Thoughtful Thursday: Timeline
August 13, 2009
Last week Baby, Interrupted had a wonderful post about the tenses of infertility. The future (or perhaps subjunctive?), “I might be infertile;” the present, “I am infertile;” and the past, “I was infertile.”
This reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, particularly in the context of IF newbies I’ve encountered online and in real life.
What was the hardest phase of infertility for you?
It can be natural for long-time infertility veterans like myself to look at those who have just started having trouble and think, “You think it’s difficult now? You have no idea. Keep failing for a few years and see how you feel.” I’ve heard many infertiles complain when a friend comes to them upset because of trying a few times without success (“Three whole months? Boo hoo!”). Think back, though: the first BFNs might have struck you as flukes, but within a few months after each stark white pee stick, you probably wept. Even though you may have no idea what’s coming, that 5th BFN is as much disappointment as you can possibly imagine.
At my now-disbanded real-life support group, most people had been TTC for one to two years, except for myself (7 years) and another veteran (6 years, with many losses including multiple late-term losses). Occasionally one of the young’uns would say something like, “7 years and you still don’t have a baby? I think I would die if it took that long!” (Thanks a lot!) The other vet and I would reassure, “Actually it gets easier after a while. You’re probably in the hardest part now.”
In Tertia’s book So Close, she also talks about this issue, describing a peak in emotional difficulty after the reality of IF sets in, then eventually some level of acceptance. Of course, many people resolve their infertility before they make it all the way along the long path to acceptance.
For me, I certainly cried plenty during the first year and a half of trying, but the real heartache came when I started seeing my first RE and got pulled into a whirlwind of escalating treatments. It was awful. Awful, but there was lots of hope. “This next one has to work!”
Then, after I hit rock bottom with Miscarriage #1, I stuck my fingers in my ears and pretended la-la-la-la that the problem didn’t exist.
My next low point came a couple of years later when we’d resumed trying naturally (augmented by alternative treatments like acupuncture and herbs) but were still staying far away from the RE. I wrote about this period last year:
The proportion of our friends who are parents went from Just A Few to Basically Everyone quite suddenly. I became aware of this transition when we heard two announcements in one week.
–My uncle (whose kids are my age) and his new wife (who is also my age).
–A very good friend of my husband (who has been strangely paternal since he was a teenager, and who obviously would be a wonderful father) and his bitch of a wife (the least maternal person of all time, who loves no one but herself).
As it turns out, both of those couples had some problems conceiving. My uncle after his vasectomy-reversal required something like Three Whole Months to conceive my new cousin. The other couple, Mr. Dad and Anti-Mom, were married almost a decade. I always assumed that they were not trying most of that time, but Mr. Dad’s question in response to our announcement of a twin pregnancy proved unequivocally that they are members of the club:
Did you find out they were twins at the 5-week ultrasound or the 8-week ultrasound?
Maybe knowing about their difficulties at the time would have made me feel less forlorn — but, I didn’t know, and it was one of the worst times of my life.
It took me a few months to recover from that reality check. During those few months, I decided to resume treatments and made peace with the need for major intervention. After half a year of treatments including my first IVF, I started blogging. Soon after, I reached a place of acceptance. It seemed to have a lot to do with the revelation described in my Bridge post. Not that I never had difficult moments after that (such as medication-induced batshit nuttiness or the 2WW during IVF #2), but for the most part, infertility became not so bad, just another part of my life.
To sum up:
- First 1.5 years: weepy but hopeful, lots of denial
- Next year: the worst ever, but still hopeful
- Next couple of years post miscarriage: total denial hiding hopelessness and fear
- Year and a half after that: mostly okay, with a few very-close-to-the-worst weeks in there
- Year after that, once blogging started: acceptance
I reached a place of true acceptance, and it only took 6 years. For some reason, newbies don’t find that very reassuring.
What was the hardest phase of infertility for you? Feel free to replace “infertility” with “loss” or “the adoption process” or whatever is appropriate for you.