How Did We Know We Were Done?
Sometimes I’m asked why we stopped pursuing fertility treatment. For those looking for easy answers you won’t find them here. There was no epiphany, no dramatic denouement. We were not driven there by a deadline or a master plan or even an entirely drained bank account. (Even today, resisting the ever-beckoning siren song of the fertility industry’s latest advancements has not been particularly easy.)
Our move away from treatment was a long, slow often circuitous process that sometimes led us back like a junkie in need of a fix to the reproductive endocrinology clinic for one more attempt. A little voice in my head kept egging me on (no pun intended): just one more IUI; one more round of acupuncture; one more laparoscopy; one more blood test to determine if there’s a new factor we hadn’t considered or addressed — all the while the doctors scratched their heads with no clear explanation for our infertility, dampening our hopes further that we’d ever succeed.
Strung-out and wondering how we would possibly cope with another failed cycle, I started to allow myself to imagine a life not driven by 28-day cycles and endless associated vigils. With the benefit of lots of exhaustive and exhausting conversations, and after consuming huge amounts of reading material on coping with infertility, my husband and I finally began to loosen the tight grip we had on our increasingly fragile dream.
As I look back on that difficult period, there were many emotional and practical considerations that led to our acknowledging that it was time for us to find a way to move on. We had seen other people go through double or more the number of IVF rounds without success. We weren’t getting any younger.
But perhaps the greatest consideration was the realization that the heartbreak of losing more IVF “offspring” was just too much to bear — especially when the rest of the world — minus my immediate family and a handful of close friends — didn’t recognize our loss or offer any of the copious support reserved for legitimate grief.
(To any parent reading this post, imagine burying your children and all the dreams you had for them all the while the world continues on around you completely oblivious to your grieving or emotional difficulty. Not a pretty picture is it?)
In the wake of hopeful signs that my ovaries were pumping out eggs, learning those eggs were successfully fertilizing, that beautiful embryos were growing, we allowed ourselves to dream, and I mean dream BIG about finally holding our own child in our arms only to have that dream shattered. When our new (and last) RE was busy lining us up in his queue for yet another IVF round, it became evident to my husband and me that facing the excruciating emotional pain associated with the loss of another set of embryos would actually be harder to manage than the idea that our family might only number two. We cancelled the IVF procedure.
Until recently I did a good job of suppressing my grief. I realize now (some 78 posts later) that it’s far healthier to address it. Some days are clearly easier than others. I jealously guard the memories of our plans for the future and what might have been, the sacrifices my husband and I made in pursuit of those plans. I cherish the closeness we share as a result of the trials we’ve faced together.
And still I bristle — okay, become downright apoplectic — when I hear people diminish the pain of infertility, primary infertility in particular. If you really want to see me get unglued, watch what happens when new acquaintances or strangers say things like: “Aren’t you glad you never had the hassle of raising kids, it’s so expensive!” or “See? it’s not so bad that you didn’t have kids, look at all the travel or shopping you get to do!” or “I’m so jealous of your freedom — must be nice not to have all the responsibility of kids.”
Must be nice not to have to contemplate the alternative is what I want to say in return, especially when they’re basking in the adoration or pride of their children.
Why the sharpened tone you wonder? This is the anniversary of my first IVF egg harvest. It was once a day of great promise. That’s something I know I’ll never forget.