Infertile Girls at the Welcome Table

10 years ago

It seems a tad strange to begin a new column in medias res as if I've been blogging on BlogHer for years and this post is just like every other post. Sort of like walking into a stranger's house and taking a place at the table and digging into the mashed potatoes without so much as a door knock. So before I start eating your dinner, let me introduce myself as Melissa, the author of Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters, and the new contributing editor for infertility and pregnancy loss.

And now we can jump right into the salad course.

The New York Times ran an excellent article this week in the Modern Love column by Catherine MacRae Hockmuth about her struggle with infertility. Like infertility and the monthly cycle itself, the article ran the gamut from gallows humour,

Some of my friends post sonogram images of their thumb-sucking fetuses on their refrigerators. It’s their baby’s first photo, the one that is sent by e-mail to everyone with cheerful subject lines like “It’s a girl!” We have sonogram photos, too, years’ worth, but there are no tiny hands or perfectly shaped noses in ours. The sonogram image that’s furthest along features two promising little marbles that stopped growing at seven weeks, which was three weeks before we knew anything was wrong. The most recent is of a blank, black space with the caption: “Empty Uterus.” I wonder how people would respond if I were to e-mail that to everyone with the subject line: “It’s an Empty Uterus!”

To the poignant,

It’s not vanity to want a child with my husband’s laugh and spiky blond hair, or for him to want a long-legged girl with brown hair, freckles and gaps in her teeth. It’s love. And of all the baby items we’ve had to find places to store in this apartment, that unspent love is the most unwieldy. Unlike our books, furniture, clothes and pictures, it can’t be returned, given away, or shoved into the corners of our closet. And unlike hope, it probably won’t be found through scientific study to be an obstacle to emotional recovery.

The purpose of this article is not only to connect with other people struggling with infertility, eliciting a head nod and a silent, long-distance hug, but to explain infertility to those outside the experience. She mentions this disconnect between those who have experienced infertility and those who have conceived easily when she touches on a conversation she had with her pregnant sister. Hockmuth asked her sister not to use the names Hockmuth had picked out years ago for her unborn children. She admits that she believes her pregnant sister found the request unreasonable and the rational side of me can see that response. I understand those who would question why infertility should grant a person exclusive usage of favourite names. But my infertile heart sides with Hockmuth when she says, "But how could she have known how precious those names are to us? We’ve been carrying them around in our hearts for years, if not in our arms."

That's the rub with infertility--the imaginary vs. the real, the struggle vs. the ease. And ever-present, the waiting while everyone else who was standing at the starting line with you leaps into the race while you still stand there waiting for the flag to fall.

This weekly column, like Hockmuth's article, will hopefully serve the same purpose. It is certainly filling a widely-growing niche in the BlogHer community, those experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss. It is a diverse niche too from those who knew for years that they would need assistance trying to conceive to those who are still in shock, from those who are fully ensconced in treatments to those who walked away after a few rounds of Clomid, from those who can conceive easily but not carry to term to those who have never seen two lines.

But I also hope this column will be read by those who wish to learn more about the emotional, physical, and financial realities of infertility. After all, according to the CDC, 7.3 million Americans have been diagnosed as infertile which stands to reason that you probably know quite a few people--sisters, cousins, friends, co-workers--who are experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss.

There are four main paths out of infertility: treatments, adoption, donor gametes, and living child-free and I plan to focus on highlighting the best posts from a plethora of blogs in addition to writing about the issues inherent to infertility and pregnancy loss. Strangely enough, my own BlogHer Ad Network reads like a options pamphlet at a fertility clinic. There is Chicklet of Blurb This, who is waiting to start her second round of IVF. Lori, from Weebles Wobblog, who is parenting two children after adoption while Lindsay, from Looking for 2 Lines is just starting her adoption paperwork. Pamela Jeanne, from Coming2Terms is living child-free after infertility. Beth, from The Idle Mind of Beth is at the beginning of treatments for the first time and I am at the beginning of treatments for the second time. The only path we are currently missing is donor gametes, and technically, even that is covered by the incredible Cyclesista--an online support group for those undergoing IUI or IVF including donor cycles.

And just like that, I've started summoning friends to the dinner table. Hopefully, this meal will turn into one big party as we draw more and more women together in a common understanding of each other's struggles and celebrations.

Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 1100 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere.

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