I’m Still Here

We are nearing our next try, however, we are also nearing our first would-be due date, March 3rd. I should be 3 weeks from delivery, or having a baby at anytime. I should have a huge belly and an unprecedented amount of joy and excitement. I was doing pretty well not thinking about it, but a series of events have brought it to the forefront of my mind daily this week.

The first: My mom was visiting this weekend, and we were shopping for a professional-looking bag for me to use for school. We were in a store that sells handbags exclusively, and I knew the only thing big enough would be what they had deemed their “diaper bag”. When I asked where I would find them, the sales lady looked me up and down and asked, “Is it a gift for someone?” I was infuriated! It hit too close to home. Like I couldn’t possibly be pregnant! And to be judged unable to have a baby by a perfect stranger. Like somehow just by looking at me, she could see I was infertile.

Then, at school the other day, one of the common conversations was happening. A girl in my cohort was talking about being worried about possibly being pregnant, and how awful that would be for her. Another student, overhearing her and misunderstanding, started gushing about her being pregnant. Then the girl who just had a baby, who knows that I was pregnant at the same time as her and obviously am not now 8 1/2 months pregnant, shouted, “It’s not that hard!” I immediately got up and left. No one followed. I cried it out in the hall, with the additional blow of no one noticing or seeming to care that I was upset. When I came back in, I decided something needed to be done about it, and sat down with the group of girls. I explained that I had been trying to get pregnant for 2 years, and had multiple miscarriages, and how much it hurts when they’re so flippant about pregnancy and babies. I cried, and they cried, and it was super awkward after it had all been said. Where do you go from there? I spent the rest of the afternoon acting happy, seemingly trying to “prove-it” to them that I was okay and that they didn’t need to be awkward around me.

Then today I arrived at class to a plate of cupcakes and a card. The text of the card said, “I wish I knew some words comforting enough for the hurt you’re feeling. All I can do is tell you I care, I really do, and my heart is with you.” The inscription, “I know that was hard to share and even more difficult to experience. I’m so sorry for your hardship and loss. I’m here to bake cupcakes whenever you need- honest.” It was just what I’d felt I’d been missing through this whole experience. My friends who’d known before didn’t make any effort to see how I was, or offer their continued support, or acknowledge how awful it all has been. Finally, because I had that difficult and awkward conversation, about such a seemingly taboo subject, I have the support and understanding I’ve been lacking and wanting so desperately. And hopefully a little more discretion on their parts in conversation.

WordPress just informed me the other day that I’ve had this blog now for a year. I remember blogging tentatively at first, thinking that I would pour out my frustrations and worries and get pregnant right after starting it. That each month, I may be pregnant and make it all null. And here we are, one year later, and I’m the one still here. Still talking about infertility, and loss, and the struggles and woes of trying to get pregnant. It feels like everyone else has either moved on, or just begun, or had their beloved babies. And I’m still here.

What I Wish People Understood About Infertility

I’ve read a lot of these kind of articles, but this one actually matched my feelings in a lot of ways.  So here is my gift to you all: A good read to make us feel less alone in this journey.

The Lonely World of Infertility
by David Vienna thedaddycomplex.com

Our sons Boone and Wyatt came into our lives because of fertility treatments. We used the invasive techniques and medicines because we had trouble maintaining a pregnancy. And when I say trouble, I mean trouble — three specialists on two coasts over seven years, multiple failed attempts, five recorded miscarriages, plus at least two more that didn’t even make it to the stage where it could be considered a miscarriage. But believe me, they were miscarriages.

The extremely frustrating thing about it was nobody could tell us what was wrong. We baffled all the doctors to whom we were paying bucketfuls of money. I checked out OK, my wife checked out OK. We had no trouble getting pregnant. We had trouble staying pregnant.

We joined a support group for couples struggling with the same physical and emotional issues. In our meetings, the counselor taught us to try to manage our stress, to breathe.

Aside from essentially mourning a death or two each year, coping with infertility was — and is — a lonely, lonely place. Even if you’re fortunate enough to see the glimmers of humor in the terrible situation, you can’t share them with anybody because if they haven’t gone through it, they simply don’t understand the depth of the depression you have to fight out of every day. And if they have been through it, they don’t want to hear other people bleating about it, too. Sword, thou art double-edged.

In fact, if you have a friend or family member dealing with fertility issues, here’s a handy list of things you should never, ever say to them:

  • “You guys just need to relax.”
  • “You guys just need to go on a vacation.”
  • “You guys just need to get drunk and screw.”
  • “My sister had trouble getting pregnant, now she has two beautiful kids.”
  • “Have you thought about adopting?”

For the record, that last one shouldn’t be mentioned, because adoption is not a solution to infertility. It is a solution to wanting to be a parent. While one does affect the other, they are not the same. Also for the record, my wife and I did look into adoption, but not as a replacement for a child we couldn’t have. All the other items in the above list shouldn’t be mentioned because they are non-medical solutions to a medical problem. You wouldn’t tell a person with cancer that they just need to go on vacation. Don’t be an idiot.

All that said, stress factors in. As the support group taught us, stress affects the body and can make it hard to get or stay pregnant. Of course, if you have trouble getting or staying pregnant, that’s stressful. Hello again, sword. Throughout it all, I continued to practice my breathing, trying not to grit my teeth and quietly explode at the universe for saddling us with a biologically useless roadblock.

The entire struggle left us feeling so untethered from friends and family that I desperately searched for ways to convey what we were going through. Eventually, I wrote a movie based on our experiences called More Than Stars (pictured below), which welcomes viewers into the comically dehumanizing and occasionally hopeless process of fertility treatments. But, a successful pregnancy eluded us. And as our journey continued, our friends in the support group got pregnant. They stopped coming, then they stopped calling. As veterans, my wife and I served as official peer counselors for new members.

Then, as inexplicably as our previous IVF cycles failed, one of them simply worked. No one flipped a magic switch, no miracle drug appeared. On what we agreed would be our last attempt, two embryos simply stuck around. I joke about it with my wife, but it does bother me a bit that neither one of us was even in the room when my guys were technically conceived. So, when I’m feeling smart-alecky and people tell me God blessed me with two beautiful boys, I correct them by saying, “Well, God, our checkbook and Dr. Rosen blessed us with these boys.”

If you’re going through this now, please know you’re not alone. There are people all around you who deal with this in silence, just like you. It sucks, but you’ll be okay. Stay strong. Have hope. Breathe.

David Vienna  thedaddycomplex.com