Where Making Plans and Infertility Intersect

“But how do you plan to do that,” my cousin interrupted, “I mean, aren’t you trying to start a family? That’s a lot to do all at once, and you need to plan for that.” 

I paused.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, or how that conversation went, even though I’ve gone over it a hundred times in my head. I just remember snippets of myself trying to explain the psychological phenomena of infertility, and how difficult it is to make any sort of plan at all, somehow without crying.

It didn’t really help much that my cousin is a grown man, single by choice, who didn’t have much of a reference point. But he is a sympathetic and intelligent person who asked the question because he really wanted to know, and was genuinely concerned that I hadn’t thought through things practically. I wish I had had a better explanation for him – I’m so accustomed to people not asking the “work-home balance” question, even though I certainly do grapple with it myself.

First, I gave some sort of explanation about my class schedule, and Worf’s flexible work schedule, and how we both felt comfortable finding a competent babysitter or a good daycare provider. We even had somebody in mind. 

He pushed me further, asking how long fertility treatments would take, and asking how plans would change when we had several children, before I stopped him and finally addressed his real question.

“I think, frankly, we will be lucky to have one.” I said flatly, wishing to be anywhere else. There was that feeling in the back of my throat, and my voice had taken on that tone it gets when I’m defensive and liable to cry. 

“What I’m saying is, it’s been four years. After four years, you stop making plans. You stop putting your life on hold for something that may never happen.” 

“Studies show that a infertility can be as traumatic as a cancer diagnosis. It has been traumatic for me. And I don’t plan for that anymore… If my professional plans get thrown off, we’ll be grateful and we’ll deal.”

He nodded, and his face took on a thoughtful countenance as he took it in; understanding better than he had before.

My cousin loves me, and he was trying to help me think things through – because it’s good to have a plan. Professionally, personally, in every way. But that’s half the trouble of being a potential parent; a baby can always come and upset everything, and you are always planning your life nine months* in advance. Maybe I am over-correcting in my choice to not plan for a baby. Maybe that makes me naive. But I do not have the luxury of making a plan. I’m somehow in a place where that no longer scares the shit out of me, but that doesn’t mean that I like it, or the way it makes me feel to talk about having-no-plan-at-all as a viable lifestyle option.

Planning for a professional future is difficult enough for women. This is where sexism really shines. But for infertile women, we forfeit the benefits of being childless because we cannot leverage an unspecified amount of time. 

So now I’m asking for advice. When you’re in this place, trying to build a career and a family at the same time, how do you do both? I’m unwilling to sacrifice my whole life and psyche to this whole TTC thing; I need my life, my contribution to the human experiment, to be bigger than that. And I’m not sure how to make that happen.

*unless you are adopting, then you’re just waiting with no real time limit to work with. Which sounds like complete hell, and you who have gone through that have nothing but respect here.

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National Infertility Awareness Week

Warning: This is a grumpy post. 

Last year I missed it, but promised myself that I would do something to raise awareness next year. The thing about “raising awareness” is, it usually translates into “talking about it on social media”.

Now it’s next year. I’m fully aware that it’s happening right now, this week, but I don’t want to be involved. Not in real life, not with my real name , real acquaintances, real “friends”.

I always thought that when we got into the thick of things, I would be very open about everything. 

I’m not.

Friends are posting about their own experiences, or those of their friends or family members, and I respect that, but I have a strong aversion to doing so myself. Even the idea of changing my profile pic to a yellow ribbon leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I thought I was out of the infertility closet, but I am realizing that in certain situations I’m firmly inside. There are too many people that I don’t want asking questions*, and I’m either related to or went to college with most of them (incidentally, that’s pretty much my whole Facebook “friend” list). 

I have no interest in educating or informing that universe, and I desperately want them to stop talking about it. Is that bad? I really want to be brave, and to be an advocate for those who need voices, but…. 

But I don’t want to relinquish control of our story. Not now. Not yet.

[note* there are also some really wonderful people that I do want asking questions. I haven’t figured out exactly how that works. But I’m not ready for people that I don’t trust to belittle us or offer unsolicited anecdotes about why they understand when I know they do not.]

In Which My Husband Grants my General Conference Wish

  

This weekend was the first weekend in April, which meant Mormons from all over the world gathered together (usually virtually, via the Internet) to listen to messages from our leaders. It involves several hours of talks on religious subjects, as well as beautiful music, and many Mormons have family traditions associated with the two-day semi-annual event. 

On Saturday night, I tweeted in rapid succession: 

 Edit  

  

  

  

I wish this had happened, but it didn’t. And then a family member (whom I both love and respect) gave both the Klingon and I the impression that she did not feel morally comfortable with one of the choices we may have before us. 

I was feeling pretty down by the end of last night’s final session, and convinced the Klingon to take a walk with me around the lake near our home. Walking is good for the soul, and it makes it easier to talk about difficult things. 

Somewhere along the way, he mentioned that he had been thinking about Eve, in the Garden of Eden, how she must have felt a weight knowing she would be the mother of all living, but she had no children and no idea how to make it happen. We Mormons revere her for making the decision of eating the fruit, affecting the fall, but we don’t often think of the weight she must have carried that must have factored heavily into her decision.

“And then I was thinking about you, Mae. Nobody has tried harder or been more diligent in building our family than you. And if someone told you there was a fruit that would make it so you could have children, you couldn’t get it from them fast enough.

Maybe, he said, maybe infertility was the first challenge ever. 

And just like that, my sweet, stalwart Klingon of a husband provided the healing balm I’d been seeking. I love you, Worf.

Mae

April Fools

  

All week I’ve been seeing versions of this all over social media. 

Not to be ungracious, but it bothers me more a lot more than the fake pregnancy announcements. 

I know intellectually that I should be encouraged by any discussion that normalizes the experiences of the ALI community, and I also know that the people sharing it do so out of compassion or (sometimes) personal experience. 

But here’s the truth, guys. I don’t go on Facebook unless I am prepared for pregnancy announcements. Fake ones don’t hurt any more than real ones – and I have learned to assume they’re fake on April 1st.

On the surface it looks compassionate, but it’s actually disingenuous- one day a year, people suddenly remember that pregnancy announcements can be painful, and the rest of the year spare no thought for how to announce a pregnancy to family or the world. Like when a family member shared the April Fool’s Reminder, but has knowingly put me in the position of being surrounded by the entire family when she publicly announced her (very) unexpected pregnancy – more than once. 

I don’t mind the sentiment. I do mind the shaming. I don’t mind people reaching out and saying “this hurts me”. I do mind the reminder that I have hurt over this. 

I’m glad I didn’t see many fake pregnancy announcements this year – all celebrities, no friends or acquaintances. They are not funny, but they never really bothered me in the first place – not as much as the sudden ubiquitous reminder that I’ve lived through so many of them. Not as much as this lurking feeling that it is somehow incredibly virtuous to be considerate for 24 hours – that infertiles everywhere owe the Internet a collective and unanimous debt of gratitude for such a small act of omission. 

In WhichThe Plot Thickens and I Eat My FeelingsĀ 

Class let out early this morning, and I had a voicemail from my doctor’s main nurse, asking me to call her about some test results. 

I looked at my phone and felt my heart racing wildly inside my chest. 

I almost didn’t return the call, but I am in the business of being brave these days, and so I sat in my car, pulled out a pen and notepad, wrote down my questions, and called the lady. 

It turns out that I’m a carrier for Krabbe Disease– a condition that, if inherited, would guarantee the child a short, painful existence. We are being referred to a genetic counsellor for further testing – if the Klingon is also a carrier, then the standard protocol is to skip directly to IVF and select for embryos that are free of the disease.

There is so much to be grateful for here – foremost of which is to be in a situation where we could know and prevent any of our children having this terrible condition. Modern Medicine is so amazing! I’m glad, if a little overwhelmed, to have this information. 

Also, the phone call gave me a chance to ask about the Klingon’s semen analysis, which was not available online. Apart from slightly low morphology and excellent motility, he was completely normal – such a relief! I asked about my odd spotting, and the nurse was just as perplexed as I was. She gave me a few contingency plans for what to do, and we are back on track. 

So for lunch, I got a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake. I had a lot of feelings to eat and I feel much improved. 

Xoxo, 

Mae

PS – 5 Guys makes an excellent milkshake. I’m pretty sure that’s new! Have they always had milkshakes? Because, yum.