After almost 7 years since my initial diagnosis I’ve thought back to times before infertility and how different my perspective was then compared to now. Back then I was innocent and ignorant. I thought that everyone who wanted to become a parent could. I thought that if we tried hard enough we could become parents. And most importantly I had a completely different view on those who never had kids than I do now.
Growing up I had a number of relatives who didn’t have kids. My mom has cousins that weren’t able to have kids. My Uncle (Mom’s Brother) and Aunt (Dad’s Sister) never wanted kids for different reasons. I was never that close with either though I learned recently my Aunt was always fond of my brother and I. She passed away last August after a battle with cancer.
In the weeks and months prior to her passing I did contact her. I thanked her last June when she sent me a birthday gift. But looking back I regret I didn’t reach out to her more than I did. Let me be clear my Aunt was a loud know it all who had a sense of entitlement that rubbed me the wrong way. But when my Great Grandmother had dementia and when my Grandfather needed someone to care for him she was always there to step up. I’m not sure if it was due to her caring nature or it fell on her because my Dad had kids and other responsibilities.
My Mother who though I love her and wouldn’t be where I am without (beyond giving birth to me) shaped and influenced my feelings on my Aunt. She would always say that my Aunt didn’t have the responsibilities my father did and that she should take care of my Grandfather. It was painted that my Aunt was a selfish person which she may well have been.
Because of that my feelings on those without children were selfish people and I viewed them as being not as important than those with children. I viewed that not having children was leading a life not as valuable as those who had children. I viewed it as strange not to have kids. It wasn’t until after I found out we would be unable to have kids and when our journey to parenthood ended that we became the people I harshly and unfairly judged growing up and even in early adulthood.
Based on all of this I’ve become a hypocrite and have projected a lot of my own criticisms of those without children on myself. It’s led to me resenting myself and a lot of the insecurities I have as a result of my own thoughts and prior feelings. It’s led to me taking so many things personal when it comes to parenthood and viewing my own life as less than.
The challenge moving forward is now that I recognize what’s behind these feelings is what do I do about it to break out of this way of thinking? How do I stop comparing my life and what value it has to others? I’ve always been stubborn and my toughest critic. I’m a creature of habit and getting into a new way of thinking has always been difficult. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder feeling I have something to prove.
Is what I have to prove that I was wrong and that our life without children can have value? But how do I know if and when I’m able to prove that? I know this is a lot of rambling and hope it makes sense.
This is going to be another one of those pieces where I hope it generates a productive conversation that leads to progress rather than take offense. It’s not that I care if I unintentionally upset people. I care more about being able to create positive change.
Each of our infertility stories is unique and different. No two infertility stories are exactly the same. With the reproduction of two or more people required to create a fetus leading up to 40+ weeks of gestation there are so many factors in each situation that could go wrong. Even when a diagnosis is the same for an infertile female in a couple you still have the male factor with many different possible reasons for lack of conception or potential for miscarriage. Also you have the being able to afford treatment factor. In taking a hard look at this, the options available for one couple might not be available for another couple when it comes to a couple either conceiving a child or third party reproduction. In some cases there are no options to become a parent through some type of scientific intervention.
When it comes to becoming a parent via non biological or other scientific ways the ability to do so can vary as well. Depending upon where a person lives, their financial status and other personal circumstances (health, marital status, etc.) the ability to to become a parent via adopting isn’t available for every couple or person. For instance depending upon where a person/couple lives and what the laws are for adopting they maybe disqualified from adopting. You could also be in a financial situation where you are unable to afford the costs to adopt and lack the ability to raise funds to adopt. Lastly you could be disqualified from adopting due to a health condition you have. In some cases a person/couple may not be able to adopt.
When you add in all of that the conclusion reached is that not everyone will be able to become a parent. I say this because personally I’ve been told by others that it’s my choice to be childless and there are options I’m choosing not to go through. They say this without knowing our full story. There are so many other factors in our story that I haven’t disclosed that are personal to us. I’ve also seen other people be told that if they want to become parents they shouldn’t give up in finding a way to become parents. That is completely unfair to assume unless you know the person/couple’s entire story.
People mean well when they ask those going through infertility if they’ve considered adoption or tried a certain treatment. If a person is curious about what the couple/person has tried instead they can ask what their options are. It’s a more broad question that gives the person going through infertility the ability to have control of the conversation. They may have options they are pursuing or may have exhausted all options. The only way to know is ask rather than go to one specific option that either worked for you or someone you know.
My point is infertility and our ability to become parents is extremely complicated. We should recognize that we all have circumstances that give each couple different options. In some cases a person/couple may choose to pass on their options but in other cases the circumstances may take away any option a person/couple has to become a parent. We can’t assume that a person/couple is choosing to be childless unless we know their whole story.
I say all of this not to be bitter for those who have been able to become parents after infertility. I am grateful that people have been able to become parents because it gives those going through infertility hope that they one day can become parents. It gives me hope that future generations don’t have to go through what so many of us have dealt with. I say this to help others better connect with those going through infertility and those who never become parents. Hopefully this piece can help us better communicate with one another.
Dealing with infertility is a process. How we feel during different stages of infertility varies. There are highs lows and overall our perspective changes. One misunderstanding that members of the infertility community have is that those who have gone onto become parents may feel they know what it’s like to be childless and infertile similar to those who are childless after infertility feel. While that may seem possible on the surface the reality is very different.
From my personal experience I will say that how I felt when I was first diagnosed with being infertile and when we exhausted all of our options are very different. When I was first diagnosed in 2013 I was in shock. I was down but with options still on the table I still believed we’d become parents some way. I felt that I just needed to be patient look into options and we would go down a path to parenthood. Sure I was mourning the loss of biological parenthood which was hard but I still had hope on the parenthood front.
Last year when our pursuit of parenthood ended (by circumstance not choice) I became depressed and it nearly destroyed my life. The hope I had was gone. I had to accept the fact that we would not be parents in any capacity for any child. There would be nothing for no one that we would leave behind in this world. It’s a helpless feeling that no hard work could ever change. It was very different than my feelings/experience was in 2013.
I’m saying this not to guilt those who become parents after infertility but to explain to them that their experience is different. I’m not saying this to show that being childless or my experience is more difficult but rather that it’s different. Neither experience is easy. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for those who go through RPL even if it ends in them becoming parents. Honestly I am not sure I could have handled that.
The best thing we can do is recognize that our experiences are our own. We can’t compare experiences and think we know what it’s like cause we can’t. But we can listen to each other and learn from each other. That’s the way we can narrow the divide amongst each other.
Since I learned I was diagnosed as being infertility three and a half years ago I’ve learned there were many myths society has with infertility. The first being that infertility can almost always be cured. The second is that infertility is mostly in women. The third is that once you become a parent you stop hurting. For me what I’ve learned personally through my experience is that ending up childless doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.
I’ll be honest one of the things that made me stubborn to give in and work towards recovery from depression was admitting to others that you can end up childless and be happy. I’ve seen many inside and outside the infertility community with children tell others they can be happy without having kids. That bothers me because I feel it ignores the challenges that comes with ending up childless (as I’m sure Parents after Infertility face). It ignores how hard it is to get to that point where you can be happy living life a again. Also if ending up childless is so great then why didn’t that person choose it? I felt I’d be doing those who end up childless after infertility a disservice by admitting that I could be happy.
Getting through this has been like running. Distance Running isn’t easy. You have to build up your strength and endurance to be able to run the distances you are training to run. There are challenges and road blocks along the way with injuries you have to work through. Same thing with living childless after infertility. You work hard to build up endurance to live life childless after infertility. Living that life doesn’t get easier you just get stronger through continuing to work at it.
I don’t look at ending up childless after infertility living a happy life as a choice. The reality for me was there wasn’t a choice it was either Adapt or Die. I maybe happy right now but it’s still challenging each day and I still have to work at it. I’ve had to change how I think and approach life. I’ve had to go from being structured and planning out life to being less structured being present and not looking too far ahead. Being someone with ADD who had to be structured to get through life that was and still is challenging.
I hope that in writing this piece others can recognize that being happy and childless doesn’t mean that we still don’t hurt or that it’s an easy life. It may seem like it got easier on the surface but what it is us getting stronger on the inside.
In less than two weeks it will be a year since it was official that my wife and I would not become parents. It was the most challenging year of my/our lives. It was more challenging than the year we found out about my infertility. That year has come and gone. At the end of the day I’m/We’re still standing because in reality what other choice did I have.
Yesterday I had my race though the result was disappointing that I went out too quickly again and had nothing left for the hilly part of the course rather than let it get me down its become motivation for the next race. A disappointing half marathon has led me to decide to attempt to train for my first marathon in the fall. I actually shouldn’t say attempt I should say complete because I will complete it and I will succeed.
The time has come to move forward and take chance with my life. The time has come to set goals with both myself and goals with my wife. And those goals will be met. If I get knocked down I’m going to not only get back up but set the bar higher. Barriers will be removed.
This was the person I was the first two and a half years of my life and is the person I truly am. Infertility took that person away temporarily but that person is coming back. It knocked me down but I’m standing back up and going to set the bar higher.
Yes, the time has come for me to be me. The time has come to live today and see how it leads to great things for tomorrow. Sure I’ll be knocked down again but I will get back up regroup and set the bar higher reaching that bar.
I’ve survived the last year now it’s time to thrive.
Those of you who are friends with me on FB know it was an interesting week for me two weeks ago to say the least. The week prior during a track workout I had my right calf cramp up. This isn’t that unusual as I have calf and Achillies tendon issues. I got through the rest of the week and my long run on Sunday without any major issues though my calf wasn’t at full strength.
On Sunday night before I noticed a red spot on the back of my right calf. I didn’t think anything of it as it didn’t hurt. Monday night when I got home after work I noticed my right calf was red and swollen. The skin was also tight. I put heat on it to see if that would help. Tuesday morning the calf felt better the swelling went down so like the dope I am I decided to go out for the 6 mile run I planned on doing. Throughout this whole time my wife told me to take it easy and take a day off (of course I didn’t listen). During the run and after the run I felt ok.
It wasn’t until later in the morning while at a meeting that my calf started to feel like a balloon about to burst both numb and tight (below is a pic of my sexy swollen calf in the ER I took). Reading symptoms online I had some signs of a blood clot. I didn’t have any chest pains or trouble breathing so I wasn’t too worried that it was that. Though I didn’t want to take any chances so I went to an Urgent Care Center after work.
At the Urgent Care Center the doctor told me it was either a blood clot or some type of infection but he didn’t think it was an infection because I had no scraps or cuts on my leg. They didn’t have an Ultrasound machine there to confirm so I would have to go to the ER and have it done there.
For anyone who has been to the ER you know you can be there for hours. So I called my wife and told her I was coming home to change, grab a snack and then we’d go to the Hospital that is 5 minutes from the house. The Hospital is less than 5 years old. When it was being built I thought that would be where our children would be born. Of course on the way to the hospital I had to joke with my wife that we would finally get to check out the new hospital. She laughed and said she didn’t want to see it like this. Mind you at this point she was ready to strangle me for not listening to her earlier in the day.
Throughout the entire ordeal I was pretty calm in good spirits joking around and laughing. It wasn’t until I was having the Ultrasound done where my nerves kicked in. Some deep breaths and meditation calmed my nerves. Once the tech told me no clots I was relieved but still uncertain as to what it was. 30 minutes later back in my ER room the Physician Assistant came in and told us that I likely shredded a piece of muscle off my calf that caused a blood vessel to burst which caused the swelling. I would have to take it easy for a few days elevate and ice it after that I should be ok.
So at the end of the day I was ok and I got to finally check out the new hospital that infertility prevented us from seeing. 🙂
The follow up is that two weeks later I’m doing well. I had my last long run before my next half on the 15th yesterday and I’ve begun acupuncture treatments to help.
All in all things have been great in my world outside of that scare. My training has never gone better for a race and I feel a good race coming. This past Friday night I went to a fucking amazing PJ concert where they played the entire ten album front to back to start the show (only second time they’ve done that). Saturday I went to a Met game with the Metsies off to a good start this season.
Hope everyone is well. 😀👍🏻
Going into infertility people/couples are clear on what they want. They want to become parent(s). I wanted for my wife and I to become parents but infertility isn’t going to allow that to happen. It is not a path that will be a part of our story for reasons out of anyones control. The fallout from it led to me becoming “Infertile Me”.
Infertile me is dark, scared, depressed, raw, ugly, mean and hopeless. Infertile me almost destroyed my marriage. Infertile me hurt people. Infertile me brought out the worst in me. Infertile me blinded me from the many good things in my life that I’m grateful for. Most importantly infertile me was not who I really was.
I don’t want to be infertile me any longer. Being infertile me doesn’t serve me. I don’t want to be dark when light is shining. I don’t want to be scared of the unknown when it brings anxiety. I don’t want to be depressed when there are so many things in my life that bring me joy. I don’t want to be ugly, raw and mean because that’s not who I am or who I want to be. I don’t want to be hopeless when nothing ever stays the same.
I’m not sure who I want to become or what I want my life to look like. That will come in time. But the one thing I do know is that I don’t want to be Infertile Me because I’m a better person than that.
Since I was diagnosed as being infertile there have been many things I’ve done to cope with the pain. I’ve talked about a lot of it on here be it therapy, anti-depressants and running. The one thing I have not talked about is my Yoga Practice. About a year and a half ago while training for my first half marathon K made the suggestion of joining her Yoga studio. I decided to take her up on her suggestion figuring it could help with my conditioning for my running. I had no idea then that it would become so much more than that for me.
First let me say that I’m not exactly a master Yogi. I’m uncoordinated have issues at times with my balance and my shoulders are weak. Also having ADD makes my mind wonder during classes. However, my practice has gotten better in time. I’ve connected with some great people and it’s an activity K and I do together.
At the studio I go to they hold workshops on different topics. In early January I signed up for this workshop called “From Hot Mess to Shining Star”. The description of it was about working through our distractions organizing our energy and putting it to great use. As I would learn after the first session it is basically a Yoga for ADD workshop that focuses on the Chakras. The instructor has ADD which made for great conversation after class. There is a lot of meditation involved as well as some Yoga poses connected with the different Chakras that we work on in each session.
During the first session we went around the room to introduce ourselves and talk about why we were there and what we hoped to get out of the workshop. When my turn came I explained that I have ADD and I’m working through depression and that I’m looking to help regain focus in my life. I didn’t mention my infertility until the fourth session because I wasn’t comfortable at first. When I did I opened up how I internalized my infertility blaming myself and getting down on myself. I also talked how I didnt know what was next in life. It was at that session the instructor asked each of us what we felt our purpose was and what our goals were. I couldn’t answer it. Though she told us it was ok if we didn’t know it reminded me of where I was at in my life with no direction.
Last week’s session worked on the throat Chakra and coming up with a Vision for what we want our life to look like. I told the instructor what if you are scared of that the vision won’t be satisfying or isn’t possible. She told me that if that’s the case start out with small visions and goals building from there.
Prior to infertility my vision was to have a life with K raising our kids together. With that not being possible I’m accepting my limitations. I don’t know what I would like my life to look like in the long run outside of it being with K instead of what I had envisioned.
As my Yoga instructor suggested I’m going to start out small and see where it takes me. What I would like my life to look like is for a life with balance. A life that is able to be present and focused on the present. A life that isn’t trapped in depression and held back by anxiety. A life that is peaceful able to go with the good and bad. A life that I am grateful to be living with compassion and love.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said life is a journey not a destination. Part of my journey and the vision of what that journey will look like will include having balance. I’m not sure where that balance will lead but I have to gain that balance first. Through my Yoga Practice I will work on achieving that balance.
My intention for this post is to hope it helps the community as a whole to support each other and avoid unintentional hurt feelings. Recently I’ve noticed a few members of the community who recently became pregnant or who gave birth ignoring me not responding to me or interacting with me. Though we all start in the same place and some end in the same place how we get there is different and not everyone ends in the same place. Also there are times we’ll be in the same place and others we aren’t. You get the point, it’s complicated.
The hardest thing for us to navigate at times is when a member of the infertility community becomes pregnant or gives birth while others are either still TTC, taking a break, pursuing adopting, a parent via adoption or living childless/free. It’s awkward and no one knows exactly how to interact and support the other. For the expecting parent/parent they may want to protect themselves by avoiding the trauma of being in the trenches and fearing going back to that place. On the other side those in the trenches may avoid those who are expecting or are parents because it hurts them. None of us intend to hurt one another we just don’t know how to navigate this crap. It takes a village to get through it.
Below I’ve put together some tips/things a to keep in mind for expecting parents and parents on how to support and maintain relationships with those still in the trenches, taking a break, pursuing adopting, parent via adoption or living childless/free. Please don’t hesitate to provide your feedback no matter where you’re at. Dialogue is so important to achieve progress. Above all communicating and being honest with each other is the best we can do.
1) Please don’t tell us to give up or that miracles can happen. Nothing makes us feel worse when we are told to keep trying when we maybe at our wits end or feel like we may have stopped too soon. We already blame ourselves as it is and think we’re doing something wrong.
2) Your pregnancy/birth has nothing to do with our situation. What worked for you won’t work for everyone or even another person. Our bodies are all different and add in our partners or donors and it’s even more complex to achieve conception.
3) Don’t forget about us. We understand you may need to take a break and enjoy the next chapter of your lives and not live in the community all the time. We understand you have new responsibilities and your life has changed. But we are still here and value our friendship. We aren’t lepors either. Talking to us won’t bring bad luck upon you. When you forget about us it can feel like being left to go hang out with the cool kids.
4) We aren’t upset with you for getting pregnant or becoming a parent. Going back to #2 you getting pregnant or becoming a parent has nothing to do with our situation. It maybe a reminder of what we aren’t able to achieve but it’s not preventing us from achieving what you were able to. There isn’t a baby quota the infertility gods have where only so many babies are born and you having your baby prevents us from having one.
5) Be with us instead of trying to fix things for us. We know you mean well. We know you’re rooting for us. But we aren’t looking for you to tell us that it will all work out or that we’ll become parents. Unfortunately no one knows that. If you want to help and we’re hurting tell us you are there to listen.
6) Celebrate our non TTC accomplishments. If we have something great in our lives that’s non TTC related celebrate with us but realize it doesn’t fill the void.
7) We can talk about non TTC topics. We all have and had lives outside of having kids before all this. We may have even shared common interests. If you’re uncomfortable talking about babies or treatments go that route to stay in touch.
8) If we move on to adopting, donor conception or childless/free life respect our decision to move on. Please don’t judge us. Not all of our journeys are going to end the same way. Also, it’s not going to feel the same way it felt for you becoming a parent. There is a whole level of complexity added even if we become parents. Though there are some common themes of parenting. If we don’t there’s a child void in our life that will never be filled. Also don’t assume that a person can be happy without children if you have children. Yes, those without children can be happy but please don’t assume something you don’t have personal experience with. It’s like us assuming you are happy as a parent and never hurt.
9) We are happy for you and your family. Even if we mute you on Social Media, keep our distance or disappear for a bit it’s just us protecting ourselves. It’s not you or us just the situation.
10) We care for you and are here for you too. We recognize being pregnant or a parent isn’t easy especially if it comes after previous losses. We know you are grateful. We know you wouldn’t trade places with us. Heck we wouldn’t trade if roles were reversed. So don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you have morning sickness, a baby who won’t sleep or a spouse who isn’t supporting you. If we were in your shoes we’d feel the same way and need support.
It’s been a while since I last blogged. I wish I could tell you that my good feelings have continued but unfortunately they haven’t. Well I take that back they continued up until about two weeks ago.
My October was filled with ups and downs. My half marathon was a disaster as I barely finished dealing with ankle and calf issues the whole race. I knew it was going to be a tough race for me as my training wasn’t as good as it was last year. I haven’t run since that race which was over six weeks ago.
The good part of my October was a great distraction as the Mets (baseball team) made a playoff run to the World Series for the first time in 15 years. I had the privilege of being able to attend two games one of which was Game 4 of the World Series (See my video and picture below I took from those games). Despite the Mets losing the series in five games it was a great season for the team that I love the most out of the three teams I follow closely.
But right after the World Series ended and Daylight Savings Time ended with the day’s getting shorter I began to feel a little down. With the holidays approaching I began to think about what we will never experience and will never be able to have. For past holidays I had some hope that we would eventually become parents. This is the first year that I know that isn’t going to happen and it hurts.
It hurts that we are not able to experience that because I lack the ability to produce one of the two ingredients needed to conceive a child. It’s left me feeling like less of a person again. I feel empty and I know that nothing will change what the situation is leaving me helpless. Though I don’t feel alone.
Over the past few months I’ve started to recognize that this isn’t just my loss but it is also a loss for my wife and us as a couple. For so long I was wrapped up in myself that I forgot this and neglected my marriage. I was very difficult to be around especially with her experiencing a loss on her side. I won’t go into the details of it but I will admit that most women would have left me when she stood by me and continues to do so.
As much as the situation sucks, knowing that I’m not alone gives me comfort in working through this. That’s probably the biggest difference between how I felt earlier this year and how I feel now. Call it progress but what it means for the future I have no idea.