Beyond infertility is not the happy place I imagined

It’s been several months since I wrote a post on infertility. Even though it took my husband and me the better part of five years to triumph over the elusive demon that is infertility, I would love to be able to forget about it, to allow the magical power that time has to erase bit by bit the scar it left behind. The plan was to make it through treatment, have children and retire to that happy place called beyond infertility.

Image courtesy of mistermong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mistermong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It didn’t exactly work out that way. Anyone who has been though this knows long after the last clinic appointment, long after the meds have expired or have been tossed out, long after moving on beyond infertility you realize the injections are still there. They still stab but I am not the one holding the syringe now. After all there is no expiration date on a box of needles.

The phrase “beyond infertility” refers to life after resolution for a couple who has been dealing with infertility treatment. There comes a day of reckoning on which either your body, your bank account, or your insurance company decides enough is enough. Ideally, you’re supposed to make peace with your decision whether or not it involves children, biological or not, and move on.

Beyond infertility is a myth. It doesn’t go away, not even for those of us like me who had a good outcome in the grand scheme of things. IVF worked for me. It took a few tries for my daughter but it worked. For so many it doesn’t and for others it works but that success is quickly robbed by miscarriage. My daughter started life in the womb as a twin but only she survived. Also, our infertility diagnosis was “unexplained” simply meaning the exhaustive, invasive battery of tests could not pinpoint a cause for our infertility, unlike other painful, and often debilitating causes such as endometriosis, PCOS, effects from cancer treatments, etc. Still, it hurts.

Pregnancy announcements were and still are the toughest for me to deal with. When I was in treatment, I had several friends and colleagues similar in age so there were several announcements. At my first company I worked at after banking in one year alone there were five pregnant women in an office of about 50. I thought something was in the proverbial water but it seemed my office had its own water supply. No one knew what we were going through since my husband and I didn’t publicly share our fertility struggles. It was hard hearing those words, “I’m pregnant” wishing that very thing for myself at the same time.

A little simple math on my part never helped. Being quantitative by nature, I would count back from the time of the announcement to either a wedding date or a dating anniversary to calculate the maximum time they could have been trying. The answer was usually measured in months, rarely years, but always less than the time my husband and I had spent. Sometimes no math was necessary as there were a few instances when couples told us they got pregnant a month or two after going off the Pill.

Now several years have passed and I am so very fortunate that we were able to complete our family with our beautiful daughter three years ago, the same daughter who was once cryopreserved at  -196 Celsius, the temperature at which biological processes are suspended. Honestly, I am glad we are done, that I don’t have to be held hostage to a two or three hour feeding cycle and I am perfectly happy to reliably sleep most nights and not have to relinquish those sweet dreams to either the discomforts of pregnancy or a newborn’s cries.

Even though most of my fortysomething contemporaries are also done and I have opened up about our story, I encounter a plethora of pregnancy announcements as I go about my day, my weeks, my months here, recently from neighbors, classmates of my children, and younger friends as they grow their families. Bumps and babies are aplenty these days. The feeling is slightly different now since I no longer wish this upon myself. Instead, the announcement serves as a reminder back to the days of treatment, my daily date with the stirrups, to daily bloodwork and ultrasounds, and all of those injections and all of those rejections. It hurts to remember my failure at reproduction without a mini army of doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists, a basic process intrinsic to life, one that comes relatively easy to the other 85 percent.

The math is a little different these days. I find the announcements that are hardest to take are from those whose children are a year or 18 months apart, from those who became pregnant rather easily. I realize it’s common; even my sister and I are only fourteen months apart. Clearly I did not inherit the fertility gene from my parents.

I know I have to learn to deal with all of these announcements and bump sightings. I have to. It’s part of the cycle of life and always will be. I am truly happy for these fertile people in my life since I have now lived long enough to realize that the world needs more of the happiness that babies give us and the love their parents will lavish upon them. But I also know that infertility is a condition that can be treated but not cured. It doesn’t go away. In that sense, there is no beyond infertility.

My wish is for others to realize just how crazy hard it is for about 15 percent of couples like my husband and me. Believe me, I don’t wish an infertility diagnosis or treatment on anyone nor do I wish to deprive anyone of the happiness their news brings. I just wish that others fully realize how treatment can run your life during those months, about how many times I held my breath when the nurses line came up on my phone for results, being told to drop everything to come into the clinic on a moment’s notice, how my life revolved around more numbers, hormone levels, follicle counts, IUs needed for injection. Then there were the procedures I endured, some of them pretty painful such as hysterosalpingogram, sonohystogram, endometrial biopsy, egg retrieval, embryo transfer, words most of the fertile population will never have to personally encounter. In short, the ability to easily generate two lines on a stick should never be taken for granted.

Looking at my children provides me those feelings of gratitude, luck, and love that flock to the injection site to numb the wound. If I am lucky, I will get another several months reprieve before the next needle jab. Maybe, maybe not.

I invite you to be brave and read about how hard it was. Here is my IVF story for my son and the IVF story for my daughter.

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