Pearls of Wisdom: Navigating Change


My guy is as soft spoken as they come. Where temperament is concerned we’re the textbook example of “opposites attract.” If he is a stable atom, I’m a free radical.  I push him out of his comfort zone while he keeps me from spinning out of orbit. When I first started this blog I don’t know who needed the TUMS more — me or him. Me for disclosing to the world my deepest thoughts or him for knowing that by association his last name would be forever (or as long as the Internet lasts) tied to the word “infertility.”

Little by little over the past 26 months as I regularly released the competing thoughts and emotions from my head, he became one of my most valued readers and editors. And, from time to time, he suggests ideas for blog posts. Tonight while he was off in the gym playing basketball I came home to find this stream of consciousness thought from him in my email:

In response to the “get over it” school of thought, you might point out the difference between “temporal” and “structural” changes in life.

Temporal change can be difficult and painful.  Lose a job … find another.  Have to move … set up house elsewhere. Ultimately, you adjust accordingly and move on.

Structural change is quite different.  You lose a loved one.  Have a life-changing medical condition.  Infertility.  It causes fundamental change in your life.  You can’t get “over it” — you can only “come to terms with it.”

I share this in its raw form for two reasons. Firstly, the men our lives don’t have the luxury of dishing with their pals on the most intimate of subjects, but clearly they carry these types of thoughts in their heads (and it both breaks and melts my heart a little to know he feels as deeply about this experience). And secondly, he makes a great point. His thoughts lead me to yet another interesting gem I came across on grieving losses in our lives:

“…reliving memories are normal reactions…Little by little, you should begin to feel better. Eventually, you should begin to focus on resuming relationships and activities. It’s not uncommon to initially feel “disloyal” to someone as you start to move on.”

Feeling disloyal — what a total kick in the head that was. It brought to mind another post I wrote a while back about guilt — A New Childfree Chapter (Guilt Not Included) — where I acknowledged, one of the biggest difficulties was the fear:

“that by allowing myself to accept a childfree life that it would mean that I didn’t work hard enough for my embryos, that I didn’t want or love my children, that I had somehow failed them. That my children didn’t matter as much as someone else’s children.”

Even now, I still wrestle with the guilt — especially on days when grief visits me when I least expect it. I’ve come to accept that grief will always visit and torture me a bit in the process. It was my dear blogging friend Lady McLeod, who summed it up best again with these words about her own dance with grief:

“…grief is fucking sneaky! It gets you when you are watching mourning doves build a nest outside your window and you burst into tears; when you see a child whose face snatches you back in time as surely as any mechanical time machine and your heart aches to the point you can feel the pieces falling off…”

And this takes me back to my man-child who should be coming in the door momentarily all sweaty and happy from the gym. There are some ‘change’ experiences in life you don’t get over, you can only come to terms with them.

See also  Lost in Thought and The Pretender

19 Responses

  1. MLO

    March 25, 2009 9:06 am

    That is an incredibly wise insight into why the general populace does not understand just what infertility is and means. Most people only ever experience temporal losses in any real way. Most structural losses occur in ways that lessen their impact – diseases, like infertility, are permanent changes. You must adjust. There is no alternative.

  2. Zee

    March 25, 2009 9:26 am

    I just wrote a long comment and the Internet ate it. UGH. The point was: Yes, yes, yes to all of it. Thank you to you and your husband for finally putting into words the differences between the two types of loss. This will be infinitely helpful to counteract the “get over it” eye rolling I come across from time to time. Also, I totally get you on the guilt part. When I start to seriously contemplate giving up completely (I mean hope, not just expectation) those exact thoughts pull me up short. “Maybe then I just didn’t want it enough, so maybe I didn’t deserve it.” It’s horrible, the things we do to ourselves. Finally grief is one of the companions I’m finding hardest to accept. The problem is, at this point, infertility grief still turns to anger–sometimes rage and/or hate, all of which are self destructive. I guess this will sort itself out in time, but thank you so much, as usual for putting it all out there.

  3. Ms Heathen

    March 25, 2009 4:00 pm

    I think that this distinction between ‘temporal’ and ‘structural’ change is an extraordinarily helpful one – and not just with regard to infertility. Your husband sounds like a very wise man, PJ!

  4. Deathstar

    March 25, 2009 5:11 pm

    Holy cow. Temporal/structural. Your guy is deep. That makes so much sense. It’s actually how I came to terms with my infertility. And after all this time, this grief still visits us. In so many small and unexpected ways. It’s the biggest threat to my peace of mind.

  5. Io

    March 25, 2009 7:53 pm

    I think I can see why you like your guy 🙂 That is really insightful.
    And I can see why he likes you too. Beautiful post.

  6. Iota

    March 25, 2009 8:57 pm

    I read on another blog recently (not to do with infertility) that you can grieve and get over the loss of a thing or a person, but you can only grieve the loss of a dream. I don’t know if that’s quite the whole story, but it struck a chord.

  7. Lost in Space

    March 26, 2009 4:02 am

    Perfectly said. The temporal/structural analogy just makes sense. Your husband has some incredible insight….

    I am struggling a great deal right now thinking that I am “quitting” too soon and that maybe one more cycle could do it. If I give up now, am I giving up on my baby and what could have been?

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • Pamela Jeanne

      March 26, 2009 5:38 pm

      Only you know what decisions you’re comfortable living with. That said, I know that trying to make decisions when the variables aren’t fully available is beyond maddening. I can tell you for us the turning point was when the emotions and promise of pursuing treatments became increasingly difficult as each attempt led us back to square one without any clear explanation why. When it became beyond painful and hope-defeating to lose the embryos we had created we began to conceive a life (pun intended) that brought a different sort of fulfillment.

      I treasure my time with my DH, my nieces and nephews and the freedom and peace that comes with knowing we pursued science as far as we were comfortable pursuing it and our dream of creating what could have been … a little of each of us transformed into a new life.  Wishing you peace in your effort to make sense of what comes next for you.

  8. Donna

    March 27, 2009 2:52 am

    When you deal with multiple structural changes in a life you start to really understand that difference. The temporal changes are less threatening. I recently met a young woman and for the first time allowed myself to think — if I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be like her. This is both heart-breaking and comforting.

  9. luna

    March 27, 2009 7:51 am

    this is such a lovely post, and those are indeed pearls of wisdom. I love the line that it breaks and melts our heart to know how deeply this affects him too.

    there was a turning point for us when M hit a wall and realized he couldn’t keep doing all those things we did out of obligation, that it hurt too much and we needed to protect ourselves.

    grief continues to emerge when we least expect it. but that understanding is a great comfort. in that way, we are both fortunate, you and I.

    • stepping up

      March 29, 2009 9:51 pm

      I’m on the fence right now about ‘obligations’. Could you define what you meant by that? Our extended family keeps sending invitations to functions, and we JUST don’t want to go.
      We can’t expect them to get the reasons-BUT, shouldn’t we be able to decline without getting the guilt trip? UGH

  10. Willow

    March 28, 2009 10:35 pm

    Lovely. I loved you keeping his words in their natural state. So insightful and painfully true. I’m taking a stab at coming up for air and am catching up. More to read. Hit your latest first. But I think I’m too weepy to continue today…

  11. Lynn

    April 15, 2009 7:53 pm

    You put it perfectly! Once we decided to “give up” (only 4 short months ago) I have been struggling with accepting the fact that we won’t have a child together. I don’t want to belabor the point with my DH month after month (I’ve done enough of that!), so I smile and pretend to move on. Inside, I am still crying, but you’d never know that from the outside! …and then I feel guilty that I’m not showing that emotion… and I worry that my sweet DH thinks – “well, that sure was easy for her to get over!” But I simply can’t continue to cry and drag our marriage through any more lows – we HAVE to move on. I guess I need to know – is there a balance? How do I let him know that my heart is still breaking, but that I know we will be OK? It is such a fine line…

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