I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the emotional roller-coaster of this year, and I haven’t even decided to start fertility treatments yet. Even the dreaded Worst Year (when I lost my hearing and broke my back) didn’t have this number of ups and downs. When I lost my hearing, there was a clear plan of what to do: try steroid treatments, get a hearing aid. Clear cut, and no major decisions to make. When I broke my back, the answers to the problem were obvious – no one decides to NOT fix a fractured vertebrae.
But infertility… There’s no clear answer. We have to gather information on the myriad options available, and then decide where our moral and ethical boundaries are. We have the same conversations day after day, about not knowing what our desired outcome is, not knowing how aggressively to pursue fertility treatments, not knowing whether to “fix” the other medical problems before making fertility decisions. Some days – some weeks – I’m ok with the idea of never having children; other days, other weeks, all I feel is the pain of feeling like I’ve “failed” somehow as a woman. Some days I enjoy the quiet, my time alone with my research and my books; other days, I’m consumed with jealousy that I’m excluded from the sisterhood of Mothers.
Someone I dearly love called me recently to tell me that she was experiencing some mild post-partum depression, and for the first time in our relationship, I couldn’t listen with sympathy and love. I wanted to; I love her and her children very much. But I’m struggling with depression myself, I’ve been struggling with it for months, and I don’t have the joy of a new baby and growing children as compensation. I’m not trying to minimize or ignore the real pain that she may be experiencing, but I can’t get close to it. I feel so raw that I can’t let anyone lean on me for support.
We had a church social on Friday, and I was enjoying myself (a rare occurrence in noisy, group social events!) until one of the Hoarde of Young Mothers showed up carrying her newest baby. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but she always manages to say things that emphasize my separation from that exclusive group. This time, I was talking to the parents of adolescent twins about my twin brothers. The Young Mother said “oh, so you could have twins, then!” It was an innocent remark, made in all good faith – after all, she doesn’t know about my infertility, my depression, my mountain of medical issues – but it cut deeply. I want people to value me for who I am as a person, rather than waiting expectantly for me to be valuable as a procreator. Asking “when” or “if” or “why not” about my/our reproductive plans makes me feel like I’m not worth anything at all.
I know that if I opened up about our struggles, other people would try to offer consolation. No one is maliciously trying to hurt me. But how do I discuss something so private, so intensely personal, especially with people who haven’t even learned yet to take my hearing loss into consideration when talking to me? How can I go to an endless round of baby showers, knowing that not only will I be anxious and stressed because I can’t hear and can’t participate in conversation, but also because it will remind me that I am not one of the Hoarde, and might never be?
How do I balance the ups and downs of all the things that life is throwing at me this year?