Promises, Promises


Broken_Promises_by_HerrFousHardly a week goes by when there isn’t some new study talking about a promising new fertility discovery or nefarious contributor to infertility. Take this study not long ago about the 350 genes involved in female fertility or this perplexing news about the impact of soy on sperm.

It wasn’t long ago that I devoured those stories. I feasted on the potential that the next study would provide the miraculous formula necessary to get me knocked up.  I even subscribed to ob/gyn journals to see if I could match my RE scientific jargon for scientific jargon. I was practically a walking encyclopedia of reproductive knowledge.

That’s not true today. I canceled my subscriptions after the last BFN. Getting those headlines in my inbox was far too painful a reminder of those heady days when I thought I could get the upper hand biologically if I just knew more.  Today when random fertility-related headlines show up in the news, I approach those same types of stories with a certain amount of trepidation. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I’ll avoid them altogether.

I know there will likely come a day when promise becomes a breakthrough occurs on the fertility front. The promises associated with freezing eggs, for instance, gets more real all the time. And I also know that it will be too late for me.  (Cue the violins…)

See also  Growing Through Loss

I bring this up because I’ve often wondered how women who experienced infertility issues in their prime-time mommy years in, say, the 1950s, 1960s or even 1970s perceived IUIs and IVFs when they came screaming on the scene to jump start conception and pregnancy. How did it feel for them to see their sisters succeed where they didn’t, after their window of opportunity had closed? Envy certainly, but to know that if the development had just come earlier they might have succeeded themselves. That’s got to be hard. Reaching for an analogy, it might be like the last person to be diagnosed with polio just weeks before the vaccine became available…

Yeah, you could argue I’ve let my mind wander too far astray. Why worry about something that hasn’t happened yet? ‘Cause that’s what I do!

P.S. Apropos of nothing.  I’m making peace with Cheerios. Yes. There was a period there when the little beige Os conjured up only images of chubby-cheeked toddlers happily munching away. They, along with a few other things, were banned or expunged from the house in the early post-BFN days. No longer. Now I enjoy them again for breakfast (and you can be certain I don’t leave a trail of Os behind me).

See also  An Unexpected Life

29 Responses

  1. Ellen K

    October 24, 2007 2:32 pm

    I thought I was the only one upset by Cheerios…

    I was born in 1977, and my parents are very good friends with a childless couple. My mom went to high school with them, and they live in the same neighborhood. They are an amazing couple with lots of passion and energy for life and each other, and I consider them my childless role models. They did try to conceive, but IVF came too late for them — at least too late for a working-class couple in the mid-80s, in the upper Midwest, to afford the time and travel to one of the few IVF centers. This couple knows of our own infertility, and sometime the wife will pass along messages and good wishes to me, via my mom. Recently she told my mom that she wishes she’d had access to IVF, “just to try,” but she doesn’t necessarily wish for a different outcome.

    Similarly, the book “Sweet Grapes” was written by a couple whose infertility experience was in the very early 80s. It’s an excellent book, but their version of “doing everything we can” is far from what we can do today.

    I’ve noticed a stronger sense of resignation in lots of the writing about infertility, adoption, and childlessness in the books published prior to the mid-90s and prior to the advent of ICSI.

  2. DD

    October 24, 2007 3:04 pm

    My mother’s aunt and her husband were childless/childfree (PC?) and I remember as small children visiting them and asking why they didn’t have kids of their own so we could play with them.

    I don’t remember how they answered, but it was probably due to infertility.

    Both of them have long since passed away and I think about them more now than I have in a long time. They were an amazing couple, I should note and were always very kind and generous to my mother. I remember how he would wrap us in the hammock and push it so hard it would do a 360…sweet memories.

  3. loribeth

    October 24, 2007 3:30 pm

    My daughter was stillborn in August 1998. My grandfather passed away in October 1998 (three days after I returned to work) & my grandmother passed away almost a year to the day later. It was one of my hugest regrets that I was never able to bring home a great-grandchild for them, or have my children know them.

    Around that same time, approaching Christmas, there was a Cheerios commercial with a grandmother talking to an adorable baby who was sitting in a high chair pushing Cheerios around. The commercial ended with the grandmother saying, “We’ll always be together at Christmas.” I absolutely bawled my eyes out, because I had spent every Christmas of my life with my grandparents. I had been looking forward to spending Christmas 1998 with them & a new baby, & by Christmas 1999, the table was actually shrinking instead of expanding. I’ve never felt quite the same about Cheerios since then.

    I know what you mean about progress (and Ellen, I agree completely about “Sweet Grapes.”). Even in the six years that have passed since I stopped treatment, donor egg & surrogacy have become much more common & accepted as an option.

  4. Farah

    October 24, 2007 3:39 pm

    My MIL and her Older Sister are in that predicament. My MIL has 10 kids s(don’t get me started) and her sister (due to early menopause and other female related issues)is unable to conceive. To this day, they hate each other. There is a lot of bitterness and envy from both of them. It’s so sad to watch/live

  5. Lori

    October 24, 2007 4:00 pm

    This is a great question.

    I’m just half a decade behind those of you who are going through IF right now. I never did resolve my IF issues, and sometimes I wonder how different things might be for me if I’d had access to today’s technology.

    I’m also continually amazed by how much woman today “take charge” of their fertility and know as much about it as their REs. I am in the dark about many of the acronyms (I’ve figured out 2ww and BFN).

    But really, I can’t imagine my life being any different than it is.

    Glad the Cheerios are allowed back in the shopping cart!

  6. Lindsay

    October 24, 2007 4:50 pm

    If you didn’t worry about things that haven’t happened, what fun would that be? Just wanted to stop in and say thanks for the tremendous support you’ve been.

  7. Kami

    October 24, 2007 6:09 pm

    “I even subscribed to ob/gyn journals”

    Wow! I think I found someone worse than me. Although I have had my OB get me copies of articles in the past I never actually subscribed. I think all the knowledge has helped me feel more at peace with what is going on, but really didn’t help the outcome. Still, it is what I needed to do at the time.

    I have a friend who is about a decade ahead of me and IVF was available but not within reach for them financially. They temped and did TI for 10 years before giving up. I will have to ask them about it. My sense is that they have made peace with their decision, but I am sure it stings a bit.

    As for cheerios – no peace made here. If this pregnancy works out, I imagine trying to avoid all things typical. I hope we get the chance to find out.

  8. mchope

    October 24, 2007 9:48 pm

    I, too, have subscribed to those journals, slogging through medical jargon I didn’t understand and looking for key words that might mean something. For me I think it was about having some perceived control over my situation. I have even been known to fax articles to my RE as part of my “no stone unturned” approach. I have put this behind me for the most part. As the years passed I realized that the test have been done and the treatments that have yet to be attempted will either work or they won’t…I can’t control it. Kind of freeing, really.

    I have a great aunt and uncle who were never able to have children, most likely due to a childhood injury that left my great uncle sterile. They are now in their 80s and I always wonder what treatments they might have tried if they had the opportunity. The kicker is that they lived only a few miles from my mother’s family and my mom is one of eleven kids. My great aunt was called upon many times to tend the brood while my grandma went to the hospital to deliver her latest baby. She took it far better than I would have. I am told that my grandma always said if it were possible to have a baby for someone else (surrogacy today) she would have done it for them in a heartbeat. She felt it was the greatest gift you could give someone. If today’s technology would have been available then, I have no doubt she would have done it.

  9. Schatzi

    October 24, 2007 11:35 pm

    I have wondered the very same thing. When regular “trying” didn’t work, we knew there were always infertility treatments. But what if IVF was just experimental right now?

    Sometimes I think it would be easier if there weren’t dozens of different treatment options available. Don’t get me wrong… I am grateful that the technology exists so that I can give it a shot. I only think sometimes that the plethora of options i.e., IUI, IVF, donor egg, donor sperm, donor embryo, surrogacy also makes the decisions regarding when to stop treatments more complicated, and sometimes overwhelming. These are decisions my aunt and uncle (who adopted) couldn’t even have dreamed of 30 years ago. So although I am grateful for IVF, I have difficulty deciding when to cease treatments… especially if it is short of current technological capabilities.

    I wonder sometimes… how will infertility treatments be different in 20 years? And will I look back wishing I was 20 years younger?

  10. SJ

    October 25, 2007 1:48 am

    As an infertile adoptee, it boggles my mind when I compare my own parents’ experience with infertility in the late 70s with my own.

    Mostly, I think the more hush-hush nature of the times meant my mom never was able to talk about IF with her friends or family. She never quite grieved not being able to have a bio-baby, and I think in some ways was rushed into adopting as a “quick fix” to the problem. Like it would’ve been too weird for them to simply choose a child-free life instead (which they probably should have). It was easier to adopt and try to “blend in.”

  11. Bea

    October 25, 2007 5:03 am

    Medicine moves so fast at the moment, there are countless scenarios like this. I am always grateful for having been born now, instead of then, but I also know that, in a few years time, the treatment protocol recommended for a patient like me may have changed dramatically.

    It won’t matter at all if the end result is the same anyway, but knowing it could have all been so drastically different would be hard. Of course, until they come up with a guaranteed treatment – which I don’t see happening – no-one will be able to do more than speculate about what might have been.


  12. SaraS-P

    October 25, 2007 2:29 pm

    I haven’t subscribed to the journals yet, but I have done Medline and Pubmed searches in hope of enlightenment. It so far has just verified that the research is often too theoretical, not connected enough to other findings, or just done sloppily (small sample size, poor recruitment strategy, god awful statistical analysis, poor controls, etc.). I actually doubt that a miracle cure will come within the next century, at least not for all or most infertile women. HUmans are just complex enough to make it a crapshoot.

  13. Michele Strom

    October 26, 2007 2:00 am

    Forgive me if this sounds insensitive, or if you answered this in an earlier post, but have you considered adoption?

    There are many older children suffering too, because no one wants or loves them.

    I know this is not an option or the right choice for everyone. I just wanted to know what you thoughts were on the subject.

    I am very sorry that you have had such a painful experience. I pray you will find peace. God Bless you.

  14. Pamela Jeanne

    October 26, 2007 4:40 am

    Dear Michele: Thanks for visiting and for your good wishes. I have touched on the adoption question in the past. You can read some additional discussion about it in the reading/resources link below in my sidebar. What it boils down to for me is that wanting my own child and parenting someone else’s are two completely different issues — apples and oranges. The adoption process is neither easy nor a sure thing for children of all ages especially when their biological parents are still alive. You can also read more about some of the challenges involved on Jenna’s blog: She’s been trying everything to adopt and has faced a different kind of heartache as a result. In the meantime, I appreciate and encourage your continued support of women who struggle with infertility.

  15. Geohde

    October 26, 2007 6:07 am

    You have a good point, PJ, the way technology relentlessly marches on there must be a substantial proportion of people thinking ‘If only they could do that just FIVE years ago’ all the time.

    I am very grateful for the advent of ICSI, since without it I wouldn’t even have the option of a realistic chance of a child with my husband.

    I wonder how I’ll feel if they discover a way to repair sperm abnormalities with genetic-engineering (or something suitably clever) down the track, completely rendering all the energy I’ve put into ART moot?

    I’d guess at pretty damn cheesed off.

  16. Babystep

    October 26, 2007 5:58 pm

    It is interesting…I already feel like a failure in so many ways (even though every book I read tells me not to, how can I help it!). After TTC for 5+ years with nothing to show for it, never a BFP, we have figured out that we are dealing with Male Factor and depending upon who you talk to, I have a luteal phase defect (some people say it doesn’t exist, but my 9 day luteal phase certainly does exist!).

    It turns out that we could have tried for 100 more years and it probably would never have worked on our own. We have finally start our first IVF cycle. I was very against it at first. I thought I would give up long before we got to this point, but I just couldn’t give up. I thought I would say, “well, it wasn’t meant to be”. I also worried about the long term effects of the stimming process and was adamant I would never do it. Never say never, I guess.

    Yes, I often think about what people did before all this technology was available. And I am certainly glad that we are fortunate enough to give it a shot; we can take the financial hit (no insurance coverage). However, I am worried. If this doesn’t work….will I feel even more like a failure? That even with every available technological advance, ICSI, assisted hatching, 5 day embryos….if it doesn’t work, what then? How do we know when to stop? I read a book last night that mentioned someone had 22 failed IVF attempts. Does that seem excessive? How do we know when enough is enough?

    • Pamela Jeanne

      October 26, 2007 8:42 pm

      I was right where you are, Baby Step, a few years ago. Like you, I was very against being turned into a human experiment and resisted IVF before finally relenting. Why? Because I couldn’t just accept “it was meant to be” when I knew ICSI IVF was available to us. After two fresh and one FET attempts we found that the hopeful expectation manifested by the cumulative successes of IVF followed by the crushing defeat of BFN was more than we could take. Not to mention the financial burden since all of our treatments were out of pocket. You must tell me the name of the book you’re reading. 22 cycles – WOW! I didn’t know it was possible to get punctured and shot up with hormones that many times without seriously negative consequences. Wishing you much success with your IVF!!

      • Babystep

        October 29, 2007 12:04 am

        Hi there – the book is “In Vitro Fertilization: the A.R.T. of Making Babies by Geoffrey Sher, M.D. It is very technical and very dry, but there was an anecdote that mentioned someone who did IVF 22 times!

  17. Yodasmistress

    October 26, 2007 10:49 pm

    “How did it feel for them to see their sisters succeed where they didn’t, after their window of opportunity had closed?”

    I find this to be a very valid thought. In many ways, isn’t the pain of infertility as much about TIME as anything? Yes it is about the heartache today and tomorrow and the needles and the doctors and the loss of romance but I really think there is also about the time – especially for the ladies who married late or (god forbid) had successful careers that delayed TTC… and even the younger ladies who began in their twenties who had always dreamed of a large family but as the years roll on and no pregnancy happens, that family picture gets smaller and smaller.

    I know this isn’t exactly what you were talking about but I don’t think it’s exactly different either.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      October 27, 2007 3:29 pm

      Yes. Time is the dominant theme here for the various scenarios you raise. They take on all sorts of new meanings over time. They don’t expire or resolve tidily. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  18. Deathstar

    October 26, 2007 11:37 pm

    When I saw the Indian fertility clinic on the Oprah show where they house surrogate mothers for international clients, I have to admit – I was wishing I had known this a couple of years ago. A friend of mine asked me some time ago if I would consider surrogacy and at the time, I thought, oh, no, that would be too weird. That’s what rich celebrities do. But you know what, now, I’m not so sure. Especially if there was an option that I could afford in the real world. It’s not an option any longer, my eggs are probably way too dusty for that. Adoption is actually more expensive than a few IVFs, and the entire process is neither private nor simple. It’s not for everyone. I’m now discovering that having children is more than just having a baby in the house.

  19. ursi

    October 27, 2007 10:06 am

    Interesting post. I’m sure that if I were older and hadn’t had the chance to do ivf, I would be wondering ‘what if . . ‘. On the other hand, having done it without success, I sometimes think it would have been easier not to have had the option: not to have expended all this money, time and emotion, not to be trying to decide whether to have one last go.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      October 27, 2007 3:34 pm

      At one level I think for many the multiple options out there create false hope and prolong the roller coaster ride. Regardless of the era, I maintain that accepting infertility would be that much easier if the experience were understood to be a traumatic and life-shattering one. At a minimum we might get fewer heartless comments like, “No kids? Lucky you.”

  20. Changing Expectations

    October 27, 2007 10:56 pm

    Interesting post. I am glad that I live today where the technology is available. I often asked myself when we would stop trying. We entered areas which I never thought that we would when we first started. It’s amazing how deep the need is to continue no matter what the consequence – health, finances, relationship strain.

  21. foreverhopeful

    October 31, 2007 6:29 am

    You always bring such great insight and love coming here. My mom told me she had two good friends who went through IF. One finally got pregnant on her own after 10 years (at the age of 37) and her other friend never did. I assume that technology wasn’t as readily available back than like we have and I can’t imagine how hopeless they must have felt. I feel grateful that science has come so far for us and that we have so many options to choose from IVF, adoption, egg donor, surrogacy…!

  22. niobe

    November 1, 2007 4:45 pm

    And I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Not about infertility per se, but about preeclampsia. I avoid reading about PE, because I know that someday someone will discover how to prevent or treat it. Even though it will be a medical breakthrough that will save the lives of millions of women and children, I will hate the fact that it wasn’t available for my twins.

  23. Egg Donors

    February 11, 2010 6:38 am

    Great Post…..

    I found your site on stumbleupon and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

    Thanks for sharing….

  24. marinax

    June 15, 2010 5:14 pm

    my husband and i have that issue at the table now.
    me, just tired, thinking that IVF+PGD after 5 years of trying is enough; him, still hopeful, thinking “something new might come up” in the near future…

    near? how near to my 37 ?!!!

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