Staying Positive

I suppose my last few entries have been a bit depressing. I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m bereft of hope. I think that mostly I’m in a processing stage of this journey, and I don’t want to shy away from the hard parts just because they are hard. I also consider myself a realist and to tell myself or anyone else that this is easy or won’t cause any pain would be a lie. These emotions are part of me, and I wouldn’t be the same person I am if I couldn’t acknowledge and then try to deal with them.

But it’s still good to balance that with more positive thoughts and feelings.

At the moment I am feeling more hopeful, and probably more hopeful than is technically wise for me as well. You see, I’ve fallen into the trap of having a “feeling” about this month.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I had weird tummy pains. It reminded me of the cramping I get with my period, although less severe and mostly focused in my abdomen (I tend to get back pain as well). Not being too sure about why I would get this feeling, and not being able to relate it to other stomach pains like indigestion or gas I did consult some fellow TTC*ers on a forum I’m involved with. A haven through all this if anyone is in a similar situation, I highly recommend finding a forum you feel comfortable with and sharing there. I asked them what ovulation pains felt like to them, as I thought to suspect that could be the cause. While no-one can say for sure, it sounded like that could have been what was happening. Just in case, my husband and I made the effort and I silently prayed for a miracle.

Since then I haven’t felt any particular symptoms or reasons to feel hopeful. I haven’t tested yet, and will probably wait a while longer before I succumb to the invariable madness of peeing on a stick. Nevertheless, a small kernel of hope has been growing inside me for the past fortnight and it has helped me to remember my positivity. It has also reminded me that even in this, the capacity for hope is hard to extinguish.

My weight has been trending down nicely, and even if this isn’t the month for us. Even if we still need to go through IVF just to get pregnant. At least I can see that I am capable. I can get there. I will do whatever it takes to get us to where we need to be.

I will still be sad and disappointed if I’m not pregnant. That’s always the dream that I want to become reality. That hope, however, hasn’t been nurtured for nothing. It has renewed my determination should this not work out, and given me pleasant thoughts to send me to sleep at night. For both, I am grateful.

*TTC = trying to conceive

Time wears

I feel like infertility is a unique situation in a lot of ways. Medically there are no other procedures, that I know of, where you can spend so much money and end up with nothing. It’s something that a lot of people can’t relate to, and it’s hard to talk about. Even when you have a close network of family or friends that know, it doesn’t protect you from the vast majority, or make it any easier to tell them about it. But so far the thing that I’m find the hardest, is the time.

I was speaking to my aunt a while ago, and she was saying that we were lucky to have gotten to this stage so quickly. We were investigated a year after beginning to try and had answers a year and a half after starting this journey to try and conceive. I can understand why she feels this way. She and my uncle experienced unexplained fertility when they were trying to conceive their first child, and were told repeatedly to just keep trying and not worry about it because they were so young. It took them four years to conceive my cousin. They then had two more children naturally.

At the same time, this was 25 years ago, and I think our understanding of infertility has come a long way since then. Most people are told they should see their GP after 1 year of trying, and I think even younger people are more willing to insist than be told just to keep trying.

But the thing that I find hardest about this, is that for me, it’s not just the time we’ve been trying. I started trying to convince my husband that we should try for children approximately two years before we officially started trying. I was worried. I knew I had PCOS (Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome) and that it could make things harder for us. I also knew because of my aunty that even healthy people with no obvious problems could have trouble conceiving. I didn’t want to wait until we were ready and then not be able to conceive. Getting pregnant early felt like much less of a risk to me.

Unfortunately, he didn’t agree. He had seen how easily his parents had conceived and couldn’t really comprehend it not happening the same. It’s almost ironic that he has a low sperm count and 3% morphology and that’s why we need to go straight to IVF. I don’t blame him for worrying about what he saw as the more likely situation. Really I’m lucky to have such a responsible man who wants to do what’s best for us. Most of the time when I think of all this I just wish I had pushed harder, that I had trusted my instincts more and at least got us tested. Mostly I’m disappointed in myself.

Because it’s not just the time trying to conceive that wears me down now. It’s all that lost time when I wanted to but wasn’t. Even then I felt the cold heartbreaking disappointment when my period came, because it was a reminder that we weren’t even trying for what I already wanted so badly.

I think infertility is so unique because it is grief. It’s the type of grief that people can’t really understand because each month you’re not mourning something that actually existed. You’re mourning something that hasn’t happened. You feel the loss of your hopes and dreams, you wonder if you’ll ever get to experience a pregnancy, a child, a family. You silently curse the people that got pregnant easily, or naturally, because it’s so unfair that you have to experience this. And for me, I think of all this time that we wasted worrying about contraception, all this time not knowing, all this time I wish we had been preparing instead of bothering with all the things that don’t even matter to me now.

I’m sure that when we finally get there, and we have our baby, none of this will matter anymore. But right now, that baby feels so far away, so impossible to reach…

all I have is time. Wearing me down.

Why I can’t bring myself to hope

I recently had a friend ask me, “don’t you think you’ll get pregnant?” after my rather lack-lustre response to her determination that I would get pregnant in the next year at least.

I know she means well, and I appreciate her confidence, it’s probably hard to understand my less than optimistic view of my future motherhood. And in answer to the question, I don’t know. I want to think I’ll get pregnant eventually. But I have to face the cold reality of IVF and the uncertainty inherent in it.

When each cycle has a 30% chance of success, and after 3 cycles some claim that your chances begin to decrease; along with the different statistics around getting pregnant and actually having a live healthy baby making it hard to know whether even 30% is a correct figure; I can’t help but try to protect myself from the trauma hope can cause.

I’m trying to be realistic when I look at the amount of weight I need to lose and the time it’s going to take for me to do that. Not to mention the pressure of that weight being the only thing (besides money) that’s standing between us and beginning out first cycle. Then, after I make it through the hopes and pitfalls of a weight-loss journey, I get to look forward to a demanding medical intervention with absolutely no guarantee of success and a hefty financial cost.

Now, I try to avoid the “why me’s”, they don’t help me and are too easily interpreted as whining, and I’ve got a lot of fantastic things in my life. My point here, is that I have a hard road ahead, and I don’t want to kid myself that it’s going to be easy.

If I go into IVF able to be realistic and know that there’s more chance of it not working than working I can be completely overjoyed if it works and everything would be great. But if I go into IVF blindly optimistic that everything’s magically going to work out because other people have a feeling, I’m not going to be able to avoid the crushing disappointment if it fails. Maybe that’s not sunshine and roses enough for some people, but they don’t have to live through the actual experience. They probably didn’t have to experience a year and a half of monthly disappointment hoping that this month we’d finally be pregnant and the overwhelming fear that maybe we couldn’t either.

Hope is a dangerous feeling for me. Disappointments have abound in the last couple of years and sometimes just the time involved in this journey is enough to weather down my resilience and leave me in tears. I’m finding it hard to even imagine myself pregnant anymore, even though I want it right down to the core of my being. So maybe I don’t want to react to well-meaning hope with feigned enthusiasm.

But I’m willing to take the chance on IVF, so maybe that’s hope enough.

Beginning down the IVF road

It’s like waking up in a different world you never knew.

Like most people, I grew up believing that if I was ready to get pregnant, that if I wanted to get pregnant, somehow it would happen. I suppose we generally believe that it is our right to have children if and when we decide to. But something horrible happened to us a few months ago. The bubble burst, and we found out that to have children we’ll have to go through IVF.

My heart dropped when we were told. I couldn’t believe that life could be so unfair.

I’ve wanted to have kids for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t a little girl that dreamt of a big white wedding, I never had a strong inclination towards a particular career path. But I always wanted a family. A loving man and a bunch of little ones running around our feet. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve the first part, I would not trade my husband for anything, and maybe I should be grateful just to have that. Many may not experience the kind of loving, supportive relationship that we have. Yet my life feels wildly incomplete.

I’m only just coming to terms with what this means for me, and for us. The information about IVF seems to vary widely and often conflicts. Most information and conversations are geared towards women much older than me, in their 30’s and 40’s. So when I read about decreasing chances after 30, it still doesn’t really tell me what my chances are as an almost 26 year old. It also means that I read a lot about Medicare and people saying that those using IVF don’t deserve access to rebates because they “shouldn’t have left it so late”. I don’t really agree with that argument even for those who are older. But it bares stark contrast to my experience. We’re trying to have kids early, and I wanted to try four years before this, exactly because I was afraid of being left in this situation. Instead we’ll more likely be labelled as some irresponsible young parents because we will struggle to afford a child after the costs of IVF. The irony being that if we could conceive naturally we would have a comfortable little nest egg with which to pay for those costs. It’s a no-win situation. We’ll either have money to afford IVF and little left, or we’ll have money for raising children and no hope of having them.

There’s a part of me; when it reads about the chances, and the people that can’t succeed with IVF anyway; that wonders if we would be better off just not having kids. Hoping for a miracle, rather than going through the physical, emotional and financial hardships of IVF. But I don’t think I could make that choice now. I want to be a mother so badly, it’s too soon for me to give up hope that I can be. Maybe one day I’ll have to make that decision. And it will be the hardest decision I will ever have to make in my life.

To my newly pregnant friend

To my newly pregnant friend,

 

I don’t know what you’re thinking. But I wanted to clear some things up. I’m really glad that you were able to get pregnant so easily. It makes you one of the lucky ones, and that’s a great thing. I’m sure you must be worried about whether I’m really happy for you, or just saying it. Let me assure you that I mean it. I do not wish that you weren’t pregnant. I do not wish that I was pregnant instead of you. I really hope that you have a healthy pregnancy and baby and can be happy.

I hope that you can understand that my feelings of upset are simply because my situation is very painful right now. I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 18 months, and we’ve just found out that for us to conceive naturally would pretty much be a miracle. So we have to do IVF, and we’ll have to do IVF for any children we have. And we can’t even start IVF until I lose weight, something I have struggled with since adolescence. I can’t even begin to describe to you what a torment the last 18 months has been for me. The heady mixture of hope and disappointment, of analyzing every ache, or ‘difference’ and never really knowing if it’s real or just the strength of your desire to be pregnant that’s causing it. Each month the weight of not having a baby yet grows heavier, and I feel a physical ache in my chest. I am very grateful that you will never know this pain.

So, when I found out that you were pregnant I wasn’t upset because you were in such a good situation. I was upset because it reminded me how much pain I’ve been feeling. Pain that I would be in whether you were pregnant or not. I’m just finding it harder to pretend I’m okay when what I want so badly feels so out of reach for me.

I’ve no doubt this could be a tricky 8 months for our friendship. I don’t want to ruin what is a very happy time for you just because my life is the opposite right now. I want to be there for you as much as I can. All I’d like to ask is that you can be there for me too, because I’m struggling to cope. I hope that you can understand that sometimes I just might not be able to talk about babies. Sometimes I might need a break from even thinking about them. I’m sorry that I can’t be as excited for you as a friend should be. It’s not really fair on you. It’s not something I can really help either, and I feel horrible for that. I’m used to pushing away my issues for the sake of my friends. But in this, I’m afraid I have to be a little bit selfish. I need to make sure that I’m okay, because I feel so close to falling apart.

It’s difficult when we are on such different journeys at the moment. But I’m still your friend. And I hope you’ll stay mine.