The problem with infertility is that not all of us make it to the same place at the end of our journey. It’s sort of like we all start out in the airport together but each of us gets on our own private plane and the pilot is the one calling the shots. And the problem with finding community in each other in the airport is that there’s no guarantee that we’ll be in the same place when we eventually land.
Sure, infertility is the common thread between us all. But what happens when a group of people come together who are starting IVF all at the same time. At the end of 45 days or so, some of those women will be pregnant and some won’t. Of those that get pregnant, some will go on to have healthy children, some won’t. Of those who don’t get pregnant, some may try again, some may be done. So in 45 days, the entire landscape of the group, the dynamic between them, completely changes. And while those who aren’t pregnant are undeniably thrilled for those who are, it’s hard not to admit that a wall has gone up between them.
What happens when all of a sudden it’s one of your own you have to hide from on facebook? What happens when you can no longer read the blog of your friend because the infertility blog has turned into a pregnancy blog and it’s simply too much? What happens when you feel like where you landed isn’t important to those who landed somewhere else?
It’s easy to get lost in the waves of the infertility ocean when you’re someone who has given up. If you’re not trying, or pregnant, or parenting a new baby, then where do you fit? And it’s a pretty invisible place to try and navigate stopping treatment while parenting children from previous treatments. Part of the reason it’s so hard is because everyone around you seems to be in a different place. If we were continuing to try I could easily find new people to navigate cycles with. If I were pregnant I could easily find other pregnant infertiles to commune with. It’s easy to find other infertiles with new babies writing about their experiences. There are women out there blogging about living without children. And it’s easy to find other women with older kids like me writing about parenting. But where are those of us who had to stop and are parenting older kids?
It’s difficult not to feel like some sort of cautionary tale nobody wants to acknowledge. We can validate the struggles of being child-free, or of those in the trenches. That’s easy. We can recognize the pain. We can validate the joys of those who triumph. What do you say to someone like me? With kids. Navigating loss and giving up but having to parent through it all, too? You’d think that would make it easier to navigate. The parenting part. But if you have kids you know that every day with kids is watching time fly before your eyes. They make you even more aware of the slamming of the door.
I sit at my desk at work and there are pictures of my kids up all around me. On one side of me is a calendar that H had made for me with pictures from the twins’ second year. Over my monitor sits a picture taken on school picture day in late fall last year. It’s still difficult to reconcile the faces that are in the calendar are the same faces in the picture over my computer monitor. And it’s very hard to look at those itty bitty faces and realize there won’t be another one.
All of a sudden today I turned around and there was a co-worker with his 4 month old baby girl. Standing there, asking me to see her, interact with her, enjoy her. I spent 5 minutes with her, made her smile, and he was off to visit someone else with her. A piece of my resolve fell away and I texted my friend with tears in my eyes. And I put on my sunglasses, left the office, and tried to find my strength again. One day I hope that I don’t have to go looking for it.