A classic cliche compares undergoing fertility treatment to riding rollercoaster. I disagree, most sincerely.
First, I would never willingly get on an intense rollercoaster–I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to amusement parks. Mostly, though, fertility treatment is nothing like a rollercoaster because at least the path of a rollercoaster can be anticipated and controlled. A person can look up any rollercoaster online, watch a first-person video of the thing, talk to friends who have ridden it, and compare it to earlier experiences of his or her own. It’s entirely possible to anticipate the exact time, length, and expense of a rollercoaster ride.
Fertility treatments are nothing but surprises, and not many of them are fun. I would compare the process not to a rollercoaster and but to tandem parachuting in your underwear, blindfolded, wearing earplugs, and barefoot, on a stormy night, toward fields pocked with poison ivy, hornet nests, and really snarky chihuahuas. Don’t worry: your parachute functions, and your partner is strapped to you tightly–you’re not going to die out there. You will, however, jump into the unknown feeling completely vulnerable. There’s no telling until you’ve hit the ground if you will manage to find one of the clear patches of soft grass (and have yourself a baby), or if you’ll be suffering some kind of pain or brutal irritation.
The kicker? Every jump requires your annihilating your credit card, or draining your savings, or signing a loan from the Bank of Mom and Dad. All in the hopes your jump will be a success.
I have waited in the appropriately titled antechamber at Dr. Miracle’s office countless times now, quietly watching the folks around us. We’re all there with the same goal, more or less, and every one of us will experience the parachute jump differently. I’ve never been marinated in stress the way I have sitting in the vinyl upholstered chairs of the fertility clinic. Stress seeps from every human sitting in those horrid chairs, thick as stew.
You know that unmistakable smell you can also taste as soon as you walk into a dentist’s office? There is an odour just as distinct at the fertility clinic. There are medical smells, of course, but more than anything is the scent of people bowed under a significant burden. Perfumed products are strictly forbidden in the clinic, so there is nothing to cover the realities of people under duress. It hits me as soon as I step into the elevator dedicated to Dr. Miracle’s office, and clings to me even as I drive home afterward.
Every person there is thinking, thinking, thinking about their dive into the unknown. Almost no one speaks, even to their partners. The closest thing I can compare it to is being at a funeral where people are mired deeply in their own thoughts and emotions, and don’t interact with one another.
Depending on age, genetics, health, and a pile of other factors including luck, some people parachute once and land where they need to to create their family. Even a successful jump will forever change them, despite the baby they dream about being safe in their arms. Others could jump repeatedly until there is nothing left of their health and finances and relationships, and have nothing to show for it. Thinking about those folks, and the possibility we could be among them, crushes me.
My intention isn’t for this post to be a downer. I’m not trying to whine about our circumstances, either. Infertility is the card The Electrician and I were dealt, and I think we’re playing our hand like champions. The truth is, even knowing with utter certainty that I could not be pregnant with my own children, I was not prepared for the emotional and physical brutality of infertility treatment and in-vitro fertilization–mostly because few people ever talk about it. I’ll be writing more about our IVF process soon.
Struggling to have babies is still, inexplicably, a taboo subject, something one rarely discusses in polite company.
Let’s not compare infertility to a rollercoaster, something brief and frivolous everyone can imagine or compare to their own experiences.
Maybe we should stop glossing over an process that changes people and their relationships to their marrow.
If you’re out there in Internet Land, and planning your first jump or your fifth, The Electrician and I send you love. We wish you safe and successful parachuting.