Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Once upon a time...

That's how all fairy tales start, right?  And that's what becoming a mother is supposed to be...a fairytale.  Little girls are taught to dream of being a mother from the time they are old enough to pick up a doll.  In fact, I can't remember a time when I didn't think that, eventually, I would find the man of my dreams, get married and nine months later - POOF - I would be the mother of a beautiful baby.  And then, we would all live happily ever after.  That was the fairy tale I believed in...and therein lies the problem.  I believed in a fairy tale.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "fairy tale" as follows:

fairy tale
  1. A fanciful tale of legendary deeds and creatures, usually intended for children.
  2. A fictitious, highly fanciful story or explanation.
Looking back on the last few years, I have to say that I find definition # 2 to be particularly relevant to this discussion.  The story I was told, the same story that I think many of us hear as we grow into women, turned out to be a "highly fanciful story."  "Fictitious" may be a strong word...after all, there are some women who have exactly the experience described in the aforementioned fairy tale.  But I think the fairy tale of a girl's journey to motherhood that I was sold told as a child was, at the very least, "fanciful" by omission.

There were many things that got left out of my fairy tale.  For example, no one told me that, at age 29, a reproductive endocrinologist would be sitting across from my husband and me, telling us that we may want to consider using an egg donor because six failed IUI's and one failed IVF was enough to indicate that we were facing an uphill battle with the use of my own eggs...the dreaded diminished ovarian reserve and/or premature ovarian failure.  No one told me that I would be sitting across from a different reproductive endocrinologist, two years and five additional failed IVF's later, having the same conversation.  No one told me about injecting medications into my stomach for weeks at a time, or about crying for months over the loss of a child that hadn't even been conceived.  No one told me how I would have to shake away the shame I feel every time I see tears in my husband's eyes when another negative pregnancy test is announced.

In fairness to those who promulgate the fanciful story that gets fed to little girls, there are a couple of legitimate reasons to leave the scary parts out.  First, they are a serious buzz kill and everyone knows fairy tales are not supposed to make you cry (see definition #1, above)...unless the tears are tears of joy.  The second reason I can see for leaving those experiences out of the widespread version of the fairy tale is every journey to motherhood is different.  This is true even for those of us ladies who have similar diagnoses, are of similar age, or are pursuing similar ART methods.  Every person's journey is unique in so many ways.  In a sense, we all have our own important tales to tell.  That's why sharing our stories with one another is so important.  During those times that our stories intersect, we are given a golden opportunity to strengthen one another and maybe even share a laugh or two.  We get an opportunity to teach one another, learn from one another and become better people for it.  

For that reason, this princess is going to lay my story out there for everyone to see.  Every midnight run to the local pharmacy for a pee stick because I am "certain" that I feel pregnant, every night spent obsessing over medical journal articles about how to improve ovarian response in IVF cycles, even every Ben & Jerry's binge will be proudly (or not so proudly) displayed for all of you to see.  For better or worse, I am writing this tale all the way to "happily ever after," and if I can, I'm taking all of you with me.

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