An Ode to the Future, Sort Of

How infertility has changed my relationship with time

Time at a glance is mechanical and microcosmic.  Minutes, hours and days are the terms we tend to first think of it in, and without a doubt infertility alters these two dimensional fragments of time.  The other day my husband and I were taking care of payment (in other words handing over our credit card) for our final fertility treatment, an FET.  “It’s the thirteenth!”  I responded in an unusually chipper tone to the financial manager’s request for the date.  It’s odd for me to know the date these days, thus the excitement, which waned a bit once I realized I knew the date because January 1 had also been my cycle day 1.  But in my mind it of course registered in the opposite order.  So with my cycle day lining up with the actual date, for this small window I am actually in sync with my fellow earthlings as far as where we are in time.  I’m still waiting for the inevitable moment when someone asks for the date and I blurt out “It’s cycle day 19!” before catching myself, at which time it will no doubt be something completely unrelated, like the fourth.  Whether it’s my cycle day, day of anticipated period or ovulation, day that I will start a new drug, or number of days I have to recover before my next IVF, basics such as, oh, Thursday for example, have become quite the obscurity in my mind while basking in the shadow of the aforementioned.  The hours I’ve laid awake at night waiting to fall asleep so I can get up and pee on a stick, as well as hours waiting for those fateful and now all too routine phone calls, (“I’m sorry I’m not calling with better news…”) have felt like years and have no doubt taken some off of my life.  As I was processing the postponement of my second round of IVF due to a change in drug protocol almost a year ago on February 18th, I completely forgot about my upcoming birthday.  Which happens to be February 19th.  Luckily my mother reminded me before it was too late.  So yes, infertility has a twisted way of turning hours into seemingly endless emotional torture chambers and days into matters of intense importance that have not even a subtle connection to the human calendar.  But that’s hardly the beginning.  For there are the intangible, macrocosmic, and I dare say more impactful aspects of time that infertility also manages to contort.

A couple of months ago I was in a counseling session.  “I miss the future.” I said to my counselor.  “Most of the time I can’t even look into it.  And the few times life forces me to try and look into it I see nothing.  I mean literally nothing.  Nothing but a gray, brown, nondescript puckish sort of color.”

My husband was talking the other day to someone who was aware of our situation and who also had recently had a baby.  He and his wife had ended up conceiving naturally after I guess what would be considered a significant period of trying, and not even one year into the child’s life he was lamenting to my husband over the financial woes of having to provide it with a college education.  I know providing a college education is considered a significant “problem” in fertile land.  But it’s difficult to perceive it as one when you’ve just spent the equivalent of half of a college education (every last penny you have and some you don’t) on not getting pregnant at all.  My husband kindly and directly let him know this, and he politely apologized.  What he probably failed to realize, however, was that the anticipation of providing a child with an education also engages you with the future.  Engagement with the future, though challenging, is also energizing.  And very tough to appreciate until you don’t have it.  When you are 3.5 years into infertility and way into an unspeakably tragic list of things you’ve done to produce a pregnancy that hasn’t, not only is your engagement with the future suspended, you’re lucky for whatever shreds of the present you’re able to grab onto.  It’s near impossible to sympathize with someone else’s worry about their future when you are grieving the loss of having a significant piece of yours stolen from you.  When telling me about this conversation my husband confided to me that he doesn’t know what he works for anymore.  He knows that he’s in the right career and business wise he’s clear on his vision, and grateful for the way things are working out, but the purpose of any money he brings home is beyond hazy.  “That’s because you work to pay for drugs that make your wife miserable” I said.  “You work to see yet another catheter inserted into my uterus that leads to another two week wait and more tears over yet another negative pregnancy test.  Only to keep seeing the same scenario playing out over and over and over again.  That is what you work for, because that broken record is what has become our future.”

When you have children most of your life, as well as your future, is more often than not easily defined for you.  Parents always have things to look forward to, like their child’s new year in school, birthdays, summers, learning new activities, graduations and other fertile world milestones.  Now I know, since I do have a bit of experience, that this is where the “Don’t be silly, you have a future…” and the “Don’t be ungrateful for what you do have” and the “I hope you get your sense of self back” people chime in, if they haven’t already.  To which I answer, I know I do, I’m not, and I never lost it to begin with.  How I could keep mocking the self-righteous peripheral “positivity” that often comes with trying to address these understated and under explored truths of infertility, but I’d have so much fun I might never stop.  The greater point I need to get to is that most if not all types of loss entail a future that has been, sometimes temporarily and sometimes definitely, wiped clean of something that is spiritually basic and indescribably fulfilling.  Something that the person suffering the loss had every right and reason to anticipate having and/or keeping.  A future that before it can be redirected and refocused is confused and mangled, or maybe just feels downright nonexistent.  In spite of whatever potentially bright aspects of the future may still exist.

But the lack o’ child is only the tip of the infertile “what in the hell happened to my future?” iceberg.  I was working in the garden a few months after the two year mark of our infertility.  It happened to be a great year for the sunflowers.  “You know it’s weird”, I said to my husband in a most quizzical tone, “I grew the seedlings in good soil, watered them, placed them in the kind of light I thought they wanted……and they grew!”  “Isn’t that what you always do honey?” he asked, referring no doubt to the countless times I move pots or make him dig holes in our root infested flower bed.  “No honey, no, THIS plant wants to be over THERE” I’ll proclaim.  I used to watch him roll his eyes and question how in the world do I know until he saw the things I had insisted on moving flourish in their rightful spots the following season.  “Well yeah, but not in OTHER areas of our life.  I mean we have a lot of sex and I don’t get pregnant.  We have a lot of mad passionate sex and I don’t get pregnant.  I do acupuncture and I don’t get pregnant.  I gain weight and I don’t get pregnant.  I take supplements and eat a nutrient dense fertility diet and don’t get pregnant.  I correct a vitamin D deficiency and don’t get pregnant.  I get better doctors and don’t get pregnant.  I do consistent yoga and don’t get pregnant.  We believe, hope and dream with reckless abandon and don’t get pregnant.  We do five IUI’s and don’t get pregnant.  I am diagnosed with endometriosis and have it surgically removed and don’t get pregnant.  (Little did we know at the time we would also do 4 rounds of IVF, all with treatment for my residual immune system imbalances from endometriosis, and two rounds with added treatment for the uncooperative combination of our HL allele genes and, yes you guessed it…….not get pregnant!!).  All while watching everyone else around us have sex and get pregnant.  The fact that I can care for a plant and make it grow, and grow in a grand fashion nonetheless, apparently has become VERY strange to me.  As well as providing me with a pronounced ecstasy it didn’t provide me with before.”  Ahhhh, the absence of cause and effect.  Nothing but a future stealing villain.  To do so much work year in year out that produces absolutely nothing takes its toll on a person.  For most of our lives, especially in the early part, we are taught about consequences both good and bad.  Many, many things are presented to us as “if, then” scenarios.  If is the present, then is the future.  If I’m a good person, then people will like me.  If I behave, then my parents won’t punish me.  If I study hard, then I’ll get good grades.  If I work hard, then I’ll be successful.  If I eat mindfully, then I’ll improve my health.  Although as most of us get older we start to realize life is not so simple, not so black and white, the “if, then” way of things working that is so prevalent in our “we’re in control of everything” culture, is totally missing in the lives of most infertiles.  Cause and effect is another thing that is tough to appreciate until you don’t have it.  “If you give years of your life, your heart, all of your money, your mind and soul, you might get nothing,” has become the unavoidable running commentary of my life.  In reality the “if then” of life is “if, nothing” in mine.  And the fact that the “nothing” happens to be in place of one of the greatest joys in life does not help to balance this equation any.  All of the positive feedback I received from my first post What’s The Fertile World To Do? should have made me happy, and on a level it did.  I hadn’t anticipated that the post would be helpful to anyone and was humbled that some found it useful and inspiring.  But more than anything I was pathetically fumbling around for a few days, dazed and confused that something I had done produced some kind of positive effect.  I’m infertile, please forgive me.  “If I post my on my new blog……” this is naturally where my brain now stops with everything.

In the early phases of infertility one is looking forward to the future.  I remember feeling like I was going through some unpleasant unexpected shit that was mildly scary, and no, maybe I didn’t get pregnant on my second IUI but it was surely going to happen on my third or fourth.  And then slowly slowly, piece by piece, the breakdown happens.  You dream, hope, envision, refuse to get upset, attract positive energy (whatever THAT means, but you’re sure in the moment that you know), and bond with your fertile garden and seed energy (oh how it PAINS me to write that).  Even though you do everything you can on every level to stack the deck in your favor, the only thing that starts to stack up in reality are the number of failed natural cycles and fertility treatments.  Although you started out AND persisted through adversity with all of the best dreams and intentions (life is supposed to respond to that, right??), life becomes a series of one loss after another, one recovery after another, all while your relationships with other people and the spirit world become strained.  You then search for medical answers after holistic medicine fails, and are fortunate enough to find them.  You treat one cause of infertility while entering the world of IVF, no result.  You treat another while continuing in the world of IVF, and still no result.  After a certain amount of time anticipating good things that never happen and trying things that are supposed to provide solutions that don’t, the future simply becomes faceless.  The only reaction the thought of it has been able to evoke from me for months now is a broad, heavy, hopeless sigh.  Why should it evoke anything else when all it is ever comprised of is more work, grief, suffering, and heavier consequences?  All of which have resulted only from the innocent rudimentary human act of trying to start a family?

In addition to cutting off communication with visions of the far future, infertility has a way of swiping easy interactions with the near future as well.  I’ll never forget how it felt to attend a wedding having almost reached the two year mark of our infertility.  Though both introverts, my husband and I also love a good party, so a wedding is something we used to happily look forward to.  At that time I had reached the point in my journey where I was open to my daily experiences frequently feeling horrible, but had not reached the point where I totally accepted my lack of control over them.  I had not yet let go of the dishonest notion that if I went to the wedding determined to have fun then it would be.  Too damn bad grief just simply does not work that way.  So off I went, with some nervous anticipation as to how our infertility would play a role but also totally expecting to have fun.  And a sliver of me did.  The dressed up, dancing, drinking, eating and socializing true piece of me that could never really die had a great time.  But then there was the rest.  The endless hours of having to witness pregos, families with toddlers, and parents gleefully gallivanting about the dance floor with their children, all while the other guests externally smiled as I internally cried, took its toll.  All I could do for the next few days was sit on my couch and stare at the wall.  Grateful I could function to the point of showering, watering, and feeding myself a little, I was not capable of much else as I hovered in what I would come to refer to as “going catatonic.”  Since infertility hit, especially between my 2 – 2.5 year mark, I would sometimes spontaneously enter a state where the processing of my pain and other emotions would impede most of my other functions.  If I could afford the time and space I would allow it, as I’ve always said this infertility shit is bad enough I don’t want too many unprocessed emotions bighting me in the ass ten years from now.  So there I sat, absorbing my attendance at a wedding that now so easily translated into repeated scrapings of my heart.  It was as if someone had gone to Julienne a zucchini and had picked up my heart instead.  Every memory of a prego, toddler, or parent dancing with their child was another dragging of my heart across a sharp vegetable slicer.  At the wedding we had been fortunate enough to be at a table where the people either didn’t have children, or knew our situation and respectfully declined to speak of theirs.  This had undoubtedly made my situation less worse; if this had not been the case who knows how many days I’d have been staring at my living room wall?  And a good amount of my catatonic time no doubt was also spent grieving my participation in life as I had known it.  Any significant loss has a ripple effect I’ve noticed.  In addition to the initial loss, things that one used to find joyful, easy, or neutral often become painful and unbearable.  It is not only the pure enjoyment of basic life situations that is lost, but the energy gleaned from the anticipation of them, a positive anticipation of the future.  This wedding, along with other experiences, weaned me off of looking forward to things.  A Pampered Chef party with great food, nice people, and an informative presentation can become a panic attack if someone showing up with their baby is added to the mix.  The often child focused presence of holidays only seems to exacerbate my losses while marking one more year of hard work leading to nothing.  Getting excited about the future in my life has, more often than not, been replaced by having to form a coping strategy, an escape plan, or a commitment to try and ignore something.  On the flip side though, if I have an experience that had a good chance of being assaulting and painful and it turns out not to be, I usually have an even BETTER time than I could have imagined I would.

The truth of the matter is that being in a constant state of detachment with the future profoundly wears on the spirit of a person.  Of course I have plenty of non-child things to look forward to in my life, but how would I even be able to see them right now?  More pertinent to now would be the grief I’d have to wade through to get to them.  Although people are more comfortable thinking of having kids as a choice independent from everything else in one’s life, or even worse, an aside, the reality is that whether or not we have children will dictate the course of our marriage, what we will fix and not fix in our house, where we end up living, and what I end up doing for work.  I miss the future.  But life for me at one point started to beg the question: “How many times can a person work and hope for something and get nothing?  How many times?  How many times can that happen until a piece of my soul starts to rot?”  I have, as much as humanly possible, abandoned the vicious roller coaster of hoping for great things and not getting them for a more flat lined “I have no control over the future, so it’s going to be what it’s going to be” approach.  I miss looking forward to things.  But like an ex-boyfriend with whom you used to be hot and heavy who you no longer speak to but you might take back if they would only stop sucking, I’ve pretty much broken up with the future.  However there IS an obscure peace and confidence that comes from a committed sense of disinterest in that over which you do not control or influence.  We infertiles are told to “stay positive” while there is no acknowledgement of the deep cuts acquired from truly believing things will work out and then having them not.  Again and again and again and again.  I choose to direct my energy towards the protection of my wounds and the acknowledgement of my reality (noticing there aren’t too many other takers for that job!) over spending it on creating a fake appeasing attitude that will effect nothing.  Yes.  IF I am true to myself, THEN I will survive this.  That’s MY cause and effect.

The excitement and energy of the future no longer existing in my life, though a loss, has also produced some benefits.  Which brings me to my new best friend, the present.  Yes, infertility has drilled my innately ungrounded always wanting to take flight self right down into the here and now.  Good God.  The present lacks the easy, intoxicating allure of the future.  Which I guess is a good thing.  But boy is it weighty.  Being in it has involved much relearning and restructuring on my part, as well as countless knock down drag out negotiations with my ego.  Getting into it at first as an infertile was like squeezing myself into an itchy wool sweater that is 3 sizes too small.  It was a constricting uncomfortable pressure cooker.  “I would NEVER wear this, this isn’t ME!” was how I felt when I first started putting myself in it.  But the future was screwing me, I had nowhere else to go, and I knew it.

Interacting with the present is not the romantic, frolicking through the meadow chasing butterflies relationship some make it out to be.  It is more like a tough relationship you have with a parent, an in law, or perhaps a sibling.  It’s too potent and precious to live without, yet actually making it function while not causing an explosion takes a constant stream of effort.  A stream of effort that eventually becomes a bit more of a flow, and a flow that sooner or later produces some fulfillment.

My husband and I took a trip to Vegas after our first round of IVF failed.  I guess at the time we were gambling that the second one would work so we felt we could financially swing the trip.  The fact that our future in the year ahead held 3 more rounds of IVF and one frozen transfer, as well as the addition of a drug at the time of our third IVF that would cost us an additional $8000 total (PS, that’s not one but TWO trips to Vegas, freakin neupogen!!), could not have been foreseen in any way since this absurd scenario is not the consequence of anything we are or anything we ever did.  We had been robbed of our future, so how could we have known?  It was the first time in Vegas for us both and we loved it.  We especially came alive again in the non-family oriented atmosphere.  I actually went two days with only seeing one stroller.  For this to occur on Long Island or on Manhattan’s upper west side I’d have to be dead.  This too good to be true scenario came to an abrupt halt on the third day when we attempted to spend time at the pool.  It was here we realized this is where pregos and women with babies go in Vegas, because really, what else are they good for in that city?  Our pool side lounge was topped off with Julio and I being joined by a pregnant couple in the hot tub, with prego sitting on the side and blatantly rubbing her belly to try and grab some attention.  All it grabbed from me was my reaction, grumbled to my husband through the roar of the bubbles, “Do I get to start rubbing myself too?  I’d like to start rubbing my pussy RIGHT NOW as a matter of fact!”  It only seemed fair.

Sensitive from the disruption to my vacation from the family centric world, I warily made my way to the hotel spa.  After my seaweed wrap I ventured into the common area, where there were few clients and no pregnant women to seen.  I stepped out onto the outdoor hot tub area and was met with a most peaceful sight – a limestone terrace with a 50 foot long Jacuzzi set into the side of the hotel.  And better yet, no people.  Not a soul.  “I’m sure that’ll change for the worse”, I thought, as I hunkered down into the warm pulsating water.  I forgot about people for a few minutes as I took in my surroundings.  The Monte Carlo hovering just to my left, a few tree tops in my line of sight peeking up over the terrace’s railing.  And to my right, the mountains.  The sun had started to go down, creating a bluish yellow silhouette that cuddled their jagged outline.  I pulled myself back to reality to remind myself that people may come, people with a baby or people talking about their kids.  This is an infertile habit I’ve developed.  Whenever I get happy or relaxed in a place, I remind myself that it could get disturbed with a reminder of all of my pain at any moment so that when it does it’s not as painful.  After I check in with this a second time, it hits me.  There were very few clients left in the spa.  I don’t think anyone is coming out here.  But this time I didn’t think, I somehow knew I had it.  It was going to be me and me alone on this terrace.  I took an infertile risk and let myself sink into the comfort of this reality.  The sun sets further changing the hue of the thin silhouette around the mountains from blue/yellow to pink/orange.  The lights on the finely tiled floor of the Jacuzzi come up.  And seemingly out of nowhere, my sense of my rib cage begins to shift.  First it rises and becomes more buoyant.  It’s as if in my mind’s eye I can see a warm glow in the center of it and then it feels as though it’s expanding, almost to the width of the Jacuzzi.  I feel so whole and full I don’t think I’ve ever felt this good in my entire life.  I catch my mind telling me I have to go and get showered for dinner.  I call it back home.  I then catch myself wondering if I weren’t going through infertility would I feel this good now.  The feeling is so great and intense it stops me in my tracks and makes me want to question it.  “Who in the hell cares?” I ask myself and then listen as I hear a greater voice tell me to stay.  Stay here for as long as you can, it says.  So, knowing how rare peaceful moments in a public place and good feelings are for me these days, I do.  I stay.  I feel complete and wanting for nothing.  There is no past, no future, only a now that is so satisfying I almost start to cry.  Somehow in a bustling party city congested with human beings that doesn’t go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning, I’ve landed in a serene Jacuzzi on the side of a building to enjoy my very own nothing and everything all at the same time.

And why would I want to jump into the future anyway?  In less than 24 hours from this holy moment, my inevitably sucky infertile future would have me traveling back to New York on the fertile flight from hell.  But, for almost one luxurious hour on the side of that building, the scrappy rebuffing tango I had been doing with the present had finally succumbed to a soft romantic slow dance.

Aside from its potency and my willingness to be present in it, my experience on the trip home had nothing in common with my moment of Jacuzzi glory.  The next day found me with a very fertile group of travelers that included two babies and at least three toddlers.  Waiting like one big happy non family for a (completely full) flight to LA delayed 1.5 hours, and then boarding a plane from LA to NY that didn’t take off, waiting two hours for a replacement plane so we could re-board for the five hour flight (also completely full) home.  Catching the fertile world in an unusual moment of good behavior, the pain and excessive sensory stimulation I felt in their presence was still very tough to be in.  After it was all over my husband, who may very well be the calmest least irritable person in existence, said that he had just wanted to yell at everyone.  Watching his wife writhe in pain from being stuck on a plane full of PTSD triggers was tough on him too.  “But you couldn’t, honey.  No one was doing anything wrong.”  People should be interacting with their babies and parents practically have no choice but to walk their restless toddlers up and down the aisle for hours on end.  Sure we all could have done without the collective “AWWWWWW” and verbal comforting everyone and their dog gave to one of the fussy toddlers on the descent into LaGuardia, but who knew?  This is a part of life.  A part of life that left me with literally nothing else to do but feel my pain, suffer from my PTSD (which was probably at its worst at that time) and then try to shield myself from it.  On a plane where there is nowhere to physically escape to.  So I went to work.  With the focus of a sharpshooter I observed my feelings, my physical reactions, and relentlessly searched for any type of productive response to them.  I obtained earphones and tried to watch the movie.  But a dad playing with his baby girl in front of me resulted in the baby’s head popping up in front of the screen regularly, as he lifted his giggly baby up in the air over and over again.  I switched to music and culminated my grand sensory escape with throwing a blanket over my head, but not before announcing to my husband, “If anyone asks why I have a blanket over my head tell them to go F themselves!!”  I then went on to find myself listening to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” (wouldn’t that be nice) and Bon Jovi’s “Livin On A Prayer” (oh you have no idea) as if they were Beethoven’s 9th.  Both tunes had never sounded better to me, not only for what they are but likely for what they were tuning out.  And miracle upon miracles, my hard fought escape from fertile world sensory overload calmed me down.  Crawled so far inside into the dark and found my peaceful place, I did.  “Leave me alone, I found my happy place!” I ordered my husband as he offered me water through my blanket.

Being present in “whatever is” is a practice, and I, a beginning student.  Having been somewhat rocked by going through two intense yet opposing experiences in such close proximity to one another, I brought the story to Caitlin, my friend, former yoga teacher, and guru.  I’ve always enjoyed an abundance of special, competent teachers in my life, though in the past five years or so they especially seem to keep coming out of the woodwork.  In this area I have been so so lucky; thinking about all I’ve gotten from them all makes me feel almost gluttonous.  I started taking Caitlin’s Yin Yoga class during the first year of our infertility, and it was there where I unexpectedly and inadvertently acquired the tools that would help me survive infertility.  I was exposed to the idea that feeling a tough emotion was not a failure on my part.  I was taught how to practice observing and naming my emotions and my general state.  I was shown how to begin to refrain from judging myself.  I gained a vastly expanded awareness of my own capacity as a human being.  I learned the difference between an authentic emotion or state of being vs. a manufactured response (otherwise known as “should”).  Most importantly, I was taught how to practice being in “what is”.  None of this is easy.  As time went by I somewhat unconsciously took in all of these things and as the challenges of infertility hit I noticed myself falling back on all that Caitlin taught.  Nothing else that I had known was holding even a drop of water in the midst of my loss and crisis.  A little over a year into taking her class, it occurred to me to ask Caitlin with my usual brilliance, “Um, is this stuff like, a thing?  I mean, like what is it? Does it have a name?”  Turns out Caitlin wove basic simple Buddhist philosophies through her class, and that’s what I responded to having no idea, and not really needing to know, what it was.  Even more amusing is that Caitlin will probably be surprised that I consider her a guru, since she often says that these are simply practices she has studied and applied to her own life.  Practices she also happens to be highly skilled at articulating, so I have unabashedly tagged her, as I have many others throughout my life “it” as far as title of guru.  It’s a dirty job, no doubt, but somebody’s got to do it, and I can go to Caitlin with my uniformed bumbling areas of uncertainty.  Such as “what in the heck is this supposed Buddhist “we create our own suffering” nonsense?  I do NOT find that to be true.  That’s a load of crap if you ask me.”  I had read/heard this in a few other places and it seemed so contrary to what Caitlin taught.  She set me straight on that one, telling me that that spin on things is a misinterpretation.  That what Buddhism really says is that suffering in this life is inevitable, it’s how we meet the suffering that can make the experience more or less painful, as well as more or less meaningful.  That true Buddhism is the invitation or opportunity to see and experience the possibility to feel a sense of peace while experiencing our pain, while experiencing our joy and that they are not mutually exclusive.  So I presented her with my Jacuzzi/fertile world flight scenario by letting her know that ever since I had started making efforts to not disregard my painful emotions, I’ve had a few run ins with some feelings that are more glorious than I’ve ever felt before.  “What’s happening to me?” I asked.  And she answered “You see, when people commit to feeling their tougher less pleasant emotions, they aren’t opening themselves to just that.  They are opening themselves to everything, and that includes joy.  To feel your own hard emotions is to open your heart.  And when you do that, all of life is more potent, not just the painful parts.  To truly live is to be able to experience the 10,000 joys and sorrows of this human life with an open heart.”

OH.  I think I might be getting it.

With part of my future gone missing and the rest of it in limbo, I’ve had no choice but to bind myself to the present.  It is one of the toughest things I’ve ever practiced, and I question the sanity of starting to practice it in infertile situations that are so brutal and unforgiving to be in.  One of my first thoughts when I started practicing being present in tough infertile moments was “I really see why more people don’t do this.  It’s horrible!”  But it pays dividends, and with my uncertain illusive future I’m truly in need of some.  I’m now better skilled at grabbing onto and riding the wonderful moments when they come.  I’m more able to take care of myself during the tough ones, and being able to exist in the painful moments tells me the truth of my experiences.  I’ve had enough robbed from me, I decided at one point I get to keep at least that.

I knew I had formed a truly different relationship with the present when I went for the blood work to confirm my fourth failed round of IVF.  Negative home pregnancy tests and night sweats were the (usual) tip off.  Lovingly tethered to my painful reality, I made my way to the doctor’s office.  “Is this your first beta?” the phlebotomist asked.  “Yes, and my last” I said as I shook my head and calmly informed her that I was, yet again, not pregnant.  I went through the well-meaning but all too routine “well I hope you’re wrong” back and forth and assured her that I knew she wanted the best for us.  I then made my way to the receptionist and placidly told her I needed to make an appointment with the doctor to decide what to do next.  As she went into a mini spin absorbing the fact that I was again, not pregnant, asking me if I was sure (I know my body), I stood so firm and quiet in my reality I hardly recognized myself.  She got me in to speak with him right away, and the hashing out began.  “I’ve treated all of your immunological issues, so you could keep trying IVF if you’re up for it emotionally…..”

S: (Cutting him off) I’m not.

D: Have you considered using an egg donor?  If you use a donor I’m sure you could have a baby…….

And, in that moment, it hit me.  This isn’t and never was just about having a baby.  It’s about OUR family, my husband and me, and what is best for us.  It is about living a meaningful life, in whatever healthy way is available to us.  And let’s face it, a life with assisted reproductive technology is NOT a life worth living.  Three straight years of it has taught me that.  Our journey through baby making had come too close to being only a meaningless existence and a waste of a special, precious marriage.  But all of this wouldn’t have been able to hit me so clearly had I been busying myself with trying to create a false reality that doesn’t exist while looking into a murky future pretending that it is, in any way, clear.  One thing I did know though is that my concerns over continuing ART had come to far outweigh my fears of stopping.

S:  I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we’re done.  We won’t be utilizing an egg donor either.  What I’m really here for is to confirm the best way to get our last embryos (we had 6 on ice, 2 from IVF#3 and 4 from IVF #4) into me.

Though looking a bit defeated, he attempted to artfully switch gears as I marinated in my truth.  The peculiar thing is that anyone who had to receive my bad news that morning was more jittery than I was.  Most of my future family dreams and visions had been taken from me at this point.  But no one, I mean no one could take from me the fact that I knew where I was at that moment.  Or that I had the audacity to be there.  There, clear and proud right in the category of infertile patients reproductive medicine either consciously or unconsciously makes a consistent stream of effort to not acknowledge.  My future may have run amuck as the result of nothing wrong I ever did, but on that morning there was no question as to who owned now.

Sure, I could have been focusing on the future and the few scraps of potential positive outcomes that were left.  Scraps that were becoming scarce and a slimmer and slimmer percentage of my reality.  The potential positive that just never happens.  Maybe the FET will work, maybe we’ll decide to do MORE IVF, maybe just maybe the stick was wrong and I will have a positive beta……….But maybe is the uncle of the future.  During IVF #4 me and my drugged up self were clomping out to yet another vaginal sonogram when I asserted to my husband, “I’m so sick of maybe.  Maybe can suck my ass!!”  I have learned it is better for me to be bound, even if grudgingly, to what is than to be wasting energy on the futility of trying to manufacture a reality that isn’t.  Harder though.  Harder but better.

In spite of all of this, I still do miss the future.  It would be nice to one day have a life where I can safely anticipate holidays and not be traumatized and/or grief stricken by social gatherings.  A life where I can look ahead to major things that maybe don’t always entail more heartache and loss.  However that is not what is now.  We need to begin to heal from doing four rounds of IVF in nine months that rendered nothing (three with a very long, intense and demanding drug protocol), and may have the official loss of our biological children to grieve soon.  For now, I have to stay here.

Time Stand Still

Rush, from the album Hold Your Fire

I turn my back to the wind

To catch my breath

Before I start off again

Driven on without a moment to spend

To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin

I’d like to pause

No matter what I pretend

Like some pilgrim

Who learns to transcend

Learns to live as if each step were the end

Time stand still – I’m not looking back

But I want to look around me now

Time stand still – see more of the people

And the places that surround me now

Freeze this moment a little bit longer

Make each sensation a little bit stronger

Experience slips away…..

I turn my face to the sun

Close my eyes

Let my defenses down

All those wounds that I can’t get unwound

I let my past go too fast

No time to pause –

If I could slow it all down

Like some captain, whose ship runs aground

I can wait until the tide comes around

Time stand still – I’m not looking back,

But I want to look around me now

Time stand still – see more of the people

And the places that surround me now

Freeze this moment a little bit longer

Make each impression a little bit stronger

Freeze this motion a little bit longer

The innocence slips away….

Summer’s going fast, nights growing colder

Children growing up, old friends growing older

Freeze this moment a little bit longer

Make each sensation a little bit stronger

Experience slips away…

The innocence slips away……..

8 thoughts on “An Ode to the Future, Sort Of

  1. My therapist keeps talking to me about “dialectics,” straddling a positive and negative reality simultaneously, if I can simplify the idea. And, yeah, that’s exactly how it is with time. Like, look at this beautiful moment (in the hot tub or the sunset): I want to really savor this, blot out everything else for just a minute, but there’s the nagging worry or pain that rarely lets us rest. Same with the future: we count days, hours, to end the waiting and anticipation of high-stakes outcomes, but we also fear what lies in wait in the long term. It’s a total mind fuck, Sarah. But something else my therapist talked about (today) is this study using dogs in an electrified pool who were shocked every time they tried to leave, so eventually they resigned themselves to their prison. Then this sick fuck turned off the juice, but they had already given up. The lesson: keep trying to leave the enclosure. Um, I’m not totally sure how that translates to your and Julio’s vision for life beyond ART/IF…but don’t get stuck in the pool.

    • What is getting stuck in the pool for one person could be the ultimate beneficial, moving forward scenario for another. We are all on our own journeys here. Making a consistent effort to connect to yourself and know where you are is the opposite of being stuck on every level, no matter what direction one decides to take.

  2. Not getting stuck in the pool is only about freedom, not continued pursuit of treatment: whatever the right path is to be able to walk around the world again without it being a minefield that narrows and narrows your experience. For me, getting out of the pool means ending up with kids by *some* means, hell or high water. You know I respect your individual needs…just don’t get stuck in the damn pool.

    • Thank you so much. I wish you the same. I at least feel lucky I stumbled on some tools that help me through it. Here’s to hoping everyone finds whatever it is they need to get them through…….

  3. So much to think about with your post. Thank you for articulating so well. This is my favorite part:

    Getting into it at first as an infertile was like squeezing myself into an itchy wool sweater that is 3 sizes too small. It was a constricting uncomfortable pressure cooker. “I would NEVER wear this, this isn’t ME!” was how I felt when I first started putting myself in it.

    I struggle every day to be in the present, not wishing it away, not fast forwarding, just being here and finding SOMEthing to be grateful for. A fellow blogger reminded me the other day that the choices I have for family building are options many others don’t have.. so while I am so effing bitter and angry and sad about this path that was chosen for me but not BY me, I am trying to keep some perspective.

  4. Hi Rosie – Thanks for that, I found writing about this subject to be a challenge. Thanks also for bringing up the topic of perspective. That’s a tough one on this journey.

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