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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Infertility is to Dating as Analogies are to Whatever Works in this Space

Last thoughts on resolution...I sort of promise?

I know we've all taken sides on whether or not relationships/marriage work as an analogy to the infertility experience, but I really do think that it lends itself well to discussing resolution within infertility. At least, it helps me to think about it this way in explaining why Domar's book and therapy and a lot of crying worked for me in resolving the infertility, and how--for me--the two sides happened separate from one another. I think they can happen at the same time--resolving the infertility and the childlessness--but, for me, they happened separate from one another.

So you have five scenarios:
  1. Resolve infertility and childlessness at the same time (removing the childless state removes the feelings about infertility)
  2. Resolve the childlessness, but never resolve the infertility or resolve it later (you have a child, but you're still stuck in the same emotions, self-hatred, and depression you experienced during infertility--whatever form your personal struggle with infertility took)
  3. Resolve the infertility, but never resolve the childlessness or resolve the childlessness after resolving the infertility (come to a place of emotionally coping with infertility separate from whether or not you have a child)
  4. Never resolve infertility or childlessness.
  5. Infertility doesn't affect you emotionally beyond some basic disappointment, frustration, or sadness and therefore, you're not really on this list.
And the way I would phrase this idea in terms of dating is that partnership resolves singledom, but it doesn't resolve relationship issues. Meaning, you can get married or enter a partnership and that will take away your state of being partnerless. But having a partner doesn't magically cure whatever baggage you have been carrying with you emotionally. If you don't resolve your emotional baggage, you are going to have that baggage affect your relationship or marriage.

Healthy is a relative term. We all have our quirks and issues and we're talking about two separate people coming together. Of course there will be friction when two people need to navigate a single world together and constantly interact. You may not always be on the same page and you may fight and you may have times where things are quite boring in your marriage--but that is different from having problems in your partnership. Healthy couples argue healthily (sort of like absolute power corrupts absolutely?).

What I mean by unhealthy are the larger issues we bring to a relationship when we date knowing that our minds and hearts aren't really ready for dating; that we have personal work we need to be doing for ourselves so we can bring trust into a relationship. I think that lack of trust plays a big role in ruining relationships and it plays a big role in life after infertility. Because a lack of resolution with infertility usually goes hand-in-hand with a lack of trust in other places--a lack of trust with your body, a lack of trust in happiness (how many people talk about waiting for the other shoe to drop? I know I do), a lack of trust in your own abilities.

I was doing that with family building--trying to do the physical side of treatments without taking care of the emotional side. I will obviously always choose to plow ahead and work on the family building and emotional stuff at the same time because they're separate issues but entwined. I think it's also possible to move forward and date while working on your relationship issues at the same time because the two are entwined as well. It's only helpful to a point to work on resolving your relationship issues without being in a relationship. But I don't think it's healthy to move ahead with either dating or family building without also addressing and working on resolution with the emotional issues. By which I mean, putting coping mechanisms in place. In both situations, there needs to be new outlets for emotional stress or that stress will keep manifesting itself in the same way. With dating, you may keep entering abusive or unhealthy relationships. With infertility, you may keep entering a state of self-hatred and depression.

I think Anonymous spoke a valid point for her--the book didn't work for her. And this is true for every method out there for removing stress or coping with emotions: therapy, religion, yoga, medications, gardening, art, basketball. I think the way a person resolves their infertility is very personal. I was only stating what worked for me; it really really won't work for everyone.

I think that it was very telling when I was pregnant with the twins that my therapist didn't release me from the sessions because there was still work to do. I kept going until a few weeks after the twins were born, when she told me that she trusted that I was in a better space, with coping mechanisms in place. For me, the visualization techniques and return to Buddhism and therapy worked which is why I said that I got the brass ring. I got to resolve my infertility and I got to resolve my childlessness, and I count myself lucky that both happened because it could have been otherwise.

And by resolution, I don't think I'm at a place of absolute peace with it. I bumped into an old peripheral friend a while back and she was late in her pregnancy. I hadn't seen her in almost a year and I didn't know that she was pregnant. And I felt such a seething jealousy looking at her belly, knowing how easy it comes to her. That's not resolution, but it's better than where I was so I count it as progress. Aren't we all just a work in progress, stumbling around, trying to find our way?


Meghan said...

I missed the earlier post but I like the analogy. I for one was very surprised that resolving the childlessness did not resolve the infertility. Still working on that one

Queenie. . . said...

I like the analogy about the relationships. I do think that fits.

I liked both of these posts today. They were very thought-provoking.

FET Accompli said...

Just tried to post this and it didn't seem to work - if this is a repeat, apologies...
Just wanted to say that your post was so thoughtful and insightful. Even when I think I have it together, when I see a pregnant lady all these emotions seem to rush to the surface...

Cassandra said...

When I first started treatments, I wasn't emotionally at the place where I thought I needed treatments yet. Then, I spent about a year without TTC at all -- whether I was really working on the emotional aspects or just ignoring the situation is up for debate. Then I tried a couple of years of TTC without treatments, then finally went back to treatments.

My point to all of that is that my attempts to resolve infertility and childlessness were mostly done separately with little chronological overlap, and that I have spent much more of the past 7 years trying to resolve infertility than I have aggressively trying to resolve childlessness. But, I wasn't successful at either until I worked on both concurrently (though still separately).

It seems a lot easier to pinpoint the resolution of childlessness than of infertility. Even in the absence self-hatred and depression, it feels like infertility never gets truly resolved.

areyoukiddingme said...

My husband and I don't really like to confront emotional issues. Unfortunately, we have to because that's life. Fortunately, our emotional issues don't usually happen at the same time, so when one of us finally blows up/has a breakdown, the other one is there to help pick up the pieces. I think that's one of the key parts to resolving anything - having the right person there.

But, sometimes even the right person can be clueless. My husband, who is pretty well convinced that he is always right (and I don't know how that can be, since I'm always right and he never agrees with me!), was spouting off about why I should take a course of antibiotics just before we tried to get pregnant again. So I had to spend 30 minutes reviewing my whole medical history with him - like he wasn't even there the first time. Of course, he wasn't really. Once I got my BFP, he stuck his head in the sand and kept it there until the baby was about 4 months old. To avoid jinxing things. Guess who, in our relationship, hasn't resolved our fertility issues? Hint: It's not me.

Paz said...

Great post. This issue is one that I think about everyday, every damn day.

My IF (is it really IF if you are very AMA or is that just being dumb as a rock for waiting so long to start a family) was not resolved when I had my son. I want another child and longing for a child when you can't, or at least not easily, have one is IF. So, my childlessness was resolved but my infertility most definitely was not. I often wonder if I ever had another child if it would end, finally.

I like to think that it would and that I know myself well enough to know that it would.

B said...

Great thoughts Mel.
For some of us we add resolving (ie. learning to live with) the death of our child to that list. Also seperate but entwined. And it is possible to do that without having resolved infertility or no-living-kid-ness. Possible but tough.

It really is enough to do your head in.

I think the thing that is difficult to resolve about infertility is that it is such a heavy but intangible grief. Very difficult to wrestle with because it is letting go of longings, assumptions about life, parts of your history, and in order to resolve it we need to answer the almost unanswerable question of WHY we want to have kids.

M said...

interesting way to think about it. i guess i've been so busy plowing through everything i haven't stopped to consider the roots of the problems. yes, i go to my re in an attempt to be pg while i go to the therapist is an attempt to keep my sanity. (and b has a great point about babyloss too. i feel like i've mostly resolved my IF but i'm still very much struggling with living in a world without my children.) thanks for helping me look at something in a new light. here's hoping we all can resolve our various issues!

Larisa said...

I loved Domar's book. It was the first book I read that stepped away from all the technical stuff (what I'm "good" at), and touched where I was falling apart. It wasn't all perfect for me, but it was something. I also saw my therapist some during my pregnancy, but not since.

And I do think that you can have the child - and while, for me, that resolved many issues, there are still pieces that remain. I still identify myself as infertile - and I don't know how long that will continue.

Kristin said...

Really great analogy. Luckily for me, I would say my infertility is mostly resolved. I say mostly because I have very little tolerance for people in bad situations who have oops pregnancies. I also do feel a bit of jealousy for people who float through pregnancies without a problem. None of this is enough to prevent me from being happy for a friend but it is there.

Deathstar said...

As your posts often do, you hit a nerve with me. Five years after my first MEDICAL attempt to get pregnant, and 7 years of wanting a child, I am still in transit. I'm tired. This adoption, for better or worse, is taking longer than I ever dreamed, and I'm still struggling with resolving infertility issues. And as I age, my body is doing things I wish it wouldn't. Career and family "success" elude me despite my best efforts and what's worse is my own self hatred and society's for blaming me because of course, maybe I haven't tried "hard enough". And every single day, from my best friend to the magazines in the stores are baby bumps, multi-cultural families and 60 year old mothers.

Chickenpig said...

I guess I am a 5. Infertility affected my life, but not my emotional life. I felt sorrow, frustration, impatience, and rarely jealousy, but only while I was actually in the trenches. The months and years while I wasn't able to actively TTC I went right back to being myself, or with my husband as a couple. When it was over, it was over. Even my miscarriage kind of rolled off of my back. I'm not sure if I could say that if I hadn't finally had children. I see it as fighting a disease like cancer, except that never being able to have children wasn't going to kill me. My mother fought skin cancer with the same attitude, and if you asked her about it today she would probably say "cancer? what cancer?". It was the people around her who were shaking wrecks.

Eve said...

Boy I thought about this post a lot yesterday and today and planned to do my own post about it as well.

I looked the definition of the word 'resolve' to see if my gut-instinct about what it meant was REALLY what it meant:

re·solve (r-zlv)
v. re·solved, re·solv·ing, re·solves
1. To make a firm decision about.
2. To cause (a person) to reach a decision. See Synonyms at decide.
3. To decide or express by formal vote.
4. To change or convert: My resentment resolved itself into resignation.
5. To find a solution to; solve. See Synonyms at solve.
6. To remove or dispel (doubts).
7. To bring to a usually successful conclusion: resolve a conflict.

My gut instinct was that 'resolve' means something is 'finished'. Yesterday my good friend who lost her son (I've spoken about her a lot) said to me, "You're really lucky, because for you, your loss will go away. I'll always have mine".

I don't see the death of live child the same as infertility...but I told her that infertility (at least the consequences of it) DON'T always go away. I'll always feel like the 'older mother', look at large families and realize that's wasn't a possibility for me, snear at a smoking pregnant women,etc.

To me infertility is a loss just like other losses: death, divorce, parent abandonment, abuse (to name a few). I think that grief is a process that needs to be worked through many times. Just when you think you've really worked it comes back up in a way you never even considered.

So I guess this long-winded response is to say that I don't think my infertility will ever completely be 'resolved'...but I don't think the pain will be as fresh in the years to come. And I know that I will find meaning in this suffering. I just don't know exactly what that meaning is yet.

niobe said...

Resolution is one of those words that I just don't understand. My loss took up a lot of space in my life until it just didn't any more.

It's like sitting in my house, listening to a siren. It gets louder and louder and maybe it hurts my ears for a while. Then it gets fainter and then it goes away.

Faereyluna said...

Gee Thanks Mel!

So you managed to stir up brain with this one. Not that your other post don't but this one had me compelled to write about it on my blog.

In a nutshell, I discuss how for me, I resolved my infertility before I went to the RE because before the visit to the RE I was in too much denial.

Anyway, thank you for the post.


NotTheMama said...

No wonder I've been popping Excedrin Migraine like candy for 3 days... You've been marching around in my brain! ;) I need to make a trip to the bookstore. The more I want a child, and the closer we actually get to adoption, the more important it is for me to resolve my IF-related issues. Now if nephews would stop breaking bones and sisters would stop burning houses, I could find time to read again! ;)

Phoebe said...

I'll have to think about this one for awhile. It will definitely give me something to chew on.

DrSpouse said...

Definitely thought-provoking. I think I see very strong parallels (especially with miscarriage - yes, there may be other fish in the sea/children for me, but I want THAT one).

However, I hope that having been single for many long years, and now being pretty happily married, I can still appreciate the feelings of the chronically single. They may not see it like that though - perhaps I am just another smug married to them. But there are still assumptions that people make about couples that seemed irritating when I was single, and seem bizarre now (only couples will do X, couples will always do Y together, that kind of thing).

Likewise some of the more vomit-inducing couplesome things (especially wedding-related) always seemed irrelevant to me whether as a single or as a married person, and I suspect the same may be true of being a parent if I ever get there.

passingwindows said...

As always you cover it much more eloquently and in much more depth than I could ever do. I think the general feeling outside the IF community is that having a child resolves infertility and it is important for all of us IFers to realise this isn't necessarily so. I definitely agree that we are always works in progress. I think our evolutions are continual and they only stop when we die.