When Nature Calls…


… it’s not as if you can just say you’re busy washing your hair. Taming biology is not quite as simple as many opining on the New York Times website seem to think. There were several times in our 30s when we resolved to accept that our bodies were simply incapable of conceiving a child.  We did our best to be rational and not let emotions and primal longings dictate our life. We were, after all, supposed to be “evolved,” right?

We looked at the statistics. We debated the trade offs. We decided that the world didn’t need a little Pammie or an Alex Junior.  We dedicated naps to friends who were fighting sleep deprivation from long nights with colicky babies. We tried to reassure each other, with a smattering of superiority, that we were more than our fertility.

That worked for, oh, several months at a stretch. Then the urge to reproduce would come back larger than before propelling us forward with the next medical treatment, the next in a line of what almost felt like hokey-pokey-esque routines aimed at getting our cells to co-mingle. (I’ll let you play with how to modify THAT song to suit this analogy).

I’ve yet to meet any couple who says, let’s not try using the old fashioned way. Whaddya say we go the high tech route? It’ll be great! Let’s give a few of the local hospitals and fertility clinics a whirl. You know I’ve always wanted to have my private bits examined at length by people in white coats. And those hormones injected with the long needles? What’s more romantic than that!? Won’t it be great to spend thousands of dollars on treatments not covered by our medical insurance with no guarantees? What ARE we waiting for?

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Even I was amazed at how far I was willing to go. The risks to my health I was willing to take. The desire to conceive was that strong. Rational? Heck no.

Mastering biology. Well, I challenge some of the 300 people who’ve commented so far on the NYT site to turn off that part of their brain stem. As evolved as we claim to be, Mother Nature still exercises some serious power over us.

Ethan, one of the people who commented on the NYT site, had these thought-provoking questions for those quick to condemn infertility’s impact.

P.S. I am beyond touched and humbled by the kind comments coming in to this site. So glad to “meet” all of you. I celebrated my 45th birthday last night with much optimism about what lies ahead. I hope others are as comforted as I am to see that there is plenty of good will to go around. Along with the good will there are a few stories associated with the comments that I will highlight in the coming weeks.


26 Responses

  1. Matthew M F Miller

    June 13, 2008 4:52 pm

    Bravo to you. I’m continually amazed by the generosity of your words and your calm, realistic view on life. Here’s hoping your birthday is a wonderful, relaxing day. Happy Birthday, and thanks for being you.

  2. Kami

    June 13, 2008 5:09 pm

    Amen PJ! It is so hard to turn off that drive to have kids. Before we did our first IVF, we debated paying per cycle or buying the “buy 2 chances, get 1 free option.” I didn’t think I would go past two tries, so what was the point in buying three? We chose the latter “just in case”. We did 4 fresh and 1 fresh DE cycle.

  3. Kim

    June 13, 2008 5:15 pm

    I am amazed by how far I was willing to go too. As soon as we moved forward with more invasive treatments, I was sure that it was all I could handle. But I still wasn’t pregnant and moved on. Luckily IVF #3 worked! NCLM

  4. Nycphoenix

    June 13, 2008 8:10 pm

    Happy Birthday!

    Yeah I have to shake my head at every line in the sand that we drew and then erased in our four year journey.

  5. VA Blondie

    June 13, 2008 8:17 pm

    Thanks for this post. I think it speaks to a lot of what we deal with.

    The drive to reproduce is very strong and will not go away on a whim or a will. The drive to reproduce is the product of evolution and cannot be changed overnight. I understand this, and I think I have come to accept it. But it is still hard, and there are still times when I think it is unfair that my body and his body cannot do this thing which should come naturally.

    I think we have waited so long to pursue IF treatment because we are scared. We are scared about how much it will cost us financially, physically, and emotionally. I think we are also afraid of failing.

  6. Phoebe

    June 13, 2008 11:53 pm

    Hilarious! You hit the nail on the head about the drive to reproduce. Whatever HELL we have been through with fertility treatments, we’d be willing to do it again if it meant having a child. As evolved as we want to be, our instincts are that much stronger than our will to be enlightened.

    P.S. I’m a fabulous forties gal as well!

  7. Lala

    June 14, 2008 12:10 am

    I read over the first 20 or so comments over on the NYT site, and was so disgusted with the nasty comments (which were not the majority, but still) that I stopped reading.

    Every single one of those posters that said those hateful, insensitive things have never experienced infertility. It’s easy to say suck it up and get over it when you have no empathy or experience with it.

    F–K the lot of them. I hope that karma bites them HARD for being such sanctimonious assholes. It’s already served them up a paltry helping of human decency and kindness, so it shouldn’t be too hard to give them something worse.

    I would give ANYTHING to quiet the raging voice inside of me that cries out for a child. I have rationalized the expense – the sheer selfish act of bringing a genetic copy into the world that is going to drain finances, peace and be a source of pain and anguish with no tangible benefit to myself and my husband. I have reminded myself of what a great life we have that will be turned upside down with a baby. I have agonized over all of the physical pain a pregnancy/delivery will bring and the emotional pain that is bound to happen as the child grows into an adult.

    None of that has the least effect of dampening the overwhelming drive to have a baby.

    All I want is what others have. Feeling the loss of something I may not ever have to begin with? That is a very real pain, and NO ONE has the right to judge me – or ANY infertile person – for feeling this way.

  8. Beth

    June 14, 2008 12:14 am

    Hi Pamela,

    First time coming to your blog. I was very moved by the NYT article, because it’s my story, more or less. Meaning, I’ve been doing high-tech infertility treatments for the past four years, but doing it as a 40-something single woman. So w/o the support of a spouse. My friends and family have been great. I’m going overseas for my second donor egg cycle next month. I just want to say I felt very moved by what your said in the article and interview about the milestones passing you by. That’s been my experience precisely… only I can add in the prom, the wedding, the anniversaries… all those things that everybody takes for granted, I for some reason didn’t have. The losses are very real. Fortunately so is the hope that things can change.

    Blessings to you!

  9. Brandygirl

    June 14, 2008 6:22 am

    I wish I knew about infertility earlier or even your blog..i come here every day.

    I admire what you did and i was very very touched by your story.


  10. Robyn

    June 14, 2008 1:57 pm

    I know I’m late to the party but Happy, Happy 45th birthday!

    The hateful comments shocked me too and the idea that you have to take this in your stride as well as the tough hand infertility has brought makes me despair. Where is compassion in all of this?

  11. Stacey

    June 14, 2008 4:50 pm

    Thank you so much for the NYT article. I went back and started reading some of the comments today and I was really appalled by some of them. (And touched by a few too). Thank you for having the courage to stand up and be the voice.

  12. Rachel Inbar

    June 14, 2008 5:51 pm

    As always, another interesting post – Ethan’s comment was great. I remember people telling me that I had plenty of time (I was still 20 when I started TTC & 22 when I knew I was dealing with IF) and I was thinking, “yea, but each day is KILLING me and I have no idea what the future will bring.”

  13. loribeth

    June 14, 2008 7:49 pm

    Once again, amen. You hit the nail on the head. Until you have been there yourself, you have no idea what this life is like, the decisions you’ll be faced with, or how you’ll respond. I found myself going way further than I ever thought I would.

    Hope you had a great birthday!

  14. Portia P

    June 15, 2008 6:30 pm

    Happy Birthday.

    Ethan’s comment was great. I hope it made some people think about things.

    I totally get it about our urge to reproduce. We’ve done stuff to our bodies with drugs etc that we’d never dream of doing ordinarily. If a doctor said it would help, I’d be injecting sooner than you can say “stupid mad cow”!

  15. Liana

    June 15, 2008 7:41 pm

    Happy Birthday, fellow Gemini born in 63!

    And as to Ethan’s challenge, I would choose to save my non-biologically related, but more important to me than any other human being on the planet, daughter than anyone else in my biological family. To me, relationships matter, not biology. I could not care less whether Zara has my forehead or Mason’s eyes. All I care about is that she is our daughter forever.

  16. AmyinMotown

    June 15, 2008 8:26 pm

    You were, and are, very brave to share your story. I didn’t read the comments on the NYT site, but my own infertility battle means I can imagine.

    And, thanks. Thanks for being here. Thanks for doing this. When I was dying inside because of my thwarted desires for a child, blogs saved me. My story ended differently than yours, but had it not I know I still would have longed for the community, insight, humor and kindness I found online, but as you said very few people keep telling their story once they’ve stepped off the path. Thank you for telling it. I wish you a wildly joyous life.

  17. DC

    June 15, 2008 9:49 pm

    Happy birthday!! I love your blog and hope you don’t mind if I add you to my blogroll. You rock! 🙂

  18. Serena

    June 15, 2008 11:46 pm

    We’ve been through all that infertile couples have – the hope, the despair, and finally the acceptance, or so I thought. For the last 10 years I lived a full life and I thought I”d come to terms with never having children. And suddenly, after all this time, at the age of 49, I’m going through a tough time all over again. I’m grieving and having a really hard time coping with the fact that I will never have a child, will never see my child graduate, marry or have children of their own. I regret not having adopted when I could – at 49 it doesn’t seem to be an option now. Your blog helps me see that there are others in the same boat.

  19. KIKE

    June 16, 2008 12:56 pm

    Dear Pamela happy birthday to you. I’ve been married too since 1997 with no child.Initially I used to feel sad running from pillar to post for solution to the extent that I developed a high blood pressure in 2004 since then Ive taken things easy but God healed me.For the past 3 years I’ve stopped fertility treatment and decided to live my life to the fullest. I avoided people or places that will make me sad. I do things that make me happy………..Children or no, life must continue. I got your site yesterday from a newspaper. Its nice and revealing. Take care and keep calm

  20. Marina Lombardo

    June 16, 2008 6:16 pm

    Thanks Pamela for so openly expressing your amazement at how far you were willing to go.

    I believe that one of the big reasons that human beings are still hanging around this planet–despite being no match for some of the forces of nature–is our overwhelming desire to reproduce–sometimes against all odds. So rather than arguing why we do it, it makes a lot more sense to talk about how to navigate the fertility journey in ways that promote growth in body, mind and soul.

  21. dmarie

    June 17, 2008 2:55 am

    I have been STALKING the comments section. Reading each one.

    BTW–I totally noticed the bracelet in the picture! I started yelling for my husband to come see the pic of you wearing a Common Thread Bracelet!! 🙂

  22. Stacy M

    June 26, 2008 2:10 pm

    PJ – Thank you for creating this blog! Your words come from the heart and are all too familiar. My husband and I struggled with infertility for 7 years. He has a chromosome translocation, which causes early miscarriage. We struggled through 5 IVF cycles, 2 ectopic pregnancies and 10 miscarriages. In the end, I feel extremely blessed, as we were able to conceive our son and daughter (IVF #1 and #5). I am truly touched by your words. Thank you for sharing.

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