I once owned a car that offered some fancy security option that involved window etching and databases. We didn't pay for the database, yet our windows had been etched before we even considered a test drive. Basically, I had a car with numbers frosted on it its windows, but if anyone ever stole the glass, not a single "official" person would have record of what those numbers were.
Infertility is sort of like that once you leave the trenches with a baby in hand.
Almost a month ago, Dawn wrote a post about "the other side." She wrote with simple raw truth about the mere uneasiness of being pregnant when you're still looking through the eyes of someone who "can't" be so. When she wrote it, I commented and mused that perhaps some day I'd write about the topic in more detail here. The time has come.
When you are pregnant you reach that point where your uterus begins to define you. Everything you do is tinted with something baby. I'm going to get this trip in, before the baby arrives, for example. Or, in my pre-pregnancy days I'd have downed that latte like it was water.
Your life is lived first by trimester, then months, then weeks...then days. At that point it becomes clear that every encounter with another human being is just seconds away from ticking you off because that person is bound to utter *those* words: Wow! You haven't had that baby yet!
What most people don't realize, because most people haven't been in the trenches, is that when you're infertile, your uterus defines you.
Each chance encounter is at risk of pissing you off because unless they 'know' your pain, they may innocently refer to that time "when you have kids." They do so without knowing that just the day before your beta came back negative. Your life is lived by the breakdown of a drug defined cycle. Your schedule becomes predicated on what the ultrasound indicates your ovaries have been up to. "Sorry, we just can't commit to that dinner date. We may need to trigger that night."
Who you are comes second to the war you're waging on your rebelling reproductive system. You meet a new person who introduces herself as "Sally, a lawyer, mother of two, wife of Stan." And you resist the urge to say "Hi, I'm unexplained with gross failure to produce offspring, married to depressed and thankfully I still have a job even though my repeated dates with the ultrasound wand have increased my 'late' start work-days to something *I* might consider firing me over."
No matter how hard you try to be normal. No matter how hard you try to live a regular life and just be someone that happens to be trying to conceive with her husband and Dr. Brown - but not in *that* way that makes neighbors cluck their tongues about 'open marriages' - you fail. You're not living a normal life. You're infertile.
But then suddenly you're not. At least not in the sense that you're unable to produce offspring. Suddenly your puking your guts out for a good cause. Suddenly you don't mind that your jeans are getting tight because the rounding of your abdomen means that long awaited, hard-fought for child is on his/her way.
Your body manages to switch gears on you faster than your emotions can. Faster than your identity can.
In the truest sense of the word, I am not infertile any longer. I not only had children, I had them without medical intervention. We *did* do it the 'old fashioned' way. Yet for 4 years we struggled. For four years I was either charting or pill popping, or fertility drug injecting and living for the news the ultrasound wand would bring. For four years I was crying each month. That's not something that goes away - all the way away - because I've got a full-house now.
Its like those numbers on my car window. No one is keeping track. I'm not playing the game. But I've still got the scars.
Scar is a good way to describe it. A nasty gash on the emotional skin that ran deep to your core. You're left with lasting proof that it happened. In the early days, the scar is red and raw - its nasty looking to the point that people want to avert their gaze. Over time, however it fades. It becomes lighter shades of pink. It may even flatten a bit.
When I was 11 I got on this muffin making kick. I'd get up every Sunday morning and I'd bake muffins for the family breakfast. One morning I grabbed an old pot-holder, not my usual one. I reached in the oven and grasped hold of the pan. I found out too late that the potholder had worn thin. In pain I dropped the pan and pulled my hand away. As I did so, the pan landed on the top of my hand at the base of my thumb. I had a nasty, ugly, discolored blistery mark on that spot for weeks.
As the years passed the rough-edged circular scar on my right hand began to fade. It got lighter in color. It got harder to see. Today, 21 years later, most people wouldn't even know it existed. Unless I had spent the day out in the sun. That spot on my hand tends to get rather dark pink when exposed to the sun for long periods of time. The color fades back into hiding by the next day.
When I'm sick and pale, you can see the pink circle more clearly. As the the color seeps back into my skin, the evidence of my scar disappears again. Still, its there. Whether or not you can always see it, its there. And similarly, so is the scar left by infertility.
The difference now, however, is that my past struggles with infertility no longer define me. My reflex isn't to introduce myself as "I'm Sandy, recovering infertile, mother to two..." I'm just me. Mom to two beautiful souls, wife, daughter, sister, gardener, lazy-quilter, friend, marketing guru who happened to once be an IVF patient and who knows darn well that trigger shots in the rear-end hurt like hell and that Clomid can cause the most horrendous migranes known to women.
I don't flinch over news of someone else's pregnancy. Any pang such news brings to me is typically the sort of sympathetic stab I feel for a friend currently out on the battleground. See that's what the scar does for me. I can feel the pain today's infertile warriors feel because I felt it. The scar's flare-up isn't often for me, but for her - all of them and their partners.
When you're first catapulted to the 'other side' it feels like its a place you'll never feel quite at home. But you will. When your child nuzzles her infant head in your neck and coos softly as you rock together in gentle rhythm you'll not immediately head for that place where you dwell on how close you came to not having her.
You don't forget your past, but you don't wallow in it either. You can't. You're too busy with your present. You're too busy wondering about that baby's future. Your scars fade. They don't disappear, but they don't define you. The other side is nice, you just need to give yourself the time to get acclimated to the water.