Dreamer or Masochist? You Decide


The calendar doesn’t lie. It’s my two year blogoversary. A pomegranate-infused martini or other adult beverage anyone? I’m pouring.

So…hundreds of posts, a book manuscript, a BlogHer panel, a New York Times feature article and thousands of your comments later, I ask: am I a dreamer or a masochist ?

Why? The subject of Coming2Terms has hardly been light reading at times though I have at other times shown there’s plenty of opportunity for black humor where infertility is concerned. Where have we been the past two years? Well — let’s just say we’ve been all over the map — we’ve been to denial, sad land, angry alley, melancholy valley, and to the mountain top when I knew I touched a heart or helped a fellow infertile. But there’s still so much work to do.

That’s clear when I periodically check in on the new comments logged in response to the article that revealed my infertility (and its struggles) to the world. nyt_jpg2While it ran last June in the New York Times, this being the Internet age, it lives on 24×7 and has something of a Ground Hog’s day effect.

When the article and (my picture, see left, as I review edits on my manuscript) first turned up on the New York Times homepage, my world turned upside down. I thought I had prepared myself for the response, but as with anything deeply personal it’s one thing to think you’re prepared and another to actually live it.

See also  Lost in Thought and The Pretender

On the plus side, I was overwhelmed with the kindness and fellowship of those who had either experienced infertility or knew and empathized with someone who had. There were those who didn’t fully appreciate the difficulty and acknowledged they had more to learn. Then there were those who, like the Grinch, had hearts so small that they couldn’t be bothered to take the time to even try to empathize. I always feared there was a subset of society who passed judgment on those who struggled with infertility but kept it themselves.

In a masochistic sense I wanted them to “out” themselves to surface some of the smoldering hostility I sensed around this topic but couldn’t prove. This article was the flint used to ignite the flames of intolerance. More than half of the commenters weren’t at all shy about revealing their true sentiments. And it was worse than I ever imagined.

Feeling the intense heat at a primal level, I’ve wondered more than once since then why I started this blog, why I felt compelled to devote a few years writing a book about the experience of living in the shadow of failed treatments. And then I saw, recently, comments left this fall on the NYT site from Essie:

“Here’s the thing: This is a medical issue. It is not just a matter
of drinking a glass of wine and relaxing. It is not that we just needed
to go on vacation or that we needed to stop wanting it so badly. It is
not a character flaw, it is a physical impossibility.

Though most people in my life offered solid support, I always feared
that some of them thought the things so many have written here.
I told myself that people aren’t really that callous or, frankly,
stupid to think these things about infertile people.

I wish I could use expletives here and still have my comment posted.
But I can’t, so I will close with this: If you have not personally
experienced infertility, you have not earned the right to spew your
disgust and hateful opinions on people who have. You simply do not know
what you are talking about.”

And this from Moved On:

“I had a problem with infertility which resulted in divorce. My
husband did not want to adopt. He wanted biological children and I was
unable to perform to his expectation. Frankly, my heart was broken and
my life devastated by this loss. This was on top of years of
miscarriages and infertility treatment which had left me physically
depleted and somewhat depressed. I lived in a rural area and had no one to talk to who understood.

After my divorce, I moved, went on to establish a fairly successful
professional career and adopted two beautiful daughters as a single
parent. Several years of therapy helped me to deal with the lost
marital relationship. To anyone looking at me from the outside, I have
fully recovered.

However, to be perfectly honest, I have scars from those years
that I still deal with every day…if you have never had a limb amputated, you cannot understand the
feelings of the person who has experienced this loss. If you have never
experienced the death of a child, you cannot tell the parents you
understand how they feel. Likewise, those who have not experienced the
loss and pain associated with infertility are simply unable to
understand and speak to the issue.”

These are just two examples of what propels me forward with Coming2Terms. I have accepted, reluctantly and with much effort, my infertile state. My legacy may not involve children, but I hope together — with you, my readers — we can lead society to a more understanding place.  This journey is not over.

See also  In the Company of Writing Women

Now, who needs a refill? Today I want to dream big…


27 Responses

  1. B writes

    February 8, 2009 1:48 am

    Thank you for the courage you have shown. Being at the front of a wave guarantees the roughest of rides. Particularly, your courage and openness shown in the article and willingness to open that precious part of yourself to people who do not deserve it was/is amazing. Humble respects and gratitude for this. I know it is not easy.

  2. Jen

    February 8, 2009 2:52 am

    I remembering reading the comments after reading the article. I found the sentiments very hard to take.

    PJ, if you are able, I would urge to continue this blog for as long as you can.

    IF is so difficult and isolating. There is no one who can possibly understand the heartbreak that IF brings besides another IFer. Many of newbies aren’t getting the support they so desperately need during one of the most difficult periods of their lives. They need strong women like you to help them find their way. And when they move on, there will always be someone else to take their place. Someone who feels the bewildering swirl of emotions that comprises infertility.

    Your blog is a much needed haven for IFers. It is a light to the community. A place of hope that lets us know that we are not alone, we won’t be marginalized, and we will survive.

  3. Alex

    February 8, 2009 5:06 am

    What a moving post. With many others, I’m sure, I wouldn’t presume to tell you that you “should” or “shouldn’t” keep blogging this blog, but I do hope you will. It must, indeed, take a lot of courage to do so. Thank you for doing it.

    Can you make mine a Margarita, with salt?

  4. luna

    February 8, 2009 6:59 am

    pamela jeanne, you continue to be such an inspiration for so many — raising awareness, giving voice to the voiceless, instilling compassion, empowering so many who have lost hope, reminding us that life goes on after infertility, that you can come out the other end and still be fabulous, stronger and all the wiser.

    cheers to you and coming2terms!

  5. MLO

    February 8, 2009 8:09 am

    You are an inspiration. Your blog posts are one of the very few I still look forward to reading. You are neither too optimistic, too naive, nor too cynical. Your views are balanced and based in reality.

    I, for one, am glad you haven’t allowed the internet trolls to get to you. I know you have been online for some time and realize that the illusory anonymity of the Internet brings out a certain meanness in a lot of people.

    Ignorance is the place of comfort for most people – as we have seen recently. And, you, as a beacon of real information and reality have opened yourself up to attack. I really do admire you for that.

  6. Michell

    February 8, 2009 3:48 pm

    There are those who get it. Who know what the pain of this journey is like. There will always be those who don’t. Hopefully though at some point the ones who do will out number the ones who don’t.

  7. Lauren

    February 8, 2009 4:35 pm

    I read the comments and they sting – bad! But then I realized how incredibly ignorant these people are. In fact, they have a handicap of their own – arrogance, insensitivity and stupidity! I pity that they go through life carrying such darkness inside of them. I pity them much more than I pity my infertile self. I still have love, compassion, understanding and joy. They clearly just have bitterness! Thank you for your blog and happy anniversary!:)

  8. Ms Heathen

    February 8, 2009 8:56 pm

    As many others have already said, you’re an absolute inspiration, Pamela Jeanne – and very brave for writing so openly and honestly.

    Congratulations on your two-year blogoversary!

  9. Sara

    February 8, 2009 10:25 pm

    PJ- you have once again brought to the forefront our fight and courage to continue on despite what we cannot have. Your words always help me, because I know that there are others out there like, that I am not alone in my pain and heartache. You have helped in my coming to terms and let me know that it is ok to feel the way that I do, that I am normal despite what society might say. Happy blogoversary! I am glad that you are here!

  10. Kami

    February 9, 2009 12:08 am

    Thank you for sharing these comments and for sharing your story so these people had a place to share their thoughts.

    I was just feeling blue after visiting an IF blog where she was successful having several children and was on her way to have more. Sometimes I don’t want to hear about anyone’s success. I wonder if I am healing at all. Then I think of your process and I come here and read about the woman who is still healing after adoption.

    It is a loss like no other. I know I am fortunate to be parenting, but it doesn’t erase the pain of it not coming easily.

    Thank you for keeping up the good fight.

  11. myrtle

    February 9, 2009 5:44 am

    Coming here has really helped me more than any support from family or friends. There are really no words to explain the sadness that I fight to overcome everyday – this week has been very hard and I feel like even though I am strong and functional my feelings are so raw that I wonder how it is that I manage to only breakdown when I am alone. I have read most of your entries and every time I read them the word “exactly!” comes to mind often.

    This week, I read a book about psychotherapy but the author managed to disappoint me by referring to the “life creating energy of birth” and the wisdom of being a parent –he was a man so it annoyed me even more. My new boss, a man, also referred to how happy his daughter was that he got the job and went into platitudes about how it’s so nice to impress one’s children – ugh!!!! Those offhand comments are really bothering me/hurting me deeply these days. Anyways, as an alternative to wallowing in my misfortune, I have found in your openness about your experience: inspiration, comfort and reassurance that even though my life won’t be what I would have liked it to be, this is an opportunity to chart a whole new journey. Right now, I am mostly angry that my charge is to chart me a whole new path! But so it goes. Thank you for your gift of accompaniment, for lighting the path for me and so many others.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      February 9, 2009 5:50 am

      So very glad that you’ve found recognition, comfort and solace from this blog. You are far from alone in charting a new path. I’m honored to be there with you and the many other courageous women who visit and share their stories here.

  12. Maritza

    February 9, 2009 6:38 am

    Happy blogeversary! The world of infertility would be much poorer without you around. Keep the dream alive.

  13. Deathstar

    February 9, 2009 7:03 am

    Dear PJ:
    If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if I would have started my blog yours was like a lifeline to me. Your words and encouragement gave me such comfort. When I found you and others online it was like I had finally find a place to hang my hat, pull out the stool and cry my heart out with others who knew what my pain was like. You held the space sacred.

  14. Brandygirl

    February 10, 2009 3:52 am

    Happy blogoversary, Pam! I heart your blog and whenever I’m down, I always go to the interactive feature on The Interactive New York Times that has you talking about infertility. Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us and I hope you will continue to do so.


  15. Bea

    February 13, 2009 2:25 pm

    People are… I just don’t have the words. I sometimes think the human race needs to start all over again. But as you say – there are those, here and there, who seem to make it worthwhile.


  16. Karen

    February 15, 2009 3:29 am

    I am so grateful that you’re a dreamer. Your blog was one of the first IF blogs I followed when I was introduced to this community and it has given me much comfort, along with quite a few laughs, during some hard times. I appreciate your willingness to be so public with this fight.

  17. Annacyclopedia

    February 17, 2009 8:07 pm

    I’m late to this party, but happy blogoversary to you, dear Pamela Jeanne! I am so glad that you share your voice with the world, even though it is difficult. Your courage and clarity and wisdom have meant so much to me on this journey, and your generosity in sharing the truth of your experience means so much to me.

    Long may you run, my dear!

  18. Lynn

    February 24, 2009 8:18 pm

    So glad I found you. I have secondary infertility (with my new husband), and after almost 2 years of trying and various tests, we’ve recently decided to stop trying. I am devastated. I can’t take the cycle after cycle hope and disappointment. And although we have “officially” stopped trying… why do I still have a glimmer of hope every month? When will that go away? When will I stop noticing that I’m ovulating? When will I FINALLY accept that this is NOT going to happen for us? After a google search, I found the NYT article and this link. Thank goodness. I look forward to reading your blogs, to refocusing my life, and moving towards acceptance. Thanks for starting this blog – and happy 2 year anniversary.

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