Involuntary Childlessness in the Human Conversation

Scenes from when it works, Illuminations on what goes wrong 

Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker’s latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.

Click here for the scheduled list of participants and posts, running all of the way from March 27 – April 28!!  We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.

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I recall walking out in the world during the two years following my fertility treatments feeling like the teacher from Charlie Brown – voiceless.

The portrayal of even a smidgen of my experiences brought forth endless platitudes. Blank stares and silence filled the space where ceremony and ritual, verbal acknowledgements (try I’m so sorry for your loss) and casseroles are supposed to be in the event of that which is world shattering.

Close to 20% of the female population aged 45 and over in the United States (and in many other countries around the world) does not parent.  It is likely the majority of this population is child free not entirely by choice, hopefully one day soon there will be an actual statistic available.  IVF has now been around for 40 years, providing many of us with a towering pile of failures.  And yet the human conversation still lags far behind reality.
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Heartbeat

I was missing you on the day things crumbled. My cart seemed so bare two days before Christmas as I struggled to procure the few things your Dad and I needed, trying to make the best of our holiday for two we felt no urge to celebrate.

I didn’t know then why Fairway Market was spinning and going black or why my heart was flailing about or why the vision of the woman cuddling her toddler in the cheese line suddenly felt no less barbaric than the act of trying to exist.

All I knew then was that I missed you. What I know now is that the towering experience of missing you was layered with a malfunctioning nervous system and I think back on that space in time with sorrow. And with a pointed acknowledgement of human fallibility. That space in time when I sat in my car and in my body spinning out of control trying to fathom your absence. An impossible feat under normal circumstances, an utterly defeating experience in the presence of unregulated blood pressure and minimal blood flow to the brain.

I dialed 911 as my heart relentlessly beat out of my chest. (more…)

Emotional Labor Misconceptions

In the face of involuntary childlessness, grief and recovery

How am I going to live THIS life in THIS world?

It’s one of the questions that has adhered itself to every aspect of my being since stopping fertility treatments three years ago. It’s a question that has become only more throbbing as I make my way back out into the world and initiate my life rebuilding process. It’s a question that is unavoidable. And how could it not be? My experiences trying to conceive, the physical absence of my children and our loss of parenthood colors everything.

I’m not alone in this. When one has come through and out of the wanting of parenthood in any way shape or form, finding themselves on the other side of their dream or pursuit or hard work without the desired children in tow, we are all in some version of a related boat.

Thoughts, feelings and instincts on this question percolate in our systems. We organically, if not subconsciously, become silent, unseen coping skill factories, working overtime to generate a new life that makes sense to us, a new social normal and perhaps most of all, self-preservation.

I was recently made more consciously aware of part of my process when I read Cathy’s latest post, Are You Doing More Than Your Fair Share of Emotional Labor? over at Slow Swimmers and Fried Eggs (Thanks, Cathy!). Realizations rising to the surface were of course prompted by the writing and investigating of fellow infertility survivors because where else would they come from? There’s no context out in the wider world acknowledging the plight forward for those of us who wanted children but couldn’t have them, even most if not all infertility support groups are tone-deaf towards this journey. (more…)

WHERE AM I??

The movie Cast Away sheds some light

Things have felt……peculiar lately.

I’ve been feeling that half here, half not here feeling.  But not the pulverized half here half not here feeling of a year ago, this one is different.  I’ve been feeling unsettled.  A bit disconnected.  Pain, my long time reliable compass, no longer rules my existence. (more…)

Top 9 Ways Infertility and Involuntary Childlessness Prepared me for a Trump Presidency

The morning after last week’s election I lay on my couch, practically immobile.  As it did with many, the election results struck me sideways.  First, I felt all of it.  Confusion.  Anger.  Sadness.  Sadness for people on both sides of the aisle who don’t feel seen and heard by our society and are not having their needs met by this country.  Disheartened that things crumbled to the point where someone who I truly believe is not an intelligent, decent well-meaning human being could be elected.  Upheaval.  Concern for the future – mine and everyone else’s.  Numb. Violated. Discombobulated.

Wishing deep in my heart of hearts that Trump does a good job is much like wishing for a pregnancy on the heels of multiple failed fertility treatments; you want it more than anything but know on a level it’s probably not going to happen.  Most of all, I was shocked that I was shocked.  When one loses their children to infertility after years of trying and doing everything right only to walk out into a sea of indifference (please read the “you can have mine”, “you’re lucky”, “you can always foster or adopt” “it wasn’t meant to be” and “at least you can travel now” minimizations), one’s list of what will shock them in life from that day forward becomes severely truncated. (more…)

Redefining Toxicity

A traumatized griever removes her rose colored glasses

“Whether we like it or not, loss launches us on spiritual journeys of the heart and soul” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

There are those moments in life when you careen into your own misperceptions.  Facts about life that are so protrudingly obvious you wonder how you missed them in the first place.  And once you find yourself in your more complete and grounded version of reality, you are wildly amused at how you could have ever seen things your old way at all. (more…)