Tag Archives: guilt

Fertility Friday: Misery loves company. And makes me a big, green jerk.

Misery loves company.



And I guess that’s what makes a time-tested adage a time-tested adage. That it’s true.

When it comes to infertility, misery loves company.


And that this particular misery loves company, like any other misery, is fraught with other complex feelings. Guilt, jealousy, self-pity, desperation and despair.

Infertility is like a club. A really crappy club with exceptionally stringent entry criteria — you’re in or you’re out. People leave, but they rarely come back. And you don’t want them to. Yet, being left behind in a club you never wanted to join is tough stuff.

Pregnancy and birth… that’s why people leave the club. And the rational, real, me-est me is happy for people when that happens. Truly. I know that it’s a good thing, and more importantly, that it has absolutely nothing to do with me — no affect on my ability to have or have not. No bearing on my worthiness.

And yet. My heart. It breaks, shatters, and explodes every time it’s someone else that leaves the club. Someone that’s not me. Again and again, left behind in my misery with no company. Broken. Pointless. Wanting.


We gave up on children this past fall. We had to put that dream to rest – for our mental, physical, and financial health. There was a lot of relief in that. A ton, actually. And I’m really, insanely, incredibly fortunate to have a partner for whom I, and I alone, am enough. The thing is, I thought that with that release and relief would also come a reprieve from the pain of others’ happy news.

I thought wrong.

People have long described jealousy as a “little green monster,” but… I have to imagine that if you cut me in half and actually took a good hard look at what’s inside, you’d find green through and through. Rotten, slimy, green goo from top to bottom and front to back. And I hate that about myself. I hate those feelings, that beastly green.

Oh cute… yeah… it’s nothing like that. {Source}

The guilt quickly follows. Because no one should be allowed to feel that jealous for that long. No one should be so pained by the joy of others. Yet I can’t seem to help it. The hurt keeps coming. And sometimes the now old and familiar grief comes along for the ride.

But most awful is the feeling of exceptional inadequacy. That I am a bad person. That there’s some inherently wrong with me, with my ability to be a parent. For the terrible things I feel and for God’s, the universe’s, biology’s unwillingness to bestow upon me the blessing that so many others enjoy.


I know that at some of these lowest of lows, it’s my responsibility to focus on gratitude for the many amazing things I do have in my life. To breath and let go of the one thing I do not. But, just maybe, there’s also a little bit of room for a pity party every now and again. Because feelings are what they are and I can’t beat myself up over having them. But I will have to make do with a solo pity party because no matter how much misery loves company, it’s certainly not my place, nor my desire, to wish misery on anyone else.


Though not an adage, another fact is this: infertility is still a really big part of my life… at the same time that fertility is a big part of life for others. And I need to make a space for that contradiction and the feelings that come with it.

I can let go of the dream and still feel the hurt. I can put to rest the future I had imagined and also make room for the pain to ebb and flow. I can be genuinely happy for others, but still allow a place for sadness in my own heart. I can.

Infertility: Marking Time

On Tuesday morning, I had a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to check out the state of my fallopian tubes. It hurt like a son-of-a-b. Holy crap. They told me it would, but dang. I thought I had a high pain tolerance until my eyes went black as I was laying on the table. Fortunately, there was a woman at my head telling me to breath– nice touch, radiology.

Basically, the procedure is a way to check the fallopian tubes for blockage. They inject dye into the uterus and use fluoroscopy to see if it spills all the way through the fallopian tubes. It dd. But it hurt. At least now I know that’s not the problem. Good thing, yes? Except… then what is the problem? Still no idea.

I think that for me, the worst part of infertility has to be the sense of punishment. The constant nagging in the back of my mind that says, “what did you do to deserve this?” Because, obviously, it must have been something.

Is it because of all the mice? Is it because of my curiosity about infertility and the passion I felt for it in my graduate studies? (I was so proud of the oviducts I extracted– is this punishment for my hubris?)

Is it because I didn’t think I wanted kids when I was younger? (Is the the universe’s way of laughing in my face about changing my mind? For showing me how stupid I was to think my one time passion for power and pumps could have overpowered the call of my biology?)

Is it because I was mean to people? Because I have spent major periods of my life mired in selfishness? (You know, up until the age of like 27…)


Maybe it’s because I’m fat. Because I don’t eat enough vegetables. Because I’m not wild enough in bed. Because, because, because.


The truth is, though, none of those things. Infertility is a particularly dark and course thread in my tapestry. I do not understand its purpose, but I’m certain it has one.

And the guilt and the responsibility that I feel about it is not altogether uncommon. In fact, I don’t even think it’s out of the ordinary at all. For me, the tendency to look for an answer always leads back to myself. No matter how irrational that may be. Conversations I’ve had with women who’ve experienced miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy are eerily similar.

Perversely, I find myself jealous of those women thinking, “at least you know you can get pregnant– that you’re not completely broken.” And I have to stop myself, because that’s not fair. What we’re all experiencing is a loss… whether it’s the loss of a cycle that could have produced an egg, an egg that could have been a embryo, or an embryo that could have been a baby. It’s a loss, it’s worth grieving, and it is not our fault. It’s an experience to be felt. It’s an opportunity to move forward in life without looking back to wonder what if… but why… how come…

We cannot change the life we have lived, and we cannot know the life that will come. While in some cases we can predict how the past will affect our future (forgetting deodorant in the morning is likely to lead to stink by night), more often than not we can’t (being excited about an oviduct is unlikely to be related to faulty fertility), so in most instances, it’s really not worth the over-analysis and the guilt.

I have spent the last year and a half living my life as though everything were going to change in the next 2 – 4 weeks. I avoided decorating my spare bedroom since I was just going to turn it into a nursery. I avoided buying new clothes since I’d be needing maternity gear shortly. I postponed re-reading the Harry Potter series because I wanted to read it over 9 months to my growing belly. I gave blood less often, I was hesitant to commit to trips, I stopped eating deli meat and drinking wine, I had wild fantasies about announcing my impending pregnancy, and I imagined what it would be like for Curly to meet the baby. I put everything about my life now on hold because I wanted to badly for my life to change, to include a new addition to our family.

As I marked time through this pause of infertility, I forgot to continue to actually live my life.

Now I’m carrying guilt about that. But I’ve told you, and I can change, Scrooge-style. I can say, as my favorite of all of my Aunt’s handmade cards say, “In this moment I shall…”


My New and Improved Emily-Colored Glasses

It’s probably safe to assume that you are familiar with the concept of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses—everything looks beautiful!  Flowers and sunshine!  Positivity and rainbows!  Dinosaurs and chocolate!  (These are MY rose-colored glasses, after all.)

Recently, however, I switched out my lenses.  The rose-coloring was obviously just a pink wash and I was doing a poor job of really believing the rosiness, especially when I looked in the mirror.  My new lenses: they are Emily-colored.

Perhaps I should explain.

Emily is the 7-year-old daughter of my bosom friend Melissa (please refer to Anne and Diana in Anne of Green Gables for the reference).  I absolutely adore Emily.  I love her mom, dad, and little brother too, but my love for Emily is different and confusing because, well, she’s a mini-me.


It’s disturbing how alike the two of us are.  Sometimes she gets this gleam in her eye and I know what she’s thinking (and it’s not good).  I can practically see the wheels turning and I know that they need to stop.  Now.  And I say, “Emily Grace, I am in your head.  Don’t even think about it.”  I have to get my serious face on because I am, after all, a very responsible adult.  But it can be really hard to keep the smile off my face… and I know it’s still there in my eyes.

Emily is different from other 7-year-old girls in several ways.  She is exceptionally bright.  Like really, disturbingly bright.  She is logical and reasonable and she communicates very much like a small adult.

However, Emily can’t escape the fact that she is still a 7-year-old girl, and like her peers, she lacks the maturity that can only come through life experiences and growing up… in that context, time is the only teacher.

The problem with an intelligent, rational, exceptionally communicative 7-year-old girl is that’s it’s hard to remember sometimes that she is, in fact, SEVEN.  Not twenty-seven.  Not even seventeen.  But seven.  And as a 7-year-old girl, she still behaves like the kid that she is.  Sometimes that can be hard for adults to accept, because they somehow expect more.  Someday, it may even be hard for Emily to accept because she somehow also expects… or feels she should have expected… more of herself at that young age.

At this point, you’ve probably realized that I am projecting.  Projecting like crazy.

My mom always says that I was born 40.  I was bright, like Emily, and for the most part acted and communicated at a level higher than my age would suggest.  (I used to dress up like an old lady and invite my mom to make me some tea so we could discuss her daughter’s (i.e. my) behavioral issues.  Truth.)  But, also like Emily, I was only able to function at a maturity level consistent with my age.  (Obviously, maturity level is relative, and at the ripe old age of 29, I still make bathroom jokes… so… not sure how trustworthy I am on this subject,  but I’m trying.)

know these things about Emily.  I know them and I accept them and I love her for the intellectually mature kid that she is.  When she gets tired and has a meltdown over crayons at a restaurant, it’s because she’s seven.  When she takes me for a moonlit walk in the snow and talks to me about Sonya Sotomayor and the infallible love of God…  Well, that’s something else altogether and it amazes me.  But it doesn’t detract from the fact that she’s a KID.

And yet, for a long time I have thought of my young self in such a different light.  I reflect on previous choices with my current maturity level and have a very hard time reconciling my actions then with the path I might choose now.  I spent an inordinate amount of time as a child (you know, until I was like 27) desperate to be liked and my unique abilities in alphabetization of rock flash cards (how I loved those cards!  how I loved my rocks!), to name dinosaurs (I could always name the most different kinds!), and experiment with the coefficient of friction* didn’t seem to be doing the trick.  So I resorted to other tactics.  I said things I thought people wanted to hear, I obsessed about the way that I looked, I shared confidences I shouldn’t have shared, I failed to be the supportive friend that I should have been, and so on and so forth.  And to this day, I have an extremely difficult time reflecting on these things without feeling a truly overwhelming sense of guilt.

My old rose-colored glasses made me defensive.  I tried to justify my actions, find reasons for behaving the way that I did.  My new, Emily-colored glasses provide a very different perspective.  A perspective that revolves around the idea of maturity.  I was immature.  I was desperate and sad and  I was trying way. too. hard.  That doesn’t mean that I was a bad person then.  It means that I was immature and struggling to grow up… just like everyone else.

That all sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But it’s still a struggle and I often still fall into those patterns of guilt and shame.  I’m working on it.  It’s getting better.  And in an effort toward kindness, I often prompt myself with: “What would I say to Emily about this?”  And I’m looking forward to the day when Emily is all grown up and amazing (because she will be a game changer in this world, I have no doubt) and I can have this conversation with her.  It will be fascinating, to be sure.

Emily is an amazing little girl, but right now, she’s a little girl.  I love the little girl that she is, and she’s helping me to love the little girl that I was.  My hope for Emily is that someday she will love the little girl that she was– no guilt, no shame, just a happy recollection of the trials and triumphs that growing up entails.


*I learned about the coefficient of friction between two surfaces when I was in in high school physics (Ms. Betrus– excellent teacher, by the way).  I was a smart kid, but I certainly wasn’t given the gift of common sense.  One night, I was outside with my friend Kelly in the driveway.  I took one look at my brother’s skateboard ramp and I said to Kelly, “Hey… I wonder what the coefficient of friction is between my shoes and that ramp.”  (Which is essentially a nerdy 16-year-old girl’s version of, “hold my beer” or “hey, watch this.”)  I slowly walked up that ramp, one foot in front of the other, until I effectively overcame the coefficient of friction between my shoes and the wood and… BOOM.  I slid down the ramp, on my face, and ended up underneath my parents’ van in the driveway.  This.  This is why I was trying so hard.  But thank goodness for kind people like Kelly– she seemed to like me anyway 😉