The Myth of the Suddenly Fertile

First, I want to take a moment to voice my deepest gratitude to the loving, caring, supportive, understanding and encouraging comments so many of you left for me in response to yesterday’s post. I was truly touched by your words, and I appreciate the time you take not just to read but to write about your own feelings in relation to something I’ve written. It means more to me than I can really express – especially in the complete absence of any form of support system in our lives here. Were it not for YOU, I would probably not even want to get out of bed at this point…

Last night, I had a complete and total meltdown.

At times like these, I really understand why people drink or take drugs. I know it’s not something that’s perhaps pc to say or write, and obviously I’m not advocating any such destructive means to deal with adversity. All I’m saying is that I can understand a powerful urge to procure oblivion.

It started out with the usual thoughts – the feeling that any reality of my dreams seems so far out of reach that I can’t help but feel increasingly convinced that it’s just not going to happen. Then I turn right around and worry about all this negativity becoming a “self-fulfilled prophecy” – meaning that all this constant strain on my heart, on my soul, on my nerves, is impacting my mental and physical well-being in such a way that I will, in effect, make myself completely incapable of conceiving. Ever.

Can you say worst nightmare?

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, I’m not sleeping well. I haven’t slept well in a long, long time. Most nights, I need some kind of sleep aid if I want to have a chance of getting some shut-eye before 1am. If I forego the OTC assistance, I pretty much have two options. Behind Door #1 is lying awake in the darkness as my thoughts spin out of control and I imagine myself barren for life, the house quiet until I eventually die in the rubble of the crushed dreams that never came to be. Behind Door #2 is basically distracting myself by all means necessary – browsing the internet, reading, crosswords, etc – until I literally can’t keep my eyes open anymore. I’m sure it’s not difficult to see how neither option is especially appealing, and so I usually end up with an average of 4-5 hours of actual sleep – none of which is restful, quality sleep. I wake up feeling groggy, achy, and grumpy, which in turn makes my attempts to ween myself off caffeine pretty much something worth snickering at since I could literally be a poster girl for “I haven’t had my coffee yet – don’t make me kill you”.

Anyway. I thought I’d tired myself enough when I turned off the light last night. Boy, was I wrong. Within the space of 30 seconds, I had hot tears running down my face. I gave myself a mental pep talk, trying to soothe myself to sleep. I told myself that I’m just exhausted from chronic, long-term sleep deprivation; that it’s just because of my period; that I just need to think happy thoughts. Mmmm, yeah – that didn’t really work. Not 2 minutes after I had turned off the light, I was sobbing so violently, so heavily, that I was almost hyperventilating. Even to my own ears, I sounded like I was choking or struggling for air – yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

The image that comes to mind when I think about it is an episode of NCIS (original, not spin-offs). Somewhere in season 9 or 10, there’s an episode where Ziva’s father is killed. As she comes into the room to find him slumped over, Cote de Pablo’s acting reached such heights for me that I think this may have been one of the most realistic scenes of any tv show, ever. As her face scrunches up in pain and she cries out “Abba!” (which I assume is Hebrew for dad or father), I felt such profound, deep emotional pain – connected, of course, to my own personal losses – that I cried the first time I saw the episode. Her emotions seem so raw and so real that every single time I see this episode – or even just that particular scene – I immediately have tears welling up in my eyes.

I’m sure that most of you know exactly what I mean – you know, the agonizing, heartbroken sobs that feel different from other times where you tear up or have a little “snif snif” moment; that gut-wrenching pain that shoots through every synapse of your brain, engages every single nerve ending in your body…and you feel like you’re completely engulfed in such abject despair that you just can’t seem to stop yourself.

I’ve had this happen a handful of times – it’s always frightening, always feels like my life spirit is being choked right out of me. And yet, there’s a certain catharsis that comes with it. In the moment, I feel nothing but despair and like I can’t breathe, can’t hope, can’t feel anything but raw pain. But afterwards, when I finally come down from the peaks of “doom and gloom”, I try to calm myself down. Sometimes I talk to myself, out loud. I know – sounds insane – but it helps.

When I woke up this morning, I felt like crap. I was barely ambulatory as I crawled out of bed, every part of my body hurting. My jaw felt like it had been wired shut. My head throbbed. All the usual accoutrements of The Curse have been working overtime to make me feel miserable most of the day. My best friend became the hot water bottle that I snuggled up with to watch an old chick flick called Mistaken Identity – about these two women whose babies got mixed up at the hospital after delivery. (Sidebar: I’ve already told my husband several times that when this blessed event finally decides to grace our lives, he’d better be stuck like white on rice on whoever takes our baby or babies anywhere in the hospital once the first breath has been taken. God help anyone who would ever separate me and my-hopefully-still-in-the-realm-of-possibilities offspring.)

I know – clearly I’m a masochist to watch this type of movie in my state of mind. But the reason I even bring it up is because there’s this underlying notion of what, one assumes, is one woman’s IF issues that are basically not really mentioned as such. Considering that the movie is from the early 90s, I guess it’s not so surprising. You know what’s even less surprising? The fact that, in the course of the movie, the woman just so happens to get pregnant. Que miracolo! This seems to be a very pervasive notion in Hollywood: a perpetuation of what I, honestly, am starting to think is the urban myth of the Suddenly Fertile. I mean, did you know that all you have to do is adopt a child, get involved in foster care, or have one successful pregnancy to miraculously become fertile? Who comes up with this crap?

Meanwhile, I also tortured myself last night by checking out a variety of adoption sites. You know, in the hopes of prompting the urban myth to crank up my uterus and ovaries – who knows, maybe just browsing adoption websites could be enough for me to miraculously becomes fertile? No? Didn’t think so. After reading through a bunch of different things, I came to the following conclusions in regards to adoption for me and the hubs:

  • Domestic infant adoption is not going to happen unless we miraculously happen to find a birth mother ourselves and only have to pay legal feels etc. (Sure asking for a lot of miracles, aren’t we?)
  • International adoption is completely out of the question for us because, even though we’d be open to it and we’re suitable or even ideal candidates for several countries, it’s absolutely impossible with my husband’s work schedule because there’s just no way he could go on sabbatical so we could spend weeks or even months in the host country. (Honestly – who can? I mean, unless you’re unemployed or something, in which case my guess is that you really can’t afford the costs associated with international adoptions.)
  • Adopting from foster care – which essentially means a child that’s of school age and more than likely a different ethnicity. Now, I have no problems adopting a child from a different ethnic group because, the way I grew up, the only skin color I know is “human”. I don’t care if you’re white, green, yellow, black, striped or with polka dots – I judge people based on who they are, not how closely their skin color matches my own. However, I’m weary of the child – rather than us – being chastised for being in a home with ethnically different adoptive parents. But this, of course, is only one of many considerations – the others being that it can take up to 2 years for a child in foster care to actually be placed with prospective adoptive parents; and the fact that you need references from people that aren’t related to you. Mmm, yeah – we have no friends. Every single person who’s been in our lives in the past has pretty much left the premises through our struggle with IF. We don’t even know our neighbors. And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that I have absolutely zero interest in getting to know our neighbors and I feel like I’m actually turning into a socially inept person.  I’m not laying the blame on anyone else – as I’ve mentioned many times, I’ve basically been avoiding social situations and interactions with both alarming frequency and length of time because I just can’t face the barrage of questions about our childlessness or the constant baby bumps and idiotic terms like “babymoon” that, quite frankly, make me want to throw a dirty diaper at whoever coined the term.

To my knowledge, neither watching the movie nor browsing adoption website has made me Suddenly Fertile. In the meantime, I’ll just keep hoping for a miracle…even it it’s with the help of modern medicine.

10 thoughts on “The Myth of the Suddenly Fertile

  1. Oh Alex reading this post made my heart hurt for you. I have moonlighted as an insomniac on an off since IF struck three years ago so this post struck a chord with me. In the middle of the night I would try everything: crying, praying, spending a fortune shopping online. I would bargain with God. I would drink an entire bottle of wine and pop tylenol PM like candy. None of it worked. At one point i gave up and just accepted my three hours of sleep nightly and then would mainline coffee all day just to get me through. The only thing that I found to help me was acupuncture. It took about 6 months to work but it did get my on track. Not sure if you have tried that yet. Hang in there friend.

    • Thank you so much for the supportive comment. Honestly – you’re going to laugh, maybe, but even though I’m not religious I’ve made “bargains” as well. Like, I’ll do this or that more/less/better etc if only…I’ve also done the retail therapy thing, which not only didn’t help but ended up making me feel guilty. I would really LOVE to try acupuncture – not just because of its rumored benefits for ARTs of course but, honestly, at this point I would cry tears of joy if something that’s not a mass-produced chemical dispensed in plastic bottles could actually help me sleep better and FEEL better. My worry is how to find a reputable, reliable and trustworthy place to try acupuncture. I’m totally open to Eastern medicine in general – my only worry is how to find someone who really knows what they’re doing and isn’t a charlatan. SIGH!

  2. I have problems sleeping as well. My situation is uncommon though as my hubby works the night shift. So we are usually up all night and sleeping during the day. I have chosen your second option-internet browsing. I throw myself into my small jewelry business. When I can’t shut my brain off, I go to my desk and make a new necklace or scarf. (Tonight I attempted a bracelet) Is there a hobby or something you could use to distract yourself? It might be very helpful. Won’t stop the random tear fest though, especially during THAT NCIS episode! I agree with her very realistic reaction to finding her “aba” (and yes that is Hebrew for dad) 😦 Sending good thoughts your way.

    • That’s really a great thing to do, what you suggested: something productive and yet fun. I’ve done that occasionally as well, though I think my long-term sleep deprivation is really doing a number on my state of mind. I’m having a hard time focusing, concentrating and even just enjoying things I used to love doing – it all seems to pointless a lot of the time 😦

      • I’m sorry you are going through this. I have tried many things, including taking melatonin. I am trying really hard not to take a prescription sleep aid. Keep trying whatever you can think of! Don’t let yourself slip into the kind of depression that keeps you from even recognizing you are depressed. I hope the sleep fairy visits you every night from now on.

      • I’ve tried taking melatonin as well, though I didn’t notice a difference – but I don’t know how much you’re supposed to take and for how long before it actually has any impact. I agree, I’m also not especially keen on taking any meds – OTC or otherwise – if I can avoid it. I get so many headaches and migraines that I have to choice but to take meds for, so I really try not to take anything else if I don’t need to.

  3. Oh, I remember that scene on NCIS. I actually had to look away for a moment because I felt so powerfully affected, as though I was witnessing something so personal and private and painful I couldn’t watch even though I knew it was a TV show.

    I talk to myself out loud sometimes too, so it doesn’t sound insane at all.

    And YES, where does this myth of the suddenly fertile come from? I have met women who wound up pregnant sort of randomly after struggling with IF, but they’re definitely by far the exception, not the rule. Such a frustrating myth, because it perpetuates this idea that fertility treatments are not really necessary – a person just has to wait long enough and ‘relax’ and it will happen. I’ve often thought that this cultural myth may contribute to society’s unwillingness to accept fertility treatments as legitimate medical needs and also perpetuates certain stereotypes about adoptive families. I’m with you that it’s maddening for those of us who are in the midst of all of it.

    I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling awful, and hoping you feel better soon.

    • I know exactly what you mean – the scene was so powerful that it felt like you weren’t watching it on a tv screen but in real life. For me, it’s especially relatable because I’ve lost several family members in the past few years.

      As for this fertility myth, I definitely think it’s a throw back to the same frame of mind that had women basically sequestered with a relative while they were pregnant, back in the day. It’s still something you’re not supposed to really talk about, when the reality is that most cases of IF don’t even have anything to do with the physical aspects of someone’s body but with the environmental factors that have affected us on so many levels. I honestly think the reason why these myths are perpetuated is so that no one has to change anything – because, really? Can anyone explain to me why only 12 out of 50 states have mandatory IVF coverage? Meanwhile, Viagra is covered by insurance companies. It’s completely ridiculous.

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I totally agree with you – and I think the reason there’s no “right way” to deal with it is because it feels like dealing with IF is just WRONG.

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