This could be a very short post. Actually, I almost didn't write it. Then, I didn't post it for several months. After all, what is there to say about being an urban legend? It's not like I can give anyone advice on how to be an infertility urban legend. I can speculate (and have) about how I became pregnant, but it hardly feels useful to me, never mind anyone else. I could make platitudes like "never give up hope, anything can happen." But while that might be what some people really want to hear, for others it might not be the best advice. Sometimes people do need to give up hope, or rather, to look for hope down a different path. (See this post from An Infertile Man's Perspective for a great discussion of the significance of hope.) Mr. Turtle and I have been in that place of decision a few times in the past 2 years, and we don't take it lightly.
I suppose I should define "infertility urban legend" in case someone hasn't heard the term or used it in this context. I first heard it maybe a year ago, on someone's blog; I want to say the infertile chemist although I'm not 100% sure. And I certainly read this post by Barefoot and... Basically, the infertility "urban legend" is the woman/couple who were told by experts that they couldn't conceive naturally, went through X diagnostic tests/treatments, possibly gave up hope of having a baby, either naturally or less naturally, and then BAM! got pregnant one day. One often hears about the urban legend from friends/family/acquaintances/strangers who know-someone-who-knows-someone who is an urban legend. The tale of the urban legend may be told to relay hope, to attempt to find common ground, or (this is how I most often perceive it) to stop the infertile person from relating those annoying uncomfortable facts about infertility already.
So why am I writing / finally publishing this piece?
I guess from a vague sense that I want to have some control over how my story is told. I can't really control it, of course, and I knew that when I started writing the blog. Most of my highest-rated posts have to do with the discovery of AJ's conception (i.e. Lightning Strike) and the subsequent drama. I have a few regular commenters (hugs to you all!), but they can't account for all those hits. I have no idea what the goals or motivations of my anonymous readers are and how they will interpret/read/pass on my story (or even if they read it at all. Maybe they were actually searching for stories about people being struck by lightning.) Furthermore, I don't particularly care. I find people's motivations and machinations very entertaining, but I'm not about to take responsibility for them.
Still. I feel like I should have at least one post out here where I state how I feel, so that it at least exists in the internet universe.
So. In no particular order.
1) Being an urban legend does not mean that the pain and fear of infertility goes magically away. Inevitably, after we found out I was pregnant, something we heard most often was "At least now you know you can conceive!" This from doctor, nurses, family. I heard it a lot especially after I feared/was sure we were losing the pregnancy. One of the urgent care nurses actually added "You know, a lot of people can't conceive at all." I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was one of those people. I knew she was trying to comfort/calm me, and I wasn't interested in correcting anyone's perceptions on the verge of a panic attack.
For that matter, I didn't say anything much to anyone who gave us the "at least you can get pregnant" line during that time, but in my mind, the answer always was "if you think I am ever, ever, ever going through this again, you are a fucking turd." The less profane translation being, while I could, barely, barely, imagine some parallel universe where I might find something positive about a miracle conception that ended in loss, there was nothing remotely comforting or hopeful about contemplating life in that universe. Nor is there now.
2) Being an urban legend does not mean that infertility is cured. OK, nobody's actually come up to me and said "Congratulations, you (and Mr. Turtle) not infertile anymore!" But its been, well, implied by some people in my life, who talk about this being the "first one" (and these people do know our history). Again, I have just let those remarks go. But they do touch on a sensitive spot, albeit one I can't really deal with yet. Clearly, the doctors who did our tests and drew the logical conclusions that we could not conceive naturally (or with assistance) did not know everything. But that doesn't mean our tests were wrong or that we don't have issues. I have egg issues, Mr. Turtle has sperm issues. Fertility does not improve with age. Lightning struck once, but can it strike again? Maybe it can, but AJ is also quite likely to be an only child. And that does make me a little sad, although at the same time a healthy living AJ is more than I dared hope for and worth more to me than almost anything in whole universe. Is that paradoxical?
3) "Just relaxing" does not lead to conception. That's hardly news to anyone in the ALI community, but just for the record, AJ was conceived during one of the most stressful months of my recent life. (My life to that point.) First of all, January is a really hectic time at work. Second, we were doing IVF for the first time. Third, IVF failed, and we were told not to bother even trying another cycle of IVF with our own gametes. Fourth, our house was burgled. Some time in between IVF failure and burglary Ember was conceived. Fun, eh?
On the other hand, even though we had a lot of shit go down, Mr. Turtle and I handled it all quite well. I think the fact that we knew we were going to do IVF had a lot to do with it, because we expected it to be stressful and were very deliberate about how we handled the stress. I worried less about work than I ever have (because I decided I was going to not care about stupid things). The IVF failure was crushing, but we did have a lot of support and we were able to care for each other and have rational conversations about next steps. The burglary was awful, but we put it in perspective. As I said to Mr. Turtle: "We can feel bad about all the things that happened this month, but we can feel good about how we were handling it." So, yeah, January was stressful, and we were stressed, but we did cope well, all things considered.
4) Control over ourselves - or our pregnancy/child - or anything or anyone - is an illusion. Again, this probably isn't news to anyone, and it shouldn't have been news to me, but. Other than joy-shock-fear, the biggest emotion I felt - and still often feel - with regards to AJ's conception was an overwhelming sense of being utterly helpless in the face of fate. AJ might live and grow, or might not, and in some scenarios at least, no knowledge or action of mine could change the outcome. Whether it's my personality, or the circumstances, or a bit of both, I've been unable to completely look away from this particular piece of knowledge, and sometimes I feel like I'm shattering from the inside out from the sheer awfulness of knowing it. As my pregnancy progressed uneventfully, the logical part of me felt like the burden should be easier to bear because our story is a happy one. Why am I sometimes so negative? But if good things can be bestowed in the blink of an eye, they can also be taken away. When I come to this dark place, I can feel envious of people who have the consolation of religious faith and practice, because it seems like they have a mental/emotional structure for dealing with the questions, that the rest of us don't. Maybe.
Many years ago, I wrote a poem while walking along the ocean, that ended with these lines:
the waves break and break
but leave no pieces to be picked up.
I break and break and break, but throughout my pregnancy, I held on to the hope that my child and I are like waves on the ocean, and we will both be drawn back into something bigger and deeper than all the small pieces of this experience that I can perceive right now. And I hold on to it still.