Let’s talk about functioning in society when you’re going through infertility treatments, shall we?
Whether you’re taking oral hormones, injecting drugs into your body, or mourning the loss of a failed cycle, being able to function like a normal human in society can be extremely challenging.
I remember seeing a post by Jenny Mollen on Instagram that I related to so much. Right after she had her second son, she said she was upset that strangers on the street weren’t treating her like she just had just delivered a newborn. It’s like she needed everyone to know the fragile state she was in, without communicating it to anyone. That’s exactly how it is when you’re dealing with infertility.
You’re in a fragile state. Your body is riddled with hormones. You’re bloated. You’re emotional. And you’re either in the process of trying to conceive, mourning the loss of yet another failed cycle, or panicking over your pregnancy actually lasting. And yet you’re expected to go out and be a functioning member of society.
I know myself, and so many women, who were grieving the failure of a cycle, but thanks to hormones, appeared to be 12 weeks pregnant. Here you are in this horrifically low place, just attempting to keep some shred of faith in the process. So the universe decides to throw a little salt in your open, bleeding wound by making it impossible for you to zip up your pants or put on any piece of clothing that successfully masks your bloated body.
Nothing like trying to hide your baby bump, sans baby. Twist the knife a little more.
Then on top of the fact that you don’t recognize the body that continues to fail you, your hormones are going freaking berserk. If you’ve had a failed cycle, you’re now coming off of progesterone, so your hormones are nosediving into an abyss of depression and rage.
I’ll never forget my third failed IUI cycle. I was in one of my best friend’s weddings. It was a Friday, the day of her rehearsal dinner. I was convinced I was pregnant. I did everything I possibly could this time. I took every precaution, did acupuncture almost everyday, and cut just about everything remotely unhealthy out of my diet. I went in for my pregnancy test, confident. As I was getting ready for the rehearsal, trying on clothes that were uncomfortably tight in my midsection, my phone rang. It was the nurse calling with my test results. I could tell as soon as I heard her voice that it wasn’t going to be good news. I sat on the floor, cried, and then pulled my shit together to go to the rehearsal.
There wasn’t time for a breakdown. I needed to be there for my friend, just like she would be for me. I wasn’t going to allow my infertility to overshadow any of it. I had to call Michael at work and give him the news. My poor husband was ALWAYS working when I got a negative pregnancy test. And he always put on a brave face, kept cutting hair, and waited to mourn the failed cycle until he got home.
I made the decision that I wasn’t going to allow this negative to consume me. I fought the sadness, put a smile on my face, and drank a shit load of wine. At the rehearsal dinner Michael and I pretended nothing was wrong. And, we were doing a pretty stellar job, I might add. And then it happened.
There was an announcement that one of the bridesmaids was pregnant.
My stomach dropped to the floor and my heart pumped out of my chest right onto the dinner table. And, with zero control, my eyes filled with tears. Michael and I both stood up, in the middle of toasts, and ran outside where I proceeded to sob. I completely lost my shit. Mind you, the bridesmaid who was pregnant, also had fertility issues. I should have been happy for her. But I couldn’t even see straight, let alone put my feelings aside enough to see the big picture.
As people came outside to check on me, having NO idea about what was going on, I cried harder. At this point I was extremely private and ashamed of the fact that I couldn’t get pregnant. It was a taboo subject that made people uncomfortable, so I wasn’t ready to share the depths of what was going on. I simply said that we had been trying to get pregnant and got a negative that day, so I was just a little upset.
So I appeared to be the chick who lost her mind because one of the bridesmaids was pregnant and she wasn’t. Once I allowed myself to be sad and actually deal with my feelings, I was able to be happy for her. But, being completely honest, it took me a while.
Full disclosure, it took me a while to be happy for anyone who got pregnant when I couldn’t. It’s a really selfish and fucked up feeling to resent the people you love for being able to do something you’re longing to do. You’re hit with such a sharp pang of jealousy that literally cuts you to the core. That jealously is followed by guilt for not being able to feel joy for the people you love.
Mourning a loss and functioning around other human beings is really hard, and frankly almost impossible. But, appearing to be a sane human being, mid-cycle, is also an ambitious achievement.
Oral hormones are a fucking bitch. When I was on Clomid, I was possessed with the devil itself. I had zero control over my behavior. I once threw a hoagie at Michael’s face at a rest stop in Colorado, in front of at least 20 people. I physically hit my husband in the face with a ham and cheese hoagie. In public. I then stormed out, sobbing, sweating and screaming. Luckily I’ll never see those people again, but I had many, many similar outbursts in public at local venues.
I had a meltdown at a local shopping mall because my feet were sweating. I physically sat down outside of a Journey’s, and completely broke down. When Michael cautiously approached me, I jumped up at him like some sort of lurched animal. Innocent bystanders just stood there, helpless and afraid, wondering if they should call the psych ward. Or if they should potentially call the cops, thinking my husband is an abused and battered man. As I stood there, with pure insanity in my eyes, hunched over and hyperventilating, the crowd slowly started to disperse. Show’s over folks. Move along.
I could probably write 30 blog posts just on my hormonal flip outs, but we’ll just leave it at those two gems for today.
Okay let’s talk about injections. Whether you’re injecting stimulating hormones twice a day or injecting progesterone and oil, it’s almost impossible to dodge social functions. And honestly, you shouldn’t avoid all social interactions and actually become some sort of recluse. That’s not healthy for anyone.
So what happens when you have to do your shots in public? You become extremely familiar with restaurants and venues that have a family bathroom. And you become extremely aware of the places that don’t. We’ve had to do injections in hallways, single bathrooms, parking lots, etc. If you’re trying to remain private about what you’re going through, sneaking away with your partner can be tricky.
This past Saturday, we went to one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. Everything about the evening was perfect, minus one thing. We had to find a place to administer my progesterone and oil. My clutch was so small it couldn’t hold the needles, gauze, alcohol pads, bandaids, and progesterone itself. Luckily one of my best friends offered to jam her purse full of 1.5 inch needles for me.
At this point in the evening, everyone was getting loose. They had all been sipping drinks, socializing and dancing. So this was a perfect time for us to sneak away…or so we thought. As we approached the family bathroom, I realized I knew every single person standing outside of it.
As the two of us walked in together, it dawned on me that they all probably assumed we were going in there for a quickie. They more than likely thought I was drunk and pulling my husband into the bathroom to get it on. I actually told one of the guys that Michael was just coming in to give me a shot. He laughed and winked at us, unconvinced.
We were in the bathroom for over 15 minutes because for some reason, I shot blood EVERYWHERE. This has happened at weddings in the past, so I think it might have something to do with standing in heels prior to the shot. My ass would not stop bleeding. As I held my dress up, basically over my head, Michael frantically grabbed fistfuls of paper towels and held them on in an attempt to slow the bleeding. In the meantime, people were knocking on the door, needing to get in.
Once we slowed down the bleeding, Michael shoved the remaining paper towels in my underwear as reinforcement. Right before we walked out, we looked around at what appeared to be a fucking massacre in the family bathroom. He quickly wiped up the blood as best as possible and shoved everything into the garbage can.
As I walked back to the table, I could feel the oil and blood slowly dripping down my leg. It was time to go. Our nice evening out came to a screeching halt by one shot in the ass. We snuck out without saying goodbye to anyone, and ran to the car.
As we go through infertility treatments, we try our best to appear like ducks, at least in public. Ducks look very calm on the surface, like they’re gliding through the water with ease. But, underneath they’re paddling like crazy.
But, we’re not ducks, we’re human beings. We’re humans who are paddling hard against the current by injecting and ingesting hormones, coming down from hormones, and coping with loss and anxiety of gain. And though it usually remains under the surface, sometimes it will float to the top for everyone to see.