I’m 7 days from cycling again, and I’m so damn ready to move forward. I’m ready to start posting obligatory pictures of my meds and sharps container, to start sharing the results of our stim checks, to start whining about the crazy shit the drugs are doing to my brain. It’s time.
I also realized something else today. I need to move on in another sense. I need to pull away from the online support community that has sustained me for the past 3 years. I need a FF vacation.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve thanked my lucky stars that I’m infertile in the age of the Internet. We hear often about the sense of isolation and different-ness that so frequently accompanies infertility, but I have to say that hasn’t been that large a part of my own journey with IF. From day one I sought support from faceless strangers in the computer. I tried a few free and pay groups on for size (hint to the wise: ignore the free groups, they’re full of total morons), got used to typing up my story, and jumped in head first. I still remember that within 1 month on FF I had PMs from women telling me I likely had thyroid disease, endometriosis, and PCOS, and begging me to push my doctors. I still cringe when I read through my replies. “But my thyroid was tested in 2009 and it was fine!” I’d counter. “My doctor said my ultrasound showed no signs of endometriosis,” I’d explain. “I had blood work done and it showed no PCOS,” I cautiously told the clearly hysterical woman on the other end of the world. Well, turns out my normal thyroid was totally not, endometriosis cannot be diagnosed with an ultrasound, and my GP had done the wrong blood work to check for PCOS. Turns out these lay-women in the computer diagnosed me more accurately, more completely, and with more compassion than any doctor I had then, and all that I’ve had since. FF was my lifeline.
Something strange happens, when you hang around the same online forums for too long. First, if you have any sense of intellectual curiosity and drive for answers, you wake up one morning to find you’ve gone from being the question asker to the question answerer. Your time on the site transitions from time spent learning, to time spent teaching. And, I’ll be the first to admit that that was initially a pretty exciting change for me. As it dawned on me that I knew more than most about my specific diagnoses (Hashi’s first and foremost), I suddenly had this desire to save all the lost and fumbling infertiles from the big bad world of ignorant doctors, “natural fertility cure” peddlers, and arrogant fertile wive’s tales. I created FF’s Hashi’s/hypo board, I threw my heart and soul into being a resource, and it was wonderful. There’s something about being a lifelong academic over-achiever that makes the mere act of shameless proselytizing make up for all the ills of one’s world. I’m as barren as barren gets, but at least my mind is fruitful.
But, let’s be brutally honest here. What happens when you share your hard-earned tips, tricks, insights, and wisdom with those around you? Well, lo and behold, their situations often improve. And, in the world of infertility improvement is measured by one yardstick – lasting pregnancy and lifelong motherhood. About 6 months ago I started feeling more and more like someone was cheating. I did all my homework, I spent my days in the library, and I crammed for all the tests. All the while countless others cribbed my notes, played hacky-sack on the sunny quad, and ended up with the positive pregnancy tests. I don’t like being cheated.
I started to retreat into my other safe havens – those forums of other long-timers, those ever-bitter buddy groups of women that had also been cheated again and again and again. But, with no progress in our own pregnancy journey I didn’t know what to say. “Yep, still waiting?” How many times can that be your contribution? (Well, let’s see, according to this blog MANY times, but whatever.) Sure, we talk other things. What good movies have you seen, what did you do last weekend, how’s the husband’s sperm count, but here’s the final awful kicker. I honestly don’t care. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve stayed exceedingly close with my old original FF buddy group (many of whom have long since departed FF themselves so we stay in touch on Facebook) and, in that limited setting, I do very much care what those ladies had for dinner, where they’re going shopping this weekend, and how they’re sick family members are getting on. But, that’s a level of interest that has grown over years, not minutes. To try and recreate that level of intimacy with a whole new group of women on FF is beyond me right now. Especially because, well, they’ll likely be moving on and leaving me behind like so many others before them.
This brings me to my second issue with my current life on FF – I’m tired of being left behind and I’m tired of watching others get left behind. That original buddy group that I remain so close with? Only 5 out of 24 of us are still trying to conceive our first child. That’s the same number that are currently pregnant with their second child in the time we’ve been together. Why do I stick around, why doesn’t this hurt more, why am I so bitter toward the successes of some women and so happy for this one small group? Well, as I said above, because I still care. It’s much the same with my in-real-life support group. With each success there (and there have been quite a few lately!) I feel extreme joy. Because I care. You know when I don’t care? When I just met you five minutes ago. And, in recent months on FF, I’m encountering more and more women I figuratively met five minutes ago because so many of the ones I met 2 years ago are busy raising their babies.
Well, raising their babies if they are lucky. The final reason I think I need to step away for a bit is because of the others who aren’t so lucky. And, to be totally honest, I think this is the biggest reason of all for my plans for FF radio silence for the foreseeable future. Though the new pregnancies of Internet strangers are hard, it’s the repeat failures of Internet friends that are utterly devastating. As I sit here whining about being left behind, many of those same women that dealt with me when I was an insufferable n00b are also still on the battlefield. They are mourning lost pregnancies, watching marriages fail, applying for loans to fund one more cycle, making impossibly difficult choices. All with more grace and composure than I could ever hope to muster. And, it’s in thinking about these women that my world starts to shatter and my angry fists raise to the sky. What exactly do you say to someone who has been trying for 10 years, who has had 7 miscarriages, whose 6th IVF just ended in a chemical, or who will never even get the chance at IVF because of the financial burden? I’ve written enough “Life sucks,” in the past year, and I don’t know how many more I have left in me.
In thinking how to phrase this post I found myself reflecting on prior conversations I’ve had about what the appropriate terminology is for when one decides to cease infertility treatment, bench third-party options, and say no to adoption. I know I’m not giving up FF. That would imply I won’t be checking in on those I care about (which I will), that I won’t use it to ask questions as we move through out injects cycle (which I will), and that FF is something I can quit cold turkey (which I can’t). And, while I think of our next cycle as moving forward, leaving FF doesn’t feel like that either. Forward implies progress, which I don’t think leaving FF is. Leaving FF is not progress, it’s just a change. A change that hopefully improves my well-being, raises my spirits, and removes some of the anger. But, I totally respect that it may do none of those things and I may return. If I do return I wouldn’t think of it as a step back, so I refuse to think of this decision as a step forward. Ultimately, I think I’m just moving on. I’m putting my energies into different venues. First, into my own well-being, my relationship with my husband, my upcoming cycle, and this very blog and the bloggers and Twitter types that follow it. And, a very close second, into my peer-led support group. Those women and men are so deserving of my attention and I want to ensure they are getting it in the manner that they need it. Finally, I want to set aside a little more time for advocacy. As we stare childfree-not-by-choice squarely in the face, the advocacy component of infertility is calling my name. While I’m not sunshine and rainbows enough to be able to say that I’m infertile for a reason and that reason is so that I can give back to the cause, I am stubborn enough to admit that a small part of the injustice I feel toward my infertility can be alleviated by putting more energy into making sure life is better for future generations (even if no one in those generations share any of my genetic makeup). At the very least I need to start fundraising in earnest for the Walk of Hope next month.
So, moving forward while moving on. I can live with that.