Cheers, dear readers,
Cathy here having returned from seeing the Disney movie “Frozen” for the first time yesterday. I happened to be at a friend’s house where we were snuggling with two infants including my goddaughter over the weekend. Both babies are scrumptious and as us “infertiles” like to say, have “daddy’s eyes and mommy’s nose”, looking very much like their biological parents whom are my friends. Particularly in that environment, when I watched the movie “Frozen”, I was deeply moved by many parts of the complicated journey that the characters find themselves on, particularly Elsa. Many of my friends tell me repeatedly that they do not understand what it is like to be diagnosed as infertile, and then go through fertility treatments to attempt to “fix” the problem. I wonder if I can use this acclaimed film that many have seen to provide greater understanding to others for some of the complex emotions that we “infertiles” go through.
(Note: If you have not seen the film, this post will have spoilers, FYI)
The typical opinion of the song “Let It Go”, which I hear being sung by little girls and adults alike everywhere, is that it is a song about “liberation” and it’s “empowering” with Elsa coming into her true identity – a joyous celebration of release for those who have been living in fear or bondage. But stopping there with the pondering of the song fails to see the great depth and subtlety of it, reflecting the character’s deep, difficult emotions. Yes, the song is about empowerment in that moment for the character, but there is also tragedy, anger, bitterness, and self-deception in it with even greater intensity, as seen by the various conflicted facial expressions of Elsa as she sings. It doesn’t simply and happily mark Elsa’s claiming of her identity – quite the opposite! While the song does lift her spirits up at moments temporarily, by the end of the song, she is in severe danger of losing herself, and she is perched atop a high precipice, completely isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. We come to understand that Elsa is a complex and compelling character who is tortured by her uncontrollable abilities / body functions and her thoughts. The primary point of the song is to set down the conflicts that Elsa must go through – the demons that she must face – before the story is over. “Let the storm rage on” the lyrics state, referring to her stormy heart and mind, as she tries to find freedom through isolation and acceptance of her “strange” self – yet the “cold” and isolation just further sends her to despair, negativity and fear.
For someone going through the trials and tribulations of being diagnosed as infertile while trying to start a family, similar to how Elsa feels that she has no control over her body, her negative thoughts and feelings of isolation and being so “different”, the infertile couple can feel “broken”, with no control over their bodies, nor control over the scary emotions and crisis that come up during this process – no certainty over the potential outcome of the treatments, coupled with conflicting emotions. We are doing our very best to be happy for our friends and family who often make starting a family look so easy, jubilant and fun, while silently suffering with the physical, financial and emotional traumas which cause further isolation. We often don’t want to burden our friends with our troubles, so we quite often tend to isolate ourselves to deal with our problems and identity crisis (Who am I if I am not going to become a parent? What is the point of my life, and how will I relate to my mommy and daddy friends who clearly bond with each other?) Even when others have tried to offer their support, the conversation quickly became negative or nonexistent with the subject being changed, because it made the person I was speaking with uncomfortable, sometimes right after they simply said, “I can’t relate. Sorry I cannot help more… Let me show you a picture of my daughter holding a trophy!”
I remember clearly a moment where I somberly confided in a friend my struggles with infertility early in my journey. I was struggling not to cry and to keep it together as I explained about the fertility tests, our poor results, and the journey we were about to embark on, all in an effort to attempt to start a family. My friend said “I know just what you mean. When my daughter left for her first year of college last week, I was so distraught and sad. I don’t know how I’ll deal with her being away at school.”
Um. What? What does your daughter going off to college – a momentous moment that any parent hopes for – have to do with me explaining that I have a medical problem that prevents me from bearing any offspring AT ALL without medical assistance, and still there are no guarantees I will succeed? CLEARLY, there is a disconnect between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s” of fertility and family creation.
When we open ourselves up, trying to seek some sort of comfort from friends and family, and they unwittingly say hurtful or detrimental things to us, it is a very natural human reaction to “shut the world out” as Elsa does, and try to convince ourselves that “the cold never bothered me anyway.” Some days, it is easier to be alone with our spouse who “gets it” than to be around other people, most of whom have thriving families, and also occasionally say insensitive things to their friends who might be in a tumultuous storm, trying to hold onto their sanity, wits and pride, all while feeling broken, scared and alone.
It can take years of healing to overcome all of these negative feelings and traumas of dealing with infertility. It has been five years for me and I feel that I am ALMOST there. But make no mistake, I am not the same person I was before this all transpired. As Elsa says, “the good girl is gone” – that innocent, young, hopeful girl who rarely in her youth had to deal with trauma, or her own anger, bitterness and emotional conflicts. Our salvation comes, like Elsa, in embracing the warmth of love, versus not being bothered by the “cold” of isolation. Thankfully, my relationship with my husband fills me with love and warmth and helps heal my heart. I continue to try to do my best to embrace the joy of all my relationships, with children, babies and adults, but this did not happen overnight. It takes fortitude, patience, self-acceptance and self-love. Please be patient with yourselves, and pamper yourselves as you travel through the sometimes icy journey of infertility. Know that you can find warmth and acceptance here at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs.
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.
This post is also available in: Arabic