About a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with a longtime friend of mine. She had gotten married a couple of years after me, but was still trying for a baby, four years after. We had been discussing her impending IVF cycle, and her choice of clinic, when her phone rang. She glanced at the phone, and hit the Ignore button. I didn’t pay any attention to it, and we kept on chatting. A few minutes later, the phone rang again. This time, she let out a long hiss, before rejecting the call again. “Nonsense!” she muttered angrily. By this time, my curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I wondered who had gotten my otherwise mild mannered friend, so hot and bothered. I was shocked to realise it had been her older sister. Why on earth was she rejecting her sister’s calls?
“I’ve never seen that kind of monitoring spirit!!! Why does she always call me around the time my period starts?? The very day I get my period, she must call! I’m sure she is even tracking my cycle! Why is she so interested in whether I am pregnant or not?! Yes, we know she is Mrs Fertile, but she should let me breathe abeg!!!”. Ah! I was taken aback by this outburst. I proceeded to ask her if this her sister only called on the first day of her cycle, to which my friend frowned, and answered “No. She calls me almost everyday”. Oooooh-kay! So, could it just be coincidental that these routine calls also came around the beginning of her cycle. It was like that set her off, and suddenly, my friend started crying. In between her tears, she lamented how she had morphed into this paranoid person, over suspicious of everyone’s every move. She read meaning into everything. What people said, or didn’t say, what people did, or didn’t do….to her, everything was an indication of condescension of her situation. This was a far cry from the person she had been before she started this fertility battle. Back then, she had been very trusting, and even borderline naïve. She took everything at face value, and never had to worry about undertones and ulterior motives. But then, her TTC journey began, and she had become resentful of everyone…even her husband. If he rejected her sex advances, especially in her fertile window, she always found a way to convince herself that he was deliberately sabotaging their chances of being parents, perhaps so that he could divorce her. And her own mother was not spared, as she had once blocked her mother’s phone number, because she had been convinced that the woman only called to harass her with fertility talk.
I was so heartbroken for her, and spent our remaining time together pleading with her to let down her guard, and stop being suspicious of everyone around her. I thought I had gotten through to her, and she proceeded with her IVF cycle a few weeks later. Unfortunately, it failed, and suddenly, I found that all my calls to her went unanswered. I eventually decided to pay her a visit, and arrived the house just as her husband got home from work. We went in together, and he proceeded to go upstairs to let her know I was there. A few minutes later, he came back downstairs to tell me that apparently, she wasn’t back home. From his uncomfortable expression, and her handbag and car keys on the dining table, it was obvious she was home, so I politely took my leave. Obviously, she is still as paranoid as ever, and I have often wondered what I did, or said, to place me in the group of people to be avoided at all costs.
And that got me thinking. There I was marvelling over how this friend of mine had allowed her infertility to morph her into someone unrecognisable, especially to the people who knew her before…but I possibly also had gone through my own changes as well. The more I thought about it, the more instances sprang to my mind about ways I too had changed.
The major change I noted was with respect to the way I prayed. Before infertility, I had the kind of faith that could move mountains. When I prayed, I did so with reckless abandon…just the way it should be. But after all the cycles that began with intense prayers and affirmation, but which ended in disappointment, without my even realising it, my prayer method changed. It became more of an acceptance prayer…more of a “May Your will be done!” prayer. I found myself no longer making declarations in faith, but yielding to a more go-with-the-flow method. That realisation really broke my heart, as I missed the girl who had that kind of fantastic faith! That girl who asked God for something, and KNEW she was going to get it! I am still trying to work my way back to that girl, and hopefully I will get there again one day.
I proceeded to talk about this with another friend of mine, who had experienced a brief TTC spell, before having her children in quick succession, and I was surprised that she also had her own change story. “Before I started trying to get pregnant, I had never experienced jealousy a day in my life!” she admitted to me. But a year into trying for a baby, she had gotten a call from a friend, who had married a few months after she had, joyfully announcing her pregnancy. My friend says the emotion that gripped her was not only alien, but overpowering. She was instantly consumed by a burning rage, and was incensed that this woman had beaten her to it! And it was like that set off a series of jealous fits! It started with the obvious…people getting pregnant before her. But when she did get pregnant, the feeling of envy did not depart. She got jealous over other pregnant women who had seemingly easier pregnancies, looked better in pregnancy, had better benefits at work, etc. Soon, she was envious of her non-pregnant women, and their svelte figures. As her kids came, it was envy over her friends’ kids who had reached certain milestones quicker than her kids had, or who appeared to be able to provide more for their kids than she could…the list was almost endless. She admitted that it was still a prayer point for her, as she was sick and tired of hating on people.
Since then, I have spoken with a few other TTC friends of mine (past and present), and have been amazed that almost all of them admit to these changes. From my friend who said she has morphed into this permanently angry person…always finding something to shout about, or quarrel over, whereas before she had once been the complete opposite…to another friend who admitted to becoming an introvert…choosing to withdraw completely from everyday life…a far cry from the outgoing extrovert she had once been.
Infertility is hard, and it is almost impossible not to lose one’s self in the process. But for as much as we can, let us hold on to everything that makes us US, and not allow our journey change us. It is hard enough as it is, without having to add any Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde kind of scenario.
Food for thought!
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