I've been struggling with wanting to write and share this for a while, and here's a preemptive disclaimer, I am not asking for advice or any answers from you the reader of this. I am simply sharing my story because I feel it's a topic that due to societal expectations, pressures, and many other factors, is just not talked about. I have been frustrated with this fact for some time now, and I hope that my story will help change things and perhaps help someone else out there, who like me, felt alone and separated from the world.
I can't have kids. My husband and I can't have kids.
We have been trying for over 5 years now. We have tried all the normal ways, and then the medical ways. Fertility drugs and charting of all the things happening in your body. We have checked all our levels, parts, and bits are all in working order. For the record, there is nothing wrong. We have what is called 'Unexplained Infertility'. Talk about frustrating. Sometimes I wish there was something wrong, then I would have something to fix.
I know, you're thinking, you are only in your 30s! You're so young! My cousin was over 40 when she got pregnant. Yeah well, that's what the IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) people said. We've been doing IVF for a few years now, and guess what, nothing. Each time they are surprised it hasn't worked for us. These are trained medical professionals who help get people pregnant every day and know how it all works and know the stats and they are surprised that it hasn't worked for us 'yet'. They always add the 'yet'. God how I hate the word 'yet'. Like, sorry this isn't working for you and that you are miserable and that the IVF drugs have made you crazy and are physically making you feel like death but let's tack on the 'yet' so you don't forget to be optimistic!
As many of you know, because I get told it all the time, positivity is what actually gets you pregnant. It has nothing to do with embryos sticking to uterine walls or anything, but if you think positive and go on a holiday, there will be babies coming out of you by the time you hit customs on the way home.
The one thing better than positivity is to stop trying and stop thinking about it all together! I know your cousin got pregnant the moment they stopped trying! I'm sorry, I am very happy for your cousin, but unless your cousin had some immaculate conception, she was having sex, and if she was having sex, she was thinking about babies. If not during the act, she was after. She had a delightful romp with her partner and was happy for not having to think about what position is best for makin' babies, and then she remembered that there is sperm inside her that might do things, and she lay on her back without moving for 20 minutes 'just in case'.
Here's a little secret. You can't stop thinking about it.
Facebook aside, which is full of constant reminders that babies exist, there are TV commercials, friends with kids, movies and TV shows that are about people with kids or having kids, or will casually still mention pregnancy in really annoying ways constantly, and frankly children in strollers are everywhere. I think there is a patrol of them who come out whenever I leave the house. Funnily, blonde babies are fine. Show me a brunette baby and I start to turn, gosh, a black haired baby, and I want to find the closest sharp pointy thing and start stabbing myself in the eye.
Okay, so I sound pretty negative. Well, it's been a long journey to Mordor and we keep throwing that ring into the volcano but the volcano keeps spitting it back out again.
To back track a bit, I have no harsh feelings for the parent/s that abandoned the baby that was 'saved' by the cat. I have no ill feelings for anyone who does have kids, or can't handle having kids, or doesn't want kids. I am Pro-choice. Everyone and their circumstances are different. I also love my friends kids. Yes it stings whenever I hear a pregnancy announcement. I go off and have a little cry somewhere sometimes, but I love my friends kids. I love my nephew and niece and I love my godson. When I spend time with them I have a joyous time and most of the time I am happy and not sad.
Much like people who choose not to have children, what I do get frustrated with is people asking me when I am planning on having kids, or are we going to have kids. I know people mean well and don't know what they are asking, but it's rude. This is one of the many reason I feel the need to talk about my infertility. After having been trying to conceive for so long, many of my close friends and family know whats going on. Partly because keeping secret such a life consuming part of my daily being became impossible for me, but partly to try and prevent people from asking the dreaded question "So, when are you having kids?"
You might be feeling a little guilty right now. You, like many people, have asked someone this question. They probably have just been married, or have been living together for a little while, or you haven't seen them in a while, and they just bought a house. I mean it's societies natural order of things. You meet someone, you get married, you buy a house, you get a small dog or something, you turn a certain age, and *bamn* it's time for society to say in capital letters 'YOU ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE KIDS NOW, Y U NO KIDS? HAVE KIDS'. It's practically up there with people talking about the weather and asking "how are you?" when really they are just saying hello.
Well, guess what, I want you to feel guilty. I want you to stop doing it. Stop asking people. For one, they might not want to have kids ever, and it's rude to assume that everyone wants this. Two, and obviously more relevant to me, they might be going through the long and terrible process that is trying to have kids, or maybe they can't have kids at all. They may know for a fact that they aren't physically capable of having children. Here they are having a nice day at work, or drinking a cup of tea, and you come in and with one little question, their insides rot and their day is ruined. While all you see is a straight face, and all you hear is a little "Who knows, one day" while they shrug off the question, you move on and forget you even asked and later on, they cry in the bathroom.
Look, I don't remember if I used to do this too. I probably did. Everyone does it. It's one of the unfortunate side effects of a society where we don't talk about fertility problems. Heck it's a product of a society where we don't talk about sex education and reproduction enough in general. It's why I think we need to talk about it more. I get why people don't talk about when they are trying. You can liken it to the first trimester of pregnancy where people don't tell anyone they are pregnant just in case something goes wrong and they miscarry. It's an awful thought to have to tell people that it failed while you are busy mourning the loss. It's easier not to tell people at all. Trying for kids can be just like that.
At first you think, I'll keep that we are trying a secret so it will be a surprise for everyone when we get pregnant. Then after it's been a while, you think, well, I don't want to worry people and have the pressure of them asking me how is it all going, so you keep the secret. Then, for me, I got sick of having no one to talk to so I told a few close friends. Then after an even longer time, I thought I'm so sick of coming up with excuses for why I can't drink alcohol or do strenuous activity at certain times of the month, and most of all, frankly, I got sick of pretending everything was okay. That I was okay, when I most certainly wasn't. So I tell people at random now. Then finally, I'm here now, writing about it.
I went searching for like minded people on the internet. I started in baby forums. While I think this is an excellent support system, it's just not for me. Every second day there is someone who succeeded and an endless stream of optimism that after a while I just couldn't handle. They tend to separate these forums into sections. The first is the freshies. The people at the beginning of their 'Trying to Conceive' journey. All excited, as you should be, busily counting their cycle days and figuring out the best time to bump uglies with their partners. It's best to keep these people separated from the 'Long Term Trying to Conceive' section which you count as being a part of after only one year of trying! This section at least contains less of the "I've been feeling sick all day, and my left ear is itchy, and I hate the sound of the microwave, does this mean I'm pregnant?" type thing, which is inevitably followed up with someone saying they totally read somewhere that itchy left ears are totally a pregnancy symptom, type optimists from the first section. Then there is the last section, the "Long LONG Term Trying to Conceive' section. Which is basically barren (Ha! Just like out uteruses!) because no one really posts as we've all given up on the forums a long time ago.
I have found the odd article or blog post that people like me have posted. They will be about all the silly questions people ask that annoy us, and the troubles and woes of infertility, but so far, every single one has ended with them getting pregnant. Yes I can hear you, doesn't this mean I should be positive? No. You know what it means? It means people are only comfortable writing about this time in their lives if it results in a happy outcome.
Did you know that one in six couples is infertile? That we put so much fear of god into our teenagers about using protection so you won't get pregnant, which is a good thing, that we forget to teach them how the body actually works. It's great to teach teenagers about safe sex from STD's and about how one slip of failing to use a condom can result in pregnancy, but as a result we are causing people to become adults who don't know that it might not happen at all. Yes some people can get pregnant at the drop of a hat, movies totally perpetuate this fact, but did you know that for healthy couples in their twenties having regular unprotected sex, the chance of becoming pregnant each month is 25 per cent. 25 PERCENT! And after over a year of trying that percentage drops dramatically. It's important people know how common infertility is, especially in a society that revolves around an expectation that having babies is what we are designed to do. Well some of us aren't designed that way.
And here I am. I'm not going to surprise you at the end of this with a happy announcement that after all these troubles we have a baby on the way. We don't.
We have also decided for the moment to take a break from the IVF and from counting days and from all of it. This might be a forever break. Who knows. I'm not going to go jump on the pill and start using condoms anytime soon, because frankly if we don't have to deal with that, yay us, but we also aren't going to actively try for the moment. If we do magically, and I really mean the word magically at this point, get pregnant now that we have 'stopped trying', then huzzah, but it's not because we stopped. That's not how science and biology works, and if you say otherwise I will punch you in the nose. If it happens, it will happen because for some reason out of the many, many, many, many fertilised embryos that I have had in my body and have failed to do so, there is one that has been created that has finally decided to stick to my uterine wall and carried on into pregnancy.
So far that hasn't happened, and that is okay. I will be okay. We will be okay. We will drink and be merry, laugh, travel, and buy things with somewhat reckless abandon, because we aren't just this one thing in our lives. We are a family of two people and one cat (so far) in this happy little house.
Lastly, if you are trying to have kids, that is wonderful news to me. I really hope you succeed. I genuinely mean that. But if you are having a bad day, or are tired, or you have the knowledge that you cannot have kids, or are just like me, tired of trying for the moment, tired of having to pretend everything is okay, well, I am here for you. I hope this helps in some small way and if you feel the need, vent away.
Believe it or not, this is me actually trying to open up a platform for people to talk and ask about infertility and our time trying to conceive . You are actually welcome to ask, say, about our IVF process or anything like that. Just please don't tell me things that you have heard worked for other people. It just makes me sad.
Thanks for listening, and yes I've tried acupuncture and no at this stage we don't want to adopt, and trust me, we've tried it all, but feel free to make suggestions, you can help me complete another of my Infertility Bingo Cards.