Infertility – the head and the heart

No one tells you how it really is. What your mind really thinks. The dark places you visit. The options you consider.

Infertility. No one really talks about it.

Sure there are forums with people talking about TTC, who are 6 DPO or in their 2WW – the acronyms never end. My best being BD. Baby Dance. Seriously – they’ve acronymised sex of the good old fashion variety, to BABY DANCE.  (At the risk of sounding white girl in my 20’s – I can’t even!) There are books written and stories told of people who battled for years (with inevitable happy endings of adoption, surrogacy or falling pregnant naturally).

But the truth of the head and the heart during infertility? This is hardly ever shared. Discussed. For risk of judgement. For lack of understanding. Only those who have been there may know. And to be honest, even then. Not everyone is the same. Your own personality, your partners’, your willingness to share, the opinion’s and thoughts of the person you decide to share with – all these may affect the places you will go.

Oh, the dark places you will go.

This year, I started being a little more honest about the facts of IVF procedures… about what happens and about levels of disappointment and sadness. I think it helped friends and family – it became easier for everyone to talk about infertility (and pregnancies) in conversations without skirting around the subject (and me). Some people think they understand now. Some may liken it situations they have faced too, in an attempt to make it personal and understand it. But actually, there is no understanding any of it.

Not getting something you’d like, or feeling left out, isn’t the same as the struggle of infertility. It isn’t the same as struggling with invasive procedures, tests, needles, blood work and the doctors appointments, not to mention the never ending bills. Bills of R3k at the end of an appointment that no longer shock you. You simply swipe that Discovery Card and wonder if your voyager miles are at least racking up for a flight to Bloem (as thats as far as they take you). But all those are the physical parts. Its the emotional that is hard to make tangible.

No one could possibly understand the deep deep sadness that consumes you. Defines you. For years. Even during the moments when you’re actually happy, there is guilt that then controls you. Takes over. Sets you back under a dark cloud.

There are ted talks on Infidelity, on making hard choices (both great talks worth watching even if they’re completely not applicable to you. Except, they’re probably applicable to everyone you just don’t know it) but you’d think there’d be one on how to cope with Infertility. There isn’t.

So here’s my Ted Talk.

Infertility will fuck you up.

Say what you like, read all the forums you want.Think what you want to think. If you think it won’t, you’re lying to yourself. It changes your entire perception on everything.

Love. Marriage. Commitment. Relationships. Friendships. Life. Living. Breathing. God.

Infertility makes you question everything. It makes you question your life choices.  Marriage and commitment. Why? What is the point if not, afterall, to be able to provide a stable home and loving and committed environment to raise children in. Why do we actually even get married? For love? Ok, sure… but we all know that fades and wades in time. Marriage is part of building your future with someone. Wanting to spend every day with them and grow old with them. You choose them, not the family you may have with them. (I’ve said these words myself… to myself and to others).

All good and well – in theory. When the future turns out pretty much how we anticipated, marriage makes logical sense.  But what if that future and growing old doesn’t? Coping with the fact that you are committed to someone whose dreams are shattered just as your own are, adds another completely irrational level to the thoughts running through your mind. The face and eyes of the person who made you so happy, remind you of your perpetual sadness. And don’t be naive to think that you don’t remind them of their sadness too.

An obstacle to happily ever after.

Why monogamy? Traditionally we relied on fidelity to know who the father of your children was (stolen straight from Esther’s Ted Talk). So with infertility – why not open relationships? Where there will no boredom and you can seek out fulfillment of different needs from different people. We do it within friendships. Why is it different in marriage?

An open marriage? This thought will make you cringe, dear monogamous, married and fertile reader. Because unless you’ve visited this dark place – this is something you’d never have considered. You never wanted to love or be with anyone else again? None of us did. This is the vow we made that day in front of everyone. But when your view on love, and on life and on happiness is crushed – how do you think you seek out fulfilment?

Love, sex, drugs (and rock n roll). Ok, it may also be work, wine, travel, (and shopping?). Things to numb your reality. Numb your pain.

And through the numbing and with the vices you may choose… You lose yourself. You lose all sense of yourself. Your lines between right and wrong, life and death all blur. And you don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Because you don’t feel anything anyway.You don’t recognize the tear-stained face in the mirror. You don’t recognize the heart that has shut people, friends or family, out. But worse, you don’t even recognize that you’ve changed.

The process is gradual. It doesn’t happen overnight. Years of struggling with anything will do that to you. Without even knowing how, the years pass and you ask yourself ‘who am I even?’ I’m not that person who said ‘I do’ filled with all the faith that your existence would be a normal one as we’d dreamt of – of marriage, kids, family Christmas’ and growing old with grand kids. Its destitute now. Its an empty future. A future sometimes, you don’t even see yourself being around for.

You question life. The point of it. You question God. If you ever believed in Him to start with. You fall out of sync with anyone in your current existence, and dream of escape. Escape from the life you dreamt of having. Escape from your reality.

Oh, the dark places you will go in your head and your heart with the infertility struggle.

While I’m talking about infertility, I’m not so selfish to believe that struggles with life-threatening or fatal diseases couldn’t push you to the same or similar dark places. I also know that having children is not all that, or that parenthood may also damage your relationship as much as it may reward it. I also know that some may suffer infertility and not question leaving their marriage or abandoning life. In fact, some may even draw closer to God, their husbands/wives, or friends, godchildren and family. Some may read this, and have no idea what I’m talking about. I envy you.

Others may have varying degrees of fucked up thoughts and feelings. Some may act on these. Some may never.

Lets, be honest – this is a fairly kak Ted Talk if I were to be giving it. Mostly because I don’t have a point. And shouldn’t there always be one? So I’ll try.

You don’t know these dark places, and you should be grateful for that. But you should also not judge nor try and understand them. Don’t identify with them. Don’t try and make the story of an infertile into your story so that you can understand it better. Be grateful you haven’t faced it, and be silent in what you think you know about struggling. Walk 5 or 10 years in the shoe of an infertile and you’ll realise their decisions, their choices, their view on the world is no longer their own. Its a manifestation of a deep-rooted and incurable pain.

Infertility is learning to manage your pain. But knowing it never goes away.

Much like a back injury. Except with a lot more fuckeduped’ness. Which is a word when I need it to be.



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