The day my doctor diagnosed me with infertility was the loneliest day of my life.
I went from being the woman who wanted a child to being the woman who couldn't have a child. But even more lonely than the feeling of not being able to have a child was the feeling of no longer belonging. At the time, I was a member of a message board about trying to conceive a first child. No longer did I feel at home posting in the regular cycle threads. Yet I also wasn't moving on to treatment. Joey had just lost his job due to the failing economy and we were at a crossroads financially. My insurance at the time covered both testing and treatment, but we knew that it would be months before we could see an RE--it was simply financially irresponsible for us to try and get pregnant while down one income. Even after our move to Florida, getting settled, and getting new jobs, expensive treatments just weren't an option for us. We are very fortunate to have been able to afford four IUIs and be on the road to saving for IVF. When I get down about waiting this long to have a baby, I count my blessings because I know that some people are less fortunate.
But this post isn't about the value of money. It's about the value of people.
I think, as a whole, we truly value each other in this community. I learned this quickly after my diagnosis. So many women who were going through or had been through the exact same thing reached out to me. We formed a small group on the message board. Eventually, most of us split off from the board, started our own blogs, and became friends on Facebook. I've said it many times, but I don't know what I would do without you women. Particularly those of you who've been there for me since the beginning and who still walk with me every step of the way. Sometimes, though, I think there are a select few out there who place too much value on treatment and not enough on people.
In the last year and a half that I've blogged, I've read countless positive, happy-outcome stories: stories of women who went through multiple rounds of Clomid only to do an IUI and become pregnant, stories of women who got pregnant on their first or second round of Femara, and stories of women who conceived naturally after learning that their last IUI failed. Every single one of these stories is and should be a beacon of hope for all of us. We might feel barren, but we are not. When we least expect it, our bodies can surprise us and miracles CAN happen. And, most of all, every single one of us who has endured this diagnosis deserves that positive pee stick at the end of this tunnel.
Unfortunately, I've also read a lot of apologies from these women. Some of them feel like a fraud. Some of them didn't have to go through “what other women had to go through” to achieve success. Some of them felt guilty when their friends had to move on to bigger and more expensive treatments. Even worse, there are women on the other side of the fence--those who have been through the big treatments--who look down on the women with less experience. As if, somehow, “only” going through a round or two of Clomid and some testing make a woman less important in our community. As if infertiles who go through treatments that are more complex are worthier of motherhood and happiness.
I'm not sure when and how the line became blurred between infertiles and non-infertiles. To me, it's always been simple: if you've sat in an exam room or an office and listen to a doctor tell you that you are infertile, that you may never conceive a child the natural way (or at all), you are infertile. If you have endured a year of trying to have a baby with no luck and you have to step foot into an RE's office, you are infertile. If you experience loss, repeat loss, cancer, endometriosis, PCOS, or have a husband with male factor issues, you are infertile.
It’s bad enough that it’s us against the world; we shouldn’t let it become us against us. Having “only” taken Clomid, or even getting pregnant naturally, doesn’t make someone less qualified to be infertile. It doesn’t make their advice or their friendship less meaningful. It doesn’t make their road any easier, their nights any less sleepless, their pain any less significant. And, in the same sense, having gone through bigger treatments doesn’t make someone any more important or worthy of speaking about/advocating for infertility. It doesn’t make their emotions any more concrete. It doesn’t make their support more valuable.
The reality is that we are all in the same, shitty boat. We all have the same basket of lemons to carry. And our value doesn’t come with how many treatments we’ve had, or how much money or time we’ve invested. Our value comes from how we’ve supported one another, how we’ve offered advice, how we’ve cried tears of sorrow and joy, and how we’ve hugged and held one another from sometimes thousands of miles away. Each of us is equally deserving of the happiness we seek and we need to remember this. Because we are the only ones who understand and can pull each other through this. We are all we have.
Each of us carries a different burden on this journey. We all walk in different shoes. But we need to remember that our shoes are from the same store. Our paths will be different and we will end in different places, but we all began at the same location with the same goal:
We all began with the hope and dream of becoming a mother.