I’ve Been Thinking….
Don’t be scared my dears, this won’t hurt…….much.
Well, not you anyway.
A very good friend of mine mentioned to me a few weeks ago that a family member of theirs had apparently had infertility issues for years as well as problems keeping a pregnancy and they had expressed their surprise at not being aware of it until very recently. In fact, my friend found out in a roundabout way- not from their close family member. My response to this confidence was, after a prolonged pause, and sort of defensively, simply this: “Well, it’s hard for some people to talk about openly, maybe they were embarrassed.” I felt compelled to defend this woman I really don’t even know. It could be, (ok, most likely) is perhaps this actually hit quite close to home for me, was surprisingly awkward for a moment and got me to thinking; hence this post.
Yes, you understood correctly. I’ve been thinking about this subject off and on for the last few weeks. I just decided today to actually share it with my readers. It’s sort of like when they show dependency group meetings on TV and in films where they make the people stand up in the group and say “Hi. My name is ______, and I’m a/an ________” .
See, I can totally understand this woman’s hiding her “shame” (it is nothing to be ashamed of by a long shot, but sometimes, we feel that way, I guess.) or whatever. I know I’ve hidden mine until just a year ago.
Is that hard for all of you to believe? Me, keeping things like my infertility and miscarriage and whatnot a secret from people? A shocker eh? Well, it’s true. It is true that on my blog (and a few select others as well!), I have described and shared at length my struggles with primary and now secondary infertility. I’ve described in detail the hellish 2 month long miscarriage that almost killed me in 1999. But that was with YOU ALL. In my family (and Z’s), only two people knew about my problem of infertility. My Mom and my husband. Catrina knew as well. I was frankly too ashamed to admit it to anyone else. But you know, I think it goes further than being ashamed. It is, at least in my case, self-preservation. Knowing what you do about my husband’s family, can you really see me allowing them to find out something like this? It would be kind of like saying to them “Oh, I’m going to stand over here at close range while you aim that heat-seeking missile at the bull’s-eye I’ve placed on my chest and just to be safe, I’ll hold this big old flaming torch in front of it so you don’t miss. OKEEDOKEE? Now shoot!”
Duh! Do I strike you as stupid? Lord, I hope not! As is, monster said painfully frequently- and loudly- at any given opportunity for those first 2 years up until the day I found out I was pregnant (finally) that: “If a woman can’t get pregnant and give her husband a child, then he should divorce her and marry someone that can.” (Can y’all say HINT HINT???) Letting her find out somehow that I had fertility issues would have been like handing her a winning lotto ticket, don’t you think? As it was, I felt absolutely horrible that I couldn’t get pregnant, month after month, can you just imagine her digging in Z’s ear every day with “You should marry someone else that CAN get pregnant. She’ll probably never have a baby.” If she knew? Yeah, I thought you might be able to picture that. *shudder*
So, I kept hush and swore Z to keep his mouth Zipped. (Capital Z)
The feelings and emotions that you feel when you realize that unlike what seems like everyone else on the planet, you cannot get pregnant by your husband/boyfriend/significant other/one night stand just looking at you or breathing on you. Ok, I’ll be honest. Or by a lovely night (or day, or morning, or quickie) bit of passion. You ask yourself over and over the horrid question that makes you sound like a 2-year old…. ‘WHY????????’. Which is also usually followed by “Why me?” and in my case, tears and cursing, but hey, I find cussing an excellent vent of emotions, but that’s just me! At least I don’t break stuff………very often……..anymore. (Ha! Joking! Kinda.) Because what usually follows my tears and cussing is typically anger and a big ole dose of determination and stubbornness. But again, that’s just me. Anyway…
Another reason I never told anyone was because, well, it sort of makes you feel lacking. As less of a woman. (All right. Sort of my ass!) Procreation should be fairly simple. Do the deed often enough (for some women, ONCE) and whamo! Baby on the way! Wooohooo. Um, no. For others, like me, not so lovely and definitely not so easy.
I remember very distinctly all the cloak and dagger bullshit when I first started trying to actively get pregnant with Arianna when I was 20. We had been, erm, active for quite a while before we got married, so, after we got married, I figured SOMETHING was up and that the stupid bitch Gynae I had seen at 15 that diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and said in almost the same breath “but you will be as fertile as the Napa Valley, my dear. Don’t worry!”. C*nt. It’s been a bad 17 years in Napa, apparently.
So, hubby and I told NO ONE about this. I went to the top Reproductive Endocrinologist in the US at the time at UCLA. All this bugger did, many.. Many hundreds of dollars later, was tell me that I had PCOS (DUH!) and if I wanted to get pregnant, to see an infertility specialist. With that, I mentioned to a GP, a woman, who was pretty young and she told me about being an intern under a particular doctor and that he was amazing and very nearby and that when she wanted to have a baby, that HE was the one she would go to. Well, I figured what the hell? Why not? I’ve seen a bunch of other doctors that didn’t do jack shit for me, so I made a consultation appointment for myself and off Z and I went.
I was so damn nervous. Z and I both were. It turns out that this doc that had been referred to me was really, really wonderful. He met with us, asked the usual questions, looked over the tests and blood work, etc. that had been done to date and concurred with the conclusion after an ultrasound. He then set about educating us as to the problem. Turns out he was a part-time professor at USC. He continued to explain until he was sure we got it. I learned so very much about my own body’s reproductive system (and that of a male as well) that day and in the following appointments. Doctor S was so kind and funny and really super intelligent. He suggested some further tests for me before we went ahead with any type of fertility treatment just to make sure nothing else was wrong in there and we were only dealing with one thing.
Some of them were hellish for me, one actually had me whimpering for my Mama, but showed that my uterus is normal and nice and my tubes are clear with no scarring or blockage. Well, WHEW! Z’s test also came back lovely. One test was, well, embarrassing as shit. It is called the post-coital test. In a nutshell, you have to have ‘get it on’ and then present your UNWASHED self (in 30 min or less- ew. Just …. EW!!) to the doc for him to check if your cervical mucous is friendly or hostile to your partner’s sp*rm under a microscope. The doc also checks elasticity of said cervical mucous. I don’t think they can come up with a more, awkward test than that, really, but I’m not going to tempt fate and say they can’t, cause, well, you know how things get when I open my big mouth, now DON”T YOU? Anyway, that was fine also.
Am I rambling? Deal.
All during the repetitive attempts at getting pregnant before Arianna and afterward as well, we were sneaky about it. Trying for Arianna, well, we went broke with all the tests and Clomid and injectibles and labwork rounds and then Mama stepped up to the plate for a round or two of injectibles that didn’t work, bless her heart. When Z couldn’t go with me for my appointments, Mama did. I still shudder with horror when I remember my reaction to the steroids Doc S gave me that last injectibles round… it was truly hideous. Doc gave me Dexamethasone and when you read the side effects, I got EVERY SINGLE ONE in the extreme. It was not pretty, and quite frankly, neither was I. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. Eventually I got pregnant on almost a fluke a few months later just by taking Clomid in mega doses on a lark. Literally. Like it would hurt anything? Naw. Good thing I did, risk taker that I sometimes am. Heh. Yet, even after I got pregnant, noone knew what I had been through.
It’s bad enough that YOU feel lacking somehow, but God forbid that others’ see you as lacking too. I mean, it is the most ‘natural’ thing in the world for a woman to have a baby so they say. It is why women’s bodies were created the way they are, to give life and nurture it. Our internal organs are different in that our reproductive organs are inside our bodies. Our hips are broad, our pelvises are even different. Our breasts have milk glands for nurturing a child after birth. So, somehow, to have none of these things be of use is just… well, frustrating.
I know that there are people that have worse reproductive problems than I have and greater challenges to overcome. I’m not saying I’m special. I am one of many, which I now realize. I knew it then, but not to the extent that I do now. Yet even so, I am still ashamed. I admit it freely. Still. And I still am, well, lacking, but I am not alone.
I kept all of this to myself. It was a hard thing emotionally to suffer through. Keeping all these feelings inside, can you imagine how I felt when, after barely surviving Pneumonia, Contagious Mononucleosis and a host of other infections at the same time, including Laryngitis, Pharyngitis for FOUR FUCKING MONTHS WHERE I COULD NOT SPEAK, I somehow managed to forget that I had sucked down some Clomid again in between relapses in conjunction with Metformin and when the bleeding started, I figured it was one of my occasional extra long, bleed for a month or so periods. I almost bled to death, since the other illnesses didn’t get me, although they came damn close. Then, when the Gynae got my D&C results (he did to try and just give me a good “Spring Cleaning” to hopefully stop the bleeding ,heh ) from London, he looked at me and said “Well dear, you are a smart lady, and are very familiar with medicine. I’m going to let you read the results for yourself.” Which he did. I took them and read over and over again, him watching my face very closely (well, he was paranoid, since I’d fainted on him a few times from blood loss and I was still very low at this point, despite the transfusions). I read it maybe 5 times, shaking my head in denial until he gently removed it from my hands. Basically it said that there had been fetal tissue in the sample sent. So, I had miscarried. To say I was in shock would be an understatement. I was devastated. I had been so ill, I didn’t even recognize the pregnancy symptoms for what they were. I can’t help but think that my baby would be 5 years old by now. Anyway, we told everyone that I had in fact miscarried, but not about my multiple attempts at getting pregnant since Arianna was two.
Between that miscarriage and two or three years ago, something interesting happened. The mother of the triplets went to an infertility specialist here after getting married and started getting treatment to get pregnant. Slowly it came out quite by accident that her sister, Su, who had been married for 5 or 6 years was seeing the same doctor, and had been for over a year or two. Then, Triplet mom, A, got pregnant. A month later, Su got pregnant. Su did IVF, and A did monitored injectibles cycle twice. The month that A delivered her daughter S & A’s younger sister (#3 of 4) also went to this doctor. She found out she was pregnant (same treatment as A) 3 weeks after Su delivered her son.
On the one hand, I was glad that they all had successful treatments and had babies. I was also glad not to be the only one. Cause frankly, even if Monster found out about MY fertility problem, what the HELL could she say about ME when her OWN granddaughters, THREE OF EM IN FACT had infertility issues too! Woo. Hoo.
Then I started trying myself in earnest and here is where ‘the other hand’ comes in.
Both A and S, sister 1 & 3 got pregnant AGAIN while I was still trying. A got pregnant with the triplets, with the same doc I was seeing, AKA Wand Monkey. S got pregnant 4 weeks later. I found out she was pregnant the same week I found out my first IVF attempt failed. So, on the other hand, I was not the only one having difficulties, but I WAS the one NOT getting pregnant. Ah, the feelings of being a loser yet again resurface in the midst of my everlasting hope.
Another difference was that A was aware of my infertility treatments. We were seeing the same doctor, and we live almost next door to each other. But did you know that until about two months ago she didn’t know that I did infertility treatment for Arianna? It’s true. Heh. That was a little surprise for her. Everyone apparently just assumes I didn’t want more kids (cause they are all obviously high on crack since you can practically smell my yearning besides seeing it when I’m in the room –or 20ft radius- with a small child)
A big help for me has been the infertility forums I found. One in particular in England, called ReproMed. It wasn’t full of all that babydust bullshit that tends to get on my last nerve (since if the babydust stuff really worked, I’d probably have about 4-5 kids by now!) but people that seemed just like me, normal, whatever that is. Just your everyday people wanting a baby and not wanting to feel alone on the mad roller coaster that is infertility treatment. It was nice to talk to others during the stims where you are one big walking hormone that makes PMS look like a cupcake in comparison to the emotional mood swings and other crap you encounter. I thought that the Clomid and Metrodin (injections) were some heavy crap, but I got a rude awakening when I started the heavier, more pure forms of these hormones two years ago. The only thing worse than that were the EXTRA injections I had to get on IVF cycle 2,3 and 4 on top of the usual ones. Damn. Those were loony. The whole experience is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone at all. It was nice to be able to ask other women if they felt the same, it was reassuring to hear the reply “OMG! YOU TOO??? Whew! Thank GOD!” It becomes quite like a sisterhood (Carrie Jo, I know you know what I mean) and when one of your “sisters” gets pregnant finally, you are genuinely happy for her (I know I am at least) and by the same token, when one doesn’t, you are also there for each other. One of my friends from this forum and I went through two IVF cycles together and she got pregnant both times, but miscarried, the first time twins, before 7 weeks. I felt horrible for her. It gives you hope with every success story you read and hear about. It makes you think “Well, it COULD happen for me too!”.
I guess maybe it’s sometimes easier to tell friends than family. Especially in-laws. You want sympathy or empathy, not pity or derision. Especially when sister and brother in laws or other close family are popping out kids left and right and you hear those horrid words at family gatherings “So, when are YOU going to have a baby, hmmmm?”
Of course, now that so many people in Z’s family are having problems, I feel sort of, well, freed in a way. So even at the wake for Z’s Auntie that passed away about 2 months ago now, I was getting that question by actually very well meaning relatives. (His favorite of my cousins, actually, whom I love like a blood big sister has always said I’m amazing with children and prays regularly for me to have another. Even when she makes her pilgrimages to Mecca for Umra and Hajj she prays for me there. She is amazingly kind hearted) So, at the wake? I find myself in the middle of a huge discussion that I did not start about my infertility and just what is wrong with me. Maybe I was just really emotional about Auntie’s passing, but next thing I knew, I was explaining my medical problem and all sorts of stuff with them. Even the older women started putting their two cents worth in, but it was all very kind and loving, which was nice. These people, who are Z’s relatives from his FATHER’S side, and Auntie’s sisters and cousins (auntie was married to Z’s father’s brother. Got that?) were all being so very kind. Hah! You should have seen monster’s face. I mean, the last thing she wanted was being surrounded by people saying how wonderful with children I am and how they are praying (out loud, mind you) that I get pregnant and that is the very last thing she wants. HAAAAAAA. Well, I’m glad I was able to distract them from their grief for a little bit, even though they are the ones that brought it up.
Funny thing about confidences, you never know how it’s gonna turn out. It’s really a chancy confession, you know? For example…….
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to bitch-slap into next week a coworker and friend of mine a couple of years ago who was incessantly bitching and whining and nagging about being pregnant so soon after marriage. How sick and horrible she felt, all the while asking me for advice. (Which of course I was more than happy to give) Day in and day out I heard her moaning and whining until one day, she made a fatal remark to me “you’re so lucky you aren’t pregnant” and I said very softly: “Actually, I’d kill to be pregnant again and I had a pretty horrible pregnancy sickness wise, 24/7 for 8 months. I should be so blessed.” And then she looked at me and whined… “but I got pregnant so soooon” (she married in July and was knocked up by the end of Sept) which, well, struck me wrong and to which I replied “Well then, you should have kept your legs shut, then shouldn’t you? Or at the very least, used a condom.” I am rarely this bitchy, but when it comes out, well, there is no stopping it for the world. I felt bad for being so, well, harsh, but damn. I put up with the nagging for a long time until I said something. (and Haifa, you know who I’m talking about, don’t you? Hahaha)
Funnily enough, I later confided in this person about my first try at IVF and she was praying so hard for it to work so that we could be pregnant together, the silly thing. Of course, she is also the one that went running to the snake manager that was planning to give me the “golden handshake” right when the Iraq war started and told him that it didn’t work (So much for her keeping it to her own damn self) but he delayed when he realized that if I was pregnant, he couldn’t do it, cause I could SUE and use my pregnancy as an excuse. Needed my work permit to bring more of his countrymen into the country, so, did some office restructuring of the Admin staff. Schmuck.
Am I wandering again? Probably.
Anyway, I can totally understand people keeping their infertility a secret from their families and co-workers and I feel better after this purging of my thoughts.
Whew! Next post, answers to The Inquisition Week 5!