Monday, 22 September 2008

Crossing the Line

One of the many difficult things about infertility is the feeling that you are standing still while everyone else is moving forward with their lives. While many of my contemporaries have now completed their PhDs, and in some cases even published their first monographs, I instead embarked on a gruelling round of tests and treatments. Over the past six years, I have stood by and watched while many of my RL friends have gone on to have babies. One of my closest friends, who started trying after we did, now has a son of school age and a daughter aged three.

Even here in the IF blogosphere, it is impossible to escape the feeling of being left behind. I know of several women who started blogging at around the same time as I did who are now parenting. Two women who were cycling when I was undergoing my first round of IVF have just given birth.

Lisa recently wrote an excellent post on this very topic, in which she described her reactions to hearing the news that another woman who has been dealing with infertility is now pregnant. She acknowledged that, although she is happy for them, she also struggles with her own feelings of sadness: I no longer think "I hope I can join them soon". My thoughts now are "why did it work for them when it won't work for me?" It's a reminder that these treatments can work....that they should work. So, why not me? I think I've tried hard enough. I think I've done everything I've been told. I think I've paid my dues. So, why not me?

I think that anyone who has ever been through a cancelled or failed cycle can relate to these feelings. But, as hard as it is to hear of other people's pregnancies, it can be even harder to continue to support those who have crossed over to the 'other side'. Sometimes it is simply too painful to look at pictures of scans and bumps, or to be confronted by one of those ghastly animated ticker things counting down exactly how many days are left until their little bundle of joy arrives. And, although I do feel guilty about it, I find that, in many cases, I simply stop reading. I can no longer really relate to what these women are going through. I have no opinion to offer when they ask for advice on what stroller to buy, or what colour they should paint the nursery.

On one level, I envy those who are able to make such a smooth transition from 'infertile' to 'pregnant'. For me, the journey is altogether more complicated. Over the past six years, my infertility has become - for better or worse - part of who I am. I cannot simply switch off those feelings.

And so I am struggling with the whole question of what it means to be pregnant after infertility and loss. How do I write about my pregnancy while remaining sensitive to the feelings of those who are still in the trenches? How much can any of you really bear to hear? Is there still room for me in the IF blogosphere? I am, after all, the woman who cried 'diminished ovarian reserve' and then managed to get herself knocked up without medical intervention. So many of you who read and comment on my blog have been through more than I can possibly imagine. I am humbled in the face of your strength and courage, and cannot help but feel guilty that I should have been the one to have unwrapped the bar that contained the golden ticket.


Mrs.X said...

I heart you Ms. Heathen.

I think alot of the resentment that builds up is a direct result of the manner in which a pregnancy after infertility is handled - I have stopped reading a lot of blogs that I used to follow because the writer seemed to have completely forgotten that she was ever infertile and is now prattling on about nursery colors or how much (fill in body part here) aches - and don't even get me started on the tickers! It's like a double slap in the face - not only did this person succeed in what you have not, they are (unconciously) flaunting it in your face. I used to assume that going through this experience would sensitize you once you make it to the other side, but apparently not sometimes.

You, on the other hand, have that rare gift of understanding that we are all human and can only stand so much and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you for remembering those of us who are not where you are. As for your place in the blogosphere, it has changed but I think you have a lot of choice in how it changes.

Sending lots of love across the ocean.

Lisa said...

Wow. I want to hug you right now! This is such a powerfully written post. You were able to take my feelings and expand upon them to an area which, while I have thought about alot, I have not yet been able to put into words.

When someone who has struggled as we have finds success, are they capable of offering the level of support they offered when they were still struggling? I don't know that I have the answer to that. But, I also don't know that I expect that same level. You (the collective you) are in a different place and that's a place that should be celebrated. As in life, we should NEVER forget where we came from, but, we're allowed to move on and enjoy the new stages of life we find ourselves in.

Just by virtue of the fact that you are questioning all of this it shows that you have an enormous amount of empathy for those of us still in the trenches and I suspect that, while you will find a way to enjoy all of the new and wonderful things that are going to happen to you, you will continue to have strong feelings of support for those of us still struggling. I, for one, couldn't ask for more than that!

Jendeis said...

I wish it would happen for me, but I don't ever wish that it hadn't happened for you or anyone else.

Malloryn said...

Ms. Heathen, you are an amazing person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I was very moved by your words.

I will admit that there are some blogs that I read less frequently because I just can't relate to what the writer is going through (e.g., choosing colours for a nursery, buying maternity clothes). Of course I'm happy to know that their struggles are over, and that their pregnancies are going well. That is a good thing and it deserves to be celebrated.

There are others that I have followed through pregnancy and birth, mainly because the blogger was always sensitive to where they came from. It's not easy to strike that balance. Pregnancy automatically makes you part of a different group, with new challenges to be faced.

Ms. Heathen, I am and I was thrilled to hear about your pregnancy. I wish you wouldn't feel guilty. I know there are many people who will be cheering you on along the way. Thank you for remembering us.

moosk said...

glad to find you, ms. heathen. seems we're a bit of kindred spirits. your june post was very close to my heart -- thank you for sharing.

re: this post, it sounds like you are doing all you can. ultimately, this blog is for you and your journey. some will want to continue that journey with you, and some will not, regardless of how sensitive you are.

i know i stopped reading plenty of blogs once i heard about a successful pregnancy, not because i begrudged the lucky woman, but because they were no longer sharing a journey with me, and the shared journey was what interested me most. i won't deny some natural jealousy (and the occasional, irrational theory that there are only so many pregnancies to go around), but for the most part, an i/f success story was a sign to me that it works... and even we, i/f women, can sometimes find fertility.

Pepper said...

I love that you're even considering this topic. I have a formerly infertile friend who is painfully obnoxious with her pg, similar to the bloggers you've mentioned.

I have to agree with moosk that, at the end of the day, this is *your* blog. It should be a place where you feel completely comfortable sharing your feelings and your journey. Your story may make others uncomfortable whether you intend to or not. It's just the nature of IF. All you can really do is be yourself and observe the "IF rules of etiquette" - If your post contains lots of pg-related info, give a warning at the top so the reader can decide whether or not to continue reading, etc.

I think it's awesome and amazing that you got pg without any medical intervention after such a long road. That's the best stuff ever. I also agree with Mrs. X that you've handled your journey with grace. Who can expect more from you?

luna said...

this is a lovely post that shows your compassionate heart, ms. h. sounds like you are suffering from survivor's syndrome. I hope you can embrace crossing that line and making it to the other side.

this is your space and you should write what you feel. pregnancy after infertility can be such a complex range of emotions. it's not all nursery colors and unicorns for some people. and yet, there is joy, however cautious, that your dream may be coming true after all...

I don't have a problem when I stop reading someone's blog (which I often do) after those rising betas or whatever the case may be. I wish someone well and truly mean it, but then I often have to click away. after so long, I simply can't be reminded of what continued to elude us, and worse, the passage of time by the trimesters, births, and birthdays of other people's children. that is the childless infertile in me.

the truth is I know others who were successful when I was not stopped reading me too, or at least commenting, so it goes both ways.

I agree with the commenter who said it's about the journey and sharing it with those you encounter along the way. some people are just passing through, others get on and off all the time, and we often head in different directions. it's natural for people to find different paths. we choose to follow the journeys of others for whatever reason compels us.

you've exhibited great empathy here, as others have already said. but this is your space and you need to write what you feel. don't even worry about who is reading or not. I hope you can enjoy the ride, or at least continue to share it from your heart. that's why I'm here at least.

Pamela Jeanne said...

The interesting thing for me in watching all of the comings and goings on the IF blogosphere the past 18+ months is how much variation there seems to be in how we process infertility. Some clearly want to forget it ever happened to them. Some question why them and not me (on both sides of the pregnancy equation). Some have better abilities to separate out their own situation from someone else's and still offer support (again on both sides of the pregnancy equation) while still others seem stuck in the bowels of IF hell. I've been in all of the above places at differing points but what I have come to appreciate -- and this is a breakthrough for me -- is that pregnancy/delivery don't have to be a barrier if both sides are sensitive to the difficulties and make the effort to be deferential and accept that that there will always be a modicum of guilt and envy regardless of the outcome. We're human and we make mistakes but we can always learn from them.

Kath said...

Dear Ms. Heathen, thank you for this post. You said it beautifully, and you echoed many feelings I have had, including guilt. This is such a complicated subject with many, many layers of emotion. But the important thing, I think, is to be sensitive and attuned to those emotions in others -- that is what people respond to, what keeps many coming back even when the luck cards have been dealt very unevenly. There are those, of course, who will stop reading no matter how sensitive you are, and it's nothing you can or should blame yourself for. I hope you are able to enjoy this pregnancy -- even on your blog -- despite your current knot of feelings.

Hekateris said...

I don't think the infertility ever leaves, but after the baby comes, it becomes less important.

The Chieftain is almost 7 months old, and I am still jealous of pregnant women. Of women with more than one child. Of those who've had no struggle in getting pregnant. Lately, I mourn the passage of years while waiting for the Chietain, and I wonder, would I treaure him as much if it had been easy? At the same time I wonder, can I have this again? Will FET 2009 work? And if it doesn't, what then?

Ultimately, I started a new blog for my pregnancy, because Birch and Maple was sacred space for me, it still is, even though I no longer post much (anywhere, nevermind both blogs). It was the easiest solution at the time. I wish my readers could read both blogs, though I understand only too well why they don't.

Lisa said...

First of all, it is great that you are sensitive to others' feelings. But let me shout something here with love: Do NOT spend one minute more of your child's precious life feeling guilty that you are pregnant. I mean it. It gets you nowhere, and it does nothing for anyone else. Deal? Good.

I know you are still smarting from your battle with IF. It has been rough, and some of that pain is going to stick with you. You've learned from it. But conceiving without medical help is the very last thing you should feel sheepish about. Science does not have ALL the answers as to why people struggle or why it works when it does. You possess the ability to conceive and it happened. Hallelujah! It's as it should be. And it's about time. :)

As for working with the blog: I can identify because I struggled during my 10-week pregnancy to figure out what to do with my IF-focused blog . . . I really don't know what would have happened, but I totally get feeling pulled in different directions. I thought I might create a pregnancy blog once I felt solidly pregnant. But I also thought, no, any blogging I do about a pregnancy of mine would necessarily pass through the filter of my IF experience. And so it made sense to me to just keep being myself, as I evolve and the same story (mine) unfolds . . . ON my blog. I can't control who reads my blog at any point in the process -- ultimately I write what I need to write, otherwise what is the point?

Hugs and more hugs to you for feeling torn in some ways. It is normal . . . I know you will start feeling better and gain surer footing as your pregnancy progresses. And I, for one (of many), will be watching and cheering you on all the way.

-Lisa from IG

womb for improvement said...

Ms. H, were you by any chance bought up Catholic? I recognise your guilt! I have wittled out many former IFs now pregnant from my reader not (completely) because of jealousy but they are simply at a different stage to me and I can't relate to them.

Its what happens. We move on we get support elsewhere.

But the last thing I want is for anyone to not enjoy their pregnancy because X has been trying for longer, Y had more miscarriges and Z more rounds of IVF/IUI/Drugs etc.

Write about your pregnancy, enjoy it, use this blog as a way of recording your feelings. And if some people slip quietly away that is their decision. But as long as you don't get too nappy-headed and your quality of writing remains I'm sure many of us will keep reading.

(Just don't get a ticker!)