Resurfacing

It’s been a few days since my period ended, and I guess I’ve bounced back from the low point of the TWW. Although bouncing back is probably not the right metaphor. It’s more like I was pulled under, and now I’ve resurfaced. I really hate this pattern, and I so wish it didn’t have to be this way. Which has really gotten me thinking a lot over the last few days. This will probably be a pretty serious post, I have some stuff I need to get out of my head and onto ‘paper’. Sorry to drag any patient readers into my head, but I’m hoping if I write it all down I can possibly move past it a little. I guess we’ll see.

So, the hardest part of the past (almost) three years of infertility have been my lack of patience with how long this whole thing is taking. Every month that goes by, and really, every day, feels like a million years of waiting. I’ve described this as impatience, but the more I think about it, it has to be more than that. Impatience is when you can’t wait to go on vacation, or can’t hold off on eating desert until after dinner. This is definitely more than that. When I think about another month of not being pregnant, I feel lost and helpless. If I think of having to wait another year, I’m downright disgusted at the idea. So, I asked myself if I knew I would have a baby for certain at the end of five years, could I wait that long? The obvious answer is yes, because that’s the whole point here, right? But the idea of having to wait that long, even knowing it would work out in the end, is extremely uncomfortable to me.

The more I thought about this, the more I started to realize how ridiculous and irrational it is. There is every reason to think that I will have to wait a lot longer before I manage to have a baby. Maybe I could get pregnant this month, but even if I did, it would probably end in another miscarriage. Most likely I will have at least one more miscarriage, and so even if I do go on to have a normal pregnancy at some point, it will be a long time before I have the baby. If we decide to move on and adopt, it will definitely be at least a year and probably much longer. So, this whole process would just be so much more bearable if I could accept the fact that its going to be a long time and expect it. In other words, I would be much better off if I could start playing the long game. Thinking about things from the perspective that I will have a baby at some point, and a few months here or there shouldn’t matter as long as I get there in the end.

But honestly, even knowing how much easier things would be that way, and knowing it’s the rational approach, I hate the idea of it. It feels like giving in. It feels like, if I say I’m okay with it taking 5 years, it definitely will take that long. It feels extremely uncomfortable to me to think about days and weeks and months to come with no progress. This tells me that I have some weird stuff going on inside my head, and I need to try to sort it all out or I’m just asking for trouble each month.

So, as all of this has been rolling around in my head for the past few days, I’ve been trying to figure out why I have this irrational fear of waiting for a baby. I think somehow I’ve gotten to the point where I beleive that my value as a person is based on my ability to reproduce. This is surprising to me because it goes against everything I was raised to beleive, and it goes against everything I’ve done with my life up to this point. I was not raised to beleive that being a mom was the most important thing I could do. I was pushed to have an important career and do something valuable or impressive in the world. When I met my husband, I made it clear that I would always work and my career would have to be as important as his. In fact, up until a few years ago, I was probably too far to the opposite extreme, in the sense that I was determining my entire value as a person on my ability to be successful as an academic. This is something I had to work on pretty hard with a therapist, because I felt that I was failing at my job, and thus had no value. There’s much more to that story, but ultimately I think I moved past it to a large degree, and I’ve tried to get to a place where I can just be happy with doing a good job at a job that I enjoy, and not worry about being competitive or impressing people.

But, I think in the process I might have gone too far to the other side. After grad school I took a job that isn’t competitive and doesn’t make me a huge ball of anxiety. I’m a happier person and I’m glad I did it, but I’m struggling with feeling like what I’m doing isn’t impressive, and that people will think I’ve failed. Basically, my anxiety now is that people will think I’m a failure, and so I’ve tried to find something else to give me value instead.  And that something became having a baby. If I’m not going to be a high powered driven academic, then it would at least be justified if I had a bunch of kids and was an amazing mom. It would give me a purpose and a value that I apparently feel I’m missing. I think I was holding out, thinking that it was okay that I didn’t have an important, impressive job because soon I’d have kids and that would make it all worth it. But instead, I just ended up with neither.

Rationally, I think this is all ridiculous. No one, including me, should need to have an impressive career or kids to be valuable. I’m a good friend, I have a great husband and family, I do useful and fun things with my life. But for some reason none of that feels like enough.  I wish I knew how to change my attitude about this. I’m hoping that putting it all out there and shining the light on it will make me see how dumb I’m being. Honestly I think it’s so important that I get past this because having kids isn’t going to suddenly fix all my problems either. I need to be happy with myself and my life, or what kind of role model would I be for my kids? Hopefully I can start to rethink things a little, and if I’m lucky, maybe it will make it just a little easier to handle the (probably inevitable) wait that’s still to come.

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11 thoughts on “Resurfacing

  1. I think what you have described is true of many ambitious women. Whilst you’re able to acknowledge that you can be happy without having to be super competitive or ‘the best’ at everything, it is normal to want to succeed at the things you set your mind to however big or small. I’m finding the hardest thing about pregnancy loss/infertility is the lack of control. I was brought up to believe that if I set realistic expectations and worked hard I could achieve the things I want but this is not the case with having a baby. When we first started trying to conceive I thought it would take about 18 months to have a baby (realistic right??) but now there is no timescale and no amount of ‘trying’ or ‘hard work’ on my part will vary the outcome as we so far have no answers as to why this is happening. I wish I had the answer that would make this better for both of us but I’m afraid that all I can offer is a reminder that you’re not alone. There are lots of us with you who feel like we are trying and failing. I wish there was an answer.

    • I can’t agree more with what you’ve said here, GK. That was my experience exactly. The whole TTC/infertility process has been extremely humbling for me for the same reasons – because I’ve been so fortunate to have the experience where hard work = a desired result. It’s just not like that when you’re trying to conceive. It takes a real mind shift to come around to the fact that we don’t have control over everything.

  2. The fear of failure is so rife amongst us as women trying to conceive. Every month (or so) we get a red reminder that we have or are failing at something we really want. Somehow we need to accept that it is ok to fail sometimes and work out how to do it with as least damage to our emotional selves as possible. I don’t know how to do that but I’m trying desperately to cope with the same feelings you are. If somehow i can equate not having a baby any time soon with success or at least not failure it will be a miracle.

  3. I can relate to everything you’re saying in this post, right down to taking a job that causes me less anxiety, but feeling like I’ve somehow failed. It’s silly, of course, but getting married and having a baby were things I felt I could control and I always feel better when I can control something. And now I feel like I can’t control anything.

    I think by putting this post out there, you’ll be encouraged to know that probably most of us reading feel exactly the same way and that your line of thinking isn’t irrational at all. I know it might not make you feel any better, but know you’re definitely not alone. Thinking of you.

  4. We really all do feel the same – and truly commiserate. I think it is bc/ even just looking at our bodies …we were DESIGNED to do this, so why can’t we??? I think you are in a good place of really processing this, b/c – I truly believe if we let this obsess us, it is counter-productive. I’m not saying we should jump for joy, but yes, I think we need to remember our baby-making status doesn’t define us. We just want it really bad.

    Prayers to you!

  5. Sending you super big hugs. Being a (now peripheral) part of the academic rat race, I can completely sympathize with everything you’ve said here. I’m sorry for how you’re feeling right now. Know that it is temporary. I’ve wondered the same thing; I don’t like academia, I think I’d be happier just teaching at a small college or having a consistent job that didn’t require that I publish multiple times per year for advancement. But that ego part of the brain they train so well in academia really gnaws at you when you get out of it. It’s the same voice that starts in early grad school that tells you in your time off that “you should be doing more”. But you shouldn’t. You should be right where your gut tells you to be.

    I think you’re very thoughtful and insightful to be thinking about how your TTC journey is becoming tangled up with your feelings on leaving academia (assuming you have left, at least in part?). I’ve felt similarly in the past. I felt that I was failing in my “career” and simultaneously failing at life. It sucks. But you’re not. It’s just that niggling old ego voice from academia (and perhaps your high achieving self) telling you this is so. You have lots of time left.

    I agree that one of the biggest issues with the impatience of TTC is that uncertainty. As you’ve said, if we had a guaranteed point where we know for sure we’d have our babies, it would be bearable. But it is much harder not knowing that end point, like climbing up a mountain and not knowing when you’ll reach the summit, or if you ever will.

    Have you considered actually starting on the adoption process? I can’t remember if you’ve posted on this before, but my husband and I had many conversations about this. We had planned to get it going, simply because the “not knowing” aspect was eating away at me. Knowing that I was being proactive by getting the process started greatly eased my mind. I have heard the same thing from many women. At least you’ll feel like you are working toward something. And yes, maybe it will take one or two years before you could bring home a baby, but at least you’d be able to visualize that rainbow at the end, no matter what your own TTC journey turns out to look like.

    *hugs*

    • Thanks so much for this. Yes, I did get out of academia (at least in terms of looking for tenure-track jobs or doing my own teaching/research. technically I’m still in an academic department, I’m just not doing my own research anymore). It was super hard to do, there were a million factors that went in to it, but ultimately I’m a happier person this way. I used to have horrible insomnia, and now I sleep at night. In the long run, this is whats important. I trust that I’ll get over the feeling of being a failure, because rationally I know it isn’t true. I just never expected that that would lead to me putting more pressure on myself to be successful reproductively.

      I should probably get around to writing a post about adoption and my feelings about it. The short version is yes, we did start looking into adoption. A few months ago my head was in a completely different place and we picked an agency and got all the paperwork. We said we just needed to try one last time (heh we say that every time) and then we’d jump. Ultimately this might be what we end up having to do, but at the moment my head is just so not there. We figure another miscarriage will push us closer to finally making that decision.

  6. Pingback: And another month bites the dust. | Recurrently Lost

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