The Long Road

(Okay, this shit is a little heavy. That’s just where I am today, okay?)

This morning, I was listening to the news and there was a story about a family coping with the current flooding in Texas. Their home had been flooded up to two feet, and they were now  sorting through what could be saved and what could not.

The couple, originally from Canada, had two different views (or at least how the story framed it up.) Though both were upset, the mother was on the verge of tears. She recounted how she ran around the house gathering up her children’s favorite toys, books, and other memories before they could get destroyed by the water. She was audibly emotional when she told the reporter that her grandparents’ chest was likely ruined. This wasn’t what she wanted for her family or her kids.

The father, on the other hand, said something along the lines of “I think this is good for my children to experience struggle. It’s good for them to see what recovery looks like.”

And I’ve been thinking about this all morning. What does “recovery” look like?

I’ve often thought about infertility as I would any other disease. Getting pregnant isn’t a cure, but more a temporary treatment. I will always be infertile, just as someone who has had cancer will have always had cancer, even if they are in remission. Or an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, even if they haven’t actively relapsed.

[Before I continue, I want to be 100% clear. I don’t mean to be flippant about cancer or alcoholism. These are serious diseases, and I have nothing but compassion for people who have experienced them.]

Pregnancy doesn’t erase infertility like it never happened. I think of it almost like a skip in the record, one that jumps to the next track without warning. Treatment allowed me to temporarily become “fertile” so I can to have and maintain a pregnancy. After Chick is born, it isn’t like I’ll magically be able to get pregnant without a whole lotta scientific intervention. This, in a sense, isn’t curable as much as it is by-pass-able.

Which brings me back to my original question… If I’ll always be infertile, what does my recovery look like? What does it mean to put myself back together once the metaphorical waters have subsided?

The thing about recovery is that it also implies wreckage, doesn’t it? Going back to the couple in Texas for a minute… their home was destroyed, and recovery meant going through what could be salvaged and what had to be thrown out. In order to recover, you have to recognize that something happened, that you can’t just go back to how things were, that there are pieces of your life you can’t save. Even the things you loved most, like your grandparents chest or your child’s beloved toy. You have to let go of them, or else they could carry toxic mold spores. (Perhaps I’m taking this flood analogy too far…)

There is a thread here that connects to my recent fatwa on Spring. I’m not “over” infertility. I can’t just go back to my life before the repeated disappointments, frustration, and heartache. As with my mother’s death, I realize there is no getting past this. Like natural disasters, these things happened to me, tore me apart, and I have no choice but to look at my life differently now.

It sounds cliched, but recovery is a long process. I’m now admitting to myself that it is taking a lot longer than I would like it to. Can’t I just skip over the hard part where I don’t cry everyday about how much I miss my mom, or wake up at 3:00 am convinced something is going to go wrong with my pregnancy? I want a goddamn easy button for this.

It isn’t that I don’t respect struggle. In a sense, human beings were born to struggle. It’s how we learn everything from walking to feeding ourselves to changing our tires. Who we are is forged, and that process can be hard and ugly and painful.

Maybe that’s what recovery looks like. It’s hard. It’s painful. And it can’t be easy.

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7 comments

  1. julieann081 · May 28, 2015

    This is so beautiful and honest. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I only have a minute to respond, but I wanted to tell you that after cancer, patients are told that they have to find their “new normal.” This is something I have struggled with because it’s like being urged to forget what happened (or cope with it very quickly) and get used to how things are going to be now (even though parts of your body are gone and you may be experiencing PTSD, etc.). I think there is an expectation with infertility that you will find a “new normal” too – at least that exists in the non-IF world. I don’t have any answers, but I wanted to share that I see that similarity also and like you, I think that dealing with such difficult things can take a very, very long time. I’m not sure what recovery looks like, but for me, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time – for cancer and eventually infertility. Much love to you! ❤

    • thecommonostrich · June 11, 2015

      Whereas I agree with the idea of finding a “new normal” I don’t think anyone realizes just how hard that is. You do have to say good bye to a lot of things that you may have loved (even, as you point out, physical bits of yourself.) That is a long process, and so many people underestimate that this isn’t just something a platitude can fix.

      For me, there are so many times when I just hate what I’ve been through and I get really sad. Then a few months go by, and I realize I’ve made peace with some bit of it. Other times, I realize that I will always be upset about a certain aspect or moment, and strangely it helps me to know that. Even by admitting that I will not truly every “get over” something helps me let it go.

      • julieann081 · June 13, 2015

        Thank you for sharing this. I agree that there is comfort in knowing that perhaps I may not “get over” something. Best wishes to you! ❤

  2. My Perfect Breakdown · May 28, 2015

    If you find the easy button can you pass it my way when you are done with it? I learned a long time ago that people, myself specifically, cannot just magically cure themselves overnight. Recovery takes years and sometimes even an entire lifetime. I know my grief associated with my mom and sisters death is going to ebb and flow, some days/years are harder then others, and some are easier. So to me now, my new normal, after significant family deaths and now RPL will always change. I feel that accepting that change and being able to get through the bad days will be one of the most critical parts to a successful “recovery” – I may not even be graceful on the bad unexpected days, but I will get through it and I hope the next day will be better.
    Love to you my friend as you work through all these emotions.

    • thecommonostrich · June 11, 2015

      So true…It’s been like a bolt of lightening for me– the days when things feel truly awful are usually the ones that eventually help me the most. Ironic, eh? I like too the idea that normal changes. Since we aren’t static human beings, our attitudes and feelings toward our life experiences will evolve too.

      Thank you for this insight. I feel like I learn a little more each day about how to make my way through this stuff.

  3. lucy50 · May 29, 2015

    I’ve thought a lot about this. Recovery from IF is not having a baby. You’re right. It’s letting go. I’m still a little bitter I didn’t get a candlelight conception. Then I was induced, so I felt robbed of my spontaneous labor. Acceptance is a hard thing.

  4. thecommonostrich · June 11, 2015

    Exactly. So many people expect that once you have a baby it miraculously erases everything else. There is something to be said for just accepting a situation or experience was crap, rather than trying desperately to find a silver lining. IT’S OKAY FOR THINGS TO SUCK.

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