I’ve done my share of speaking out on my trip through infertility and now involuntary childlessness. I’ve asked my family and friends for support.
I insert my truths in conversation when I’m able. I educate when I can. In doing these things I’m habitually asking people for acknowledgement and to be informed themselves.
I’ve let the groups I’m in (yoga and band) know about my infertility survivorhood and child free not by choice status. In doing this I’m asking for their consideration. I’m asking for me and people like me to be put on the map too.
My husband’s and my story was even in the November 2015 issue of Redbook magazine, the interviews having taken place when I was very much in the trenches of grief and mourning. In participating in this I was asking the world to see those of us who come out of treatments and infertility with no baby.
I believe that silence is damaging. I know that voicing our pain and grief is one pathway to healing. And I know we will not get the support we need from people if we do not ask. My quirky brain of course has visions of the infertility community “storming the castle”, imagining that “if we just started opening our mouths all at once what necessary and long awaited changes would happen….”
But it’s not that simple. “It’s HARD,” I remind myself, as I reflect on my own experiences. So I leave you with my list of musings, not to rebuff this week’s awareness theme, but more so to aid in the plight of self compassion necessary when voicing yourself. It’s so not easy. Pace yourselves if you need to, my little lambs……pace yourselves.
#8 Oh wait, I’m Traumatized
When I had panic attacks, or even when I just got “panicky”, it would feel as though my cognition had relocated to a galaxy far far away. I was often surprised at the shreds I could hang onto it in such situations. When we go into fight or flight, indeed the back of our brain (known as the “reptilian brain”) does take over as the front part of our brain, where cognition happens, fades into the background. So in panic situations, my cognition as it turns out had relocated to a BRAIN HEMISPHERE far far away.
#7 No More Room in the Landfill
When we ask, we open ourselves to a lot of wonderful things, such as love and support, maybe even from unexpected places. We are also opening ourselves to minimization, rejection and the potential shifting of relationships we may not be ready for. I believe those of us enduring perpetual trauma and loss have a natural built in sense for what we can and can’t handle. And there are plenty of times when one more ounce of indifference or one more person not understanding would be enough to push us over the edge. And we know it.
#6 Too Damn Tired
Between treatments, decisions, realizations, emotions, oh and having my world shattered, grieving, acclimating to the absence of my children and re-inventing myself, sometimes it occurs to me that I’M FRIGGEN EXHAUSTED. Asking? Shit, sometimes I need peace and quiet. And sleep.
#5 No, I’M the Patient, Remember??
I’ve often said that telling people what you need in our situation is like being picked up by an ambulance with a life threatening injury and having to instruct the EMT on exactly how to administer medical treatment. The reality is that sometimes, it’s extremely hard to be the injured patient and the educator simultaneously.
#4 First I Have to Make This Exist
When we speak and ask on the experience of infertility, we are often saying things we have not heard anyone say before, thus saying them to people who haven’t had these things said to them before. I’m no expert, but I venture to say this is a big fucking deal. When there is no protocol, speaking is more challenging. The questions of what do I say and how do I say it become surprisingly preoccupying.
(I’m thinking about how we learn to speak as (cough) infants and that we learn to speak initially from what we hear. I wonder if this has anything to do with it – can anyone who has knowledge in the subject matter weigh in? I’m interested).
And tragically, creative people are drawn to blank canvases, so those of us who are infertile and innately creative are kind of screwed. I believe everyone’s different abilities can serve an important purpose, however we’re likely the morons who will find ourselves on the front lines trying to untangle this debacle.
#3 Then I Have to Convince You it’s Hard
People are often mind blowingly challenged when it comes to empathizing with infertility’s trauma and losses. In other words, a lot of people still don’t know that this is, like, hard. With the atrocities of other diseases, abuses and untimely death, people may not know how to provide the proper emotional support, but there is a general awareness that these things are not good. With anything infertility related, you’ve got that additional hurdle to clear. “No, yeah, it’s traumatizing and life altering. Oh, what’s that….you haven’t heard?” Sigh.
Even the medical community is completely DUH when it comes to the ramifications of their own treatments. When my last treatment, an FET, was postponed a cycle in December of 2013, the nurses told me that at least I could go home and enjoy the holidays now. I had just lost my children 4 times in the past ten months via four fresh IVF cycles. Their existence hung on this last treatment. Enjoy the holidays????? “Uh, no I can’t, dipshits. No. I. Can’t.”
#2 They Told Me If I Don’t Give the Sky Will Fall
Guilt is not a particular demon of mine. But as a human, it sometimes happens in my moments. We, and especially women, are taught that our worth is based on what we give. Which is quaint on the surface, until you start to realize you as a human need to do many other things in life besides give in order to be whole, healthy and abundant. Asking feels like it’s (oh!) taking but it really isn’t. For those of us who (ahem) might come up upon a few self-esteem issues in this race, and let’s face it who doesn’t, I like to think of it as though I’m GIVING people the opportunity to learn and open themselves when I ask. And if this doesn’t help well then damn it I’m sorry.
#1 Shock and Non-Awe
There’s something about having something you did not invite affecting your whole world that’s kind of….creepy. Speaking about it is even stranger because you first have to accept on a level that this is happening to you. Many people avert this based on the discomfort alone and I can’t say I blame them. I can’t stress how much of NOTHING I did to get myself in this infertile children free not by choice situation, I mean, I was picked up and thrown here. Literally hurled. I’m Dorothy in a tornado personified. I’ve been feeling as though I fell and hit my head for years now. My invisible speech balloon reads “WTF???? I didn’t DO this. How am I possibly standing here having THIS conversation? When this is over I’m returning to my parallel universe where my life actually makes SENSE.” Ok, that’s about three speech balloons. It’s a good thing people can’t see inside my head because they’d probably walk away. And then I couldn’t #startasking……..
But I’m only one person. What would you add to this list?