I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot recently. It’s turning out very differently to the last time we were trying to make a baby. This time I have a toddler and very little free time to write. But I think as a consequence of that, and some other factors I’ll come back to, it’s become a rather factual thing rather than the honest outpouring of emotion and relaying of events that we’d initially intended it to be.
I suppose that makes for rather dry reading, but aside from literary issues it also renders the blog to be perhaps a less honest account of what’s happening with us. And that defeats the whole point for me.
So I’d like to try to address that a bit.
The emotional challenges with this new fertility journey are perhaps more complex than last time. This is partly due to already having a child. This not only raises practical obstacles, such as little time to think, dwell, mope, reflect, and process how we’re feeling about it all, but it also raises new emotions for me. I feel like somehow what were going through is of less importance in the eyes of others because, hey, we already have a kid, so the stakes are lower.
Now let me be completely clear – absolutely no one has said this to me. At all. It is entirely a fabrication in my own mind. Another thing I can feel guilty about, that acts to silence me and dismiss my own feelings.
The other difference this time round is my community. When we were trying for Toby, I was mostly surrounded by work colleagues and friends, and with the exception of one very special family, I didn’t really hang out much with people with young kids or babies. However this time round I’m not working in the conventional sense, and my social circles are almost exclusively parents of other kids, a significant proportion of whom had their first child around the same time as me, and are now getting pregnant with, or trying for, or have had, their second.
There are many, many wonderful aspects to this new circumstance. Perhaps the most significant for me is being in an environment where those around me can more fully empathise with the joys and challenges of trying for another baby when already a parent. Each of my friends have different stories and experiences. Some have fertility issues too, others don’t, but have/are taking a long time to get pregnant. Others have fallen pregnant again very quickly, and yet others have gone through tough fertility issues only to find they fell pregnant naturally and surprisingly the second time round. And still others have had the opposite experience – healthy fertility for previous children followed by significant and devastating issues when trying again. Each of these stories hold their own challenges and perspectives, and I find it somehow reassuring to see these different shades of grey rather than perhaps the more black and white view of fertile/infertile I had the first time around.
And I think when you’re in the midst of your own fertility situation, your pain or lack thereof *relative to others* is perhaps irrelevant. Your emotions, however, are not. You feel how you feel, and I believe that’s valid. So whether a friend has been trying for three months and is frustrated and demoralised, or has had several miscarriages and is seeking medical help, the frustrations and emotions of each are real and valid in my eyes.
It’s natural to compare myself to others. To rank my issues amid those of my friends. But this only leads me to envy those with it “better” and feel secretly relieved that at least it’s not as bad as those who have it “worse”. I don’t think either is a healthy thing at all. It is a real struggle not to do this. It’s is a battle, and a choice to not wallow in self pity and envy. But I am determined that these particular emotions will not get the better of me, because my friendships mean too much to me.
I also now know how it feels to be in the situation where I’m pregnant/have a child, and a friend doesn’t for various reasons (I’m thinking of friends who want kids but are still single, but also perhaps more relevantly for this illustration, those friends who have gone through similar fertility issues and it simply hasn’t ever worked for them). And when I was the one “with” in those situations and they were the ones “without”, I so appreciated the grace they showed me, the love and support and happiness they had for me. And I vowed to remember that, and to do the same when I’m the one “without”.
I don’t want my friends to feel they can’t talk openly with me about their pregnancies, or ask me questions about our IVF. I’m not going to judge them if they complain about morning sickness and back ache, or think that they’re smug if they ask how the IVF is going.
Social anxieties surrounding all of this stuff are much higher and are impacting me more this time around than when we were trying for Toby. Because of the change in my social context, this relational-social dynamic just wasn’t really a thing I had to consider last time. So I’m putting it all here for those who love us to read, so I know it’s been explicitly said, and hopefully it’ll help me feel less worried about it all*.
Another difference this time around is the not unsubstantial level of guilt and self condemnation I feel. Last time I knew I had PCOS, and I very easily attributed all our issues to this syndrome which was entirely out of my control. But this time…this time around things are harder. Clomid didn’t work. Follicle stimulation didn’t work. And now here we are, doing IVF. I didn’t expect this. The disappointment I feel as a result of reality not matching with our expectations is insidious and pervasive. And its all because of my BMI. I am approximately 1.6 stone heavier than I was when we conceived Toby. I didn’t loose the weight. If I had just lost it, we likely wouldn’t be in this situation. We could have been pregnant a year ago. Toby could be a big brother, John could be a younger dad than he’ll be by the time baby #2 does arrive. I could have saved us the significant expense. And although I know there are confounding factors – my biology acting against me making it terribly difficult to lose weight, the incredibly stressful life events that have happened in the last two years, not least of which include my father-in-law dying, my mother getting cancer, and some mental health challenges in our own home, during all of which I have turned to food for comfort – I still ultimately hold myself responsible. Because I am. No one else has force-fed me carbs. I have not been strapped to the sofa or incapable of exercising the whole two years since Toby was born.
In all honesty, I don’t know how to deal with these feelings. I’m going to get the free councilling offered at our fertility centre. I start in a couple of weeks. Hopefully that might help.
All of this consumes a lot of brain and emotional energy. So lastly, I want to apologise if you know me and I have not been a particularly good or interesting or upbeat friend of late. I may not always show it, but these feelings are there all the time. And I’m sorry if I haven’t given you the love and attention and empathy you deserve.
Please, in your mercy, show me grace.
*Or, more likely, just worry more, because now I’ll panic that I’ve offended someone with this overly honest post.