Saturday, August 8, 2009

Once an Infertile Always an Infertile?

What do you think?

I debated with my self whether to write this post or not because I fear it may ruffle some feathers and I have NO doubt that I will get some comments completely disagreeing with me but I thought ah fuck it and decided to "put it out there" despite the consequences!

You can blame Murgdans post for stirring my thoughts on this subject and then when Megan followed with her post from Murgdan's post, well it just snowballed!

I was talking to a "friend" (I use that term VERY loosely) last week who made the comment to me that she knew EXACTLY how I was feeling because she had struggled to fall pregnant for a year with her little girl. And just when they were getting completely and utterly mentally and emotionally exhausted with it all, they found out that they were knocked up with sprog.

I, of course, nodded, smiled and thanked her for understanding EXACTLY how I'm feeling after 10 years of trying to get knocked up with sprog and having 4 miscarriages and how it's great to have a "friend" who can totally relate to what I'm going through that I can talk to.

Was that a little heavy in the sarcasm? If so, my apologies, I swear I was as nice as pie to her in real life.

This got me thinking though, as to whether she possibly could know what I was feeling, experiencing or going through? Can someone who's struggled with IF for 1 year, really know what it feels like 9 years later to STILL be having the same struggles?

Or how about someone who's struggled with IF for 5 years?

What about the person who tried one IVF and got knocked up with sprog first try, would she consider herself part of the same community as the person who's tried 5 IVFs and still not got the prize?

Reading the comments on both Murgdans post and Megans post it's very obvious that IF's who are now pregnant still consider themselves to be very much a part of the IF community. As they should of course, it's not as if their IF status magically disappeared once they got knocked up with sprog.


They are different. They can't not be. If I got knocked up with sprog tomorrow after nearly 10 years ttc, I'd be changed. The one thing I'd yearned for, after so many years, I'd now have. My whole perspective on things would change. I wouldn't view my pregnancy like a fertile does (oh to be that lucky, to actually enjoy 9 months of pregnancy and not worry about every twinge - wouldn't that be bliss?!?) but I wouldn't be wondering where my miracle was anymore.

I wouldn't be stalking the halls of despair constantly looking over my shoulder wondering whether the hall monitor aka depression is about to sneak up on me. Each new pregnancy announcement wouldn't send me into a ball of uncontrollable sobbing. I wouldn't see newborns and then have to wince at that dull ache in my chest that ALWAYS follows a newborn sighting.

So sure, the pregnant Infertile may unfondly remember their struggle to get knocked up with sprog and be able to relate to the struggles of a current infertile but they also now relate to the other Infertiles who have crossed over the other side and of course mixing in with the crossed Infertiles are the fertiles.

I would imagine that once that lil bundle of sprogness is placed in your arms, the months and years that you tried so hard to get knocked up probably go flying out the window. You're grateful and COMPLETELY realise how blessed you have been BECAUSE you were an INFERTILE once but now you're not. You've created a sprog, Infertiles don't create them because they're Infertile. Baby and Infertile are two words that just don't go together.

Now read that paragraph and ask yourself this. Baby and Infertile DON'T go together because if you have the first then you can't be the latter BUT I'm an Infertile but if I got knocked up tomorrow, I would all of a sudden not be classed as an Infertile? WTF

So what does everyone else think? Once an Infertile, always an Infertile? Or does your status change once you've become knocked up with sprog?


  1. This is a really interesting post.
    The way I view it as this. Being infertile is like a great, gaping wound on your heart (it was on mine) Having a baby heals the wound, but there is always the scar as a reminder of what you went through.
    At least, that's how I feel.
    I think that infertility difficulties vary hugely and so I wouldn't dream of saying to you, "Oh I understand what you are going through" because I don't. But I am here to listen whenever you want to talk. And I'm cheering you on from the sidelines.
    ps I hope I haven't offended you or anyone by my thoughts. xxx

  2. I think it's just a matter of where you are 'in infertility' if that makes sense. After all...I might also say "I understand" infertility, but after all, after only 2 years of trying and 1 failed cycle, do I really understand anything compared to someone who has been through 8 years of trying and 6 failed cycles...and loss?

    I think we are all in different places on the spectrum. I agree that it is different in the sense that once pregnant you only understand up to that point where you were in your infertility...does this make sense? In other words...I will accept an "I Understand" way easier from someone with a few years and multiple cycles under her belt, than from someone who got knocked up on her first assisted cycle.

    I don't mean that in an ugly way...and I think everyone who has been through this remembers the pain, and pain is pain.

    At the same time I hope that our struggle of infertility one day becomes just a memory to nod my head at...and that I'm so distracted by the changes of pregnancy or the excitement of child-rearing...that I lose touch with this daily struggle.

    But when I tell someone I understand, I do think I will still mean it. Because I will always understand what the struggle and the hurt is about.

    I just can't seem to make my words about this make sense.

  3. Murgdan, I struggled making my words make sense too, this post took me an hour to write, sentences were written and then deleted. I couldn't get what I wanted to say out properly and I'm still not 100% happy with what I've written! I totally get what you're saying.

    I agree with what you wrote too Seraphim and no offence taken.

    I'm looking forward to reading others views on this post because they will be varied and no view is wrong or right.

  4. I think that infertility is something you will always have and always carry with you whether or not you are able to carry a pregnancy or not. I wouldn't know what pregnancy feels like, but I hope to one day cross over to the "other side".

    I totally know what you mean, but I feel that like Seraphim said, it's like a scar. Once you are pregnant and have that baby and everything is hunky-dory, but what about the next time you try. I'm sure that little one you have makes things "better" than they were the first time, but you are back where you were the first time around.

    I don't think it's fair to tell women who have struggled and have reached success that they are no longer a part of the world of infertility. I'm sure they wish they could say that they are not a member anymore because look at what it does to us. But, I do feel once you have struggled (and everyone's struggle is different) you are a lifelong member whether or not you want to be. Does that make sense?

  5. Hmm, interesting post. First, not sure if I"m even allowed to respond here, since my problem ain't getting knocked up but STAYING knocked up. I've had experiences though with friends who have gone on to have babies after mine passed away, which is about the closest parallel I can think of.

    I think that yeah - if you get pregnant, you've jumped that line from infertile to baby-carrying, which puts you suddenly in a different reality than your un-pregnant TTC sisters. It think it's a hurtful situation sometimes, from what I've seen and felt, because by default you're having experiences that the other person can't relate to (and really wants to experience themselves). It becomes an uneven relationship.

    For me, with my baby-having friends, the main thing it took was time. I had to distance myself from them because it hurt to much to see them have what I wanted: a living baby. After about a year or so, that hurt was dulled a bit and now - two years later - I'm able to hang with them without it feeling like salt rubbed in my wounds. Maybe it's the same for the TTC crowd. There's a chasm that occurs, and then the passage of time makes it better.

  6. I've always felt like I shouldn't be a part of this community. Not because I've ever been made to feel that way, but because I don't "know" the pain you have been in. Yes it took us 5 years to fall pregnant with our second, but I didn't do treatments. I just didn't understand what was going on. I can't say "I understand your pain" because I don't. I can take my experience with my loss and my troubles and put them into your situation, but I still won't know.

    Having said that, it won't stop me from supporting every blog I read. It won't stop me from crying with you or jumping up and down with you. I won't ever be offended if someone can't read my blog because they feel as if I don't know. That won't stop me from reading their blog, unless I'm asked not to read.

    I'm here, in this community, because I care. I genuinely care. I've cried many tears, both happy and sad, for the blogs, for the PEOPLE I read. I'm here to support and offer a kind word, if I can. I feel fortunate to be able to read your words. To be able to help you along a journey that has an unknown end. If I can take a tiny bit of your pain away, then that's what I will do. I ask for nothing in return. I just want YOU to be happy.

    You wrote this amazingly well. It makes a lot of sense and I think you did it with a lot of respect.

  7. KuKd chick, I'm in the same boat as you, I can get knocked up, I just can't seem to stay knocked up it would appear.

    But then I'm also in the same boat as you Beautiful Mess, in that we've never had an never will have any treatments. We can get knocked up just not hold on to them, so why would I pay TO get knocked up if I'm only going to lose them?

    I'm enjoying reading everyone's views on this and hope I haven't offend anyone with mine or by bringing this up!

  8. I think it's great that we can talk about this! Primary infertility was very difficult for me, emotionally. We "only" tried for two years, and we got pregnant on our fifth IUI. No IVF here. But I was definitely depressed while doing the treatments, as they failed month after month. I took it hard. I can't imagine doing that for 9 years. I just don't think I would. DH and I were ready to consider adoption or a life without children after only two years. Not very long, I know... but as I said, the trying/failing cycle was too hard on me. Luckily, we did get that golden ticket.

    During my pregnancy, I felt like "less" of a pregnant woman, because I had to use ART to get knocked up. I felt like I should wear a shirt that said over my belly, "Yeah, but I couldn't do it on my own." As if it mattered! But the emotional scars ran deep.

    During my first months as a mother, IF still loomed large. Holding him did very little to erase my infertility. Part of that, I think, was that I knew I'd be back on the IF Island when we wanted a second child. But also, I felt like I had "failed" conception, "failed" delivery (unplanned C-section), and "failed" feeding him (we struggled to breastfeed, and although we did eventually succeed, he got formula for a few weeks). When I joined a group for new moms, I felt like somehow I didn't belong there, because they all had sex to get pregnant, but my body failed the natural method.

    Now that Bean is 17 months old, I'm doing much better with my feelings of insecurity and inferiority. But IF really affected my self-esteem. It took a long time to shake. I suppose that's why I still identify with the IF community, even those who don't have children at this point.

    I do think that IF is a spectrum -- some people on the "easier" end (like me?) may not understand what it's like for the long-timers. But I think a bigger part of that is how the person copes with IF emotionally. I've seen two people go through the same treatments and experience the same duration of IF, but its impact on their lives/thoughts/feelings was very different.

  9. I wrote a post yesterday about this very topic. And I still can't quite explain it for myself either,'re not alone in the struggle.

  10. I've also blogged about this before! My belief: Once An Infertile Always An Infertile. Having a baby will change some things, but the very feelings & pain at the core of our infertility will always be there. The feelings of inadequacy, of not measuring up, not being good enough, envy/jealousy over the woman who fall pregnant so easily, those things, I believe will not change. The longing will pass when the baby arrives but all the other pain will always be there. I have a friend who battled for 10 years and then went on to have TWO babies, she told me she still struggled with other people's pregnancy announcements.
    Having said that, I believe there are Degrees of Infertility. Some of us are MORE infertile than others. And I don't believe that the woman who fell pregnant on her first Clomid cycle can relate to me who's struggled going on 8 years and has had 6 pregnancies losses, 3 failed IUI's and 4 failed IVFs. Its just really not the same. I believe in comparig apples with apples so to speak.

  11. I think that until I get into my second trimester, I will still classify myself as infertile. I lost my last baby at 10 weeks just as I was starting to get comfortable and I don't think I will be able to exhale until I actually hold a baby in my arms. Being infertile is not just defined as the inability to conceive, but also the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. I have experienced 2 miscarriages and 2 chemical pregnancies, so I am a member of the second class of IFers.

  12. It's a really interesting question and one that separates the subfertile (could get pg with intervention, perhaps quickly or perhaps after 10 years) from the infertile (sterile; will never get pg no matter how much intervention). Am I still infertile once family building is done? And on that note, is someone still infertile if they stop family building efforts? All open questions.

    I guess I think of it with the same way I think of all comparative situations. I knew someone who lost her whole family in one night. And you could look at someone who only lost one family member and say, "well, you don't have it as bad, you can't possibly understand." But couldn't they? Isn't a loss a loss? And doesn't our understanding have to do with more than having matching situations--couldn't there be a very empathetic friend who has never experienced IF, but could give you great advice (I'm thinking of Carolyn Hax who hasn't experienced every situation, but generally gives sound comfort and advice).

    Great post and great questions.

  13. This is a great post with some really well thought out comments. I really like the scar analogy, but I'd also say that while some people have huge scars and others have smaller ones, the size of the wound doesn't necessarily correspond to the hurt or feelings of the person. Like someone can hate their body for gaining 5kg, while someone 50kg heavier than they'd like to be can be more at peace with their body.

    All of it is so complex and unique that I think it's very hard for any of us with scars to 1) really understand each others hurt and 2) feel like our scars fit in with all of the others in the community.

  14. Interesting post, and I can see where you're coming from.

    I personally bear the mindset "once an infertile, always an infertile" at least, at heart.

    I can't concieve, and when I do I haven't been successful at carrying to term. For me, no matter what happens now, that pain will always haunt me.

    I know my life would be different if I conceived and carried to term, but the past 2.5 years will never go away for me.

    And I would still be infertile, I wouldn't be able to concieve a second child easily, if at all, so the battle may never totally end. Even if we adopted, the same song and dance would ensue.

    As far as comparative situations, we can never totally understand what someone is going through, but we can understand to the best of our ability. And, many times what someone says or writes, it feels like it has put our own feelings into words.

    I think we all hurt, and that's the most important thing to remember. It may not be the same pain, but it is still there. My sister can concieve, but she had a full term stillbirth with her first child, and had two healthy babies after that. I can't concieve, and I've had two miscarriages. We can't completely understand what the other is feeling, but we know that the other one is hurting, and we can sympathize with each other better than anyone else in out family can. Because we both hurt, and we both understand the pain of losing so much.

    So while we can't understand completely, the most important thing isn't the extent of he understanding we have for each other, but rather the ability to understand and to try and understand in the first place. So many people don't even try to understand what I'm going through, the people that have meant the most to me on this journey, are those that don't just listen and nod, but those that open their hearts to mine.

    I don't know if that makes any sense...

  15. Hello there,

    Before I dig into your current post, I just want to extend my hand to you, and hold yours. I know the painful reminders are on up your path too. So, thank you, for the virtual hug. And I hug back.

    I do not think your friend was actually able to understand what you have been through.

    12 cycles cannot be equated to 120 cycles of depair.

    Which does not make your friend any bad, and as I can make out, yours was a very civil conversation.

    After all, I started out just like your friend. One time sex and it was thinking balloons and babies. Of course, it took tumble after tumble to understand that sex did not mean pregnancy. Also, it took me a while to understand that me path had a little more trouble strewn than my friends/cousins/other women.

    So, do I subscribe to "Once an infertile, always an infertile"? I may say yes, but the answer is untested.

    I am yet to go gaga over losing the barren status. I am yet to skip the fence finally.

    I would want to still hold up a little space of the ALI blogosphere, after I become a mother. It is the ground that feels like a virtual home.

    I have read Murgdan's post on the same issue, and I thought that she made valid points.

    I have never really had trouble being around babies/kids or pregger women. But I can't stand ever being pointed at or singled out.

  16. Fukdum Fukdum....forgive me for the typos.

  17. I'm still in the infertile category. But I'm so completely unsuccessful that I haven't even been able to get pregnant yet. So I have to admit, sometimes I feel less in the club that someone who has been able to get pregnant, but has lost their baby, because they have suffered so much more. I think to one degree or another, the struggle leaves a mark, and it's that pain that makes even those who do eventually succeed want to help lessen the hurt of those who haven't yet.

    Just discovered your blog and enjoyed catching up. Your honesty is refreshing! Thanks for sharing your story.

  18. This is a great topic.

    I am pregnant from my first IVF cycle. But I'm still infertile. I have very blocked and very damaged tubes. That makes me infertile. Baby or no baby inside there.

    I don't pretend to be the same as anyone else who has had to have IVF, has had miscarriages.... there is no comparison because infertility is such a lonely road and we are all very different.

    It's a tough topic and one in which there is no right or wrong answer. If your friend tells you that she understands, then I believe that she is truly trying and has been through her own personal hell, whether that be 10 months or 10 years.

    Some people really shit us with their perceived "struggles" but who are we to judge whether theirs is less than ours?

    Great post babe!

  19. Very interesting and I feel compelled to reply to this post. I heavily identify with being infertile because I have never been pregnant despite our best efforts. It has taken years for the sting to go away whenever I see a pregnant belly or children. I avoided showers and children's events like the plague. I used to be envious of women who had miscarriages because at least they got pregnant and their grief was concrete and could be acknowledged by society. Which is pitiful thinking but at the time I wanted my pain to be acknowledged as real and not ignored. I was so profoundly angry that I had been denied what seem to come so easily for others. And while mother nature is hammering the last nail in the coffin for me, I am moving on to motherhood via another road. What I've learned is this. Pain is pain, loss is loss, it doesn't matter to me anymore how much suffering you had to do in order to get street cred. Compassion is for all.