Infertility, Poison Ivy and What We Wear On Our Outside
Did you ever have one of those days?
For instance, you have a really important business meeting. With someone you want to impress. With someone where you would really like to put your best foot forward.
You wake up in the morning (having picked out a great outfit the night before), and there it is. Poison ivy all over your face. Itchy. Ugly. Blotchy. Undeniable and right out there in the open.
There is no hiding it.
Yeah, one of those days.
And yet, I still compare a day like that to a day in fertility treatment where I sat waiting for test results.
Where wearing my heart on my sleeve was not wearing poison ivy on my face.
Sitting in my classroom, full of enthusiastic, noisy and wonderful first graders, wondering if I would ever have the joy of picking up my own after school. Full of messy hands and a lovingly painted picture just for me.
The Effects of Infertility
Those days, my insides were not stamped on my face. My infertility didn’t affect my way of walking or speaking. I didn’t have a splint or a cast and I didn’t need to use a wheel chair. If I put on a bright enough, shiny enough face, no one would ever guess what I was going through. There would not have to be any explanations for my hurt because it was so deep inside.
My mask some days was much more intact than others. There were days where an innocent enough question would reach deep inside and twist what was already hurting. I would smile and do my best to not let it show through my smile.
I wonder now, sitting here, with poison ivy all over my face. Uncomfortable to feel, uncomfortable to look through and surely uncomfortable to look at, how it would have been to go through infertility with it stamped all over my face.
I wonder how the lack of privacy would have affected me. I wonder about the comfort that was often not available precisely because my troubles were not visible and I chose not to share; I wonder if I had made a different choice, how my life might have been.
I wonder about being stared at today. For just one day. I wonder what it would be like if I had to endure that as well with infertility. The looks of pity or disgust or compassion. I wonder if I had to live my life with my hurts marked all over my face.
What if every time I felt disappointment, that word magically appeared on my forehead? What if it faded to say relief? Then morphed into quiet joy?
What if we were open books and what we were going through was plain for all to see because it was all over our faces?
For today, my infirmity and discomfort is there. Some will ignore it. Some will stare. Some will offer unsolicited advice. Some will turn away.
Sending love out to my friends and family who have always just quietly been patient and loving with me. Throughout all my infertility trials and tribulations. And throughout poison ivy as well.
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My blog today is all about questions and privacy. Perhaps pieces that you are all ready thinking about, talking about and considering. Privacy is about boundaries and limits. How do you ensure that you are setting limits that you feel truly comfortable with?
How do you feel about sharing information about your fertility treatment? Do you and your partner (if you have one) make the decision together? Do you limit the details about your IVF cycle, avoiding issues like how much medication you are taking or how and when the medications need to be injected? What about discussing how many embryos you have created? How many embryos you will transfer back to optimize your chances of a successful pregnancy? There's also the very sticky issue of what you will do with embryos that have been created that will not be transferred. (Check out the Newsweek web exclusive on January 20th that focuses on one of my closest friends, Pamela Madsen. Article is titled "What Happens to Leftover Embryos?" www.newsweek.com/id/231697/page/1)
How much privacy do you need to feel comfortable with yourself? Are you more concerned with those asking questions of you than with your own need for privacy? Does the "nice" come out in you, making you think you "should" answer questions that actually make you uncomfortable?
Do you have answers that you use that they are respectful answers to both you and the person doing the asking? Do you wish that you had answers right on the tip of the tongue for those times that you are not expecting a question or that specific question? Do you sometimes feel that once you have answered the first question, you almost have no choice but to continue to answer questions? That somehow, you have opened the door and therefore need to satisfy all that someone else wants to know?
Want to know why I'm asking these questions? (I did say this blog was mainly about questions.) Here's one of the few answers that I have for you today. I think that our learning how to answer questions, create limits and allow ourselves privacy about our infertility cycles and treatment ripples out to the rest of our lives. I think it is one of the most positive, silver linings to the struggles of infertility. Learning how to create privacy, (different from secrecy and shame, that's a different blog!) is a lifelong lesson that has served me very well.
Infertility taught me how to smile and answer exactly and precisely what I want, how I want and how much I want. A silver lining that I bring into all aspects of my life.