The Emancipation of Forgetting

My post baby making cycle problem

It was one of the most significantly underestimated pains of moving forward without children. Every 3.5 weeks or so (although sometimes I was spared by a few more days), it cascaded through its to do list: Menstruate, prepare to ovulate with estrogen surge, ovulate, progesterone surge to prepare body for pregnancy that won’t happen, hormones plummet to menstruation. Repeat needlessly and incessantly.

My reasoning that hormones are good for one’s health fell on deaf cells as I dreamed daily of having my reproductive organs removed. It was quite obvious to me the tragedy of each part of my cycle – from my great estrogen levels and ease of ovulation that were nowhere near enough to produce a baby to the gutting reminder of yet another loss in the form of blood and mood changes – had infused itself into every level of my being. It dropped a lack of control over my existence that only a true innocent victim of anything could appreciate. Sure, I knew damn well this would eventually pass. But I also knew damn well I had no say or affect over when and how.

Anyone who received their child or children via the form of Bingo! likely could not understand my lack of escape options, as those of us who have to work very hard to try and make a baby possess a knowledge of our reproductive selves most fertile women would not be capable of conceiving. After four years of trying to conceive, nary a stick was needed to provide me with the now unnecessary information regarding what my body was doing. The psychological remnants from excess utilization of holistic modalities that fruitlessly scrutinized everything from the length of my cycles to the color and consistency of my periods to sometimes even the condition of my spirit (It’s good enough, thanks. Now fuck off!) were not helping any. The unfortunate compasses of cervical mucous, sense of body temperature, mood and physical energy now spoke to me all too clearly whether I wanted them to or not, each phase serving as a clubbing reminder of what we worked so hard for that will never be.

One of my least favorite reproductive myths, and golly there are so many from which to choose, is that we infertiles have trouble believing that we can get pregnant, and worse, that that is a factor in our infertility. Abra-cadabra-alacazam!! If only human reproduction were so pathetically simple. If only. Plus, common sense should tell people that, if a baby could be produced out of a mere mythical attitude or belief change, infertility would not exist in near the numbers that it does.

For me, my trouble was, both potently and blatantly, quite the opposite. After four years of trying, one surgery, ten failed fertility treatments, and every other supplementary action under the sun, I still in my heart of hearts could not believe I was not able to get pregnant. This fact alone has been the toughest thing I’ve ever had to try and sell to my soul. In the days leading up to my periods, I’d attempt to gently speak to myself as part of me desperately scanned my body for pregnancy symptoms. “It’s just a period coming, you know that, there will be no jubilant surprise, there is no pregnancy……it’s just a period.” Over and over again, I framed reality to myself with love. During ovulations, though I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter, I continued to make sure I had enough sex and at the optimal time, frequently beckoning my husband into bed when, in all honesty, I otherwise would not have. My cognitive efforts to coax reality did nothing to call off my primal baby making flood that lived ferociously inside of me at age 42.

Hope, when overlaid on life’s more kindergartenesque challenges, is quaint. Perpetual unrequited hope, in conjunction with life’s harsh shortcomings, is annihilating.

It had been one year and five months since we lost our children. I was 43 years and 4 months old. “This is the first time in five years we didn’t have sex during ovulation (minus medicated cycles, of course)”, I found myself proclaiming to my husband. We had had sex on cycle days 9 and 16 only, and I don’t really know why. My mind turned it over a bit, as it was such an abnormality, and I realized this didn’t bring me much angst at all. I later found myself having sex post ovulation without giving much thought to the cycle day.

Some days later, while cuddled up with my husband watching TV, it hit me.
“You know, I actually forgot what cycle day it is. I mean, I really don’t know. That hasn’t happened in five years.”

I continued, “But don’t tell me when the last time was we had sex, because I know what cycle day that was so then I’ll know. And I think I like not knowing.”

Julio: How does it feel?

Me: Liberating.

He left the couch to get ready for bed and my mind started to chew on it, as it had been doing for five years straight. I added, subtracted and multiplied. And hark, I realized the last time we had sex was cycle day unknown. I had even forgotten that I forgot. I divided, carried the one, came up with three or so different scenarios as to when my period was coming and even considered reviewing what pi, 3.14 really means in case that would factor in any. But either way, it was stunning. No matter how I ran up and down or which way I sliced it, I truly didn’t know. Only to go upstairs, make it to the bathroom and find none other than my period – the first one in five years I hadn’t seen coming.

I had been starting to realize that the often intense and perpetual nausea and loss of appetite I had been feeling during ovulations and before my periods were not only due to the changing hormone levels in a normally aging reproductive system. Much of it was likely a result of the visceral trauma that comes from trying and trying to make a baby to no avail, and then having to continue to exist in a vessel that will not stop cycling. Not being able to get pregnant at all does come with a highly underrated trauma all its own.  That I seem to be ready to move forward from this on a physical level is immensely pleasing.

My infertility experience has made me a firm believer in coincidence. And I know full well “progress” is a zig zag, not a straight line. But all of this happened on the evening of July 4th, Independence Day for us in the USA. That’s one coincidence I can get a kick out of no matter what.

petoskey fireworks

12 thoughts on “The Emancipation of Forgetting

  • I love this!!! What a liberating experience (and oh the irony of it happening on Independence Day! On a related note I am quite enjoying rediscovering intimacy and good sex as a result of not being constantly preoccupied with the state of my uterus.

  • People who know the struggles I went through to get pregnant – which is pretty much everyone since I didn’t hold anything back – have often expressed sympathy about my hysterectomy. I think they don’t believe me when I say that no, my hysterectomy is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It forced me off the roller coaster. Not that it didn’t come with its own trauma, but it freed me from the decision to stop trying and it freed me from the tyranny of a body that kept encouraging me to hope. Liberating. That’s exactly how it feels.

    • Wow, Kim. I so appreciate you sharing. That’s some powerful stuff – thank you. The one concern I had with this post (aside from the obvious deluge of TMI) was over coming across as though I was making light of having a hysterectomy. Yet, I needed to attempt to articulate my often domineering and visceral feelings that I dealt with regarding wanting it all gone.

      “…the tyranny of a body that kept encouraging me to hope” – that’s precisely it.

    • Thanks. It has been a slow process for me, unfortunately I absolutely loved baby making sex. Go figure. And just as that connection started to unwind I experienced my first peri menopausal symptoms – hardly a big deal in and of themselves but not ideal timing on top of everything else. Still, I’m glad to be reminded I’m on my way to “splendid”, one way or another!

  • Liberating indeed!

    I also love your comments about the fact that women who are not infertile seem to think we don’t know about fertility. Exactly!! I’ve written about it – it’s like suggesting someone who is trying to lose weight doesn’t know what she should or shouldn’t eat. I can just about guarantee she knows. She (or just us my name) just finds it hard! I once had a friend try to tell me how to take a pregnancy test. The irony – that infertile, two lost pregnancies me, might know more about taking pregnancy tests than easily pregnant, two kids, no miscarriages her – was lost on her!

    • Yes, exactly! I’m sure I’ve developed a sense of my reproductive body that someone who conceives easily could never have. Though I haven’t run into anyone personally who thought I didn’t know the basics, it’s worth it to me to point out differences. I’ve noticed people with easily conceived children often assume I’ll view some of these things through a similar lens, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth since my experience has been so much more extreme than theirs.

      I’ve used the weight metaphor too! I’ve often thought that advice from a fertile person on trying to conceive is like advice from a skinny person on trying to lose weight. Where there is little challenge, there little knowledge.

  • Oh man do I get this. I spent so long trying to understand my frustratingly regular schedule that I know it all by heart. I yearn for the day when I can ignore the state of my cervical mucous, have sex with my husband without knowing what cycle day, or be surprised by a period. I’m glad to hear you got there, thanks for the hope! 🙂

    • I just wish I could provide you with a how, but I haven’t the slightest clue. And, in many ways I’m still getting there. There was something about turning 43 that shifted things for me slightly – not exactly sure why, so not much control there! The mysteries of grief and healing are strange beasts, that’s for sure.

  • Your post is so timely for me. I’m about a week out from my hysterectomy. At 38 with no kids I’ve had lots of sympathy and questions about my emotional state. What so many who haven’t been down this road don’t understand is your description of unrequited hope. It can literally rip you apart. I already feel better in that my daily pain from the endo is gone and I am off the TTC roller coaster. I see my current state as a fresh beginning. Time to start living my life and looking ahead. Liberating is the perfect description.

    • Hi Steph – Thanks so much for sharing. Reminds me that Pamela over at Silent Sorority once said, and I paraphrase, “harsh reality is better than false hope.”

      Many people get so googley eyed over the idea of a miracle – I got to the point where I could not converse with these creatures, I just physically could not do it.

      I’m sorry for all of your losses. Here’s to the journey ahead, and to the days when you may not feel like traveling it too.

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