Thursday, August 20, 2009

Absolute zero

As infertiles, many of us suffer from certain "triggers." Pregnancy announcements, baby shower invitations, innocent inquiries (so when are you two going to have a baby?), ignorant comments (you are so lucky you don't have kids, they are such a pain!), swollen bellies in line at the grocery story, a pregnancy appearing in the storyline of a favorite television program... the events that make you simultaneously feel a stabbing in your heart, a swelling in your throat, and a clenching in your stomach.

While we are in the waiting-for-BFP phase of IF, I think many of us imagine that seeing two magical lines on a HPT will suddenly make things All Better. That attaining the goal, the sweet and precious reward of all of our efforts, will make the world look rosy and we'll shop for itty bitty clothes and share a secret smile with DH when the baby kicks and OH LAWD isn't every second of life just Heaven?

Of course, getting pregnant after IF is a wonderful gift. I don't mean to discount how much happier it is to take a progesterone supplement than a Follistim shot. It's a far, far better place.

But it's not The Cure.

(I apologize if I just got "It's Friday I'm in Love" in your head. Go listen to it on three times, that should get it out. Click HERE for the link. Because I care.)

When I was first pregnant with Bean, the triggers for me were just as strong as while we were undergoing treatment. I remember being less than two months along, and I went to get my hair cut. I loved my stylist, she was young and fun and friendly and great at her job. On that particular day, I was greeted with a hug and the exciting news that HOORAY! SHE WAS PREGNANT! I was thrilled at her obvious baby bump, especially knowing that she had suffered two miscarriages in the past. But despite my sincere happiness that she was baking a very sticky bean, and the private knowledge that I, too, had an early life growing inside my tummy, it was a trigger for me. As soon as I got back into my car, I started sobbing uncontrollably.

Weird, huh?

But infertility had burrowed itself so deep inside of me, that just getting pregnant was not enough to erase my response to the triggers. That's me, Pavlov's dog -- just ring the bell.

Over time, the conditioning weakened and the triggers changed. After Bean was born, there were no more tears when a birth announcement came in the mail, just perhaps a slight stiffening.

When we began to look toward having a second child, I would feel that dreaded physical response only when I saw a pregnant woman who had one child with her. A baby bump alone was not enough to punch me in the gut, which I was grateful for. And my reactions never did seem as strong as they were when we battling IF the first time. Probably because our situation never got as bad.

So here I am, pregnant again. Hopefully for another eight more months. I do feel my triggers slowly -- very slowly -- losing their power. When I see a pregnant women with her kids, I am drawn to stare, with a bit of envy. I wonder if she knows what it's like to struggle to conceive. I wonder what it would be like to conceive with my husband, just the two of us, in private. To not have that heavy weight, that dark burden, that lingering question: Will there be a child, or won't there? To take for granted that there just will be.

On one hand, I can't imagine myself being a grandmother one day (God willing) and still having a reaction to these triggers.

But on the other hand, I can't ever imagine myself not.

Like the graph of an asymptotic function where the line slowly dips lower and lower, approaching zero but never arriving.

It makes me wonder. After you've lived through infertility and felt the pain of its associated triggers, can you ever get to absolute zero? When the only churning in your stomach at hearing of another "accidental" pregnancy is yearning for a bite of that yummy-looking bagel sandwich she's eating? Is it possible to achieve complete extinction from that level of IF conditioning?

Special thanks to my cousin J for the math advice and Truth Be Told blog for the graph image.


  1. A woman who works with me married someone who doesn't want kids. She thought he'd change. He never did. Now she's in her mid-40s and just lives with it. It's not to be. She loved him too much to drop him over it.

    I'm 39 (almost) and my boyfriend is 44. He's not really sure he wants another child (his daughter is 9). I asked my co-worker how she deals with it and she said, "Eventually you accept it's not going to happen and from there, you don't think about it anymore." Maybe. I am beginning to think I'm just not meant to be a mom. But sometimes it really grips me. Sometimes I cry over it. Most of the time I'm fine but during those dark times, I have serious doubts about the choices I made that got me here.

  2. Now, for some reason, the first thing I check out on any woman is her belly. Is she pregnant? I've never before seen as many baby bumps as I do now. And of course they all must have gotten that way accidentally or after a couple of months. Well or at least that is where my mind goes...

    And I don't think of getting pregnant the same either. A fellow vanpooler and her hubby are about to start trying and she chats away cheerily about what will of course happen. Except then they decide to put it off another 6 months to catch up on bills. But that won't be a problem, right? All I can think is she's 38 for crying out loud. Her eggs might almost be dead. She should have been on this yesterday. Toss out your pills for God's sake because it's almost too late!

    I find pregnancy and rationality do not go hand in hand for me.

  3. So far, I haven't hit zero. Having Robbie helped- a lot. But I still cringe when I hear the announcement.. just a little. And if there's any sort of "we weren't really planning this.." I still hate them JUST a little bit.

  4. I don't think you can because we have lost things that we will never get back. Even after our babies are here or grown up for that matter you still will have lost the innocence or the pure joy from the surprise of getting pregnant when you were not "really" trying. We never get to feel like a fertile person. Because now anytime you want to expand your family you have to try to figure how exactly you are going to do that. Do you really want to invest in the ups and downs again. We will never have least I know that I won't. I will feel better once I have my baby but I will never feel like, my sister, for example who now worries about getting pregnant. I can not even imagine what that would feel like. It sucks and I don't think that anyone who has never been through could ever understand the depths of our loss and anguish even after our dream has come true.

  5. It definitely got easier for me as my pregnancy progressed, and hasn't really been a problem since LL was born. Well, seeing pregnant women isn't a problem. I don't have any of those triggers. But I absolutely cannot listen to people talk about how easy it was for them. Or how carefully they planned the timing. Or how they don't understand why women would do fertility treatments. Basically, I don't mind seeing other people succeed, but I cannot stand to listen to ignorance.

    The other day, I heard two women talking about how, between them, they had 7 children (yes, two women, seven children) and they were all born in February, March, or April. Because honestly, why would anyone want to be heavily pregnant during the summer? Why would a woman do that? Why doesn't everybody plan intelligently like they did? And wow, I wanted to smack them.

  6. "I find pregnancy and rationality do not go hand in hand for me."

    Jen, I wholeheartedly agree! I definitely have a tendency to instantly somewhat despise pregnant women simply because "ugh, I bet she didn't even have to try." I feel so pathetic sometimes.

    Sunny, you're a great writer. You convey your thoughts and emotions so well. You're a huge reason I even started a blog, because I realized that, like you, I needed a place where I could express my frustrations and anger and sadness.
    And as for your question, I would have to say the answer is no. I mean, sure, I may change my mind one day when I'm 60 and I have (biological or adopted) children. But I remember before my miscarriage, even though I was way way WAY less jealous of pregnant women, upon hearing how far along they were I would almost always think to myself enviously "why can't I be that far along?"

    Infertility is so hellish.


  7. This is a great post. Coming at it from a miscarriage standpoint I think there are always triggers and even though its been a long time now the 'what ifs' and triggers are still there when I see a child that would be the same age as Star. I do think that its alot like a physical scar, it fades and flattens and becomes less noticeable but it is always there forever and always, even if no one else sees it.

  8. I don't know if we can get to zero. I hear about "resolving your infertility" but don't even know what that would look like. I mean can you ever really have resolution if you've also got these feelings? And the "you" here is rhetorical because I'm not sure *I* could feel like I have resolution if I've also got this ongoing and persistent frustration and upset (which for the record, I do). ugh.

  9. It's been a long time since I traveled the TTC road. It took us 6 years to achieve our second, and to this day, it still hurts a bit. And that elusive second is six years old now.

    I would love to be able to be the woman who busy baby stuff the second the pee stick is dry. I'd love not to keep the door closed to the "nursery" until a month before the due date. I'm not, nor will I ever be. I will still get a pang of jealousy over what wasn't. I will still want to caution the newly pregnant woman that a BFP doesn't always equal a baby. I just swallow it and take a deep breath and walk ahead. What else is there do to?

    Thanks for this. It's nice to know that something never change (unfortunately), and it's not "just me".

  10. I appreciate the Cure song. Beats heck out of the Sid the Science theme song.

    I feel like I've largely lost my triggers, especially if this pg sticks, but the one thing that still really irks me is when women in their 30s blithely talk about waiting a few more years before tryng to get pregnant, as though it will just happen when they want it to. And then when it does happen just that easily, I'm really annoyed.

  11. I didn't suffer IF with my first child--we were trying, but it happened easily. That's why the two miscarriages and four years of IF trying for the second (I'm 15 weeks) were so shocking. And the triggers are still there, but lessened a bit. What I'm having trouble with right now, as I begin to have a belly, is BEING the swollen belly in the grocery line. I want to make a t-shirt that says "I am infertile, too--I've been where you are and I've thought what you're thinking, and can I hug you before you go to your car to cry?" I'm really feeling a lot of guilt, and almost a need to prove that it was a hard-won pregnancy. Don't know what to do with that. Might never figure it out. Hoping that the triggers get to absolute zero, but like Michelle said, we've all lost that innocence and security, so maybe not. I'm praying for your little one to stick!

  12. I don't think it ever goes away completely. There are too many undeserving parents out there and too many triggers.

    It has gotten easier for me too, but I still feel that negative energy far too often.

    Congrats on the pregnancy! I think I missed the announcement.

  13. "I do feel my triggers slowly -- very slowly -- losing their power."

    Me, too.

    The asymptote is perfect.

  14. Iknowalltoomuch about the triggers!!! I actually had one today at the mall. I was at The Childrens Place with my friend and I saw a pregnant woman sitting down. I got jealous, then realized, I too was pregnant. I thought that was the weirdest thing ever!! You are not alone my dear.

    With that said, Congratulations to you and hubby!!! I am so happy for you. I will be saying many prayers for you! Hugs


  15. Um first of all...WOHOOOOOOOOO for your BFP!!!!! I'm so ecstatic for you! Second of all...I don't think it goes back to '0'. Because I think infertilty is a death of innocence, of thinking that things 'always work out for the best' and will always 'be ok'. To come of IF on the other end is humbling and wondeful but not completley healing, I think that is the work we all must do for ourselves.

    Eve (

  16. i was wondering r u at SRM. wondering what u think of them.

  17. Anonymous: Yes, we did go to SRM. I liked them well enough. It's a HUGE practice, and it felt a bit impersonal, even though everyone we dealt with was extremely nice and knowledgeable. Maybe it's because I've been through this before, but I felt a little more like I was directing my care (which is good and bad) as opposed to my previous, smaller RE's office in St. Louis, where there was a lot more hand-holding on their part.

    I would certainly recommend them for someone needing IF treatment.

  18. Since my son was born, I have been rarely triggered- but since we started thinking about #2, it is starting to change a bit. So many friends that started trying after us are now pregnant with #2, and it stings a bit. I think my mind is still on the original timeframe, and I am still feeling left behind. We are still wanting that family of 3-4 children, and still in limbo about how that will come about. But the terrible pain I used to feel is no more. Maybe that will change if years go by and we still haven't achieved #2. I don't know.

  19. This world of TTC is new to me, and one that I had always feared would be a problem. It is turning into a path of hormones and tears. I spend 33 years trying to not get pregant. I finally meet a wonderful man and my fears are true. No ovulation and serious uncertainty.

  20. Your post conveyed my fears...

    The longing and longing for another child, and the knowledge that if I'm fortunate enough to get another BFP, I'll be second-guessing myself and worrying the entire pregnancy.

    I think it's kind of like PTSD. (Post traumatic stress disorder.) We've endured losses and heartaches and now our minds try to remain "guarded" as a protection mechanism.

    Hang in there, sweet Sunny! :)

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