Collateral damage. Dictionary.com defines it among other things as “any damage incidental to an activity”. Miriam-Webster calls it, “Injury inflicted on something other than an intended target”. Today I want to give some time and attention to the collateral damage of this infertility process, and to mourn for some of the things that have been lost or altered in my life.
I thought I was going into this with eyes wide open. Really. I had read about the effects of the fertility medications on my mind and body. I knew what kind of damage was going to be inflicted on my bank account due to the treatments. I knew that this was going to be hard on body, mind, and soul. I was ready. Or so I thought. I don’t really think that I understood how many parts of my life would get caught in the crossfire though. I was completely unaware of the injuries that would be sustained in parts of my life I considered to be far from the frontlines of injections and tear stained pillows. One of those parts of my life has been my friendships. The damage didn't happen all at once. It was such a slow shift that at first it was imperceptible. But now, as I peruse Facebook and see smiling faces at events I didn’t attend, with friends I rarely see, I recognize the shifts that have occurred in my friendships, and I feel a surge of anger at Infertility and what she’s taken from me.
I’ve always been lucky to be surrounded by a group of incredible ladies that I’ve been blessed to call my friends. Even after my wedding, my first bout with infertility, and the birth of my son, I was still intentional about creating consistent, meaningful space for my friendships. When I began my struggle with secondary infertility, I didn't think that anything would be different. I was Superwoman- I could handle it all. I could battle infertility and be cool and fun at the same time. We had just started treatments, and since I already had a son, I figured it was just a matter of time. I was in good spirits, and life was still pretty close to normal.
As the months and years wore on though, my life as I knew it slowly transformed. With each failed cycle, I increased my focus on my fertility. The pursuit of fertility started to occupy more and more of my headspace, and each pregnancy loss and failed cycle became harder and harder to bounce back from. As a result the rest of my life became smaller, more restrictive, more stagnant. Instead of being “fun” and “cool”, I felt like it took every ounce of my strength just to stay on top of what I needed to do to conceive and to feel ok while doing it.
Fast forward 2 years… Life now is centered almost exclusively on getting pregnant-. I spend time researching fertility topics, emailing clinics, looking up donors, cooking the right “fertility friendly” foods, doing fertility yoga, getting to acupuncture, giving myself injections, running to appointments, making sure I have enough sleep to grow a healthy egg, eliminating all toxins from my life, and monitoring my cycle. Life is at the same time so regimented, and yet completely unpredictable. At any moment I may be in the middle of a cycle or grieving over a failed cycle (I am not fit for human consumption in those moments). So, in order to be able to manage all of it, I’ve started turning down social invitations, and rarely extend any myself anymore. Poor sleep is bad for my cycle so I can’t stay out late. I have to give myself injections at certain times in the evenings, so I need to be at home those days. Happy hours? I’m staying away from alcohol and it’s tiring to keep explaining why I’m only having water all the time. Meet for a mani/pedi?- I’m avoiding nail polish because of all the phthalates. Shopping trips? Sorry ladies, I would, but I have no money for clothes with all these IVF rounds, and besides- why buy clothes when you keep thinking you’re about to get pregnant. Pilates and Zumba classes? I’m laying low during the TWW, and I feel bloated and uncomfortable during stims, so I have to pass. I haven’t traveled to see out of town friends for years, and girl’s weekends or daytrips are a problem for all the reasons above. Infertility is a logistical nightmare where I can never predict my availability, so it’s just easier to say no.
This state of limbo also makes it hard to have meaningful conversations with friends. I dread the standard, “What’s up?”. When I ask my friends this question I’m treated to stories about vacations, good times with friends, date nights, kids. When the question is directed towards me I have nothing to say, because nothing’s “up”. I’m in limbo. I haven’t been on any vacations, or read any great books, or started a new hobby, or hit a great exercise class, or checked out a new wine bar. Nothing. I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing every week for two years. I’m still reading fertility books and blogs. I’m still making wheatgrass shots and green juice, and cooking fertility friendly meals. I’m still injecting myself with hormones. I’m still obsessing during the TWW. I’m still crying over another failed cycle. That’s it. I’m exhausted just thinking about it, and I don’t want to expend the energy trying to explain it to people who haven’t been there and just don’t really understand, so I just say something about how busy I am juggling work and my son and leave it at that. It’s hard to be living a life completely consumed by infertility, and not to be able to really talk about it. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay home, to keep my energy close, and to focus on surviving.
Don’t get me wrong- I still have good friends who allow me the space to be authentic and talk about my struggles, and I cherish them immensely. Even so, I grieve the friendships that are becoming more distant and I miss those people who used to be a bigger part of my life. I see many of my friendships starting to fade into the distance, and even though my mind wants to chase them and to tell them to wait up for me, I know those words wouldn’t be honest, because I have no idea of how long infertility will hold me hostage, and I have no idea what kind of person I’ll be when I emerge.
Like it or not, infertility is a transformative process that changes not only us, but our relationships too. Some may simply survive infertility, others may transform into something deeper, and others may fade as we move in directions. Whatever happens, I’m thankful for everyone who has touched my life along the way.
Thank you all for sharing this space with me tonight! Sending good energy your way.
"The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surrounding". Kakuzo Okakura (The Book Of Tea)