Friday, July 17, 2009

More than the inability to have a child

Infertility gets defined as the inability to get pregnant after trying for 1 year (or 6 months depending on your age), or the inability to carry a pregnancy. That’s the technical description, and what is apparent and visible to the outsider.

But to the couple dealing with IF? It pervades every aspect of life. At least for DH and me, that is the case. It impacts relationships, confidence, career, finances, body image – just about everything!

I look back over the years, and there’s so much that has changed, so much we have lost…all because of infertility. This is what my infertility has done to me….

  • Relationships – Let’s see. How many relationships have changed, and how they have changed!! The most important one – DH and my relationship. On the one hand, it has matured and grown deeper, to a level where we really really “get” each other. We’ve both become protective of each other, and will unconditionally put the other in front of anything else in life. However at the same time, our relationship has suffered – deeply so. The spontaneity has left the relationship. Much of the laughter has left. Much of the intimacy has left. In its wake – there’s a lack of self confidence, and poor body image.
  • Relationships with our families have changed. Our families love us, and hurt because we hurt, but nobody gets what we are going through. And I can’t blame them – only when you’ve walked in our shoes will you know how badly they pinch. There are times that I want to talk to my parents, and tell them how I feel inside, but something holds me back. I end up projecting my same old “I’m brave, I’m fine, my life is good” face to even them. At the same time, I can’t help but feel “guilty” that they don’t have grandchildren or nieces / nephews!
  • Relationships with friends - if any still remain! Most of our “friends” have fallen off our radar. They don’t know what to say to us anymore, or they end up saying or doing things that hurt, causing us to retreat further into our shells, in some cases, far away enough into our shells to never come back. The ones that are still around are constantly treading on eggshells around us. Social isolation - yes, that's us. I got tired of putting on a happy face for everyone, and I got tired of expecting people to understand. I gave up.
  • My career – What’s the point of having worked so hard at getting at an MBA degree when my life was going to become all about my IF? Any time that I have a choice to make, I have chosen to overlook my career. I’ve taken “lesser” jobs, I’ve given priority to my doctors’ appointments and treatment schedules, and needless to say, I’m nowhere close to my classmates in terms of achievements professionally. It hurts to see people be able to focus on their careers and rise, while everything else in their life happens smoothly. For the general subsection of my friend circle / classmates, children have been born and are growing up without even a tiny bump on the road. Part of it were choices I made, and part were situations I had to deal with.
  • My confidence levels. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I have ended up feeling inadequate as a woman. As a wife, daughter, daughter in law. Reproduction is known to be one of the things that drives all creatures to even exist. And I feel like I have failed at the reason to exist. How then can I even dream of ever feeling confident again? Do I spend the rest of my life in isolation? To add to the feelings of inadequacy, there are the feelings of ugliness and unattractiveness. All the extra weight - the tight clothes, the pants that don't fit, the old pictures that mock me with my own skinny face smiling back at me!
  • Hope and the ability to look forward and dare to dream. I can't any more. IF has taken it all away from me.
I don't know if I have taken IF particularly badly, or if I don't know how to deal, or if I'm making a bigger deal out of it than it is, but IF has changed who I was, and made me into this person I do not like. I don't know if I have allowed IF to take away more from me that I should have, but I do know that it sucks to be an infertile person living in such an uber fertile world.


Jill M. said...

Oh Nikki, I'm so sorry hun! We understand, we get it, we live it too and it just plain sucks. Have you considered finding someone to talk to, maybe a counselor that understands IF? Someone to help you walk through this journey and give you tools to cope and heal? All I know is that we can't do this alone, it's just too much for a person to handle. (((Hugs)))

Anonymous said...


You are a beautiful woman, inside and out. You are kind and wonderful and amazing to others.

I too have lost touch with most of my friends and I have never been close with my family except my little sister and there was even a time before her own miscarriage that I distanced myself from her. This process, this life, this horrible time has taken so much from me and it makes me so sad to know that it has taken so much from you and from our sisters.

I wish that there was something I could do or say that was just better than this - (((HUGS)))

K said...

Beautifully articulate post, though I wish neither one of us could understand the depths of your words.

Kate said...

Great post - I bet a lot of us feel the same way. It really does affect so many aspects of our lives.

Lorraine said...

You haven't taken this particularly badly! It actually really sucks, so it would be weird if you were able to just keep up a jolly attitude about it all.

You have come so far, have had to deal with surgery and genetic issues and the sadness that comes with loss. Add in mood swings, weight gain and insomnia and it's all just a recipe for disaster.

I find it takes a conscious effort to forge ahead, to go through the motions even when I think it's pointless. But it helps, it really does. It's like fighting back against fate, not letting events just have their way with your life. It's hard, but it's worth it. You're worth it.

Bluebird said...

It does suck. So bad. And I'm sorry.


Polly Gamwich said...

I don't think you're alone in what you're feeling or how you are "handling" it. Infertility is a extremely painful and invasive.

Just wanted to send you a hug,

Meg. said...

Hi Nikki. I don't think I've ever left a comment on your blog before, but I've been following you for a few months now (I also live in the Bay Area).

Your post brought tears to my eyes. Especially: "And I feel like I have failed at the reason to exist." I have dwelled on this exact thought countless times.

I wish I could take away the pain for all of us.


Tennille said...

Nikki, huge (((hugs)))

It hurt my heart to read your post. I can relate with every single one of your points. No you are not taking this too hard - it is totally normal to feel the way you do. It sucks, but it's normal given everything you've been through.

I am certainly not trying to push this down your throat at all...but I wanted to share my personal experience. I was just as bitter and hurt as you are - until we adopted Alexa. She has healed my wounds incredibly. They're still there deep inside, but I can deal with things soooo much easier than I used to. IF is not something that consumes my life anymore or something that I even think about very often. Just know that some day, some how you will make it to a brighter, happier place.

Kara's Mom said...

I just found your blog through another infertility blog. I suffer from IF also - I'm currently in cycle on my 7th IVF. I am also in a job that is beneath my MBA only because it allows me the flexibility to pursure IVF and will allow me to be home with my future children. My entire life is on hold until I have a child, it seems. I also suffered a loss in the 38th week 1 year ago. I feel like I'll never bring home a baby. Everything you wrote is so true - thank you for sharing your feelings and your frustrations.

What IF? said...

Nikki, IF is a lonely, alienating path, which sucks away joy at every turn. You are not taking this harder. Everything about IF sucks, and it does put one's life on hold. In fact, I think you articulate the cost of IF accurately and honestly. I admire you for your perspective, and you and your Dh for persisting in the face of all the compromises and the toll it takes on your life.

Sue said...

I think what you are feeling and going through is totally "normal" for women in our shoes. It is painful and we change so much. I am a lawyer who took a leave of absence because of this craziness and gave up law altogether. I don't regret it yet...I hope I never do. But, meet me on facebook where all my law school buddies talk about their careers and I feel a little left out and many of them don't know our how do you explain where I am to them? Its awkward and made me "hide" too.

I get it. I always thought I'd be the cute thin woman with this beautiful bump...but IF took that away from me too. I am so much chubbier than ever before in my life due to all of these treatments...but at least now I am pregnant. I won't complain about being chubby and pregnant since I fought so hard to get here...but it does mess with my body image. Its all about changing expectations...argh.

You will get there...when you decide what your next steps are (transfer yourself, surrogate, etc). Once you make that decision and really start moving forward, you will feel better and more sure. I know you have some beautiful embies waiting for you.

Dee.. said...

It's true what you said. We lost friendships and relationships. I used to drag having to go to parties with friends who have children. Then, when they realised that we feel awkward, they stopped inviting us. So, nowadays, we are totally excluded from any gatherings. IF is cruel and an open wound. But I'm determine not to let it ground me into dust.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced much of the same. I recently (actually almost a year ago!) moved back to my hometown. I have sought out and visited exactly 0 old friends. I have run into a few at the grocery store, etc. and they have expressed surprise that I have been living here all these months. Some are older, mentor/family type friends. I just don't want to field questions like do we have kids, why or why not, how are things going (awful!), etc. So people probably think I am being standoffish and unfriendly but whatever.

Clio said...

how I wish that your words were foreign to me... Even as each one of us experiences pain differently, we know in our bones the aches you mention.
Sometimes we do need outside help to see ourselves again as more than our pain, more than our failure at reproducing, more than our infertility. Like you, when I'm deep in the middle of it, I felt myself to be a walking failure, as if I was failing nature herself. There was a little voice in the background still repeating how competent I was in so many endeavors, but the reproductive category is strong enough to drown all the others and almost silence that little voice. That little voice though is very healthy, and it is right. And once I felt stronger, I was able to remind myself to try and listen to it. This is what helped me to again replenish my emotional reserves. It's important that you find things that nourish other parts of you. You have many parts, remember that. Remember yourself. :) Instead of perveiving them as a mockery, let your skinny smiles from your photos be reminders of your immense potential. Reminders of who you are before all of this happen. That Nikki still exists too.
IF is a monster, with powerful tentacles that can destroy so much of our lives, the monster drags us, beats us good, but we need to find whatever we can to strenghten ourselves to stand up to it and not let this ugly beast chew us up.
I just thought of Harry Potter. They have the dementors, those horrible creatures that suck joy, life, light, leaving us sad and empty. To combat it, you have to create a patronus, which is a being you evoke out of concentating fiercely on all happy memories. I guess J.K. Rowling is on to something here regarding reclaiming personal power. Just a thought.
hugs my dear.

Phoebe said...

I can relate. I've become a social hermit because of IF. Much of it is because of the huge amount of effort it takes to make sure my eggs are still good at my age. I don't have time to socialize! And if I do, I'm not drinking, so that's a drag too. I'd just rather stay home. I think what you are experiencing is normal, though that's not much of a comfort. I'm with you on this one.

DAVs said...

I'm so sorry Nikki--for all of this pain and all of the myriad ways it has affected you. It just runs so deep, it's impossible to not have IF impact so many areas.

I am trying so hard to love and accept the person I am becoming, rather than thinking about the person I am not, or the person who I thought I would be by now. It is a constant, daily struggle.

Big hugs to you.

Sarang said...

I've only known you since you've been touched by IF, and I know you as one of the most genuine, kind-hearted and compassionate people I know.

I count myself supremely lucky to call you a friend. You have made my life better for being in it.

You have been a role model of strength to me...when I think of all you've been through and how gracefully you've handled it all.

Also, you know you are my personal hero for giving yourself your own IM injections!

When I think of you...I think of your smile, joke telling and easy laughter first. So, I don't know how you were before IF, but as you persevere through it, I can tell you that you are simply...AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

Well-written post. I think you hit every point on its head. And it's sad that I could relate to every. one of your points. I was at an all-time low when IVF#3 failed. And I had lost interest in life. The ugliness, the inability to conceive, the low self-esteem, and on and on was hard on me. That is when I started attending a local infertility support group and it helped me a LOT! Consider doing something like that or having 1:1 sessions with a counselor. It might help get those feelings out and work through them. I know you have the blog and the internet to vent your feelings and you know you can count on us to be there for you. But nothing comes close to interacting and talking with a real person. ((HUGS))

Shelby said...

It makes me that much angrier at IF when someone such as you suffers in this way. You are such an amazing strong woman and there is no rhyme or reason as to why the universe would take these things away from you, but then again, there never is any rhyme or reason in life. It's BS.

I can seriously relate to the loss of confidence. I have found mine seriously depleted since being diagnosed and especially after all of our failed attempts throughout the years. I see it in many aspects of my life like you, such as body image and just overall self efficacy when before, I remember feeling so much stronger. But most of all, our innocence has been taken. I totally have lost the ability to dare to dream and it has robbed and continues to rob me of so much. I totally relate.

I do hope though that you find your way back somehow, someday. You deserve nothing less.

banditgirl said...

Nikki, I just read this post, and it touched me deeply. I am so sorry to get exactly every single point of this post. I am sorry you are experiencing these things. Just before reading this I was looking down on my bulging out belly and felt so bad about myself. Then I read your post and I found some comfort in your words. I am not alone. I am still loved and appreciated by my friends and partner and family and they don't care about my bulging out belly. But it still really bothers me. Even after working out five days a week and watching what I eat I can't do much with this and it just reminds me of all the crap we go through and sometimes for what? I feel so tired and jaded. Yet, I get so much from you, your strength, your laughter, your comments, your grace, your persistence, your love and kindness. Thank you for all that and know that you are so not alone.

Wishing 4 One said...

“I’m brave, I’m fine, my life is good” face to even them. At the same time, I can’t help but feel “guilty” that they don’t have grandchildren..."

So me too. xoxoxoxoxox

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with with everything that the other ladies have said. IF is so hard and takes so many things from us that we don't think about...friendships, money, relationships, etc. it's tough.

at least we have this community to help out and show support since many of our "friends" don't know how to support us.

thinking tons about you!! xoxo

Lisa said...

Thanks for the update Nikki!! I'll be thinking about you

apieceofwood said...

It could be me reading your post. After our third cycle, I hit the floor and am still on it if I'm honest. I will read back through your blog, but just wanted to say hello and send a hug your way...

Flying High said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if none of us could relate to those words! Sadly, I relate to them too, and I'm only really at the beginning of our TTC journey (a year in). Some days I really feel like it's never going to happen.

I Believe in Miracles said...

This is so's more than just the IF.
UGH. I wish it was not the case.

wannabmomma said...

I can relate to this post on so many levels - and I am not even close to experiencing half that you have gone through. You are such a strong person to make it this far. I don't think I could survive. My journey to this point has already changed me in irreversible ways.

Thank you for this post. I'm sure there are many many women out there who can relate.

Anonymous said...

Nikki, I can relate to every single point in your blog. IF has made me mad, depressed, have low self-esteem, put my life on hold, take jobs much less than I would otherwise have, avoid friends who have children or just get pregnant (every one of my friends have children now, I am 40 and I feel hopeless). I am so angry why this is happening to us. Thank you for posting your feelings, only people who have IF issue can understand. Thank you. Everyone else just said relax, or just adopt, or just pretend nothing is wrong.....I really resonate with your feelings.

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