If you’ve been through IVF and told people about it, their typical response is “Good! I know someone who did it and they got pregnant – it will totally work for you – I can feel it!!” It’s as if a box was checked in their brain that said “Fix Friend’s Infertility Woes With Story Of Miracle” and then they can move on. What I’ve found is that while there are these crazy miracle success stories that are passed down amongst friends, there are so many more silent stories that are not told. There are also so many different aspects of this IF issue. Male Factor, Egg Quality, Tube Problems, Egg Number, Uterine Problems and Stressful Lifestyle are only just a few of the categories that come up as reasons for infertility. This is why I’ve tended to have an adverse reaction to comparison stories of strangers lately.
Currently, in my wallet, I carry a collection of phone numbers given to me by friends of people who “would totally talk to me if I wanted to talk to them about their story.” The truth? I am never going to call these people. I am happy that it worked for them and also happy that they are open enough to reach out (even if through a third party) as I’m sure someone reached out to them to help them through their process. At this point however, going on an “Infertility Blind Date” set up by a middle man or woman with the best intentions feels especially vulnerable and slightly unsafe. There is so much temptation from others to help and although the advice has the best intentions, it is often times void of any reference point for my particular circumstances, feelings, history etc. Maybe at some point I could meet these people and we could all laugh over a stiff drink and compare our “Infertility Girl Scout Sashes and Badges” – “How many IUI’s did you do? IVF’s Oh Donor Egg? That’s a huge accomplishment!”
I find that commentary and advice is best received by me in the space between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next to allow for time to process it all going forward. However, on day 7 of hormone stimulating drugs, I don’t want or need to add anything else other than a dosage change. To me, being in the midst of an IVF cycle means one thing: STAY THE COURSE.
It’s strange how times of struggle enable a person to find the strength to define what they don’t need. It’s the communication about these non-needs that I find to be challenging. People will say to me, “You are so strong!” as if there were any other choice at this point. The truth is, I hold back A LOT of what I’m thinking and feeling because I think if I were a completely open book, I’d be a colossal “buzz kill” to the lives of those around me. At times, the pot does start to boil over with my thoughts: “I’m gaining more weight? Is this going to work? Am I wasting my time? What are these drugs doing to me? Will I ever have a child? Will I ever be the same? WHY ISN’T THERE ANY FUCKING CHOCOLATE IN THE HOUSE!!!!” My strategy at present is to go back to Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption where he says: “You’ve gotta get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” and I get busy because in truth, an IVF cycle is busy. Tests, research, consults, appointments, phone calls, more appointments, patches, shots, calling off work, blog posts :), and updating the chosen ones is B-U-S-Y business and takes strength.
Storytelling is part of our history. It’s one of the most effective ways to share our personal manifestos and connect with others. I believe it’s important to remember that each person diagnosed with infertility makes up one chapter in a great epic novel of struggle, strength and hopefully someday joy. Not every chapter will end the same, even if the main character is similar to the one in the chapter before. The ability for us to listen to a person’s story is sometimes that much more important than sharing our own in that moment. It takes a special kind of strength and awareness to be truly present and listen. My personal need at this moment is to receive more listening and less phone numbers. And, that need could change next week – it’s the beauty of a story that is constantly being written – you never know what’s going to happen next!