"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Sunday, 30 March 2014

On How Fertility Issues Feel Like A Trip Back to Middle School

When I was in Grade 8, it seemed like all the “cool” girls were good at basketball. Maybe they had other things in common, like crimped hair (this was 1993 after all), names that started with K, and houses on the same street. Whatever it was that united the cool girls, I didn't have it and I probably never would.

I've always been a pretty determined person. When I wanted to do something or learn a new skill, I pushed myself until I accomplished it. When I felt shyness was holding me back socially, I practiced social skills. I lived in Germany when I was 21, where I chose to attend a class called “Russian for Historians”, which involved translating sentences from Russian (my fourth language) into German (my third). The first class was so difficult for me that afterwards I went into the ladies room and cried... but I didn't drop the class. I'm not trying to brag, just to explain my personality. Sometimes this intensity has been off-putting to others, but it's gotten me where I am.

None of this determination could help when I was 13 years old, an age when popularity seemed almost randomly distributed, and trying too hard was social suicide. I could watch Beverly Hills, 90210 (duh, why wouldn't you? Luke Perry was so dreamy) or beg for new clothes, but that didn't keep me from not being invited from the end of year graduation party. (True story.)

My life has been pretty good since Grade 8, so why rehash these bad memories? In some ways, the journey of trying to conceive has made me think of the Middle School popularity scene. You can try so hard, and get nothing out of it, or you can get lucky on your first month. Sure, there are ways to better your chances, such as eating well, exercising, temperature taking, and using ovulation kits, but the truth is that infertility is kind of a crap shoot. You can do everything right and never get pregnant, while some other woman smokes, drinks heavily, has no idea about her cycle, and has six kids. There's an unfairness to it all, that makes as much sense as me spending years hiding in the bathrooms during recess because my name starts with M and I lack the hand-eye coordination to do a lay-up.

I've also discovered that having no children makes me more and more of an anomaly the further I get into my 30s. This has increased the sense of being left out. I can't hang out at playgrounds to make new friends (at least not without looking like a creep). I can't commiserate on the stresses of finding a daycare or potty training. I see so many blog posts and articles shared online with tag lines like “Parents of kids will get this”. Sometimes reading my Facebook feed feels a bit like when kids in school would tell inside jokes, then say things like, “Oh, you wouldn't get it if you weren't at Kristi's house that time.” I knew a guy all through school who became a night club promoter and posts daily about his obsession with Beyonce Knowles. I read his FB feed when I need to feel like I'm not the only irresponsible non-parent in my age group. That's not to knock my friends who share these things; it's just that being 33 and childless makes me feel more and more like I'm among the stragglers waiting to be picked in gym class, hoping and praying that I won't be chosen last.

The worst part of the equation is the sense of being alone. You know know instinctively when you're being bullied at school that the worst thing you can do is cry. You have to pretend to be strong and not care. Struggling with infertility is a constant walk of pretending to have it together. No one wants to hear about your menstrual cycles and timing issues. You're afraid to share because of the dreaded “advice” that well-meaning people dole out,* and the knowledge that after you've opened your mouth, this person will watch you for signs of pregnancy and you might spend the next months, or possibly years, having to say, “Not yet” again and again.

This is a walk in which it can get hard to see if anyone listens or cares, and even of God is there for you. I'm not saying He's not. I am a Christian and I hold tight to that faith, but there are days when I feel more alone than I've ever felt before. If this is you, please don't suffer alone. You don't have to eat lunch in the girls' room. You don't have to cry alone at night and think no one can hear. If this is you, please email me at mrsdoctordear2 AT gmail.com.  The truth is, I'm not alone either.  I have some fantastic online friends that I've bonded with throughout this process, and who keep me sane on days when I am on the precipice of losing it altogether.

And if you are a parent who has never struggled with this issue, remember your a childless friends and be mindful of this divide. You may not know they are struggling. Post some cat videos online one in a while to give a respite from the baby talk. Let them in on your pregnancy and parenting struggles, but listen to their concerns too. Be there for them. It's a long and lonely road sometimes.

*I have found this article extremely helpful in covering the etiquette around infertility.

4 comments:

  1. Great article! I think you'll look back on this months and years from now (whether you end up having children or not) and think "Man, I totally rocked explaining my feelings!". Well written!

    It is a struggle that those of us who aren't in the thick of it can sometimes understand and sometimes not. I have 2 facebook friends (friends that we used to hang out with in all of our single days, but not so much anymore) who are facing this (and do so publicly) and it's hard sometimes to relate to their struggles. But sometimes it isn't either -- I think most of us have been the middle school girl with the wrong hobbies, hair and name!

    Bless your journey!

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  2. Thank you, Jayme! I appreciate your thoughts.

    It's always hard to relate to someone else's struggle. I've realized lately that while I used to be able to relate to single girls, now that I've been with my husband for almost 5 years (married for 2.5 - wow!), I can no longer relate in the same way. While I remember being single for most of my 20s, I can't look back without the lens of being married now. I also have never been in the situation some friends are now - mid 30s, single, and wondering if that means they'll never have children. All that to say, it's hard to relate to others.... but it means a lot when someone listens and tries. As you said, we may not have gone through the exact same thing, but most of us know what it's like to feel left out or lonely or scared.

    It certainly is hard to share this kind of thing publicly, which is why I don't publish my blog to my FB profile or even use my full name.

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  3. This is do beautiful and well written. I feel I can commiserate with your early life... Not do much the infertility yet... I've yet to get married but when I do I'm going to look back on this article. :)

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