A Rock, A Hard Place & A Truck Walked Into a Bar...
Infertility. The ability to make a choice, to have more than one option, is how I describe independence, liberation- even freedom. When choices are awful- one worse than the other- what then? Is it still even a choice when your heart’s desire isn’t available and the possibilities that are don’t even exist within the same galaxy?
Is it a choice when it’s only about which we will detest the least?
A rock, a hard place, and getting run over by a truck?
A favorite book of mine, read during my darkest days in the disease of infertility, written by Jean and Michael Carter- Sweet Grapes, gently and lovingly brought me to understand the ways in which I still had choices.
I had the choice on how to look at something. I had the choice to go into fertility counseling when I was struggling so hard but still felt like I was drowning with the sadness of infertility. I had the choice to finally confide in a few trusted beloveds to get support. I had the choice to ask so many questions that I knew “I was that patient my doctors hid from.” I had the choice to get a second opinion...(and a third). I had the choice to reconsider things I had long ago decided I would never do. I had the choice of seeing where I was, what I wanted and instituting a major life course correction.
Making Choices About How to See My Life
I had choices even if my first pick was unavailable, so far away that it felt unsurmountable to attain.
There are no easy answers when a life crisis hits, that’s what I found out. It’s part of the very meaning of crisis! Here are some very accepted definitions of the word crisis:
- a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
synonyms: emergency, disaster, catastrophe, calamity
- a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.
- "a crisis point of history"
- the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.
Check Out That Last One Again-
"the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death."
For six and a half years, I tried to have a baby. Occasionally, when I bring that number up, my husb
and asks me to round that number down to six years. After all, what's the difference? Six years, six and a half years...either way, it's a very long time. But I'm sure you know what my response was and continues to be. NO way.
Those "extra" six months contained all the ups and downs of hoping, waiting for my period, praying I didn’t get it, wondering if fertility treatment worked, hearing about two friends’ pregnancies.
Nope, I claim each and every single one of those 78 months of infertility and everything I experienced during that time.
Shifting My Perspective or Looking at Things From Upside Down
The last year of my quest to have a baby was when recovery took place. It might sound melodramatic to say it was either going to be recovery or death, but really, it wasn't far from it. Those 66 months of hoping, praying and action to have a baby had taken its toll on me...and all those around me. I did not recognize the woman who stared back at me from the bathroom mirror. And I knew that I was losing.... the battle to have a baby, but I was also losing myself. As in, the peculiar and specific set of senses that made me the unique individual I am. My sense of humor was first. Then my sense of fun. Then my sense of compassion. Quickly followed by empathy. A downward spiral.
It was during that last year when I read Sweet Grapes, the light switch flipped and I knew something had to be different.
I made the choice to shift.
What Else Was Out There?
I investigated childfree living.
I read about it, asked questions about it, and considered it. I scheduled a consult with my fertility specialist to discuss stopping treatment.
The focus on baby making eased up and was replaced by a focus on acceptance.
I admitted to myself that there wasn’t and might never be a baby – an undeniable and decidedly unlovely fact.
That thought burned the house down.
And from the ashes, the phoenix rose.
The hardest thing I have ever faced, hands down, was the loss of my life's dream...having a baby of my own.
But when I faced that, I found myself.
I was there, after all, perhaps sadder, older, more tired.
But also, wiser, stronger, brighter, confident, more resilient.
And I had more choices.
Embracing what I had was the first choice that I made. Noticed my husband, there through all of it, as imperfectly as I had been was still there. My sisters. My friends.
Started writing. It poured out. Started drawing, the colors were not surprisingly intense. I resumed fertility counseling with a feverish like commitment, with a different focus- how to live in my life as it was.
The New, But Still Familiar, Me
And I looked into the mirror and recognized that yes, I was the woman I had been at the beginning of this quest.
And I was markedly different. My infertility had shaped me- my strength was apparent, perspective sharp and keen (little stuff was seen clearly as little stuff). Resilience and adaptability were new and brought a confidence that I was more than capable, I was actually indestructible.
My choice was to embrace the beautiful woman I saw in the mirror.
And I choose to embrace you too, wherever you are on your journey.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.