Infertility is humbling. I can think of few other experiences in my life that have brought me to the depths of despair or buried me with fear to the degree that recurrent miscarriage and secondary infertility (and before my one successful pregnancy, just plain infertility) have done. Repeatedly.
Humility is educational. Most days, I can find some way to embrace the knowledge that I am learning, growing, expanding my mind and opening my heart along this journey. Some days, fear creeps in and I want to balk at the prospect of one more chance to learn or grow. I just want to be pregnant with a healthy baby and to parent two (or three, I would happily embrace twins over zero additional children) children to the best of my abilities. I want to be the best parent I can be to the one child we have been blessed to have. And some days, infertility makes doing so a real challenge.
Looking back, I’ve been afraid my whole life. Afraid of failure, afraid of being told I was not good enough. Afraid of believing that, of not being good enough by my own estimation. “Not good enough” was the subtext of my upbringing, in some respects. It was the message I took from many experiences I had with my own parents growing up. It is a message I do not want to convey to my children, living or dead. Of this, I am also afraid.
My biggest fear at the moment, or the one most pronounced because there is so much at stake, there is so much being sacrificed for this one, simple, elusive goal – the conception, carriage and birth of a healthy child – is that our upcoming IVF cycle will fail. Either I won’t produce enough eggs, if I do produce eggs they won’t be mature, if mature they won’t fertilize, if they fertilize they will fragment and not survive to transfer day, if they do survive to transfer day they won’t implant, if one or more does implant, they will not survive and develop into a healthy baby and I will miscarry for the 6th time. Why? I am too old. My eggs are too old. Not good enough. Of this, I am terrified.
I follow the blogs of other courageous, aching-hearted women who are on the infertility highway and I know I am not alone in my fears. And I am deeply grateful for the support you all offer, by reading, by writing, by following, by liking, by showing up and spilling your own tears, sharing your broken hearts and dreams in blogspace, in forums, on twitter. By breaking silence, we name our hopes, dreams, fears. This is a good thing. Thank you, all of you, for taking those leaps of faith and courage.
But all of this is not enough. I feel pulled down, as though drowning, into the abyss of fear. Again. My fears and I, we are not in dialogue today. I am running away from them. They are pursuing me and I am not facing them. This is not who or where I need to be. I am not my fears. This is not good enough. Today, I write the following open letter to my fears.
Thank you for accepting my invitation to chat. We have been together so long, but we so rarely sit down together. This is long overdue.
Let me start by saying I love you. And I am so sorry for your loneliness. You must be so lonely, even though you all have each other. You poor things. You work so hard trying to protect me from the heartbreak of yet another disappointment. You are so clever, trying to shield me from the pain of losing another baby, this dream I so long to come true. It must be lonely to toil tirelessly on this unrewarding task. You are the bearer of bad news in perpetuity. What a cruel purgatorial joke your fate has been.
Next, let me thank you. I am grateful for all of your efforts, the myriad ways you try to protect and keep me safe. Thank you for looking out for my bruised and battered heart. You have the best of intentions. I have not always appreciated or understood this, but I see it now. Thank you for doing all that you can for me, all that you know how to do.
Finally, let me ask you a favour. I need your help. Let’s try something new and see if it works. I would like us to work together for our common goal – a healthy little baby body for my spirit baby to call home. I know you want this, as I do, or you would not work so hard at protecting me from every possible disappointment on my journey toward this goal. You also know, as I do, that sometimes our intentions get in the way of what we most want. Sometimes we need to let go and just be. When we do, success often follows.
So, how about this? I promise not to try to crush you or push you into a corner where you cannot be seen or heard. You promise not to scream so loudly at me I cannot think. We check in, once a day (more if necessary), and make sure we are still in the same playbook, even if we cannot always be on the same page. If you like, we can make pancakes together, dance, hold hands, go shoe shopping or have a cup of tea together (not one of those icky fertility blends). I would like us to be friends.
What do you say?