It’s difficult not to engage in the Pain Olympics. Husbands seem to do this very well. You know how their illnesses are always worse than any one else’s? Like their flu is pneumonia, their headache is a migraine? We all do it in some way or another.
Because there is so much pain that proliferates in the infertility world, it is I suppose inevitable that some form of Pain Olympics will take place, i.e. my pain is worse than yours.
As I lay awake in yet another one of my spells of insomnia, I wrote up a post about this in my head. I was going to write about it this weekend, then I read this brilliant post on the same topic. Please go read it (it’s really good) and then come back here. Please.
She puts it so neatly. As a Left Brain thinker I like logic, numbers and order. I love to quantify things. As I have mentioned previously, I think there is no greater beauty than in the symmetry of 1 + 1 = 2. Perfect, neat, ordered. The qualitative stuff mystifies me.
So back to the pain scale.
I know that every one who is in the infertility hell experiences pain. It is, after all, extremely painful to go through months and months of trying to have a baby only to face your period at the end of each cycle of hope.
And yes, comparisons and competitions don’t do us any good. Your amount of pain doesn’t affect how much pain I feel. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t want any one to feel the pain I have been through.
And yet. I do feel as if there should be some acknowledgement of the pain of a ‘lifer’ on Infertility Row.
I want to explain why having a few failed cycles of IVF is so much more painful than trying to conceive the old-fashioned way (i.e. sex) or even IUI’s to be honest. It’s about reaching the end of the road.
You see, when you busy trying to conceive through sex, there is the thought at the back of your mind that if this doesn’t work, then there are other things to try. There is Chlomid (not invasive and hardly expensive), or if that doesn’t work IUI or IUI with injectibles. There is an option, a back up plan, a plan B. And of course I acknowledge that not every one can afford to go even this far, so baby-making sex represents the end of the road for them.
Then when you do IUI’s, it is more invasive, there is monitoring, there are sometimes injections etc. The stakes are far higher and the disappointments more crashing. Yet for me, there was always the thought that if the IUI’s didn’t work, there was the all-powerful panacea, IVF. IVF is the big guns. Surely IVF will work. IVF, the big back up plan, the ultimate failsafe.
Then you fail your first IVF. Very sad, yet excusable, almost expected, in that every one knows your first IVF is a test case, to see how you respond to meds etc.
And then you fail your second IVF. You start to feel a little worried, but ok, most people conceive within 3 IVF cycles. There is still hope. Maybe you are just at the wrong end of the stats.
And then you fail your third IVF. And your next IVF. And maybe your next. And suddenly you are staring down the barrel of the gun. Most people conceive by their third IVF. Suddenly the end of the road looms threateningly before you. Because what is their beyond IVF? You can’t move on to the Next Big Thing. This is it. There is no Next Big Thing. If this doesn’t work then there is no more. And that is an absolutely enormous feeling. That sense of despair, of abject terror, is something that the lucky (who succeed without IVF, or on their first one or two IVF’s) don’t have to face. It is that feeling that this post is about.
The next step involves options that you might have never considered, things like adoption, surrogacy, donor eggs. All beautiful options that could lead to wonderful happy endings, but still, not options that you considered starting out. These are decisions that are made after plenty of soul searching, and usually more than a fair share of heart ache. No one ‘just’ adopts, or ‘just’ does DE, it’s normally done after staring down the barrel of their own particular gun.
And so yes, I do believe that while every one experiences pain, there are some of us who have had more than their fair share of shit to deal with.
I am not even talking about miscarriages, because to be honest, as I have said previously, I feel the endless cycles of negatives is sometimes harder to deal with.
But I do acknowledge that no matter how far down the road you are, no matter how many or which treatments you’ve done, once you face your own ‘end of the road’ the pain is probably equal.
You know, one of the hardest things for me to deal with was being the saddest story around. I hated being the object of every one’s pity, of feeling that people looked at me and thought “poor her, I know my problems are bad, but thank god I am not like her”. Cos it sucks being the saddest story around. And so I am not looking for people to say, “Tertia, you win, your story is the saddest, your pain is the most”. Not at all. I don’t want that. In fact I feel incredibly blessed and lucky right now. It is not about competition, it is not about who wins the pain Olympics. What I do want is just an acknowledgement that for some of us, the road has been (and still is for some) a bit harder than most. And to know that repeated IVF failure is unbelievably hard to deal with.
To put it in another way, Danae and I were chatting a few days ago about age and about she thinks she is So Old. I reminded her that she is only a mere two (2) years older than me. So she said “yes, but infertility years are like dogs years” (you know how there are 7 dogs years to one human year). Good point I thought. Then I said to her “ah, but I have being doing this longer than you so we are equal”. Then we both hated Jo because she is so revoltingly young. We hated Julie because, well, we just felt like it. So infertility years are like dog years. And I might just be the oldest bitch around *grin*.
And as for my Pain Points on the Pain Scale, I score a sad and mind blowing 13,850, because of losing Ben. Even taking out that huge weighting I am at 3,850, or something like that, give or take a MC or two. It blew my mind when I worked it out.
I don’t know. Not much point to this post. LAF’s post really affected me. I don’t even know how to conclude. Infertility sucks. Full stop.