Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I was speaking with my massage therapist yesterday about, what else, infertility. She was asking me about work stress, so actually, it didn't start out as an infertility discussion. I told her I've been trying not to overextend myself at work lately, and I've been setting boundaries with patients (NaPro ultrasound) and clients (Creighton). But, it's been hard, because then I feel like I'm "not there" for them, and of everyone at both offices, I should be the one who knows how they feel, understands the importance of their (often incessant) questions, and puts their needs on top priority.

The therapist asked me straight out if I felt like I had to remain infertile for them.

The question, coming from her, took me by surprise.

The question, in and of itself, did not surprise me at all.

It's a question that has been looming in my heart for years, now. Since I was dumbstruck that someone else was able to see that truth which I felt had been hidden, she pressed on: "Do you feel that it would be hurtful for those women to see your pregnant belly sitting across from them, and that you wouldn't be able to give them the same level of care you give them now?"


It was at the very end of our session. She told me to go home and think about this. To realize that my patients and clients do not need me to (and I quote) "take their shit home with {me}." Really?? They don't?? Of course I know this... but, my home is covered with "their shit" and has been for quite a while. Maybe in a way, by assuming their pain, I can escape my own?

It reminds me of when I was a senior in High School, and did a community theatre production of The Crucible. I played Mary Warren, the only one of the young girls with scruples, but in the end, not strong enough to overpower the will, charm, and tactics of Abigail. In that final courtroom scene, Mary Warren is broken down until she gives up the truth and finds protection in Abigail's lie. It is an incredibly emotional and tension-ridden scene to act.
After rehearsals and each show, one of my fellow actors would see me in the back dressing room, face red and splotchy from crying, and taking deep breaths as I re-applied make-up. She asked me one night how I did that scene so intensely each night, and I told her it was easy once I "became" Mary Warren. Another actor overheard and told me that I shouldn't do that - that it was much healthier for me to find my own inner motivation (something that made me scared, anxious, sad, etc.) and do more of a "surface level" acting. This didn't make sense to me. Why would I do that, when I could feel exactly what Mary Warren feels, and allow it to take over the scene?

Now those words, 13 years later, ring in my ears. It's healthier to find my own inner motivation. It's healthier not to assume all of the emotions of my patients, my clients, and, let's face it, my IF blogging friends, too.

This is something I've brought on myself. As I explained to the therapist that once I realized I was infertile, I knew I wasn't going to sit around on my couch and mope about it for what could be (and has ended up being) YEARS, that I knew I needed to DO something with infertility, and give it a purpose.

She listened. She understood. But she suggested that by labeling my own infertility, perhaps I have assumed an identity that doesn't have to be mine. I've become what I think others want (and need) me to be.

This is pretty heavy stuff. Stuff I've already known on some level.
I think the realization comes at a good time, because I am in the midst of surrendering my life into God's hands, and possibly living childless the remainder of my years. I think this will need to be a time of transformation in my heart. A time to step back from the identity I've put myself into, and find my true one, instead.

Now... how in the world do I do that?


JellyBelly said...

Wow! That's some deep stuff from your RMT!

I know for me that there is a big part of me that is scared to become a mother -- yes, something that I have worked towards for more than six years frightens me to death. I know how to be IF. I am used to disappointment. I have figured out how to cope month after month.

I think that for the both of us IF has become such a big part of our identities. It's a cross that we're used to carrying. We've become accustomed to its weight.

I feel like I'm ready to move on (at least I hope that I am since I'd like to believe that I'm at optimum fertility health post-op).

This is a time of so much transition for you. I hold you so close in prayer and I know that so much good is going to come of this time for you.


barbie said...

You are getting such amazing deep questions and exercises from everyone you come in contact with!! I do agree that you can't take all that you have on...the pain of your IF the pain of your clients and the blog world! You are so amazing, praying for you during this time of intense thought and change!

barbie said...
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E said...

Oh....so hard. We get a certain emotional satisfaction from being able to really feel with our clients. But, we do have to remember that they have their own feelings and while we can suffer with them, they are called to bear their own Cross. We have our own (God knows!). I still carry the identity of IF in my heart, now that many friends have become pregnant recently and I am still mourning, it is real. We all have our own journeys and that is what the Lord calls us to live, not anyone else's. Good stuff TCIE!!!

the misfit said...

A hearty second to what you said, and what JB said. Or, to quote another person full of unexpected wisdom on the subject of infertility, it "puzzles the will/ And makes us rather bear those ills we have/ Than fly to others that we know not of."

I know that if I got a BFP today (impossible for a great slew of reasons), my immediate emotions would be a mix of brief elation (I WON!), trepidation (My life as I know it is over!), depair (The only good thing I could say about IF was that I hadn't yet had a child die. Well, here we go), and, overwhelmingly, guilt. Because I know how it feels to be left behind over and over and over, and I think most people have more of a heart than I do and would only feel it more. And so I would feel sad for everyone else more than I would ever feel happy for me - sounds bizarre, but I'm confident it's the truth.

On the other hand, I don't undermine my own treatment for that reason (I neglect treatment because I'm lazy and emotionally exhausted), and I don't believe for a second that my ambivalence PREVENTS pregnancy. That would be the cheapest contraception in the world.

So...while "staying infertile for others" might be something you need to let go of eventually, especially if it's preventing you from having any leisure time, how harmful is it really, in principle? You're not literally choosing not to have a child. You don't feel guilty about being pregnant because you're NOT pregnant. So...yes, I can certainly see it could get out of hand, but shy of that, it doesn't strike me as entirely a bad thing. If you are going to be childless for life, is it so bad to find a way for that to be fruitful? Or, put another way, if you have to suffer, shouldn't your suffering have meaning? (I agree, of course, that you shouldn't feel OBLIGED to remain childless...but I'm wrestling with the implications of the idea.)

St. Rita's Roses said...

Some heavy stuff woman!! You are working overtime in every area~ Sending prayers to you during this time A.

Lauren @ Magnify the Lord with Me said...

Wow. That is really intense. What profound insight!!!

A Martha trying to be Mary said...

This post spoke to me on so many levels. As a practitioner I have not set the boundaries needed many times and this is because of my IF (I am mother yes , but IF continues to pierce my heart everyday I continue taking my medications, when I think about my miscarriage and AF arrives}

I agree that since we suffer the same cross as they do we let their situations define us. We get them, but we need to keep a distance so this does not continue to define every aspect of our lives.

I need to reread and reread this post many times over. It has so many insights. Thank you again for opening my eyes.

Anonymous said...


I think you should discuss this with your therapist but at the same time the massage therapist may have a point. In Italy, for example, if in your life you experienced cancer you are not allowed to volunteer in a group that cares for cancer patients because you could identify yourself with them too much.
Have a good day. :)

Hebrews 11:1 said...

Wow, that's deep! I agree with JB's comment too. I know at times, I felt like I was sort of scared to not be infertile, because I wasn't sure who I was anymore without it. It really does become a large part of our identities.

Rebecca said...

I remember when I first felt like God was calling us to stop avoiding pregnancy and feeling like I was losing a piece of my identity...in only a year I had very much embraced the "me" that was called to demonstrate that NFP can be used successfully to avoid pregnancy. And then we felt called to TTC, and I worried that a year of avoiding wouldn't be "proof" enough for those we were teaching.
And now, as IF becomes more ingrained in who I am, I am petrified of motherhood in many ways...I desire more deeply than anything I've desired before, but that desire is full of fears as to who I am then.

I'm sorry for the rambling comment...you remain in my prayers and I am ever grateful to you for sharing your life and story with us.

Ania said...

Heavy indeed. A perspective I've never thought of before. I work with babies and this now has me thinking about how I'll feel once I breach motherhood. Thanks for sharing.

All in His Perfect Timing said...

Its hard not to take stuff home from the job and not to internalize or empathize with clients. As a person who goes above and beyond, I do that too (but differently, as I'm not doing the things you do).
Its good to look out for yourself, as hard as that is sometimes (trust me, I still have trouble!). Know that I'm praying for you as you discover yourself apart from infertility.

Anonymous said...

I discovered your blog last night, and I am so deeply sorry for the pain and anguish you have expressed here. Your body, mind and spirit have been through so much in the last five years.

I am forty four years old and childless. My husband of seventeen years and I have dealt with IF from the beginning of our marriage.

At some point, we conceded that we were not called to be parents. God had a different plan for us.

It's not the life I thought I'd have but it has been a good, rich life. We've found other ways to be "parents" and to have children in our lives.

I would never tell you to stop trying, to stop hoping and praying for children. Only you can decide when it's time for that.

It's still hard for me to watch my friends' children grow through the stages of life, to love and care for them, and to know that I'll never be a mother myself.

But I will tell you that if your own children never come, that you and your husband can still have a good life together, a joyful life serving God in the way He's called you to serve.

You will be able to do things with your lives that mothers and fathers cannot, and eventually those things grow to fill the places where children were supposed to be.

It's not selfish to embrace the good things about a childless life if it's not your choice.

Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word."

I wish you both joy, peace and love no matter what happens.