Hobbies After Infertility
Back when we were in our first round of treatments, Josh came home from work one day with a book about breadmaking. He gave it to me, along with a pizza stone, and hinted that maybe I needed a hobby; a distraction from obsessing about each cycle. A friend of his suggested the book. The couple had done fertility treatments and ultimately built their family through adoption. They knew how stressful it could be. They thought this might help.
I threw the book.
But days later, I opened the book and started working my way through the lessons because I hated the idea of wasting book and pizza stone money.
Here’s the thing: it didn’t help. Nothing could distract me from what my mind wanted to focus on. But we did end up with some delicious loaves of bread, and I still use the book to this day.
I don’t know if I believe in hobbies as distractions, but I do believe in hobbies as a way to feel control when you’re in situations outside of your control. A stitch is a stitch. If you pull the string in this movement, it will make a stitch. That is within your control. Transfer an embryo to your uterus and hope that it sticks? That’s out of your control.
So that’s what I got out of it. I liked having a place in life where I could follow the directions and the end result was pretty much what I expected to happen.
Katherine A left a comment on the leveling up post last week that reminded me of that time between bouts at the clinic: when the twins were here but we weren’t ready to add a sibling. All of the energy I poured into building my family was still there — that level of energy doesn’t just dissipate once the moment is over. But it had nowhere to go. There was nothing to research, nothing to measure, nothing to chart, nothing to jot into a spreadsheet. No daily appointments, no daily medications. I didn’t have a single timer set.
On one hand, it was such a relief to be done for a bit. On the other hand, I felt so lost without a goal to focus on.
Katherine A writes:
I needed a hobby other than trying to get pregnant. It sounded so strange to reduce so much stress, sadness, money, etc to that point, but my life had really become so focused on ‘leveling up’ in that particular pursuit that I’d mostly neglected all the other parts of life I usually would have been working on. It seemed odd to let go – even in a temporary, small way – of something I’d put so much effort into and just enjoy where I was.
Yes, that is exactly it.
I forgot until that comment that I ultimately purchased a culinary school textbook and worked my way through the lessons. I knew how to cook, but I didn’t know how to cook. So I cooked, with the twins strapped to my chest in a double carrier. For months I worked on making up my own recipes — my crazy-ass chocolate chip cookies are courtesy of this time period — and I kept a blog about working my way through the textbook.
By the time the textbook was done (skipping over several chapters on things that made me feel squicky), I felt more settled. I felt like I could find ways to make myself feel happy or occupied. I felt full again, focused again, even though I was — for all intents and purposes — lacking a clear focus in comparison to family building.
I don’t think it’s important to start a hobby as a distraction. I think it’s important to start a hobby as a way to feel in control. To take small steps towards a goal where the steps mean something. Where X leads to Y which leads to Z. To remind yourself that not everything in life is a roller coaster like infertility.
What will you teach yourself this year?