Infertility can be heartbreaking for men as well as women, and it can be hard to know what to say to a couple trying to conceive.
Here are his feelings on the subject.
So you have just put your foot in your mouth then?
Don’t worry about it. It is difficult to know what to say to the infertile, and we understand that you are being supportive and trying to help. Sometimes, it is better to say nothing though.
Everyone is different, and people handle infertility in different ways, but if you know of someone who is going through infertility, my advice to you is this: Show your support by showing an interest, but don’t offer a solution – infertility is a form of loss, there is often no solution. Empathize, but don’t sympathize, and try to avoid saying any of these:
10. Children are awfully hard work. Oh are they, I hadn’t realized. Thank you for the heads up, it is lucky you are around, care to share some other pearls of wisdom?
9. It’s not a good time to bring a child into the world anyway. In the UK we are currently in a recession, the global economy is falling down the toilet, and don’t get me started on Europe. The world’s monetary situation aside, we still have a beautiful place to bring up a child and when your heart is set on something like having children, quite frankly the sky would be falling in and I wouldn’t give a monkey's paw.
8. Well, he might have turned out to be like Hitler anyway. Yep. Someone actually said this to me, and I can’t think of a sensible enough retort.
7. Why don’t you learn more about the causes of infertility? Okay, I will. How about I get a PhD. in sexual science…oh… no… still infertile, sorry.
6. Think of the money you will save. Somewhat of a pragmatic view, but it doesn’t solve the problem of the huge hole in my heart.
5. You can always adopt. My wife and I have made the decision to adopt, and we are boyishly excited (with a hint of trepidation) about it. But our decision was not made lightly. You simply cannot come to that decision without reconciling the loss that is infertility. It is not wise to bring this one out in the early stages, trust me.
4. You will have lots of time to do what you want to do, like go on holiday. Right. What I want to do is be a parent, I have been on holiday.
3. Don’t worry, it will happen eventually. I wish I could share your optimism, but unless you have some divine power that will magically make my balls work, you will forgive me if I make other plans.
2. Well, pregnancies are painful. Not only have you delivered a statement of the obvious, it is also a back-handed insult. Try and avoid complaining about any aspect of your pregnancy to a person you know to have fertility problems. You are more than entitled to moan to other mothers and mothers-to-be, just exercise a bit of tact.
1. I heard about this couple who 'did IVF a second time and it worked' OR 'adopted and then got pregnant.' You can pretty much fill this one in yourself, but this is my wife’s particular bugbear. If you hear of someone who did conceive after adopting, believe me this is the exception, not the rule. You have heard about it - because it is news, you don’t hear about the thousands of other couples who don’t achieve this because it is too common to talk about. Oh by the way, I heard about this fella who won the lottery, so if you buy a ticket you will get lots of money.
Maybe I sound like I am being ungrateful, and if it wasn’t for the massive support that both my wife and I have received, we would have struggled a lot more than we did.
I hope this post can be taken in the manner it is meant; not a cry for sympathy or a jealous rant, nor is it a thankless poke at people who offer their genuine support. I am trying to help people understand what feelings arise when infertility is experienced.
Every once in a great while, someone comes along and changes the way you feel about life, the world, the secrets of love. This is that story, told my own way, with hope and confusion and frustration all around.
My story begins seven years ago; a number I've checked and rechecked this past week. Seven years ago, I was working at a retail-type job with a boy I fancied but barely knew.
It was adorable.
We laughed and flirted and created all sorts of giddy cuteness. Quickly, this coworker and I began dating, but not before I made friends with a customer of ours, Steve. I remember the very first conversation I ever had with Steve. He’s that kind of friend.
There was drama from the beginning.
My coworker and I were each being kicked out of our houses, both seeking roommates, so we moved in together, a process that forced us to become exclusive. Hard not to in a one-bedroom apartment, which was all that we could afford.
Steve, believing he was simply helping me move, helped us move. Steve became friends with the two of us, laughing, having fun being included. He helped us keep our cars on the road, invited us to family parties, and found ways to show me that he had my back - no matter what.
We - The Three Stooges - worked together at a nightclub a few nights a week. I’m sure I was quite a trip – 20, female and not exactly scary. I had my team, though. Who cared? Those were the good times - I felt amazing.
So it started. No, rather, it continued.
Steve and I - from the moment we met - were smitten. We were those people. Meanwhile, I was still dating my coworker. We'd had a fling – though it didn’t feel like a fling – Steve and I, the first time my coworker broke up with me. Alas, Mr. Coworker and I still shared a one-bedroom apartment, our reunion was inevitable.
That reunion changed so much of my life.
Steve, my coworker, and I all worked together, at another retail store. This was the place I earned the nickname "Girly Eyes." Oh, how my eyes twinkled!
Everyone knew. It was hard not to. Even my coworker. The jealousy, the tension, felt GOOD. My coworker knew about the fling. He'd known it would happen.
Then I turned up pregnant – a pregnancy that occurred during my reunion with my coworker. I knew that Steve wasn’t the baby’s father, but oh did I wish he'd been.
I still look for pieces of Steve in pictures of that child.
That son was placed for adoption at birth, and my coworker and I moved across the country. We weren’t happy together, but it was the best I had.
When I moved, Steve was in a pretty bad position himself.
His fiancee was pregnant, still married to - and living with - her ex who was a police officer. Her ex didn't know he wasn't the DNA match for her growing pregnancy. I didn’t know this until later, but we were both living in hell.
One day out of the blue, Steve called. He was now the father of a beautiful little girl. My heart grew that day just as it did when I'd birthed my son. There was a certain pride in his voice I’d never heard before. He finally loved something more than himself. I desperately wanted that baby to be ours.
My joy was hard to hide; news did not make my coworker nearly as happy. The news was hard to share, my coworker was (understandably) biased against Steve.
I had my own frustrations with Steve – for a long time he was the boy no one could pin down: he was here and there and everywhere. Full of fleeting truths and whatever it took to get him what he wanted, still giving me the butterflies. When he had a baby, he wanted a family. Oh that ache - I knew that ache. Steve's voice told me that he did, too.
We talked occasionally that year. I bought clothes for his daughter but couldn't bring myself to send them. He didn’t get to play Daddy anyway, another complication that broke my heart.
We’d talk about his daughter, my son, how much we wanted our kids to be ours. He became one of my best friends, someone that understood what many others couldn't. I'd been dating my coworker for four years by now and I was still unhappy.
Steve and I spoke as often as I could steal the time away. Steve split with the mother of his child and the baby went with her. We fell out of touch, both hurting, both scared.
The next summer we reconnected.
I'll never forget the feeling of the sun on my shoulders, the laughter in the air. We'd talk for hours. We'd daydream, talking about we wanted from life. We talked though his break-up with another woman he'd loved.
We talked about my son, the heartbreak for a child I don't know; likely never will. We planned to meet each others children: he'd meet my son through our open adoption, I'd meet his daughter during his weekend visits. Our friendship glowed.
That, I think, is when I really fell in love.
Contact waxed and waned awhile. I visited home and got a tour of Steve’s new house. I took a third wheel with as I knew I would never leave the state if I didn't.
There were sparks when we touched. He was magic. I was strong; stronger that I could've imagined. I left without a single thing to feel guilty about - I was still dating my coworker, unhappily as ever. He'd previously cheated on me; I didn't want him to feel the way I did after he'd done that.
The desire, the possibilities, the hope - oh how I can still taste them.
We finally split, my coworker and I, in a manner he deserved - leaving in a police car. Meanwhile, my spark with Steve grew forever stronger. He owned my heart, a heart more broken than he realized.
See, my coworker had been abusing me for years. I didn't know how to ask for help from a friend; how to accept the love, how to heal.
Here it was again, dancing in front of me: what was I going to do about it?
Like an idiot, I did nothing. I planned to move - I quit my job, lined up a new one and rented an apartment. The plan, however, was to move home to be with my coworker. What an idiot.
I was in love, yet couldn't shake a bad habit. Looking back, it was probably my last chance.
The move fell through. Time and again, Steve's asked me to move home; to start OUR family. For two years, I've seriously thought of it.
I said something to him, during that first fling, that I tell him now, when he is beyond the walls I built around my heart. "Don't tell me that," I say, "or I just might believe you." It's true. I've given him the chance to wiggle out of our relationship, but he always comes back; still meaning it.
Now here I stand.
He is engaged again. We've both lost all contact with our children - six months apart in age. I'm still oh-so far away.
Last week, my phone jingled.
A text, from a number I cannot forget. Like always, we picked up where we left off. There was no dancing around it this time.
"Marry me" and "I love you." I'm in a relationship now; one that's winding down and away. One I cannot stand to fight for anymore. How does Steve manage to show up when I need a reminder that someone loves me?
Then it happened.
His fiancee found out that he was talking to me and threw a fit. Apparently, he tells women who've never met me about me. Whatever it is that he tells them, they feel threatened.
I can't begin to blame her. His ex, the mother of his child, tried to get Steve and I together when they split. It's obvious. I had to play the friend card; to act like he hasn't held my heart for many years. My skin jumps at the thought of him, yet there I was, telling her how proud I was that he's finally settling down.
That’s what a friend does, right?
I decided upon that I'd have a new role as his friend.
But I'm in love with him. I love the idea of us with a future together. I'd been entertaining the daydream of moving back for years.
But I can't.
Right now, my job is to be his friend, to support him as he he starts a new chapter of his life. They haven't set a date, I don’t believe he will marry her, but (for now) I need to be supportive. For now, love means being bigger than myself.
I say that, I mean that, yet you haven't seen the way my face lights up when I hear his voice. The "girly eyes" are certainly not gone. I simply know that no matter how in love with him I am, no matter how in love with me he professes, right now this is what we are. Friends.
Maybe, maybe one day I'll get to live out our daydream.
After all, he told me (again) that he's not putting a wedding ring on a woman's finger until it is my finger.
We all have letters we'd like to send, but know that we can't. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can't send?
Why not send it to The Band?
I remember well the first time I ever saw you - it was in a dream.
I was a newlywed then. And in the dream, I was sitting in our living room, early in the morning. I saw a little girl, about two-years old with long, dark hair come down the hall and go into the kitchen. She was wearing yellow footie pajamas and carrying a teddy bear under her arm.
I took it as a good omen when I found out my husband told me he'd had a dream about a dark-haired little girl that same night.
Many painful years passed while I waited for that sweet little girl to come into my life. Dreams of becoming pregnant didn't come true as I'd so wanted.
Finally, eight years after that fateful dream, I had you. It was unconventional, sure - you were a foster baby with the potential to be adopted, but the state wanted to make sure we were a good fit for you.
That was all a formality to me. You were mine. You had ALWAYS been mine.
I bought you yellow footie pajamas and a teddy bear.
Less than a year later, the paperwork was final, and you were my little girl - forever.
My love for you was fierce and intense. I had endless patience with you; I'd do absolutely anything to make you happy.
I don't feel that way anymore. That makes me so, so sad.
It all started when I got pregnant with your brother. FINALLY, I had a baby growing inside of me. FINALLY, I had what I'd wanted for so long - a child that shared my genetics. No visitations, no sharing parenting with another mother. Just mine.
I'd wanted this so long, but I didn't expect it to affect me the way it did.
I always thought I'd love being pregnant. With my big hips, I was built for it. I NEVER expected what a complete bitch the hormones would make me.
Sadly, YOU were the target of my unending wrath.
I got pregnant around your sixth birthday, and like most six-year old girls, you never stopped making noise. Even now, there is almost always some sound coming from your mouth. Talking, singing, making little noises. It's like you had to make noise in order to breathe, and since we have to breathe to live, you never seemed to stop.
I hated it.
I also was very sensitive to touch. Your dad (new dad; old "dad" having walked away from you as he had from me) could touch me and it was soothing. Your touch was like sandpaper on my skin.
I found it easiest to function when you weren't around.
If you were home, I'd send you outside or to your room to play. Or I'd leave you in front of the television so that I could be alone.
I treated you like I hated you.
It broke my heart when I finally came out of that hormonal hell. Your dad told me how he'd come home from work and take you for drives so you'd have some love and attention. During these drives, you told him that you didn't understand why I was being so mean to you.
Your little brother is almost two now, and I still feel a rift between us. I'm your mother, and I'm supposed to love you unconditionally and always take care of you.
I know I don't do very well in that area.
Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely proud of you. I couldn't ask for a better daughter. You're bright and funny and sweet. You adore your little brother and are a huge help with him. You remind me of my beloved sister every day, and I can't get over how happy that makes me.
But some days, I still feel like I may not love you anymore.
I'm always happy when the school bus comes in the morning and you're leaving for school. When you come home, I pretend to listen to your stories about your day, but honestly, I just want you to finish talking and go in the other room. I pretend to be attentive out of a sense of duty.
I don't want this for us.
My mother is my best friend. Granted, she and I weren't best friends when I was eight, but I don't think I've EVER doubted her love for me.
It kills me that you may.
So I'm trying. I've been trying for a while. I pray for the ability to show you love. I'm making myself go through the motions of what a loving mother does. I hope it helps you feel like I mean it, and I REALLY hope that eventually, I'll feel like I mean it, too.
Maybe I really do mean it. Maybe it's just the stressful things in our current life that get in the way. Maybe next year will be easier. You'll quiet down a little or I'll become more patient.
Either way, you're a great kid and you deserve love. I'm the only mother you've got, and I intend to do my part.
Please, please, my sweet girl, be patient with me while I figure this all out.
I suppose it seems weird to you for me to address you by your first name but really, it feels weird for me to address you at all. It took me many false starts to write this letter to you.
The first seemed like a cage match, with me swinging punches at you left and right. And let me tell you, I won that fight.
The ones I wrote after that ranged from self-pitying and sad to, "Why me?" and "What were you thinking?"
My hand-writing varied as I wrote; from dark and heavy to lighter and tear-stained. I was able to cut pieces out and tape things together, and I came up with a final letter that felt worth typing and actually sending.
I am telling you all this so you can see how difficult and painful just hearing from you - and then trying to respond - is for me. Believe me when I say I am doing this not because you “needed” to contact me for your reasons, but because I needed to respond for my own reasons.
I'd like to take you back to my first memory.
I remember going to a shop with my Gramma. She bought me a brown teddy bear with orange fire burst eyes. A simple brown bear with a music key on his back. I loved the song it played. I didn't know it at the time, but it was Brahms’s Lullaby. Gramma told me he would always keep me company, especially on my "big trip."
I didn't understand then what she meant.
A few days later, you and mother drove me in your little red car to the airport. You pinned something to my jacket, and said something to a lady in a uniform. She took my hand, and sat me in a seat on an airplane. I wasn’t really afraid, but I was nervous. The lady in the uniform kept bringing me juice and candy. Later, when we landed, she gave me some plastic wings and pinned them on my jacket for being brave.
The flight attendant walked me off the plane, and found the woman who was picking me up. I thought she was dressed weird. She wore a long black dress, a black piece of cloth on her head with white trim, and a big white collar. She smiled down at me, and told me she had been waiting for me. She said she was going to take me to my new home. She told me her name was Mary Claire. I told her my name was Mary, too.
She took my hand and picked up my suit case and we headed off. It was at that moment I felt so scared.
New home? What about my old home? She said she would tell me all about things when we got to where we were going.
I rode in a cab.
Big buildings. Huge. Lots of honking. Fast cars. Bicyclists. People walking everywhere.
I buried my face in her big black dress. I wanted to go home. Did you get that?
I WANTED TO GO HOME.
I was terrified.
Do you remember how old I was that day? The day you two drove me to the airport?
I was five.
Five years old.
Put on a plane by myself and handed off to the care of strangers. Think about it for a minute and let that sink in. Picture your other children and your grandchildren at the age of five. How would they have handled that?
I integrated well at school. The main difference between the other kids and I was that they were children of some important families. Some were with the government, others were diplomats, and that kind of stuff. Most of their families traveled, and couldn't take the kids with them or wanted them to have good education. But on major holidays, those children were picked up, and brought home to their family.
You know where I was.
Right there at that school. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas for three years I hoped and waited for something. A note, a card, a gift, an invitation to come home, a phone card, anything! Nothing ever came.
When I was nine, I stopped hoping. I knew you were not ever coming back for me. I wish I could tell you right now I hated you then. But I didn't.
I hated myself instead.
I wondered what I had done. I wondered what had made you send me away, and abandon me like that.
That is what kids do. They blame themselves. If I had only been better, picked up my toys, cleaned my room better, ate ALL my veggies, maybe then you would have loved me enough to keep me.
I tortured myself for what you did every day.
I wish I could tell you that I suffered a great deal at the school. Maybe that's what you to intended. But I didn’t. I thrived. I was cared for. I was loved and looked after.
Those nuns and novices did the job my parents - you and my biological mother - should have done. It is because of them I survived, in spite of the way you two abandoned me.
I've always wondered where you got the money for my tuition. It had to have cost a small fortune. Around the time I turned 12, the money ran out.
A decision had to be made - where I was going to go? Would I go back to you, my family, or would I be put up for adoption?
Don’t kid yourself, I never did. I knew my number was up. Obviously, I was to be put up for adoption, but the details had to be ironed out, and paperwork signed before you could officially be done with me.
During that summer, I went to stay with a couple who were friends with a nun in the system. I had a blast that summer - it was like summer camp. I saw shows, museums, movies, got my first pair of jeans, sneakers and ate some bona fide junk food.
The one half of the couple was a Professor of English at Yale and the other a real estate Lawyer. I thought the women were roommates, but they explained that they were a homosexual couple. I didn’t care.
At the end of summer, the ladies asked if it would be okay with me if they applied to adopt me. I was thrilled! And so we became a family.
I have had a great life. I wanted for nothing. I continued to grow and be loved and cared for and educated. I met and married a wonderful man. We made our own family, including a beautiful daughter.
When she turned 5, she had the most amazing little face and head of little boingy curls. She looked just like I did from pictures of me in my little school uniform. It broke my heart.
I looked in her face and I could not imagine EVER sending her away from me.
I tracked down my biological mother, and she wouldn’t see me. I learned I had siblings who also wouldn’t see me. That hurt, but the truth was I wasn't sure I wanted a relationship with them, either.
I sent a letter begging my biological mother to explain to me why you two had put your five-year old child on a plane, sent her off to boarding school and never talked to her again.
It returned, unopened.
Since you went to the trouble of hiring a private investigator to find me, I imagine that there is something you want or need from me. Maybe you're feeling guilty, or maybe you are dying. Maybe you just want to tell me that I'm the milk man's baby, after all.
I don't know why you're contacting me, or what your goal is. But since you've opened the door, maybe you can answer the one question I've had since that day you put me on a plane, and cut me out of your lives.
I made a choice many years ago not to have any more children. At that moment, it was the right choice. My life was not meant to have any more, at that time. Now? Things have changed drastically.
A baby is all I can think about. Every single time someone I know announces a new baby coming into their life, it stings.
It is so hard to put on a happy face - even for your best friend who tried desperately to have a baby- when you know it will never be you. It is even harder to watch people who have no business bringing a baby into their chaotic lives, popping them out like a machine.
That is all I want. It doesn't matter if that one is a boy or girl. It doesn't matter the race, color, nationality... nothing matters. Special needs? No problem. We would love him, or her, all the same!
Yes, I know there are options. They have been researched, to the ends of the earth and back again.
Tubal reversal: Not an option. I am not a good candidate and it would likely be a waste of $5000 or more.
IVF: Crazy expensive. Again, not our best option due to my "advanced maternal age" and hormone levels. Plus, I've watched someone go through IVF. The physical and mental anguish is more than I could go through, especially with no guarantee of a baby to show for it in the end.
Foster to Adopt: This would the most likely choice. There are so many children out there who need a loving home like we could provide. But do you know how many children we could learn to love, and then say goodbye to before we were finally given one to make our forever child? How many times can you leave a piece of your heart walk out your door never to be seen again?
Adoption: Sure, we could call up an agency and get things started. If we had $40,000 or more to spend on a domestic adoption laying around. I don't even want to know how much the cost would be for an international adoption.
We recently came very close to having our dream come true.
We were connected with a young mother who was considering putting her unborn baby up for adoption.
She and her baby's daddy were not together anymore. He claimed the baby wasn't his, and said he would sign the papers. Everything seemed to be lining up to make this possibility a reality.
She was 31 weeks along, and had not yet found out if the baby was a girl or boy. She asked if we wanted to know. I got a text that said, "The baby is a boy."
I cried with joy. A son.
We were going to have a son!
We chose a name for him. We planned some home renovations to get his room ready for him. We made all the calls to find out what we would have to do legally.
The paperwork came and I started to fill it out. Learning in the process that an identified private adoption is only $5000-6000, and even that would be reimbursed.
We met the birth mom. We really liked her, and she liked us. We talked for hours about the baby, and other stuff. We assured her we wanted her to be a part of his life. We would want him to know where he came from. He would know that he is loved by her.
With paperwork taking 6-8 weeks, we were in a time crunch. We learned we would be allowed to bring our son home with us, even if the paperwork was not finalized. It would just say "in progress."
And then it happened.
She had a change of heart.
My heart changed too. It broke.
She has a new boyfriend, who told her he would stick by her whatever choice she made. Although she has no job at this time, she figures he will support her and the baby until she is able to do it herself. I want to wish her the best, but in reality, they are young, and the chances are not good that they will stay together.
Not a day goes by that I don't think about that baby boy for hours.
What is he going to look like? What is his little personality going to be like? Will he like sports? Cars? What is his favorite color going to be? Will his hair be curly or straight? What color are his eyes? I can't get him out of my head, or my heart. He was to be my son. I love him!
I don't know how I am going to deal with it the day she sends me the text that he was born. I know she will send me a photo of him.
His birthday will be burned into my heart forever.
I am trying to be strong for my husband. He feels it wasn't meant to be right now, and it will happen one day.
But I'm losing hope. This has been such an emotionally draining experience. How do I walk forward and try again?
I mourn for the son who will never be ours.
I love you already, baby boy.
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