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Flying Across the Infertility Chasm

In honour of NIAW, Resolve has asked us to Bust a Myth.  So I sat there, thinking through all of the misinformation I see floating through the media, all of the idiotic statements I’ve heard made to my face or behind my back.  We all collectively busted the myth of how one makes fertility drugs.

I decided to address something that hits closer to home; something that may rub people the wrong way at first, but a post that I hope people will read until the end.

The myth I’d like to bust is the gulf that exists between those on both sides of the infertility chasm.

I was originally going to blog about how infertility doesn’t really have an end point, and that is indeed part of this, but seeing the little punk teenage boy at American Idiot made me think of this idea in an entirely new direction.  We often talk about how once someone passes through treatments or adoption or surrogacy and is parenting, they can no longer truly comfort or understand people who are still standing on the other side of the divide.  That time and distance dull all ability to empathize properly.  That people forget and in that forgetting, they become careless, thoughtless.  They gleefully post pictures of their burgeoning stomach without any regard to how readers might feel.  They talk endlessly about parenting.  And for all intents and purposes, based on what they post on the screen, they’ve moved on.

Based on what they put on the screen.

I watched the teenage boy in front of me at the play emotionally fist pump the air with every “fuck” that is sounded in that play.  And it was true — I understood why he was doing it, why the play was emotional for him, what that moment meant to him.  But I didn’t feel those same things anymore, even though I knew I would have felt them if I were a teenager at the moment.  What I did feel as I watched him was a certain internal tenderness, as if his fist pump had punched against a spot inside of me that I had forgotten was bruised.  I certainly wasn’t aware of it when I was standing in line to get into the theater; I’m not often in touch with my inner teenager.

But seeing his emotions brought me back to a mental slideshow of my own teenage landscape.  That feeling like every moment was like walking across a minefield — what would I say that would suck up life for me later?  What would I not say that I would regret?  How was I being judged or misunderstood or slighted?  And it hurt to be there.  And my defense was to think about my adult life, a “wheeew, so glad I’m not there anymore” mentality.  If I had written a blog post in the moment, it probably would have gleefully pointed out exactly how glad I am that I’m an adult.  Once I realized I was mentally doing this, I thought about how hurtful it would have been if the teenager had been privy to my thoughts.

I think those who are parenting after infertility are in a unique place because they’ve been on both sides of the divide.  I think they can comfort in a way that those still in the trenches can’t always comfort because those on the other side of the divide no longer need to use their emotional rations on themselves.  And I think that when you see them behaving in a way that is insensitive — which I am sure I have done countless times on this blog, and I’m sorry — it is not because they’ve completely forgotten what infertility is like.  It’s because they remember precisely what infertility is like.  And it is like punching a bruised area to think about it.

Because for many people, infertility doesn’t have an expiration date.  It doesn’t have an end point.  It is so huge, so emotional, so life-changing that it becomes an event — a divide in a life and the way we count years — the moment before the diagnosis and the moment after.  BD and AD.  The moment before a loss and the moment after.  BL and AL.  Which is not to say that the emotional pain once you’ve moved from the epicenter of the experience is the same.  It is very different now — I can go through my entire day and barely think about infertility whereas it used to control every minute of every day.

And while I can’t enter that state of depression that I once lived inside, I can certainly see it in another person and remember how it felt even if I’m not feeling it in the moment.  Just in the same way that even though I am not currently eating a strawberry, I can remember how the seeds feel as they crunch under my teeth, the tartness of the fruit out of season, the smell when it’s moving from ripe to overtime.

The myth I want to bust is that the divide is so great that we can’t step back and forth over it for each other.  That once you reach parenthood, you need to leave the community which has been your support for many months or years.  I wish more people would stick around, jump into the advocacy work or give support.  It often turns out that when you’re going through treatments or the adoption process, you don’t have the energy to do anything more than get through your day.  The aftermath is the perfect time to turn around and use everything you learned along the way — to fight for insurance coverage for others, to offer comfort to those in the trenches, to bust all the myths that surround infertility.

And frankly, just because you’re parenting doesn’t mean that you don’t still want your feelings validated, your ideas confirmed, your triumphs celebrated.  Parenthood doesn’t erase — it’s a new creation that is built on a blank space on the heart, not a new creation rewriting everything that came before it.  Just as people should turn backwards and still comfort those in the trenches, I hope that those still fighting will reach out their figurative hands and touch those on the other side of the divide from time to time.

There are some who will not agree with me, who will say they never thought about infertility again once they were parenting or who can point at people who grew too insensitive for words.  But I’d like to believe that even if we don’t live each other’s lives, we don’t need to let that chasm divide us — we can give support, we can give empathy, we can simply say, “I heard you.  I listened.”

We may not be one, big, happy family — I’m not going to blow kumbaya-smoke up your ass — but we are a community who has a lot of energy, a lot of empathy, and the choice to use it inwardly and outwardly to create change as well as give support.


1 Genevieve { 04.24.11 at 11:32 am }

I think sometimes it is difficult to comfort knowing you have “survived”, but I will always have this as part of me. Our struggle is not over, not if we want more children, and certainly not forgotten. Great post!

2 Searching for serenity { 04.24.11 at 11:45 am }

Brilliant! Thank you so much for all that you do for this community. This is quite possibly the best post you’ve written.


3 Hope { 04.24.11 at 12:13 pm }

From the perspective of being “still in the trenches”, some of the best support I’ve gotten has been from those on the other side. I think what you say about being able to give more once you are a parent, is true. It is a different kind of support, but sometimes I don’t actually want to trade stories with someone in the trenches. Sometimes I just want someone who once was there to listen to me and validate what I’m going through and give me hope for the future.

Thanks so much for taking on this issue.

4 Justine { 04.24.11 at 12:23 pm }

I love this post, Mel. I’ve been struggling with my relationship with my readers now that I’ve “arrived”… this helps to remind me that it’s not so different after all. 🙂

5 Foxy { 04.24.11 at 2:21 pm }

You say so may things in this post that really hit home for me Mel.

My life really is defined by “the moment before the diagnosis and the moment after.” I knew immediately that nothing would ever be the same again, I wouldn’t be, my husband wouldn’t be, our relationship had changed forever in one quick moment.

I’ve also experienced firsthand that “when you’re going through treatments or the adoption process, you don’t have the energy to do anything more than get through your day.” Some of this most incredible support I’ve received has been from women who were already parents. Their compassion for my experience was so comforting. and reading the stories of those who had come before me on this journey, well, I will never be able to thank enough for sharing.

Thanks for busting this myth and for being such a strong compassionate friend and advocate. Love to you as you continue on this journey Mel.

6 Katie { 04.24.11 at 2:31 pm }

Brilliant post, Mel. Ironically, I wrote about a similar misconception by outsiders, but your post focuses so well on a topic we need to think about and talk about WITHIN this community.

Like Foxy, my life is sort of this “before and after” story. Nothing will ever change my life quite the way that diagnosis day did. Even now, as we are preparing to start the adoption process, I can’t imagine infertility not being a part of who I am. I can’t imagine forgetting or leaving all of this behind, even when we do bring home a baby.

Thank you for being that bridge between various sections of this community, and for always being supportive of every person – no matter their journey. Your leadership truly brings us all together.

7 HereWeGoAJen { 04.24.11 at 2:33 pm }

We may not always be one big happy family, but I do think our corner is the most functional blog family on the internet. We all understand loss, even if it is just a loss of what is easy, and we’ve all had something seriously insensitive said to us, which makes us more sensitive in the long run. This whole ALI community has certainly made me a better person. And I am so glad I stuck around once I crossed to the other side, particular since I am now wading in the middle.

8 a { 04.24.11 at 2:55 pm }

I think that this community sees a lot of the “afters” giving the benefit of their experience to the “befores.” I often click over for the requests for help/advice on LFCA to see that there have been several people there before me.

I don’t think it’s insensitive to celebrate a hard-won pregnancy, though. It may not feel great to me, who has pretty much put the fight down, or to others still fighting…but we don’t have the right to complain if someone is celebrating. We may not be able to fully celebrate with them, and that’s OK too. There are certainly people out there who use pregnancy as a weapon, but I doubt that many of them have suffered infertility.

I came to the party late – I had suffered 2 losses, gotten a diagnosis and had a healthy pregnancy resulting in a take-home baby who is now an insolent 4 year old before I ever found the ALI community. I’ve never felt like an outsider because of my status (only because I’m an outsider in general 🙂 ).

9 Esperanza { 04.24.11 at 3:29 pm }

What a wonderful post. Being someone on the other side who’s felt she was unable to reach back properly and comfort those still in the trenches I really appreciate your take on it. I think it is hard to navigate that sometimes, for those who have crossed the divide and those still on the other side. Any dialogue we can start about bridging the difference is greatly appreciated.

10 Louisa { 04.24.11 at 5:10 pm }

Great post. I completely agree and I would take it one step further. I feel like I owe it to all the wonderful women who were supportive of me when I was cycling to be there for them and be supportive now that I’m on the other side. It is the least I can do.

11 VA Blondie { 04.24.11 at 6:14 pm }

Great post. I have always felt more like an infertility blogger than a mommy blogger, and I had no desire to leave this community. Maybe because I spent so long writing about infertility, and it still creeps in to my posts. How I look at it may have changed, but I am still infertile despite the fact I have a little one.

12 Ms C { 04.24.11 at 7:08 pm }

So well expressesed, Mel. Thanks for tackling this myth.
I have to say that I think about infertility every day (if not more). Often times it is in relation to giving thanks for my (not always stellar) 3 year old, and this (very uncomfortable) second pregnancy. My experiences also colour how I relate to others. I am much less afraid to “bust” myths that others toss around about infertility in their ignorance. Sometimes I feel that just talking about how “real” infertility is is the least I can do.

13 Becky { 04.24.11 at 8:01 pm }

I wrote a blog post about this too (or maybe several, lol). But basically, I agree. Infertility is something that pops back up for me. It’s the guilt I feel when I get frustrated that the baby who we waited to adopt for almost 2 years won’t sleep at night, knowing that I asked, no BEGGED, for this child. It’s the overwhelming sense of love I feel when I look at my two boys, the gratefuness that they are my sons. It’s the anger and grief I feel at not being allowed to know the first name my son was given. While I certainly blog about my life as a momma, my infertility will always be a huge part of me. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t. But sometimes I’m glad it’s still there as I know I draw on it to support others who are still in the midst of its ugliness.

14 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 04.24.11 at 8:31 pm }

But I *like* your kum-bah-ya smoke up my ass!


I admit that I feel less connected to the infertility blogosphere post-baby than I did before. And I admit to being grossly insensitive at times, but it mostly comes from a place of feeling like I’m entitled to some “in your face”-ishness due to the fact that I waited so long and had to work fairly hard to get here. All the same, I wouldn’t want to read my blog if I were still “in the trenches”. And I find myself having a harder time relating to people on the other side, not because I haven’t been there, but because I simply have less time to study (and then comment on) the intricacies of someone else’s BBT chart. In general, though, I find myself in a more “take” than “give” position right now. And I don’t like that. Makes it hard to write and comment and be myself when I feel so horribly needy right now.

Anyhow, I take this post as a reminder to reach out more often to those people I have relationships with who are still waiting for their turn or have moved on from waiting. Because I agree. We have a lot to give to one another, and one of the best things about infertility is the fact that I found this solid community of people who have not only been great infertility support, but also great life support on the whole.

15 kateanon { 04.24.11 at 8:40 pm }

great post, great points in it. thanks.

16 Miss Conception { 04.24.11 at 10:25 pm }

You are such a wonderful writer. I am so new to this that I haven’t experienced the chasm myself, but you make it sound like a very real problem.

17 Trinity { 04.24.11 at 11:37 pm }

I didn’t bristle at all as I was reading along. I wholeheartedly feel that parenting does not negate one’s ability to offer empathy and support to those still struggling to conceive, and while the thoughts that occupy my time while parenting are different than those before that infertility bruise is still quite tender.


While I still try my damnedest to give back now that I am parenting, I have found that there are those individuals who don’t feel my support is valid any longer. I have been openly told (by an IFer IRL) that I didn’t “get” what IF felt like any longer because I was pregnant at the time. That somehow my pregnancy (regardless of what it took to achieve it) erased all the IF shit that came before it. And said IFer still won’t communicate with me or openly acknowledge my IVF baby. I think what really breaks my heart about this particular situation is that this person is one who could benefit from that “giving back” and who is so lost in her own isolation… So, sometimes no matter how true the actively supportive intention by the parenting-after-IFer, sometimes the support just isn’t well received. It hurts. It fucking sucks on so many levels. I do think/hope like hell/pray that this situation, though, is an outlier.

Good thoughts, as always, Mel. 🙂

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.24.11 at 11:42 pm }

“infertility doesn’t have an expiration date. ” Love this. IF changed me. Not necessarily for the worse. It’s made me more compassionate and grateful. Different than I might have been otherwise.

I don’t know how I might have felt in this community if I’d found it while I was in the trenches. I feel that my role here now is, in part, the same as Loribeth’s and Kym’s and Jen’s and many others’ — to show that you can get off the island one way or another and thrive. That no matter what, there is and After.

19 Aramelle @ One Wheeler's World (Linky) { 04.25.11 at 12:51 am }

Mel, the tears stream down my face as I read your post and the comments here in regards to it. Thank you for addressing this topic.

20 Mali { 04.25.11 at 2:29 am }

This is really interesting. In my observation, IF changes the way you think about pregnancy and children, and the way you think and feel about yourself, whether or not you have children. And that is something that links us all, regardless of our outcome. I think the difference might be for those of us who don’t go on to have children, and know that that is the end of their ttc efforts. Dealing with this as an “end” and then a new life, is very different to the journey when we hang on to hope (or it was in my experience). And that’s something that most IF bloggers who go on to have children – even if they are sympathetic and empathetic and sensitive and decent – will never experience. And I’m glad about that. I read some IF blogs from people who have kids (namely you), but wouldn’t read others. It’s all in how it is written – in the same way that some of my IRL friends have kids but are still close, and others with kids have drifted away.

21 Rach { 04.25.11 at 3:34 am }

While I’m happy to receive any and all support when I “need” it I am the first to admit that support that comes from those who have “crossed the divide” is sometimes hard to take – that’s not to say that I reject it because I don’t, it’s just that it’s hard to accept at times.

To have someone who has “crossed the divide”, sit on the other side of a computer screen and tell me that they’re “sorry”, that they “understand”, that they “get it” while bounce their baby/toddler/child on their hip – as much as I know that they more than likely genuinely mean what they’re typing, it still sometimes, after well over a decade of trying to have my own baby and having multiple miscarriages and now facing a childless life, feels like being given advice while simultaneously receiving a slap in the face.

Unfortunately I also find that it is usually the lucky ladies who have “crossed the divide” ,who constantly tell me “not to give up hope” – which is no help at all and in fact stops me from grieving for my situation and moving forward and I’m sorry if this seems blunt but it’s easy to tell someone who is a longterm ttcer and recurrent pregnancy loser to have hope when you’ve already gotten your child and never have to face the prospect of living a childfree life.

Us childless not by choice bloggers are the forgotten of the ALI blogosphere – it feels at times that we are swept under the carpet and forgotten about because really who wants to not only have to contemplate living the life we are but to actually live it and read about it? That’s the stuff of nightmares.

So with all this said, I must point out that I do not believe you ever get over infertility, even when you’re watching your much longed for child get married, it will always be a part of you but do you sometimes forget the struggle of it and how hard it was? Once you have your child, yes I believe the pain of Infertility would, at times, wane slightly, it would be ever present but not I believe as painful as it was say when you were in the trenches.

Whether you’ve been trying for 2 months, 2 years or 20 years, have lost one baby, two babies or countless babies, pain is pain, sadness is sadness and no ones struggles is more important than anyone else’s but I sometimes think once you’ve gotten out of the trenches, when you’ve won your prize child, you can forget how easily a single word can be misinterpreted and hurt, you can forget how hard it is to hear good news all around you and know it will never be your turn to announce yours.

Sometimes, we just have to stop and place ourselves in someone else’s situation even if only for the briefest of moments.

Great post Mel.

22 Erica { 04.25.11 at 8:20 am }

GREAT point. I boast about parenting now which is probably annoying to some. But I still try so hard to let people know that I have not in any way shape or form forgotten the turmoil of trying to be a parent.

23 Searching for Serenity { 04.25.11 at 10:54 am }

“Parenthood doesn’t erase – it’s a new creation that is built on a blank space on the heart, not a new creation rewriting everything that came before it.”

I was so touched by this statement that I quoted you at the end of my NIAW post. I hope that’s ok….

24 Jen Durham { 04.25.11 at 11:17 am }

Well said! I applaud you for getting that out there!

25 Kir { 04.25.11 at 11:58 am }

as always you say things with such a clear, concise voice. I have been trying to articulate this for years: the place where I am now to reconcile with the place I was. How pg news still stings, how when I see a newborn with new parents, or hear about someone getting PG, I can’t be happy until I know “how” they did it. I judge a lot of people that are pregnant, because my bruise is still sore.

this was just wonderful….and gave me a lot to think about .

26 Kitty { 04.25.11 at 12:25 pm }

Wow, I really needed to read this post today. I admit I tend to harbor a lot of resentment towards some women who’ve crossed the divide into parenthood after IF. I try not to, really, but some days are better than others for sure. Thanks for the reminder to be generous in my thoughts, and to give people the benefit of the doubt.

27 Seriously?! { 04.25.11 at 1:19 pm }

Oh Mel this post comes at a perfect time for me.

I’ve been so busy finsihing up our big adoption book and finally have a bit of a lul while we ‘wait’. I’ve soooooooooo been thinking about these 2 sides as I am currently in the middle. I’ve been so scared by loss that I CAN”T IMAGINE NOT continuing to support other women. It just feels like a ‘calling’ at this point. Something that I HAVE to do. And I can only hope, that once I get to the other side, that I will continue to feel this passion and desire to advocate and empathize with others. Infertility is life changing, there is no doubt about it.

For me…it’s just about what am I going to do about this little BIG issue?!

I love this post, I’m going to link it on my blog because it’s so important.


28 nh { 04.25.11 at 3:36 pm }

Once again…wow! Such a perceptive post; and no not everyone will agree. I’ve crossed over, but I don’t know what’s it like to be pregnant, or give birth. I’m starting to know what it’s like to parent. Has the fact we have adopted, changed me back to what I was before IF – of course not, those hard lessons cannot be undone. However, I do think twice before posting on some blogs because I wonder whether my words will be received as they are meant.

I shall do more commenting, I still know what it feels like.

29 JJ { 04.25.11 at 3:53 pm }


30 serenity { 04.25.11 at 4:12 pm }

Right on. Wish I had something more to add.

What I do know is that I try and offer support and comfort as much as I can. I’m past the days where the anger at our infertility burns so brightly in me that I can FIGHT the ignorance and educate those that need to be educated.

But what I CAN do is take that empathy and support others who are maybe on the other side of the chasm, and hope they find some measure of peace in whatever decision they end up making. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

This community did so much for me in the early IF years that I’m more than happy to give back.


31 Sarah { 04.25.11 at 4:25 pm }

Wonderful post.

32 Lacie { 04.25.11 at 6:05 pm }

Thank you, Mel!

Again, you’ve inspired me.

33 AL { 04.25.11 at 7:08 pm }

Thanks for this post Mel – well written and thought provoking as always. When I was in the trenches still fighting, I always appreciated the people who had moved on dropping by to offer encouragement, empathize, etc. Since I’m in the in-between phase right now (pregnant after IF and loss), I sometimes wonder if I annoy rather than support those still trying. I still drop by and comment, but I don’t know if my comments are now seen differently as I’ve crossed over.

I also wonder what will become of my blog and my friends when I do have a child – how can I talk about IF or parenting while parenting without appearing ungrateful?

34 Lil T { 04.26.11 at 12:26 am }

What a fantastic post. I have contemplated this chasm many times, wondering how my perspective would change if I ever became a “have” instead of a “have not”. Would I be any less understanding of those who are still experiencing IF? I don’t think so, and I would hope that stories of my previous experiences might still be useful to someone who is newer to IF. I appreciate any support offered to me, whether it’s someone who is in the trenches currently, or someone who has successfully passed through the trenches on their way to parenthood. I see the success stories as an inspiration.

35 Claire { 04.26.11 at 1:04 am }

I didn’t write an NIAW post yet, but I did just write a post about all the people who helped us to have a baby, which is not exactly myth busting, but does involve me saying that I am grateful for all the people who helped us and I know that sounds odd to non IF people, but to us, it’s just business as usual. Or course one needs help. Lots of it. And lots of thank you cards. Certainly not an intimate bedroom moment is involved in conceiving after IF ( or during it!)
Anyway, I love your post. I am one of those plaster baby photos all over my blog people as well as one who believes she writes sensitive, personalized and caring comments on a wide range of blogs. Since having a baby and suffering from a horrible case of PPD I have had to limit my reading of some of the saddest and painful blog posts because I obsess that every single scenario could happen to Isobel and it drives me mad. But I am faithful to my regular blogs – and I comment on some LFCA as much as I can.
Great stuff:) thanks!

36 RenovationGirl { 04.26.11 at 2:46 pm }

I watch my aunt, whose adopted Korean children are 25 and23 now, silently sob as I talk about my most recent secondary infertility issues…she is not over her own experiences and therefore provides a great comfort to me. I find that I get upset when people feel their journey is over once they bring a child into their lives…I want to hear how life is after that. I’ve dealt with primary infertility and secondary infertility and I hope that I provide comfort to those going through the rollercoaster ride currently, but understand if they reject it. This was a great post, Mel.

37 loribeth { 04.26.11 at 4:00 pm }

This was a great post — thanks to Lori LL for the shoutout above. I’m a little late to the game, but I’m glad to see a few other childfree-not-by-choice bloggers have responded already. Those of us in this category have a double or even triple whammy, because not only are we dealing with people who get pregnant effortlessly, infertiles who eventually become parents by whatever means, and those still in the trenches, but we also need to differentiate ourselves from those who are childfree by choice — some rabidly so.

I know there are a lot more people out there living childfree after loss & infertility than our numbers in the blogging community and on message boards would suggest. I think for some people, it just hurts too much to hang around. Distancing themselves from the community that once supported them is one way they can make that break with the past & move toward a new childfree life. And some adjust better or more rapidly than others.

But yeah — whether we acknowledge it openly or not, I don’t think anyone ever forgets.

38 Road Blocks and Roller Coasters { 04.27.11 at 7:18 pm }

Beautifully said. I could not agreed more.

39 Stef { 04.28.11 at 5:39 pm }

This post is perfection.

40 Battynurse { 04.29.11 at 8:49 pm }

Fabulous post.

41 ana nomalie { 04.30.11 at 3:34 pm }

i am in the trenches, and in many ways, i pray i’ll always feel the hurt, not because i’ve become masochistic in nature, but because i don’t want to be like everyone else that has been selfish, insensitive, and apathetic to the infertile community.

i now have friends that are beginning this journey, and i caught myself announcing our adoption plans on my FB. it does make me sick to my stomach that i would oh, so perkily (and so out of character) announce something on my page.

what i should have done was text my friends, maybe call others, and definitely tell my dear infertile friends the news over dinner or coffee.

this is a part of me that i never want to forget. i’ve hated it since day one, but after reading this post, i realize that deep down, i never want to forget it. infertility has taught me so much about myself, my husband, God, reaching others, teaching the community. it has taught me to be outspoken, to be sensitive, to be tactful, to be humble and not take life for granted.

i wish everyone could have a taste of what i have learned through my infertility because it’s opened my heart to a way of life that is selfless.

so, yes, i’d rather have these selfless traits, although they can be isolating at times, but i can teach my future children (however they may come) that empathy is on the road to love, and without love, we cannot understand the rest of the world that is hurting.

42 Being Barren { 05.02.11 at 8:43 pm }

Ah Mel –
I feel as if I straddle 2 lines here. (And, ahem, not the two lines I am hoping to see on a stick…)
I am experiencing secondary infertility, so I am parenting.
Yet at the same time, I wince when I think I am clicking on a blog of someone experiencing infertility, ’cause they are on the blogroll of some other infertility blog I like, and they are oggling over the ultrasound pictures. Yep, I should be happy – people resolve infertility… But I wanted to find support – either in solidarity, or sympathy…

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