PLEASE NOTE: If you are struggling with infertility or are currently trying to conceive and you DON'T want to read about my pregnancy (which I totally understand), I recommend starting at the beginning of the blog (March 2010) and reading from there. I find out I'm pregnant in June 2011 so there is a lot of trying to conceive posts in between that you might find funny, helpful or relatable. Wishing you all the luck in the world!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You're NOT Alone (No, Really)

I was lying down on my therapist’s couch doing what I often do: Staring at the blank white walls wondering what paintings I would hang up if it were my office. I don’t know why I was thinking of this as A) this is not what I go to therapy for and B) if I did have an office, I wouldn’t have picked the one she did. It’s not that it’s a bad office. It’s just very, very small and with the white walls, lying down and the claustrophobic space, I often feel like I’m getting an MRI when I’m there.

As I pondered décor choices, my therapist asked, “Why do you still think you feel ashamed of having fertility issues?

Because everyone else around me can get pregnant without a problem!” I answered.

She gave a long sigh. She tends to do this a lot during our sessions.

She said, “You’re using one circle of friends who did not have fertility issues and are broadening it out to say that all women are able to have children except you in order to unconsciously justify your anger, jealousy and sense of unfairness. You don't know ‘all’ women! You know just a teeny percentage of the entire population. Furthermore, if what you said were true, we wouldn't have developed an entire industry the sole purpose of which is to help women get pregnant.

This was an exceptionally thought provoking and logical point. However, my reaction was, “Yeah, yeah, yeah… eat my jealous infertile shorts.” I can be a difficult, if not an amusing patient.

Approximately one in eight couples in America have fertility issues and since I’ve reached out to the infertility community at large, I’ve met many men and women who have had issues, continue to have issues or who have had children despite their issues. It’s pretty clear that I’m far from alone in my struggle to conceive.

I know that consciously… but it would appear my subconscious has yet to get the memo. Pinocchio may have had Jiminy Cricket for his conscience but I’m beginning to suspect a bitchy mosquito is mine. She's sucking the life out of me and whispering, “It’s just you loser!

All in all, my therapist has a point. It’s not that I’m ACTUALLY alone. I just feel alone. My question is why?

At the risk of pissing off one person or another, I actually think it would be easier for me to have a terminal illness than to admit to certain people in my life that we’re having trouble conceiving. I certainly don’t want a terminal illness nor do I mean to say that infertility is worse than someone with a terminal illness. I just think for whatever god forsaken reason in my mind that it would be easier to say to someone, “I have cancer” than it would be to say to someone, “We’ve been trying to have kids and we can’t seem to have them.”

The only reason for this that I can surmise is that shame and fault are inexplicitly attached to infertility. If you’re sick, it’s no one’s fault. If you tell someone you can’t seem to conceive, one of the first questions tends to be, “Is the problem with you or your husband?” Someone or something must be to blame whereas if you tell someone you’re sick, no one would ask, “You’ve got an illness? Why would you go and do a thing like that???

So, if you feel that something is your fault or that you failed in some way, you’re less likely to talk about it or admit it to people… thus… you feel more isolated and alone. That’s my theory anyway. Well, that and as per my therapist, I like to justify feeling like sh*t. Go me!

The thing is, similar to any illness, infertility isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s simply the hand you’ve been dealt and for the life of me, even though I’m fairly open with friends and family who I know won’t annoy me about it, I would love, LOVE, to not feel like it’s just me in this.

Until I finally accept once and for all that there are COUNTLESS others out there like me and that no one is to blame for this hilariously irritating trying to conceive debacle (or H.I.T.T.C.D. for short), I’ll continue swatting away at my inner bitchy mosquito and redecorating my therapists walls. Hey… we can only do the best we can, right?

30 comments:

The Steffens said...

You really said it. I don't want a life-threatening illness but it would be SO much easier to tell people about cancer than infertility. There's no shame attached. There's no unhelpful comments that if you just relaxed the cancer would go away. And I DO feel alone. And I DO feel like it's just me. Yes, logically I know that's not true, but why is it I'm the ONLY ONE in my circle of acquaintances who is dealing with infertility? How do I not feel like a freak and alone?

-Anika (@EsqWearsPrada)

Marci said...

The other thing about life threatening illnesses is that there's an end in sight. Where's the end with infertility? It's an ache that doesn't go away. If you wait until menopause to "give up" on having a body birth, than you may be "too old" to adopt, depending on the country you choose to adopt in. So the clock is ticking on both things, but only one gets respect.

It's not surprising, this is a culture that thinks only wimps can suffer PST and if you have emotional pain or depression, you're not really "sick." And infertility is the modern equivalent of "the vapors." Our culture spends so much time and effort teaching people how to not get pregnant, that they forget just how difficult it actually *is* to get pregnant.

Bottom line, society sucks. Why would you want to be in a group with them anyway? Better to be alone and sensible (and funny) than collectively stupid.

Kelly said...

There IS a lot of weird shame that's attached to IF. It's definitely the reason I haven't even told the majority of my friends that we're trying to have a baby. I'm so glad it's not something we announced to people over a year ago, because now they'd all be thinking, "Oh, that poor infertile girl... I wonder what's wrong with her." Well, they probably wouldn't, actually, but that's what my mind tells me they'd be saying.

Bobbi Johnson said...

Don't feel alone! So many of us feel that pain. 2.8 million women, to be exact! Infertility is no joke and it should be seen as a incurable disease. It should be up there with cancer! I'm so sorry you are struggling with yourself on this. I am, too, don't think I don't. I have moments of anger and "This isn't fair!" and I, too, think everybody else can get pregnant by just THINKING of getting pregnant, but the truth is, life isn't fair and we both (along with the rest of us) just need to accept the way our cards were dealt and try to see it less negatively. I thoroughly enjoy your posts. You have such a great way of writing...humorous, to-the-point and entertaining. :)

Gurlee said...

I wish being infertile didn't come along with a barrage of shitty feelings. I have no idea what its like to have a terminal illness, but I can only imagine that the grass is always greener...
That same inner mosquito has flew to my field and bred, the asshole.
I think its hard not knowing anyone IRL who is fighting the same fight, those around me seem to get knocked up at the drop of the drawers, duh, I know. All the IRL IFers I know have babies.

Do I Have to Be a D.I.N.K.? said...

You said it perfectly. I am right there with you. I am not one to announce my IF to the world. I think part of it is that I keep thinking it's going to work sooner or later so why tell people if I don't have to. I think they are starting to suspect something since it's been four years of nothing.

Katie said...

So true! I remember feeling so much shame when I first told people we were infertile. We've lost a lot of friends over it. Some just couldn't understand. Some didn't want to understand. People who have more common issues, like cancer or other diseases, seem to get more understanding from others. I don't know why that is. But know that you are not alone. My husband constantly reminds me that we are not the only ones going through this when I get down or depressed. It doesn't make the pain go away, but at least I know I have an amazing group of women to turn to when I'm down.

lowfatlady said...

While I understand what your therapist says is true and right, I am with you. I've still got some anger/shame there.

Busted Kate said...

I felt so alone for so many years... like 4 to be exact. I didn't want to reach out to the infertility community, because that meant I had to accept it as a real problem for me. Meanwhile, all (seriously, ALL) my girlfriends were getting pregnant. Most on the first month of trying. And I continued to suffer and wonder what was wrong with me.

Finally cowboying up and reaching out to this commmunity was the smartest thing I ever did. It healed my heart, and gave me a support I never knew I needed. Hell, maybe it healed my plumbing too, who knows?

All I know is, you're DEFINITELY not alone. :-)

Josey said...

"shame and fault are inexplicitly attached to infertility" - this is so frickin true, and I hate that I KNOW I shouldn't feel like that, but I do anyway.

Great post, even though it blows that I can empathize with you! My one "real life" friend who had issues TTC "just quit trying after a year and when [she] relaxed, BAM, [she] was pregnant!" Um, yeah, that's not going to help me unfortunately. *sigh*

Have I mentioned she's a total ditz and probably didn't know WHEN she was ovulating that first year?

At least we're in this together.

Rotten Eggs said...

thanks for this post. insightful and made me smile, as always.

jensays (what would jen do) said...

oh my gosh, i was just saying to myself today that it would be easier to say oh i have cancer because you just have cancer and then people get that. when you are infertile everyone has a theory and questions and oh have you tried this or that. and i realized, i am actually embarrassed that as a woman my body can't even do what it's supposed to do.

Little Yellow Porch said...

Still, in real life, I don't know anyone who wants to have kids and can't seem to have them. I read one in five couples won't have kids (of course some of these are by choice). Where are these people in real life? I don't know them. Everyone I know has kids if they want them, and everyone seems to want them. It's very isolating. Sure I have the internet and blogs and I can blog my own little heart away about it, but it's still not the same as having a girlfriend in my real life who gets it. Another couple just like us who understands.

ET said...

One difference between IF and cancer is the level of public awareness. Many people have either been personally affected by cancer or have a loved one that has been affected. They know what cancer is, what is means, something about the journey. Because IF is so closeted, people are plain ignorant about IF. Once you suffer from IF you start to learn about people around you that have had some experience with it, but it certainly isn't part of our public consciousness. I actually resent this part of it, because I feel like if we did talk about it more we might get the insurance coverage we deserve. How is the opportunity to participate in something as primal as the cycle of life a privilege when we have the technology to change it?

Amanda said...

You are definitely not alone.... I'm part of the statistic. :)

praying4amiracle said...

I haven't told anyone but my Dad. I think it's humilating when someone asks why I don't have kids at my age, "don't you want kids" "there's never a right time just start trying" oh if only they knew. BUT I can't come to grips and tell them. I just feel so incomplete as a woman not being able to bear children. I'm fine telling people I have an auto immune disease that has no cure, but I can't seem to get out the words "I'm inferitle you idot"!!

Rachel said...

I'm one of the weird ones who tells everyone who asks if/when I am having kids that I have been trying for the last 3 years. I don't want people to think that I am not obsessively trying to have a family.

C said...

Great post, and you are definitely not alone! Neither am I, but I feel like I am most days.

Tara dS said...

The shame and the guilt are part of what makes infertility such a dark and lonely journey. I suffered in silence for two years, telling no one but my husband and RE what was going on. Then I joined Resolve, a support group for IF people like me. Through their support and sharing the journey with them, I was able to heal over time. The truth is that NO ONE can understand what you are going through except others who have been through it themselves. I would highly recommend finding a Resolve group or some other similar community. They won't be able to help you have a child, but they will take away some of the loneliness.

Kakunaa said...

I do actually know people IRL who had some troubles conceiving, but none to our extent. And it seems like it isn't the same. I hate the "who is it, you or your husband?" question...

You are NOT alone. I promise.

heartincharge said...

I loved this post. and the other comments! I completely understand and I feel less alone just from reading this today. I actually told a friend I was changing my diet to control my endometriosis and her response was that I was her second friend who had trouble conceiving. My response to that wad "I didn't say I was having trouble conceiving." It was totally easy to discuss the disease. The infertility part - total shut down.

Polly Evans said...

I can definitely relate, it's the same with my mental illness in a way too. x

Michelle said...

Great post.
I have often felt the same way about having a an illness. It would be easier to accept help from others, to speak openly about whats wrong with me and what treatments i would need.
Somehow I could talk about an illness and not feel judged or like I did something wrong.. I don't feel the same way about infertility. (I'm gonna need to discuss this in my next therapy session!)
Thank you for bringing this up, as it could be a sensitive topic. I'm glad everyone understands the comparison.
Giant hugs.

egghunt said...

Great post! But I kind of disagree with your therapist a bit, I mean if everyone in your circle of friends is able to get pregnant apart from you then of course you feel alone and a bit ashamed. Just because there are lots of other strangers out there who have the same problems as you it doesn't make it any easier to talk about it with your fertile friends. Oh I don't know, maybe I'm just bitter too and am trying to justify my own thoughts!!
Your description of how we place blame on infertility is so true. I think its hard for people to understand infertility because there are such varying levels of it and because a lot of people are successful in the end they are the things that get talked about. Most ignorant people think that IVF is a given success story because the continual failures are not reported in the media so they only see the good side. Therefore they are able to downplay infertility and they don't see it as a problem. Hence why we feel ashamed of it.
Love your work, great post.

missohkay said...

I think one of the hurdles with people understanding infertility is that it results from so many different problems - or a completely unidentifiable problem. I don't have any friends with fertility issues who I can really talk to, but I'm starting to discover acquaintances who have been brave enough to post about it on Facebook. And each one has a totally different problem - endo, PCOS, premature ovarian failure. The rest of the world doesn't speak our lingo!

Heidi said...

love this post and all the comments! you couldn't have said it better. my husband can't understand my refusal to tell anyone--i'd rather cancel family vacations last minute b/c of a scheduled IUI and make up some ridiculous excuse than to tell the truth. we haven't told ANYONE b/c of my insistance not to. i feel ashamed, i don't want the pity, i don't want the worry from family, i don't want the constant checking to see if i'm drinking wine at dinner, etc. (i would, however, love all the prayers from them) i know that i'm projecting these feelings onto other people, but it's just how i must feel inside. sadly, i feel like i've failed at the one thing a woman is born to do :( i know it's totally ridiculous, negative, wrong thoughts, but it's just the place i'm in. you're not alone--and it's evident by the LONG waits i have at the RE's office :) you must be close to ovulation time, right?

Anonymous said...

Great post - this one rings so true with me. I hate that it does, but it is a reminder that you and all these other posters here totally understand how I feel. I definitely feel alone IRL but comforted when I read your blog - thanks for all your posts and for making us feel less alone, I hope our posts do the same for you.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog!! I have children but have been trying for the last 2.5 yrs for another. So yes although I have experienced being a parent, I can totally relate to this feeling of loneliness, confusion and"what the hell is happening. whats wrong with me". I am constantly going through bouts of depression. SO I WANT YOU ALL TO KNOW YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! I AM SPRINKLING BABY DUST TO ALL OF YOU :)

Stork on Strike said...

Wonderful post. Sums up alot of the same things I've been thinking. I have a sudden urge to update my Facebook status to say "I can't get pregnant and we really want to have kids. Please talk to me."

AL said...

Great post, Jay. I have been putting so much blame on myself and not even realizing it - yes - i know that this is not my fault, logically, but I can't help but feel guilty about it at the same time.

We are not alone, thought it so often feels that way.

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