Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hope and inspiration

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been in such a state of shock that it left me speechless for a while. I'm also (of course) going through the inevitable "now what?" stage of the newly pregnant infertile. In many ways, I just don't know what to say.

Part of it is fear of loss. Part of it is complete lack of familiarity with the terrain upon which I'm now walking. Probably the large part, though is concern about saying the wrong thing. I have no idea of how to be pregnant, and feel that I have a huge responsibility not to be one of those people who develops amnesia about infertility the second they get that positive test. I'm terrified that something will go wrong, but after whining about infertility for so long, I also feel a huge responsibility to enjoy every second while I'm here (luckily, that part has been easy so far). I also feel a responsibility to the women who are still struggling. I realize that for some, seeing a pregnancy announcement is always at best bittersweet, and at worst, frankly painful. So, I've struggled with the question of what I should say or do now that I am, for now at least, one of the lucky ones.

When I had just started trying to conceive, and was as innocent (and ignorant) as the driven snow, I hung around on "trying to conceive" message boards and got a little thrill out of every pregnancy announcement. This made for interesting times, as there was a pregnancy announcement about every 30 seconds. Not surprisingly, I rapidly grew jaded, and stopped particularly caring about them, except in a sort of abstract way ("how nice that someone else has achieved their dream... Can you pass the salt?") Then, probably inevitably, they started to bother me. Seeing someone perform a natural body function without effort just didn't strike me as particularly wondrous anymore. It probably didn't help that all of my friends chose that time to become pregnant, many by mistake, or without any particular thought or struggle.

Over the course of several more months, it became crystal clear that something was wrong. It had been a year, and then 18 months, without a sign of the long-awaited second line. I saw doctors, had tests, and still, nothing. During this time, I stopped visiting the boards so much. The good news of super-fertile 20-year-olds wasn't doing my heart any good, and things on the "infertility" boards too often degenerated into ugly and pointless brawls. So, I just visited a few of my not-so-new-anymore friends on a regular basis, but other than that, stayed away from the boards. Around this time, I discovered blogs, which offer an opportunity to get to "know" someone in a whole different way.

One of the things that I noticed during this time was that I wasn't the only one having very strange reactions to other people's pregnancies (or as the hilarious Sarah calls them, OPP). On the days that I did brave the "newbie" boards, I'd see announcements saying things like "FINALLY pregnant after 7 loooong months", followed by a sea of good wishes, most of which include comments like "you give me hope", or "this is so inspiring". Being a logical person, this puzzled me a bit. Why should the pregnancy of a total stranger give one hope or inspiration?

I had always tried to avoid being upset by other OPP by reminding myself that it is not a zero sum game. There are not a limited number of pregnancies getting doled out, and therefore, someone else's good news did not mean that my chances of having equally good news one day were reduced. However, this argument also forced me to face the fact that if each woman's pregnancy is a statistically independent event, then there's no reason that I should draw hope from seeing happy endings to stories like mine.

Yet after a while, I admit that I did start to draw hope from other people's successes. While the fertile newbies still left me cold, seeing people overcome great odds to become pregnant reminded me that someone has to end up on the long skinny end of the bell curve, so why not me? However, while these success stories gave me hope, they didn't inspire me. They reminded me of what was possible, but didn't give me any clear sense of how to get there, or how to be while I was trying to get there. Rather, I found that inspiration came not from the outcome of other people's stories, but rather from the stories themselves.

When I think back, I realize that the deepest and most profound inspiration came from seeing women battle for something that they really wanted, regardless of their success and failure. I'll never forget the day that B posted in our "buddy group" on a message board that after three years of trying, she had been diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, and told that she had a less than 5% chance of ever conceiving. I wept buckets for a woman that I'd never met, and feared that it would be the end of her story. B herself, though, refused to accept what seemed to be her fate. She tried IVF (her cycle was cancelled because of no response). She tried using estrogen support (she didn't ovulate, and had a cycle so long she feared it was menopause). She signed up for donor eggs. She explored adoption. She went to the RE each and every month for an antral follicle check, to see if she had any chance whatsoever of getting her miracle. Within about 5 months, she was pregnant from her own egg after an unmedicated IUI. Now, two years later, she has a beautiful daughter and is trying for #2. Whenever I've thought about giving up, I think of B's courage, and make another appointment with the RE.

I also think about my friend R, who has been trying for several years with no luck so far. She has been through failed IUI after failed IUI. Has had to cope with the fact that she lives in a small town, and has to travel several hours to see an RE. She has watched most of her friends and family members have their babies while her arms are still empty. Yet she refuses to let this be the end of her happiness. She exercises (and looks unbelievably hot in a bikini). She goes dancing. She does art projects. She is the life of the party. She takes road trips. Right now she's on a three-month vacation in Mexico with her sweet husband. She LIVES!!! I pray that some day, she will be able to share all of that joie de vivre with a child, but I also know that if she doesn't get that opportunity, she will be fine. R inspires me.

In the blogging world, I draw inspiration from women like M-B, and Beth, who have had two of the worst pregnancies ever, and yet managed to keep their senses of humor intact, and self-pity to the absolute minimum. Things that would leave me in a puddle on the floor bring them to new heights of wittiness. I am in awe.

There are so many women that inspire me. I could go on forever, but I think you get the idea. I realize now that as hard as this journey has been, I've also been incredibly lucky. Of course I'm lucky to have finally seen that second pink line. I don't know how this journey will end, but I will treasure that moment forever. But I'm also lucky to have had so many incredible women around me to support and, yes, inspire me. One of the reasons that I'm having trouble figuring out to say, then, is that I realize that compared with so many others, my journey has been fairly smooth. There's nothing particularly inspiring or unusual about my own journey. So, at this stage, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about other women who have won their own battles with infertility, and others who are still in the fight.

My second beta isn't until Tuesday. Then I'll have an u/s the following Tuesday. So I get to bite my nails for a bit longer.


Julia said...

My very very heartiest congratulations on your pregnancy.

Your post resonated with me. I just wrote an entire paragraph delineating this but decided to delete it because it was not important.

It's hard to ignore the tug your heart gives in these situations. It speaks well of you. But until someone shows up who has been trying longer than I have (eight years) and has had more miscarriages (eleven) and wants to fight me over this, I give you full dispensation to enjoy your hard earned, much anticipated pregnancy with no guilt whatsoever.

Just tell me where to send this certificate and I will put it in the mail.

Sarah said...

you are so right that it's the stories that are inspiring, more so than the outcomes. but i don't think that means you have to have the worst battle scars of all the infertiles in blogland to be inspiring. everyone sharing the ins and outs and ups and downs of their journey with such honesty inpires me. like you!

you've read my stance on OPP (thanks!). i felt pure happiness about your BFP, and frankly it does give me hope. if the only stories we had in blogland were the extremely brutal ones, the whole thing would feel so much more insurmountable. besides, your pregnancy is no less deserved than anyone else's, and neither is your joy.

looking forward to good news tuesday! (gosh that seems like a long time to wait for beta2!)

Marie-Baguette said...

Hubby and I read your post and I am so glad you are doing well. We will be thinking of you on Tuesday.
We were surprised to see my blog appear next to Beth's -- I mean, she went through so much! And I feel I have been v. whiny on my blog, not especially brave or witty (I cried at my last blood test for God's sake!), but it touched me a lot to be mentioned. It is sort of funny because I kept thinking " Oh no, it was real hard for Sara, what with being in Korea, and getting only 2 eggs, and having the first IVF fail, etc" and the same time I am thinking that I did get off easy -- once we started IVF it took us only 6 months to get pregnant , and for 3 of those I was on a break. I often marvel at the fact that we got so lucky compared to others. I guess that some stories we read on the Internet are so incredibly painful that those of us who get pregnant tend to think that we are very fortunate, whatever our circumstances are.
I know the first few weeks of pregnancy are weird. I was both happy and sort of felt that I had somehow failed my infertile buddies. But as soon as you will get symptoms, the reality of it will hit you! I really hope you will continue to write as I love your blog. Bonne chance with everything.

Lut C. said...

I recognize many of those feelings. It is an odd transition to make.

Hopeful Mother said...

I understand your feelings completely. Pregnancy after infertility, and in the IF blog community, is a mixed bag of emotions.

But - like you - I feel a huge responsibility to feel happy and content with pregnancy. It took so much for us to get to this point.

Hoping for great news on beta 2 and u/s...!

Marie-Baguette said...

Sara, I hope your second beta went well. Thinking of you.

AshPash said...

I agree, Sara, it IS the stories themselves that inspire us. The story of the friend who kept going despite the odds...perfect example. Congrats on the great beta results! Sending good wishes for continued good news.

seamonsterrr said...

Wow! What an amazing post! Thank you so much for writing it! (I know. a long time ago, but I was doing some googling...)

I'm one of the "newbies" you were mocking. ("7 loooong months") I'll be starting my 8th cycle in a day or two, most likely. I'm not trying to win the Pity Parade Princess' crown, but...

I'm trying to do this alone with no husband. So it was pretty scary in itself to make the decision to TTC. To go it alone; or with a donor, that is. I met him online. Then I fell in love with him. Ha! I must be crazy! sorry, tmi?

Anyways, now I've started to realize that I'm not as fertile as my age might suggest (I'm 29). And to make things worse, I'm like you, an American living abroad. US Navy, Active Duty. So....AAGGHHH!

It's nice to know that you found the forums and online groups to be helpful in some ways. I've just started to explore them and try to participate in the conversation. Before that, I think I was spending too much time in my own head, and reading fertility research papers.

Sometimes I think that it would be hard for me to relate to most people on those TTC boards. Cause they've got those DHs. And I'm an atheist. And... But in the end, we all just want a baby. And we want to stay sane, right?!

Well thanks for your help in my fight to make a baby and stay sane!