One of my biggest excuses for my drinking has now become my life-sustaining grace. Had you told me that it would be three years ago, I would have been angry with you. Furious, really. Had you showed me this blog post, I would have hated the woman who wrote it, and I would have hated you for showing me yet another “it’ll all be okay” example of someone who must never have faced infertility to the magnitude I did. Because nothing was okay, and it wasn’t ever going to be. Ever. So fuck off with your blog posts and positivity.
No one can understand the pain, the life-changing, soul-searing, lost in the abyss pain that is infertility, until they have been brought to their knees with the news that their body has betrayed them. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’ve never known anyone infertile– no really, you don’t know them as well as you think if you don’t want to weep at the thought of what they’re going through.
To say we wanted kids doesn’t do any justice to how we felt about procreating. I come from a brady- bunch- sized family, with nieces and nephews that climbed all over me most of my life. I was a teacher and a kids’ tennis coach. My husband coached kids’ hockey and doted on his nieces. We started trying before we were married (sorry Catholic friends and relatives… wait no, I’m not), and I got impatient really quickly. I put us on vitamins and supplements, I bought countless ovulation and pregnancy tests, I obsessed over foods like cassava and doubled up on folic acid. And every month I was disappointed.
In the meantime, I was trying to ignore a nagging feeling. A nagging feeling in my pelvic region, aka pain. I’d always had painful periods, but now I was having painful life, and it was getting worse by the day. It got so bad one day that the Hub had to hunt down leftover morphine from his parents, and even through the intense projectile vomiting and drugged delirium, I was still in searing pain. We went to the hospital. They did ultrasounds. Nothing was wrong; I was just ovulating, with multiple mature follicles. I doubled over and did a pained happy dance– I had succeeded in hyperovulating! Who cared if it hurt!!
Another month went by, and the pain didn’t go away, and no second lines appeared on my tests. The pain got worse. I finally went to see a doctor, and he informed me that I had PID. I did some reasearch: pain, scar tissue, infertility. I didn’t worry much; he had scheduled me for laparoscopic surgery, and I read that the three months following the surgery I would be super-duper fertile. My pregnancy was practically guaranteed now! Yippee Skippy! I bought some awesome punk rock baby clothes online and waited as patiently as I could to be fixed.
On the day of my surgery, I was excited. I didn’t sleep much the night before, and we couldn’t get into and out of the car fast enough. I sent my parents selfies of me in my gown and the Hub and I making faces. I laughed with the nurses pre-op, and I sort of remember waking up post-op, feeling like I just wanted to stay there and sleep. Why couldn’t I just stay there and sleep? At some point my husband told me the news: the doc had called his cell and everything was okay! Things had been all encased in celophaney scar tissue, but they had cleared it all out; things looked good and clear now. I was fixed. We had a follow-up in two weeks, and I wasn’t supposed to try again before it.
Pssshhh…. I knew from my extensive internet research that I only had to wait a few days, and that my best bet was right after the surgery. So we tried. I was CERTAIN it had worked. Two days before my follow-up, the doc’s office called to reschedule. My appointment wound up being a month after my surgery, and I was sure I’d ovulated right after surgery, and I still had no period. So I walked into the office feeling like a pregnant goddess. I was so excited for him to tell me my fantastic news and make it official. I left my husband in the waiting room and sat down with the doc.
And then the world imploded. “So, have you given any thought to IVF yet?” It didn’t register. I stared blankly, confused. He stared back for a few minutes until I finally asked something like “Wha… huh?” I don’t remember what he said. I don’t remember at what point my blurred- with-tears vision zeroed in on my husband in the waiting room because. the. door. was. still. open. I don’t remember how the Hub wound up next to me while I tried to process the words. Tubes completely blocked. Scar tissue- riddled. Ovary not even connected anymore. I’d be surprised if you’re still ovulating. No, we didn’t bother trying to clean it up– no point. I don’t ever say never, but no, it won’t ever happen. Why is the fucking door still open?!
He performed open heart surgery on me right there, with the door wide open. Naked to the world, my heart exposed and barely beating, he gave us the news that someone else must have received in our stead on surgery day. I hope she’s pregnant and happy somewhere in the GTA, forever grateful that the shattering news she received was wrong, blissfully unaware of what she narrowly avoided.
I don’t clearly remember anything after that. For a long time. Dragging empty body to the car. Don’t look at me, don’t talk to me. No. Soul-curdling wailing, deafening cries. My husband’s face crumpled and lost. Pushing his hands away. Vodka. Pain. Much vodka. Anger. Raging. Bad behaviour. Hangovers. Pushing his arms away. Pain. More vodka. Emptiness. More vodka. Worse behaviour. There are no more consequences. Hatred. Hangovers. More vodka. Blurry husband pushed away. Pain. Pills and vodka and standing on our 19th floor balcony, ready. More vodka.
Why. Whhhyyyyyyy. Something very primal and important has been torn from my body and soul, and I did not permit this. I do not accept this. NO. Why?!
Guilt. Shame. I’m being punished. I have been forgotten. God has forgotten me. I didn’t believe in god, but now I do, and he is punishing me. I am unworthy, and nothing matters. Nothing exists aside from me, my pain, and the emptiness I crave. Every single nerve in my body is exposed. I am exposed. THIS IS NOT FAIR, and I will unleash my wrath on the world around me, right after I have this drink. Do NOT talk to me; this is MY pain and you can’t have it!
I’m exhausted and sick and teary from writing this. The feelings cannot be erased or forgotten. Infertility is a death. It is a loss of a part of you, of loved ones you never met, of a dream and of the life you planned. My whole life was ripped in half and cut short, but I was still walking around, living, and expected to ignore all signs to the contrary. You cannot understand the pain until you have lived it. It is a death in your life, and it is something that you must grieve. You mourn, and you struggle, and you grieve in your own way, in your own time. And then there’s the physical pain…
I did not mourn gracefully. To be kind to myself, I will note that this was not the only unbearable chaos that had been unleashed on our lives at the time, but it was the only one I remember noticing. I’m an alcoholic; that means I don’t do feelings well. I nearly lost my husband, I lost my freedom and some of my family, and I nearly lost my life on more occasions than I probably realize. None of this mattered at the time. Nothing mattered to me but my pain and anger.
But here’s the thing: I did grieve. And that is what I had to do. I had to fall apart, get angry, rage, wallow in my pain, and come out the other side, after some pretty extensive rehab time. I had to cry every month, avoid and hate pregnant women, alternately abhor and adore children and families everywhere I went. I had to go through that. I had to put my loved ones through that.
And then I had to accept that I felt all these things, in order to accept the unfair truth that I am infertile, and would probably never have children. Only then could I look at what else I had– my strengths, my loves, my interests. All of these things became my new plan, all of this became my lesson on acceptance and my realization that I can endure intense pain and unacceptable things and keep going. I found a strength I never knew I had, and it was a brutal search to find it.
I realize that many people handle infertility better on the outside than I did. If you think this sounds dramatic, however, I’m going to tell you how happy I am for you that you’ve never known infertility. Truly, it’s wonderful news. Go forth and procreate, congratulate your friends when they do. But to any woman who’s cried alone in the shower, or in her husband’s arms as she fell asleep, or in bathrooms while hiding from families with kids, every month –EVERY MONTH– for years on end, these feelings are all too much a part of every day life, regardless of how she looks on the outside. On the inside she is being ripped apart, over and over again.
These feelings are overwhelming. They are larger than life and all-consuming. They were my bootcamp for life in recovery. All of this wreckage and the feelings I learned to accept became my solid foundation on which to rebuild. I learned to look outside myself and to carry my pain with grace, to question how I could live life on life’s terms, to allow my purpose to find me instead of trying to force things that weren’t meant for me. Out of all of this, I was reborn as a much more compassionate, patient, and accepting person. Like my alcoholism, I have a type of gratitude for my experience with infertility. That’s not to say I am glad to have it, or that I don’t still wish I could just outsmart it, but I do have a gratitude for the person it has helped me become.
Those feelings are ones that will ever be a part of me, but they no longer define me.