Infertility and Relationships 

Long Read Alert — SORRY! (But be sure to respond to questions at the end if you want!)

There is no question infertility (IF) affects relationships. Most people dealing with IF want support but don’t know how to go about getting it. Let’s face it, most of our friends and family don’t have a clue how to offer support either. In fact, I’ve found most people to be the opposite of supportive when it comes down to it. It hurts when the people in your life don’t understand, or worse yet – try to offer advice and support about something they couldn’t possibly understand. It’s especially difficult when they don’t support your decision, as is my case with some family members. I have really been thinking a lot about this because I’ve realized it has affected almost every single one of my relationships. It bothers me. 
I’ve suffered from IF for over a decade. I didn’t tell my family I suffered from IF for years because I didn’t want it to affect my relationships with them. It still managed to do so. It especially changed our relationships after I told them, and not really in a good way. I just can’t believe how judgmental people can be. 
Infertility is generally accompanied by a lot of not-so-great feelings. I was afraid people would judge me, or worse – feel sorry for me. Worse yet, I feared they would give me unsolicited advice. I HATE when people think they know what’s best for me and try to push their advice on me, ESPECIALLY when I don’t feel they understand. It makes me incredibly angry! 😡 It’s rude and invasive. 
T and I waited until we had already started stim meds for IVF before we decided to tell our family what we were up to. We had already been doing other forms of fertility treatments more than a year before we moved to IVF and no one knew. His family is more involved than mine, but he would rather keep to himself. They’re GREAT, honestly, but he gets irritated with me sometimes when I share things with them without discussing it with him first. He and I talked about it from the very beginning and decided no one in the families should be made aware of our IF until we were both ready. It was a mutual decision. 
I didn’t want to tell my family for different reasons than why T didn’t want to tell his. I knew some of my family would judge us and make us feel crappy about our decisions. In fact, I am now four weeks pregnant and I am afraid to tell my parents, but it’s obvious I am dealing with something physically. It’ll be hard to hide at my nephew’s birthday party tonight. 
When this all started I knew there were SOME family members who would be kind and supportive, and I knew they wouldn’t tell anyone else. We just figured it was “safer” to keep everyone in the dark. That way, no one gets offended when they discover one person in the family knew before anyone else, and I knew my mom would be upset if she was the last to know. 
Aside from my family, I’ve noticed how much IF has affected our friendships. A few of our friends have careers and children and don’t have time to hang out anyway. The rest of our friends are still single or have partners but don’t want or never had kids. When you’re going through IVF it kind of consumes your entire world! You don’t talk about much else because it’s pretty much all you do. Not to mention you’re paying for IVF! You’re too broke to pay for dinners and activities with friends. I’m sure some friends feel abandoned or forgotten. Others might be jealous. Let’s face it, infertility is a taboo subject. You never know which of your friends might have skipped on having a family simply because they couldn’t. I have a few friends that I know would have loved to have kids and couldn’t for one reason or another. Many of them couldn’t afford IVF, or their lives didn’t allow them the freedom to pursue fertility treatments. I used to be angry at people who could have kids or afford fertility treatments when I couldn’t. I totally understand how uncomfortable, even painful, it can be to talk to another friend about fertility and/or having kids. I get it, but I definitely do NOT want anyone to feel that way because of me! I am SO thankful for a few of my friends who I know have suffered and still have the grace and love to ask me about what we are going through. I know firsthand how hard that must be for them and I love them even more for it. Anyway, we can’t control how people react but we wanted to approach telling people cautiously. So, we chose to wait. 
Even strangers can sometimes seem kind of hateful toward us. I started this blog before we told anyone we knew about our journey. T is fine just not talking to others about it, but I needed an outlet and what better way than to write about it? I met other IF survivors in the blogosphere and was able to learn a lot from them. I even made some “friends” through blogging and it helped me so much to know I wasn’t alone. However, in sharing my journey online I opened myself up to criticism, and jealousy sometimes too. It’s kind of a vulnerable place to be. People feel free to say whatever they want. There’s little-to-no accountability for what you say online. I love WordPress, but it’s not Facebook. Posters are often identified by screen names. You can’t block certain people and content so easily, and everything you post is basically public. I WANTED (want) to interact with people, but I had to be prepared for what that could mean – including negative feedback. 
This is MY journey. It’s going to be different from others’ journeys. I sometimes write “in the moment”. So, when I’m struggling it could come off as negative or whiny, and when I am celebrating it could seem like I am gloating and be painful for those hurting. It’s such an emotional subject! I try not to “assume” my experiences or advice will help anyone, but I do sincerely hope they do! If not, I hope everyone understands I mean no harm. But there is always potential that something I say will hurt someone somehow, particularly by reminding them of their own struggle. I’ve met some negativity and criticism from a few of my posts. Some posts I’ve taken down because they hurt someone. If that’s the case for any of you I sincerely apologize. 
Infertility is hard all around – no matter where you’re at in the journey. It would be so much easier if everyone understood and was supportive but that’s not the way the world works. It’s on the shoulders of those of us dealing with it to educate those around us. It seems unfair that we should also have to carry that burden. There are just so many facets to fertility treatments that you can’t explain them all, and people don’t understand that it changes you! You have to change when and how you do almost everything. Your whole life is flipped upside down. t’s just SO MUCH. There are TONS of online resources our friends and family could research to learn more, but most of them won’t. They want YOU to explain it to them, when you’ve already explained it dozens of times. Maybe you don’t even know all the answers to their questions. They’ll ask about things you don’t want to talk about, too. How do you navigate THAT??? 
It’s not that they don’t care. In fact, they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t care, but part of me wants to say, “If you care so much, Google it for yourself.” I would never do that, but it just gets frustrating. I do occasionally share links on my social media. For example, this link to an article about how to talk to people battling infertility: http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/25-things-to-say-and-not-to-say.html , or this one which explains the IVF process:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/in-vitro-fertilization/details/what-you-can-expect/rec-20206943 .  I don’t know if they read them or not. I’m guessing not.
The hardest part for me has been the affect this is having on my relationships with my immediate family. My mom refuses to even acknowledge what we are doing, much less to offer support. The last thing she said in reference to our IVF was, “You do realize a baby is a major life change.” My response, “No, Mom. I’ve been stabbing myself in the ass and stomach multiple times a day for weeks because I didn’t realize it was a major life change.” (I mean, seriously?) My sister hasn’t even said a single word to me about any of this. She does have two kids of her own. She’s a single mother and one of my nephews has been very ill, but she could at least acknowledge it! She has not said a single word, but she hasn’t hesitated to ask me to babysit. My dad, stepdad, and stepbrother haven’t asked at all either. In fact, the only person in my immediate family who has even bothered acknowledging what we are going through is my biological father – who speaks to me maybe once or twice every few years. (Yes. I have three dads. Be jealous.😉) How ironic that the one immediate family member who usually ignores me and alienates me is the ONLY one of them who even pretends to give a shit! I just don’t even know what to think that!
Luckily, I have a few aunts and a handful of cousins who are incredibly supportive, and T’s family has been so great. In fact, his mom checks in almost every day and I have two aunts who have done IVF before. I shouldn’t complain because we have a great support system in many of our friends/family. Actually, I don’t think I am complaining. I’m just kind of thinking out loud. A friend who has suffered SO MUCH and was dealing with her father’s funeral took the time to ask how I was feeling the day of our retrieval, but my own mother couldn’t be bothered to ask when or if I was having the surgery to begin with – despite the several attempts I made to discuss the process with her. The only thing SHE has offered us is negative criticism. I don’t understand why she’s being that way. She knows I’ve always wanted a baby, but she thinks I am too old. I’m sure Downs Syndrome is a concern for her due to my being over 35 (I am only 36), and two of my nephews are already struggling with disabilities. She’s probably concerned she will be stuck helping to care for yet another sick grandchild, but isn’t that kind of selfish? Shouldn’t she just root for us and support us? I don’t know. It just hurts. 
The one relationship I know has definitely seen a positive effect from all of this is my relationship with T. This journey is so incredibly hard. It destroys some couples. We’ve really had to depend on each other and learn what we are capable of. I handle the appointments, the medication schedules, etc. He handles all the physical stuff. The emotional stuff we do together. He made sure to be home to help (& still helps) with every single injection. He hugs me when they hurt and I cry. He held my hand when I was writhing in pain after retrieval. He has endured many sleepless nights when I am hurting and can’t get comfortable. He sat next to me 10 days ago and watched our two little sweet peas on the ultrasound monitor as they were placed in my uterus – two tiny, glowing grains of rice. He runs to the store. He holds my hand, rubs my feet, cleans the litter box, and helps around the house. Yesterday he cleaned the bathroom! That’s amazing! I’ve ALWAYS been on bathroom duty. He even drives in the city for doctor visits. (He HATES driving in the city!) We take turns cooking and doing light housework. He does the laundry and I put it away. We are more of a team than we have ever been! 
Everyone navigates the sexual side of this a little differently, and once we are out of the woods I am sure our situation will change. I just can’t really do much for him right now, and he is so patient and understanding. I am only 4 weeks pregnant by “normal” standards, but I am on light restriction, and my body hurts! My hormone levels have been VERY high. My abdominal muscles are already stretching. I’ve had insane heartburn (and subsequent nausea). My hips hurt. I’m bloated and extremely fatigued. I also strained an ovarian ligament after retrieval so that hurts a lot. We’ve had multiple losses and there’s no guarantee our sweet peas will stick. The first several weeks are a little worrisome so I am basically worthless in the bedroom. A lot of men would act out, try to get some sexual favors. (I read on a chat forum the other day a husband was forcing his wife to have anal sex because he insists on having sex every other day and she’s restricted from vaginal sex.😡 -BULLSHIT!) T doesn’t even ask for anything sexual, and he never complains. We are pretty open-minded sexually. He will never guilt trip me, and I refuse to feel guilty because we deliberately made this decision together and we will navigate the entire journey together – with respect and open communication. 
We have maintained open communication through all of this and it has been amazing. We have our little squabbles but nothing worse than any other day. We’ve done our best to maintain some sense of normalcy, and we have refused to isolate, even though staying home and napping a lot sounds pretty good! We see our friends and family. We attend events, although we may leave early. We both work and go about our day to day, and we talk to each other. We are candid and open, and it has been our saving grace throughout a very difficult process. We grow stronger together every day. I’m loving it. 
My sister planned her one-year-old son’s birthday party last minute so it’s tonight from 4-8 (on a Sunday night!). I don’t want my family to know I am pregnant yet. We aren’t out of the woods for several more weeks and MOST of my family doesn’t know how to keep their mouths shut. Aside from one aunt and a handful of cousins I don’t trust any of them to respect our privacy. My mom is the worst one. My entire hometown will know by next weekend and I just don’t want that, and neither does T. He’ll be furious! We don’t mind if our families know, but not the whole town! 
I just don’t know how to deal with this birthday party. I can’t pick up my baby nephew. He’s over 20 pounds and I’m restricted. My whole body hurts because my muscles and ligaments are stretching. My butt hurts from the progesterone shots, and I have that strained ovarian ligament. I guess I could just use the ligament as the reason for my pain and restriction, and then use it as an excuse to leave early. I don’t know. I WANT to tell my mom because it would be great to have her support but I just know I will be hurt and disappointed. Sigh…
How has infertility impacted your relationships? How have you dealt with the changes in relationships? Do you have friends/family who are less than supportive? When did you decide to tell your family you were pregnant? 

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If I had $5.00

If I had $5.00 for every time someone said something hurtful to me about my infertility I could pay for the IVF and have some money left over for baby stuff (or a vacation if the IVF failed). I would start the collection process with my mother, who told me I am too old and that my bf doesn’t want a baby, once I finally gathered the courage to tell her. Yeah. I would charge her double. 
We didn’t tell people about the fertility treatments at first. For starters, it’s no one’s MF’ing business, but also, I wasn’t prepared for the pity, the ignorant comments, or the negative feedback. Some people mean well but just dig the knife in deeper and others, well, they’re just fucking rude. My mother was rude, and she made assumptions about my relationship with my bf that she had absolutely no right to make.  So, my fears were realized, and then I noticed something. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. And if it didn’t hurt that bad coming from my own mother it likely wouldn’t hurt much at all coming from anyone else. It’s like getting your first tattoo and going straight for the face then realizing if you can get a tattoo on your face you can probably handle getting tattooed anywhere!
I can’t get $5.00 from every ignoramous who doesn’t know how to speak to infertile people. However, I CAN get $5.00 for every item sold in my fundraiser! This amazing chick that sells Lularoe has walked this path of infertility and heartache before me and she kindly offered to throw me an online pop-up fundraiser. We get $5.00 for every piece sold, and she only charges $5.00 shipping (in the continental US) no matter how many pieces someone orders. It won’t make up for every hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me, but it might offset some of the cost because this IVF stuff is NOT cheap!   Here is the link to the fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/events/210079476178958/?ti=icl
Yes, I shamelessly plugged my fundraiser and whined about my insensitive, toxic mother in the same post, but let’s look at what really happened here… We finally told the world what we are doing, after more than a year of struggling on our own. Yes. I am a little worried about what some of our loved ones might say, but I am also glad to finally know we have some support. Every person who supports us erases two who don’t. Thanks for reading!

-CC

Sick…

9/16/17– UPDATE (sort of): 

G does not have leukemia. We don’t know exactly what IS wrong, but we do know (for now) it is not terminal. He has been diagnosed with ANA (anti-nuclear antibodies). Basically, G’s cells are attacking his own tissues, particularly his muscle tissues. He can’t build muscle to support his body structure and growth. He grows but his muscles don’t grow with him, and he can’t maintain or gain weight. He is so, so thin. It’s incredibly sad to watch. Of course they are concerned about his heart because it’s a muscle and muscle is the main tissue affected. He has been through more tests than any of my clients who all have permanent debilitating disabilities. He has been such a trooper through all of it, and we are talking 100’s of tubes of blood at this point. He did an EKG and stress test a couple of weeks ago. My mom said he got through it like it was nothing. 
Mom has been going along to all of his appointments, per his request. My sister hates her going because Mom is a nurse and tends to “hijack” the appointments. It really shouldn’t matter what my sister wants. Her very sick son wants his Nana with him as he goes through the scariest thing he will likely ever face in his life. There is nothing wrong with that. She needs to suck it up for her son, but alas, she doesn’t. This thing with G has definitely increased the strain on the relationship between my mother and sister, which wasn’t good to begin with. 

To understand their relationship you first need to understand something about my mother. Mom has OCD. A lot of people think that means she is a “neat freak” or germophobe. Not quite. In fact, hoarders have a form of OCD. You can do your own research on what Obsessive Cumpulsive Disorder really is, but let me say this – if you are the subject of one of my mother’s obsessions, you’re just screwed. That’s part of why I keep my distance. She just can’t deal with everything not having a “place”, and things must be “clean” – to her standards.  The “place” has to be specific but not tidy.  Her dishes and laundry are always done and put away. Her house is always clean, but it also harbors little cubbies of clutter, piles of “order”, organized chaos. You get my point. She’s not gross, just weird. My sister, however, can be a little gross. I hate saying that but it’s kind of true.  This, of course, makes my mom absolutely nuts. In response, my mom tries to guilt and bully my sister into cleaning her house – not just cleaning it but cleaning it to “Mom standards”.  And OF COURSE this means everything has its PLACE!!! And what batter way to be sure it gets done than to “help” my sister do it. By help, I mean show up unannounced and start bulldozing through your daughter’s house and shouting at her to help you, all the while telling her what a terrible mother she is. Do you understand why I live two towns away?
Side note: I hope you don’t think my family is some white trash, redneck, country idiots who belong on Dr. Phil. My mom (and maybe my sister too) has a mental illness. She can’t help it, and my sister can’t cope with it. 
Well, my sister finally had enough. She kicked my mom out of her house and stopped asking her to babysit. She had her boss change her work schedule so that Mom never needs to watch the boys for her, and she changed the locks on the house so Mom’s key no longer works. When Mom did show up one day and wouldn’t leave until my sister allowed her to “help” clean, my sister threatened to call the police and have her removed. My mom feels like she has lost her grandchildren, and my sister has most certainly lost her mother – whatever relationship they had left. But honestly, they’re both adults and I don’t give a shit how this affects them – not near as much as I know it affects G. Thank God his little brother is too young to understand, but G needs my mom. He wants her to be there for him, and their juvenile and irrational behavior is causing him to go without the support he needs. That’s the real tragedy here. I have tried mediating but it causes too much stress for me, and I am 9 weeks pregnant. I can’t afford to lose my only chance at having my own family because two adults can’t get their shit together for a child who desperately needs them to grow up. 

So, my dirty secret is out. My family is nuts, and dysfunctional. I moved away because I can’t deal, and at a time when my nephews and I REALLY need my mom, she’s too broken. She’s broken by the OCD, and by my sister’s inability to understand and accept her illness. Please send us some good vibes – especially G, his little brother, and my little Sweet Pea. 
Original Post:

I don’t talk about my family much, but there is one family member who is my absolute favorite soul, my nephew, G. I know all parents think their kid is the most unique, the cutest, the sweetest, etc. People think it’s weird I am so obsessed with G, but I absolutely adore him. I would help raise him and spend time with him every day for the rest of my life if I could. Our bond is special, and I can’t imagine anything bad (truly bad) happening to him. 

My family is complicated and it would take too much blogspace to bore you with it. However, to understand my relationship with G you probably need to know this… G spent the majority of his first 3 years living with me and my ex-husband. He called my in-laws “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. I helped raise him. I continued to care for him 3-4 days a week after my divorce, until the grandmother I lived with became terminally ill and eventually passed away. I moved two towns away and I only see G a few times a month now. It breaks my heart not seeing him. 

My mom called last night and told me G is sick. Honestly, that’s not unusual. He was born with GERD and was a sick baby. He also has Asperger’s Spectrum Disorder. (Basically, he is socially awkward and is really good at music and art.) My point is he always has some kind of ailment. This is not a cold or the flu. It’s something more. G has always been pretty pale, but lately his skin is almost transparent. He’s had a lot of stomach trouble. He doesn’t sleep much and he’s always tired. He’s cranky and whiny and he’s had some bruises that were taking a long time to heal. Off to the children’s hospital for labs. It took 6 weeks to get the results. As it turns out, he likely has one (or more) serious illness from a list of about 10 things that could be wrong with him. Most of them are treatable, and most likely survivable, (but all can be terminal). That doesn’t make it feel any better, especially when one of them is luekemia. 

I’m terrified. I’m angry, sad, and feeling quite helpless. I can’t imagine how my sister feels. I can’t understand why this is happening to a nine-year-old, particularly the one nine-year-old I love more than any human being on this planet. I spent all night crying. I cried myself to sleep. I keep praying over and over, “Please, not him. He can’t be sick.”

A TTC Belly Flop: Telling the family, sort of

I can’t sleep. Perhaps it’s because I finally attempted (& failed) to tell our family we are TTC, but my mother doesn’t support our decision.  It could simply be the killer cramps I am having, or the migraine I am just barely recovering from. OR, maybe it’s all of the above and more. 
We decided a long time ago that our family did not need to be involved in our TTC journey, at least not heavily, and certainly not early on. His reasoning is that it’s none of their goddamn business, and I guess I feel that way a little too. I just don’t want to hear their opinions about it. I’m 36 and he is 40. A lot of people believe we are too old to start a family. Some might believe we aren’t financially prepared, or maybe even that we aren’t cut out to be parents. 
Since we are starting IVF next month I wanted to tell my mom. We don’t have the best relationship but this process is extremely emotional and I thought it would help to have her support. It took a LOT of courage for me to bring it up with her. I tried to approach the subject gently by saying that we have been seeing a specialist just to explore the possibility of having a baby. She looked me dead in the eye and told me I am too old, and she said she doesn’t even think my boyfriend wants a baby, as if she knows anything about what he would want. To really make it clear how she feels she said it must be nice to have insurance and to be able to afford “unnecessary treatments”. She claims she can’t even afford insurance or get a Pap smear when she has been a nurse for over 30 years. Just like that, in a way only my mother can, she made me feel like shit and turned my situation into something all about her in one fell swoop. 
Here is the problem with ALL of that bullshit… A) I don’t see what we are doing as “unnecessary”. That is an incredibly insensitive and subjective opinion, and I CAN’T “afford” it, by the way. We are making MAJOR sacrifices to “afford” it! B) My employer pays my insurance and if she wanted that for herself she should have found a job where they would do the same for her. C) There are lots of doctors who will offer a discount to someone without insurance (like her) so she can get her annual exams, and she makes over $100k/year. There’s no reason whatsoever she can’t afford it. She CHOOSES to forego her annual exams because she CHOOSES to spend her money elsewhere, and she DOESN’T make the sacrifice to pay for it; Therefore, her Pap smear is not as important to her as having a baby is to me! SO THERE!!!… I didn’t say all of that to her. I wanted to, but I guess a small part of me prays she could still possibly support me, perhaps if we can have a baby she will see it was all worth it. Maybe she could even somehow be happy for me someday. If none of that, maybe I can prove her wrong. As spiteful as it may seem, I think living my life the way I want despite her nasty, hateful, insensitive position would be far more rewarding than having her support. 
There are just so many things that go through my head – sometimes hundreds of times a day… What if we run out of money? What if (God forbid) this famous doctor can’t get us preggers – even though he boasts a 90% success rate? How many cycles could it take? How will I tell the rest of my family? How will they react? What about HIS family? They’re SO different from mine, and that is somehow a bad thing, maybe, sort of… What if my mom is right? What if I am a shitty parent? What if I have another miscarriage? What if…
It would be REALLY REALLY GREAT to be able to go to my mother and tell her all of this, ask her what she thinks, and have her hug me and say it will be alright. It would be so wonderful to be able to trust my mother, or sister, or even my dad with my feelings – my deepest, most vulnerable feelings, but I can’t. It’s incredibly hurtful. We truly are on our own. It is scary, and frustrating, and lonely. 
So on nights like tonight, when I lie here feeling as if my insides are getting ripped out and am unable to stay still because I cannot get comfortable, and all the thoughts torture me… all I can do is hope and beg the universe for a few hours of sleep and relief. I need to go to work tomorrow. I can’t afford to miss work for my period when I need to be earning money for those “affordable” and “unnecessary” fertility treatments. I need to be saving my sick days for a possible maternity leave. I need NOT to be stressing over people who can’t be supportive. Extra stress just makes getting and staying pregnant even HARDER!!! It’s just so… consuming. 
P.S. – PLEASE excuse the pity party. Hopefully getting it all out will help me get some sleep. Thank you for taking the time to read.