On The Road to Recovery


Hi, I’m Pamela, and I’m Infertile.

How’s that for an ice breaker? I haven’t tested it in its raw form, but I’m coming pretty close. It seems at times like I’m following my own 12-step recovery process. For me, infertility started as a shocking disease diagnosis that embarrassed and shamed me. It was easiest to cope with my good friend Denial. Then I decided to get even in a behind-the-scenes, all-out angry battle to get the upper hand biologically. More recently, I’ve haltingly accepted and started to publicly acknowledge that conception and pregnancy simply aren’t and never have been in the cards for me. Saying it makes it real.

That’s been hard enough, but I haven’t been doing it in isolation.

No, all around me people have been procreating like mad — conceiving, delivering and cuddling one, two, three kids.  Meanwhile I’ve been the wallflower smiling painfully at a distance. Sometimes I felt like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, only the pained smile and nothing more. I was empty.

Those dark days and the tears that accompanied them are never far from the surface. I found that out during a recent lunch with a business acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen in a few years. It took that long to get together because she was one of the people who inadvertently wounded me in the wake of a failed IVF cycle. (I say inadvertently because she had no idea I was in IF treatment. She is a kind soul who’s had her own share of painful life experiences.)

See also  Fragile Dreams, My Stove Vent and Anticipation

Over salads we caught up. I tentatively told her about my writing projects and their subject matter. She nodded gently. I described how beneficial the writing process had been after our IVF cycles proved unsuccessful, how difficult it has been to acknowledge my infertility when her face suddenly went white. She asked when it was that I last underwent IVF. Suddenly I knew where the conversation was going.


I choked up a bit and told her the timing but nothing more. She did the math and immediately started apologizing. You see our last social get together started out as a relaxed dinner that went south.  In the wake of my NEGATIVE, I actively sought out other couples without children. It’s what all infertiles do as a means of self defense. We were well into our appetizers when they joyfully informed us that they were expecting. It was all I could do then and there not to lose it.

I turned to stone. I congratulated them and promptly refilled my wine glass, but the evening proceeded with a completely different tone. I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Fast forward to lunch. My intent was never to bring up the dinner and its effects but she suddenly realized that her pregnancy news collided with my loss and that’s when the apologies came tumbling out. I mistakenly thought enough time had passed that I would able to keep my emotions in check, but with the force of the memory came the quiet, familiar tears. It was as though I was reliving the dinner that very moment, but this time my stoney exterior was gone.

See also  And Then I Became A Little Girl Again

My lunch mate told me she remembered a definite change in my demeanor that night, like a wall had dropped between us but she had no idea why. She’d often wondered, until now, why I had become so unavailable. I told her there was no reason to apologize. How could she be responsible for something she didn’t know she was doing? Therein lies the yawning gap between those who are quietly undergoing infertility treatments and those who simply don’t know.

And that’s why I’ve started to come out of the closet. I’m not leading with the infertility card, but if the opportunity arises, I’ll make the determination about whether to fill in the blanks. What’s happened as a result is interesting. I’ve now got two groups of acquaintances — those who know and those who don’t.  Among those in the know, I’m more like my old self — pre-infertility diagnosis. I feel at ease and plunge comfortably into discussions about their children sometimes surprising them (and me) with my interest.

Among those who don’t know, I still feel like something of a caged lion. I avoid talk of children and stiff arm them. Weird, I know, but it’s almost as though I’m daring them to learn more. Once they’ve demonstrated empathy,  and a capacity to care, I’ll let down my guard and allow them in.  I’m now living in a parallel universe.

See also  Words of Chance, Caution and Kindness

15 Responses

  1. Sunny

    October 20, 2007 7:32 pm

    Perfectly said. Sometimes it is easier to just let the world where you are so it isn’t the elephant in the room.

  2. chicklet

    October 20, 2007 10:42 pm

    I’m coming out more day by day too. The opportunities seem to be coming up and rather than skipping them like I used to, I’m just laying it out. It’s an interesting change, I kinda like it. No more secrets. Congrats on doing it!

  3. Lori

    October 20, 2007 11:11 pm

    I hear the “Rocky” music in the background as you get stronger and steadier.

    You’re doing such a service for the entire Pomegranate community.

  4. Kim

    October 21, 2007 12:28 am

    It’s freeing isn’t? I used to “shhh” thoughts of telling people. Now, for the most part, I speak up about our IF troubles. But there are some people I just don’t even bother with.

    I’m glad you were able to talk with your lunch date about the past. It sounds like it made both of your feel a little better in the end.

  5. meghan

    October 21, 2007 1:01 am

    I’m with you on the caged lion thing. I feel like that all the time, almost like I’m daring people to say something I’ll find offensive…even though I could just come clean and I know they would be supportive.

    I’m glad you’re getting stronger and stronger and letting more people in. I’m going to try to do the same.

  6. Geohde

    October 21, 2007 6:02 am

    “saying it makes it real”

    Ain’t that the truth.

    I still lie my butt off whenever people enquire about when I plan to have children. Maybe I shouldn’t.


  7. Kareno

    October 21, 2007 11:07 am

    Hey, I like your new decor! LOVE the color 🙂

    Lately I’ve done this too: “I avoid talk of children and stiff arm them.” And it gets easier day by day. Until I hit a rough spot and I throw my toys out of the cot. And its NOT a pretty sight!

  8. May

    October 21, 2007 6:01 pm

    I feel I have been very lucky. Despite the odd painfully idiotic comment from my sister and my assorted aunts, I have more or less, so far, fingers crossed, dodged the whole Infertility Elephant. My work-place is populated by the single, the utterly uninterested in procreation, and the safely ‘kids in teens’ demographics. It’s never something anyone talks about. Certainly no one asks about my reproductive plans.

    And then I come and read other people’s blogs and I’m HORRIFIED by the general nosy cluelessness and accidental blind-siding you all suffer. It makes me sad that it’s still all so taboo we can’t say, actually, I’m infertile. It makes me sad that when you grasp the nettle and DO, the response is so often less than ideal.

    I haven’t needed to be brave and share. But I so immensely admire all the people who are brave, because in the end you’re building up a fund of courage for the rest of us to take strength and comfort from, especially when, inevitably, we will have to discuss our own elephants. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  9. Lindsay

    October 21, 2007 9:33 pm

    I’m with you and getting the hell out of the closet. It’s made any relationship that matters to me so much easier. The ones that it has challenged, well they weren’t all that good in the first place. It’s hard, and it’s scary, but I think it’s better than being alone.

  10. namaste

    October 21, 2007 9:43 pm

    Dear Pamela, thank you for your comment on my blog…
    Sorry for this off topic, just to let you know what I was dealing with last week – biochemical pregnancy (after AIH). One more emotionally exhausting experience, I’m sure you can imagine. Just a touch of happiness, three days of feeling and thinking that we could finally be blessed, until we realized that level of my ß hCG started dropping… rapidly. This was a new drama which we haven’t experienced by now…
    I’m reading your blog, discovering my thoughts in your words…
    Thank you and I’m wishing you all the best…

  11. Changing Expectations

    October 21, 2007 11:23 pm

    My IF was the big elephant in the room. I didn’t ever want anyone to know how it affected me. It is so difficult.

    I am glad that you are embracing the other position. I think that the more people know about IF the better of everyone will be.

  12. Bea

    October 22, 2007 8:06 am

    It’s funny isn’t it? It’s hard to really “be yourself” around those who don’t know. Yet it’s sometimes hard to hold on to a friendship with someone who does know, but reacts badly. Fine line. Your willingness to tell is surely a sign of new strength – feeling able to take a hit here and there. Ultimately, I believe you will end up better off for letting friends know the “real” you.


  13. Summer

    October 22, 2007 10:15 pm

    I don’t think it’s weird at all. Well, maybe I’m biased because I feel like I’m living in parallel universes, too. More and more I’m moving people into my infertile world and like you, I don’t make it my first order of business, but if the opportunity comes up and I’m in the right place, I “come out.” The funny thing is, it might be hard initially and there have been lots of times when I don’t want to say something, but I always feel better once I have.

  14. SJ

    October 23, 2007 12:05 am

    I feel good about telling more and more people as time goes on — glad to do my part to bring infertility out of the closet.

    Yet I’m a little sad it hasn’t brought me the relief I thought it would. People just don’t know what to say about to you about it — there’s no “script” for it. So while my friends/family/close co-workers are understanding and sensitive about it, it’s still this weird uncomfortable thing between us. I don’t want to burden them with my sadness or “too much information” about treatments and they are probably walking on eggshells around me, etc.

    Maybe over time when IF is even more “normal” to people, it’ll be easier.

Comments are closed.