Stuck in a Thought Bubble


I’ll take a long weekend over a short weekend any time, but I have to guard against the “too much time to think” affliction.

When I get to mulling over an idea I can do a serious number on myself. And I’ve had a doozie of a wondering session going the last few days. I hesitate to share it because I don’t want to offend anyone. So to any woman who has gotten pregnant — especially those after infertility treatment — you might want to stop reading now.  If you continue reading this is not about you, it’s about me, okay?

Alrighty. I’m going release the thought hounds. I’ve been caught up imagining what kind of pregnant-after-infertility treatment-woman I might have been. Clearly, there is no right or wrong way to be. No etiquette book to turn to for guidance.

This is not the first time I’ve given this pregnancy persona idea a test drive. I started wondering what kind of pregnant lady I’d be after our first IVF — the anniversary of which is just weeks away.

No one goes into trying to conceive assuming they won’t succeed. Pee sticks that we once joyfully ripped open suddenly become a necessary (and expensive) part of our shopping list. We hope against hope that we will achieve the elusive double pink lines. We want so badly to graduate from complicated and schedule-driven injections, surgery and suppositories to a normal “bun in the oven” experience.

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By the time I’d gotten all the away to IVF I had moved far away from ever feeling “normal” about  conceiving yet with each hormone injection I’d start to feel a little more pregnant. I swelled up. I got tired. I had a hard time sleeping on my stomach. It was the closest I’d ever felt to that mystical far-off sensation of pregnancy. Now the question was how to act …

I’d done my time at baby showers. I had observed the pregnant women around me like an anthropologist. They’d glow as they’d rubbed their bellies. They’d confidently banter baby names about. They complained. They bragged on their ultrasound photos. They’d smile and groan with each kick coming from inside.

Try as I might I could not relate to them. I fretted about the fact that I’d always I feel like a fraud in their company. I couldn’t ever imagine becoming one of them. Worse still, I resented their care-free easiness and “I can’t wait until this is over” impatience. They got under my skin.

That was real life. I was an infertile trying to act fertile. Now I face a different kind of challenge. When I discovered the vibrant and vocal community of infertiles online I felt for the first time in years like I could relate deeply once again with other women, experience a connection that had been missing in my life.

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In sharing common thoughts and experiences visceral and otherwise I was transported back to my younger days before we first subdivided — peeling off into the dating or not dating crowd, followed by the married or not married subdivision … then pregnant, not pregnant, only to lead to the mommy, not mommy separation.

In real life I expected my fertile friends to move on and get pregnant once, twice, three times or more. I came to realize we were different and didn’t expect we’d ever be able to relate as fully as we once did. It made me sad but I made the adjustment and found a way to cope with our differences.

With the panoply of pregnancies taking place all over my blogroll, I realize I have to adjust yet again. I wasn’t fully prepared for the sucker punches that come with reading about the same pregnancy behaviors from women who were once like me.

That’s why I’ve been stuck in this thought bubble.  How would I have been if I ever succeeded with pregnancy? I honestly don’t know. That’s why I’m not passing judgment. I just don’t know if I’d be any different. The challenge is I’ll never know. I’m left, instead, to wonder…

So, in this seemingly never-ending journey of making adjustments and trying to find ways to cope with pregnancies and mommyhood I see I have more to learn.

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26 Responses

  1. Deathstar

    May 26, 2008 5:33 pm

    You know, I’m quickly approaching my 45th birthday and as I am finding more grey hairs in my nether region than I care to admit, I often think of the exact same thing you do. My mind, which is still fertile, likes to imagine the “miracle” pregnancy which results miraculously in a perfectly healthy child after a perfectly healthy pregnancy. Defying all odds, I am the star in my biggest production yet.

    I hope that I will have less time for this in the future as I try to recreate another version of the life that I deserve.

  2. Lori

    May 26, 2008 5:36 pm

    “I was transported back to my younger days before we first subdivided — peeling off into the dating or not dating crowd, followed by the married or not married subdivision … then pregnant, not pregnant, only to lead to the mommy, not mommy separation.”

    I have a few single friends. I sometimes wonder if their single-ness is as painful as what I went through with IF.

    Good thought bubble.

  3. Pepper

    May 26, 2008 5:45 pm

    I have a friend who struggled with IF for years and years, but who is now finally pg. I’m amazed at how confident she is in her pg and how she told everyone as soon as she found out. It’s as if the positive beta erased years and years of IF like it never even happened. I find it all strange and incredibly annoying, heaven forgive me. I’m really trying to be happy for her, but I admit that I’m not looking forward to the months ahead because I know it’s only going to get worse.

    This IF thing really does a number on a person, doesn’t it?

  4. Phoebe

    May 26, 2008 5:46 pm

    The not-knowing is the hardest part. I think there are a lot of assumptions that once you go through IVF once, twice, however many times, you assume that you will be in bliss once you get pregnant. For me, pregnancy was absolutely NOT what I thought it would be. I can honestly say that it was a nightmare for me. I won’t know yet if it was all worth it or not, but it seriously has got me thinking if motherhood is for me. I think it’s good to keep an open mind, because things are not always as they seem.

  5. Chrissy

    May 26, 2008 5:55 pm

    It sounds like limboland. You DO fit somewhere or more than one place but finding the one that is the most comfortable isn’t easy. For 8 years I was surrounded by friends getting and staying pregnant all while whining to me about morning sickness and the horrors of pregnancy and delivery. By the time that I was able to carry a pregnancy, I felt like a fraud and that I really didn’t belong to either the infertile club or the mommy club. It was a weird time. The one thing I tried so hard to do was not to talk about being pregnant. I knew the pain of being one that had to listen to others. I have never, ever, since the second month of “trying” to get pregnant, asked anyone if they have children, or worse yet, why not. I think some people are able to put their infertile past behind them, but I wouldn’t let myself so I could be aware of others heartaches and not be “one of those” women.

  6. JuliaKB

    May 26, 2008 5:56 pm

    Completely understandable. I feel judged by “normals” for my pregnancy behavior all the time. Even people who know, close friends are surprised that I don’t want to behave like or have others treat this pregnancy “like any other.” Um, no, thanks.

    I feel like, and like you said, this is completely about me and not anyone else, but I feel like the expected and encouraged pregnancy behavior belies the expectation of the outcome. There is a baby on the other end, and so since we know the ending, and it’s good, might as well milk the experience, enjoy the ride, or complain about the inconveniences of it, whatever the case may be. And I don’t begrudge anyone the complaints or the enjoyment. It’s just that since I know so very well that the outcome is not guaranteed, and since I am kinda in it for the outcome, I can’t behave “normally.” I just can’t.

  7. Laura NaComLeavMo

    May 26, 2008 8:11 pm

    Learning to remember that at this point I am “just like the fertiles” is really hard. I feel the need to point out to people that my pregnancy was harder come by than theirs (when that is not necessarily the case). Learning to act pregnant was an odd curve to climb but it was instinctive in the end. That instinctive behaviour never takes away the fact that I will be infertile for the rest of my life (or for as long as my husband is alive… which ever comes first)

  8. Alacrity

    May 26, 2008 8:29 pm

    Interesting thoughts PJ.

    I can’t help but think that I would have been changed by the years of trying, and would have worried about something going wrong rather than take the whole thing for granted. How could all of that knowledge and agony NOT change the experience?

    But who knows? As those feel-good hormones kicked in…I wish I had the opportunity to find out my own answer to the question, but alas…

    I need to avoid too much thinking as well.

  9. DD

    May 26, 2008 10:02 pm

    Here’s the odd thing: I feel just as envious and saddened and left out now by a pregnancy announcement as I did before I got pregnant.

    I know your post was more about how you would feel about yourself in that state, but it just reminded me that while I have moments of feeling “normal”, it takes only a post about a positive test to feel like I did up until this past November. It’s like living those emotions on a loop.

  10. Ellen K

    May 26, 2008 10:49 pm

    Another thoughtful, and thought-provoking, post.

    I admit to being one of those who is now really enjoying her pregnancy after IF. I’m not particularly anxious or expecting the worst. The way I see it, if any tragedy were to happen, I want to remember this as a happy time. D. feels much the same way. Today we browsed the baby section of a store, and it was fun. Hard-won fun.

    And yet I don’t think I am taking this for granted, at least not overly so. How could I, considering the huge gamble that was our single planned attempt at IVF? I see a PG woman in a store, or a cute baby, or an article on fatherhood, and I am not upset at first, but my second thought goes to how differently I would feel if IVF had not worked. One of my good friends is beginning IF treatment and that also keeps me in check/in retrospect. There have been a barrage of PG announcements this year; I heard another just this weekend, from a friend who already has 2 small children (and, last I heard, was considering divorce), and the anger still hit hard.

  11. peesticksandstones

    May 27, 2008 12:04 am

    There’s a special kinda pain in the gut I get reading about the experiences of infertiles who are now pregnant. Especially ones who really hit the jackpot with, say, boy/girl twins. I am very happy for them, really I am. But at this point, I totally have to go away and not look anymore. And I feel like such an ass for that — I hate it so, so much. Especially when it’s a blogger who’s always been so supportive and kind to me.

    It just hurts so much every time it’s not me.

  12. Samantha

    May 27, 2008 12:54 am

    Pregnancy is still pregnancy, whether it happens by accident or after years of trying. The symptoms, the expected end-result are all the same, even if the mindsets and build-up into pregnancy are different. Either way, it seems like some days it’s easier to feel more equanimity about the situation than others. I know my reactions catch me off guard, both in good and bad ways.

  13. HeidiM

    May 27, 2008 5:08 am

    It’s an odd feeling, being an infertile, and an older one at that. Seeing high school and college friends have kids. Seeing their kids get old enough to go to high school. Making friends later in life who were single or childless when I met them, and seeing them go on to find Mr. Right and/or have his kids. Feeling the immense relief of finding other infertiles, and then witnessing their graduation into pregnancy.

    Being one of the last infertiles standing resonates an empty, lonely feeling. Sure there will always be more infertiles coming along. Hopeful, new batches of newbies doing IVF #1. But then, many of them, too, will move on. And will I still be here standing? Will anyone else be standing with me? I don’t wish that for anyone. But, at the same time, I don’t want to be alone.

    Eventually, if I AM to be one of the last standing, I see myself seeking out mostly those who take the same fork in the road as I do, whether it be accepting childlessness or adopting.

    But as I bide my time in the “infertile and trying” group, there is the ache of knowing that my graduation from the group may not be decided by a successful pregnancy, but by a lack of one.

  14. And M

    May 27, 2008 11:24 am

    I wish I was brave enough to write this post – I have one in draft that I don’t have the heart to hit publish on, but it has a lot to do with my ever-changing blogroll. Ouch.

  15. loribeth

    May 27, 2008 12:38 pm

    I never had a subsequent pregnancy. The first one was uncertain enough, & ended badly, and I know that loss & infertility would most certainly have coloured any subsequent experience I might have had. I’m sure you want to try to enjoy the experience, but at the same time, how can you take anything for granted, knowing what you know??

    I find most of the women I know who have been through infertility & loss are also cautious in their approach to a subsequent pregnancy. And for the most part, I find I can be happy for them. It’s like I feel they “deserve” their pregnancies more than women who haven’t been through as much to get there. What I do find hard to deal with is the aftermath once the baby arrives — the usual/normal parent complaints about late night feedings & misbehaving children, etc. I’ve even had a few of those horrible comments that you would think would never come out of the mouths of someone who has shared this experience (e.g., “You want to take her for a week?” — What?? Do you remember who you’re talking to & what you went through to get this child??)

    For those who are navigating the waters of pregnancy after loss or infertility, two good books: “Trying Again” by Ann Douglas & John Sussman, and “Pregnancy After a Loss,” by Carol Cirulli Lanham. There’s also a book called “The Long Awaited Stork,” about pregnancy & parenting after infertility, by Ellen Sarasohn Glazer.

  16. Ms Heathen

    May 27, 2008 1:50 pm

    It is so difficult not to feel left behind as more and more people on your blog roll get that elusive BFP and move over to the ‘other side’.

    I think all of us dream about what sort of pregnant woman, what sort of mother, we might be. As you say, it is so difficult to come to terms with the fact that we may never know, but will always be left wondering.

    Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  17. MLO

    May 27, 2008 2:17 pm

    No one ever knows how they are going to act in a given situation until they are in the situation. We all hope we will act better than the ones we have been offended by, but, inadvertently, we all sometimes speak without thinking. This leads to hurt feelings and can sometimes end wonderful relationships.

    Me? I have my pregnancy, and, despite constantly being vaguely ill, it doesn’t seem very real. Perhaps it is because I’ve known too many who have had tragedy greet them at the end. I think it changes you. I’m not one to shout from the rooftops that “I’m pregnant.” I am still shocked when people congratulate me, the baby isn’t here. Too many things can still go wrong – at least in my mind.

  18. Kami

    May 27, 2008 4:31 pm

    I still feel sucker punched when people get pregnant with their own gametes. I know it does me no good to compare, but I do anyway. I thought getting pregnant would make it all better, but it doesn’t. At least not for me.

    I feel I am doing a good job enjoying this pregnancy, but I still can’t seem to plan for tomorrow.

    I’m sorry. I wish you could have found out what kind of pg after IF person you would have been.

  19. Rachel

    May 28, 2008 1:31 pm

    I think these are pretty normal thought bubbles. That you still have these feelings several years after stopping all efforts, just shows how much you wanted it to happen. It’s really sad to read that, and my heart goes out to you.

    I think you’ve done a remarkable job with your feelings. I wonder if you’ll find that you’ll have good days and bad days, as far as your thoughts and feelings are concerned. Whatever happens, I hope you will always give yourself a lot of room to feel whatever you feel.

  20. Kim

    May 28, 2008 6:00 pm

    When I got pg it was different but the same. I felt so guilty for even the tiniest complain about back pain or nausea. I was so worried that something would go wrong the whole pg. I did my share of whining and some maybe because of the hormones and lack of sleep. But I still didn’t belong with the fertiles. They seemed to take their pg for granted and it never crossed their mind not to buy a crib at 5 weeks 4 days. I knew better. So while I could relate to sleepless nights and bladder pressure, I was on the outside of their nonchalant type behavior. I have no idea how they were so at ease with the whole process. I think your feelings are so valid and I do understand and remember feeling the same way. My perspective has changed by my memories are still fresh and poignant.

  21. WaterBishop

    May 28, 2008 8:00 pm

    Feeling left behind is one the hardest emotional battles IMO. I often find myself thinking about the pg person I would have been as well. I do know that I would spend the whole time in fear of losing it and probably not enjoy myself at all.
    Great post.
    The contradicting emotions towards pg Infertiles are difficult to deal with. Sometime it seems we all have our own categories to stay within, even in the infertile world. Very lonely.

  22. JuliaS

    May 28, 2008 10:23 pm

    I’ve been on both sides – not IVF, but the fertility drugs – Clomid, then Follistim which I injected myself. Then, getting pg and recurrent pg loss. At one time I though once I was pg I would get to be “normal” too. Nope. Even when you get pg you are not “like them”. You worry about things they never seem to have to worry about. You know failure all too well and failure seems your destiny and you fight it every step of the way into the delivery room, and even beyond. That doesn’t seem a very rosy picture does it? Sorry. :0( In addition – I felt guilty. Knowing how hard it was for me which meant knowing how hard it was for the others I knew still struggling; and I felt guilty and almost embarrassed and like a fraud of another kind – or at the very least a traitor of sorts.

    Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you won’t have aches and pains or moments of being less than completely excited by it all. Being pregnant doesn’t mean the past hurts go away. Being pregnant doesn’t mean you are over the getting there. You want to be and maybe you try, but it doesn’t happen that way. Though, maybe that was just me and it is different for some. The more I tried, no matter how much success I had – the more I felt like I was tempting fate and if I succeeded, felt like I had just evaded the firing squad . . . and I never fully felt comfortable or felt like I fit in.

    And you want to know something even more dumb? Sometimes it still grates when other people get pg – even when you are done trying, even if you have succeeded yourself.

    Nicely written article – you really got me thinking about another point of view.

    Thanks for your visit to my blog and your comments. I’ve seen your name around the blogdom as well! :0)

  23. Dr Bad Ass

    May 28, 2008 11:45 pm

    Here from NaComLeavMo.

    I’m a 45-year old woman (46 in a couple of days). I’ve known since I was 32 that I was infertile, so I’ve had lots of time to get used to it. I’m quite happy with my decision to be childless — truly my decision, since I could have adopted or pursued aggressive fertility treatments if I had wanted to. I guess I’m pretty lucky that in my line of work (I’m a professor), there are many women without children, whether by choice or not. Thanks for making me think.

  24. Portia P

    May 29, 2008 4:19 pm

    Your post has left me with a head full of thoughts.

    When I finished reading it I wasn’t sure if i’d be welcome to comment or not. As I read down the page I had more and more thoughts about it.

    I really hope I haven’t moved too far into the other side. I definitely am not taking this pregnancy for granted. I fear for it every single day.

    I think i’m stuck in a sort of limboland.

    On the one side my fertile friends think I should just get on with it and treat this pregnancy like they would. I can’t – it’s too hard won and if it was to fail then i’d be lucky to repeat the miracle.

    On the other side, there are all my IF friends who i’m terrified of upsetting every time i put finger to keyboard.

    I feel like I know where you’re coming from – i was there. But perhaps I don’t really know.

    What I do know is that you write brilliantly and i’d love to meet you one day!

  25. Bea

    May 31, 2008 9:33 am

    I never really felt I fit in with that fertile-pregnant crowd. But finding you don’t click with an infertile-pregnant person is an unexpected twist. I guess, logically, infertility isn’t a cookie-cutter mold that makes everyone come out the same, but it’s too easy to assume common ground. Makes one a little seasick when you suddenly realise there’s less common ground than you think.


  26. Robin Jacobs

    June 12, 2008 9:35 pm

    Thank you for your blog. I spent more than a decade trying to build a family, putting my doctoral dissertation on hold to work full time for the insurance I was so lucky to have. I lived in Chicago, a good place to be infertile, if any place can be a good place. I had five in vitros, a myomectomy, five miscarriages, and crazily enough, I am now the mother of a beautiful seven-year old boy conceived without bells and whistles (just a couple of margaritas). Sometimes people ask me why I have an only child. Sometimes people ask me where my older children are, or whether it isn’t time to start thinking about more kids. I no longer answer in a snippy way. “Just adopting” as you know is an expression that does not reflect reality.

    Adoption is as painful and intrusive as the worst of infertility procedures. And it is more expensive. My son is worth all I went through and more. But I fear that I love him too much–that such love is neither good for him nor for me. And yet, when I look at him, I see a glow surrounding him that I don’t see when I look at other children, no matter how cute they are, no matter how much I like them. Children of infertility, I would like to think, possess a magic that children conceived easily and without thought do not. Perhaps that magic is our own love reflected back at us.

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