Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Going Home

I’m leaving tomorrow to go home–to St. Louis–for Thanksgiving.

I was home in May. That was before we found out our infertility diagnosis, but after we’d been TTC for 9 months. When we first started trying, DH was back in school and I was our sole breadwinner. (Let’s just say that as a freelancer, I don’t win very much bread!) DH’s mom had been pretty clear a few months before that she didn’t think we had any business procreating until he was out of school because “parenting is more than a 40-hour a week job” and we wouldn’t have much money. (Yes, that really upset me. IF has, surprisingly, really mended that relationship somehow.) So, anyway, I called my mom before we started trying to find out if my parents would also be ticked if we got pregnant. She laughed and told me they’d be delighted. I also expressly told her not to tell a soul, not even my dad. Of course, I thought we’d be pregnant within the next month or two and I wanted it to be a surprise when I told everyone.

So, in May, I was surprised to find out that most of my family (I mean, from siblings to aunts and grandparents) knew we were trying. When I confronted my mom about it, she said she had to tell people because it was taking so long and we needed their prayers.

DH and I were furious. And when we found out we were infertile, we were even more upset. I think partly because it’s possible we’ll end up adopting, and I don’ t really like the idea that my family will see our adopted children and whisper to each other, “You know, they didn’t plan on adopting,” or “they tried to have their own kids, but it didn’t work.” I know those things are true, but it doesn’t mean I want everyone (especially any future adopted children) to know that our family represents some kind of plan B  in action.

But, there’s a short-term upside to this. I am heading home tomorrow with the expectation that no one will pester me with the dreaded “when are you going to have kids?” And, as an added bonus, there aren’t any babies in my family yet. Until this summer, DH and I were the only ones married out of all the cousins. One of my cousins married this summer, but I think (hope?) they’ll wait a little while before they try for kiddos.

I know I’m super lucky in this and that many of you may be dreading those holiday gatherings. I wish you all the best and will be thinking of you over the next week and through December that you would be able to take joy in your family time (or lack thereof!) regardless of your situation.

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Say Something–Even If It’s the ‘Wrong’ Thing

One of the most difficult things about infertility is the sense of isolation that goes with it. As much as I truly appreciate having this blog and the blogs I follow to remind me that I’m not alone, I find myself wishing I could open up more with people I know well and trust. So, the to-tell-or-not dilemma keeps popping up.

As I wrote here, I still don’t feel I know anyone here in Houston well enough to share this part of our life. Prior to last week, we had told my bridesmaids, our parents, and DH’s grandparents (I wrote about that one here).

Before we came to Houston, DH and I had a really amazing group of friends in DC. When we met, none of us had children. Now we’re the only ones who don’t. I miss them terribly. And I’ve been feeling lonely and isolated, I think in large part because I miss the community we left behind. And while I’ve tried to keep in touch, I feel like it’s hard to have a genuine conversation without telling close friends what we’re going through (even vaguely). I am tired of faking it and pretending everything is so great in our lives when there are many days that I struggle with the burden of infertility.

DH and I talked and decided it was time to tell our closest friends in DC. He sent an email to a selective group of people last week to ask for their prayers. He wrote that we are hoping to be able to do infertility treatments in the spring. And (I learned later) my dear husband, who loves me and wants me to be happy, specifically asked the ladies if they would email or call me to help lift my spirits. It was a wonderful gesture and I was excited to hear from my friends, who I miss anyway, and to know they were supporting us through this.

Well, there is a positive side to telling people. One of my dear friends in DC called immediately after she got the email. She just listened. She didn’t offer any platitudes and she agreed that it sucked. She really said all the right things and made me so happy that we told our friends. Another friend, who lives abroad now, emailed to set up a time that she could call me to talk. What a huge gesture!

And there’s a negative side to telling people. We got the expected, “you can just adopt,” from one friend. I’m okay with that. It’s a well-meaning response even if it isn’t particularly well informed or helpful. But a lot of my friends haven’t even responded. It makes me feel like maybe I was overvaluing those friendships.

I talked to my MIL about this, and she pointed out that perhaps they just don’t know what to say. I can understand that. If you’re reading this and you know someone who is grieving or sick or in pain in some way and you care about that person, it’s okay if you don’t know what to say. Say you are thinking of them. Say it sucks that they are going through this. Tell them you’ll pray for them or that you’re sorry this is happening. Shoot, tell them you don’t know what to say. But I would encourage you to say something. Even if it is the “wrong” thing, saying something will let your friend know that you acknowledge her hurt. That you care about her well-being.

I’ve heard it said before that in times of crisis you find out who your real friends are. I’m not sure I wanted to know.

PS I realize this post makes it sound like I’ve been really down lately. And, well, I have and I haven’t. I can say honestly that I’ve been feeling so grateful for the many blessings in my life, that this journey has helped bring me closer to God than I’ve been in years, and that I’ve learned a lot. I can also say that IF hasn’t been as all consuming lately as it was at first. I think the loneliness would be an issue even if we weren’t dealing with IF. And I think maybe I need to spend more time in the sunlight (literally). But on balance, I’m really doing okay.


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Telling People

On the whole, DH and I agree that we don’t want everybody to know we’re dealing with infertility. Partly this is because we don’t want all the unsolicited but well-meaning advice fertile people tend to give when they find out you’re infertile. Advice like “just adopt” or even, “I had to use clomid; it’s no big deal.” (Yes, someone did say that to me. How I wish that were even an option for us!)

Partly it’s because we don’t want people we care about tiptoeing around us when they find out they’re pregnant. One of my best friends, who started TTC a couple months before we did and who knew we were TTC, had her first baby in December and is already expecting her second (a surprise) in January. Even before she knew we had received actual news that we were infertile, she opted not to tell us her news until she was more than four months along. She said she was hoping I would call to tell her we were expecting before she had to tell me she was. I appreciate the concern, but it doesn’t make me feel any better when being infertile already leaves me feeling left out.

Lately, DH’s mom has been pushing us to tell his family. I’m not sure exactly why that is so important to her, but we considered it and have decided we are okay with his grandparents knowing that we’re probably doing infertility treatments next year. We decided not to tell his cousins because we don’t want them to change their behavior (one is pregnant and the other has a 1-year-old). And we decided that we don’t want to say when we’re starting or give any other specific info on timing because if it works, I want to tell the family when I’m ready, not have them calling me to find out two weeks after our treatments. And I don’t want to have to report on every failed attempt, either.

So we told my MIL she could let her parents and DH’s other grandparents know but that we weren’t really interested in calling out of the blue to say, “Hi, how are you? We’re infertile.” We told her to be vague; that she could say we were dealing with infertility and would have to do medical treatments but we didn’t want her to go into details about why we were struggling. We told her to tell them to feel free to call us if they had any questions.

So she did. She told her parents on Sunday. They immediately expressed sorrow and wondered what, exactly, was wrong. Since we told my MIL not to get into specifics, she didn’t.

When they called later that evening to tell me they were sorry and that they’d be praying for us, DH’s grandma told me about the marvelous PBS documentary on Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby.” She told me a great analogy about how sometimes in life we come against a brick wall. And maybe we can’t get through it, but we may be able to go over it or under it or even around it. Either way, we hope that in the end we’ll get to the other side of it. And she told me about a song that was popular when she was growing up that she thought I might find comforting. She was very nice and I think I’m glad she knows (in a general sense) what we’re going through, and I’m glad they are praying for us. But she didn’t ask me any questions, so I didn’t feel pressured to go into details.

A lot of the assumptions people make about infertility–about whose body is at fault, that it’s because we “waited too long,” that it’s a result of STDs or other youthful indiscretions–really bug me. But at this point our privacy about the details is more important to us than addressing those assumptions. Maybe when we get to the other side of this brick wall (if we ever do) we can talk about it more openly and even change someone’s perspective. In the meantime, I’m glad DH’s grandparents are being supportive. And I’m also glad we’ve been protective about who we tell.