Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tagged with Infertility

Just as this post carries the infertility tag, so have we, my husband and I, become tagged with infertility. It has become part of who we are; both as individuals and as a couple. The tag indicates that we have some kind of problem (or problems) which has the consequence that we are childless after trying to conceive for many years. In our case the nature of the problem is unknown. Our infertility is thus not (at least to our knowledge) a medical condition or an illness, but a state. Something we are, not something we have. The reproductive interventions we have tried (IUI), and are about to embark on (IVF), does not treat or cure our infertility nor does it solve our unknown problem(s). Fertility ‘treatment’ is rather an attempt at bypassing our infertility and thus hopefully helping us have a baby.

This experience of being infertile has slowly but surely become part of our identity. Acknowledging that fact is difficult and painful, as I was reminded after starting this blog on Saturday. I have only cried a few times throughout the last 5,5 year years of trying for a baby, but yesterday I cried. Really cried. The blog somehow made the reality of the tag more immediate, more concrete, more real. I just wanted to delete it! And forget that I ever even considered writing a blog reflecting on my experience of infertility and fertility treatment. I wanted to scream – ‘this is not me, this is not who I am’.

But it is! That is the reality. At different stages over the last 5,5 years, we have either focused on trying to conceive naturally, been in fertility treatment or tried to escape it all and focus on other things instead. The experience of being infertile however is always with us regardless of the different strategies we have employed to deal with it. And maybe it always will be. Even if/when we do have a child some day. My blog is still here because I have to accept the tag of infertility and try to get to grips with what it means for our life.

One of the aspects that comes to mind is an experience of loss of control combined with the feeling of being betrayed by our own bodies. Our bodies are in a sense denying us the possibility of choice and control. Something so central to most people’s identities in contemporary Western society, including myself and my husband. Not even an explanation are we granted, nor knowledge of problems to which their are solutions. Something which might have had the potential to restore some sense of control. Instead we live in a state of indeterminacy and unpredictability. Unable to affect our own destinies. Or so it feels, because not even advanced reproductive technologies has so far been able to provide any sense of control.

Another aspect of what it means to be infertile is the feeling of being trapped in a liminal life stage ‘betwixt and between’ the normal and recognised life stages. We belong neither with, for instance, the 30-somethings who are mostly single and still partying, nor with those who have children and have become families. We are in a very concrete sense prevented from moving along the culturally and socially excepted life-path. We have been prevented (so far) from becoming parents and becoming a family. An event which marks important changes in social roles, identity and relationships with others. We are getting older every day like everyone else, but we cannot move along in life and in time accordingly. You might say it is like living ‘on pause’ in a state of social non-belonging. Thus being infertile is a kind of non-identity as opposed to the identity of being a parent. A sense of not being a ‘real woman’ or a ‘real man’. And it carries with it a fundamental sense of social exclusion and maybe even a specific kind of meaninglessness. ‘Who’ and ‘what’ are we to become if not parents?

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How it all began

It’s Saturday. I’m sitting here by the computer looking out on the canal from the window of our apartment in Amsterdam. The sun is shining inbetween the rain showers. The weather seems as erratic and changing as my emotions. I decided yesterday to start this blog about the experience of going through fertility treatment. Yesterday I got that phone call from the hospital again – you know the one where a sweet nurse tells you that the blood test was negative. I’m not pregnant. As usual…

We have been trying to have a baby for over 5 years now. Apart from all the ‘at home trying’, we have been through IUI six times. 3 years ago we went though three IUI attempts, then decided to stop fertility treatment. At that time we lived in Copenhagen and the hospital there suggested moving on with IVF. We didn’t want to, at least not then. It felt too drastic somehow. Especially since there seemed to be no clear indication as to the cause of our infertility. So we figured why not give nature another chance, we had after all only been trying for a baby for 2 years at that time. I was 34 then, there should be plenty of time. We made peace with the situation and moved on with life. Shortly after an opportunity came to move to Amsterdam. We took it. It felt like a relief, as if we could escape from the experience of infertility by embracing a new, exciting, expat life in another great European city.

But with time and distance came the thoughts. Should we have continued? Did we make the wrong decision? The dream of having a baby and becoming a family was still there. Eventually we decided to try fertility treatment again since nothing has happened naturally in the mean time. So now we have just been through another three IUI cycles. The hospital here in Amsterdam insisted on trying IUI again, even though we had already tried it before. Again it has been to no prevail and again the doctors suggest IVF. This time we will do it. I’m 37 now and we are running out of time.

I’m starting this blog to make sense of my experience of infertility and fertility treatment and try to create a better understanding of what it means for us who go through it and our lives, bodies, relationships and identities. In the process I hope that lots of you, who are on the same journey, will also share your experiences and thoughts.