To Whom It May Concern

Recently–and this is directly related to my iPod being stolen from my car–I discovered The Civil Wars. They are pretty cool. And one of their songs? Well, I swear everyone in the ALI community, especially those still waiting to be united with their much-wanted children, needs to hear it. So here it is.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Joy Williams and John Paul White

Why are you so far from me?
In my arms is where you ought to be
How long will you make me wait?
I don’t know much more I can take

I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh how I want to
How I do

Slowly counting down the days
Till I finally know your name
The way your hand feels round my waist
The way you laugh, the way your kisses taste

I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh how I want to
How I do
How I do

I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh I’ve missed you
But I haven’t met you
Oh but I want to
Oh how I want to

Dear whoever you might be
I’m still waiting patiently

Confessions of an Infertile Impostor

PROLOGUE: If you didn’t get a chance to read last Thursday’s post you might want to now. If you don’t have much time (it’s long!) start about half way down, right above the indented dictionary definitions. It turns out that this post is kind of a sequel to that post. 

A while ago I exchanged a few tweets with Keiko of Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed. I forget what inspired the conversation but I do remember asking her if she thought her diagnosis of POF, years before she intended to start trying for a family (instead of while she was in the throes of TTC), had significantly shaped her relationship with her infertility.

During our Twitter conversation Keiko and I talked about what it was like to know that you would suffer from infertility before you started to build your family. We both experienced this to some degree and responded very differently. Perhaps that is because of our diagnoses, perhaps because of who we are as people, perhaps because of our circumstances. Probably it was a mixture of all of those and more. There are all manner of reasons why her diagnosis and mine led us on different paths. Today I’m only going to talk about what my experience was like, since I sure as hell can’t do any justice to hers. If your curious what she has to say on the matter, you can check it out on her post today!

The truth is, I was never diagnosed with infertility before I started trying. What happened was, in my late teens I stopped menstruating. I’m not talking long cycles, I’m talking no cycles – years and years of not having my period. Sometimes the OB I was seeing would decide it needed to be “treated” (with three months of birth control pills), other times I was assured it wasn’t a big deal. I was told, however, that if I did want to get pregnant, I would need to see a doctor to begin menstruating again because as it stood, I would not be able to conceive on my own.

Now this is where last week’s post comes in. While I was never told I was infertile, I was told I couldn’t get pregnant without medical help, which is one part of the complicated definition of infertility. For this reason, among others, I assumed I’d struggle significantly to get pregnant and began to consider myself infertile.

The “among other” reason was my mother. My mom’s story, as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, was a tragic one. She also experienced amenorrhea for most of her teens and twenties and, not surprisingly, struggled to get pregnant. She finally had me after two years of trying. Two years later she had my sister S, who died in the NICU after two months of fighting for her life. My mom and dad were in California looking for a house when it happened. My sister died and our mother was half a content away. And after that? She lost three sons, all still born at six months. My mom was getting her tubes tied, a desperate attempt to avoid more loss, when she found out she was pregnant with my other sister M. We are almost seven years apart.

This all happened first, watching my mother lose babies, me losing siblings. I already knew, before I ever had troubles myself, that pregnancy was wrought with loss and sadness, that it was a miracle but a fragile one. That there were no guarantees.

No guarantees. That was it really. There were never, ever any guarantees. No guarantees that I would ever get pregnant, that I would birth a live child, that a live child would continue living. Guarantees were for the land of the fertile. Guarantees were not for me.

And yet I was not infertile. I had never struggled to get pregnant because I wasn’t trying to get pregnant yet. Still my past and my present led me down a different path than my fellow not-infertiles journeyed. From my path I eyed pregnant women and complete families with suspicion and envy. I responded with understanding and empathy when I heard of a lost pregnancy. I worried every single day that I wouldn’t find someone in time to build my family. I assumed having children would be a long, arduous, harrowing journey and if I didn’t start soon enough, I might never get there.

When I finally met my first boyfriend I was 26 and already panicking that it was too late. Once we were formally “dating” I immediately started in on having kids. I could not dick around with this guy if he didn’t want a family! Turns out he hadn’t planned on having one. Cue the constant conversations, crises and fights. My infertility-assumption shaped our relationship in ways I probably don’t see, even to this day. We were in counseling about having kids after dating for less than three years. It was constantly a part of the conversation – a shadowed that darkened so much of our lives.

When we finally neared our TTC date I started acupuncture. I had read many “overcoming infertility” books and had decided that since Western treatments were reactive (and I wouldn’t be eligible for them at first anyway), I would pursue Eastern treatments in an attempt to be proactive.

Along with the acupuncture I took Chinese herbs and followed a strict traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diet, excluding grains and limiting dairy. Meanwhile I abstained completely from alcohol. I did all this in hopes of staving off my impending amenorrhea and infertility.

Most women start trying to conceive with nervous excitement. They take their last BCP and wonder what will happen. They have sex, excited for the possible consequences they had once taken such great pains to avoid but now were ready to embrace. I never felt like that. I never had that naive, “this is going to happen” attitude. We never just had sex, hoping for the best. Instead I was temping and charting from my first CD1. We were scheduling baby making sex on a shared Google calendar from the get go. We never had those carefree months. We never had a “well maybe it will happen next time” BFN. Every month was excruciating. Every month BFN made clear what I already knew, that this just wasn’t going to happen for us.

After six months of trying we found out we were pregnant. Despite my mother’s story I was happy, blissfully so. I knew something bad could happen but I was just so relieved to see that second line. For two weeks, life was wonderful.

Then pain, bleeding, 12 hours in the ED, an MVA, an ectopic pregnancy, shots of methotrexate and a warning that I could still lose my tube or possibly die. Not only had I lost my pregnancy but I’d done so in a way I didn’t even realize was possible. My future as an infertile seemed to be the writing on the wall.

What followed was months of healing and waiting and wondering what would be next. When we started again I felt I had lost all hope. It had been so long since we had started trying. I felt despondent. I launched my blog. I joined this community. I immediately felt a sense of acceptance and purpose. I instantly felt like I belonged.

We got pregnant a couple months later. That time it stuck and nine months later we brought home a healthy baby. In the days after her birth I felt a weight lift. I felt I had escaped a horrible fate, a fate I had come to expect. I considered myself incredibly lucky and intensely grateful.

The weight didn’t dissipate completely though. My fears of recurring amenorrhea and pregnancy loss have come creeping back as we start thinking about having another baby. My past, my mother’s past, will haunt me with their awful possibility for as long as I hope to have children. In fact, it will always be a part of who I am, it will always color my gratitude for my family and my good fortune.

My assumption of infertility had other, unforeseen consequences. Now, having had a child, I’m left straddling two worlds. On the one hand I never took up residence in the world of the fertiles; I never lived their naive and innocent life in which people have babies whenever they want to. And yet, I was never diagnosed as infertile. When I physically couldn’t get pregnant I wasn’t trying to and when I wanted to get pregnant I took measures to increase my chances of that happening. I will never know if the TCM and acupuncture did the trick. Or if it was simply the years of BCP. Maybe my body just figured out how to menstruate. In the end though, I was able to conceive a child and I did birth a healthy baby.

So where do I belong? I’m not infertile, though we share similar experiences (spending many thousands of dollars on treatments, making continual sacrifices to have a child, feeling hopeless and alone) and  I empathize with this community in the way I think other infertiles do. I’m not fertile because of my history, my struggle and my loss. It’s a strange place to be because I can’t claim membership in either community. I feel like an impostor in both places, but the place where I feel like I’m pretending is with the fertiles. Here, in the IF community, I feel that I belong. But I respect other women and their struggles too much to compare them with my own and so I tred lightly, I flash my loss card and I hope nobody will call me out.

I don’t call myself infertile even though in my heart, it’s a part of who I was, who I am and who I always will be.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Infertility, It’s complicated!

WARNING: This post is VERY long. Read at your own risk.

I was a Linguistics major in college. I know, I know, why study something useless like the study of language? Well, there is actually a lot you can do with it (who do you think helped create Google’s search algorithm) and teaching a foreign language doesn’t render it irrelevant either. I wasn’t really too worried about what I’d do with a Linguistics major when I started studying, all I knew was that all the classes that interested me were in the Linguistics department.

Studying Linguistics was a lot of fun; it was hard work but it was incredibly interesting. I enjoyed some really fascinating classes taught by well renowned professors. In one of those classes, Cognitive Linguistics, I was introduced to the idea of contested categories. We studied them more in Semantics, which is the study of the meaning of words.

At first glance it might seem facetious to dedicate an entire college course to the meanings of words, I mean isn’t that what dictionaries are for? The reality is words can mean much more than their mere definitions. The intention of an utterance sometimes veers drastically from the it’s dictionary definition. Sarcasm, irony, idiom, metaphor, cultural references, inside jokes, even the surroundings of a person can affect the meaning of words and phrases as they are uttered. When you really starting looking at it, it’s fascinating.

As far as definitions go, most words have pretty narrow denotations; these are the words that can be explained by limited entries in the dictionary. Other words are harder to pin down; some words have pages and pages of entries in the dictionary – entire columns of added prepositions creating entirely new phrases (get it, get up, get over it, get lost, etc). And some words might at first seem easily definable, but prove to be much more slippery and hard grasp a hold of.

Take “art” for example. What is art? Is art something that exists on a wall in a museum? Is art any painting or sculpture? Are murals art? If so, is graffiti art? What separates photographic art from the pictures you took on vacation? While you may think you know what “art” is, a probing inquiry would have you questioning yourself quite quickly.

Art is a contested category; it is a word that cannot be confined by everyone in the same way. While some things would probably be declared unanimously as art (Michaelangelo’s David), others linger on the edges of the definition, unsure of their place; one individual’s art (Banksy) is  another’s public nuisance.  In my head I visualize contested categories as Venn Diagram-like organizations with concentric circles here and overlapping circles there, the confines of which are ultimately blurry and difficult to determine.

I tackled a specific contested category in my final Semantics paper which was called The Contested Category and Metaphorical Extension of the Word “War”. It ended up being over 25 pages despite the requirement being a mere ten. Once I started digging into the difficulties of defining war I literally couldn’t stop. Is something a war only if two recognized nations with professional militaries are fighting? What if a country (the US) is fighting an amorphous terrorist group (Al Queda or Hamas) which lacks professional troops and exists in multiple countries? And what of the war on drugs? There are many who believe using the word “war” to define our stance against drugs has left the US with no other alternative than to “win” (stamp out all drug use) which is impossible. When we are at war with someone or something, any negotiated outcome that differs from the original goal is considered defeat.

Recently different articles and posts got me thinking about infertility as a contested category. Even before phrases like “circumstantial infertility” started getting thrown around I felt that infertility was a word consisting of concentric and overlapping circles, not to mentioned  a blurred edge.

The American Heritage Dictionary’s definition (from dictionary.com) of infertility is:

  1.  Absent or diminished fertility.
  2.  The persistent inability to achieve conception and produce an offspring.

On the same dictionary.com page is a Medical Dictionary entry for infertile:

:not fertile

especially: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (as a year) inspite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception

Of course everyone in the IF community knows it means much more than either of those things.

I’ve read many places that a couple is declared infertile if they’ve had unprotected sex for a year without achieving pregnancy. I’ve also read that for older couples the number goes down to six or sometime three months even though it will actually take older couples longerthan younger couples to get pregnant. This #-months-without-pregnancy definition seems more like a tool to provide couples with medical intervention; for that reason older couples can seek treatment more quickly, because their biological clocks are literally running out. Is one aspect of the word “infertility” only, in a way, a label to encourage treatment?

Infertility is caused by many things, some more easily explained than others. Infertility can be caused by hormone imbalances (thyroid issues, high FHS, POV), hardware malfunctions (uterine deformaties, scarring, lost/damaged fallopian tubes or ovaries), male-factor (low sperm count or motility) and conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis, to name a few. A large percentage of infertility cases are unexplained. For some women the problem is seemingly as simple as not ovulating. I suffered from unexplained amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) for years. For almost a decade I never had my period unless it was coaxed by months of birth control and even then it would only return for a few measly months. If I had tried to get pregnant during that time I would have been declared infertile.

At least I would have if I had waited for a year sans menstruation to ask for help. I think, though, that any doctor would have seen me after a few months of missing my period in which case they probably would have given me Clomid or some other drug to induce ovulation. When a person needs medical intervention to ovulate, but didn’t wait a year to take it, is she infertile? What about a woman who waits until she is 45 to try to conceive a child? When treatment is almost certainly necessary because of age, is that person infertile? Here is where the lines start to blur.

Western medicine provides many amazing remedies for infertility. Sometimes all that is needed is a drug to help spur ovulation. Other times more invasive treatments are necessary. Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) are as numerous as they are varied and they are a defining characteristic of infertility. Two common treatments are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). IUIs are less invasive (and less expensive) than IVF, which includes surgery for the woman. I have witness many women rating their (and others’) infertility based on the degree of treatments endured. Those who only need Clomid may be considered less infertile than those who undergo IUIs. If a heterosexual couple needs IVF it is an undeniable sign that infertility is present and it is generally agreed that those who undergo the procedure endure the most difficult treatment. Those who must opt for donor embryos or eggs or choose adoption may suffer even greater financial and emotional hardship. Classifying someone’s infertility by the treatment they’ve had to undergo or the suffering they’ve endured seems to be quite common and plays a role in defining the word.

Suffering, inherent not just in the treatment but in the very inability to conceive, is a huge part of the word infertility, and in many ways defines it as much as the medical explanations. Everyone who deals with infertility suffers because of it. There is so much loss – the loss of hope, the loss of innocence, the loss of expectations and dreams, the loss of achieving a biological imperative. For many the loss of pregnancies or babies is also a part of infertility. Some women have no trouble achieving pregnancy but are unable to carry a child to term, miscarrying repeatedly. While these women are not considered infertile by the medical establishment, the result is the same: years of waiting for a child they cannot have without help. This common experience of being unable to produce a living child is all that is needed to include these women in the infertility community.

The common thread of wanting a family and being unable to have one is also what inspired the co-opting of the word in the term “circumstantial infertility”. This term was coined to describe people who want to have children but have not yet found a partner with whom to start a family. This term has created some controversy in the infertility community, as many continue fighting for infertility to be seen as a true medical condition and not a lifestyle choice (as some claimed it to be). Still, most infertile women recognize that the pain felt by any person who is unable to build the family is legitimate and should be validated by everyone, even those people who are medically, not circumstantially, unable to conceive.

A final aspect of the word infertility is it’s resolution. All people who suffer infertility will make decisions that define their path and their eventual outcome. Some have success with ART and build their families as they would have had they not suffered the disease. Others have their own biological children via a surrogate or carry a child themselves via adopted embryos. Some people choose adoption to build them families and others choose (or are forced) to live childfree.

When infertile couples are no longer trying to build a family are they still infertile? What if a couple needs treatment to have her first child but then doesn’t to have their second? What about the other way around, commonly called secondary infertility? My friend told me of a woman who just had her second child via IVF and has decided to stop blogging in the infertility community as she no longer considers herself infertile; she had achieved the family she always hoped to have. Are those women who now have the families they had always wanted still infertile? Most bloggers I know believe that even if they consider their infertility resolved (they are no longer trying to conceive) they are still infertile, but then again, many of them did not achieve the family they had always hoped to.

Infertility is a medical term but it affects every aspect of a person’s life. This insidiously ubiquitous quality creates multiple arenas in which infertility is defined: the medical cause, the time and money spent trying to achieve a successful pregnancy, the medical intervention that is required, the inability to build a family when and how one had hoped, the eventual resolution of the disease and of course the agonizing loss and suffering endured. In fact, it seems that the pain of infertility is what creates the blurred edge containing all the concentric and over-lapping circles that construct infertility’s overall meaning. The suffering is what truly holds all the different pieces of the infertility experience together. And even if infertility can be described as a contested category, in the end, no matter how you define or categorize it, for those who’ve experienced it, infertility = devastating loss.

How do you define infertility? Is that definition based primarily on your experience and the experience of others? Do you believe infertility is a contested category, or do you find it easy to define?

Confessional Fridays: Secondary (Circumstantial) Infertility?

As most of you know financial realities have forced us to postpone our TTC#2 plans indefinitely. Originally we were going to start trying again in October. Our thinking was, if we (miraculously) got pregnant right away, and everything went off without a hitch, the baby would be born right after Isa turned two. This age difference felt a little close and overwhelming to us but we believed we could handle it. And of course we assumed it would not happen right away and wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to let it happen. Even if it took a year, or longer, we wouldn’t feel particularly stressed (hah, well in theory anyway).

I have to admit there was a part of me that was sure we’d get pregnant right away, just because we were scared to. And I was so looking forward to trying without the pressure of having it happen quickly. Now none of that matters because we are not trying in October. We’re not trying in the foreseeable future. I don’t know when we do plan to start trying again, in fact. And it kind of terrifies me.

With that in mind, cut to pregnant bellies.

I have always been kind of obsessed with pregnant bellies. Even before I was TTC I’d look longingly at them. When I was in my early twenties, long before I really felt (or was) ready to have a baby, I was jealous of pregnant bellies. They are just so, I don’t know, awesome. I truly hope that my obsession with pregnant bellies will stop one day. I don’t think anyone condones a 60 year old woman staring wistfully at every burgeoning baby bump that happens by.

Of course when we started TTC my pregnant belly obsession became markedly more pronounced. Especially after my loss, I immediately checked every woman in the vicinity, wondering whether she were pregnant. It got marginally better after I had Isa, but I I still felt drawn to pregnant bellies, now longing for that idyllic (as I always choose to remember it) time of excitement and potential.

I will admit that now, if I see a pregnant woman walking alone I no longer feel jealous of what she has, after all, I had it to once (though I might feel a twinge of envy that she still has it). But then I remember how when I was pregnant and I saw people with babies I coveted the assurance that everything would be alright. I do remember (vividly) how uncertain that time was and I have no desire to resume the anxious worry that accompanied my pregnancies.

Oh course seeing a woman with a pregnant belly and a small child in tow? That has felt a little different. That woman has something I do not yet have. And even when I wasn’t ready to have it, it still stung. But now? Now that TTC#2 is postponed indefinitely? Now I it stings something fierce. Now it’s more akin to a dagger in my heart than the small but persistant paper cuts of before. Now it’s really hard.

I don’t know what it is exactly that hurts so much about seeing someone with what I want. Is it just a reminder of what I can’t yet have? Or is it the reminder of how easily others achieve it? Does it just suck when it’s pointed out that we are being prohibited from growing our family as we’d hoped? Is it shameful that we can’t manage what others so easily afford? I really don’t know. All I know is it hurts. More than I expected.

Yesterday I took Isa to a children’s museum. In the Tot Room, which is for children who are no taller than 42 inches, there were dozens of mothers and their kids. I would venture to guess about 1/3 of them were noticeably pregnant. So many beautiful pregnant bellies being rubbed incessantly. It was kind of overwhelming and it made me want to leave. It was the first time, since our postponed family planning, that I’d seen one pregnant-mom-of-a-toddler let alone 10+ in an enclosed space. I was even informed of a totally un-pregnant (and super skinny) looking well-to-do mother’s “fragile state” when she barged into the room (which admittedly did wreak of poop – someone’s kid needed a diaper change STAT) proclaiming that as a newly pregnant lady she could just NOT TOLERATE the stench. And then she went on to repeat how newly pregnant she was multiple times, lest we had other more personally relevant issues to consider.

Recently someone posted an article on Prompt-ly about “circumstantial infertility”. The author was a 40-something woman who had always wanted children but never found the right man. She claimed that her suffering was similar to her medically infertile counterparts – after all, they all wanted a child but were denied the chance due to circumstances outside of their control. This article inspired a really interesting conversation about the idea of “circumstantial infertility” and if someone who can’t have a child when she wants to because she lacks a partner or her partner is currently deployed or otherwise unable to participate in the necessary physical act should be considered infertile. What about same sex couples or single moms by choice (SMBC) who have to pursue ART? Are they also circumstantially infertile, even if they do achieve pregnancy through medical means? Does my (financial) inability to have a child now, when I want to, make me a sufferer of secondary circumstantial infertility? Is there such a thing as financial infertility and if so does someone who has to wait a mere year to continue building her family even quality?

I want to clarify that I in no way believe I am circumstantially infertile. Nor do I claim membership in the infertility community. I have always flashed my loss card in this space and when commenting on others’ blogs (though I believe my history of amenorrhea and the thousands I spent proactively on acupuncture blur that line somewhat – more on this forthcoming). I would never assume that my current frustration and pain mirrors that of a woman who needed to pursue ART to achieve her first pregnancy and isn’t sure she can afford it, or if it will even work, a second time. I personally believe the suffering when one has to pursue ART due to what might be perceived as a “failure” of one’s body is of a different caliber than of those who can’t build a family because of other circumstances.

I remember waiting for Mi.Vida to be ready to have a child. I remember being frustrated and angry when others got pregnant during that time because I wanted so much for us to be at that place too. But it was a different pain than when we were actively TTC and not getting pregnant. The disappointment of “we’re doing that too, but for it’s not working for us” was much more visceral than what was felt when I was waiting for it to be our time. For that reason, and many others, I believe that the truly (medically) infertile suffer a different kind of loss than those who might claim circumstantial infertility.

I remember when we started trying again after my loss. When my fear of amenorrhea was overshadowed completely by fear of another ectopic. I remember bargaining in my stages of grief, that if I could only have one child, I’d be happy. I only need one, I pleaded, and I’ll be okay. And you know what. It’s true. I will be okay with one child. The desperation I felt of just wanting to be a mother, is not there this time. I am a mother and while I will grieve deeply if I can’t build my family the way I’d hoped to, I will always be so thankful for the daughter I have. I know how lucky I am to have experienced pregnancy and motherhood and I will let my desire for another child overshadow the gratitude I feel for those special blessings.

Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really want to have another baby. A lot.

What are your thoughts on “circumstantial infertility”? How would you compare it with medical infertility? How would you compare primary and secondary infertility? Or is it infertility is infertility, is infertility?

Thoughtful Thursday: To rage or not to rage

I’m sure that by now you’ve all heard about the PETA “win a vasectomy campaign” in honor of National Infertility Awareness week.

Many IF bloggers like Keiko and Trinity and Elphaba and Jjiraffe and Inconceivable and Keiko again are protesting against it with blog posts and letters and tweets and petitions.

Some bloggers, like Mel, are choosing not to add fuel to the fire because they feel that this kind of attention is exactly what PETA wants. Mel also recognizes that offensive publicity stunts like this are not unusual for PETA and therefore should not be taken seriously.

Mi.Vida agrees with Mel. He doesn’t understand why our community is paying any attention to an organization that he feels few even give credit to. Aren’t they trying to get us all riled up? Aren’t we just playing along with their plan?

I’ve thought about this a lot. Mel asked these same questions at the end of her post – when do we respond and when is responding counterproductive? I understand both sides, those who feel compelled to stand up for and defend the IF community and those who feel it only bring more attention to that which we find offensive.

Obviously there are no easy answers. Each specific situation needs to be considered individually. While one could find merit in raging against, and therefore sending traffic to, one controversy a later dispute might be better left unmentioned. It all depends on the specifics of the situation.

In this case I support my fellow bloggers who are speaking out against the distasteful and misinformed contest that PETA is holding in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week. I believe that in this case, the benefits of asserting that this campaign is hurtful and wrong are worth the extra attention that it creates. In fact, their reactions might be a good thing because of that attention.

Infertility is often misrepresented and misunderstood. Most people who are not afflicted with the disease don’t even know it is a disease. They might think it’s a lifestyle choice (as PETA is so ignorantly claiming) or they might think it doesn’t affect very many people. They may believe there are easy solutions in adoption or living child free (despite the fact that they personally would probably scoff at such restrictions for themselves). Many believe (as PETA does) that infertility only helps the Earth by controlling the population without causing suffering to those it afflicts (though again, any efforts required by the fertile to do the same would be laughed at). Most probably just don’t think about it much at all.

Mi.Vida thinks I’m pulling these assumptions out of thin air but I’m not. I’ve heard these things said time and time again in the comment sections of blogs and online articles, I’ve heard them voiced on television and, most hurtfully, in real life. I know people think this way, I’m not making it up.

And when I think that those types of people are hearing about a campaign like PETA’s without being exposed to the offense it’s causing our community, it bothers me. I want people to know how much it hurts, the damage it does, the pain it causes. I want people to stop and think, if only for a moment, that infertility has a face and a name and a heart. I want them to realize it has 7.3 million faces and names and hearts in the U.S alone. I want them to get a glimpse of the weight of the infinite and immeasurable lost hopes and crushed dreams of the people who are faced with infertility and forced to live in its shadow. I want them to understand that even if they “overcome it”, it never truly goes away.

I’m not sure if reading a letter or blog entry or signing a petition against this campaign will do that for most people, but if it provides even a modicum of understanding to even a few of those who just didn’t get it, then I think it was well worth it.

Oh, and PETA is a bunch of douche bag assholes that deserve to get shit heaped on them indefinitely for their insensitive, offensive and hurtful stunt so bring on the hate mail and the angry tweets and the well supported petitions. This ridiculous sham of a contest needs to stop now.

Making space (and feeling grateful)

Today Mi.Vida and I started thinking about “child-proofing” our house. Isa is not crawling yet but she is a strong 7.5 month old girl who is trying hard to get her little butt in gear. We have a small (tiny) apartment and a lot of work to do before she can have free reign over any room. And the reality is, she won’t ever get to run free in any room of our house, and that is okay. I’m not the kind of mother who will change everything so my daughter won’t accidentally hurt herself because you know what, accidents happen and my daughter will hurt herself and that’s okay. I just want to make sure she doesn’t stick her finger in an electrical socket or pull a bottle of Merlot from a tall, wobbly, wine rack.

Actually, the wine rack is what we focused on today and finally, after much discussion, we took the top part off (it’s really three racks from IKEA that are stacked on top of each other) and put it in a closet in the living room and decided we’d “get rid” (read: drink! yay!) of the rest of it as soon as possible and just give the other two away. And while we were cleaning out the closet for the rack we’re keeping I found an AWESOME pair of size ten pants that I had forgotten about and am so excited to wear while I’m still losing my pregnancy weight.

And for some reason, while we doing all of this, I was over come with a feeling of intense gratitude. I am sooooooo thankful that we have to make our house safer for our happy, healthy baby girl. I am so grateful that we are getting rid of pieces of our past life to make space for our family life. I’m even excited to have a chance to wear those pants I love so much while I’m still a little chubbier than I once was. I’m happy for all of it, because my daughter is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me and I couldn’t be more grateful to have her in my life.

I was talking to my therapist on Monday morning and she commented (as many have) on how happy I am. She said she was worried that my pregnancy anxiety would transfer onto my daughter once she was born and I’d become an anxious mother. But I’m not at all. She said I seemed so calm and at peace, and so genuinely fulfilled. I told her I was the happiest I’d ever been and I was even thinking about “number two” a lot, because “number one” was such a joy. She said that very few people want to be mothers in that way, mourning nothing from their past life and loving everything about their new role as a mom. She said most people did not have that deep need to nurture someone else. She said that many women would not be counting down the days to try for another baby, but would be wondering when they would start to feel like themselves again.

But that is just the thing, I feel more like myself now that I ever did before my daughter was born. This is who I was even before she was here, and that is why everything felt so incomplete while I was waiting for her.

As I left therapy yesterday I was happy that someone seemed to understand how much all of this means to me. I was also sad that that person was my therapist and not a friend I could have coffee with, sans writing a hefty check. I know it will be hard to find a friend who get’s how much all of this means to me, how fulfilled I am by embodying the simple and yet maddeningly complex role of mother.

And not having that friend, that person who “get’s it”, that is (one of the reasons) why I write this blog and read the blogs of all these amazing women – because they are just like me. They are also the uncommon ones, the women who need, deep down in their souls, to have a child, to be a mother. They are like me in that they won’t ever feel complete without realizing that role.

And as I walked out of therapy yesterday I cried. I cried tears of gratitude for everything I have and how happy I finally am. And I cried tears of sadness and frustration for all the women who are still struggling and don’t know if or when they will ever get here.

When I was trying the thing that bugged me the most about all the fertiles of the world was that they didn’t realize how good they had it, they weren’t grateful enough for what they had. I felt I would begrudge them nothing if they just acknowledged how different it could have been for them, how difficult it is for so many women. I hope you all know that even though I had a relatively easy time getting here, that I never once, not for a second, take it for granted. I am constantly in awe of my good fortune and while I’m not a religious person, I consider myself to be incredibly blessed. And I want nothing in the world (not even another child) as much as I want all of those women, the ones I know and the ones I’ll never “meet”, to have what I am fortunate enough to enjoy.

Hoping to Inspiring Hope

I know a lot of women who are still struggling in the IF world have a hard time reading “success story” blogs. I hope though, that they will read this post. And I hope it will bring them hope.

I still cannot believe I am a mother. All my life I believed that this was my eventual destination (though when I was trying I wasn’t so sure about the “eventual” part). Now I’ve arrived and I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I used to love watching movies and reading books about pregnancy and birth. I wondered what my experiences would be like, how they would shape me. Now I watch or read them and I’ve experienced it. I can actually compare my own experience with what I’m seeing or reading. I don’t even know how to process that. Wondering what it would be like was a huge part of who I was. Now I know what it’s like and I feel like I can’t quite shift into the person that makes me.

I am so, so, so lucky. So fortunate. So blessed (I am not religious but I feel like that word is appropriate here, even for me). I continue reading TTC, IF and pregnancy loss blogs and I want what I have for those people still struggling even more than I did when I was terrified I wouldn’t have it myself. I want to do something with my life that helps ensure those people will have what I have. I feel like I can’t step away from this community because it means so much to me. This journey meant SO MUCH TO ME. It defined me in so many ways. It continues to define me. Pregnancy and now motherhood is not something that runs concurrently with the rest of my life, it IS my life. I feel complete. I feel like I have arrived. I feel like I am finally the person I was meant to be.

When I was trying to get pregnant – and especially after my ectopic when I was paralyzed by the fear that I would keep having ectopics and eventually lose my tubes, and my chances of having a baby – my friends who did not yearn for all of this would ask me why I felt such desperation. I had a hard time articulating what it would mean to me if I could not have children. I sometimes said that I didn’t feel like life would be worth living, I didn’t see the point. That is still true, but there is more. I realize now that I wouldn’t have been a whole person without being a parent. I didn’t have to be a biological parent to fill this part of me, but I had to be someone’s mother just to be me – to really and truly be me. Otherwise I would have lived my life as just a shadow of who I was.

I am a woman who has really grown into herself. Even in high school and later college, as I battled intense depression and self-loathing, I knew, deep down, that things would get better. I knew that every year I was growing into myself in positive, constructive ways. Just as I always had many older friends (and when I say older I mean my parents’ age), I knew I’d be happier when I too was in that stage of my life. I suppose I always assumed that part of it was that I’d also be a mother at that time, but I wonder if I realized then that the mother identity was really what I needed to be whole. Whether or not I knew it then, I’m sure of it now.

Pregnancy was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world. And seeing parts of myself – my eyes, my nose – in my daughter, seeing my features mixing perfectly with my partner’s, it brings me immense joy. When I wonder how she will be like me, I feel proud to have brought her into the world. At the same time, I know that her biological link to me is only secondary to her just being here, to her being my daughter. I could love another child as much as I love her. In fact, the biological connection can be frightening: will she inherit my penchant for depression? My anxiety? My ADHD? When I wonder what parts of my personality I will see in her I generally attribute the possibility of recognizing them to nurture and not nature. I look forward to seeing how she is “like” me in that way and I hope I can be the kind of person I would want her to be. But I worry about passing on, genetically, my faults and my weaknesses. The biological tie is important to be sure, but it’s not paramount.

I’m suppose I’m writing this because I want to explain how important being a mother is, and to let people still struggling to fill that role know that it’s worth their efforts. But I also want them to know that, while not having a biological child (if that is where their journey takes them) is surely a loss to face, I don’t believe it has to be a devastating one. That is not true, I think it would be devastating – and not being able to experience pregnancy would truly be something to mourn. I totally understand all the lengths that people go to to experience pregnancy and/or bring a biological child into the world. But that is one experience and it is relatively short. Being a mother, that is the part that fills the void you might be feeling – that is the part that makes you whole – and I truly believe that no matter how you get there, it will define you in the way you want it to. You will feel like you have arrived at yourself.

I hope I don’t sound preachy. I hope no one thinks that I take for granted what I have and I’m saying others should be okay settling for something else. That is not it at all. I ache to give my “friends” in the IF community the experience of pregnancy and the birth of their biological child. I want that for them more than anything I could ever want for myself. But I also want them to know that it can be okay even if they don’t have that. They can still be complete, happy and whole. There will be scars to be sure, and there will be emptiness in the places where those experiences should have been, but I think you could still be whole even with that emptiness, I really truly do.

I hope this post brings something positive to people. I also hope I don’t sound daft or disingenuous or pompous. I’m not trying to rub anything in anyone’s face. I’m truly only trying to give hope. If I just can’t understand what it’s like to face the possibility of not having biological children (though I think I can because I truly believed that was a possibility in the aftermath of my ectopic) I am sorry to assume that I can. And I am sorry if I’ve overstepped my bounds or said something I shouldn’t have. That was not my intention. And I’m sorry if it seems like the pain I’m feeling about the continual losses my IF friends face is driving me to say things to make them think it’s going to be okay, to make me think it’s going to be okay for them. Maybe that is what is going on here, and if it is, and I’m out of line, I apologize. The point was to instill hope and if I did that for just one person, then it was worth it.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I’m finally done with my second to last grad school class. One down, one more to go!