Sunday 13 April 2014

Mum, Dad... We're Infertile...

Look Who's Back! 
"So have you thought about what you'll say if your dad asks about having kids?"

Huh? It was quarter to five on a Saturday morning and Husband was dropping me off at the airport for my trip to Nashville to meet up with my father and to watch the women's Final Four Championship. I was still half asleep and could barely hold a coherent thought in my head. "Oh, I don't think he'll say anything."

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking on my part, but I've been on a good run. Five years ago, I was invited to travel to Washington DC to participate on a panel discussion and Husband and my parents joined for a mini-holiday. We were approaching our third anniversary in a few months, so my mother figured it was an appropriate time to ask the "when are you going to give us some grandchildren?" question over dinner. I dropped the bomb that I had no intentions to procreate and a very tense discussion ensued. So tense that the waiter kept topping up our wine glasses and didn't charge for the second bottle. When we parted at the end of the trip, my dad hugged me and whispered "I'm okay having cats for grandchildren." That was the last time the issue was addressed. My mother even surpassed my expectations when she didn't intrude with questions after little Myrtle was born.

I'm pretty adapt at thinking on my feet and answering questions on the spot, but this time I was truly caught off guard. We were eating lunch at a BBQ restaurant, and I dipped my napkin in a glass of water to clean some sauce off my fingers. My dad joked that he and my mother thought about inventing a cleaning product that they would name "Mom Spit". I brought up the fact that as a novice swimmer, I bought a bottle of anti-fog spray for my goggles, only to learn that veteran swimmers use spit, as it is more effective, free and convenient. Not only did I kill his idea, but I forgot that most people who don't work in healthcare don't talk about bodily fluids while they're eating. Then I took it one step further. As I have an insatiable desire to share my accumulation of useless facts, I described that my grandmother taught me that the enzymes in your saliva are specific to digest your own blood and no one else's. You can use spit to clean blood stains if it's your blood and your spit (try it some time, it really works!). This was a discovery among women in quilting circles and apparently a perfect opening for my father.

"So, when are you going to make any plans to share all the knowledge you've learned from your grandparents and hopefully from your mother and me?"
Oh fuck! he's asking the question...
"I'll write everything down." I deflected with the evasiveness of a skilled politician.
"I'm not worried about your memory." Damn, he's persistent!
Silence. [insert cricket sounds]
"Well, that shut you up."

Do you really want to hear my answer to your question?
Well actually, we're planning to transfer our remaining embryo from our first IVF cycle the day after I return. I've been shooting myself up with progesterone every other morning in preparation. You see, we're reproductively challenged. Yeah I know, the irony...ha-ha. No, I'm not going to tell you the specifics of our problem as they are irrelevant. This is where we are. We're infertile and we need the highest level of help and so far it hasn't worked.  No we don't need money, but we appreciate the offer. Money alone can't bring us a baby. I am so sorry. You may never be a grandparent...

May I ask some questions in return?
Do you have any idea how painful this burden of disappointment is? Do you have any idea how it breaks my heart when I see the longing look in your eyes when we see little kids? Do you know what a punch to the gut it is when I hear you talk about your time with 'little Myrtlepants'? Do you notice how quickly I change the subject when little Myrtle is introduced into the conversation? Were you suspicious of anything when you and mum asked if everything is alright multiple times when we spoke on Christmas Day? Will you and mum ever understand the rationale for my secrecy? Remember when I was little and there were times when you needed to conceal the truth to protect me? It's my turn to do that for you. I just can't bring you through the devastation of miscarriages and failed treatment cycles. I can't make it even harder for you to play with little Myrtle and look at your friends and their grandkids. I wouldn't wish the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss on anyone, and I especially can't inflict it upon the people I love the most.

"We'll know when we're ready." I answered him. "I still have plenty of time. Nana was 45 when she had you." That was the end of the discussion. Okay, I really feel really guilty about referencing my grandmother's age, as I know that a woman spontaneously conceiving and delivering a healthy baby boy in 1946 was the exception to all the exceptions of the norm. Hey, I'll use anything I have at my disposal. There were some practical reasons for my cowardliness. My mother was probably jealous enough of this father daughter trip, if I confessed to my father first, I'd never hear the end of it. I'd also never hear the end of it from Husband if I became the one who caved.

A few weeks earlier I was competing at our end of season swim meet. Over all I was pleased with my results, but I was disappointed with my time in one of our relays.  My coach caught up to me in the pool during my warm down and tried to console me. "Well, you had a lot of tough events today." I had competed in the 100 and 50 yd butterfly, swam the butterfly leg of our 200 yd medley relay and did another 25 yards of fly during my 100 IM. "Plus, your absences have been more noticeable lately." she added. I was so tempted to offer an explanation at that moment. Well, I was going through my second miscarriage during the month of December -I figured no one would want to share a lane with me! More recently, I missed the better part of a week as I had an embryo transferred into my uterus and your work-outs are considered the 'strenuous exercise' I had been instructed to avoid. No, it didn't work. I'm not pregnant, so I can't use that as an excuse for my poor time. These words came to me in my mind but couldn't make their way to my mouth. I froze in my own silence as it occurred to me that if I couldn't even tell my swim coach about our plight, how would I ever manage to tell my parents?

I'm becoming aware that I'm approaching my own 'put up or shut up' deadline for telling my parents if this cycle doesn't work and we're facing another fresh cycle. Although I don't know why I made such a suggestion as it's not an imperative detail and is probably a bad idea to impose more stress on ourselves during the final cycle. As I've reference before, concealing our infertility is the only aspect of the process that I can control, but it's time to admit that part of the desire for keeping this secret is that I would get to disclose when we have a happy ending to our story. I need to acknowledge that I only have domain over the secret, as my fantasy scenario is still out of my control and it's time to prepare for an alternate conclusion. When we left, my dad reminded me how much he and my mother love me and will always be there for me. "What ever you need." he added. I need your understanding when we tell you, Mum, Dad... we're infertile...

Hello Kitty joined us in Nashville for the Women's Final Four!
Jubilations! 2014 Champions
UCONN Men and Women! 


  1. Update on my Grandmother: she weathered through her post operative course so far and is schedule to return to the rehab unit at her nursing home tomorrow. Thanks for all your concerns!

  2. Glad to hear your grandmother is doing well. I'm sorry your dad asked you "the question". It sounds like you might be near ready to tell them? Trust your gut- that's my advice. And of course, YAYYYYYY HUSKIES!!! XO

  3. Telling people is like letting them into your own private world, and that opens you up to hearing their reactions, which are often imperfect (especially if it's not something they've dealt with before). It's tough. I think the most important thing about being ready to share the struggle is to accept that you can't control those reactions, and they may very well hurt you. So you just have to be mentally prepared for that.

    That said - I tell EVERYBODY. I tell way too many people. Sometimes I regret it, most times I don't. But I will say that it's gotten easier and easier to ignore insufficient/offensive responses the more open I am. Truthfully, people treat it like less of a big deal than it really is, which can be annoying in and of itself. Like hey, people, battles are being fought, lost, and won over here, and you just kind of shrug over it. This MATTERS.

    Good luck. As above comment says, you'll know in your gut the right moment to share... if ever.

  4. It's a tough one. When I finally told my dad (although that was years before we started IVF) I broke into tears. I managed to keep a straight face when telling most other people, but somehow this was harder.
    I'm still hoping you will be able to reveal the IVF struggles along with much happier news!

  5. Hi. I'm new to your blog. This post really resonates with me. I still haven't told my father about my infertility. I have told his sister in hopes that she'd tell him. She's known for having a big mouth, but it turns out that even she realized that infertility is a heavy burden. Although I still haven't told my Dad, it's nice that his relatives know now. I don't have to deal with the constant questions about children.

  6. I'm sorry that you're struggling with what to tell your parents. I think though, if you feel ready to finally tell them, you may feel like a weight has lifted from your shoulders. Once I finally told mine, it was such a relief to not have to keep that secret. I understand that you don't want to cause them pain, but naturally as their child, your pain is their pain, even though right now they may not understand what's at the root of it. Sending big hugs your way!

  7. As I'm still holding out for the, "Surprise, you're grandparents!" announcement and just never telling my parents what it took to get there, I understand. I recently made a remark to my mother about grandmothers having gray hair, when she quipped back, "I don't have gray hair, and I COULD be a grandmother." It stung a little, for sure. Good luck with your FET! I'm hoping you get to tell your parents exciting news in a few months.

  8. Phew, that hypothetical response made me tear up. I really hope you won't feel like you have to bear the brunt of the burden on your own forever, as if to save them the heartache of experiences a mere ounce of what you've gone through yourself. I'm glad he asked. Even though I'm sure your heart skipped a few beats and it's never a fun topic to visit, to know he/they do care and want to be there for you is what matters most. Holding out some major hope that this FET will work and you can just share the good news that you've deserved for so long. End of story!

  9. We didn't tell many people about our IF journey for the first few years because we thought it was easier that way. And because we were hopeful that our BFP was right around the corner.

    I think you'll know when it's the right time to let people in, and who you feel safe enough to confide in.

    It's never an easy conversation, but in my experience, I think it has saved us a world of heartache not having to answer the "so when are you having kids?" question eight million times over and over.

    Sharing our struggle has also opened up conversations with other people talking about their personal trials in their own lives. This has deepened some of our relationships and been good overall.

    Ether way, I think there's no perfect answer. If you tell people, some of them will be assholes, but some of them will surprise you with their generosity of heart.

    Good luck with your decision.

  10. Telling our parents has been both a blessing and a curse. It's wonderful to have them to talk to throughout everything, and not have to dodge questions we don't want to have to deal with. But when cycles fail, it's four times the disappointment. I've also had to deal a bit with tempering expectations, since I think both our moms thought that IVF #1 was sure to work. They've learned a lot along the way though, and in the end I've never regretted telling them. Like everyone says, you'll know if/when it's right.

  11. 1. I hope you tipped that waiter well. 2. Progesterone every-other-day, not everyday? 3. I'm glad your grandmother is improving.

  12. We kept the fact that we were trying for a long time from family and friends. After I finally told my parents (after the IUIs had failed and we were moving on to IVF) it was rather freeing. It helps that they didn't ask exactly when things were happening so I could decide to tell them what was going on or not.

  13. The end of your post brought me to tears! It sounds like you and your Dad have a special bond. Maybe don't label it your "final" cycle? It may create too much pressure. However, I understand why you'd want to label it. It's a tough call. I am thinking of you, my friend. I have my retrieval tomorrow and it's my Dad's birthday. I am keeping our IVF quiet, so I don't know how I'll explain it if I don't call him! I may send him an email and ask him to keep the news to himself. I just can't trust him and my mom, especially, not to unload family drama on me and I need to avoid the stress. People don't understand the emotional logistics of coping with infertility!

  14. I didn't want to tell my mom. I only told her because if she found out later, she would be insulted that I didn't confide in her and get mad at me. My instincts were right. She had no idea how to be supportive and couldn't do much more than feel sorry for me. She didn't even bother to google the basics of IVF until my 3rd cycle when I got tired of answering her stupid questions. So, yeah. On the other hand, some other people were incredibly supportive. I sometimes wish I had been more open while we were going through it. You'll know when it's the right time to tell them.

  15. I'm glad your Grandmother is improving as well and came through the surgery okay. I also wonder why the progesterone every other day instead of every day? As for telling your parents, I think your silent answers here are perfect. Absolutely perfect. I wish you the best of luck when the time finally does come and you decide to reveal your secret. Who knows? Maybe this FET will be the one that sticks around and you can make your announcement as you had originally planned?

    1. It's IM PIO QOD and Progesterone PV TID. Even in a hypothetical conversation I didn't want to explain to my Dad that I've been stuffing pills up my vag...

  16. I can empathize. I still haven't told my mom about the miscarriage and two IVF cycles. I did confess to "needing help...and then some" when she asked if this was a planned pregnancy, but cut the conversation off there. I still wonder if and when I will share with her what it took to get to where we are....

    I hope your grandmother is still doing well!