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When Do We Get Off This Island?

When you’re living in the Land of If, you’re constantly trying to buy a house on mainland. But even when you get that house, do you ever truly give up your residence on the island? It’s not a pleasant place to visit, so why would someone want to remain here? Or, perhaps, the real question remains, a Frenchman living in America is still French…right?

Some friends of mine were having this debate. Some people immediately distanced themselves the moment they gave birth (I was infertile, but now I’m obviously fertile because I gave birth–even if it was with assistance). Others never wanted to identify themselves as infertile in the first place. And then there are those of us who feel that our whole identity changed with the experience and will always identify as infertile.

In our case, we’re not finished building a family. Since I will need assistance to conceive (most likely invasive, but at the minimum, with drugs), I consider myself infertile. It’s an identity I’ve struggled with–both the shame of not feeling “like a woman” since I’m not getting pregnant in the usual way and the pride I feel in having gone the extra steps to become a mother. My children will never doubt how much they were wanted. Bins full of used injectible needles prove that–because only a heroin junkie or someone crazy would be willing to put themselves through that if they weren’t completely hell-bent on being a mother.

If you are already living on mainland and have finished building your family, do you still consider yourself infertile? If you have children, but are still building your family (this time either with or without assistance), do you consider yourself infertile? And if you are still living in the Land of If, do you think you will still use this label after you’ve gotten that nice little bungalow on the other side of the sea?

A mini-question of the day…


1 serenity { 07.12.06 at 2:40 pm }

I am still living in the land of IF (LOVE the name, btw – love how it means two things)…

But I believe that I will always carry our infertility with me, no matter how many babies we manage to have (if any).

I expect that my husband will try and distance himself from it right away, since he is still struggling with the term ‘infertility’ to begin with.

No matter what, I think that this will make us better parents, because we now do not take having a family for granted. For us, we really need to want it to have it.

2 C { 07.12.06 at 4:16 pm }

I’m definitely still living in the Land of IF, and I hope I never forget what it’s like to be here. While I understand how some people want to put this chapter out of their minds completely after they do conceive and become parents, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to forget this life-altering experience. Infertility has changed me, it’s changed my marriage, and it’s changed the way I view the world. I’m also confident that it’s changed the way I’ll view being a parent. I don’t know if any of these changes will ultimately be for the better, but regardless I don’t want to pretend that they didn’t happen.

3 Sami { 07.13.06 at 2:24 am }

I’m still living on the land of IF and I think I’ll always have a foot here whether I get a house on the mainland or not… at this point I know we’re different than the average fertile myrtle and well even my husband has become one of us so to speak. He is irritated by his fertile cousins who seem to procreate without thought or consequence… so I guess I’m here for the meantime and even when we have a house on the mainland we’ll always have a home on the land of IF.

4 Vee { 07.13.06 at 6:21 am }

I am still living in the land of IF also, I would like to get away some time soon but I will always come back.

I think my husband and I will always be “infertiles” because we are using Donor sperm .It will always be an issue that we need to address as our child gets older and the more they understand the more we will need to explain. So it is something that wil be constantly on our minds.

5 tilly { 07.13.06 at 7:40 am }

I moved to the mainland five years ago when I fell pregnant with DD on our very first cycle of Clomid. This was sooooo easy! My IF wasn’t too bad at all. I could do this again no probs! Would you believe that I even went on the mini-pill after DD was born– wasn’t ready for another baby just yet…..

Well eight cycles, one devastating pregnancy loss and 2.5 years of TTC later, I am thinking of purchasing a house in the Land of IF– next time I will definately not be so cocky!

So much of this process is up to the baby gods! I’ll never forget that now.

6 Anonymous { 07.13.06 at 9:12 am }

I moved to the mainland 15 months ago and love every minute of it but there is a part of me that will always be a “citizen” of the Land of If. I’ve always imagined being the mother of many children but it is difficult to imagine that happening since I’m not a native of the mainland. Many times I feel like a foreigner. The native mainlanders don’t understand the baggage that I’ve brought with me. They don’t understand that making that move didn’t make me forget my Land of If roots. I still feel the pain of my people. In many ways, the Land of If feels more like home than the mainland. Maybe that is why I still like to visit with old If friends. It makes me feel like I belong.


7 Anonymous { 07.13.06 at 10:25 am }

I’ve denounced my citizenship to the land of IF. I even refuse dual citizen ever since the adoption of my daughter. IF treatments were always a means to an end of starting a family. Unlike many friends, I never felt the need to have a pregnancy.. and quite truthfully don’t really like newborns. This is not to diminish the heartbreak of IF treatments, because there were many. It is just something that I have left behind with out regret or bitterness.

8 Royalyne { 07.13.06 at 10:51 am }

People can move away from the island, they can take up residence somewhere else and never look back, they can pretend they were never citizens, but in the end the accent gives it away. Some people only live on the island a short time, they try to stay connected to the mainland at all times, they don’t participate in all the traditions of the island, and they don’t pick up as much of an accent. Some people jump right into the life, ascimilating to the culture, participating in the monthly waiting-for-the-lines pee-stick dance, learning all the slang, and visiting the medicine doctors. Their accent is thick and heavy, one that will never be lost, even through a lifetime back on the mainland. I’m somewhere in the middle, I haven’t seen the medicine doctor yet, but I never want to loose the accent. The island is the first home my husband and I have ever had together and we could never just leave it behind. Maybe we’ll pack up all our belongings and move to the mainland (have a baby), or we might just have the house lifted off it’s foundations and move the whole thing (adopt). Either way, nothing will be left behind, we’re bringing it all. And I kind of like the accent, it’s really soothing when you hear it spoken, comforting, like the other person knows exactly where you’re coming from. My lady-when-waiting has even visited enough to pick up a little bit of the accent herself. It’s an island we all wish we had never moved to, but it’s just about the best accent I’ve ever heard.

9 The Town Criers { 07.13.06 at 10:58 am }

Royalyne–you said it so eloquently. When I moved here, I developed that accent and now I’ve got a big, twangy SQ accent that stands out on mainland. And I’m not going to try to change it because it’s where I’m from.

Is there any update from your husband’s appointment? Please email me directly if you don’t want to update us publically. Unless, of course, you don’t feel like talking about it all. In that case, ignore the question 🙂

10 Piccinigirl { 07.13.06 at 11:16 am }

I can honestly say that no matter what happens in my life, even if end up having a brood of children, I am always going to think of myself as infertile. I believe that I may begin to think of as a badge of honor, a scar on my heart and body that shows the world how much I wanted to be a mom. I know that news of pregnancies will still hurt me inside when I am 9 months Pregnant, that seeing young women with 2 kids in tow and a big belly will still reduce me to tears even if I have children in a stroller.
I have made peace with my infertility and just desire to move past it to motherhood, but just like any sickness or disease, I’ll never be able to forget what it took my body to overcome it.
Plus I don’t want to forget, for all the women experiecing IF now , I want to be a voice for them now and even when my prayers are answered.

11 Natalie { 07.13.06 at 8:44 pm }

I don’t know that I’ll always consider myself infertile (I suppose that depends on how I finally conceive … if I do), but it will always be a part of me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the insensitivity of people I consider my friends or the general attitude towards infertility. I’ll always feel connected to infertility even if I don’t refer to myself as infertile.

12 Anonymous { 07.14.06 at 7:55 pm }

We’ve lived on the mainland 13 years now. Most of the time I don’t think about our time in IF. But there are two times when those memories surface. One is when I meet a current resident of IF. Someone once said, “From your greatest pain can come your greatest ministry.” I don’t want to forget that pain completely, because I keep finding people who need the kind of ministry that only someone who has been there can give. The second came in a class where we studied liberation theology and God’s special care for the poor and oppressed over most Americans and especially white middle class Americans. I wanted to cry out, “Hey, I’m one of those barren women God seems to take such a liking to in the Bible.” That being said, 97% of the time it is a non issue.

13 Ruta { 07.16.06 at 7:54 pm }

I still see myself as infertile three children later: one conceived after IF, one adopted, one wonderful surprise when we weren’t trying — just thinking about maybe braving the waters of TTC/IF or adopting again. Once you’ve been there, the world’s not quite the same again. You lose some of your naivete — that’s the best way I can think of describing the mark that’s left on your soul.

14 lisa { 07.17.06 at 9:46 am }

I’m living on the mainland now but will never feel like I’ve left the Land of IF! We were blessed to have twins after five failed cycles of IVF in two years (yes, I was a glutton for punishment) so conceivably, we may have completed our family. However, I still feel totally out of place with mothers who have not “been to the land of IF” and prefer to spend my time with other women who have gone though, and come out on the “other side”, of infertility. For some reason, I just don’t feel like a “normal” mother…and feel like women who did not have difficulty conceiving just don’t “get it.” I often wonder if I will ever feel “normal” after our experiences.

15 PJ { 07.18.06 at 8:19 am }

I have been living on the mainland for three years and moved even further inland a little over a year ago. We thought our family was complete with our IVF twin girls, but then we were blessed with a surprise pregnancy and had our son.

I will never forget that I was a resident of the land of IF for 6.5 years, though. I carry a lot of scars and baggage with me, and it affects my life on the mainland. I might be a mom, but I still roll my eyes when I hear someone say that she’s going off the pill next month because she’d really like this baby to have a spring birthday.

I live on the mainland now, and happily so, but part of me will always feel like the land of IF is my hometown. For better or worse, infertility changed me, my marriage, the way I parent, how I see myself as a person and a woman.

16 Richard { 07.19.06 at 6:23 am }

I remember reading somewhere an opening speech to a conference on Donor Insemination and it truly struck home. I’m paraphrasing here but what it basically said was that while DI had helped us create a family, we should remember that we are and probably always will be infertile.

DI will not change that fact and neither will anything else, so for those of us that are forced down the donor path we’re lifers on this Island. Our DI children provide us with a lifeline to the mainland but are also a reminder that, no matter how hard we try, we can never leave.

17 Tina { 08.25.06 at 3:28 am }

I have been “on the mainland” for over three years now, with one ART baby (not really a baby anymore), and a surprise baby (discovered when we went back to the RE for seconds). And even though we lived in the Land of IF for just over 19 months, while it seems like a short time now, it was an eternity while we were living it, month by month — and going through that experience, I think, is what makes me an IF citizen for life. I don’t look at children — or life, really, the same way anymore.

18 DementedM { 04.20.07 at 2:17 pm }

I think, for myself, that it’s unhealthy to constantly label myself as infertile. IF will, of course, always be a huge part of my life, but I have no pleasant memories of my time on the island (and I haven’t left yet, I’m at INS about to be deported unless I can prove my citizenship) and in that sense, dwelling on it is not good.

But, I do think I’ll refer to myself as a Recovering Infertile. The scars and pain run deep and it will be an effort to refocus my life on positive things. For me, it really will be a recovery process.

IF robs you of your belief in happy endings. Instead, you learn, firsthand, how cruel and unfair the world is and it’s very hard to ever trust it again. You’ll always remember how quickly things can change, how fast the future you imagine for yourself can go downhill. How mercurial life is, sometimes maliciously so. I often find myself wondering, what the next hurdle is going to be, feeling as if I am balanced on the precipice of disaster while fate rushes at me like a linebacker.


(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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