Survivor’s guilt (even if pre-survival)

Three realizations converged today (well, four if you count my new awareness of what the moist parts of your eyes and nostrils do in a -35F windchill).

First, I woke feeling lost about what to do with this blog in the new year.  I’ve had checking in here on my list of things to do for ages now, and even with ample down time over the holidays, I still couldn’t muster a post.  It came to a head this morning because I did actually, in theory, have something to write about.  Baby But IF gave us our first serious scare yesterday (well, aside from the constant, skull-numbing, miscarriage fears I’ve had since the moment I saw that flash of white shoot across the ultrasound screen on the day of our embryo transfer).  I won’t belabor the point (yet? ever?) but did y’all know that it’s common to have blood pressure dips in pregnancy?  I surely didn’t as I gingerly walked down the stairs to tell Mr. But IF that I thought I was dying yesterday morning after a post-vomit check-in with his blood pressure cuff gave me a starling 86/57 result.  So yea, I thought today, there’s something to chat about.  There’s an update worth mentioning.  There’s a way to contribute something of worth that might help someone in the future.  But no, I almost immediately decided, this blog is not the place to gloat about my (totally blown out of proportion) brush with death.  That’s totally inappropriate.

A few hours after making that decision, I read Dogs Aren’t Kids’ recent post “I’m an Asshole.”  And, what can I say, it resonated.  It wasn’t until about halfway through the post that I realized that I’m the hated and not the hater in this scenario.  And, that realization stung.  Not because her words hurt me (they absolutely didn’t), but because it felt like it was taking away part of who I am, part of what I define myself as.  You succeeded, Dogs, and this post is tremendously brave.  I just feel lost because I don’t know how to be brave myself anymore.  How to morph my IF activist self into a pregnant IFer with any semblance of credibility.  I stared at the empty text box for an hour, struggling to phrase a comment, find the words to un-self-righteously convey a “Fuck yeah! Damn straight!” on her blog as I chugged my Metamucil and wondered whether those flutters low in my abdomen are what I’ve started to think they might be.  Ultimately, I closed the tab.  I ran away.  I was decidedly un-brave.

Finally, it came together when a member of another IF “grads” board I’m on posted the Huffington Post’s blog “A Twin Mom’s Post-Infertility Survivor Guilt.”  As I wrote on my wall when I shared the article on Facebook:

Nothing more to say but “Yep,” “yep,” and “yep” (and I’m not even close to delivering or even fully accepting that we’ll get to meet this little one yet)!

I’ve actually used the AA chip analogy in therapy sessions before.  A few weeks ago my therapist asked (with no hidden agenda or any other motivator but to continue our conversation), “Why does membership in the ‘infertility community,’ as you call it, matter so much?  What makes you so fearful about leaving that part of your life behind?”  I stumbled quite a bit at that one.  Me, that usually has an answer planned for every possible question, for every contingency — I just froze.  I mumbled something about being true to myself, about wanting our struggle to help other people, about how I’ll never be able to forget what we’ve been through.  Ultimately I formed my own version of the AA analogy.  Though, in my version of IF AA you would get to stay a member forever… I’m just not quite sure how that happens just yet.

Then I got to Goldberg’s commentary on her shower.  She writes, “Years later, when my mother-in-law sent out invites for my own baby shower — for twins, no less — I had to stop myself from launching a follow-up email apologizing, saying something like, please, don’t feel obliged to come. People did come, though, with heaping bags of registry loot.”  That one hit me straight in the gut.  When we were home for the holidays my MIL announced she’d be throwing me a shower.  She asked when I’d like it to be, what I’d like, and who to invite.  My first thought was, “I can’t think about this yet, we still don’t know if this pregnancy will last!,” and my immediate second thought was, “Oh God, even thinking about going to my own shower is overwhelming and filling me with dread and bitterness!”

I have some confessions to make.  Namely:

  • I still loathe pregnant women.  Like give them dirty glares from across the aisles at the grocery store levels of hate.
  • I’m terrified of the day I really start showing.  It will truly be open season for talking to me about my pregnancy.  A few have tried it already, and I keep replying to all questions in hushed whispers, all the while suspiciously looking around to make sure no one can overhear me. This from a woman that gladly discussed infertility, IVF, IUI, timed intercourse, cervical mucus, miscarriage, hell, you name it, loudly and proudly in crowded bars and restaurants.
  • After four years of being anal retentive about every drug, calorie, drink, or thought I put into my head (Could this saucer of soy sauce make it less likely for us to conceive?  Will half a cup of coffee impact the effectiveness of Clomid?), I’ve been startlingly hands off about this pregnancy.  I’d love to say it’s because I’m just that cool and relaxed about it all, but, if I’m being honest, I had that sushi on December 23rd and that second cup of coffee on Tuesday because I can’t bring myself to act pregnant.  I’m still so certain it won’t last.
  • I’m ashamed to discuss the preliminary baby names we’ve agreed upon with friends and family.  Not for the usual reason – you know, the fear that someone will hate them – but more because it feels like an act of smug arrogance.  Frankly, I’d love for them to argue with me about hating the name because fighting back is something I’m pretty damn good at these days.  Having happy, lighthearted conversations isn’t.
  • And, perhaps the deepest, darkest secret of them all, I’m actually excited.  I’m fascinated with my hardening belly, the flutters I think just might be something other than gas, the sound of my doppler, and (once the sheer panic dissipated) even the threatened black out yesterday.

And, that’s what today has given me.  I don’t know what this blog is for, or even who would want to read it anymore.  I don’t know how I can live life infertile and pregnant at the same time.  I don’t know if the survivor’s guilt will fade or if I even want it to.  All I do know is that I’m here, I’m infertile, I’m pregnant, and I’ll likely be trying to figure it all out for the rest of my days.  Why else is life worth living if not for growth, reflection, and reinvention?

6 thoughts on “Survivor’s guilt (even if pre-survival)

  1. I am so sad that you feel you have to apologize after all you’ve been through. I haven’t been through even a fraction, but I do understand the feeling – that you can’t live in both places at once. We’re each dealing with our own battles and our own demons… but I’m so beyond thrilled to hear that you’re feeling excitement. Finally! Hugs!

  2. I think the feeling is that if we just move on then it confirms everything we felt when our IF friends got pg back when we were firmly in the barren bitches club. Those feelings of getting left behind and personally I didn’t want anyone to feel that way.

    My situation is more complicated because after 3 IUIs and 7 IVFs I somehow became pregnant on my own and during that brief glimmer of hope I also had this identity crisis. Was I fertile now? How did this happen after everything I’ve been through? Will everyone believe that my IF wasn’t real in the first place and that I was just whining over nothing (since that is the way they acted including my mother who would say things like well at least you don’t have cancer and told me to get over it when I was still sad about my first m/c a couple of months later)? I guess I didn’t have to ponder long since that pregnancy didn’t last.

    IF consumes your life. You spend all your free time and money on it and it is weird to adjust to life where people assume you are fertile and can react the same as a normal fertile person. It is also frustrating that people think you are magically “cured” once you have a baby. My brother actually thought I wouldn’t have to do IVF again since I had a baby.

    I know I am all over the place right now and am having trouble articulating. 🙁 I was right there with you on my first pregnancy. I didn’t get the shower that maybe I had envisioned when we started on the journey because I was so terrified of losing my baby and having to face everyone. Just the thought of going to babies r us gave me hives.

    Take care.

  3. I am a longtime reader first time poster. I totally know where youre coming from. I do not struggle with IF. I struggle with carrying a healthy baby to full term. My first was born at 30 weeks and died a month later from complications from a genetic disorder we were unaware of until birth. My second pregnancy was wrought with nerves, pretending I wasn’t pregnant and absolute defiance that I was NOT going to enjoy the pregnancy. We didn’t not share names, and I did not have a baby shower. We had a meet the baby party, because I was too afraid to have baby things in the house if my child died again. 3rd pregnancy ended in me having passed an infection along to the fetus that Id never even heard of until we tested for it at 22 weeks. Now Im pregnant again and feeling all the same indignance I felt after my first loss. For ME (and IM saying this is just me) it seems its a little about self importance. Its hard to admit that but I feel like I want people to know Im different…Im not a typical pregnant person. Ive STRUGGLED. Ive LOST. I don’t want people forgetting what Ive been through because I may get a ‘happy ending’. So I hold on to my anger, despite my own flirtation with happiness. Each kick makes me smile inward…but I outwardly bemoan all the ‘good signs’ people try to remind me of.
    Its very very complicated isn’t it? I think I’ll struggle with it all long after Im done trying to get pregnant. I feel badly that you are so conflicted, but feel like YOU write the book on your pregnancy. If it changes day to day..so be it. Thinking of you, and hope you know were all rooting for you.

  4. I continue to wait to read your posts. I struggle with the same thoughts for my blog, seeing as we’re continuously trying to get pregnant ourselves. However, your story is an inspiration and a hope for people going through a similar situation as you are. And quite honestly, I have found that women who go through any type of infertility need each other to lean on. And the hope is that we all have a happy ending. KEEP blogging! I want to hear updates! I know we all are feeling that same way! 🙂

  5. “I don’t know what this blog is for, or even who would want to read it anymore.”

    I want to read it! I’m struggling with IF (TTC 14 months – fianlly heading to a fertility clinic this week)… your story gives me hope!

  6. I’m so happy for you hon, and just wanted to say, you could never be smug. You have waited a long time for this and you should enjoy every moment of it! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

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