What Lies Beneath

As part of my New Year’s Resolution of challenging myself I thought I would explore a deep topic that I have probably touched upon in a number of posts but never put it all together in one post.  My other recent piece asking whether there is a place in the infertility community for those that are childless/free generated a lot of great feedback that I loved.  One of the great responses I received suggested I explore the feelings that have come with infertility and why they exist in me:

That said, I also think there’s a difference between being resolved and not parenting vs. either beginning your journey to resolution or even simply being on hold. And I can certainly empathize how difficult the holding pattern can be, especially with surprise pregnancy announcements. What I would encourage instead of leaving this community, though, is reaching out and exploring why these feelings exist. There the obvious, but there’s usually the underlying too. Regardless, know there is a place for you, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

I thought this was a great suggestion to not only explain to others how someone who is infertile who never goes onto parent feels but to also do some reflecting myself.

The title of this piece comes from the Harrison Ford Michelle Pfeiffer 2000 movie “What Lies Beneath“.  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie it’s probably the only movie you’ll ever see where Harrison Ford plays a bad guy.  At the time when I saw it in the theater with K just a few months after we started dating it was kinda weird to see Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Richard Kimble and President James Marshall actually play a bad guy.  It’s a spooky movie that will freak a person out.  While this piece isn’t going to be spooky but rather raw, honest and deep I thought the title fit where I am going.

Infertility has not made me a better person.  There is no silver lining in all of this.  It’s brought out the worst in me as a person.  In a few weeks it will mark the second year anniversary of when I began a seven month stretch of weekly therapy sessions.  Most of what I discovered infertility has done to me and touched upon in my life was discovered in those sessions.  The rest I have slowly discovered since then as part of the process of working through the aftermath of my infertility.

The most difficult part of this all is that infertility has done a number on my self confidence.  Growing up as a kid with ADD when I was told that I would never function in a classroom I’ve always run into self confidence issues and feelings of inadequacy that I was never good enough to do certain things.  Hard work in school, encouragement and support from my parents as well as getting involved in sports such as swimming and running helped me gain some of that self confidence I lacked.  I always wanted to be treated the same as everyone else.  Not that I thought I was special but I just wanted to be able to do things other kids could do such as not have to go to a separate classroom and not need extra time to finish tests.  By the time I got to High School I didn’t need those things anymore but I still needed to work harder and things took me longer to complete than other kids.  Even now as an adult in the work place or functioning in everyday life it’s a struggle where I need to do things differently.

The difference with infertility is that hard work and doing things differently will not allow us (K & I) to be able to have children like other people.  It’s left me feeling like less of a person (not a man) that I am not good enough to have children that there is something wrong with me.  I feel like my body has failed us as a couple.  I feel like I did as a kid when I didn’t think I was smart enough and good enough to be like other kids and accomplish what they do.

The fact that we did not pursue treatments because it didn’t make sense to, that we passed on third party reproduction for different reasons and that we won’t be pursuing adoption I feel like we haven’t even tried to have kids.  I feel like we were given a road block to becoming parents and didn’t do anything about it.  Other couples take infertility and either go through treatments, attempt third party reproduction or pursue adoption.  When I see other couples going through infertility and becoming parents through one of those ways, it reminds me that we didn’t even try to have kids.  It brings up the It’s the complete opposite of what I have done my whole life with my ADD.  Granted this is a bit different because it’s not only my feelings that matter in this.  There is another person who is part of this that means more to me than anything in the world.  I feel like I have lost the ability to work through things to get an alternative of a somewhat normal adult married life with children as I always felt I was.

I always wanted to be who my dad is who was able to pass on so many great valuable lessons of how to treat other people and be there for them.  I wanted to marry a woman that I would spend the rest of my life with and raise children with her just as my dad did.  I wanted a simple life that I enjoyed with others rather than focus on material things or individual accomplishments that only brought short term joy but leave a person with feeling empty inside.  That’s not the life I will live out and it’s frustrated me that it’s out of my control.

Another aspect of what infertility has done to me and my confidence is my outlook on the future.  Because I have always been able to achieve things through doing things differently, I always felt that in the end things would work out one way or another.  No, I didn’t go to Harvard as I always dreamed of as a kid but I went to a pretty good college and have established a successful career.  Now, with infertility I’m not so sure of that.  I’ve learned that there are some major life things that will be out of my control that I can do nothing about.  Instead I’ll have to live life differently rather than live the life I want to live.  It’s left me frustrated and hopeless for the future.  When I see other couples with their children it’s a reminder of a life that K & I will never have and there is nothing I can do about it.

I’m no longer looking forward to aging.  I’m not looking forward to both of our parents dying off leaving us with no family as we get older.  We don’t currently have a large circle of friends.  I’m fearful of being lonely with K and not having anyone else to share our lives with and be a part of others lives.  This probably stems back to me being socially awkward and never having many friends dating back to when I was a kid.  I just see us becoming even more isolated down the road.

Along the same lines as this, there will be no one who will remember us when we pass.  There will be no children that we will have parented that will pass down pieces of us be it nature or nurture.  It ties back to the whole feelings of inadequacy that we are not good enough for that to happen.  I don’t see my Big Brother volunteer work doing that.  Though I am hoping it will help my little, I don’t think he’ll ever remember me when he grows up.  I think we’ll be forgotten even before we pass and once we’re gone we’ll be gone there will be no trace that we ever existed.  It’s made me hopeless that no matter what I do, I’ll never live a fulfilling life that will live on through other people.

It’s been impossible for me to let any of this go.  I think my ADD has contributed to it as people with ADD lock into something they are focussed on that they want to accomplish and nothing else matters.  Letting go of that thing we lock into becomes extremely difficult.  While I don’t think about this every minute of every day and it doesn’t consume me as much as it did two years ago, I still think about it at times.  I am more aware of what brings up these feelings every time I see a pregnancy announcement inside or outside the infertility community.  It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with it being a reminder for me of what isn’t.  While I will congratulate them and wish them those people the best, while I will smile in my everyday life what lies beneath that is a deep dark bottomless pit of negative emotions that I am continuing to work through and probably will the rest of my life.

36 thoughts on “What Lies Beneath

  1. rightingme

    Sending ((hugs)). I understand these words. I could have written them myself. Although I’m not done in my journey yet, I’m still not 100% convinced it will end any differently from yours.
    What I hear in these words is you are feeling the lack of enduring legacy. The sort of legacy that isn’t written in books or blogs; it isn’t in movies and tv shows; it isn’t parks and skyscrapers and monuments and gardens and other tangible reminders. I hear that you are seeking that legacy found in the twinkle of an eye and the power of generations gone before. Sending more ((hugs)) This is a hard one to put to rest and I’m not sure it ever can be entirely.

  2. Justine Froelker

    Oh my friend, this post just made my heart ache for you. Please know if I could I would sit next to you talking (to both make you laugh and also fill you up some) or not talking and just sitting with you in all this shit, I’d be there in a second. You will be remembered by many, as you touch more lives than you will probably ever know. Now this isn’t a consolation prize to children but it still is a legacy, I promise. You can be sad and mad and frustrated and lost, hell we all can be all of it but please also give yourself permission to feel the other side of this journey too…when you are ready. I think, and I’d like to even almost promise, that this journey will eventually bring the best out of all of us. But, we also have to get through it, work and redefine, fight for, find and move ever upward. And, that part of the journey is even harder but oh so worth it. Sending you so much love and gratitude for your courage. Oh, and by the way What Lies Beneath is literally one of my favorite scary movies, they just don’t make good ghost stories like that anymore. Much love, Justine

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      I can’t begin to tell you how much your words mean to me. They literally have made my eyes water up a bit. Luckily I’m upstairs in my house reading this so K won’t see me tearing up. And I’m lucky to have connected with you. Thank you so much for your friendship.

  3. Angela Bergmann

    Oh Greg, you will be remembered. You’ll be remembered by those whose lives you touched. Is it the same as children, or grandchildren? Probably not. But you will be remembered.

    I can also say, some littles -will- remember you. My husband remembers his Big and the things he did for him in the short time he was allowed to have a big. Maybe not all of them, but some of them will remember the kindness you show them if nothing else.

  4. grace

    I agree with Angela, some littles will remember you. They may not remember ‘Greg XXX’, but they will think about how much you meant to them, the kindness or normalcy you gave them for a tiny bit.

    But I’ll also go one step farther. I grew up with 2 grandfathers – one was a drunk and the other might have been a drunk since I wasn’t around him, he was very nice the two times I met him. However, my (drunk) grandfather’s business partner (Link, not his real name but his nickname) was like a grandparent to me, and he’s the only one who’s death made me cry (even though it was time). All of us ‘grandchildren’ loved him and I couldn’t tell you any specific thing he did (he was on oxygen from having lost a lung, so it wasn’t activities) and he died when I was 9, but he shines as the example of a man in my mind. And I don’t believe Link had grandchildren (he might’ve had a child, pretty sure he didn’t), and maybe that’s why he cherished and enjoyed us so much. Sometimes we never know where we will make an impact and who’s life we will touch.

    Also when my mom tried to “save” him he said ‘atheists don’t live in foxholes’, which is still my favorite quote from a WWII vet (whether or not you agree).

  5. Mary

    Hi Greg,

    I have been reading your posts since I had a chance encounter with you in a group discussing donor insemination. I was conceived by donor insemination and didn’t find that out until I was 40 years old. When I read this post today, my heart broke for you. I can’t say that “I know how you feel.” I have two children and never had to deal with infertility issues. However, I can relate to what you said about leaving a “legacy.” I often feel like, because I am donor conceived, that I don’t have a “legacy” at all… that where I came from didn’t/doesn’t matter to anyone! I wish I could articulate my feelings better!!! I would like to say this… the conversation that you and I had meant so very much to me. YOU made a difference in my life and I know you have in many others’ lives as well.

    I also know what you mean about the frustration of not being able to “solve” this issue. I can’t solve mine either, and it’s a really shitty deal. Please don’t lose hope, though. I know it sounds trite, but I believe we have something to learn and something to give.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for the feedback. I am so sorry for what you’ve been through and though I can’t understand what you’re feeling after being lied to for 40 years, I hope your voice is heard. Best wishes to you on your journey.

      1. Mary

        Thank you for listening to me…. really listening! Just so you know, I am not absolutely against donor insemination. I know you have decided against it (hopefully not because of ME). But, maybe you should revisit that option???

      2. gsmwc02 Post author

        Thats all we can do is just listen to each other so we can learn from each other. I have learned so much from listening to people like yourself and I’m very appreciative of that.

        Unfortunately our infertility went beyond just myself and as I explained to the other commenter I did not want to see my wife go through treatments for a child that wasn’t geneticly related to both of us. Please know that our decision had nothing to do with you or anyone else who has spoken out on donor conception. If anything reading your stories and feelings on donor conception would have helped prepare us raise a child who was donor conceived. We would have told them early on that they were donor conceived and would have supported them no matter what even if they had negative feelings about it or wanted to find their biological father and have some type of relationship with him.

        Best wishes to you and your family.

  6. clwalchevill

    I want to thank you for taking my comment so seriously and sending the time to write all of this out. I can only imagine what an emotional process doing this was. But I learned a lot more about you and what you are dealing with.

    The theme of loss comes through loud and clear with your words: loss of a life planned for, loss of legacy and even loss of normalcy. Things that are important and take time to grieve. I also hear guilt about your decision not to pursue treatment, third party reproduction or adoption. That by not doing so, you’ve somehow given up. I don’t see it that way. I see it that you assessed your options and made the best decision for you and your family. Fertility treatments are a hard thing, even with the best possible outcome and adoption and third party reproduction are even harder. You made the best decision for your family and that is nothing to be ashamed of or guilty for.

    I wish I had answers for how best to overcome some of these things. I don’t as each journey is individualistic, though there are others who have blazed the trail. What I can say is that you don’t have to be alone as you walk this road.

    Wishing you peace.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Thank you for providing great feedback on my previous post that led to this one.

      I don’t have any guilt about not opting to have an extraction done. With my Y Chromosome deletions there had never been a reported case of any sperm being extracted in similar cases. Plus even if there was sperm I would pass on my condition to a male off spring which I couldn’t do. Our infertility went beyond just me so I didn’t want to see my wife go through treatments for a child that wouldn’t be genetically related to both of us. Though if our situation was different I would have been open to it.

      Adoption and not pursuing it is the one that gets me. But these need to be joint decisions not just one part of a couple.

  7. Kitten

    “Infertility has not made me a better person. There is no silver lining in all of this. It’s brought out the worst in me as a person.”

    Thank you for being so honest and open. Infertility has also brought out the worst in me. I can point to some positive things, but I wouldn’t say it has made me a better person: More conscientious of others who may be going through the same, more careful about my language and the questions I ask, but not a better person overall. And the negative things definitely outweigh the good.

  8. ellynhopes

    I have a learning disability of written expression. That’s the reason, I am having a hard time with the test for the other professional license. Does the anger ever truly goes away of infertility or will it flare up in different times of our lives?

  9. sarahchamb

    I know our individual paths have been very different, yet I’m so with you on all of this. I had tears streaming down my face by your second or third paragraph and still do. At least we have the courage to roll around in the belly of the painful side of the truth. I know that doesn’t change or help any of this but it will make whatever is to come in our lives wholeheartedly real.

  10. the misfit

    Since I left you the world’s longest comment on your last post, I thought I’d comment on this one, too :). I can empathize with most all of what you’ve said here. What I have found for myself is that, as I get a smidge more distance from the IF treatment experience (and, by the way: I think going back and NEVER pursuing treatment might be the one thing I would change in my life if I could change ANYTHING. It has significantly harmed my physical health, and as far as mental health, I think fertility treatment is worse than infertility itself. You haven’t missed a thing!!), I start to notice things that I had overlooked. Such as: how many of the people I most admire just so happen not to have children (and I didn’t even realize, because they didn’t mention it – they were too busy living amazing lives). How much of the most formative, most loving, and most important memories I cherish from adults in my lives when I was a child (and a young adult) had nothing to do with my (both mentally ill, as it happens) parents.

    My takeaway: the world will be a darker place if you suppose that you can have no legacy because you have no genetic legacy. Indeed – my day is already better today because of what you have written, and yesterday I had never heard of you.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      For me it’s not so much having a genetic legacy as it is no legacy. I’m glad this connected with you and really glad you stopped by. I hope you continue to stop by.

  11. Mali

    Though I pursued some treatment options, there weren’t many open to me at my age and in New Zealand, and adoption likewise wasn’t something as a couple we could do. I think recognising what is right for you as a couple, recognising the limitations that you face, isn’t “giving up” – not in that negative context that society today seems to place on those two words. We all have our limits – and we’re all different, and have different limits, and we shouldn’t feel judged by that. But I know too that often we are our own harshest judges.

    I hear your pain. I recognise it. Wow, do I recognise it! I could absolutely have written this post – about ten or eleven years ago. But it’s not one I would write now.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      The thing is though if you have one half of a couple that isn’t ready to move on and the other that wants to its very hard to not think that they are giving up or didn’t try. Though if a couple is on the same page I do believe what you are saying is true.

  12. expecting to be expecting

    I really like your blog and I relate to all of what you wrote. IF shook my confidence about the world and my place in it, to the core. Like you, I faced adversity growing up. I powered through it by going around, sideways, up, past and I made it to a semi-normal adulthood. I thought handwork, perseverance and a good attitude could get me through this gracefully but instead I sometimes feel like a fat, angry monster stuffed with resentment, rage and jealousy. I’m also 60K poorer, preoccupied most of the time and find my thought patterns bordering on self-pity – though it’s hard to say when you’re going from miscarriage to miscarriage where grief ends and self-pity begins.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      I hear you on everything. I don’t think there is a wrong way to feel about this or going about it. It just plain sucks. Best wishes to you.

  13. kiftsgate

    What lies beneath is absolutely the scariest movie I have seen. And no matter how many times I see it (and the fact that I know the ending), I am still terrified!
    I am glad you are opening up and trying to explore your feelings.
    I still disagree when you say that infertility has not made you a better person. I understand that’s what you feel like right now. But I still feel infertility may have enhanced your strength and kindness more than you realize. Parenthood may have done the same, but it’s always hard to tell what could happen in counterfactual scenarios. I know infertility has made me horrible at times. I have lost some friends, partly because they could not understand and took distance, and partly because I was suffering too much and made it hard for people to be close. But there is a lot I learnt from infertility, on appreciating life and small things, on marriage and building a life with my husband and on me, my strength and values.
    I can really understand that infertility plays on self confidence. I have always lacked it and infertility has made it a lot worse for me too.
    I am one of those people you talk about that tried or were ready to try it all in order to have a family: fertility treatments, donors, adoption… I spent years trying to think of what my life would be like if all of the above failed. I came up with lots of alternative plans, which mostly included moving abroad, travelling all year long or living isolated in the middle of the mountains or something.
    You’re trying to build a normal life without the life you had envisaged and dreamed of. I can only say that it is normal you are in pain and that it will take time to get to a more peaceful place.
    I agree with others that I’ sure there will be lots of people who’ll remember you. It won’t be the same as having children. Nothing else is. But I hope (and believe) people will remember you as much as you’ll remember them.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      I can understand why you feel that infertility has made me a better person in interacting with people online. But it has not made me a better person in real life with the people who mean the most to me. I know that it is going to cause me to lose friends.

      I think that if I became a parent after infertility it would have made me a better person. All of what I went through would have been worth it. There would have been that legacy that would have lived on. But there won’t be. There is no such thing as a normal life anymore.

      I’m not saying that anyone in our position won’t live a normal or fulfilling life. I am just saying what is the case for me. Whether I’m gone tomorrow or 40 years from now there will be no legacy that I leave behind with others.

      1. gsmwc02 Post author

        I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the idea of not having a legacy to leave behind or that things will be lonely later in life. All I can do is distract myself as much as possible to not think about it as much.

        Thank you for listening as always. It is appreciated more than I can put into words.

  14. marilynn

    That was incredibly moving. Thanks for that. As an aside i have never read any piece of work that so precicely describes how it feels to struggle with add every day of my life. Right down to the intensity of hyperfocus on a topic. You really capture what that feels like. I know adf was not the point but you reference it and identify.

  15. hahnungslos

    “While I will congratulate them and wish them those people the best, while I will smile in my everyday life what lies beneath that is a deep dark bottomless pit of negative emotions that I am continuing to work through and probably will the rest of my life.”

    Two things: please seek some counselling and please don’t accept defeat at the outset. Pain and suffering are often unavoidable parts of the human condition. You can’t always avoid being hurt, but you can avoid letting pain warp you into a person who spreads misery to those around you. Having a child isn’t the only way to leave a legacy in the world. It isn’t even the most important way. Your first legacy is in who you are and how you live your life. Right now, you’re building that legacy. The longer you stay in that pit of negative emotions, the more your legacy will be negativity.

    What nobody says often enough is that hope is a choice. Lots of people fall into that pit of despair for lots of reasons. Many times, life is pain. But you choose how you deal with it. Even if you won’t leave children behind, you will leave memories. Leave behind good memories and hope and that will be your contribution to the world you leave behind. We impart a legacy on every person we meet, and we have no way of knowing how deeply that legacy will linger. But the more time we spend with someone, the stronger the mark we leave on them. I know thinking about how you affect every single person you encounter can become overwhelming, so don’t focus on that. Instead, make your focus smaller. Your little brother is a good place to start. No matter what you believe, you will have an impact on that child’s life. Even if he doesn’t remember you years from now, your time with him is going to play a part in shaping the person he becomes. So the question is, what legacy do you want to leave for him?

    Digging yourself out of the pit is incredibly hard work, I get that. So that’s why you ask for other people’s help. But remember, nobody can help you unless you’re willing to let them.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Firstly, I am in counseling. If you look at my pieces that followed this one you will see that I am currently in counseling. Secondly while I appreciate your advice and effort to assist me unless you are talking from a place of experience that has walked a similar childless path you lack the credibility to know what you described actually works.

      Thank you for stopping by and providing your feedback. Best of luck on your journey.

  16. Geochick

    You’re absolutely correct in that there are two people to think about when making decisions regarding the direction to go. Problems arise when one person’s desires are dismissed by the other person. To move forward you don’t necessarily need to be on the same page but at least in the same book. Abiding with you as you navigate this major crossroad.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s