Wednesday, September 30, 2009

fertility crone

I have reached a new stage in my infertility life: fertility crone.

I remember the first time I went onto a "trouble conceiving" message board, stepping carefully into a world of completely unfamiliar acronyms and words and a whole lot of, "wow, I would never do that." What the heck is RE? BFN? HSG? They do WHAT to your uterus? Endo? FOUR YEARS? Sperm can be the wrong SHAPE? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF WORLD IS THIS?

Fast forward to yesterday, when I had lunch with a woman from church who had a miscarriage a few months ago. She had told me, at the time, that she just couldn't talk about it yet, so I told her to give me a call when she was ready. She called a few weeks ago.

Normally I don't share a lot about myself when I'm talking to a parishioner, because the point is for them to get support from me, not the other way around. Also, I really hate it when you're trying to tell your painful story to someone and all they do is top every comment you make with an even worse one of their own. "Oh, you had an ectopic? I had two." "Oh, I had that surgery too but I was allergic to the pain meds and it was just horrible." "Wow, you got hit by a bus? I got hit by a bus last week, and then I got run over by a train and two cars AND one of Santa's reindeer!" (Okay, that last one has never happened. But it's been close.)

So my intent was to giver her support - and, before I knew it, the conversation had turned into a mutual consolation society. She has had two pregnancies, both of which turned out to be a blighted ovum. She had her first IUI that very morning.

It was as if we were two ex-pats, having been separated from our home country for years, who happened upon each other in a strange city and started speaking English to each other after speaking only a foreign language for what seemed like forever. "I can't tell you what a relief it is not to have to explain all this stuff," she said at one point, and I completely understood what she meant.

(As an aside, "I completely understand" is not one of my favorite phrases, because people use it all the damn time, and most of that time, it's not truthful at all. Maybe we can never say that we "completely" understand anybody, actually. But when you do connect with someone who really, really gets your situation, at a very deep level - it's pretty great. It feels as "complete" as understanding ever gets.)

She and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for not quite two years, while we're coming up on anniversary four. And after all this time, it occurred to me after lunch that now I'm the one who knows all the lingo, all the acronyms - I'm the one doing things I never imagined doing, spending money I swore I'd never spend, becoming someone I occasionally don't recognize anymore. How is this my life? we both asked. How did I get here?

We both confessed how much blogland means to us now. And how we always assumed we were the sort of people who would be completely, totally open to adoption - and how it still baffles us, even in the midst of it, that this pull toward biological parenthood is so unbelievably strong. How bizarre it is to lay on a cold, vinyl table while your husband is at work miles away, waiting for a nurse with a catheter to knock you up (you hope). How you always imagined lying in bed after sex, cuddling with your spouse and thinking about whether your act of love just conceived a child, and instead you're spread-eagled on a doctor's table waiting for the little timer with the sperm on the ticker to 'ding' so you can GO TO THE FREAKING BATHROOM, MY GOD I HAVE TO PEE.

It's a weird world we live in, the world of the infertile. I've become one of its crones, I fear - the person who has watched a hundred thousand other sisters come in to our little society and then leave, while I wait here and hope it will be my turn someday. Every once in awhile I speak our language to someone who looks like she might understand. Sometimes I get a blank look, or bad advice.

But sometimes you get a fellow traveler, and you have enough time to stop for lunch and laugh through your tears at the sperm timer, and at the very least, you know you're not alone.


  1. What a lovely, moving post. As a relative newbie, I'm on the lookout for a wise woman like yourself. I still haven't found one IRL. I'm not sure what it would be like to talk to someone who "gets it" in person, but I'd like to find out.

  2. Wonderful post. I'm not a "crone" yet, I guess, but I identify with everything you said. Especially the adoption stuff. Infertility teaches you a lot about yourself, doesn't it?

  3. Lovely. This is so so true. Thanks.

  4. Lovely post. I'm glad that you found a fellow traveler, even though of course you'd both prefer to not be traveling in the same direction.

  5. What a wonderful story of that special connection that so rarely happens. I hope your time as an active "infertility crone" comes to an end soon :-)

  6. (o) i'm glad you opened up and connected.

  7. I am sure your connection was exactly what she was looking for after her difficult journey. I felt the same way when I started reading infertility discussion boards and blogs. I said to myself, "I'll never be one of them". And I still haven't really come to grips with the fact that maybe I am.

  8. it always amazes me how each time I meet up with another traveler IRL, it always makes me feel better. It's such a powerful and painful connection.

  9. as supportive and wonderful blogland is, it feels so nice to have someone IRL that understands. i remember the beginning of my own journey and feeling the same way about acronyms and all that. i remember thinking, oh i would NEVER do that. i thought this IF stuff was just a sick joke and i would be pregnant before i even had to think about giving my self shots (gasp!) here i am, getting ready for IVF #2, a pro at giving and receiving shots. and to think i used to faint when i had to give blood- now i can point out the best veins to the phlebotomists! what a strange journey it has been. i hope it changes into something wonderful for you soon...