Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Infertility: The longest journey"

I recently stumbled upon this article, a first-person account from the Hamilton Spectator published in January.  It's actually an abridged version of a longer article that ran in the United Church Observer.

There was much here that I could relate to, and I thought the story was well told, with some sharp insights into infertility and why it is such a painful experience. I also appreciated the author's willingness to discuss the possibility that her story wouldn't end happily. Sample quotes:
...infertile women and men do have a story to tell, one that's important to share in our baby-obsessed culture. And it doesn't always have a happy ending. 
(Spoiler alert: Hers does.)  
I genuinely tried to envision a meaningful life without children. I would become a radical environmental activist. I’d move to New York City. I’d travel. I’d throw myself into my career and work my way to the top of a major magazine. I’d move to Africa and work for a good cause.  
Was there a niche in this world where few people would have children, want them or even talk about them? I could imagine only one: the adult film industry. Unfortunately, I’m woefully underqualified.
(OK, I've never heard THAT one before...!)

And, towards the end (added emphasis mine):
At a recent retirement party for one of the nurse practitioners at his Hamilton office, Dr. Stopps — who has worked with thousands of prospective parents over the past 38 years and knows pretty much everything there is to know about infertility — admitted to me that the one thing he doesn’t understand is the persistence. Why do people keep trying? Why do they put themselves through so much?

My answer: It’s more than wanting a baby. It’s wanting to fit in, wanting to graduate through the stages of life, wanting to fulfil the dreams of marriage and family, wanting some piece of yourself to remain after your death. It’s also about being caught up in the medical regimen — remembering to take your medication, give yourself an injection, drink your tea, chart your temperature, make an appointment. It’s the buildup, the effort, the letdown. It’s the biological time bomb ticking away, threatening to blow up the entire plan, hammering its steely message into your head: you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. It’s holding on to the hope that maybe if you persist, maybe you still can. 
The stigma of infertility is still with me. I am haunted by what would have happened if our third IVF had failed. And although we have a baby, as a couple, we are still infertile. But I think the experience has also deepened my compassion for others who feel isolated, set apart from the course of “normal” life, unsure how to get back on track. Divorce, illness, depression, addiction, death of a loved one — infertility is a snap compared to some of these challenges. But in my own way, now I get it.
This has been my experience too. Thank you, Jocelyn Bell.


  1. Nice. Will read the article in full later, but know you've picked out the best bits! Thanks for doing that.

  2. OK, so I just clicked over to the article, and was immediately hit by all the baby photos of the author and her child in a slideshow, next to the article. Argh! Did they really need to do that? People who might want or need to read this article will be sent reeling. Sigh. I'll read the article. But I know many won't.

  3. What Mali said: that was what I thought, as well. I've read the entire post, but I can imagine some people who won't read the post because of the photos.

    Anyway, I have a different experience here. Because we decided not to try any treatment (other than some Chinese herbs) and we've already decided to let go of this dream, I found that others still DO NOT wish to let go.

    I once told an Indo neighbour right out that it's fine for us even if we have no kids, but she wouldn't let it go. That's not a problem for us because she's just a neighbour, but when it's your own parent that's still harboring hope, it can be tricky.

    My resort was writing my mom a very long letter, explaining why praying for us to have children or asking us to keep praying to have children didn't help at all. Thankfully, the letter was accepted and read and she understands what kind of support I need.

    So you can never win either way...either they think you're trying too hard (selfish because there are so many abandoned kids that way) or you're not trying enough (or not praying enough) or that people think you're giving up (instead of letting go). This doesn't affect me the way it used to be because I'm further away in my healing journey, but it was much harder in the beginning.

  4. Yes, me again. Sorry. Advice to other readers - if you want to read the article, click on the second link that Loribeth gives, not the first. There are no trigger photos of happy families on that.

    And it is a very good article, and worth a read. She is very honest about the fears and self-doubt and self-blame she encountered - and I recognised many of these (if not all).

    And I like too that she (and Loribeth) recognised that the trauma and grief of infertility - when you can step back and look at it - helps us develop and deepen our own compassion for others. Although I don't think I'd describe infertility as "a snap" as she does.

  5. I finally read the article. I guess I didn't want to read it because I thought oh, another one of those I was infertile for six months and then I did IVF and it worked kind of thing. But she had multiple IUI and 3 IVFs (like me) and her one sole embryo brought her a son. I thought it was heartbreaking though that her husband definitely did not want to adopt and they considered separation. I wonder if they would have eventually divorced had they not been successful on their last attempt. Did having a baby save their marriage? That's one question she didn't explore.