So I have been a big-time grumpy grouper this week. My mental life has been a bit of a wreck. I’m playing some quite destructive mind games, like defending myself over and over in my mind to a colleague who had a negative response to news about my infertility (downplaying it, weighing whose suffering is worse, and criticizing my financial decisions). Doubting and feeling guilty about my efforts to make life more manageable right now and worrying others also believe things about me and infertility like aforementioned colleague. And premourning next week and already freaking out about it.
Throw on top of that unexplained snippiness with my husband, likely related to both the hormones and these bad thought patterns, and uncomfortable physical symptoms (including terrible breaking out and weird uterus feelings ever since the IUI — is this normal?) and I can hardly stand myself. Thank goodness I did actually get decent sleep this week. (And that my candidate won the election!) I guess the unifying theme is that I’m feeling alone, feeling some distance between me and the world.
As someone in a helping profession I’ve always had difficulty feeling comfortable talking about myself, and with infertility I find it really hard to know how to convey to others how I’m feeling or doing on any given day or at a meta level, how awful infertility is. Sometimes, then, I end up feeling down and a bit stuck inside myself, believing others don’t understand or care enough to understand. I wish there were a book out there to give to others explaining infertility, the work it requires, the continuous feelings of loss. Maybe some of the IF community’s blog posts could be compiled someday to create this.
At the support group I recently joined (yep, you heard that right) one of the women mentioned how her doctors consistently remind her that her stress is real and legitimate and that research shows that stress levels in women with infertility are equivalent to those with cancer or HIV diagnoses. These days I’m really wishing people got that. I worry that others might see my feelings as overblown or overdramatic, so really, I wish someone else would communicate this for me. Having research saying it helps. I guess I’m wanting both understanding and validation of my pain from others. I want them to say, “I know this is terrible for you.” And maybe “What do you need?” like we do when people get a scary, life-changing medical diagnosis.
I ended up realizing slowly over the week that some of my thoughts are askew and that there really are a lot of people in our corner. My friend Wesley faithfully sent another email checking in on me, I remembered a few people Sunday really meaning it when they asked how I was doing and in fact noting how awful this process is, a friend let me cry to her and followed up with a card the next day asking how she can advocate for me, my dad texted yesterday to let me know he was thinking of me, my co-worker left delicious toffee in the break room for me with a note. Why do I continue to feel all alone and doubt whether others care when I can recount things like this almost every week?
No idea, but I think it shows the depth and power of the fear and longing and deep need.
I realize that this long road takes a good deal of endurance for our support systems too, and I of course do not want to wear people out as they walk with us. I hate being grumpy with my husband and not knowing exactly why. I hate the feeling of needing to explain myself and not being able to do it. And honestly I hate needing things from other people. If I’m learning nothing else in this process, it is that I am desperate and dependent and that is something I’ll never escape, even and especially if a baby comes along.
As I’ve begun to let in these kind things from others this week, I’ve slowly felt a little lighter. I spent the morning dropping off canned goods people from our church gathered and talking with some dedicated people there who care a lot about homelessness. I prepared for the arrival of my pal since 5th grade, sat in the sun that’s back in town, and let myself go wild at Whole Foods. Pear cider, ginger dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds…so excited. Today I’m choosing not to believe everything I hear — from others or myself — and today I’m choosing joy.