Getting Comfortable in My Barren Skin

skinExercise-induced endorphins aside I think it’s safe to say that I’m getting much more comfortable in my barren skin, glowing now thanks to the Lifecyle 9100 recumbent bike. I’ve had more than a few “infertility impact tests” the past few weeks on days when I didn’t exercise and yet I still managed a passing grade. One of the hardest came in planning a surprise party for my better half. It was a milestone birthday and deserved a look back at his many achievements.

Once he was safely out of the house for his basketball game I rifled through photos of his growing up years. I found shots of an adorable little boy seated between his parents, playing four square, dressed in a cowboy outfit, a letter man sweater, and then as a young naval officer. It was bittersweet to wonder whether his cowlick, big brown eyes or easy smile might have been passed along to our child.

Sight unseen I scanned a set of photos into a digital archive and created buttons of his face through the years for  guests to wear as well as a huge photo collage celebrating his life. There were moments during the party when guests read toasts and tributes that I found my mind wander. Thought bubbles formed about how nice it would have been if we had had children to add to the funny stories but they were swept away by the laughter and knowledge of what a great partner, friend, spouse I have.

I was reminded of this again when I found an article in my online news reader. (Note: You’ll have to get to the end to see what I mean.)

I have a news alert set for “involuntarily childless” — the term of art for people in my shoes. The alert surfaced a piece in The Times from earlier this summer that caught my eye titled How Do Couples Cope When IVF Fails. It highlights  the lack of support that couples find available when infertility treatments don’t succeed. There are a few noteworthy facts contained within. Apparently some 25,000 women (I’m guessing that’s UK only) each year face “fruitless” outcomes where fertility treatment is concerned.

The story also quotes Jacky Boivin, a researcher at Cardiff University’s School of
Psychology. She has followed more than 100 women undertaking IVF over
seven years, and is running a five-year study of 818 couples in
Denmark. Here’s what she had to say:

“Data indicates that about 40 percent of couples are highly
distressed at having to stop. [I totally hear you Jacky]. After they have made the decision, around
5 to 10 percent remain stuck in that state. People who come to the end
of the IVF treatment are often seized
with resentment. You have to reinvent a life that is not about
having a family,” she stresses. “You have to look for the positive
while acknowledging the negative.  People have to regain a sense of
control over their lives. And they need to look
at the experience as an opportunity to renew life interests. [I hear you, sister!]

Fortunately the story ended up a high note and brings me back to my guy:

“… the divorce rate is much lower among couples whose fertility treatment failed than for the general population: 10 percent versus 50 percent. We don’t know why. There is life after infertility treatment. Not always an easy one, but most people will go on to find contentment, though the experience will always carry a sting.”

So very true, and all the more reason to treasure Mr. PJ.  He has been more than instrumental in helping me move forward.

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