Friday, August 6, 2010

Six losses related to permanent infertility

My fellow blogger friend over at sparkly things distract me (having trouble linking to her blog for some reason) wrote a series of posts a while back about the six significant losses related to permanent infertility.  Even though we all know about these things--have probably thought about many of them in great detail--she found it to be a helpful exercise, and ever since reading her posts, I have been wanting to explore the topic myself.

Now that MM and I are exploring the possibility of pursuing an extremely expensive family-building option, I thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on what I would miss out on if we decided instead of spending $30K+ to just remain childless.  (An option that MM is thus far unwilling to consider, as evidenced by the disapproving look he gave me when I suggested it recently during one of our conversations about "how will we pay for DE IVF?")
The six losses I'm talking about are listed below in the order that I believe they currently affect me, with the most difficult loss being first.
1) the opportunity to parent.
2) the joint conception of a child with one’s life partner;
3) individual genetic continuity linking past and future;
4) control over many aspects of life;
5) the emotional gratifications of pregnancy and birth; and
6) the physical satisfactions of pregnancy and birth.

At the beginning, I probably would have ranked the loss of "control over many aspects of life" number one. I have written here many times and at length about my desire to have plans and to be working toward goals. The most difficult things in my life have been those things over which we have little-to-no control. . . . things like happiness, love, and friendship. I would love to be one of those people who has a Zen-like inner peace about life, but that's definitely not me.

Over the past two years, though, I have pretty much come to term with the fact that motherhood, like the other desirable and difficult-to-attain things in my personal life which I mentioned above, is mostly outside my control. Yes, I can have appropriately-timed sex, abstain from alcohol, change my diet, do acupuncture, and even use fertility drugs, but ultimately it will not be up to me whether any of my actions ever results in an actual living baby.

Though I am still far from serene and accepting about the process of TTC, I think that I have mostly mourned the loss of control over many aspects of my life and moved past it. Sure, I still occasionally get annoyed when matters related to TTC, or uncertainty about whether we will ever be parents, present themselves in everyday decision-making about my life, but I am no longer as wrought-up about my lack of control as I once was. (I will frankly admit, though, how I do still envy those who have conceived readily, easily and on their own timetables! We all know women like this, and it's hard for me not to hate them.)

The most painful loss for me, should we end up truly being permanently infertile, will be the loss of the opportunity to parent. Although, in retrospect, I sometimes question how important being a mother someday was to me during the many years I spent putting it off--because I thought I had plenty of time, I was waiting for the right partner to come along, I was pursuing my career(s), I wanted to go back to school, I needed to be making more money to be a single mother--the fact remains that being a mother is something that I have always envisioned as part of my life.  I have pictured myself with my baby (who is nearly always a girl in my imaginings) since I was babysitting as a teenager.

I think I would make a darn fine mom, too, and I am not the only one who thinks so. Since my early teens, people have remarked to me on a regular basis that I would make a great mother someday and commented about how great I am with children. (The latter part, at least, is true most of the time: very few children who spend some time with me don't like me.) Friends and even coworkers have continued to tell me this regularly throughout the time we have been TTC.

I have an affinity for, and comfort with, children that many people lack. For years, I've been friends' "go to" person with questions and comments about children, partly because I am a former nurse, but also because everyone who knows me well knows how much I love kids. I've often joked that, had I been born in an earlier era, I would probably have at least 12 children by now.

So loss of the opportunity to parent definitely tops my list. Yes, I can fulfill that need to a small extent by loving on my golden retrievers, by being an excellent auntie and godmother, by nurturing friends and family, and by volunteering with children--all things that I already do--but never having the experience of parenting my own child is the loss that hurts the most. This loss is the one that brings tears to my eyes every time I think about (even as I am typing this).

I think the fact that this loss is the biggest one for me is what makes me open to considering DE IVF.  If we went that route and were successful, at least I could still be a mother.


  1. Reading your post brings back all those earlier emotions and thoughts I had about DE. But in time, my heart told me what direction to take. It was at times painful and for the most part it is much better. Just know that there will be a day and every hour is closer to that day when you make your decision.

  2. This is such an excellent post. I've been struggling with so many of the same things you're talking about. I'm in the middle of an IVF cycle right now and it's time to think about "what next?" DE is where I'm leaning. I'm having the hardest time giving up on #2 on your list, and I'm not quite sure what mourning that loss is going to look like, but I feel it starting. And it doesn't seem like it'll be pretty.

  3. i am really sorry that your #2 and #3 are so high on your list. they used to be important for me/us, too, so i DO understand it...that was why i had to work through the list with dh so completely. WHY were they so high?

    if they stayed high, we would have just ended up not having kids, i'm pretty sure. we didn't want to put up the $$$ for donor egg after the money we flushed on IVF. no more of that.

    one reason i had ranked genetics high was because i wanted to have link to my mom. i miss her so much. that might have been the strongest point for me.

    i had an epiphany on that point of course...

    and the cost of what we are doing, as opposed to DE is astronomical. that is what helped RD get over the loss of his "genetic" profile being reproduced! (that, and he really looked at his gene pool and thought...why am i holding on to this again?)

    i was so far from DEm when i started TTC - i thought it was crazy. but now i'm an advocate, and it hasn't even worked for me!

    i know that you are not interested in DEm right now...just can't pass up an opportunity to throw it out there.


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