A GIANT disclaimer: If you’re reading this, you might come across some sticky passages that sound a little derisive or judgmental. Please keep reading…I know we all deal with this stuff in our own way, and my intention is not to criticize those who deal differently than I do, but rather to define the differences–for myself as well as for you, the reader. As I wrote, this turned into something very different than I set out to write, and as a result it’s kind of all over the place, at times threatening to become a manifesto. I mean to share it because I think it might help people who are just starting out on this journey (like I am), but I don’t necessarily think it’s going to resonate the same way with all people. In short, please don’t get your back up. I don’t blame anyone for the way they cope with this nightmare, and I don’t for a second believe that I’m the first or only person who’s ever noticed these things.
Listen, we can’t all be experts on every element of our infertility, right? I mean, when you go to the dentist and he or she tells your hygienist that your lower right second bicuspid is showing signs of abfraction (thank you, online dentist glossary), you trust that this is so. Right? You don’t do hours of research before your dental appointment to be sure you’ll know as much terminology as a first-year hygienist-in-training. You don’t refuse to let them treat your tooth until you’ve found at least ten blogs written by people who are living with abfraction. You don’t join the community of people living with abfraction. Sometimes you just trust your dentist.
I know that infertility is different from dental hygiene. It’s acutely specialized; it’s a newer kind of medicine; the stakes are much, much higher; to be examined, you have to open your legs instead of your mouth. Also, the dentist doesn’t have stirrups, and he or she rarely has the power to break your ever-lovin’ heart.
I’m not really trying to equate a toothache with infertility. I really don’t mean to belittle the latter–I’ve been dealing with it for too long to do that. It’s just that I noticed this peculiar thing when I went into see my specialist on Monday for the pre-insemination ultrasound, and I’m taking a long way around to get to my point about it.
My doctor said they had received the results of my bloodwork, and that everything looked normal; he asked if I’d gotten the medication I needed for the procedure. In the course of this conversation, I got confused between HSG (the X-ray test used to see if my tubes were open and my uterus clear of scar tissue) and HCG (the shot of pregnancy hormone I ordered in the mail from a specialty pharmacy). Now, I would expect this confusion to be common and totally expected (they’re almost the same effing letters, you guys!), but the doctor was kind of impatient with me when I mixed them up. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an incredibly nice guy–fervently cheerful, but in the way you’d want your infertility doctor to be. I think he’s just accustomed to his patients being extremely familiar with all the tests and abbreviations associated with their treatment.
I know it’s supposed to be empowering to feel like an expert on all aspects of your infertility, and for some people that sense of empowerment must go a long way in alleviating the stress that comes with this confounded slog. But it just doesn’t work like that for me, and I expect there are other women out there who feel the same way.
I would like this blog, if it turns into anything at all (I have a habit of not finishing what I start), to be a place for beginners and dabblers. Towards the end of my “About” page, I briefly discuss my determination to keep infertility from becoming the central aspect of our lives, and I hope to stick to that resolution even as I write an infertility blog.
Researching infertility can lead a girl down something of a rabbit hole…you should see the glut of blogs I bookmarked over the course of the voracious afternoon I spent searching in vain for evidence that one’s first IUI can actually be successful. In my (admittedly limited, and totally unscientific) experience, reading other people’s stories is only helpful about 15% of the time. It’s like any other Internet search: some sites have the answers you’re looking for, but many are defunct, or only tangentially related to your experience, or they’re run by someone whose outlook is so different from your own that you’re constantly distracted by it.
I tried to keep my obsessive search from Buble, but when I refused to go to bed with him that night, I finally had to come clean with my reason for staying up. He said he would allow me to go down this rabbit hole on one condition: as long as the search was making me feel better and not worse, he would not intervene. I told him it was making me feel better, but that was kind of a lie. Yeah, there is something to be said for reading up on the minutiae of other people’s experience with something you’re about to go through. But at the end of the day, you still have to unglue your bleary gaze from another marathon Internet search and ask yourself, “Why the fuck did I do that?”
I hadn’t found what I was looking for and I still didn’t know what all those abbreviations were on people’s timelines (CD43dp18.5frg.wtf??), and I still didn’t know what it would feel like to get an IUI.
I see a lot of talk about the infertility community and how much it helps to know that other people are going through the same thing you’re going through. But then we go and make it kind of a closed club by using jargon so thick and indecipherable that beginner “infertiles” have no way of understanding what the hell we’re talking about. And, honestly? I see a lot of empathy out there, a lot of “I know how hard and horrible and unbearable and tragic it is to be infertile,” but not a lot of acknowledgment that everyone on this planet struggles.
Please understand that I get how infertility is unique–I get that we’re always surrounded by effortlessly pregnant people, I know how a question about your own family planning can feel like a head-butt. I just wonder if it wouldn’t be wise to move past that a little bit?
There is just so much anxiety to be found out there, and I’m not sure how helpful I think it is to read 20 blogs a day when so many of them are overflowing with exactly the kind of obsessive fretting I’m trying–usually without much success–to avoid. We curse the two week wait; we agonize over baby showers; we meticulously examine our friends’ comments and find unforgivable insensitivity in the most well-meaning words. Or…at least I do. But those behaviors only bring me more unhappiness, more anxiety, more bitterness. I don’t need more of those things! I need to have more perspective, more gratitude, more compassion.
In the real world, the three-dimensional one of tauntingly sore boobs and glacial two-week waits, the anxiety is unavoidable–always at the back of my mind, waiting for its next closeup. In that world, I will go about my days and lie in bed at night beneath a giant, hovering question mark. And I will do my best to keep the exclamation point at bay (you know the one–it’s at the end of this sentence: “Am I fucking pregnant or not?!?!?!”).
But on this blog, things will be different. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I know that writing allows me to sort through all those fears and feelings that tag along with me every day. I know that wrestling with a phrase, even when it’s a phrase about those very anxieties, helps me to pin down exactly what I’m worried about. And when I know that, I usually also know that it’s something I can handle. Not to mention that on a computer screen, I have the power to banish the exclamation point altogether.
What I’m trying to say is that writing is my way of prevailing on the better angels of my nature. They tell me to forgive the fertile women who might say something insensitive. They tell me to be grateful for Buble and the blossoms of spring and a rich life that sustains me and will always sustain me, just as it is. My better angels say Be generous and Remember that others have their troubles, too. They say Go do some yoga, girlfriend.
So this is my intention. I will be honest about the pain, but I will not dwell on it here. I will give an account of procedures and my reactions to them, but I will not empower my anxiety by constantly unleashing it on my blog. The fact is, if you’re reading this you know how bad it feels to live with an inability to conceive. You don’t need me to tell you about it. But it might help you if I tell you about a time when I dealt successfully with an unexpected moment of panic. It might help you if I share an insight, or words of encouragement that brought me back from the brink.
We need to breathe, you guys. We all need to find a way to live meaningful lives even as we grieve for our empty wombs. We owe that to ourselves and to our partners and to the babies we dream about.