Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's a personal choice, really...except when it's not.

It's something I'm not supposed to talk about.

I'm not really sure why.

But it really feels like something I'm not supposed to discuss. And being an open person, that makes me feel a little weird. Especially when it is something that is so big and common, so I'm told, with one or two anecdotes -- so and so evidently struggles with this, someone my sister knows had that. But it is rare to meet someone who talks freely about it in the first person.

But I think it is time. Time for me to talk. I'm not sure if by doing so I defy some deeply seated social taboo, or if it is merely a result of a desire for privacy. Whatever the reason, I feel a little bit like I am doing something wrong in opening up. Like I should be embarrassed or more discreet. I wonder if I will regret sharing with the world, especially in this very private sphere.

But I am going to go ahead and say it:

I can't have kids.

At least not yet.

It is something I've always suspected. It is something I hoped I would overcome with a few simple medical prods. And it is something I continue to deal with. Like when my disability insurance refuses to pay for any pregnancy related injuries or illnesses when they normally pay for this in women without documented fertility issues.

I used to think I would have five kids. In dental school I was asked by a girl if I would quit working to have a family when I graduated. I told her that I felt I would want to continue to work, at least part time, and "Who knows! Maybe I can't have kids so I'll be glad to have my work." She scolded me for saying "such a horrible thing." I don't know why having a realistic intuition was an inappropriate thing to say, but she seemed to think so.

I have thought a lot about pregnancy. I have had a lot of fear. I think I was coming to terms with my fears (both of pregnancy itself and also the fear of maybe not being able to get pregnant) when I wrote my Blueberry girl post. It was shortly after that that we started trying for a baby.

Most of my married life I was shielded by questions, judgements, suggestions. I think it was pretty obvious that in my stage of life (residency), having a baby would be very difficult to manage. But as I get closer to the end, I suddenly feel like it is free game to discuss my reproductive status. I feel like I am bombarded with suggestions (this would be good timing for a baby), encouragement (it would sure be great to see some little Sheffields running around),  and questions (mostly, are you pregnant?).

I should probably feel loved that people are interested in me. And flattered that they think my genes are worth passing on. But it can be hard. Most of the time it doesn't make me sad or mad or frustrated. But it does make me feel awkward. And alone.

When I hear, "No kids yet? Hmmm...I guess it is a personal decision, really." It pangs my heart to think, "Well no, it really hasn't been my decision." When I am asked when I am going to have kids, I say something like, "Maybe after residency," but I am really thinking, "Maybe never." I am embarrassed when I find myself tearful in inappropriate situations (probably partly from the stress of disappointment after disappointment and partly from the induced hormonal surges), and frustrated that when I look in the mirror, I am plagued by the effects of my out-of-wack hormones wreaking havoc on my body -- acne worse than when I was a teen, for one. And the disappointment and worry of what comes next after taking 5-7 additional pills each day that still don't seem to be working. I feel alone that while I answer with a superficial polite response with a smile, inside I know the struggle I carry alone, or at least it feels that way much of the time.

I'm not sure what I am hoping to achieve by this post. But I am tired of hiding it. I am tired of trying to be brave and quiet. I am tired of feeling like I am alone and weird and broken, when evidently there are lot of others who must be feeling the same way. People that could probably help me. And people maybe I could help.

So yes, I am infertile. And if you ask, I'm going to tell. When you get a real answer you didn't want to hear, maybe you can be the one who feels awkward or embarrassed.  Because I am moving on.

* * *

I wrote this post months ago after obviously a time of frustration. I wasn't ready to share at the time but it was therapeutic for me to get my feelings out. While this isn't necessarily how I am feeling now and it is pretty raw and personal  (I'm not sure I planned to ever post this), today seemed like the right time to set it free. Maybe someone dealing with this issue can find some benefit and those who can't relate can be a little more aware...


Andrea D said...


Julia and Sterling said...

Erin, I admire your courage. It took us two years and a number of treatment options before Cohen was born, and I remember facing struggles from both within and without. Best of luck with whatever path you guys take. You definitely have the support of many, many friends and family- us included.


Abby said...

This post simultaneously made me teary and made me proud. Love you.

Jeff said...

My wife and I are currently trying to adopt. We went through the whole process of going to doctor after doctor only to finally be told it was impossible.

We've made it pretty public that we're trying to adopt. That's totally a subject you're allowed to talk about, but the reason why still seems fairly taboo. (Although, I'm pretty open about that too.)

I'm not gonna lie, though. It's been therapeutic when people have said, "So when are you gonna quit being so selfish and have some kids?" to just say, "never. It's impossible for us." It's so nice to let them feel the awkwardness that they so freely put on others.

P.S. You don't know me, but I saw this on Facebook because we have mutual friends. I very much related to what you said, so I had to comment.

Rachel said...

I am so glad you shared your feelings. I have a number of friends who are in similar positions but like you said, many don't share it publicly. I think you can get support and not feel alone as soon as you do open up and share. I am truly most grateful for your post because it opens up the opportunity for us and others to be a better support, specifically through prayer. If you choose to do invitro or adopt, those can be difficult and intense processes. If those don't seem right you will be facing other difficulties and prayer can be a help. We are happy to pray for you because no one understands more fully and can help more completely than our Father in Heaven. We are praying for you and that the Lord can lend you strength as you face this challenge.

boomersMOM said...

Wish us LDS female dental specialists lived closer!!! I think we probably have many of the same trials in life. While I've been out of residency for almost a year, we have not yet started trying and you have verbalized one of my great fears. Plus its super annoying when people are like "so you're out of school now, why aren't u pregnant" Keep your head up and I'm sending lots of good vibes your way!!
-Laura Milroy

Amber said...

Er, I admire you so much for sharing your situation. I can't imagine how difficult it has been for you to deal with this, especially while feeling like you can't be open about it. I pray that you will have the help and support that you need, and know that I'm only a phone call away. Love you!

Rachel said...

Infertility sucks! I remember how horrible it feels! I remember how crazy and sick the hormone manipulating drugs made me. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this!!! I don't know if there is really anything others can say to make you feel better. I'm sure you especially don't want to hear sob stories from those who now have kids. I'll just say that I love you! You have always been a model of strength and independence. I know you will make it through this!

Camber said...

Erin, I love your candor and admire your courage in posting this. I always felt a sense of relief when we'd tell someone about our infertility, because I hated the awkwardness of watching them do the math (you guys don't have kids yet? How long have you been married?). People arrive at parenthood in a variety of ways, and everyone has to decide for themselves what they feel comfortable with (we felt more comfortable with IVF than with adoption, some couples feel the opposite, some don't feel comfortable with either--I think all are acceptable and all are very personal choices). One thing that has surprised me is how common is how common infertility is--the problem is no one talks about it so people tend to feel isolated and alone. You and Abe will be awesome parents someday--whenever and however that happens.

Sarah said...
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Sarah said...

We had only lived in Iowa City a few weeks when a new friend told me, "it's nice to wait a few years to have kids." I was hurt and insulted, and did explain that I had miscarried previously. Then I was told, "it would be tough to try again after that," like she was giving me permission to wait to have kids. After that, I was very open about wanting kids.

I took me awhile to realize that other people weren't always open about infertility. Like seeing people who had said, "maybe after we get done with school" suddenly have twins or triplets and tearfully admit that invitro finally worked.

Thank you for sharing your feelings. I'm sure there are plenty of women around you that need your support.

Rachel Culmer said...

Erin -- what a breakthrough!

I remember that frustrating phase. Kind of like a mad/anger phase (at least for me). Somehow though, one gradually starts coming to terms with things, and then eventually it doesn't bother one as much. It's almost as if the more open you are about it to people, the easier it gets. You'd be surprised how many people have similar situations.

I was amazed at how well I did with our miscarriage, and I think the reason we were able to cope so well with it is because of the struggles infertility we had already been through. Somewhere along the way I learned that Heavenly Father is in charge of my life and He has a plan for me, and I had to stop controlling HIS plan. I don't know when it happened, but it comes. It does come.

In the meantime, congrats on the breakthrough. Be open about it. There's no reason to be ashamed!

You go girl!

Katherine said...

I think the social taboo regarding talking about infertility is one everyone else's discomfort with it. Most people don't know what to say, what questions to ask, etc. With my own personal experiences and that of many friends, it would be wonderful if we could just be more open. Wonderful of you to encourage that conversation.

Sarah said...

Thank you for posting this. I felt so alone when we were having a hard time getting pregnant too. It felt like everybody could get pregnant but me. And I don't know why I had a difficult time sharing it with people- embarrassment maybe? So again, thank you for being so open. I know it will help others realize they're not the only ones going through it. You are an amazing woman and have an amazing man by your side. I have no doubt there are great things in store for you, whatever they may be.

Sara said...

What a personal post Erin, I really identified with your frustration. As women I think in general we are too hard on each other. Our identity and fulfillment gets too wrapped up in producing children or a successful career.
I know in my personal situation we don't plan on having kids anytime soon and infertility is something we might also have to grapple with when the time comes.
I'm used to it now, but I still get defensive when people ask, "why aren't you married? why don't you have kids?" and it's unfortunate that with each milestone in life people feel it's their business to ask why you aren't quite where THEY think you're supposed to be.
We tend to have these preconceived notions about each other's lives. Keep your head up lady and always remember that you are living and creating the best life you can for YOU xx

Erin said...

Wow I feel like I should respond to everyone for their nice comments and especially for those who shared your own story. I feel so behind and like that would be awkward...

Thanks for my friends and family who have been there along the way (and through the hormones).

Also thanks to those I don't know or don't talk to much any more for stopping by. Somehow the kindness of strangers and long lost friends is especially touching sometimes. I wish I knew all of these kind words and stories when I was feeling these emotions before!

And Jeff, you look familiar. Did you go to Orem High?

Tara said...

I am so sorry to hear of your struggle. I know it is a battle-- fertile or infertile-- to field questions from people regarding your family planning. I agree completely with what Laura said-- and since we are both in CO it sounds like all you need is to make the move!! Best of luck to you wherever this path leads. Thanks for sharing so openly- it really touches so many who may be struggling with the same issues but also those who aren't and just need a reminder to be more grateful and less judgmental.

Sundy said...

Every time I post a picture or comment about my daughter on social media I get a pit in my stomach, knowing that there are beautiful people in my life who want a baby and for whatever reason don't have one. Infertility is one of the most heartbreaking words I know. And it affects some of the best people I know. Thank you for sharing your hurt.

And yes, Jeff went to OHS. He graduated 1999.