Infertility April 9, 2014

You always know that there are people who struggle with infertility. What are the odds that you’re going to be one of those people, though?

Each time someone you know gets pregnant, you wonder if that means it’s more likely that you’re going to be the unlucky one, holding the short end of the stick.

You never really think it’s going to be you.

In a couple of weeks Brad and I will hit an official infertility diagnosis. One year of unprotected, well timed sex without producing any pregnancy.

Six year old Ambaa

Last week I went to see a fertility doctor and after a few tests he is becoming more and more convinced that I likely have PCOS, the most common diagnosis for infertile women.

In some ways, this news is positive. Maybe now we know what’s going on and we can take steps to counteract it.

On the other hand, I know that this is only the start of tests and drugs and treatments. Things I wanted to avoid. PCOS comes with it other medical issues, such as an increased risk of diabetes (and I’m already over weight).

Mostly it’s scary and sad.

If I were like most of the other women in my family, I’d already have a baby now. Even given a few months of trying we still would have had a baby now.

My heart is breaking that we don’t.

Next week is my 32nd birthday. When I was born my mother had just turned 32. I feel behind in everything. I feel like I’m losing at life, that I’m in last place, that I’ll never catch up. I know those feelings are stupid. How is it a race? But I feel them anyway.

I’m angry that I didn’t know about this sooner. How could I have PCOS and not know it? Why didn’t I pay more attention to the timing of my cycles? Why didn’t I demand a better explanation when I had issues around this in college? Would it make any difference if I had known sooner?

If I had been lucky, I would never have to figure out the moral ambiguity that I feel around medical intervention for pregnancy. I could have happily kept judging people for it without having to know their pain (Not really. I try very hard not to judge people whose shoes I’ve never walked in).

Now I have to decide how far am I willing to go?

I want children with a desire that is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It overpowers me. I want it more than I’ve ever wanted anything.

But do I deserve it? If I take steps to force it to happen, will the universe punish me with awful children? Are these fears ridiculous?

{Just to clarify, this is my very personal feelings on the subject. Someone complained on my last post on the subject that I was wrong to say this is the Hindu view on the subject of medical intervention for pregnancy. I didn’t mean to say it was THE Hindu view. It is my thoughts and feelings and I’m a Hindu. These things are not entirely unrelated.}

If I can’t have children, what is there for me? Where do my dreams and hopes and desires go? All I ever asked the Gods for was a husband and a pile of children. All my life I’ve wanted a big family. I’ve never asked for career success or lots of money. All I wanted was a family.

I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t have that.

And people act like it’s my own fault, like I brought it on myself. They whisper that I waited too long. But what choice did I have? I tried to get married sooner. I tried to start having a family a decade ago, but it turns out that you can’t force people to marry you. Certainly in America you can’t. It took me this long to find a man who could be the father of my children. I didn’t have any control over that.

I feel myself sinking and every friend’s child is like adding a new weight around my ankle, dragging me further down. Facebook is like being stabbed in the heart over and over and over. Not that I don’t want my friends to post their pictures! If I ever get the chance, I’ll be posting a ton of photos myself. I’m happy for my friends, but I’m also horrifyingly envious and it’s an ugly emotion.

I’m in a dark, dark place right now and I’m trying to learn to think differently about fertility treatments and interventions. It’s fighting against all my instincts. I can’t help feeling like if I can’t have a child naturally then I’m not supposed to have one and if I force the universe to give me one that I’ll be punished in some way. That’s deeply, deeply ingrained.

People made some great comments on my last post encouraging me. I might need to write them all down and carry them around with me to remind me that it’s okay to do fertility treatments.

One really great point was that it’s only my job to show up and do the work. The result is up to the Gods. It’s the message of the Gita, after all. Do what is yours to do and do it to the best of your ability, then the results take care of themselves.

But then I think, I want the fruits of the action. I have desire for the result of a baby.

My husband told me the story of a man whose house was burning and he said, “Ah well, it is the will of God, that’s okay.” But then a person came along with water to help put out the fire and the man turned him down. The person with the water was God.

Can I reframe the way I think about the doctors? See them as bringing God’s will to fruition? 

I’m realizing this goes back to my very hippie instincts. Truth be told, as ashamed as I am to admit it, my instincts lean anti-vaccine. This is a big debate in America right now and science shows that vaccines are not causing harm to children, but it’s so hard to believe it because parents are just seeing big syringes of drugs being pumped into their tiny children, you know? So my instincts are to go more “natural” but I know it’s not right. I have done the research and learned and I know that vaccines are super important and they are not causing harm.

I’m someone who hates to take pain medicine for a headache. I feel extremely reluctant to take action. I like to let my body fight things. But then I realize that I’m selective about this being natural thing. I eat some awful processed foods. I’m no vegan 🙁 So really I’m being a hypocrite.

What I need to fight against is my in-born tamasic nature. We all have different combinations of the guna qualities and I happen to have too much tamas, which is inertia and laziness. I have a strong tendency not to act, to be passive.

A few weeks ago at Sathya Sai Baba discussion group we were reading material that was showing how the Gita instructs us that we must act. There is no honor in being passive. The reading even said that not acting at all was WORSE than taking the wrong action. That’s a big wake-up call for me. I try to tell myself that standing back and not doing anything is the spiritual choice, but it’s not. We’re in this world to interact and to do (while also realizing that the Self in our core is still and at peace within that action).

My parents are coming to visit this weekend and I hope that they will be able to convince me that it’s okay to take the fertility drugs.

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  • IaMJ

    I am no expert on this subject but I believe that more the misery greater the bonding. Currently you’re going through a bad phase, but don’t give up. This phase will definitely make you stronger. As for my part I will pray for you. 🙂

    • Ambaa

      Thank you. I hope you’re right. I feel like once we do get a child, we are going to really cherish it!

  • Maya Resnikoff

    That sounds so painful. A new diagnosis can really be hard to deal with, even without it affecting something you want so much.

    Is there guidance available from your spiritual leaders about infertility (and PCOS in particular) and how Hindu tradition encourages managing it? I know that there’s a lot of fertility help that’s perfectly OK, and even sometimes encouraged by Judaism, where it’s considered “doing your part” in helping God to achieve wonders in the world. But our systems of belief are hugely different, so I just don’t know.

    However, I think that one of the frequent treatments for PCOS and related issues both helps with fertility and is significantly a help for avoiding developing diabetes. If it has another, less fertility-oriented goal, does that make it feel easier to take?

    • Ambaa

      It true, I do remind myself that there is something wrong in my body and it is good to correct for that. Just as I have no problem with wearing glasses!

      I really need to find a spiritual advisor. I have a community, but we don’t talk about the big stuff like this, you know? I don’t feel close enough to anyone to bring this up.

  • I have met absolutely zero Hindus who think that never ever having a child is preferable to having a child with intervention. I am not sure where this belief comes from unless the SES that you grew up in has Catholic roots and that belief is imprinted onto the structure of the organization.

    Hinduism isn’t a legalistic religion. (It’s not even ONE religion but that’s a topic for another day.) It doesn’t make the sharp divide between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ that other religions have – instead, they are intertwined. Searching for and using knowledge is not considered a bad thing. Be careful not to get your New Age mixed up in your Hinduism. Connecting to a Hindu community is so valuable in that regard.

    And I do absolutely encourage you to do more research on vaccines. Wakefield’s research was fraudulent and only published so his company could make money on supplements. There is no link between vaccines and autism (and even if there was, it means parents who don’t vaccinate would rather have a child dead of a preventable disease than a child with autism). There IS a link between the measles outbreaks in the US and parents who do not vaccinate. We do not have to like everything that we must do to protect our children but we must protect them, as our parents did to us by getting us vaccinated.I think we have forgotten that these diseases maim and kill – my mom saw children in her class disfigured by polio and sickened with mumps and measles so it was a no-brainer to give us the vaccine. Our generation doesn’t see this so we don’t really recognize the dangers.

    • Ambaa

      I haven’t felt comfortable discussing this with my in-person community. It’s easier for me to talk about in writing than face to face.

      I’m amazed that you suggest that you haven’t met fatalistic Hindus. It is a tendency that I share with plenty of Indian Hindus. Hinduism has many stories of terrible consequences for people who struggle against their fate.

      I don’t think I have a sharp divide between religion and science. I have always seen them as coexisting peacefully. Both encourage asking questions, finding the Truth even if it isn’t what you expect or want to find.

      As I said in the post, I have done my research about the vaccines. That’s why I said I was wrong. My instincts are completely incorrect and I know that. I also think that even IF vaccines casued autism (which they don’t) I would rather have a live child with autism than a dead child without.

      • I’m sorry if I seemed harsh. I’ve been thinking about a lot of these things myself and probably projecting some 😐

        I think you are doing fine… just always keep learning more and more and more 🙂

        • Ambaa

          Thank you. I felt stung by your comment. I am kind of thinking out loud with this post but I think I’ve come to a good conclusion in the end!

          • Again, I’m really sorry 🙁 Did not mean for my words to hurt.

  • 5w_haul
    • Ambaa

      Thank you!

  • Sabina

    Hi Ambaa, I don’t really have much wisdom to contribute, as I can only theoretically imagine what you’re going through. Just want to say that I’m reading your thoughts and the comments, and thinking about you.

  • abhimanyu sirmaur

    I do not know anything regarding this subject but can understand your feelings.People in this condition do get frustrated and even think, are gods against me.
    I will tell you a true story from Puranas:
    There was a king named Brihadratha in ancient India.His wives were the twin princes of BANARAS.He was a famed and powerful king but was unable to have children for a long time.He consulted every one,took every kind of medicine but to no avail.He and his queens lost the love for the world and unhappy king went to forest leaving his kingdom.While roaming in the forest he met a sage named Chandakaushika.
    Sage asked him-why a king is roaming in jungles when he should be ruling his kingdom.Then the king told his problem to the sage.The sage understood his problem and gave him a fruit and told him to give this fruit to his wife who in turn will soon get pregnant.
    But the sage did not knew that the king had two queens.King not to displease either wive cut the fruit in half and gave it to both of them.Soon both gave birth to 2 halves of a human body.everyone was afraid so the king ordered the 2 lifeless half bodies to be thrown in the forest.
    A demoness named “Jara” who used to live in the forest joined the 2 lifeless half bodies.The two bodies became a human child and started crying.
    The demoness gave this baby to the king and realised the baby was his own child.King named the baby “jarasandh” (jara+sandh),the one joined by “jara”.
    Jarasandh later became a very famed and powerful king.Later he got in fight with Lord Krishna.But its a different story.

    Though it is not a good story, i want to point to to some of the things here:
    King and Queens were having problem;
    Sage acted as a doctor;
    fruit was the medicine;
    cutting the fruit was like using the medicine in a wrong way;
    So,from the Hindu story i think its not wrong to consult a doctor and take medicine.But you should be cautious in using medicines as the story underlines.
    **I am sure there are some other stories in Hinduism which tells its not wrong to use medicine.
    And i think yoga can help you a bit so start practicing it tomorrow onwards.maybe, the gods have chosen you to work harder.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you so much for that story!

      Last night I was laying awake and thinking of all the crazy stunts and austerities that people perform in stories to get boons and how often those boons are children.

      It sounds like it was important for Jarasandh to have been born. He had a part to play.

      It’s also inspiring to think about how the king was remiss in his duty because he was so distracted by this pain. Even when we’re not perfect, we can still be blessed.

      My best friend has also often told me that probably it is part of my fate to go through these struggles and who knows what they might be preparing me for?

      I’ve never really done yoga, but several people have recommended it now. I’ll give it another chance!

  • JenClaireM

    I so sympathize with your feelings about being behind, and I hope my perspective will make you feel a little better. Because to me, you are actually ahead. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 34, and now, in my first year of marriage and finally at a place where having a child is a consideration, I really am at the older end of the parenting spectrum; and I spend a lot of time feeling like I should have done this sooner and worrying that it might be too late. I have to remind myself that I have no control over what has been, only what is.

    I don’t yet know if I have fertility issues or not, but because I’m worried I will, I also sympathize with what you’re experiencing having gotten your PCOS diagnosis. It’s really hard to learn that something is different from what you’d hope – especially something so significant, and I think it is appropriate to feel sad about it and take the time to grieve.

    I hope, in the end though, that you won’t feel like this has to stop you from having a family if that’s what you truly want (and it sounds like it is). I have two dear friends, both of whom are older than I am, who discovered fertility problems in their late 30s and ended up seeking fertility treatments. And they both have happy, healthy young children and babies now as the result of their fertility treatments. Their experience is reassuring to me because they’ve shown me older parents with fertility issues still becoming successful parents to great children.

    I hope knowing that that’s possible – and knowing that, relative to many of us, you are still quite young – will be helpful to you. Sending best wishes.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and telling me about your friends! It’s weird, isn’t it, this feeling like I should have done this sooner, but I actually couldn’t have!

  • We have an adopted child. Hinduism makes it easy to understand how you can have a deep connection with someone who is not biologically related to you. Someone who becomes that involved in your life almost certainly will have encounters and karma grown together in past lives – and will do in future ones.

    Being souls that grow together, life after life, is much more important than biological parentage.

    • Ambaa

      Really? Oh, that’s great. Maybe I could interview you for my post about adoption!

      • Agni Ashwin

        Astrologers often see powerful astrological connections among biological family members, but I also have seen powerful astrological connections between parents and their adoptive children, which makes sense, given that such connections can also be seen between biologically unrelated married couples.

  • dmcrane

    I love your story of the man whose house was burning and refused water to put it out because it was “God’s will”, and failed to recognize that God was the water bearer. Maybe you can try thinking that God’s will is for you to take advantage of the brains God gave scientists and doctors, believing that he expected those people to use them to do good things….like help you get pregnant and have a baby. I hope you achieve your goal, and I understand your pain. I spent 4 years in infertility clinics, 2 major and 2 minor surgeries, trying to get pregnant and never managed to carry a child beyond a couple months. The science is more advanced now, so if you need help, then get it from the water bearer God sends you. If it doesn’t happen for you, I will tell you that the moment I held my adopted son in my arms was the last moment I agonized about having a baby. Over time, I have been convinced that this was the child I was meant to have and count every day a blessing. I don’t have a delivery in a hospital to remember, but the one thing I can see in my mind’s eye, as clearly as if a movie was running, is the adoption agency woman handing me my son. He is 43 now and I still feel the same feelings of intense love and thankfulness. Good luck to you.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you for your wonderful story! That is really encouraging.

  • Infertility really painful and people who are suffering from this health issue will underwent to depression. But , there are many solutions to cure this problem. It will be cured by IVF treatment.