That’s a category I just left in the dust. Normally I don’t pay much attention to age-related categories but this is a biggie. It’s the standard measure of child-bearing age. The U.S. Census bureau uses it. The National Center for Health Statistics uses it. The government of Scotland, for Pete’s sake, uses it.
And I’m now outside of it. Yes, turning 45 in June raised a whole bunch of combustible issues where infertility is concerned. It’s one thing to be 29, 33, 36, 38, 40 and trying to cope with the “I” word. Each age has its own unique challenges — it’s quite another to be 45.
When I was 29 and had my first Hysterosalpingogram (which by the way didn’t reveal any problems) I just assumed it was taking me longer than most to conceive. The wonder drug Clomid didn’t help either, but, hey, I was young so it didn’t phase me much. I’d just keep at it. Pregnancy had to come sooner or later. Why not try an IUI or two?
At 33 I had my first laparoscopy — who knew the belly button could be the entry point for a microscopic camera? — and my doctor found some endometriosis. That was troubling but not insurmountable. Then there were more IUIs, then the ICSI IVFs (not to mention the yoga for fertility, the herbs, regular visits to a chiropractor to redirect the nerve impulses running through meridian to my uterus — or something to that effect), acupuncture and all the other non-western attempts to make my body more conception friendly) … and still no pregnancies.
Deep down as each progressive birthday approached I was convinced we’d somehow beat the odds. I would imagine with each 28-day cycle how I would surprise my husband, my family, my fertile friends with the BIG news. I had some really good fantasy announcement and schemes going on. World class, in fact. I have a very active imagination. I never got the opportunity to put those ideas to work.
I disbanded my expert infertility team at 40. As I wrote about in the post How Did We Know We Were Done, I just couldn’t stomach the heartbreak of losing any more IVF “offspring.” It was just too much to bear.
By 41, I was in full blown denial convinced we’d somehow magically conceive on our own proving all the experts who gave us incredibly low percentages of ever conceiving the old fashioned way just plain wrong.
At 42 I got positively angry. Starting then I found it downright impossible to be around pregnant women — any pregnant woman. Their very presence made me feel inadequate, broken, and inferior. It felt as if they were mocking me (whether they were or not doesn’t matter — life after all is a feeling experience).
By 43, the hope of ever becoming pregnant was hanging by a thread. About that same time, the Mommy and Me crowd mobilized into Moms’ Clubs (Pamela Jeanne? Access DENIED). Mom-polooza reached a whole new level when MommyBlogging became all the rage. There had to be other voices out there. I started my own blog. To my relief and gratitude, I found them and with the help of Mel’s amazing infertility blogroll I began to explore the many complicated emotions racing around my head and heart.
At 44 I realized the futility of my longing but I also began talking about it and found a receptive audience.
That brings me to today. It’s one thing to be a 45-year-old, soon-to-be-empty-nester melancholy about facing the end of one’s biological potential after delivering children. While this group of mothers wrap their head around the idea that the door to the maternity ward is closing for them, it’s quite another to know — as a long-time infertile — that the maternity ward door, which never opened to me, never will.
I have no choice but to accept that the door, locked to me always, always will be. No amount of lock-picking allowed me to cross the threshold. Playing off of the old saying when a door closes, a window opens I see at 45 the opportunity for a different kind of life. It doesn’t involve pee sticks of any kind and that feels very liberating. I think I’m going to like being outside the conventional reproductive window. It gives me license to think and plan in a different way.
Like a gentle breeze coming in through the window are kind words making it easier to move on. My next post will highlight a few women who have been busy building their own bridges to what (for a very long time) has been infertility island.