Searching for Answers

, , 45 Comments

answerMost of us go online to find answers.

While the vast majority of queries are straightforward or simply look for clarification, others are downright philosophical or probing.

For the searchee (me) reviewing the phrases or questions that bring people to my site is not only informative but revealing. I’m accustomed to seeing the obvious: “coming to terms with not conceiving” or “coming to terms with childlessness” or even “coping in a fertile world.”

Then there are queries that give me pause. These are the latest ones that jumped off the page:

“Why doesn’t society help infertiles?”
“which is worse, cancer or infertility”
“what I wish fertiles knew about infertility”
“how to keep living after infertility”

Stark. Penetrating. Anguished. Collectively they raise a much larger set of questions.  Even after more than a dozen years living with infertility I can’t help but be reminded, again, how deeply the condition cuts, how it forces those of us confronting it to reassess the very things we once took for granted.

Not exactly easy questions, are they? I know there’s great wisdom among my readers, which is why — while I reflect on how I might answer them — I welcome your insights.

 

45 Responses

  1. Sam

    June 5, 2008 7:42 am

    Society doesn’t help infertile people because it is something that most suffer from in silence. Making it acceptable to discuss and share will go a long way to prompting people to action.

  2. Chrissy

    June 5, 2008 11:16 am

    I think we have all heard the loooong pause in conversation when we share the fact that infertility is greatly affecting our lives. I think people somehow equal infertility with a hush hush condition. Unlike cancer that has chemo, radiation and in most cases can be contained and sometimes cured. It is much more socially acceptable to have a disease like cancer. Everyone understands it. Not so with infertility. It is still shrouded in secrecy. I could never understand why people were surprised when I would share in detail our efforts to become parents. Most often I would here the tired old “just relax” etc. I don’t think they would tell a woman with breast cancer the same thing.

    • Portraits in Sepia

      June 8, 2008 1:41 am

      Cancer is covered by insurance in the US and treatment for infertility is most commonly not covered. Even if some plans cover it now the trend is moving towards not covering. It is simply seen as not medically necessary. Imagine that.

  3. loribeth

    June 5, 2008 12:43 pm

    I think what’s helped me most is a firm belief that I am more than my (in)fertility, that my life has value and meaning beyond my (in?)ability to procreate & raise children … that you can live a full, meaningful and interesting life without children (albeit one that’s quite different from the one you originally had in mind).

    I was reading (someone’s blog?) the other day about “resilience.” I’m not sure how you cultivate that, but I think it helps. I sometimes hear women who say, “All I ever wanted to be was a mother.” I admire them for knowing what they wanted so clearly… but at the same time, I sometimes wonder, what happens if you don’t get to be a mom? Then what? And even if you do get to be a mom, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into the job, what happens when the kids grow up and leave? What do you do with the rest of your life then?

    • Portraits in Sepia

      June 8, 2008 1:45 am

      For the last few months I have been trying to decide what to do with my life to give it meaning. Although I haven’t always stated it as clearly as that I know in my heart that’s what I have been doing when I contemplate what project I am going to start, or charitable organization I am going to join, or the book I am going to write or the musical instrument I am going to learn to play. I think people see kids as their contribution to the world and without kids I have been questioning what my contribution is going to be. I am trying to come to the place so many of you have…owning and valuing my worth as a woman…with or without children.

  4. Courtney

    June 5, 2008 2:44 pm

    Well, as far as society not accepting IF: I think that part of it is due to lack of knowledge. Face it, cancer affects so many ppl in so many ways, and it’s all over the news, so you’re forced to learn. IF is something that, while it affects more than some realize, it’s not an educated subject for most. The only way to fix the problem is for us to speak out and not be ashamed to share.

    As for if cancer is worse than IF: Kinda goes back to the first question. Cancer is more “popular”, if you will. I don’t think that one is worse than the other, it’s just a different disease, but both affect ppl to the core. Just like there are different types of IF, different types of Cancer, the 2 issues are different. But they still hurt.

    What I wish fertiles knew about infertiles: Just b/c we have problems procreating, doesn’t mean we’re less of a woman…and we don’t want to always have to talk about your kids and how they’re such brats and we’re lucky to not have them cuz they drive you crazy…just b/c we’re not moms doesn’t mean we have no meaning.

    And finally (cuz I’m feeling a bit talkative this morning), as far as living after IF: Sometimes we don’t have a choice but to live. HOW we live is the choice. Just like when you lose someone you love, you just keep going. You choose whether to drown in your sorrows (although I think all of us have those moments, but they’re just that, moments), or to take what you’ve learned about IF, yourself, and ppl in general, and know that you can be stronger. You can still live. It’s hard at times, but in the end, those with IF are stronger than they (we) realize, and we’ll keep going.

    Okay, I’m done now:)

  5. Zee

    June 5, 2008 3:27 pm

    What I wish fertiles knew about infertility: It never stops. It never goes away. It’s not something you “get over” and move on from. It’s always there. It’s exactly like the way you never run out of things you’d like to say to someone loved dearly who has died. You many not think of that person every day, and after a while you may even go for several days not thinking of that person, but there are some moments when something reminds you of that person, and the huge hole they left in your life, and the searing pain of that loss is just as powerful as it was, say, twenty years ago, when it first happened. You need to realize that it NEVER GOES AWAY. We do not live WITH it, we live AROUND it. And the people like us, to whom it has happened, are not different or stronger or more callous than you are. It didn’t happen to us because we “deserved it” or “can handle it better” than you could have. We are JUST LIKE YOU, except that we haven’t been able to have the children we wanted every ounce as much as you wanted yours.

    • Deathstar

      June 5, 2008 4:52 pm

      That’s so accurate. “We do not live WITH it, we live AROUND it.” I can feel your pain so acutely. The one that died, even if she/he only existed in a dream, is so real, so real. And if that being did exist, then it’s even worse, I think.

    • Sarah

      June 10, 2008 7:42 pm

      I am here humbly, trying to learn, after reading the NYT piece featuring this blog. I have been blessed with one baby,and have 4 dear girlfriends struggling with IF. Each of the 4 couples have been given different diagnoses. I say all this to try and demonstrate that I am doing my best to educate myself on how to navigate in this very very sensitive area. I want to be part of the dialogue and also do what I can to present the heartfelt concerns of women who are not in this fight themselves but who see loved ones suffering, and who just don’t know what to do. Now, a couple thoughts and please keep in mind I am trying to say the right thing, so if I say the wrong thing, please know it’s a mistake and not intentionally hurtful. I am struck by the comparison of cancer and infertility, and by how applicable Zee’s comment is to both situations, in that it is exactly how I feel about having survived cancer at 29. I go for a scan of my lymph nodes every six months to check and see if I’ve had a recurrence. It’s not something I can ‘get over’. It ‘never goes away’ no matter how many times I (hopefully) get an all clear on the recurrence question, I live ‘AROUND’ the fear that it will come back, not with it. I am ‘just like you’, just like all cancer survivors are. NO ONE deserves infertility and NO ONE deserves cancer. That is what we all need to keep in mind. Comparing the two fights is only going to hurt and alienate people who have experienced one or both diseases. Beyond that opinion, I am asking for guidance. In a more public, less personal sphere than close friendships, how can people who are pregnant acknowledge their own condition or news, being mindful of colleagues or even strangers with IF? I read the post about the pain that interrupting a business mtg to announce a coworker’s delivery caused. But I ask sincerely, what should have happened? How can pertinent news about the birth of that coworker’s child and her immediate leave from the office be handled best? It does have to be announced – it can’t be ignored as she will presumably be out of the office on leave for some period of time, and it is good news. HOW to do it is my question. There are many many women and men who just want to know what to say, what to do. We know we do the wrong thing, in the interim. Help us. We want to DO something even though we know there probably isn’t much we can. We don’t want to exclude you from our lives, which is why we invite you to the 1st birthday parties, because we’re afraid that not extending the invite is more rude than extending it. We’re not offended if you don’t come. We love you and want to help not hurt. Any guidance would be greatly greatly appreciated!

    • Kami

      June 5, 2008 6:48 pm

      So many good comments.

      I think one of the reasons society doesn’t help infertiles is because it doesn’t pull at the heartstrings like childhood illnesses do and unlike cancer everyone knows it will never happen to them. People are afraid of cancer.

      PJ – it speaks to the rich content of your blog that you get these queries. Thanks for keeping up the good fight.

    • Kelly D

      June 6, 2008 4:39 pm

      There were times I wished I were dead. I’m sad to see others can feel the same way.

  6. Mel

    June 5, 2008 6:29 pm

    I think some of the answers fold over all of the questions. I think the reason why there is a lack of help is that there is a lack of understanding–at its core, infertility is a medical condition. And it’s also one of those things that is still misunderstood and taboo therefore, without the discussion, the understanding lags behind.

    Deathstar’s answer just made me stare off into space and think for a good 5 minutes. She’s a smart one.

  7. Amanda

    June 5, 2008 6:34 pm

    I think you ladies are wonderful. NaComLeavMo has really opened my eyes to IF. You all do the world a great service by talking about it and sharing your stories. Thank you!

  8. Ellen K

    June 5, 2008 7:03 pm

    I think Loribeth said it well.

    I do think it is much harder for women who proclaim they have never dreamed of being anything or anyone other than a mother. It pains me to hear a woman experiencing IF say that. I admit that I can’t relate to this sentiment — motherhood was just one dream among many — and I do think that absence of this all-encompassing dream has made it easier for me to navigate IF.

  9. dmarie

    June 5, 2008 7:19 pm

    “Why doesn’t society help infertiles?”

    I don’t think very many think of infertility as a disease. Also, there is a ton of blame going on. You waited too late to have children. You need to lose weight. You need to stop exercising. You need to gain weight. Just adopt. Stop stressing over it. You cheated in your last relationship and now you’re being punished for it. On and on. If society looks at infertility as being your fault, there isn’t much room for sympathy.

  10. JuliaS

    June 5, 2008 8:09 pm

    I think there are a number of reasons why society doesn’t help more:

    A) they don’t see it as life threatening (quality vs. quantity thing)

    B) For a long time it was not something talked about – much like breast cancer use to be (and now it is widely played in the media because women TALKED about breast cancer and talked some more until society started listening – and we have walks and fund raisers and “awareness”) A “famous” person (whether they want to or not) can make a HUGE impact on how society regards any particular ailment. Put a face, a name on something – particularly a very well known one, and people take notice.

    C) People who do not understand think the solution is simple – adopt. (or just get pg again if it is loss you are coping with) Someone who isn’t in your situation cannot possibly fathom the complexity of emotions and issues and the “solution” is not that simplistic – children are not interchangeable or replaceable.

    How do you go on living? Well initially, I had no choice – my brain stem kept me breathing and my heart beating whether I wanted it to or not. Eventually though – I got to a place where after just putting one foot in front of the other, I was able to do a little more than that. I also came to a crossroads in my grieving where I realized I had to make a choice – to let it destroy me and define me, OR make something of the experience. For me, it was not letting the legacy of the babies I lost be the complete destruction of their mom. I became proactive in putting to use the things that I learned through my experiences and hopefully have been able to help others – just as others often helped me along the way. As Loribeth mentioned above – for some it may be redefining who they are and discovering the other possibilities and abilities that lay within them.

  11. Nycphoenix

    June 5, 2008 8:20 pm

    Wow what an amazing thread. Its lack of knowledge and fear that keeps IF underground. Fear? Yes, fear. Their fear. No one wants to think that their body might not work properly. Infertility kicks up that fear. Infertility hits in that primal part of the brain that controls that whole urge to procreate. Yes we have evolved and now our minds can over ride that primal urge but its still there. So maybe society deems infertile unworthy of the help because if we can’t procreate its because we’re the weak genetic links. Very Darwinian analysis huh? Who me bitter?

    I wish people would learn that infertility strikes persons and not be so heterosexually oriented. I mean when we went to our adoption orientation I would hear social workers give empathy to the straight couples because they assumed it was IF that brought them there. When we got our turn they was no empathy or mention of IF because they saw two women and didn’t think we would be there because of infertility. I had to mention it. I think the SW was shocked.

  12. Phoebe

    June 5, 2008 8:28 pm

    “Why doesn’t society help infertiles?” I think you could insert any kind of crisis here and ask this question. The fact is that most people don’t know how to deal with a crisis, trauma, or bad news situation. We just aren’t taught how to do it. Our society is all about getting what you want, not about living without.

    “which is worse, cancer or infertility” Hands down, cancer. When I’m down in the dumps, I think, “It could be worse”. At least I have my health. At least the shots I did during IVF were to create life, not kill it. At least I’m not pumping poison in my veins to kill part of me to stop cancer. At least I’m not digging through the rubble of my house to find my dead family as what’s happening in China.

  13. Duck

    June 5, 2008 8:39 pm

    Why doesn’t society help infertiles?”
    I think it’s partly because no one talks about it, therefore not many people understand it.
    “which is worse, cancer or infertility”
    Well For me infertility, but, that’s only because I have this horrid disease (endo) that has no cure and invades my organs like cancer, but, I don’t get the kind of support and respect that cancer patients get. I just get a big “suck it up all women have cramps” yes but not all women have internal bleeding…
    “what I wish fertiles knew about infertility” how lonely it can be.
    “how to keep living after infertility”
    Let me know if you find the answer to that question….

  14. babystep

    June 6, 2008 12:14 am

    I wish I had such noble search terms on my blog. I had things like, ‘peek up pre teen’s skirt’ and ‘diggity dog’ today.

  15. Ms Heathen

    June 6, 2008 10:09 am

    What an amazing thread!

    I have to say that I feel slightly uneasy about the whole ‘which is worse, cancer or infertility’ debate; it seems to imply that suffering can be measured on a kind of sliding scale. I lost my mother to breast cancer, and I myself am now living through infertility. My experience has taught me that both are devastating and debilitating illnesses. Perhaps the difference is that, while cancer is recognised as such, infertility generally does not meet with the same level of understanding – which brings me neatly round to one of your other questions, ‘why doesn’t society help infertiles’. I think that one of the answers to that very complex question may be because it is not accepted that infertility is a medical condition, which requires medical treatment.

  16. Clare

    June 6, 2008 11:15 am

    Big questions.. I’ll just respond to the one on living after infertility, because that is the one I am most struggling with…

    What helps me at the moment is looking to what brings joy to people in my lives who are naturally not fertile- the young and the old. I try to do at least one youthful thing each week and one thing that I used to do with my grandmother (who was more of a peer, albeit one who was 70 odd years older than me). This week that meant going to a water park and playing on the slides for hours on the child side. And on the flip side it mean eating really good bread with wonderful butter like my grandma always served and watching a flower slowly change with the passing days.

    Doesn’t take away the pain of the infertility, but does infuse a few moments of joyful life back into me.

  17. Brandygirl

    June 6, 2008 12:33 pm

    Found you on Lost and Found.

    How to keep living after infertility? Well, for me, it’s by keeping my journal of thoughts on my blog and i express my feelings through graphics. Also, through NCLM that I feel comforted that there are so many women out there like me. And I am happy for couples who have found their resolutions cuz that gives me hope that we will find ours soon.

    I love this post. And I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to tag your blog to mine..very thought-provoking questions.

  18. Chris

    June 6, 2008 3:00 pm

    You are so right about the searches that bring folks to our blogs. Some of them just break your heart and you just want to reach out and help that person. However, it seems that more often than not some of the searches that bring people to my blog make me laugh out loud.

  19. Kelly D

    June 6, 2008 4:38 pm

    What I wish fertiles knew about infertility – I’ll turn this into more of what I wish fertiles would do for those going through infertility:
    1. Don’t offer advice. You cannot even begin to imagine what it is like. If you insist on offering advice, make sure you are educated about what you are going to say, such as doctors to recommend, resources to offer, etc.
    2. Listen before you talk. You need to hear what an infertile is saying–if you were really listening you wouldn’t say the stupid hurtful things that fertiles say. “Just relax.” “Just adopt.” etc.
    3. If you are a good friend, then learn about infertility so that you can help support your infertile friend through the experience.
    4. Don’t cut the infertiles out of your life just because you have children. Let them make the decision as to what activities/events they are comfortable joining. And don’t judge them if they don’t always show up and participate.
    5. If you move from infertility to parenthood, don’t forget about your friends still struggling. It’s great that you’ve moved on and it’s understandable you want to forget your pain. But you must keep telling your story and supporting others otherwise the message and momentum will be lost and we’ll never make any progress with awareness, acceptance, and change.

  20. Susan

    June 6, 2008 4:53 pm

    “Why doesn’t society help infertiles?”

    Because I think that since infertility isn’t deemed as “disease” but a “choice” that people aren’t as willing to help as if one had cancer, or a heart attack…because those after all aren’t choices…and having a child is…

    “which is worse, cancer or infertility”

    Well infertility won’t kill you…though it seems like it might…I have to say cancer here.

    “what I wish fertiles knew about infertility” That it is NOT a choice. The choice is to have a child or not…but infertility is a disease, and there are very REAL consequences of infertility over and above having or not having a family.

    “how to keep living after infertility

    This I don’t know yet…

  21. jc

    June 6, 2008 10:09 pm

    I like to think that, despite all evidence to the contrary, society does care. They just realize much sooner than we do that you can live a happy fulfilling life in spite of infertility and we are more than just our ability to procreate. Yeah, I don’t really buy it either, but it does sound kind of comforting. There has been progress, though. For example, there was media coverage of Infertility Awareness Week this year.

    Either I really misunderstood the cancer or infertility question or the person who asked didn’t know anyone who had cancer. I’m infertile and I’ve had family members with cancer and I just don’t see a comparison. They died an agonizing death and yes, there is still a blame the victim mentality. If you have lung cancer, people will tell you it’s your own fault for smoking. If you have skin cancer, it’s your own fault for suntanning and so on and so on.

    Life after infertility – it’s not so much “after” as it is continuing to live with it, sort of like recovering addicts. I’m no longer shooting up gonal F, but I’m still infertile. It becomes another part of your life and your identity as opposed to something in your past.

    What I wish Fertiles knew: whatever you’re going to suggest, we’ve already thought about it or tried it. I also wish they knew is that some things are none of their business. Oh, and that watching my belly and speculating is NOT being supportive!

  22. Alacrity

    June 7, 2008 5:51 pm

    Great post again PJ – thought provoking as usual.

    I guess that of the four questions, the only one that matters a lot to me right now is the fourth one. The first three have to do with others’ perceptions about infertility. And right now I have to focus on my own perceptions, and figure out how to live through it, past it, beyond it.

    Like most of the people who commented, I have been stung by other people’s insensitivity and the general lack of knowledge about infertility. But I can’t pin my hopes on those same people developing a new understanding about IF and making me feel better about the cards I have been dealt. Only I can do that for myself – with the help of others who are living it too.

    I do think that IF is gaining ground as an issue covered in the media, though people who don’t succeed with treatment remain essentially invisible. We constantly read about celebrities who conceived through IVF, but not until they are successful, or become parents through adoption. We don’t hear about people who gave up, and went on to live life without children.

    And if I am being honest, before I went through it myself, I never really gave it much thought either. So I realize that I shouldn’t be too critical of others, no matter how much their dumbass comments or actions sting sometimes.

  23. jc

    June 7, 2008 8:38 pm

    Back again…still thinking about this post and the comments that followed. Discussions of infertility almost always touch on the issue of the silent/invisible/hidden nature of this medical condition. Am I the only one who thinks of this invisibility as a blessing as much as a curse? I take comfort in the fact that people don’t know I’m infertile unless I choose to let them know. No whispers behind my back, no awkward pauses in conversations, no pitying looks from strangers. The insensitive remarks are easier to forgive … of course I do lie to myself and say they wouldn’t make the same insensitive comments if they did know.

  24. Pamela Jeanne

    June 7, 2008 8:59 pm

    Hi JC,
    There’s not a clearcut answer. It was a blessing when I was in the middle of treatment. If people had known then I would not have the emotional stamina for inquiries about “how it was going” — but now on the other side, it’s been painful to be subjected to all of the never-ending pregnancy, baby and parenting talk as if I never had the losses I experienced. I wrote about it here:
    http://tiny.cc/gc095

  25. chicklet

    June 7, 2008 9:06 pm

    Well gd, I have no idea how to answer those? Holy shikees! Sista, you are the all-knowing one apparently, cuz they sure don’t look for that when they get to my blog. They look for “fuck infertility”.

    Uh, maybe I should worry about that… lol.

  26. Samantha

    June 8, 2008 3:52 pm

    Responding first the cancer question, as Ms. Heathen pointed out, it’s probably best not to try to make comparisons between diseases, I don’t think that helps any, and then it becomes a battle about who has the “right” complain. We could do this all sorts of topics, and the diseases do have fundamentally different outcomes. Any disease which fundamentally alters your life is a horrible disease, and both fit into this category, but how they act is different.

    I think infertility tends to be viewed similarly to mental issue with a lot of blaming the victim. I think it’s a protective measure, so people can say, “that won’t happen to me.” I think education, awareness, and understanding are all needed, and projects like your book are a good way to go about it.

  27. Busted

    June 9, 2008 12:07 am

    Wow, those are some big questions that bring folks to your blog. Most people end up at mine by searching for baby bumps or “asian babymaker” (don’t ask). Unfortunately I don’t have any insight.

    (via NCLM)

  28. Meg F

    June 10, 2008 7:43 am

    Growing up in the US we are told that if we work hard for a goal that we can achieve it. My goal was what so many have to try NOT to happen and usually take for granted.

    A hard lesson that I learned through our years of infertility and loss is that sometimes no matter how hard you work for something or sacrifice that you will not succeed. Doing everything right or trying harder than anyone else you’ve ever known is no guarantee that you will succeed. That was one of many hard lessons learned along the way.

    Glad to run across your blog from a NYTimes article.

  29. Athena

    June 10, 2008 1:37 pm

    I had endometriosis early on and breast cancer at 41 sealed the deal. But I always thanked God for the good things, natural birth control, weekends free, summers free to travel, so much extra money, no worrying, about drugs, driving, college costs, mates etc. Instead I had time for two gorgeous husbands, the first one replaced me to go on and have 6 children, ugh! and endless stress. I had time to see the world, I have time to get to know nieces and nephews and assist others going thru cancer. SO WHAT if I didn’t replicate? Perhaps the lord was protecting me from a future sorrow. I cannot grieve for something I cant have, that is the way to go crazy. Be thankful to be alive and give your love to those who need it.

  30. Carol Wheeler

    June 10, 2008 1:41 pm

    In the Times story today (or recently) you said you realized “adoption wasn’t for us” or words to that effect. As an adoptive mother, I’m really curious as to how it could be SO not for you that you would endure lifelong unhappiness due to lack of children rather than adopt. It’s almost unbearably sad, isn’t it, to think of all the children in the world without parents, and you are potential parents who just aren’t interested in… I’m just not sure. What is it about adoption that is so incredibly frightening, awful or just plain unacceptable? I don’t get it. Yes, there are difficulties involved–I certainly wouldn’t deny that. But compared to the delight of having a baby to raise, a child to grow with, a grown person who is always your offspring, whatever, the problems are as nothing. And let’s face it, once you have children, whether adoptive or born to you, problems abound. I beseech you to think about it a little more (although I admit, how would I know how much you’ve already thought about it)–it really can be a thrilling decision to make. And while it may be hard to find a child that’s right for you, surely it’s no harder than all the medical stuff you’ve gone through. And it’s so much more life-expanding and enriching than just forever working on how do we get through life without a kid. Do re-consider, at least.

  31. Kristine

    June 10, 2008 3:26 pm

    How about dealing with cancer & infertility? In my case, one was not caused by the other but I found out about both at the same time. It’s a lot to handle.

    Thank you for your blog. Women need to know about others with the same issues.

  32. Ashima

    June 10, 2008 4:58 pm

    Hi,

    Today I came across an article on ‘Facing Life without children’ in nytimes. I was saddened to read that article. An event popped into my mind As I was reading the article. I do Yoga regularly to remain fit and happy. I used to watch and do 1 hrs morning yoga programs every day. I have strong faith in Yoga. The programs were live from yoga camps. I heard a father who was thanking the guru(teacher) for teaching and motivating him to do yoga. The father was above 50 years old and was blessed with a baby. He had brought his baby along to show and to get Guru’s blessing. Father’s voice was shaking when he was sharing his story. I shared this story because I am not sure if yoga will help you in bearing a child as I haven’t encountered any incidents in person. I am sure that Yoga will help you in at least dealing with your emotions.
    I apologize for my limitations in expressing myself as English is not my first language. I am sorry if I have offended anyone with my writings. I sincerely wish happiness for you all and for all women.

    Regards,
    Ashima

  33. Heather

    June 10, 2008 5:55 pm

    I read the NY Times story today with great interest, which led me to your blog. I am, however, disappointed at your pointless comparison of cancer and infertility, and particularly surprised at those who seem to be saying that cancer is somehow better! I had ovarian cancer last year at 35 and had my reproductive organs removed as a result. Therefore, I deal with both issues. Cancer can kill you, and the threat of death will always be with you, even if you have a decent prognosis. Please don’t say that this is somehow preferable to being infertile. It really makes me sick to hear that. I am happy to be alive, but very sad that I won’t have children. But I would never tell someone with cancer or someone without children that they were somehow “better off.” Give me a break.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      June 10, 2008 7:13 pm

      Dear Heather,

      It appears you misread this post … I wasn’t in any way drawing a comparison between experiences nor was I looking to pass judgment, I was simply sharing the specific search terms in my analytics report that brought people to my site. I happened to select these four queries to call attention to the depth of despair that infertility can elicit. Connecting the dots, my blog must have surfaced in this individual’s search because of a post I wrote months ago that referenced another NYT Well blog.

      You’ll find the cancer and infertility discussion in the comments in its original form: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/the-fertility-diet-help-or-hype/

      And here’s were I first called attention to stress and misunderstandings referencing the NYT dialogue:
      https://coming2terms.com/2008/01/16/overcoming-stress-by-paddling-your-own-canoe.aspx

  34. JJ

    June 11, 2008 11:59 pm

    We are judging ourselves with standards set by “majority” – study, work, married, have children, retired…I have learnt to accept being childless. Just like many who have learnt to living alone.

  35. Sarah Jane

    June 13, 2008 8:56 am

    Your post, ‘Searching for Answers’ really resonated with me. I’m 31, have had 2 IVF cycles and I think that’s it for me. This has swallowed up 3 years of my life so far. I too have endometriosis which is a struggle in itself. I’m on the way to DECIDING not to go on with treatment and have re-started my life partly because of reading about women who have spent so many years of their life pursuing their dream of having a child. I am growing to realise that I don’t think I’m prepared to trade what I CAN do with my life for what I COULD do with my life i.e. have my own child. This may make you wonder whether I really want a child enough and the answer is ‘YES’ but I know I can survive without reproducing.

    I don’t think I will ever stop grieving for those lost embryos. I’ve picked up with my education again and am studying for a Masters. My research involves looking at coping strategies adopted by involuntary childless women. I hope it will be cathartic but mostly, I want to highlight to men and women not directly impacted by infertility, especially in the UK, what they need to consider when they think about what they want to be ‘when they grow up’. I only ever REALLY wanted to be a mother but I wonder whether I could have developed other strong passions and desires earlier in life if I’d been guided or influenced differently? I can only move forward and this blog is a great stumble. Thank you.

  36. Penny

    July 7, 2008 1:32 am

    I just discovered your blog and would like to tell you that I greatly appreciate that you have dedicated your time and effort to bringing awareness about infertility and to making those of us who suffer from it feel less like outcasts.

    My husband and I have been happily married for 7 yrs. and, even more importantly, we are best friends. This month, I’ll be 38 and my husband will be 40. Some years ago, I was diagnosed with 2 cysts, 2 fibroids and endometriosis, and was told to have a myomectomy in hopes of getting to a remedy for my infertility and my female pain. What resulted was infertility with blocked tubes due to scar tissue from surgeries. We were told to skip over all other efforts and go straight for IVF using ICSI, which we did twice without success. Although 3 good eggs were harvested from the 1st IVF cycle, we didn’t fare as well on the 2nd attempt. The 2nd time, they called my cell phone while I was in the parking lot of the fertility clinic to tell me that the eggs had not reached maturity as they had hoped and therefore there would not be a transfer. Since then, I’ve slowly and gradually been withdrawing from any situations that might raise my stress level. But this weekend, I put myself out there and now I’m feeling some type of way. That’s the nice way of saying that today I’m not in a high spirited place.

    I was laid off more than a year ago when my office shut down. I now live a semi-retired lifestyle, but not because I don’t want more of myself. It’s hard not to be a recluse when I feel I have to protect myself from situations that can be dangerous to my well being.

    Oddly enough, I manage to get out almost daily for exercise. Since being off all the IVF medications and being told by my RE not to do anything too vigorous during treatment, I’ve re-focused my attention to physical fitness and finding inner peace. I lift weights, spin, jog, do many types of yoga on land and in water, pilates, neuromuscular integrative action (NIA), belly dance, play Hooverball, field hockey, you name it. This year, I’ve raced competitively for causes that are close to my heart, including the Tinina Q. Cade Foundation (cadefoundation.org) Race For The Family, which raises money to provide grants to infertile people. So, I’ve been working real hard to get back into shape, reduce stress and find peace.

    On 7/4, I returned home for a family reunion. There were kids galore everywhere. After a few hours, it got to be overwhelming and I left early. The reason I gave was that I had to get ready for the TQCF race the next day. The truth is I just couldn’t handle anymore torture.

    Oddly enough, the TQCF 5K race on 7/5 resulted in an avalanche of emotions for me. Between that, volunteering with youth in my community, the family reunion and the fact that my cycle is days away, I’m having a hard time today. My heart is still so heavy. I am not sure that the mourning ever really ends.

    Thanks for letting me share.

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