I saw this post, 10 Things That Changed When They Showed Up, and I had to pause. I think most infertiles can understand why. We all know that life changes when you have children, but there are so many posts or articles telling us that very thing. And maybe they're right, maybe we don't. Not totally, not completely. Having children changes everything... but then again, so does not having children.
I think that the other side of the coin is talked about a lot less, and often people don't realize how much your life changes when they never show up. When you venture forth, and you never have anything to show for your labors. It's easy enough to assume that someones life continues just the same as it did before they didn't arrive, that whatever you did before infertility holds true now... but I assure anyone reading- my life has never been the same since the day I realized they weren't going to arrive. Not knocking the original article, it's true that your life does change when you have kids, and I know she didn't mean to jilt those of us who may never be there... it just inspired me to write this post. I just think that the other side is far less known, and I want to take a moment to talk about it.
So here's my list, here's my infertile response, the other side of the coin.
10 Things That Changed When They Never Arrived:
1. Your choice in food/drink changes drastically. You debate whether this food, or that food, will harm your fertility. You read studies on foods, plant phytoestrogens, and wonder constantly if you're hurting your chances because of what you decided to eat. What you eat during certain parts of the months varies, some women may be downing pineapple like it's going out of style mid-month, avoiding lunch meat at another point of the month, or cutting carbs out completely. The men may be getting encouraged to eat all sorts of citrus fruit because their wives want them to get more vitamin C for conception. Alcohol may be limited for fear of messing with fertility treatments. Caffeine may be eliminated as well, because who knows how and when it could affect your risk of miscarriage. What everyone does is different, but you have to admit that most of us have changed our dietary habits because of infertility.
Personally? I eat what I eat, but there have been major changes. I switched from being a vegetarian to eating meat because it helped me reduce carb intake. I limit caffeine and alcohol a lot, for a variety of reasons. I no longer drink caffeine at all during TWWs. I down vitamins, and make my husband down some too.
2. Your income versus spending ratio is devastated. So you both have jobs, without the expense of kids? You should have loads of excess money, shouldn't you? Hahahahahahahaha, yeeeaaahhh right. I tell you what, before I realized they were never going to show up, we were doing alright. Now, not so much. I've thrown thousands of dollars away on fertility treatments, THOUSANDS. Most infertiles do. One month of treatment for me is $2,500... maybe a good indication as to why we aren't still pursuing that eh? Even on lesser treatments, we were still paying about $500 for monitoring, medications, and an IUI. I've had to pay off hospital bills for testing and procedures, up to $500 for one month of treatment, my laproscopy/hysteroscopy was $11,000 (thankfully covered by insurance though!). This stuff ain't cheap. Yeah, by all means we should be doing alright. We make a fair living. But when you factor in the beast that is infertility? Unh uh. Didn't stand a chance.
Suddenly you have more money going out the door, but not more coming in. And for some of us, you eventually come up against a brick wall of financial burden- you realize you may never become parents because financially it may just not be possible. Not that you couldn't afford to raise a child, but because you can't even afford to get pregnant. Yes, raising children is expensive... but I tell you what, when you actually have your child you do not have to pay $11,000 up front to the doctor for a 45% chance of taking your child home someday. That's it, a 45% chance that maybe you can take your child home finally. And, yes, your child could have medical problems, you could have to spend a lot of money taking care of them in the long run... but so could we, after we're already spent every last penny just conceiving them. It's really not the same thing.
3. Instead of having a good time, you're laying on your back at the doctors. Screw going out with your friends this weekend, and who needs date night, moreover who needs a vacation, you're more likely to be at the fertility clinic being probed. Sure, you could spend that money on a cabin rental, or a nice dinner, but why would you do that when you could be throwing it away on monitoring? Okay, sure sure maybe that monitoring might pave the way for you to have a child... maybe. But I tell you what, I've had more ultrasounds than the Du.gger momma, and I still ain't got no baby. I've spent more holidays and weekends laying on that table than a normal person should. Would I rather have been laid up in a cozy cabin? Hell yeah! But I want a baby more than I want a cozy cabin, so I spend year after year being probed instead of going on a vacation... I'd say it was a fair trade... but that's yet to be seen.
4. Your fridge is suddenly overrun with medication, you feel like a drug addict, and/or you have your own kit for shooting up. I have a drawer in my fridge specifically dedicated to fertility medications... and yogurt. Every time I open the fridge, there it is. Anyone who opens my fridge can see it, and wonder what on earth is going on here. Moreover, that fridge has been that way for... oh, two years? Oh yeah, I'm classy. I used to have a basket just for shooting up. I kept my alcohol wipes in there, hand sanitizer, spare syringes, medication, my bio-hazard box, gauze pads, and band aides. I still have it... somewhere. I tell you what, I never thought that would be my new normal. Hording medication for a better day, filling my fridge up with it, keeping a kit. Oh, how the times change.
5. You learn lessons in dark humor when the norm shifts. If you'd told me 4 years ago that one day I'd be shooting up in a Starbucks parking lot, after getting my medication out of my Starb.right lunchbox where I'd kept it cool on ice packs, I wouldn't have believed you. Now, ummm... bwahahahahahaha! That's one of my favorite stories (Didn't I mention that I'm classy?). Or how about the day I made fun of the "optimum" "prime" screen saver on the ultrasound machine, and suddenly we're wondering why Opti.mus Prim.e is violating women in fertility clinics. You learn to laugh, because otherwise your heart might break. Yes, this isn't normal for everyone else but it's your new normal. So you either roll with it, or you break.
Honestly, sometimes it feels like I have war stories, but it was a war I fought with just my husband by my side. And we lost.
6. You learn a new language. While you're friends are deciphering baby talk, you're busy trying to figure out what "omg, my hsg hurt so bad. but AF is here, time to start watching my BBT. Hoping this is the one. CD1! When should we BD?" or "I just had my IUI, DH was so silly. Mot 65%, 22Mil. Woot! Testing 11dpo! Hoping for a BFP!"
Yeah. Good luck with figuring that all out.
Not just acronyms though, you have all these medical terms to figure out. Diagnoses to understand. Going in, I didn't even know about progesterone production in my cycle or estrogen's role. Now I now about hysteroscopies, laproscopies, mullerian anomalies, IUIs, using steroids to conceive, hysterosalpingograms, saline sonohysterograms, etc... well, I guess the bright side is I'm more educated about my womanly parts. But, I'd still rather be learning baby talk. Thanks.
7. Your view on pregnancy may change forever. It did for me. They never arrived and I realized how very fragile pregnancy is. There's nothing magical about it, and there never was. There are no guarantees. It goes from something solid and guaranteed, to something fragile... breakable. Something unattainable, unrealistic. Mythical even. I've become embittered to it. Now, I never assumed that pregnancy always worked out... but I thought that getting pregnant would be easier for me, I thought that pregnancy would work out. Now, I assume it never will. It's just easier that way after so many years. I went from being happy for pregnant women, to feeling jaded and bitter. I know all these things that can go wrong, and I envy them their naivety. I envy how they can smile, how they can be so happy, how they can assume.
8. You and your partners intimacy undergoes changes. Suddenly you find yourself in a doctor's office telling them all your intimate details, how often you do the deed, how many people you've done it with, and your bits are under scrutiny. Next thing you know you're doing a treatment cycle, and your doctor is prescribing you s.ex. For reals. It might seem funny at first, you might laugh, but as time goes on it becomes more and more a chore. You try to lighten it up. You try to find ways to spice things up, keep it fresh and fun. And you might succeed. But as time wears on, as years pass by, it takes a toll. It wears you down. And suddenly your making love to a bowl of ice cream more than you are to your husband.
9. You make constant sacrifices. Not to the gods of fertility either. No, you sacrifice the life you had for the life you hope to have. You sometimes stay at the same job, even after you reached the point where you feel like hitting your boss in the face with your stapler (note: no bosses have been harmed thus far). You do this for a lot of reasons: your insurance coverage or benefits (if you're lucky enough), the income (so you can afford treatments), the flexibility (so you can actually go to treatments), the convenience, and so on. Or you make other life sacrifices. You cancel your cable, you downsize to a single car household, keep a clunker instead of replacing it, you wait until your clothes start getting holes in them to replace them, you don't go on trips or go out with friends anymore, etc... things that you took for granted before, are now cut. Sacrifices you didn't have to make before infertility, now you are. Just for the hope that someday it'll be worth it.
10. Your friend list undergoes some changes too. As in, people don't want to come near you with a 10 foot pole. And when they do, WHOA buddy you wish they hadn't. Well, most of the time. People don't know how to handle infertility, so often they refuse to acknowledge it or they say the most asinine things. Maybe they mean well, but when you're struggling it hurts. A lot. And then you have some that you talk to, but they never listen, and eventually it comes to a head and you explode on them because you can't take another "Why don't you just relax," or "It'll happen in it's own time, I know it." You know, despite you telling them over and over that you have X, Y, and Z medical issues to contend with. Yup, relaxing fixes everything. Or the "friends" that judge you, they definitely come out of the wood work too. Suddenly, you are a bitter ugly person who should just adopt or wasn't meant to be a parent (that's why your parts are broken, don't you know?). It hurts. Having people you used to rely on suddenly turn against you, stop listening to you, refusing to understand. But then you have the ones that do, the ones that actually listen, that actually try to understand. And you have a great divide, the people who you used to think would carry you through hell and back... and the people who actually have.
I've lost several friends because of infertility and my miscarriages, many personal relationships have been severely scarred. But some relationships have become so much stronger. The core list is smaller, more resilient. It still hurts, losing what we had with all those people. I still wonder why they didn't make the effort, why they said the things they did, why they wouldn't listen, why they stopped talking... and I'm not ever going to have an answer. And sometimes, I don't want one.
So yes, your life changes drastically when they arrive. But it changes still when they never do. It's a living hell, and you get little acknowledgment for the struggle you go through. But it's there. People may joke about how we have more time to have fun practicing, or they may assume that everything is the same as it was before, that we're doing just fine... but that's just a cop out. Maybe our pain is too much for them, maybe our reality threaten theirs, maybe they just don't care... but I wish people knew this about infertility: it doesn't just change your life in the obvious ways, it changes it in unimaginable ways. 4 years ago, I never would have imagined all this. I mean, I knew it changed because I couldn't have children, and that made me very sad. And I knew that simple fact would change things irrevocably too. But I didn't imagine how much more infertility itself would change every decision I make, every move I make, every thought I have, the way I live while trying to overcome it.
Or how all these people, in such close proximity to our lives, never even take notice of it.