Something amazing happens when women get together and support each other, and today is no different. To celebrate National Infertility Awareness Week, and to launch Justine Brooks Froelker's new book The Mother of Second Chances on April 17th, I am participating in her blog tour. Five weeks of 25 women sharing their stories surrounding infertility and loss. Together we are educating and inspiring others to come out of the shadows of infertility, and know they are supported and loved.
Yesterday on her blog, Jessica shared her story, today I'm sharing mine, and tomorrow you can check out Meaghan's post at My Beautiful Crazy. Please participate by sharing these posts! Share your stories with the hashtags: #NAIW #infertility and #EverUpward.
Without further ado, here's my post for today:
I’ve spent a good deal of my life speaking and thinking in absolutes. Yes and no. Black and white. Never and forever. This thing or that thing. It’s just how I’m built.
Sometimes this quality is helpful. For example, as a teen when I was rapidly falling in love with every single male in my high school, my tendency toward absolute thinking was helpful. Does this guy in the Nike hat that I fell in love with in 3rd period even know who I am? Nope. Well, then it’s not meant to be. On to the next. At other times, absolutes can be a problem. Husband is late coming home from work? Well, clearly he has been in a car accident and is lying dead on the side of the road. You can see the issues this type of thinking can create.
Okay, so what does this have to do with infertility? Trust me, I’m getting there.
When I graduated college and began my journey into true adulthood, there were things I was absolutely dead sure about. One of them was family planning. The resolute part of myself decided that I would A) be married by age 26 and B) have at least two of children, maybe even three if my body bounced back, by the age of 31. (No, I wasn’t vain at all.) In retrospect, the arrogance of this whole “plan” still infuriates me. The fact that I thought I had any control of any of the items on the checklist is sickening to me. But, you know what they say about hindsight.
Anyways, this whole egotistical I-am-in-control-of-my-life family plan thing was reliant upon one thing: marrying my high school boyfriend. I’ll let you guess if that worked out. Spoiler alert: It did not work out.
So there I was, 26.8 years old and hit with the realization that my high school boyfriend was not, in fact, marriage (or father) material. I had a dilemma. The clock on my absolute, dead set, never-going-back family plan was going to run out. I was back at the starting gate.
I began to re-evaluate all of the things I was so absolutely sure about. I clearly was not going to hit my marriage goal, and by association, my child plan was looking bleak as well. Thankfully, I met my husband and we were engaged and married within seven months (that’s another story, and it’s a good one so look for that one of these days). My husband had two children of his own, so I became a stepmother at the age of 27. AHA! My child plan was back on track! Yes, a little amended because they weren’t biologically mine, but no biggie, I could still have one of my own easily.
And then life said let me just stop you right there.
The reality of infertility hit at 30. And it hit hard. Not only was I infertile, but the doctors didn’t – and still don’t – know why I couldn’t get pregnant. We began treatments at age 30, so if all went well, I could still have a baby by 31 and stick to my plan.
Somewhere deep inside, the absolute part of my brain was beginning to deteriorate. It was still holding strong, but the walls were weakening.
One other thing I am sad to admit to you is the absolute certitude that I believed I would never, ever, ever, go through IVF. Not even when we began fertility treatments did this conviction change in my mind. IVF was a weird, science-y thing that rich people did when they turned 45 and still wanted kids they couldn’t have naturally. I would never need that. Some injections and pills would take care of everything. Okay and maybe if the pills didn’t work I’d consider that whole turkey baster IUI thing. But why even think about that? Things would never get that far.
And once again, life said hold my beer and watch this.
Three years, two failed IUI’s, a rapidly dwindling bank account, 33 candles on my birthday cake, and still no baby. No more certainty. I was free falling into an abyss that I couldn’t escape.
“Never” had taken on a whole new meaning. Rather than thinking about all things I would never do to have a baby, I was thinking of all the things I absolutely would do to make it happen. Life had, in the immortal words of Missy Elliott, put my thing down flipped it and reversed it. And in the end, the part of me who would never ever go through IVf...went through IVF.
This is the trouble with absolutes. The trouble with never. This life and this universe really aren’t interested in what you’ve decided you will never and can’t ever do. At the end of the day, never is always possible, and we short change ourselves when we decide it isn't. We limit our potential and our progress. No, I didn’t enjoy the process of Clomid and IUI’s and injections and tests and IVF. But…I also wouldn’t have met amazing doctors, nurses, accountants, pharmacists and some of my best friends if I hadn’t gone through it. I wouldn’t have my son if I kept firm to my never. I wouldn’t have met others just like me and just like you.
As an infertile who has come out the other side, I am done with never. I am done with telling anyone, including myself, what can never happen. And yes, I know there are those of you out there who truly are not able to have children of your own, or even through adoption or fostering. I still encourage you to rid yourselves of never, because we simply do not know where life is going to take us next. It could be somewhere we didn't expect.
Lastly, despite my good-bye to never, let’s not kid ourselves, I’m still a black and white kinda gal, so the draw toward absolutes is still there for me. I choose to feed it in a different form. I am all about the always. I will always be there for those who need me, and I will always advocate for the infertility and infant loss community. I will always be there for my friends, even if they are still stuck in their never.