Looking Back At How I Got Here


looking back15-44.

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.

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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.

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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.

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21 Responses

  1. peesticksandstones

    August 2, 2008 10:36 pm

    I love this: “Like a gentle breeze coming in through the window are kind words making it easer to move on.” Well put.

    This past week I had a glimpse back at my life way before I even dreamed of becoming a mom at all — and God, how lovely. There truly is so much more possibility to life… so much to try, to be. And quite frankly, most parents I know have lost that part of themselves too — and it’s kinda sad.

    Looking forward to seeing where this goes! Thanks, as always, for brightening the way.

  2. loribeth

    August 2, 2008 11:38 pm

    Great post, Pamela. You’re so right about the age thing… I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of women in their 30s will try childfree living for awhile & then go back to treatments or adopt. That gets a LOT harder to do once you cross the line into your 40s & most certainly after 45.

    I love the sense of possibility in your last two paragraphs & am looking forward to your next post!

  3. Bea

    August 3, 2008 1:29 am

    It’s good to hear you sounding so positive about the future. The important thing for others to realise is that, although the future may still be bright, the grieving process is no less dark, and no less bad and enduring.


  4. stepping up

    August 3, 2008 1:36 am

    Your experience has so closely mirrored my own, and moving on is a good thing. I don’t want to be invisible. I want to live life fully. Sometimes I actually get great ‘life ideas’ from mothers (in passing.) I hear them, at times, talking about what they’ll do when they’re done raising their kids. So…

    My husband and I take great trips that aren’t conducive with children along. I try to be spontaneous. I volunteer. We’re building my retirement fund around a FUN future with no college fund worries. My favorite purchase has been my new convertible. I actually have seen some looks of longing from moms in minivans. These ideas aren’t band aids on a broken heart. Rather, the beginning of a new life. One, with lots of fun, pillow talk, fulfillment, and no regrets.

    Please share ‘to do’ ideas when you have them.
    Good luck on Bridges.

  5. Irish Girl

    August 3, 2008 2:22 pm

    I just reread your “How did we know” post and boy does it resonate with me right now. I can really relate to the addiction reference — that “just one more try, maybe it will work” experience. And I can also relate to your thoughts on losing more “IVF offspring” being more difficult than just trying to heal as a family of two. The grieving in silence over this tremendous loss is so horrible. So horrible that I’m not sure I can risk doing it again.

    As always, PJ: Thank you for writing.

  6. Ms Heathen

    August 3, 2008 4:28 pm

    I love the sense of possibility that opens up in the last couple of paragraphs of this post.

    And thank you for showing me that it is possible to walk away and still survive.

  7. Geohde

    August 3, 2008 10:16 pm

    Ah, what a long journey you’ve had PJ and you deal with the loss of a dream with such grace.



  8. Meka

    August 4, 2008 1:31 am

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind me commenting. I have been reading your blog for a while now, I love it, I am so glad I found it! It helps me so much through my struggles with infertility. I watched the NY Times interview as well as the video on your post below. I know I’ve never met you but you are such a beautiful person and you can’t imagine how much I appreciate your words. Infertility is a lonely path to be on and it really helps having other that understand. Thank you!

    • Pamela Jeanne

      August 4, 2008 3:00 pm

      You’re welcome to comment any time, Meka. Infertility can be very
      lonely so I’m glad you’ve found some fellowship along the way.
      Appreciate your kind words…

  9. Deathstar

    August 4, 2008 4:40 am

    I think the hardest thing about turning 45 was acknowledging that a miracle just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, it wouldn’t even be happy news anymore. I had packed away my fantasies and dreams. The pain finally subsided. I think just about everything you’ve ever written about I could relate to and it’s meant the world to me that you were there, not just for me, but for others.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      August 4, 2008 3:02 pm

      Likewise! I’ve found your words and your story tremendously helpful. Means so much to know we’re on the path together…

  10. Kate

    August 4, 2008 3:23 pm

    Your post really resonates with me. My last attempt at IVF was successful, but ended in a miscarriage at age 44. My eggs are just too old. I lost not just a baby at that point, but a dream. We can’t afford donor eggs or adoption. It was hard facing the end knowing that it really was an end, not just a fork in the road. I was making a left turn, not knowing where I was going. Two years later, I’m trying to look ahead and not in the rear view mirror, but it’s hard.

  11. thalia

    August 4, 2008 11:26 pm

    I think bea wrote the perfect comment to this, for me anyway. Just what I would have wanted to say if I’d been that thoughtful or that articulate. I hope this process keeps on getting better for you.

  12. luna

    August 5, 2008 3:32 pm

    such an excellent post, pamela jeanne. like the others, I know how hard this has been. yet I love how the freedom and opportunity just opens up with this realization. thanks for blog-blazing this trail.

  13. liondog

    August 7, 2008 11:12 pm

    I just turned 44 and adopted my first child from China over a year ago and am starting a second adoption soon. I called the adoption agency the day I turned 41. We did not try IVF because our funds were limited and did not want to blow what little money we had on such small odds.

    My best friend who is single just signed up to be a foster adopt mom – a path that can lead to adoption. Four days after finishing the paperwork she received twin 5 month old girls. I just spent four days with them and fell head over heels in love with the babies.

    I urge people to pursue other paths to parenthood. They are out there. Infertility is different than reaching the end of your naturally reproductive years. Sadly, this can happen well before we overcome the desire to love a child and parent.

    Sometimes infertility can lead you down a road of acceptance. Radical acceptance. But sometimes the pain will not go away. But you can find ways to be a parent even if you have no money. Don’t give up on the dream. I didn’t and I am the happiest 44 year-old mama out there!

    Wishing all of you that are suffering some peace.

  14. Laura

    August 12, 2008 2:19 am

    I so know what you went through as I went through the same route and here I am 47 years old and childless with the one I love. It really, really hurts, but knowing there’s someone else that knows the feeling makes it less lonely. Thanks for this blog.

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