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.