Owning your story

Exactly 11 weeks ago, I woke up with a start. I sat straight up in bed at 6:00 in the morning for the second day in a row. Resigned to being awake, I groggily made my way to the bathroom. I sat down and mid-stream decided to take a pregnancy test. I squeezed my pelvic muscles as hard as I could to slow the release of fresh urine, and scrambled for my designated cup (which was not in it’s designated place). Somehow, I managed to capture just enough. I set it aside cautiously, and fumbled unsteadily in the back of the cupboard for my bag of pregnancy tests, which had fallen to the bottom of the basket beneath my sink.

One eye open, the other still closed with sleep, I tore open the wrapping and carefully dipped the end into my meager cup. I watched detachedly as the absorbency line on the paper move up the strip, until one, and then two, lines turned pink.

Shaking my head and confused, I flung the strip aside, and hurriedly opened a new one. Both eyes open this time, I repeated the process. Just as before, two lines turned pink.

I tested a third time, this time running to the bedroom for my phone, and setting a 2 minute timer. There were two lines long before that timer went off. I called for my husband and he came, sure I was hurt, and soon we were both staring at the positive pregnancy tests flung haphazardly around the sink.

That had been the day we had planned to start our first round of IVF. The paperwork was still on my nightstand, leftover from a thorough reading the night before. Everything I had ever known about positive pregnancy tests had long since left my brain, and I googled every alternative possibility that could explain now four(!) positive pregnancy tests.

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I called my doctor. Blood was drawn, tests were run, an ultrasound was performed, and there was no mistaking it; I was pregnant.

Lest you worry, allow me to pause here and assure you that I am still pregnant; all is developing as it should. I am beyond grateful that we are both healthy.

So grateful.

But here I am, beginning to show, and enough people know, that we don’t seem to own our story anymore.

Family members have spread the news quickly and beyond our circle of comfort (though fortunately we are on the other side of the country, and minimally affected). Another family member alluded to it on my Facebook wall, despite knowing that we do not want anything about this baby on Facebook. A new friend is just a week further along than I am, and smiles at me like we have a secret bond. Some people use this miraculous conception to make claims about God – claiming it as an indication of His goodness and an opportunity to bear witness that “He keeps His promises”. My sister even exclaimed, “Hey! You’re not infertile anymore!”. Friends and relatives who have experienced pregnancy talk to me like I’m now part of this exclusive club, imparting such wisdom as “after maternity pants, trust me, you will never go back”. My sister even exclaimed, “Hey! You’re not infertile anymore!”.

I don’t particularly want people to know. I don’t want this to be just another baby, nor do I want to throw our story to the whole world, like pearls before swine. I don’t want the status that comes along with being an expectant mother. I don’t want my mother-in-law (or my grandmother or anyone else) telling her entire extended family that we are expecting. I don’t want to be told that so-and-so is also pregnant, but with their third (whoops! this one was an accident!) child. I don’t want people acting like this happens every day, but I also don’t want anyone who will make light of this child, or claim him/her for their own purposes, to be given any kind of advance warning of his or her existence. And I especially don’t want anyone claiming that my sudden knock-up-itude is due to any kind of righteousness or deservingness on our part. That’s not how biology works. And if our sudden fertility is due to any kind of interference from God (and I’m not ruling that out), then I don’t want it pointed out. It’s not anyone else’s miracle to claim.

We already cherish this baby. I joke about pregnancy being a bad idea (because, for real, the first trimester was pretty much like having the flu for two months), but this baby is not your average, everyday baby. This baby is the one we stopped hoping for, that is coming anyway. S/he isn’t a feather for anyone’s cap, and s/he isn’t a sign, and s/he isn’t a lifetime pass to the motherhood club.

S/he’s ours. And s/he doesn’t have to be anything else.

Fertile Privilege

Dear Fertile People of the World,

Summer is almost here; ’tis the season when I will be seeing family. I have a gut feeling that someone is going to say something stupid (probably on the Klingon side of the family – I tend to be less patient with them) and I’ll want to fly off the handle.

Fertile People of the World, you who take for granted your ability to have reliably have sex and get pregnant, it’s time to check your privilege.

You have no idea what it is like to be unable to procreate. You don’t know what it’s like to be isolated by sorrow, judgement, worry, and lack of common ground, all at the same time. But you can. One of the great tragedies of the infertile experience is how easy it would be for people to empathize if they just tried.

Yes, infertility has rocked my world. Yes, infertility is a crisis. Yes, my views on a lot of things are different because of the hand life has dealt me. Yes, I want children. Sometimes desperately. Yes, I worry. Yes, I agonize over the morality of decisions I never expected I would have to make. Yes, yes, yes.

Infertility is a valid life experience. The lessons I have learned may be different from what you have learned, but they still count.

Sometimes people don’t have babies. Sometimes really good people don’t have babies. It’s a tragedy.

So when I see you this summer, I don’t need you to point out the upside to having no children. Believe me, I see it. I don’t need you to highlight the moral gray areas of building a family in a non-traditional way. Believe me, I know them intimately. I don’t need you to vocalize my worst fears; there’s a reason I bury them. I don’t need you to probe me for guilt or fault or blame; we all have problems. I don’t need you to advise; I pay (a lot!) for a doctor to do that.

I do need you to include me. I need you to make room at the grown-ups’ table for someone who does not want to talk about birth stories, pregnancy cravings, or which baby-carrier is best. I need you to forfeit your right to know and pass judgement on how our family-building efforts are going. I need you to exude confidence in my ability to make good decisions. I need you to hold my hand and laugh about the silly things that happen when we are together. I need you to be more than your parental status. I need you to ask my advice and acknowledge my wisdom. I need you to respect my marriage; we’ve worked so hard on it.

I need you to acquiesce that you don’t fully understand what it is like to be in my shoes – even if you’ve waited months to get pregnant, even if you’ve been there. I need you to be indignant on my behalf while acknowledging the limitations of your understanding. I need you to consider who you would be if your family had never grown, if the babies who haunted your dreams never came.


Your Infertile Friend

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.]