Friday, February 11, 2011

Why my infertility is a fairy tale (and other awesome things to ponder)...

First, as a disclaimer, I will admit that this post is a little long.  But, in my defense, tomorrow is my birthday and I have a busy weekend, so I likely won’t get to have a chance to right for a couple of days.  I tell you this so that if you get overwhelmed looking at my small novel of a post, you will know you can break it up into small chunks rather than trying to digest it all at once.  I probably should have posted it in small chunks but…I prefer to be “in the moment” when I write. 

So…I would like to start by apologizing for making an overgeneralization in last night’s post.  I talked about fertility friends - the strange way that our relationships pick-up in the middle of where a “normal” friendship would start, and the intense but shallow nature of those friendships.  I stated that fertility friends talk about infertility, but not their “other lives” until they get pregnant.  I said that, generally, it is only after her pregnancy that you get to know the “real person” who is your friend.  But that wasn’t entirely true.  Tonight I went out to dinner with two of my best friends….fertility friends…who both happen to be pregnant.  We talked about infertility, about their pregnancies, and about our husbands and crazy families.  I may not have “awoken” from the infertility nightmare like they have, but they haven’t cut and run yet, and our conversations tonight were as robust and fulfilling as any we’ve had in the past.  To the extent that anything has changed, it has almost certainly been my perception.  It’s as if I have felt the need to protect myself against being hurt or rejected, and so I didn’t associate with the “Land of the Living” (a.k.a. those Preggers).  I need to remember that, although I’m still stuck in a dream, my friends (fertility friends or otherwise) can still be a part of that dream.  This is my fairy tale and I get to choose who stays in the story and who only has a bit part.  And my true friends, no matter how we met and no matter what we choose to talk about, will be in my story as long as they want to be.  There just aren’t that many good characters around these days.  I need to do everything in my power to keep the ones I’ve found.

Okay.  On to the “meatier” part of my self-analysis.  Earlier today I was thinking about why I have always viewed my experience with infertility as a story or a fairy tale.  At first I thought that it was some strange form of dissociation, where it is easier for me to live through this experience if I am always thinking about it as something that isn’t quite real.  Then I was thinking that it could be that the characters involved fit neatly into the same types of categories you find in fairy tales.  But, ultimately, I have decided that it goes deeper than both of those explanations. 

Noted scholar on fairy tales and folk lore (yep…you name a subject, there’s an expert on it), Jack Zipes, has proffered that the function of fairy tales is to “awaken our regard for the miraculous condition of life & to evoke profound feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process, which can be altered and changed….”

Okay…so if I break that down, a fairy tale “awakens our regard for the miraculous condition of life.”  Check!  Infertility has definitely made me aware of, and appreciative of, how miraculous life is.  Never before did I realize how amazing it is that humans ever conceive.  Everything has to go right…functioning ovary, appropriate hormone levels, good sperm count and motility, sex within a window of a few days each month, good cervical mucous, the sperm and egg meeting up for fertilization, the egg not breaking down upon fertilization, the embryo dividing for as long as is needed, the embryo implanting early enough to have time to burrow before the uterine lining sheds, and the mother’s body accepting the embryo rather than seeing it as a foreign substance and rejecting it.  ALL of this, and more, has to happen in order for a pregnancy to occur.  Once you start learning the odds of success for each separate part of this process, you realize that life is truly a miracle.  You probably never learn those odds if you don’t go through infertility, although it might make an interesting project for a course in statistics if there are any statistics professors reading this.

Next, a fairy tale is supposed “to evoke profound feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process, which can be changed and altered….”  As I explained above, I have developed a much greater respect and feeling of awe for the creation of life.  But what about seeing my life, and all life, as something to be respected and revered?  I’ve talked about how much infertility has eroded my self-esteem and caused me to doubt everything I’ve believed in, including my own abilities.  Is it possible to feel that way and to respect your own life?  The simple and yet not so simple answer is “Yes.”  I’ve learned to be grateful for what I’ve been given in life and I’ve decided to work at making the most out of the life I have been given.  So, in that sense, I am much more respectful of my own life because of infertility. 

Because of infertility, I’ve put a microscope on my marriage and am working in therapy on cracks in the marriage that might have grown into dividers if I hadn’t caught them.  Because of infertility, I switched jobs.  After hearing a million times that the stress and long hours involved in my job was not helping our chances of conception, I realized that this was because my 60-70 hour a week, high stress work environment was unhealthy. So, I got my priorities in order and took a 9-5 low stress job, with a slight pay cut but a great work/life ratio.  I took the time to evaluate the friends I already had, making cuts as needed if a relationship was truly toxic, and spent more time cultivating new friendships with people who care about me.  I feel a respect for my own life that I just didn’t have before, and I am realizing that I can change those aspects of my life which aren’t to my liking.

This is not to say that I can change the fact that I am having a tough time having a baby.  In fact, infertility was the very first thing in my life that slapped me in the face and said “You can’t control me!”  And I can’t.  I have no control over whether I’m going to get pregnant next cycle.  But, I can alter and change my perspective to make up for that lack of power.  I can do yoga and write introspective blog posts that require serious self-examination.  I can help to emotionally prepare myself, just in case the next cycle doesn’t work.  I can constantly try to better myself so that I will be the most amazing mother I can be when the fates decide that it’s time to bless me with a baby.  Infertility has shown me that it is possible to alter and change my life, to overcome obstacles, and to keep on trucking…all the while appreciating how precious every life, including my own, is.

In sum, if Zipes is correct about the purpose of a fairy tale (and really, who’s to question him…he is the expert), it is no wonder that I view my journey through infertility as a fairy tale.  It is difficult to be “thankful” for infertility or to see it as a “gift” (a word frequently used by those who will point out what a character-building experience it is to repeatedly put your body through hell, only to get a negative pee stick result).  But, infertility does change your perspective and does cause you to view life in a new (and hopefully) more respectful way.  And maybe that's why this story is worth reading...and living. 


~ Alli said...

Excellent self-analysis! :o) I know what you mean about the frustration of not being able to control life's outcomes. In my life anything I've wanted, I've made happen. So waiting for a baby that just won't come is so maddening! And I have also re-evaluated friendships and removed those that ended up being toxic to my life. It's hard to just focus on what we can control, but knowing what that is will really be that first great step. All the best!

New Year Mum said...

Beautiful analogy with being a fairytale... hopefully all our stories have a fairytale happy ending. Infertility may not be a pleasant 'gift' but it certainly does bring a new perspective on life and priorities - which is a lesson that I may never have learnt any other way. Looking forward to sharing the journey with you xo

New Year Mum said...

PS. Sorry - happy birthday for tomorrow and may the year to come fulfil all your dreams :)

Endo_Life said...

Great post!

Happy Birthday x

Princess Wahna Bea Mama said...

Thanks ladies! I'm so glad you have all decided to join me on the journey. Your support is definitely helping me get through the "donor" process a lot easier.

Lindsey said...

Happy Birthday! Great post, as always! My husband and I just had a talk the other day about how infertility has made us appreciate the small things more. It's changed our lives for sure, some good some bad but I know how much I'll appreciate every time I puke when I'm pregnant, and how many women can say that?