only do we each have our own issue, but even if it was just one of us, we’d still be in the same place. One of us can’t make a baby without the other, so we’re in this together. We’ve been through testing, we have diagnoses. We have a realistic understanding of our options and our chances. What’s going on isn’t a result of not relaxing or not doing something right or not wanting or praying hard enough. It isn’t about timing, positions, or old wives’ tales. It can’t be fixed by adopting or not trying. I know it seems that everyone knows someone who got pregnant when they stopped trying or started the adoption process, but it’s not the case for everyone. Adoption is not in our cards, nor is IVF. Buddy and I have made a decision we feel is right for us - as hard as it may be - for the time being, and that’s to not move forward with any testing or treatment. Because of fear of miscarriage made more likely by my issue, we are actively avoiding pregnancy while not in the care of a specialist. We are in full agreement in this decision, and it’s a necessary break to get us to a point where we can re-evaluate if we will be trying again.

Please understand that though we made this decision together, it wasn’t easy and it’s still very raw. There is a lot of grief in our home right now. Our hearts are heavy. My emotions are intense and irrational at times. There are good days and awful days. I want you to know, friend, that despite all this, I am happy for you as you grow your family. I am excited for you as you announce your pregnancy, and I look forward to spoiling your child and seeing you as a mom. That said, it isn’t easy for me to watch you experience things I long for. I fear I won’t get to tell my husband we’re expecting, see the ultrasound, hear the heartbeat. I may never get to decorate a nursery, feel the baby move, or give birth and hear that first tiny cry. My husband may never be a father, and my parents may never have grandchildren that aren’t my sister’s kids. So while I am happy for you, dear friend, my heart aches when I see your announcements on Facebook. Baby shower invitations make tears spring to my eyes. Pictures and videos of your little one, though sweet and appreciated, often make a lump rise in my throat. Little moments and glimpses into your life as a mom-to-be can make a good day go bad in a matter of seconds through no fault of your own.

My goal through all of this has been to grieve privately, and celebrate your joy publicly. It doesn’t always work that way, though. While I may not appear sad when you show me pictures or share something cute your husband said about the baby, inside I’m just holding it together. I would never want to take away from your moment. I will not skip baby showers, and I will not dismiss you as a friend for having what I desire. But sometimes, I need time. Sometimes, I may cry – know that if I do so in front of you, it means I trust you with my feelings of grief. Please understand that if I have to walk away or take a day to myself, it isn’t because I don’t love you. It’s because I need that for me. I’m constantly torn between not wanting to be handled with kid gloves, and needing some sensitivity. I don’t want you to not feel free to express your joy and share this experience with me, but I need you to know that sometimes it’s too much and I need a minute, an hour, a day to hash it out. I’m very conscious of my fear of becoming jealous or “bitter.” I’m not asking you to change how you express your happiness and share your family experiences, just to have a little awareness and understanding of how I may react if my emotions get to me. Because it truly is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

There may be times when I withdraw into myself. I go through periods of days or even a week or two where the safest place for my emotions is within me. I may not call to hang out, or talk or text. I may be vague on Facebook. I may just be generally distant. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you or hang out, I just feel that I lack the energy and motivation to make the effort. I want to spend time with you, chat, and have lunch. Sometimes, though, I feel that I’m experiencing more reminders of our infertility and keeping to myself means less opportunities for that to happen. Sometimes, not talking about IF is achieved by not talking, period. So please, don’t mistake my distance for lack of care. Your friendship is still important to me. I’m just being guarded, and I’ll come around if you just give me time.

I value you, friend. I’m excited for you, and happy for your family. That happiness for you is a distinct emotion from my sadness, yet the former often reminds me of the latter. I will do my best to be a supportive and loving friend as you prepare for and experience motherhood. Just please understand that I am mourning something I never had, and even if Buddy and I are successful in having a baby one day, this will have forever changed us. We’ve already had to accept many changes since we started trying to start a family. I fear that everything will change, in fact, including my friendship with you. I worry immensely that you being a mom and raising your family will create a divide between us. I don’t want to lose my friends, too. I don’t want to be left out and left behind. Both Buddy and I want to be special people in your kids’ lives and spoil them and love them, as we know you would do for our children.

Thank you for being a supportive and wonderful part of my life.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011


After the ridiculous emotional roller coaster of last week, this week has been remarkably calm. Last week, I was a ball of anger, crying at the drop of a hat, and barely able to even think of anything baby related without a lump in my throat.

This week is totally different, and for no apparent reason. Despite 4 pregnancy announcements on the Bump, an ultrasound pick from one of my dearest friends, and an emails of "hilarious" baby expressions photos, I managed to keep my cool. Sure it had me a little "ugh, this is too much for Monday before 9am" but it didn't get to me in a way that ruined my day. It's getting through those things that reminds me that I'm still with it and able to be happy for others and compartmentalize my sadness.

I also contacted a counselor. I've been thinking about it for a while, and finally pulled the trigger. However, you know how you can hear someone's voice on the phone and not feel very comforted? Yeah, I have that going on. We've been playing phone tag, so I haven't actually had a conversation with her, but I feel like her voice mails are very abrupt and... I don't know. Maybe she's just not the right counselor for me. Or maybe I'm not as ready as I thought I was. Maybe I'm worried all those emotions from last week will come flooding back if she asks me what's wrong. Last week sucked, and I don't want to go back there purposefully. I want to stay in this calm, even if it means not moving forward with getting this all off my chest.

I like the calm. It's been missing from our lives for a while. For 15 months, we were focused on mostly one thing. Over the last 6 of those months, fear and feelings of failure crept in and took hold. Sadness, panic and anger followed. While I still feel sadness, I don't feel like that delicate person I was for the last few months. I know it may not last. I know nothing is certain or set in stone, so I know that there will be other episodes of emotional instability. But for now, I just want to enjoy this calm feeling I have.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tonight, I wept

I cried. I sobbed. I wept.

I wept for my husband, who very well may never be a father. His kind and loving soul, his beautiful blue eyes, his perfect smile, his humor. Things that may never be passed down, exuded in a tiny mini-me or a female representation. No little person to share the mischevious glimmer in their eye as they cleverly prepare to pull the best practical joke ever. No huge fan of burritos made of spaghetti. My husband will likely not be a dad. It's so very different from our wedding day and before, when we envisioned an idealic family of four... painting, creating, riding, swimming, laughing. He'd be an amazing dad, and an amazing partner to a mom, which is different than husband to a wife. He'd be the most supportive dad-to-be, procuring the objects of my cravings, rubbing my back, making sure every groan and ache was taken care of. When the baby came, he'd get up early, taking care of the 2am feeding, kissing us good-bye as he shlumped off to work at 7, bleary eyed and exhausted. To support us. He'd be the one to teach our little one to ride a bike, to crack a joke, to blow kisses. He'd be... incredible. I wept for him.

I wept for my dad. He's so excited to someday be a Grandpa. And he will, but pretty much not from me. There may be no rendition of me sitting next to him in overalls and pigtails at Rose Canyon Lake, waiting hours for the tiny fish to bite. When I was little, he'd play baseball with me in the front yard. I'd make him crawl the bases so that I couldn't be beat. He taught me to shoot, he taught me to drive. He taught me 5-card draw and 7-card stud, betting with uncooked pasta. These are memories and traditions that will likely end with me.

I wept for me. Long hard sobs. A decision made and agreed upon that means that we'll just let things be. A decision that means there's only a 5% chance the guest room will ever be anything more than the home of my craft and baking supplies. I wept for feeling awful for not being able to fix it. A string of IUI and IVF failures among Bumpies not nearly outweighed by successes. A group of friends, strangers, peers, fellow IF strugglers whom I had the highest of hopes for. I sobbed for them and their sadness. Seeing the darkness outweighing the light made the weight lay heavily on my heart to continue with anything. We're admitting defeat by fear and hesitation, and accepting that at least for the long time being, that we're done. I wept for what I just may never have.

Tonight, I wept.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taking a rest

This is a difficult day, followed by a stressful couple of months. In talking to Buddy last night, we decided to give things a rest for the indefinite future. A lot went into the decision. Some things I agree with, others I don't. However, I can't proceed without him, and he can't without me, so if taking a break is what's right for him (and us) then I'm on board.

His back has bothered him since high school, when he played football. Since I've known him, he's suffered from back aches, some times minor discomfort, sometimes full-on pain that requires him to get up from the dinner table. Things were better after moving from the apartment - he wasn't spending as much time driving, one of the major sources of pain. However, he's been in discomfort more and more often. He visited a chiropractor and then a specialist earlier this year, and though he didn't return, x-rays indicated degenerative disk problems. The solution - according to him (I know nothing about it) - is surgery. Unfortunately, we only have so many resources, and we just can't handle the cost of surgery and recovery AND infertility treatments. Neither of us can see going on with treatment if he's in pain and wants to do something about his back first. I've always said I wanted him to enjoy fatherhood, and back pain would be a hindrance to that.

He's also very upset about the SA results. At first he seemed hopeful for improvement, but that hope seems to be waning. I try not to push, because he's a guy who doesn't talk about feelings easily, but his comments indicate a deep hurt and guilt for our troubles. He's said "what's the point?" in regard to having another SA done in October as we'd planned. The truth is, he may be right, considering how much improvement needs to be made and the percentage of men who experience the increase in counts we'd need for IUI. As many times as I can tell him that it's worth it to try, I don't think he's willing to face the possibility of another "failure." It's a feeling I relate to all too well. Lately, I've had thoughts of walking away from all this for a bit and even just moving on. Call it self-preservation, I suppose. I'm not a risk taker by nature (neither is Buddy) and the thought of spending a lot of time, money, and emotion on IF treatments (and even just his potential treatments to get to the IF treatment phase) and still coming up empty-handed is very daunting.

Essentially, we're in the same place, and expressing it in both similar and different ways. We need a break. We need to focus on his health (and mine, but I think my needs are more mental and emotional) and take the time to regain confidence to face our race again, if the decision comes to that. I honestly don't know how I feel. I'm very sad, but I also know that we are thoughtful people who make good decisions. The break from thinking about the next SA and the results and what do we do next will hopefully be a relief. We're lucky to have a strong and happy marriage, and hopefully we'll be able to spend a weekend away and spend time thinking of other things.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Just" adopt

It seems as though one of the things that comes up frequently for couples having trouble with fertility is adoption. When my mother-in-law found out 8 months into trying that it had been that long, she said "well, you could just adopt if it doesn't work." The simplicity with which she said it surprised me. "Just" adopt. As though it's the end-all, cure-all to what ails my uterus. For any couple struggling with infertility, adoption is something that will be brought up by the well-intentioned at least once. I should preface this whole post with the fact that I respect what any couple chooses for themselves. By the same token, I hope for respect in expressing our views on the subject.

I read on a message board that someone had posted the following excerpt from Adopting After Infertility by Pat Johnson:

"... there are multiple losses which are a consequence of permanent infertility: 1) control over many aspects of life; 2) individual genetic continuity linking past and future; 3) the joint conception of a child with one's life partner; 4) the physical satisfactions of pregnancy and birth; 5) the emotional gratifications of pregnancy and birth; and 6) the opportunity to parent."

It was a very poignant passage for me, and sums up how I feel pretty well. Though pregnancy is only 40 weeks of motherhood, it's an important part for me. I have always dreamt of pregnancy, from discovering its existence, to telling our families, seeing the flash of the heartbeat on the ultrasound, feeling the first kicks, finding out the sex. Though labor and delivery are terrifying, I want the experience of bringing a child into the world. I want to have those first moments as a brand new family with Buddy, and to learn to breastfeed and waddle to the car at the hospital for our first ride home together. Though they're all a "stage" in the grand scheme of child-rearing, they are things I dream of and long for just as much as teaching our kids to swim or ride a bike, and watching them go off to kindergarten and prom and college. They are things I mourn when I think about the possibility of life without a biological child. Adoption doesn't fill those voids.

Adoption is also a costly endeavor, both financially and emotionally. Adoption comes with many legal and financial costs. I can't even begin to tally the financial costs when medical expenses, legal paperwork, and other aspects are added up. Emotionally, I think it would be more difficult than IVF. With infant adoption, we'd have to be chosen by a birth mom. That means we'd have to convince someone with just a few pictures and paragraphs that we are the best fit to take care of their newborn. The thought is incredibly humbling, and I think it would feel devastating to wait month after month and not be chosen. If we were chosen, we'd both be paranoid the whole time that the bio mom would change her mind. I think we'd worry about that for a long time even after we brought any baby home. It just sounds emotionally exhausting. We just agree that it's not the route we want to go.

There is more to it than simply the emotional and financial burdens. The truth is, and the shortest answer is, that we don't feel called to do it. I wrote a piece for a fabulously supportive group blog the day after we found out about Buddy's SA, and more than one commenter replied that I should at least consider adoption, because that's how they became a family either by adopting or by being adopted. While that's all well and great for them, it's just not for us. I realize there are children that need to be fostered and adopted and they desperately want to be a part of a family. But I also feel like there's this unspoken (or maybe it is spoken, since it's suggested so often) that we, as a couple dealing with infertility, are expected to adopt, like it's our job or that it simply comes with the hand we've been dealt. I resent that and don't think this is fair. Biological parents who have their own children aren't expected to adopt the children in need, why are we? Why are we made to feel selfish for voicing that we would chose a child-free life over adoption?

We all have our choices to make. It isn't an easy one. None of this is easy, but "just" adopting isn't the path we want, and we feel we have a right to have that choice be respected.

Edited to Add: As I posted this link to Twitter, I was answered almost immediately by a new mom and fellow blogger that had seen ridiculous debates on a message board we both frequented about how not pursuing adoption equals not wanting a child enough. I have to say that want isn't even a factor. We want a baby more than anything in the world. However, that also has to be balanced with what we can afford financially and emotionally. This is also why we've ruled out IVF. Trust me, if IUI doesn't work, I wonder if some day we'll look back and wonder if we limited ourselves. But we also know that we have to set limits, mostly for our sanity. As easy as IVF and adoption have been made to sound, we're not the only couple who've had to set these limits. The costs of IVF and adoption are prohibitive for many couples. Not to mention, we can't run this race forever. At some point, we have to create our own finish line so that we can move on with life. For us, that's IVF and adoption.