I can so appreciate that people process their experience with infertility differently. Everyone has his or her own coping strategies. Co-worker was much more open with the people who surrounded her. Her mother and in-laws were in the loop with their treatments, and while she didn't broadcast her situation, she freely shared details with some staff members. In contrast, only a handful of people IRL know of my circumstances, but I have no reservations about divulging my deepest feelings on the internet. It has also been interesting to witness how at times, men and women can process their feelings toward infertility in such a similar manner, given that we hail from different planets.
Husband was initially comforted when his friend Raj, informed him that two mutual friends, Angus and Colin, were also experiencing issues with infertility. He would later be sent into a funk when on the same day that Angus announced that his son was born, Colin reported that he and his wife Claire, were expecting twins. (For the record, Angus's son was a first time IVF success, for Colin and Claire, the third time was the charm) When the first of our English friends started to reproduce, Husband expressed that we were falling behind. At the time, I reminded him that it wasn't a race. Now, the non-existent race is over. We lost. Among our friends back in England, we are the last married couple sans child. I pointed out that we could be the first of the English ex-pats living in America to procreate, but he just sent me a look that said, 'don't count on it.'
He revealed that it was hard for him to swallow that Angus had become a father before him, as he was the last person Husband figured would do so. Angus is someone we met during our University days; he was a better than average hockey player, decent quiz team member and he had the ability to chin a pint in less than 3 seconds. He had a certain attraction to Indian women and he was quite the serial monogamist. The attraction to their beauty was self explanatory, but I think the real appeal was that those relationships protected his commitment issues. He was aware that her family would not find him to be an acceptable suitor, and thus he wouldn't feel pressure toward marriage. So it shocked everyone when he announced his engagement and impromptu wedding to a Brazilian women, whom he met just three months earlier.
Even more shocking, was that his new bride had a 3 or 4 year old son from a prior relationship. While not wanting to judge someone I hadn't met; I wondered if a single mother should be jumping into such a quick marriage with someone who describes himself as being "emotionally retarded" on his Facebook profile. Nonetheless, as Angus was a dear friend (and the namesake for my cat), I was hoping things would work out for them. I think Angus adjusted to the changing role from a carefree bachelor to a family man. He committed the social faux-pas of tagging twenty people into a photo that featured only the little boy and later explained, "I'm sorry, I just love that picture of my [step] son!" I figure that by now, if Angus and his wife survived infertility hell, he must have resolved all his commitment issues.
I asked Co-worker if her Husband (who is very similar to mine in many ways) had any dealings with his own jealousy issues. "I don't remember" she honestly claimed. She then followed, "You know, we just don't talk about our infertility experience much anymore." It made sense to me, as they have to prepare for welcoming twins into their lives; why would they? Still, it stung a little to hear those words. Her expanding bump reminded me that she had physically defeated infertility, it was a bit disheartening to learn that she had moved on emotionally.
On the day of my initial BFN, but before AF's appearance, I asked Co-Worker when the bitch arrived in relation to the timing of her IUI. "I think it was exactly two weeks later." I asked when she stopped her supplemental progesterone "Oh, I'm sorry, I really can't remember if I started it before or after the BFP. I just don't think about it anymore. I feel like I got pregnant just like a normal person." I definitely felt let down. I knew she was no longer in the trenches with me, but I didn't realise she was a deserter in the war. I felt more alone, not because she was pregnant and I wasn't, but because it seemed that she wanted to distance herself from infertility.
I'm not about to suggest to any infertile woman how she should or shouldn't feel; there was a part of me that was happy to hear Co-worker use the word 'normal' in the same sentence as she described her pregnancy, as I fear if I do become pregnant there won't be anything that will feel 'normal' about it. Here is my vow if I ever find myself in that position, and my plea to infertility survivors:
Forget the details. Forget the number and size of your follicles. Erase the post wash counts. Leave behind the memories of your retrieval and fertilisation reports. Disregard your initial beta numbers. Think no more about the dose and instructions of your fertility drugs. Just don't ever lose sight of the feelings during your infertility journey.
Remember what it was like to see the lonely single line on a stick each month. Keep in mind how hard it was to see a picture of a newborn baby on Facebook and refrain from posting five pictures of your little one in a single day. Recall the frustration of failed treatments and be sensitive before asking someone about family planning. Be mindful of the annoying advice you received from your Aunt Jane and don't explain that a miraculous spontaneous conception resulted from a relaxing holiday in Hawaii. (Okay, that one was directed to my cousin). Recognise the sense of despair that you felt on the darkest of days when you wondered if it would ever be your turn to be pregnant. At the same time, just because you escaped that place of despondency, please don't make the empty promise that it will happen for me. Although you've been here before, they are still only words, even from you.
Sure enough, two weeks after my first IUI, I started spotting in the evening. I texted Co-worker to let her know her recall about the timing was accurate. "OMG, I'm so sorry I didn't ask about your test results this morning" she wrote back. I explained that I would have notified her if I had any good news. "Yes, but I still appreciated when you asked me." she replied.
She may not talk about her experience; she may not remember the details of her medications or her schedules, but she hasn't forgotten how she felt. Maybe infertility is like the Hotel California, "you can check out any time you like... but you can never leave..."