What I've Learned

You know the spiel. Infertility is hard. No one can adequately explain the difficulty to you until you experience it for yourself. This journey amplifies everything you are thinking and feeling. It makes so many things feel important. During this journey, I have discovered things about myself I knew and things I never knew. This blog is pretty much full disclosure, so I’ll share here. Fair warning: this post is LONG. Begin at your own peril.

Things I Wish I Didn’t Know

1. Patience is a virtue I possess little of.

This is not a news flash, but I wish I wasn’t always so stressed about things that are totally out of my control. I worry about everything and everyone tells me to relax. That does not help. I wish I had my husband’s come what may attitude and could completely relax and lose myself. However, until they develop personality transplants, it is highly unlikely I will become relaxed and “go-with-the-flow.” But, I can't. Trying to conceive is a big time waiting game, especially in the medical intervention one. I'm waiting to start my meds, have an appointment, get a call, take a series of tests, go to the office for a blood test, get another call and wait to take another test. It's so hard wait patiently when all you want is to get to the next step. I've been waiting for years. My patience is spent.
2. I’m a control freak.

I admit it. I like to know what’s coming next and I like to have a say about it. I want to have a back-up plan in case something happens to the primary plan (and a back up plan for the back up plan). I have a very difficult time sitting back and letting someone else be in charge (just ask my husband, every time he tries to surprise me.)  Truly, no one is "in charge" because my  doctors and I are at the mercy of my body.  I truly wish I could let go and enjoy the ride more often.  But, this just feels so important that I can't imagine letting go.

3. I’m mean when I’m wounded.

This is one of my worst qualities. I have quite the mean streak and it gets worse when I feel helpless and cornered. The most terrible part of it all is the fact that those closest to me get hurt when I am in this mode. Namely, this means my husband. I can feel myself jumping down his throat. I say the things that I know I should never say. I try to hurt others so they can feel some of my pain. I think awareness is the first step to minimizing or undoing this terrible attribute. I've actively tried to work on this, but I am a work in progress.  I have to understand that even though it is not his body, he is going through this as well. Making him hurt more will not make me hurt less.

 

Things I Didn’t Understand About Myself

1. I’m resilient.

Let me clarify. I always knew that professionally I was resilient. I can take criticism, make adjustments and move on. However, I have discovered that personally, I am resilient as well. It would be impossible to try month to month without the ability to bounce back from failure. That is precisely what starting a new cycle feels like: failure at the most basic level. But, every month I get back on the proverbial horse and try again. Some months it is harder than others. But, regardless, onward I forge.

2. I talk too much (and my husband doesn’t talk enough).

I’m one of those people who talks things out. I figure things out mid-sentence sometimes. I can have internal dialogues, and sometimes those work. But, voicing the hopes and fears in my heart seems to have real power for me. Therefore, I talk about everything in this silly, confusing, humbling TTC experience. I ponder the things that might happen, may never happen, are likely to happen, and on and on. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that my constant need to talk about it can be irritating to say the least. On the other hand, my husband is cerebral. He considers everything before giving it voice. He often doesn’t talk about things that are on his mind…especially if he is not sure about them.

Our combination is… well… tough to say the least. I am yammering all of the time about some little thing or the other, stressing about things, promising that I refuse to get my hopes up. Meanwhile, my husband is silently mulling over important things, many of which he will not share until he has a complete grasp of what it all means. So, I get upset because I think he is tuning out and he gets upset because I try to force him to be a talker, something he is not. I have come to realize these are not necessarily “fatal faults” for either of us. They are simply parts of our personality that the other has to learn to respect and honor as part of our marriage.

3. I need social interaction.

My husband and I have lived in the state in which we currently reside for almost 5 years. However, less than a year ago, we moved more than 2 hours from where we had lived for 4 years. So, twice in the last five years, we have picked up and moved away from our friends, family and existing support structures. It has been difficult for both of us, but probably more so for me.

In my last job, I was a classroom teacher. I had tons of friends and colleagues to talk to and hang out with in our downtime. I had a best friend who I spent time with almost every weekend. When we moved, I took a promotion to a district level position in a large area. It’s a good job and I have great colleagues. But, I have 5 colleagues, none of which are in the same “spot” in their lives that I am right now. So, it has been difficult for me to make friends here, simply because I never really get the chance to meet people.

My husband has developed friendships with many of his colleagues, but I haven't been so fortunate. There are a couple of people I met through church and community activities, but no one that is my best friend like I had in WV or back at my school.  I know that spending 8 hours a day in front of a computer is difficult for an extrovert. Having no friends to talk to outside of work makes it even more excruciating.

4. I can survive heartbreak

I’ve been heartbroken only a few times in my life. When I lost my mom. When I lost my grandmother. Now, it seems heartbreak, maybe in a smaller form, has become a part of my monthly routine. It’s so strange to think that you can be so invested in something that doesn’t yet exist. Every month, I think about our possible child. When I was younger, I used to think I cared if it was a boy or a girl, whose eyes he or she had… all of that stuff that seems so trivial, now. I just want a healthy baby. Either gender will do. It can have my nose that is too wide or my husband’s terrible vision. I don’t care as long as it is ours. Our child.

I see women post on message boards about trying to conceive to deliver on the “perfect” date. I also see women who are trying for one gender or the other {forgive the momentary snarkiness, but seriously, do you want a child to love or a doll to dress up?}. It makes me sad to see women who are so ungrateful for being able to get pregnant in the first place, or ones that take the pregnancy for granted by endangering the life of their child with terrible habits and choices.  

It’s all I want. A baby. So, my heart breaks every month when I have to take the inevitable pregnancy test that says it’s a no go on the baby. But, I survive because that possibility of a baby keeps me moving forward.

5. I’m tenacious (or stubborn if you ask my husband)

I very nearly grouped my tenacity with my resiliency, but decided these are two different things I have learned about myself. I am ruthless in the pursuit of what I want. I have been a hard worker as long as I can remember because I was raised around women who, to quote my grandmother “weren’t afraid of hard work.” They instilled in me the belief that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything. That tenant of my belief system has helped me more than anything over the years. I have received promotions and raises, not because I am smarter or better than people around me, but because I am willing to work as hard as I have to in order to accomplish my goals. I also don’t usually toot my own horn about it. I just do what needs to be done until it is accomplished. But, determination and hard work have a way of being noticed.

TTC requires a different kind of tenacity. Every month, you ride the proverbial emotional rollercoaster. Up, down and sideways, you hope and pray that somehow, unlike every month before, you found a way to create life. When it doesn’t happen, I want to crawl in a hole and forget about the world. But, I’ve developed a coping strategy that allows me to find new strength each month. I give myself a day to be mad at the world and the injustices that come along with infertility. Then, I have to put that cycle behind me and MOVE ON. I have to get back up, call the doc, get another prescription for Clomid, set up the inevitable appointments and try again. Yes, my heart hurts. Yes, I shed a lot of tears on that day. But, I want a child… so it pushes me forward.

6. I’m too much of a people pleaser.

I wasn’t aware I was a people pleaser until my mid-twenties, but looking back, I have been one my entire life. I like harmony. I don’t like fights (but I LOVE debates). I am a fixer and a smooth things over type of person. Normally this is OK (not always, mind you, because it sometimes makes me a doormat…but I digress). However, I have found when in the TTC struggle, I worry too much about others and not enough about myself.

Dr. S has urged me to call him whenever I have questions while on Clomid. However, I am ALWAYS reluctant to call because I feel like my question is stupid and unnecessary. I hate to take up his time with my silly concerns when there may be patients who need his help more than I do. I know that he will call me when he has a second, but I still feel guilty about taking his time.  He also gave me his email address so I could contact him if he is out of the office. I seriously can't see ever using that, because I don't want to bother him when he's not working. I guess I have a hard time remembering that I am a paying customer and he has an interest in my case. Also, he has never been impatient or upset with me for calling or contacting him. So, I’m not sure who I am trying to please here.

7. I truly fear the unknown.

I am a planner. When I have a plan, I feel better about facing whatever is coming my way. There is no plan for infertility. Sure, doctors call all of this a plan. But, for me, we might as well be shooting at gnats on a dark night. I am throwing everything I have at the “plan” but I have come up, literally, empty each month. Working through infertility means constantly facing the unknown. Each test has the ability to be life altering… or not. More times than not, the tests haven’t given us anything that we can use to battle. More likely, they just tell us more of the “we don’t understand why you aren’t getting pregnant” business. I just want to know what I can do to fix this. I want to create a plan that would give me a good chance of becoming a mom. I want to give my husband the gift of becoming a father. I want all of these things but the unknown creeps in to take them away. Many days, when I am down, I would just like to know why. Whether I could get the answer from my body or from God, I would love to have the unknown be known.

8. I miss my mom every hour of every day.

I lost my mom 3 months after I got married. I had just embarked on one of the biggest parts of adult life, and she was taken away from me when she was only 48. This changed me at my core. For a while, I measured my life against her life (I was 24 when she died, so for a while I sincerely thought of my life as “half-over”). I got bogged down in memories and couldn’t move forward. In time (and with help), I moved past it to remember without debilitating sadness. It hurts… but I can cope.

Trying to have a child has brought to light how much I still want my mom. My mother was strong and supportive and I know she would have been my rock through this whole crazy thing. She would have been the best grandma ever. She would have helped me cope, regardless of whether or not I ever have a child.

I have a crazy reoccurring dream starring my mom. In it, she is cooking in her kitchen, something she did pretty much every day. It is different, though when she tells me she needs to meet my doctor before I can get pregnant with this baby. She needs to know I am in good hands. He needs to come to dinner. I live about 6 hours away from my parents’ house (and Dr. S’s practice is about 6 hours from there, too) so it’s a totally crazy idea (let’s forget the fact that my mom is deceased). Meanwhile, there is a knock on the door and in walks Dr. S. When I ask him why he was at my parents’ house, he told me because my mom told him he had to. So, my mom, at least in my dreams, got her way.

I knew I missed my mom. TTC has just pointed out the magnitude of missing her. (On a side note, I hope that dream meant she approved of her little girl’s doctor and she would see what help she could get me upstairs.)

9. What hasn’t killed our marriage seems to make it stronger.


During this whole process, it has become clear that anyone and everyone has an opinion about being parents or using fertility drugs. Often, the “advice” given by these folks is completely unsolicited. Many times, it is mean-spirited and overall demeaning. However, one thing these interlopers have solidified is the fact that my husband and I are definitely a two person team. We want a child… and how we get there is up to us and our comfort level (and maybe the doctor). He has held me while I cry after the heartbreak at the end of the month. I have listened while he talked about the weight of the enormous pressure put on him. Back in August, when we started getting medical help with this, Jeremy told me I am already his family. That the two of us are enough if that is all it can ever be. This process is so hard, but I know, for better or for worse, he will be right by my side.

10. I really, really want to be a mom.

Years ago, when my husband and I first started trying for a child, I thought I wanted to be a mom. I realize now that was nothing compared to the ache in my heart I feel today. I think about how old a child would be if we could have conceived when we started this journey. I think about all of the things I could share with a child. I think about the way my life would forever change if I got pregnant.

For me, it isn’t just about having a cute little baby or an adorable toddler. It isn’t about fulfilling wishes I never got the chance to realize. It’s about something greater than me. It’s about simple moments and tender love between a parent and child. It’s the extraordinary, ordinary moments that fill the lives of parents that I have never had the privilege of knowing.

During my Christmas break, I spent a great deal of time with my sister and her two girls, ages 3 and 5.  I saw that what she does isn’t always easy and she doesn’t always feel completely rewarded. But a silly moment between the three of them brought me to tears. My niece Katelyn was watching a Barbie movie, singing along to the tune of “Princesses wanna have fun.” (think Cindy Lauper)  Suddenly, my tomboy niece Cali begins singing along with her sister. Not to be outdone, my sister (their mother) begins singing along just as loudly. The three of them sang and danced around the living room in their own little world. Meanwhile, I couldn’t hold back the tears, watching such a pure expression of love and joy between a mom and her girls. In that moment, I was inconsolably sad. That moment showed me my biggest fear: there is a song in my heart that I want to share, too. I have a silly, crazy song of motherhood to give to my child. But, what happens if there is never a child to share it with?

Ultimately, like all life experience, infertility has taught me a great deal about myself.  For better or for worse, I will never unknow all of the things I have learned. Hopefully, no matter the end result, I will be better for understanding my nature at its core.

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