Thursday, 7 May 2015

Not a Distant Memory

Dear Dr Somebody that I Used to Know,

I hope all is well with you.

When I had my first miscarriage, you offered many comforting words, and you predicted, "when you're thirty weeks pregnant, this will all be a distant memory."

Nearly thirty months later, I am thirty weeks pregnant. A feat that itself had seemed like an improbable quest. I am thirty weeks pregnant and I still remember the elation that I felt when the elusive second line appeared on my pregnancy test. I was gobsmacked with disbelief. I was so certain that it was yet another mistimed cycle and we had conceded that assisted reproduction would actually be easier. We had become one of those couples. The urban legends who spontaneously conceive just before starting infertility treatments. We shared the news with some friends who concluded that it must have been the threat of such treatments that coerced our gametes into cooperating. I was so overjoyed that I couldn't be bothered to correct their inaccuracy. Rather, it made me question if I had just been over-reacting. Maybe we really weren't that subfertile.

I vividly remember the morning that followed two weeks later. I woke up to go to swim practice and I turned on my fertility monitor just so I could have the smug sense of satisfaction to see it read CD42. I was six weeks pregnant. It was a sprinting day, and I was so focused on my times, that I had almost forgot that I was pregnant, until I took notice of an errant drop of water that had landed on the ground in a perfectly formed circle. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't stop staring at it and I suddenly had the urge to check for spotting. Sure enough, I saw a very small light pink dot. I probably would have told one of my own patients that it wasn't any cause for concern, but I immediately knew it represented impending doom for my pregnancy. I didn't hold out for any hope and the inevitable took place in the next thirty hours.

Although I know I am so fortunate to be thirty weeks pregnant, I will always feel that an opportunity was taken away from us. We could be experienced parents of a twenty month old, rather than nervous newbies just starting out. We could have contemplated having a second child before my cut-off age of forty. As I hear the excitement in my parents' voices as they talk about the upcoming arrival of their first and only grandchild, I can't help to reflect that they were denied two years of their experience as grandparents. I really try not to think about all the struggles in the past two years that could have been avoided if my spontaneous pregnancy went to fruition.

Even while appreciating my baby's movement, I still felt pangs of jealousy as a swim teammate recently announced her pregnancy. "We weren't even trying!" she added for extra emphasis on just how easy it was for them. I already knew how unfair this process can be, so I found the reminder to be a bit annoying. While feeling genuinely happy for her and her partner, I hold a greater sense of relief for them. She was aware of it too, as she added "We're so glad we didn't have to go through those extremes like some infertile couples. I could never do that!" You mean someone like me... Her words sting, but what really hurts is that I have to acknowledge that I probably would have said the same thing if we were blissfully fertile. Actually, we probably did say something similar after our spontaneous conception.

Infertility became a core component to my identity and even at thirty weeks pregnant, I still cannot separate myself from my past experiences. I walked around a baby supply store quietly and inconspicuously. Even with my prominent bump, I still felt that I didn't belong there. Fellow infertiles have shared with me that these feelings persist even after the baby is born. Infertility affected so many aspects of my life. It caused disruptions within long standing friendships, but also helped me reconnect with some old friends and develop bonds within the infertility community, for which I offer infertility my reluctant gratitude. The label that I dreaded and the group that I never wanted to join became my comfort zone. Infertility is a bit like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never leave.

Even at thirty weeks pregnant, I am not cured and I never will be. Our experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss will always be with us and will always affect how we feel. At times, I carry feelings of survivor's guilt. Why were we fortunate enough to have a successful treatment while there are so many others enduring failures? I know science holds the answers, but science also explains why we were infertile in the first place. We feel it is very important to be open about our experience with infertility and pregnancy loss. Acting as if we conceived naturally is disrespectful to everything that we experienced and is a disservice to others infertiles. Words seem so inadequate to express our appreciation for your services, yet I struggle to find such words as I don't think we yet comprehend the magnitude of our gratitude.

We may become survivors, but we're forever scarred. It's a scar on a wound that time can't heal. Maybe in thirty years, but not thirty months later, and not at thirty weeks gestation. It's not a distant memory.



  1. lovely post. And I liked the Hotel California comparison.

  2. I don't know if it's because you focus on the most extreme part of your treatment, but I don't find that I dwell on the process of IVF, but I still struggle with the fact that we have a DE/DS pregnancy. Maybe it's the constant which parent will baby look like, the fact that my mother referred to the donors as the "parents" (WTF, I saw red), the little reminders that our genes won't influence the baby's development, but I feel like there are so many reminders of what we don't have. On the flip side, as with you, I'm grateful and overwhelmed with happiness feeling my baby move, seeing his/her (very rapid, OMG I have a giant baby) growth, looking in awe at the strands of baby hair we just saw on the ultrasound. And always wondering why I achieved what so many people haven't yet. Being on the other side, while wonderful, doesn't negate the trauma involved in getting there.

    1. I hear you. When we first started the discussion of donor egg, I was in the car with my mom, explaining the process and she said, "So the real mom...." I cut her off. "No," I said harshly, "Not the 'real mom,' the donor." A few weeks later she said it again. People have such a hard time wrapping their heads around stuff that isn't the status quo.

  3. I love this post and the Hotel California reference. So apt! I will always think of that when I hear that song now LOL. Our experiences shape us. For my part, even though some of my experiences were not what I would have chosen it feels more honest to embrace the reality of them than to pretend that a "happy ending" means I fit easily in the fertile group. Even with an unassisted conception that carried to term (I prefer "unassisted'" to "spontaneous"...spontaneous sounds like the Second Coming or something) I don't feel like part of that group. But the good news is that if our identities are shaped by the past they are not limited by it. There are many good experiences waiting for you that will expand your heart even more.

  4. "Infertility became a core component to my identity and even at thirty weeks pregnant, I still cannot separate myself from my past experiences."--- Feeling the same way! Even now, with a ten week old, I find myself approaching Mother's Day with fear. I remind myself that it won't be that way this year... "Look down," I tell myself, "You are a mom." But before I can even begin to smile or celebrate I think, "but so many aren't yet" and so the day is approached with trepidation. Admittedly, I didn't give birth to my son, but I can wholeheartedly agree that infertility doesn't go away. It's ever present. Tomorrow marks three years for my spontaneous conception's due date. That first baby would be THREE. Instead, I rock my ten week old to sleep and think still utterly clueless about parenting, rather that having been there and done that a time or two before.

    Excited that you've reached 30 weeks! Do we have a game plan in place??? I feel like you're scheduling a bit early because of possible complications... how many more weeks do you have?

  5. Agree with the Hotel California reference...I don't think I'm ever going to be able to listen to that song the same way again. I've had people say similar stuff to me, and I think they think it's weird when I say that I don't want to forget what we've been through. Not that I think it would be possible anyway, but where we came from is such an important part of where we are now. I can't believe how fast the time has gone...30 weeks! Jate will be here before you know it!

  6. Well said. I think in the medical profession (and I'm sure you could speak to this yourself, and you maybe see things a bit differently now too?), once a diagnosis/illness/problem, whatever you want to call it, is defeated/overcome/cured it is seen as problem solved, case closed. But for those who live through it, it's not that simple. Definitely reshapes ones self. True sentiments that many of us echo.

  7. You said it perfectly: "infertility became a core component of my identity" Its so true. I think we are all shaped by our past and our experiences influence our world view long after they have passed.

  8. I was recently saying that maybe the pain goes away at menopause when we're finally all on equal footing.

  9. Hotel California you can check out but you can never leave. How so very true. While my heart hurts that you ever had to check in Im so glad that you have checked out.

  10. There's a lot of what ifs, and I don't think anyone ever truly forgets this journey to parenthood. We know we can't take it for granted when it doesn't come so easily, especially when it's marked by loss in addition to infertility. Congrats on making it to the 30 week mark so far though!