Infertility reflectionsSometimes I try to explain to people how hard infertility can be, but only once have I achieved a real breakthrough. I told that person about my blog, and on reading it she emailed me to tell me that, even though I had explained what I was going through, she had had no idea how painful infertility could be. She found it hard to read some posts, knowing me so well and relating my thoughts to the real live me.
Most people I've told have looked at me as though the problem is not infertility, it is the way I deal with it. I see pity and irritation in their eyes. If only it was that easy to relax, snap out of it, or just get over it.
So what is the answer? Apart from inviting anyone who punches me with a platitude to become a voyeur into my TTC journey. I think Tertia says it best, and from now on I will be directing unsuspecting do-gooders to her blog:
Before my infertility trip, I had no idea what infertile people went through. I had never given it a thought. I knew no one who was infertile, and I could only guess at how much pain an infertile person goes through.
That guess didn't even come close to how hard it is.
When I was in the midst of it all, I sometimes wondered when / if I got to the other side, whether I would look back at it all and think "oh, it wasn't THAT bad". I wondered if it seemed worse while I was in it. Whether it wasn't that bad after all.
Having reached the other side, and looking back, I can say, without doubt, it WAS that bad.
It was fucking terrible.
I suppose for someone who is totally removed from that world, it must be difficult to understand the pain and the anguish that an infertile person goes through. Perhaps you don't want children. Or perhaps you are uber-fertile. Or perhaps you do want children, kind of, but not right now. Either way, it must be hard to understand how being infertile can be THAT bad, THAT painful?
Infertile people can be so angry, so bitter, so woeful at times. They are so sad, so mad.
And for people on the outside looking in, it must be very hard to comprehend this sad, mad, bad world the infertile people live in. It must be so tempting to hand out platitudes, like "just relax", or "just don't think about it". It must be hard not to get irritated with them. "Just get over it already, look at all the good things you have in your life". It is hard to be friends with an infertile person. They are so prickly.
It is difficult to explain to people what it feels like to be infertile in a fertile world. Even when you do try and explain it, it sounds so trite, so "woe is me".
How do you explain it?
Well, in order to help you understand a little of what it is like, just think about what infertile people do in order to stop their pain, to find a "cure".
They pay thousands of dollars, they mortgage their lives, they take on extra jobs, they move states to try and find insurance cover. It is so expensive. No one would do this just for fun, or on a whim. Clearly. And besides the mental and emotional anguish, they put themselves through all sorts of physical pain as part of the process. They inject themselves in the belly, thigh, wherever. I remember injecting myself in the toilet at a party; I hit a vein and blood came shooting out my belly. There I stood, stabbing a needle into my belly, trying to stop the flow of blood shooting out. While other people laughed, and danced and drank. I once heated up my PIO injection a bit too much and injected too hot oil into my butt, which burnt me from the inside out, leaving a massive welt of a scar. Another reminder of my infertility days.
Infertiles will take all sorts of drugs and hormones as part of their treatment, KNOWING that these drugs make them ill, make them miserable, make them fat. Knowing that these drugs could increase their risk of other diseases.
I was recently chatting to a friend in the computer who was busy with an IVF cycle. She was feeling really terrible, very nauseous, puking everywhere. Nauseous, bone tired. She thought it was "just" a side effect of the hormone treatment, and dutifully carried on injecting. Turns out she was actually really ill. The poor woman. The things she will endure as part of her quest.
You have to know that if someone is prepared to do all of these things, and so much more, to achieve their dream, that it is more than just a whim, more than just a fancy. This is real, this is primal. Wanting a child for these women is not something they casually desire. This is something they yearn for, with every single fibre of their being.
And they carry on, cycle after cycle. They do this to themselves again and again. They face all sorts of resistance from people around them; they question whether they should continue.
If what I have said still does not convince you, then consider this: According to some research, infertility patients are second only to cancer patients in what they will endure in order to find a "cure".
That has got to tell you something.
I know infertile people can be hard to be around. They are often so sad. And sometimes so angry. I used to be part of an infertility support group for people who had been around a long time. It is an especially sad / funny / cynical / bitter / angry group. It is a group of people who have been at it for a long time. I still read the stuff they write, and I can see now why some people reacted so badly to me when I was in the middle of it all. Because those girls are very angry, very sad. Bitter. The things they say are the same things I said, a few years back. That used to be me. Sad / mad / bitter. Prickly. Angry.
As I said, when I was in it I sometimes wondered if I would look bad and wonder if I was overreacting, that it wasn't so bad after all. But looking back, having just written my infertility story for my book, I can honestly say that it was that bad. Yes it might be irrational sometimes, yes we might be over the top sometimes. I know we are hard to be around. It is hard not to be sensitive, over-sensitive when this is your everyday reality. But it is tough, very tough.
I am glad I have written my book. For myself, and for other people.
I am not writing this post so that people can feel sorry for me. Don't feel sorry for me, I've made it to the other side. I am one of the lucky ones. I am writing this for all the people still trying, for the friend / sister / colleague of yours who sometimes seems so sad, so angry. And yet, I am not writing this so that you can feel sorry for the person. Infertile people don't want your pity. That is not what they are after. All they want is a bit of sensitivity, a bit of sympathy. In fact, what they really want is just a bit of understanding. Understanding that it is hard for them, that being infertile in a fertile world is very alienating, very lonely. Very painful. Terrifying. And hopefully if you can understand some of that, you can be sensitive, and supportive. Kind. And that is all infertile people really want.
It's hard you know; it is really really hard. Harder than you can ever imagine.