Please Hold For The Children


Children — especially preparing for them during fertility treatments — play a central role in our lives. When children don’t arrive it can be devastating.

Can someone please turn off that annoying hold music? I’m sure some of you can hear it.

For those of you who can’t, you’ll have to imagine that irritating music that plays on the phone while you’re on an endless customer service phone call waiting to be helped. Only in this case, your wait time is indefinite. That’s the way it is with the hold music that surrounds Infertility.

The music began playing with the decision to start our family and against that soundtrack we did what most people do, we factored in the children:

•    Let’s buy this house! It’s expensive but it’s in a neighborhood with the best public schools.
•    Oh I can’t take that job – it’s not a parent-friendly environment.
•    We’d like to take that extended trip but we really should start a college fund – it’s only a matter of time before the babies arrive, and everyone tells us education is getting ridiculously expensive.
•    I’d really like to get that sporty two-seater but where will the car seats go?

For infertiles, it’s amazing how many aspects of our lives get shaped waiting for an outcome that may not actually happen. I adjusted my expectations bit by bit as we made more and more discoveries about our inability to conceive naturally but children remained a guiding force in planning our lives. Endless tests, prods or treatments later, there I was.

Little by Little my Life Became all About Battling Infertility … For the Children

•    I really don’t think we should remodel until we know how many bedrooms we’re going to need.
•    Now don’t forget you can’t be out of town on these dates. I’ll be ovulating.
•    The treatments are going to cost HOW MUCH? And it’s all out of pocket? Well, we can cut back on discretionary spending and tap into the college fund to pay the, gulp, tab.
•   I can’t quit and take that exciting startup job.  It will own me body and soul. We just can’t risk it.
•    Sorry, we’d like to join you on that adventure but we’re sort of tied up with, uh, some scheduling conflicts.
•    Honey, you know we can’t make any plans. We’re at the mercy of the clinic’s scheduling.
•    We have to cancel hosting the Thanksgiving dinner at our place. I’ll be in the post-embryo transfer waiting period. The doctors explicitly said I can’t push myself.
•    I’m kind of emotionally exhausted. I don’t want to think about what comes next.
•    Can’t we just “be” for a while? I don’t want to think about life without children.
•    Sigh. I get it. There won’t be any children.

In time the hold music becomes so familiar to infertiles that we stop hearing it altogether, and for me that’s been a dozen years! Infertility is so much like Waiting for Godot. There’s waiting, waiting, waiting. Who knew my 30s would become the lost decade? Knowing what I know now, I’d like to petition the universe to refund that time and money. I’d like to rewind so I can retroactively redirect my life without the children.

Part of coming to terms with Infertility, I’ve come to realize, is understanding just how pervasive it is in controlling not only your body but your life, your future, your plans.

Now about that hold button. It’s just so difficult to disconnect entirely. Preparing indefinitely for an outcome that Infertility hijacked has thrown me for a loop. I’m a little like a prisoner being released after a 12 year sentence. I hardly know how to act.

For now, while I empty my head of the thoughts and behaviors of someone planning for the children, I’ve left the receiver in the other room with the door shut. That way the hold music doesn’t seem so loud.