A Million Happy Little Heartbreaks (or, “Battling Infertility: A fight worth fighting”)

Hi Internets! Eric here, and I thought this week I’d share an interesting conversation that came up. Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine was surprised to find out that Cathy and I write a blog for an infertility hospital because, as he put it, “But you couldn’t have kids.”

Um, yes, I do realize that. I was, you know, there.

So that got me thinking, why would the fact that it didn’t work for us prevent us for advocating for effective, professional fertility treatment. I am, in fact, here to advocate, vocally and regularly, that it absolutely is worth trying, whether it worked for us personally or not, and I can tell you why I think so.

I know for so many people out there who are dealing with infertility, or struggling through the challenges, discomforts, hopes and uncertainty of IVF, the “why are we doing this?” is pretty obvious.

Our expectations, societal norms, in many cases a genetically engrained drive to raise offspring; these motivations all conspire powerfully to push us through the challenges of infertility. So it might seem strange that I’d dedicate this week’s post to my take on why I think it’s a fight worth fighting. I mean, aren’t most people reading about or going through IVF highly motivated already?

Sure. Most are. But here’s the thing though. I remember very well the times that we struggled with those challenges, bore the disappointments, and wondered “why the heck are we doing this?!” I know there were times we very much questioned whether it was all worth it.

So I thought, maybe some of you out there are also struggling with the challenges, dreading the procedures or wondering if it’s worth it. And for those people, who would be more compelling to advocate in favor of pushing ahead than someone for whom it didn’t work? It may not have worked for us, but I’m still here to tell you to forge ahead, endure the uncertainties and discomforts and at least take your best, whole-hearted shot.

And what, you might ask, prompted this particular thought at this particular time? Well, there was that strange conversation with that acquaintance. He couldn’t understand why someone who had not been successful in treatment would argue in its favor. I couldn’t understand why he would think that. And then, and here’s the happy part of this post that the title promised, there was A Series of Unfortunate Events (as David Handler so artfully phrased it.)

Over the past few months, I’ve been spending lots of time with our goddaughter, who is three. And over that time, I have observed, among other things, a series of minor domestic accidents, container inversions and foodular catastrophes that used up a vast quantity of patience, not to mention paper towels. I mean, of course if you put your cereal bowl on the floor you will, almost by cosmic law of the universe, then you will step on the edge of it when you go to chase the cat under the sofa.

What’s been really, really fun about this, which I’m sure you can guess was not the pulling-cheerios-out-of-the-heating-vent part, was watching the amazing ways in which, over just weeks, this child’s understanding, and communication, of her views and feelings about these little household disasters, developed. After one case of catapulted peas and carrots, her reaction was, “Oh, no!” Just a few weeks later, the maraconi in my teacup was met with a forlorn look and, “Oh well, that happens”. This morphed into last week’s response to an Exxon Valdez-scale spill of something green and goopy, “I sorry. That was me. That was my fault.”

This. Is. Amazing.

I’m literally watching her expressions, her understanding of cause and effect, her use of language, ownership, responsibility and consequence, evolve before my eyes. My nephew once hurt his toe, a body part he didn’t yet know the name for. So he simply told me he had “an owie on his foot-finger.” My niece, three at the time, explained to me once that she had needed diapers “back when she was little” but not anymore.

I’m sure in raising children there are many “big moments”, first words, first bike ride, going off to school, prom night, etc.   But what gets me, the moments when my heart breaks into a million little pieces, again and again and again, are not these big things. They are the hundred daily moments when, even in my infrequent vicarious parentings, children simply amaze me with what they see, how they think, how their minds piece things together and how they problem-solve. It is the most magical thing I’ve ever seen happen. It’s a miracle, and we get to watch it every day.

Know what? Infertility stinks. Treatment can be very hard. And as I know all too well, it may not work. Like we did, and have written about here, every couple will have to decide for themselves what they can handle, when to soldier on, and what challenges they can bear.

But I’ll tell you this, looking back from the perspective of someone who never got the prize, every time one of the kids in my life confuses their blueberry yogurt for wall paint or grape jelly’s the dog, I want to remind you that for a million tiny, hilarious, usually sticky reasons, even the chance is worth the shot.

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