I have two friends entering the IF rollercoaster, both of whom I referred to my RE’s office (J’s snarky comment: “Oh yeah, because they’ve done such a great job getting us pregnant!”). One friend is 43; the other is 32. And I just turned 37, so I’m right in the middle. The differences between our reactions to the IF are stark and I find them interesting.
My 43-year-old friend, T, just got married two years ago. The way she sees it, she came late to the party and now has a chance to try for a child, but she knows she has to work with what she’s got. When she came to me for information on IVF, she seemed totally at peace with it. It’s not that being a mother is less important to her, or that she’s calm about the process itself (shots and hormones and surgery, etc.). But she has known for years that time was running out. For her, infertility is not a disease—it’s a hurdle she faces because of the way her life has played out. She understands that the odds of IVF working are long, and that she might have to use donor eggs. But she’s decided to take her shot at it, and if it doesn’t work she’ll do what she can to adopt.
I don’t mean to make light of her problems. I’m sure she’s scared and hurting. But I almost envy her lack of trauma over the idea of infertility itself. I think of my first year of infertility as a “lost year” in my life, which I can barely see through the haze of shock and desperation I was going through at the time. And it wasn’t like it happened all at once, either. For most of us, it takes a lot of treatment before you know how bad your infertility is, before you realize that you could actually reach the end of the road without a baby.
I know that’s how I was. I didn’t consider us “infertile” when we first went to an RE to check things out. After all, we’d conceived once on our own, so surely all we needed was a little nudge. And our tests came back fairly positive, so we assumed that the trip to the RE was just a little glitch in the parenting road.
Even then, when I thought that going through IUI was just a hiccup in the rhythm of our lives (I’m metaphor-happy today), it was traumatic. I can remember sobbing in the RE’s office when I first was told we would need IUI. I can remember freaking out over the expense ($1,000). And then one BFN after another, and the shock at learning we would have to go to IVF (again, the expense even with insurance seemed so daunting). And then learning about the fibroids, and then the miscarriages, one after another. The decision to have surgery, and the decision to take out the second mortgage and do the shared risk plan. The feelings of betrayal when our RE finally decided—two years too late—to try to treat J’s hormone deficiencies. And the struggle to accept the likelihood of donor sperm as our only option.
So I look at T, who seemed to skip all these steps, and there’s just a little bit of jealousy on my part. She knew going into this that it was a long shot; she knows she might have to use donor gametes. She has a simple plan that will never drag on for years and years.
Of course, I prefer my odds over hers. And yet I wonder what that kind of peace would have been like.
My 32-year-old friend, D, is on the opposite side of the spectrum. (I know, a 22-year-old would be closer to the true other side of the spectrum, but most of the women I know tend to wait until their 30’s to start trying to conceive.) She and her husband have been TTC for over a year, and she’s been charting (TCOYF) for more than half of that. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what steps she should take. She seems inclined to go to her gynecologist for advice, while I have been urging her to just skip all that and go straight to the RE. (I know that my RE would repeat all the tests anyway.) I can’t tell whether she’s in denial or if I just assume the worst.
But while we talk about the facts, we have yet to discuss how she’s feeling about all of this. And I don’t know how to broach it. I don’t want to say “I’m sorry,” because that’s assuming infertility (and the need for real treatment), and I know she’s hoping that a simple does of clomid might do the trick. And it might, and I really hope it does. Mostly I think she’s not ready to talk about her feelings until she has some answers.
Right now, she’s where I was 3 years ago. And it’s hard to watch that and want to help, but to fear overwhelming her with my own advice. On the one hand, I wish I knew 3 years ago what I know now. I wish I’d known how hard it could be, how long it could take, and even how much strength I would find in myself and my marriage. On the other hand, she already knows some of this—she’s been watching me go through this, after all. And I don’t want to scare her.
So where are you on the spectrum, and how has it affected your perspective?