news item: “formerly infertile”

This article popped up in our Twitter feed a little while back, and I read it, favourited the tweet and then promptly forgot about it. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because, you know, shiny things on the internet! I’m not ashamed.

Anyway, last night Josey sent it to me and then it popped up in the twitter feed from Circle+Bloom again this morning so I took it as a sign. Let’s discuss.

Health writer Leslie Goldman has written an article published in Fit Pregnancy magazine briefly discussing her struggle with infertility, and focusing on coping with anxiety and worry during her pregnancy after IVF.

Here are a few excerpts from “Formerly Infertile” that I found interesting:

“For us, procreation swiftly morphed from a pleasurable journey to a daily grind. Our baby was ultimately conceived not in our candlelit bedroom but in a darkened lab, where a man I’ve never met introduced my husband’s sperm to my eggs. Five days later, I swallowed a Valium and had two embryos inserted in my uterus through a catheter before eating a Snickers bar and passing out (that’s what I was told; the drugs caused amnesia). Eleven days after that third IVF attempt, we received the phone call that would change our lives: “Congratulations!” nurse Jamie proclaimed. “You’re pregnant!” Our bodies flooded with shock and elation. Then, the fear set in, and instantaneously, I knew: My pregnancy journey would not be like most women’s.”

“I was certain the worrying and pain of infertility would vanish—Poof!—the moment we got our positive result. Instead, my concerns simply shifted from “Will I ever get pregnant?” to “Will this pregnancy last?”

“….the reluctance to share or celebrate the good news on the fact that FIs have often exhausted themselves emotionally, physically and financially, creating “a deep-seated fear of losing the pregnancy or of something going wrong with the baby’s development.”

You will also want to check out the “You Know You are Pregnant After Infertility If…” graphic. Because, YES.

There are a few things that I found interesting about both the above quotations and the article as a whole. Firstly, I was very surprised to see this article was published in Fit Pregnancy. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but it was still my first thought. I read an issue while I was pregnant, and there was nary a peep of anything with even a whiff of infertility. So, in addition to being surprised, I was also very pleased to see this. Seeing this out in the open brings a certain measure of relief to those of us who have struggled with it. I was also very happy to see that Goldman discusses that pregnancy after IF can be just as isolating as IF itself, and that an understanding support network is critical to this stage of the journey.

I also appreciated Goldman describing her experience with anxiety during pregnancy after IF, which I still think is something we don’t talk about enough even within this community, let alone with the larger community. Particular when she says “I was certain the worrying and pain of infertility would vanish—Poof!—the moment we got our positive result. “ I think it is important to have a realistic view of how your emotional journey (including negative feelings) may continue after the positive beta so that you are better able to cope with it.

Lastly, I (SRB) need to admit that (personally) I am not particularly comfortable with the title “Formerly Infertile” of the term ‘former infertiles’ (FIs) used in the article. If this is how the author chooses to define herself, I have no issue with this. However, as this article is published in a magazine with wide circulation (although granted within a niche audience) I think it does a disservice to the ALI community as a whole by implying that once pregnancy and birth have occurred, you are “formerly infertile”.

On the whole, however,  this article being published in Fit Pregnancy does shed light on the myth of the Rainbow and Unicorn Farts Pregnancy, and ultimately, that’s a good thing.

What say you?

*****

What do you think of the article in general? What are you thoughts on it appearing in Fit Pregnancy?

Can you relate to the author? Why or why not?

Did you have a support network for these types of feeling while pregnant? What did it look like?

What do you think of the term “former infertile”? What do you think of it’s use in this article?

And, as always, anything else you wish to add.

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Comments

  1. I think the part of the article that I most identified with was when she talked about the identity crisis that so many women go through when they get pregnant after struggling with IF (and I’d guess it’s a similar feeling for those that adopt). After years of struggling, I definitely started to define myself by my IF, and it was weird/hard to have to find where my new place was in the community (part of the reason I am so glad to have PAIL now!).

    Also, I didn’t like the “FI” term either, but that is definitely personal preference. I think many of us feel like we are parenting THROUGH infertility, but others feel like they are parenting AFTER infertility – and either way is okay!

    • I know IF can have lasting health effects on some women (early menopause, hormonal imbalances, etc) but I wonder if some women consider themselves officially post-IF if they’ve decided to stop having children. Hmm. For me, a big part of the consideration is “how hard will it be for me to get pregnant again.” I have hormone issues which are likely linked with my IF issues, but aside from that, my IF is largely a conception issue, and once I’m done conceiving, I wonder what role it will play in my life.

      • True, I’m the same way. Once I’m done TTC, I wonder if I will feel like I am parenting “after” instead… I suppose as the years go by, I might. We shall see!

  2. The fact that this was published in a mainstream pregnancy mag is pretty astounding. I had a similar reaction when I came across an article a few months ago about miscarraige in a widely read parenting magazine. It’s validating to see that we (as a community) are being acknowledged rather than being forced to linger on the sidelines.

    I also take issue with the title of ‘formerly infertile’. After two successful pregnancies, I know for a fact that my reproductive issues are just as present as ever. If we wanted to continue building our family I would be at just as much risk as ever for repeat miscarraige and all the complications that defined my pregnancies. Eventually, my status as infertile will become a smaller part of the whole, but it will never go away entirely… if only because I carry the emotional scars of the last 4+ years.

    I really identified with the fears that she talked about during pregnancy for an infertile. When pregnant with Ginny, I was terrifed that I would wake up bleeding one morning and it would all be over. With Pippin it was worse because, on top of the fears of losing him, I was convinced that he was going to have some intense birth defect or disability. Seriously… I was sure he was going to have a cleft lip and palatte, a club foot, be born without a left hand, and likely have downs syndrome (not that any of those things would have caused me to love him less, just that they weren’t what I would want for any child). And even after a ‘successful’ birth, the fear still lingers. Just another gift from the infertility fairy.

    • About your last sentence… my “they’ll never make it” pregnancy fear (having never even had a loss) turned into a SIDS fear until they were about six months old, and then it turned into a choking fear that I still have now that they’re eating solids and starting to move around on the floor independently. It’s the same fear, just wearing new masks. It’s the constant threat that this could never have happened and it’ll all be taken away from me in a second.

  3. I read the article (thanks for the link) and was also struck by the use of “formally infertile” throughout the post and frankly I was surprised it was allowed to stay in there. I think the women who feel “formally infertile” after experiencing a (successful) pregnancy are very much in the minority. I agree that using that term in an article circulated to the general public is detrimental to people’s understanding of IFers and how they view themselves. It’s another reason for fertiles to feel they can not-so-subtly push IFers to get over their difficult past once they are pregnant or have a child.

  4. I thought this was a good article and am surprised it was in a mainstream magazine – and can’t help but think “it’s about time.” I can definitely relate to the author – so much of what she wrote really struck home. I was terrified for a good part of my pregnancy that something would happen (I had miscarried before). I did not have a good support network outside of blog land to talk to…and even on my blog I didn’t really feel like I could really express any pregnancy related complaints, after all, I was pregnant and there are so many people still struggling. Not having an outlet to “complain” to or “worry” to was hard. It can still be hard now when parenting is hard and the need to talk to someone is strong – again, I have a child now and so many don’t so it brings the feelings of “who am I to complain, at least I have a baby.”
    I really do not like the term “former infertile” – having a baby does not make my infertility magically go away. When we are ready to try again I will go through all of the same treatments and will very likely have the same worries throughout my pregnancy. I almost would say that I think the term sends the wrong message to those who have not experienced infertility – ‘now that she is pregnant, she is no longer infertile’ which could not be further from the truth.

  5. Not a fan of formerly infertile. Despite some awesome bloggers defying that status and getting knocked up the scond time (yeah thats you lady) it doesn’t change things. It just gives ammunition to the just relax movement!! Ok that’s all I’ve got it’s 5.53am I gotta go back to sleep

  6. I have the biggest problem with “formerly infertile” or FIs being used throughout the article, rather than just in the title. An editor can change a title, but not the consistent use of an acronym as related to content in that way (at least not without the author’s knowledge/permission). As a health writer, Goldman surely did her research – I would hate to think that the use of FI is a “clever” play on IF. As I said above, is it of no matter to me if she labels herself this way. It DOES matter to me that she, and in term Fit Pregnancy, label ALL infertiles who find resolution through a successful pregnancy this way. As commenters have mentioned above, it takes away our agency as advocates for our reproductive health, our right to a continued emotional journey through infertility and perpetuates stereotypes. In fact, I think this is counter to her argument that an understanding support network is key – the two ideas just don’t mix for this reader. It allows others to say ‘Just’ relax, and ‘just’ be happy, because ‘at least’ you have a baby. Which, having heard these, is NOT helpful.

    • I agree– I think that going through an experience does not qualify someone to act as a mouthpiece and define that experience for the benefit of the mainstream audience’s understanding. That especially applies here in regards to infertility. Even fifteen women who all have lean PCOS and anovulation and need exactly three rounds of Clomid to get pregnant will have wildly different experiences, because IF does not exist in a vacuum– it ricochets off the worlds we live in and our personalities and our relationships in totally different ways.

      It reminds me of the time my FIL passed away and then two months later, my husband and I went to High Holy Day services without him for the first time. A man & woman got up to do a reading– it was something they had written about their fathers passing away, and it was this creative piece with a monologue about losing someone that was truncated in a few places and weird vignettes of bedside thoughts & conversations were pieced in, like “– I held his hand. ‘It’s okay to go now, Dad,’ I said–” with the man and woman taking turns reading those two parts. And I sat there, furious and desperately trying not to cry, because it was WAY TOO SOON and the rabbi KNEW THIS because he was at FIL’s bedside with us, how could he not warn us about this (probably unrealistic to expect that he would), and then the woman starts launching into this list of “what to do for someone who has lost a loved one recently” like she was an expert, including gems like “Don’t be afraid to touch them. People want to be touched.” NO. DO NOT TOUCH ME. She honestly thought she’d been through this harrowing experience and now it was her job to inform everyone on what we would ALL want because it was what SHE wanted. Ugh.

  7. ozifrog says:

    Liked the article, thanks for sharing. I think maybe PI (Pregnant Infertile or Parenting Infertile or Paranoid Infertile!!!!!!) may be more appropriate.

    I think maybe for me what was hardest was I had all those feelings ( I nearly went SPARE before the scan for a heartbeat at six weeks), and the 12 week scans were like impending doom, and just as I started to get past that anxiety it actually DID all go very very wrong. And all these extra risks of ivf pregnancy appeared, that I’d never even heard of. And my normal life ended.

    There were some people I could FEEL thinking “see they just weren’t meant to have kids” when all this happened, as though the pregnancy complications supported their original disapproval of ivf, a universe saying “I told you so. This wasn’t meant to happen”. There was , even from my doctor, an element of “well what did you expect? An easy time having the hide to get pregnant via ivf at 40?”. And there was definitely an element, on my 15 weeks of bedrest, that I should be “grateful to still be going”. Sorry to rant on, but the loss of a worry free happy glowy pregnancy is a HUGE loss. It is very similar to the loss you feel when you find your journey to pregnancy will be needles, ops and bills not candlelit dinners & fun. I think also the constant setbacks can make you question constantly “is it right to do this?”.

    Having a good friend who lost her ivf boy at full term last year, followed by a second pregnancy loss due to downs in the same year, then going through my own personal hell, the anxiety is an absolute labyrinth for those of us infertiles that go on to ‘hell in a hand basket ‘ pregnancies. I’d like to see it discussed in a more upfront fashion at ivf clinics too.

  8. That is really amazing it was published in such a mainstream magazine. Every little step towards getting rid of the stigmas attached to infertility, I always applaud.
    But I agree, that I instantly felt awkward by the term “formerly infertile”. For many couples, even if they are able to get pregnant and carry the baby to term… that doesn’t mean they are done with infertility. Many couples want more than one baby, and will be facing the infertility rigmarole for any future child(ren) they want. Not to mention the couples that find themselves facing secondary infertility after no troubles conceiving their first child.

  9. Overall, I really like that this sort of article EXISTS, especially in a place where (other) pregnant women will read it. I also like that someone like me who sat in waiting rooms at doctor’s offices A LOT might have picked this magazine up thinking it was “just a pregnancy magazine” and then realized it acknowledged the world I live in, too. That means something.

    I agree that black-and-white terms like “formerly infertile” and “FIs” really diminish the complexity of this particular experience, especially in that they may not be accurate– like you said, having a baby does not cure infertility, nor does having a baby without experiencing infertility prevent it in the future. But that’s my only issue here. Step in the right direction, at least 🙂

    • It is a step, but I suppose that *my* overall feeling is that it is one step forward, one step back. One of my biggest concerns right now is continuing to write and talk about IF, even with a second healthy fetus still taking up space. I am paranoid that I am seen as “never really infertile in the first place” or, and FI as it were. I’ve had a “See? You didn’t need to get so worked up last time!” to my face. So…yeah.

  10. Great article. Thanks for sharing. I totally related to the part about telling my mom not to get too excited that we had a doubling beta. I was so sure something might go wrong. IF definitely steals the magic out of a lot of happy pregnancy moments.

    I also take issue with the former infertile title. Right now, I consider myself a pregnant infertile. If I want to have number two, I’m under my RE’s orders to come back as soon as I’m done breast feeding. This implies she still believes me to be an infertile. Not former, just because the third round of IVF finally worked.

    Lastly, the isolation a pregnant infertile feels is one of the main reasons I’m really glad that PAIL was formed.

    • Amen to it being great to have somewhere to talk about the wackiness (emotional rollercoaster above and beyond the norm) of pregnancy after an infertility diagnosis. I concur on the yay for article, boo to “former infertile” language. I’ll keep being infertile forever, that’s just me and my partner. I may (I really really hope) get to parent a second child starting in March, but honestly, I’ll be nervous the entire time on some level, and that’s not something most people can really understand, having not gone through the infertility and losses.

  11. I’m also glad this article exists. While I had a general positive feeling about the pregnancy that resulted in my daughter, I was still extremely anxious, which isn’t something I see happening with my fertile friends. I was an ultrasound queen. I’m still sad that I didn’t revel in the pregnancy because of all the anxiety, but it’s good for this article to be out there for women who are going through it alone. I am (probably) done trying to conceive, and I do sort of think of myself as parenting after infertility. That does not mean I am fertile or “formerly infertile.” Now that I know the problems causing my infertility, I have no doubt that I could get pregnant again in a reasonable amount of time without a lot of intervention. I’m fortunate in that way, and grateful for that. But I’m not fertile. There’s almost no chance that I could get pregnant without help from a doctor. I’m also well aware that the health issues causing my infertility are probably affecting my body in other ways. I cringe every time I cramp, wondering what terrible things are happening inside. It has to be that the author thought “FI” was a clever play on “IF,” because I can’t think of any possible reason it would occur to her to use the term “formerly infertile.”

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