I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that most everyone has been in a situation where someone says something to you or asks you a question that throws you off guard and it isn’t until later that you come up with a witty comeback. For example, I was walking through the mall the other day and one of the ladies working at a kiosk in the middle of the mall walked up and said, “Can I ask you a question?” to which I quickly replied, “Sorry, I’m in a hurry.” As I walked away I realized I should have said, “You just did. Thanks!” 😉 Sure this usually happens every once in a while to most people, but imagine being asked this type of question every time you meet someone new or someone you haven’t seen in a while. Imagine wanting to make a smartass remark, but knowing that it would only unnecessarily hurt the person’s feelings for what seems like such a benign question.
This has been my dilemma for 10+ years now. Anyone who has met me knows pretty quickly that I’m married and have two dogs. The question that is almost always asked is, “So, do you have kids?” It’s just like a knife through my heart every time I hear it. For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I have been battling fertility issues during our marriage. We’ve been married for over 14 years now, but have only been on the doctor path for the last 10 of them. During this time, I’ve taken fertility drugs – oral and injectible, had so many ultrasounds I could be an ultrasound tech, doubled as a pin cushion because of all the blood work that’s been done on me, had surgery, and even gone through two fresh In Vitro Fertilization rounds as well as two frozen ones with the last fresh cycle resulting in a miscarriage…all with nothing to show for it except heartache after heartache. This really only slightly touches on everything I personally have been through.
So imagine then, failing at something you want so badly only to have it thrown back in your face every time you meet someone new or someone you haven’t seen in a long time. One thing you learn how to do is put on that happy face and resist the urge to hurt the person who unknowingly hurt you by asking that question. Again, it’s a completely benign question this person has asked. Benign or not, it doesn’t make the reality any less painful. Feelings have to get buried…deep. It’s a defense mechanism that I’ve gotten very good at over these years.
There’s a movie I watched several years ago that described this journey so eloquently. The movie was “Never Say Never: The Deidre Hall Story.” For those of you who don’t know who she is, Deidre Hall played Dr. Marlena Evans on Days Of Our Lives for years and I have always been a fan of the show. This movie is a true story about Deidre’s journey to becoming a mother and her struggle with infertility. She even stars in the movie. To sum up, she does become a mother finally via a surrogate (named Robin ironically) and the surrogate’s donor eggs. During the movie, there is a scene where she meets Robin for the first time. Right as she’s about to walk up to her, a fan comes up and asks for an autograph and picture to which Deidre very politely obliges. As she finally approaches her, Robin says to Deidre that she thought she could handle being the surrogate for a celebrity but now doesn’t think it’s something she would feel comfortable with. Deidre, having been through so much already, is completely understanding and suggests they go to tell the program director that this wasn’t a good match. As they’re waiting to see the director, Deidre does such an amazing job describing what infertility really is. Keep in mind I’m paraphrasing, but she basically says that it’s God’s way of taking your dreams away a little at a time. First you dream of getting pregnant in the backseat of a car…then that’s gone. Then you dream of having a big family…that too is gone. Then you dream of getting pregnant at home…gone…etc. This scene brings me to tears every time I see it because the truth behind it is about as real as you get in regards to infertility.
For most people, getting pregnant isn’t something they thought much about…it just happened like it’s supposed to. Please know that I am very happy for anyone who wants to get pregnant and can easily as this is not something I want to have in common with anyone. Try putting yourself in the place of someone who has struggled with this for years and years. There are constant reminders everywhere! Hell, you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your parents being able to reproduce. Because you spend so many years putting on that happy face for everyone, many people don’t know just how much it hurts…especially hearing someone say, “You want my kids? I’ll sell them to you for cheap!” Again…resisting the urge to bitch slap that person takes every ounce of strength in me!!!
One of my favorite insulting comments is, “My sister/cousin/friend/neighbor adopted a child and then got pregnant!” Ummm…last I checked, adoption wasn’t a fertility treatment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for them, but there are no guarantees of having a biological child of your own after adopting. Many of you may be wondering how I feel about adoption. I am utterly and completely open to adoption…always have been. There are so many children out there who deserve to know what real unconditional love is who may have never experienced it. I know I have so much to give. So then your next question must be, “Well then why haven’t you adopted yet?” My answer…*sigh*…is that this decision can be a difficult one to convince other people to agree to when they don’t want to give up hope or would be happy to just do without.
Right now, even the thought of getting pregnant scares the hell out of me because I, more than most people, know that just because the test results are positive doesn’t mean that everything will work out. I have cried with several friends and family in the last few years for this very reason. The pain is unbearable and can be only lessened slightly with time…at least in my experience.
What I’m learning now is that at some point, feeling more like in the very near future, the dam will break and not only is it scary to think of what will flow out when that happens, but who will get caught in the flood waters. I’ve felt lately like the little Dutch boy who is quickly running out of fingers to plug all the holes in the dam I’ve built over the years. These overwhelming feelings affect every part of your life, every relationship you have, and can even cause you to doubt everything you know and once believed your life to be. Every journey must have an end…I’m just having trouble seeing the light at the end of my journey as nothing more than a train headed right for me.
So my dear friends and family, my hope with this is that you will be more aware of your blessings. You may not have had to work hard for your child(ren), if you’ve been so blessed, but please be aware that this doesn’t come easily for others. Everyone has their battles; some are more difficult than others. Some battles affect them only for moments while others have an enduring affect on every relationship and part of their life. They make us who we are as does every other struggle we go through. As I continue to deal with this, I know that the dam may break, but I hope I’ve made it to high enough ground when it happens to be able to point out the dangers to others below.
Congratulations on your first blog!
Proud of you for sharing! Your words of experience and truth will touch others….
You eloquently hit the nail on the head. And I know that the first hurdle is just to get pregnant -it’s the staying pregnant with a healthy baby that is the next hurdle. Glad you shared -those of us going through this experience appreciate the honesty.
I don’t know you, just happened upon this blog – but yes, thankyou for sharing with honesty and setting an example to others about being real. Thankyou for sharing what goes on in your heart and mind for those who aren’t in your shoes. We need to know what benign comments can maybe do to someone. The world needs to give a second thought about the question “do you have kids?” becasue infertility, unfortunately, is more common than most people know.
How do you deal with this spiritually? This is my problem. I am just married, and I’m afraid of being infertile. And afraid of the bitterness in will create in me against a God that I so much want to believe in…
Thank you for your comments Jennifer. Infertility is unfortunately a more common condition than most people realize. I’ve been dealing with infertility for quite a while now as I’m sure you read. I hope that just because you are now married and want to have kids that you don’t automatically think you’re going to have fertility issues. I think your awareness is more than most people have at that point in their marriage. That is always a good thing. Just be sure to keep the lines of communication open between you and your husband. Infertility is an odd thing; it will either bring you closer together or drive a wedge between you. Spiritually, I have had many many conversations with God. I think it’s only natural to go through feelings of loss, anger, frustration, etc. I will never try to begin to understand why this has been so difficult for us and so easy for most other people…especially those who don’t even want a baby but who have one. What is important is that you hold strong to your faith and take comfort in it rather than turn away from it. I can’t tell you that will always be easy, but if you can still look at a beautiful sunset or a sweet child’s face and know that God exists then you’ll be okay.
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