A patient and I were talking about Mother’s Day. She’s still not a mom, which she very much wants to be.
I suddenly remembered.
One Mother’s Day morning. I heard the pastor of our church say the thing he said every Mother’s Day.
“Would all the mothers in the congregation please stand up so we can give them some love and gratitude for all their hard work?”
I had heard it one too many times. I had been trying to get pregnant for 3 1/2 years. Shots. Pills. Tears. Putting my body in weird positions. Mood swings out the wahzoo. One morning in my Dallas office, I threw a plastic ashtray against the wall after my secretary told me a patient had cancelled (the ashtray suggests how long ago it was). I was pumped full of some drug.
I left for the rest of the day.
Back to that morning in church.
“Would all the mothers stand up?”
I promptly stood.
Now I was in the choir. Up front in a not-huge Dallas Presbyterian church. Maybe 650 on a good day.
Everyone knew I didn’t have children.
That they knew about.
I was just mad enough. Tired enough. I didn’t care what people thought.
My grandmother sitting in the congregation looked a little surprised. I winked at her. She probably couldn’t see that far.
I was a therapist. Had “mothered” lots of folks. That was my justification.
Probably started some tongues wagging.
I am so lucky to have been successful with in vitro fertilization.
People around here know that I went through infertility. I have treated a lot of people going through it. It is so tough. Whether it’s because of multiple miscarriages, unknown etiology, whatever. It is just rough. It can catch people unaware. Or it can be an already diagnosed condition that suddenly is so much more burdensome.
You are ready to become a parent.
I remember hating my own body. It was failing me. Something that, what at the time, seemed like every other woman could do, I couldn’t do.
I couldn’t get pregnant.
And people are not sympathetic. “Ah, you don’t know how much your life is going to change when you become a parent – just enjoy it now!” That comment falls on flat ears.
Just don’t say it.
What are my tips for those going through it?
1) Go to a reproductive endocrinologist.
If you have been “trying” for a while, then you need to upgrade and find a reproductive endocrinologist. There are many reasons. You just need to. They can be extremely proactive with the most up-to-date information. It’s all they do. It helps with your sense of helplessness.
2) Realize that frequently you and your spouse will polarize on the issue.
One of you will take the more negative view, one the more positive. This can be paralyzing. Lead to awful arguments that make you wonder why you are trying to bring a child into this relationship in the first place. It’s normal but you need to realize it. Try to have empathy with the other side of things.
Also realize that if the problem lies with just one of you, you need to talk about how that feels. It could be causing subtle problems. Or not so subtle.
My husband and I used to joke that we had “sex for 12.” It seemed like there were at least that many people involved in what was going on! We fought hard to maintain some sense of togetherness and closeness through a process that became about procedures and appointments.
It was difficult.
Laughter helps. But when you end not being pregnant month after month, it’s just not funny.
If you know someone who is going through infertility, ask them about it once in a while. Gently. Just ask if they’d like to talk about it.
They don’t have control over much.
If it’s you, accept others’ love as you can. Breathe. Grieve as you must.
Throw a few ashtrays.
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