Monday, March 25, 2013

The importance of remembering

This past week has been a busy one. While most people spend Spring Break traveling to exotic locations, indulging in vices or catching up on sleep, I traveled with two undergraduate students to a scientific meeting to present our research. I've been attending this meeting for almost 9 years and though I loathe the preparation involved (proofing posters, rehearsing talks and figuring out ferry schedules), I always enjoy the interactions with colleagues, hearing new developments and catching up with friends. Add in the fact that this meeting is held at Friday Harbor Labs and the result is a very happy and refreshed Cristy.

Lodging at FHL
There was an unexpected benefit of being at the meeting. Though I was prepared for the questions that would come about my changing physique, what I wasn't expecting was what I would learn while talking with others that were on the other side of painful journeys. As I talked with graduate students who were finishing, postdocs in the middle of funding decisions and even faculty members who were there to support their students as well as share ideas, one message came across time and again: graduate school was a life-altering experience, with some painful moments. Yet to have not gone through that pain would have limited all of them in their develop for who they are today. Something that I completely agree with. But the difference from this time vs. others was hearing the similarities in the stories from the finishing grads with what stories I've seen in the ALI community. And even though the end goal is different, the general feelings of isolation, despair and bitterness are not.

I've noticed a trend in the community that's been disturbing me more as of late. A trend to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of "bringing home baby." Too often, I watch bloggers who write about difficulties in life, be they marriage, family or even severe cases of believing they deserve the pain of infertility and loss, throw all care and concern aside once they receive the coveted BFP. Granted, I'm incredibly happy for each and every single one of them. But what worries me is that there's this assumption that somehow having a baby will make everything right in the world.

Marriage on the rocks? Family is abusive or neglectful? Feeling like you are utterly worthless as a human being and that there is no purpose in life? A baby will fix it all! After all, babies are sweet, quiet, adorable angels that will ALWAYS love you and would never-ever be a source of stress.

The other trend is that in the process of embracing this, there's an abandonment of what has been learned along the way. Yes, I know I'm going to get hell for this one, but seeing bloggers post 2WW symptoms before a BFP (never mind that many of those same symptoms could easily be pre-AF symptoms) or start issuing platitudes like "just relax!" or "eat pineapple!" all with the intention of "educating" those still in the trenches on how exactly to achieve pregnancy makes me wonder what they are thinking. After all, do platitudes and "advice" that demoralizes hurt any less coming from an ALIer?

The conversations I had during the conference with colleagues, both those still in the throws of graduate school, those who are still hoop-jumping and even those who remember all too well the experience was about how valuable the pain of the experience was. Granted, no one wishes a dead-end project, lack of funding or unemployment on anyone, but without going through the experience none of us would have learned how to recognize these situations and either avoid going down these rabbit-holes or how to manage them better.

The same can be said with infertility and loss. Because of this experience, I learned how to identify doctors I could work with. I learned to defend myself and my family, despite it being uncomfortable for others. I made those difficult decisions to end cycles of abuse so that my children can grow up free from patterns that are so destructive. And I learned to love myself, all the broken parts and flaws. Don't get me wrong: I would never wish the pain of infertility and loss on anyone. But, because of infertility, I am a better person. I am more aware of my actions and my role in the world. And, most importantly, I'm no longer afraid of being an outcast or being unaccepted. Because of infertility, I can finally be comfortable being me. And I cannot begin to express how proud I am of myself and Grey to making the decisions we did along the way.

My point, though one that will be unpopular, is that it's important to remember what you've learned from this journey and not assume that a baby will heal you. Too often, I've seen relationships dissolve a few months after baby is born. I've watched children grow up in broken homes with parents who refuse to put aside their bitterness for their children. But I've also seen couples who've ended their fertility journey without a baby go on to lead full lives. I've witnessed love and joy that could only have come from embracing the pain, fixing what could be fixed and accepting what could not be.

Is this an easy road? No, far from it. But like graduate school, those who are most successful in life rarely take the easy road. Instead they take the road that gets them to where they want to be. They take the road that will lead to their happy ending.


  1. I absolutely LOVED your post today! I also got a few chuckles on things you mentioned that I see all the time!

    Loving your yourself and learning to prioritize your life is hard work, but definitely necessary for true happiness.

    Hope you are feeling well :) Hi babies!

  2. I agree with the 2WW symptom spotting, for sure! So annoying. In fact, I still don't have symptoms 9 weeks AFTER a BFP, so there goes that theory. :)

    I also couldn't imagine relying on a baby to solve other life problems. If anything, I'm really worried that it will have a negative impact -- on my relationship with my husband, on my career -- but then I'm overwhelmed by guilt for feeling that when I should be nothing but grateful.

    Glad to hear the meeting went well!

  3. Beautiful post!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ahhh! 20 (eeekkk) years ago this summer, dh & I flew to Vancouver, where we met my mom & then took the ferry over to Victoria for a few days... then got on a bus that got onto another ferry from Sidney to Anacortes & on to Seattle -- where we spent some time with my great-aunt in Edmonds & in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The ferry went through the San Juan Islands & made a couple of stops, including Friday Harbour. The ferry was one of my favourite parts about the trip, and I always thought the San Juan Islands were someplace I'd like to return to... someday...! Glad you had a relaxing time.

    Anyway, getting back on topic...! While I have no experience to go by ; ) I think you are right that a baby does not automatically solve all your problems (and isn't that a pretty heavy burden to place on such small shoulders anyway?). There are many roads that could lead to a happy ending in life... they won't all go the same route or wind up in the same place, and there are bumps and ruts on all of them. But it's not like one road leads to happiness and the others don't, or that one way is better than the other. (That's why it's so darned hard to choose sometimes...!)

  5. I can relate to these lessons in both realms! Thanks for them.

    Also, I'm with Vanessa. I've always feared that a baby will change things so drastically for us that something bad will happen. I think that's just my typical fear of the unknown, though. ;)

  6. Your insights are so helpful for this community. Thanks for posting!

  7. I agree with some of what you wrote (of course a baby won't fix a troubled marriage, etc), but I would also caution you to not judge or criticize how others choose to "remember" the pain of an ALI journey or how they choose to handle the stress of another 2ww or celebrate a longed for pregnancy. Just as everyone's journey to parenthood is different, even (especially?) within the ALI community, so to is it different how each individual processes emotions and chooses to live their life post-ALI. To each their own, and if someone wants to eat pineapple core around implantation time and post a belly pic at 4w after that first positive beta - how does that have anything to do with you, and how does that make them any less part of the ALI community?

    1. First off, thank you for the comment!

      My issue is never with belly pics or with consuming certain foods to increase fertility. My issue is with when people begin offer "advice" on how to achieve pregnancy. I get that the intention is meant well, but what is forgotten is how those same comments can be so hurtful to anyone still in the trenches. That there's amnesia that develops once a BFP is achieved.

      That said, I'm all for people celebrating hard-won pregnancies. I refuse to judge anyone regarding how they chose to make it through those 9 months, celebrating milestones along the way.

  8. I agree. I've seen a few that throw care to the wind when it comes to their marriages.

  9. Your analogy to grad school is a good one.

    I'm not saying that age makes you more empathetic, but I do think experience does. The more we've been through, the more we "get" what different situations can be like for others, and the more sensitive we can be to them.

    And we also get better at advocating for and making decisions for ourselves. And we're more likely to see the long view and factor it in more prominently in decision-making.

    Very thought-provoking.

  10. I certainly have no pre-baby amnesia, that's for sure.

    It does bother me that some people choose to keep trying for a pregnancy when their relationship is spiraling into something bad. I read a few blogs that make it obvious a woman is not in a healthy marriage and still makes trying to conceive the main priorty. That, or the husband may not really want more kids and they still keep pushing. It's hard to read and I wish there was a way to reach out and tell them to get the rest of their life in order before getting into the craziness of IVF.

  11. IF will always be a part of me, but the journey has taught me it's just a part, not the whole. I think that has been the hardest lesson.


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