I remember a few months ago sitting with a friend out at dinner, telling her about how weary I was about all this. Chris and I had just found out about another negative pregnancy test and I was almost in tears from all the failure. My friend, in all her well-meaning intent, leaned over the table and said confidently, “Don’t worry, one day this will all be behind you when you are holding your baby. You won’t even remember all you went through.”
It wasn’t until I was home lying in bed when the true power of her words hit me. My hand absently ran over my stomach, to where I had given myself an hCG injection two weeks ago. Would it be true? Would this all be some distant memory someday? Will I forget what it feels like to be infertile?
My fellow blogger friend, Emily, puts it simply. “Infertility left me bruised and scarred, both emotionally and physically.” I have permanent scars in both crooks of my arm, from the constant needle pokes. I can see the dots on my stomach from the injections. My body was violated several times a month for testing and procedures. I took endless hormones. In fact, I was taking hormones three out of the four weeks in a cycle. I fought with my husband. I sobbed on the floor, the couch, the bed more times than I can count. I have missed a ton of work. There are many days, when I simply don’t think I am ever going to have a child. There are many days when the thought of IVF looms as a very real possibility. Will we be able to afford it? What if the first cycle doesn’t work? What if it does, and I experience a miscarriage? Do I really trust Chris to give me an IM shot in the butt? Will I someday forget all of this in a bliss-filled amnesia?
When I was going through nursing school, both in my Associate Degree as well as my Bachelor’s, I always had people tell me, “This will be over soon. It’s all going to be worth it in the end.” I enthusiastically agreed. It would be worth it. There was a set date that this would all be over.
Not so with infertility. Three years ago, I was convinced, I would be pregnant after a year of trying. Two years ago, I was convinced that the three cycles of Clomid would work. Last year, I just knew I would be pregnant after another six months of Clomid, carefully timed baby-dancing, and ovulation kits. And four months ago, I was feeling pretty confident that injecting sperm into my uterus in a doctor’s office may in fact get us twins. And each time, every failed cycle, every negative pregnancy test, the despair would sink deeper. The smile I kept plastered to my face whenever someone would ask when we were planning on having children grew increasingly fake. I had sex with my husband with reckless abandon, because after all, it just took one sperm…
And now I sit here, still empty, yet feeling intense relief to have some time to myself. My body is my own again, not being used to poke and prod and inject. I take this month off, because really, what is a month off when there have been countless other medicated ones? I sit here on the brink of IVF. Which may or may not work. Is it worth it?
Many will tell you, myself included, that we as a community are fiercely determined. We will stop at nothing to experience a pregnancy. I will subject my body to whatever it takes if it ends with a child in my arms. But is it worth it? Like nursing school was worth it? Like depriving myself of dessert in order to fit into my wedding dress? Like facing Black Friday for that TV I got at a steal?
I’m not so sure sometimes. Just because I will do whatever it takes for a baby, doesn’t mean I come out the victor. It doesn’t mean it’s all over and behind me.
Because imagine for a second I do get pregnant. My dreams come true: I am now holding my baby. What happens if a year, two years down the road, we want a sibling for our child? Do we get to suck down the mojitos and engage in passionate love-making? Sure, but it’s not going to make me bring forth another life. It means we go back. To the doctor’s appointments, the shots, the hormones, the fear that it won’t work again. It means we enter Hell for a second time.
I have heard of marriages crumbling under the strain of infertility. Of affairs because one of them just can’t cope anymore. Of couples that grow distant. Friendships that disintegrate because the isolation of being left out of Mommy play-groups. Of post-traumatic stress disorder long after a woman finally gives birth: her mind unable to let go of the past failures. The past that comes back to haunt her.
“One day this will all be behind you.”
But will it?
Or are we simply surviving in the best way we know how?
“You won’t even remember all you went through.”
Like scars, this experience has forever marked me. My husband and I, we are walking through Hell as I write this. I will remember everything.
The file folder of every receipt from the fertility clinic.
The pain of my IUIs.
The hurt in my husband’s eyes when I got angry after a failed TI.
The debilitating depression after that negative beta.
The feeling I had when I first shared my story in the public light.
The overwhelming support I received from friends and family, as well as people I barely knew.
The friendships that were forged in an online blogging community.
The bond that I will forever have with the man that God chose for me.
Infertility has changed who I am. And I am not so sure I want to forget it all. I’m not so sure that I want to put it all behind me, if and when I am successful. It has made me suffer in ways I never thought possible. It has also led me to some pretty amazing women. It has made me stronger.
I need to always remember where I came from.