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Those that have spent any length of time with me know that I don't consider the journey of fertility to be a private one. Inevitably, this means that people will ask me how my battle for a baby is going. Generally, I give the same answer, "It's #$%&!%@ annoying!" (minus the swearing, if I am at work).
I tend to get three distinct responses.
Fertility warriors will trade war stories – and it is a war, a war on your body and a particularly bloody war within your mind. A war that many will never win.
In the middle ground, you have those who ultimately found success but had started the journey. Those in the middle are empathetic to the annoyance of the process.
It is the "never-had-to" people, the lucky people that feel misplaced sympathy with words such as, "I am sorry you are going through this."
I am not sorry. I chose this battle. The never-had-tos are always baffled by the process. Baffled that my typical response goes something like, "It's so annoying. I hate prenatal vitamins."
Those vitamins may seem like an insignificant thing to focus on, given everything else you'll go through, but the warriors know better. If you're a never-had-to, you are probably thinking sure, those pills weren't great, they smelled terrible, they are hard to swallow and they made pooping impossible. If it was your first child, you were probably too excited for the process and happy to be doing right by your fetus to really be put out.
The warriors know prenatal vitamins cripple you with simple math – not months, but days. Days upon days of being tied to those large stinky pills. My math is 1,460. One thousand, four hundred and sixty indisputable daily reminders that I am defective. Popping them on the hopeful days, which feel like sunshine and possibility, but also on the really bad days, stretches of them. On those days, it takes a piece of your soul to swallow a physical reminder of a devastating loss, a false start or the powdery proof that pregnancy may not happen.
One thousand, four hundred and sixty unmerciful reminders are annoying.
I used to be scared of needles, but the warriors master needles. Needles of all types and sizes; needles in all types of body parts. Some needles are long – and I mean could-make-it-through-your-insides long. Some needles are often – the stab-yourself-three-times-a-day-everyday kind of often. If you're a warrior, you know how to get creative with needles and the things that go along with them. You start matching needles and veins to the ability of the nurse. Choosing a vein becomes the focus of your morning routine. If you've been at it for years, you get battle wounds, scar tissue on the good veins, which makes it extra difficult and excruciating to jam for blood.
Expelling a bit of your life force daily is annoying.
Warriors, to your stations! Blood, pee, ultrasound, nurse, pharmacy. Blood, pee, ultrasound, nurse, pharmacy. Blood, pee, ultrasound, nurse, pharmacy. Blood, pee, ultrasound, nurse, pharmacy. Blood, pee, ultrasound, nurse, pharmacy. Blood, pee, ultrasound, nurse, pharmacy. This is the weekly morning march of thousands of warriors.
The newbies bring their husbands, but that usually doesn't last long. The warriors prepare; they are highly efficient. Wear a dress. Don't store your clothes in the change room. This pharmacy will have those drugs in stock. If I wait an extra day to call, that is one less blood test.
Being herded like blue-smocked cattle between stations is annoying.
Unless you've been on all of the warrior drugs, you really won't understand how crazy your life becomes. You won't get what it's like to take the equivalent of a sleeping pill when you wake up and then try to get through a work day. You won't get the level of crazy you feel trying to keep a lid on your jacked up irritability, anxiety and depression around co-workers and family. The if-you-breathe-I-will-cry kind of crazy. Warriors call it the Clomid crazies, named after the ovulatory stimulating drug. If you're like me, you'll try to warn people. However, the warriors will know it won't be enough. It won't be enough to spare people's feelings. Even after you explain how woefully unmanageable it is, they will still feel hurt.
Doing your absolute best and still treating people poorly is annoying.
The worst is the excitement. The warriors know this is the greatest crime. There is a barbaric saying posted on the endless fertility blogs and uttered by nurses and those who haven't really experienced the war: "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." BS!
For those who have been through the worst (shout-out to the miscarriage crew), you don't hope for the best. You worry, you worry about worrying and you try to fight the worry because stress isn't helpful. The warriors hope for another day. A single day. And then another, and another, and another. Until maybe, one day, you won't ever have to make it through just one more day again.
The most annoying part of the process is having to keep a lid on the hope you wish you could allow yourself to have.
For those who spent years in trenches and overcome soul-breaking defeats – I send you a heartfelt salute. I don't have the strength to go where some of you have been.
Oh, and if you are wondering what to say to a warrior, try something like, "I hear that it can be a pretty demanding and frustrating process. Let me know if you ever want to vent about the crazy drugs/lineups/unhelpful medical terms." Because I am pretty sure "unexplained infertility" is just code doctors use for, "We don't know what we are talking about."
(Stupid medical terms, also annoying!)
Jennifer Stubbs lives in Toronto.