Splinters

When I was in college, one of my roommates dropped a glass in the kitchen.  Glass sprayed everywhere as it practically exploded upon contacting the floor.  Both of us knelt, picking up the bigger shards, and then carefully wiping the floor with a damp paper towel to pick up any tiny pieces left.  We did this a few times, looked carefully, and pronounced the floor safe.  It was several days before any of us would go in the kitchen without shoes, but eventually, the impracticality of having to don footwear every morning to go get breakfast became enough that we all started venturing back in barefoot.

About two weeks later, I noticed as I was walking to class that when I stepped down onto my left foot, there was a twinge.  It was nothing bad, and faded as quickly as it had come.  Over the next several weeks, I’d feel it in the exact same spot, progressively getting worse.  I finally found a bright light and looked over my foot.  Nothing.  No red spot, no indication of anything going on.  However, the pain was coming more and more often and getting progressively worse.  I had someone from the student health center look it over.  Nothing.

One evening, I had finally had enough.  I pulled out the light again, and looked even more carefully than before.  Still no serious redness or any other signs that something was amiss.  This time though, there was a small red dot and I caught a momentary glitter of something in the light.  In the end, I wound up pulling a sliver of glass out of my foot.  It had clearly been there for at least several weeks, possibly since the original broken cup.  In retrospect, I’m amazed that it didn’t wind up getting infected.  It’s strange, but my foot ached far worse than it had with the splinter in for a day or so after I finally pulled out the splinter, presumably while it healed.

I remember the day that I got my infertility diagnosis – a beautiful fall day, almost a year ago now.  I knew as soon as I heard the words, as the air was suddenly sucked from the room, that something had broken.  I had no idea how many splinters, some large, some small, had suddenly lodged in me as everything I had assumed about my body and my ability to get pregnant shattered.

It feels like I’ve been walking around ever since with the splinters sometimes causing me pain, sometimes something I can ignore, sometimes something I can’t put my finger on but know isn’t right, and sometimes, I can pull them out.  I know, though, that when I pull out the shattered piece, it’s going to leave behind a wound that’s going to smart, and it’s not unusual for me to try to ignore things so I don’t have to do that.

This, however, has been a week for pulling splinters.  And damn if it doesn’t hurt.

I had my teaching at the clinic this week where I got my medication/injection schedule and the nurse went over all the nitty-gritty for IVF.  There were a few unpalatable details my RE hadn’t advised me of in our conversation about IVF (presumably because he assumed his nurses would do so during this teaching session), and before I knew it, I was pretty much hyperventilating and reminding myself not to get mad at the messengers.  After all, it’s not the nurses’ fault or my RE’s fault that I need IVF and all that entails.  And for the record, the staff was awesome.  Very understanding and helpful.

It’s just that learning those things sort of pushed me past the tentative peace I’d established with needing IVF and, much to my surprise, straight back to anger: an emotion I thought I’d largely left behind a few months ago in relation to infertility.  But once I got going, it was as though all kinds of things started tumbling out.

I’m angry that my husband and I won’t make a baby the “old fashioned way”.

I’m angry that to try to get pregnant, I need an entire medical staff.

I’m angry that I didn’t get that miracle pregnancy in the month we were ‘taking a break’.

I’m angry that my medical insurance refuses to pay to treat my legitimate medical condition.

I’m angry that I’m essentially signing over my body to submit to invasive, painful, undignified treatments when what I really want to do is tell people to get that ultrasound wand the heck away from me.

I’m angry that I’ll have a lot of restrictions on my activities that women who get pregnant normally don’t.

I’m angry that I have virtually no control in this situation beyond initially choosing to proceed with IVF.

I’m angry at the perverse irony that using IVF to create a baby means I have to enter a “no sex zone”.

I’m angry that during all this, I feel like I’m nothing more than the sum of my defective reproductive system even though I have this whole life outside of infertility.

I’m blindingly angry every time I hear about stuff like “oops” pregnancies or pregnancies to those who don’t want/won’t take care of the baby.  And then I’m angry at myself for being so judgmental.

Yeah, yeah, I know: life isn’t fair.  I’m feeling sorry for myself.  Plenty of women go through this.  I get that, and it just makes me angrier, because why can’t I do this without feeling bitter?

There are those who would point out that if I’d gotten pregnant naturally, I’d be turning over my body to the baby and to the doctors any way, especially if something wasn’t going quite right.  And in all honesty, there is precious little I wouldn’t do for a baby.  There is virtually nothing I wouldn’t give up to keep a pregnancy healthy.

But infertility and IVF isn’t the same thing at all.  It’s putting another layer of giving up bodily autonomy on top of what women generally experience with pregnancy.  And frankly, I resent the hell out of the fact that I have to go through that extra layer of crap.

At the same time, as I’m sitting here reading through to edit this post, I’m finding myself having a dark-humored wry laugh at the “no sex zone” bit.  Which I think is a healthy sign (or perhaps just confirms that I have a…quirky…sense of humor, the nicest word I can think of to describe it).  Maybe, even though it’s painful to pull those splinters out right now, it’s good to get them out in the open where I can examine them in the light, and then throw them away.

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