The Utter Aloneness of Infertility

It’s been so long now, I can’t remember most of the drugs, the procedures, and even why I

Photo by Arsinoe Ferry

Photo by Arsinoe Ferry

wanted to have a baby so badly.

It took awhile, but I don’t cringe anymore when every conversation with a new acquaintance starts off with, “you got kids?” I don’t feel like a freak talking about my dogs Lucy and Ethel instead.

We started off like a “normal couple”: we played house for about six years water-skiing, traveling, dancing at night clubs, go-karting. Because of some imaginary clock, because we were so happy with our life and wanted to share it, because it just seemed like the right time, one night, we were having sex and we didn’t use protection.

I remember, I truly remember, that first night, lying there in our full bed, too short for Jim’s long legs, thinking, this is it. This is when we have made something bigger than both of us. I saw a baby that looked like Jim.  We joked that by us both being half Portuguese we’d have a full Portuguese baby.

Pregnancy always fascinated me, and I was more enthralled with the miracle of carrying a baby, than anything else.

We took the “if it happens, it happens” approach – not really paying close attention to time of the month, the best positions or vaginal temperature; I mean, people get pregnant without trying all the time, right?

Two years later we weren’t pregnant.

After I had gone in for my “annual woman’s” appointment, I finally confessed my frustration to Doctor “Z” and he said, “Well, let’s give you a little help.”

“Okay,” I said. And without really grasping it, wanting to have a baby turned into this machine of clomid, injections in the ass (and not too expertly given by my husband), numerous sonograms and blood tests. Doctor “Z” would remind me that he was coding  the office visits so that insurance would pay for them – shhh.  One Christmas we were up visiting my mom in Nevada, and I thought my right ovary was going to explode.

Somehow we entered into this great race that I never remembered signing up for. There was no counseling, no discussions besides those when my feet were in stirrups, none with my husband included.

Sounds ridiculous now … and so uninformed; maybe it was the particular doctor, I never thought of myself as an idiot, but I felt that way (especially in retrospect). I didn’t have any friends who had gone through this. It all seemed very routine. I didn’t even know how to “Google” back then.

Still, I didn’t get that there might be a problem until his medical assistant checking me in one visit said, “Oh, you’re one of Dr. Z’s infertility patients.”

When did I become one of those?

Each month, like checking the hen-coop, we’d review the amount of eggs I was packing and measure their size. “You did good, Chris!” I was told. “Look at those beautiful eggs.” I felt like I was having puppies. I didn’t correlate eggs to babies to lots of eggs to lots of potential babies until later.

I was losing my mind. But I didn’t realize it.

Jim had always called me “low maintenance”– even-tempered, positive attitude, never any PMS. I prefered hanging out with the guys, avoided shopping malls and I didn’t have patience for drama.

The person I became cried when I saw pregnant women. I despised them. Why did they deserve to be pregnant? I couldn’t handle watching tv shows about pregnant characters. I wouldn’t pick up a magazine that showed a glowing, pregnant movie star.

My ex-Catholic, non-practicing soul knew that I was being punished. Was it because, there were times, before I met Jim, that I prayed I wasn’t pregnant from unsafe sex with boyfriends? God, please help me.

Surely, this was happening to me because I was a bad person.

I seriously thought of punching people who told me that:

  1. I needed to relax, to take a vacation.
  2. If it was God’s will, it would happen.
  3. I had too much body fat or not enough.
  4. We were not “doing it” in the right position.
  5. It was because of my ankylosing spondilitus (arthritis).
  6. It wasn’t because of my ankylosing spondilitus (arthritis).
  7. I needed to take herbs; to go to an accupuncturist; to not eat certain things; to never drink alcohol; to have a glass of wine each night.

During this time, my best friend sent me fertility charm that she picked up in New Orleans. I opened it up, read her thoughtful letter and hated her fucking guts. This was my best friend since we were 16. And I didn’t tell her until years later how that charm made me feel that everything that I was going through, my sorrow, my fear that I’d never meet this baby that I had held in my heart, was not about luck or about superstition. No matter her intention.

Sex became a chore. Sex became sad. It would take YEARS for sex to become spontaneous, without purpose.

But most of all, I felt like I wasn’t a whole woman. Why would Jim want to be married to someone who couldn’t bear children? “Jim, you should divorce me so you can remarry and have a child of your own.”

As a woman, you never grow up thinking you can’t have kids (unless of course you have a known medical condition). It never, EVER, occurs to you. Having children, follows going to school, making a career, getting married … it is the order of life.

Now, about four years into the race, we ended up at a “real” infertility clinic, with the sit-down meeting and the list of options. And the price tag.

Being insane by this point, I couldn’t tell anyone, how awful and horrible it felt to put a price tag on the rest of your life. To put a price tag on that little boy in Spiderman pajamas that you’ve always imagined.

I’d have a reoccurring dream that I’d finally give birth and look down into my little bundle and it would always be a cat.

Being insane at this point, it was hard to know if I had ever wanted kids so badly in the first place, or if I was so caught up in having the choice taken away from me.

One Thanksgiving, we had a house full of in-laws staying for four days. (Tough, even when your hormones are normal, right?) I had just went down to the bookstore and purchased a book on infertility (there was no back then). Buying the book was a huge step in accepting that I was one of those people, that this “race” might not end well.

So that Friday of Thanksgiving, with a full house, I lied and said I had to go into work. A skeleton crew was getting the paper together, so I closed my office door and read that book cover to cover and sobbed for hours. That type of crying that when you are done, your gut hurts.

All those crazy thoughts I had been having, those doubts about myself, the fear of what was down the road, were finally acknowledged. I wasn’t alone anymore with my hate, my resentment, my utter loneliness, my God that rejected me. I wasn’t a freak for thinking all these things. It was one of the most painful, honest days of my life to see in print, that what I was going through was real and there might not be a happy ending.

After the second or maybe it was the third “turkey baster” procedure and a miscarriage, I started feeling sick and anxious about the next time. About my potential for a litter of puppies (or cats). Did I want a life with three kids, let alone six kids? That wasn’t what my fantasy family looked liked. Shit, we could hardly afford the bills we were racking up at the infertility clinic. Could I eliminate any of these fertilized eggs? What are fertilized eggs? Aren’t they a baby? Weren’t they a miracle?

The answer was for me was “no.” I didn’t want to have to have a stroller that wouldn’t fit through the door.

I didn’t want to eliminate anything.

I was done.

I was tired of living month to month, cycle to cycle, of being poked by needles, of hospital procedures. Of not planning vacation in advance, because I might be pregnant. I was tired of my heart breaking every month when that blood appeared.

(At this point in the story, I have to tell you that Jim is caught up in this rabbit hole as well, but he’s not crazy like I am. I think he’s so messed up because he doesn’t understand why I’m a nut job and cry myself to sleep every night, telling him he should find someone new. At this point, and in my memory, I really don’t know what HE wants, besides his wife back).

I remember another friend, when I told him “we were done” him saying, “I didn’t think of you as a quitter.” “FUCK YOU,” I never said. FUCK YOU for not understanding how our life has changed forever with this decision. How I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like a full woman again. FUCK YOU for your wife being able to pop out kids. FUCK YOU for never having to worry about money.

I’ve met a lot of parent’s that look at us the same way, like, how could you give up? They’d say, “I can’t imagine life without my kids.”

At some point, both Jim and I grieved for that little person that looked like us that we’d known for years, but would never meet. For all those baseball games, dances on daddy’s feet, that would never happen.

You probably wonder why I write about this now, as it has been over 13 years since the pursuit of children ended. Well, even though there is Google, and you can get support online and through groups, I know it is still the loneliest journey out there a woman can take. And even if it weren’t for the hormones, it is something so terrible to deal with, no one escapes without scars, without hating themselves, or others.

Reading that book, that Friday after Thanksgiving, saved me. And maybe there is someone out there that needs to know that their thoughts about being punished, about not being worthy, about not being a whole woman, well, it’s okay to feel that way, but it’s not true.

It took awhile to accept being a childless couple (oh how “trendy” it sounds now), to reimagine our future in a different way, to feel okay that all those photo albums and old family pictures will not be handed down or cared for by anyone.

There is a second and third part to this story, about how we pursued that little boy in Spiderman pajamas, (which I’ll write about eventually). And I do believe, as trite as it sounds, our unique journeys, well, they happen for a reason.

But for now, I’ll leave you with the part about how Jim and I have been together for 25 years come this December and how we truly have a blessed life, a rich, playful life without kids. We laugh a lot and look at things, I dunno’, differently. As we don’t know any different, right? And everything that we’ve gone through, has made us stronger and appreciate each other. And yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just avoid those painful things that make you stronger?

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5 Responses to The Utter Aloneness of Infertility

  1. Tami Jones says:

    All I can say is wow.

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  5. Shannon says:

    Thank you. That is all I can say here. Just a heartfelt, from the depths of my soul, thank you

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