Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shaking the infertile family tree

One of the reasons dealing with infertility was so difficult for me (among all the other reasons) was feeling like the defective one in an orchard of fertile mango trees. I have over 45 cousins and it seems everywhere I turn another aunt is cranking another out. In the midst of all this reproduction, there was me, the cheese, standing alone. My mom didn't help matters when she would say in a plaintive tone, but no one in our family has clotting disorders or PCOS, how did it happen to you? I began feeling like an X-man, but not a cool one.

When my mom relayed to me in the past, that Aunt X,Y,Z are praying for me to have a baby, I felt like a strange mutant. The fertiles staring with pity at this weird infertile. This pissed me off, their assumption (albeit correct) and corresponding pity that there was something wrong with me. I felt their superior eyes and the clucking of their tongues in disapproval as they herded their multitude of children around their breasts.

So imagine my surprise at this conversation I had today.

Mom: You'll be the first to have a firstborn son on my side of the family.
Me: What about Aunt G? She has three boys.
Mom: Her firstborn was a girl, she was stillborn.
Me: Uh, what?
Mom: She tried to conceive for two years after that with no luck. Finally her doctor put her on some sort of diet and then she got pregnant without an issue.
Me: I thought I was the only one who had issues getting pregnant.
Mom: Come to think of it Aunt J. She has two kids but she had at least six miscarriages we know of. She gained all this weight she couldn't lose, had hair under her chin, her periods went wacky, she was tired all the time. . . it was sad, she never really wanted to talk about it.
Me: Anyone else?
Mom: Well your cousin F had her first very quickly, shotgun wedding, but then she tried for three years for baby #2. I think she said she had a hormonal imbalance. .
Mom: Yep- that's it! Hey, like you!
Me: Sigh. Anyone else?
Mom: Well no one else really, your grandmother, God rest her soul, she lost two sons a few days after birth and she had a lot of miscarriages, but in those days you never knew for certain if your period was just late or if you had a miscarriage but I remember sometimes she just knew.

Talk about perspective change. Perhaps they meant it when they said they prayed for me, and it was not a veiled snide remark at the sole infertile in the family. I don't have a close relationship with many of my relatives for legitimate reasons but knowing they struggled like me softens my heart towards them. It also helps me let go of some of the guilt I've felt all these years about being the sole carrier of clotting issues and PCOS. Why did these things happen to me? Perhaps I deserved it. These feelings were never articulated but I now realize I've internalized it because the knowledge that this is likely a genetic issue based on a family history is helping me feel just a little bit lighter today.


  1. I'm sorry for all the heartbreak in your family, but I'm glad it brings a sense of closeness and commonality for you.

    I, too, sometimes feel like the outsider because both DH and I have super fertile families. The docs are still split on whether it is my endo that causes my infertility (otherwise it is unexplained) -- my mom and grandma likely have endo as well but it didn't hinder their fertility. But I do have one aunt who had a molar pregnancy and was told she would never conceive. Blessedly, she had my two cousins anyway. It does bridge a gap sometimes.

  2. It's weird that your families history suddenly makes you feel a little better, isn't it? My aunt has 4 children but miscarried in between each live birth (8 pregnancies). No one knew why. The rest of my family wouldn't talk about such things even if they did happen, so I'll never know. And if you had known before, and realized that they went on to have children anyway, that could have served as such an upper for you all along the way! Maybe drawing some sense of hope. But even without it, here you are...a mommy on her way to holding her healthy son. What could be better than that?

  3. Wow, that's amazing that all this history is spilling out now. It's good to be able to feel like one can udnerstand, empathize and connect with one's relatives.

    I have to say over the past 6 years of being told that we couldn't have biological kids, my relatives never stopped praying for me. At times I just wanted to tell them to stop, or at least stop telling me about it, but they always made a point of praying for me while they were in labor, a time when a woman is in a pure, spiritual state and very close to God.

    I guess when I think about it, I had limited my own expectations to prevent myself from feeling hurt. I had decided that it was never going to happen for me. It was easier not to think about it, to desire for more.

    But I was given this gift from a generous and bountiful Lord after many years...and I often wonder whose prayers made a difference. Mine, or a relatives, or a blog reader's? I don't know, but in spite of it being hard for me to hear ir over the years I am so very grateful, so deeply appreciative and humble that they prayed for me now.


  4. I'm glad they've been praying for you, and glad that you found out it's really not "just you". Aside from my grandmother, every other person in my family is totally fertile. Except the aunt that did IVF (which is still a secret), but that was because she didn't marry till 43. And then had a kid without IVF at 45 after a couple failed cycles. Everyone else? No issues.

  5. It is amazing how hush hush people keep loss and infertility, even inside families. It is so hard to go through it feeling alone. How much it would mean if we knew we really werent so alone.

  6. Family members don't think of things like that when they're seeing your struggles. I know my mom says (continually) to me "I don't know what's wrong with you and [sister]. I never had any problem getting pregnant. My problem was always NOT getting pregnant!" She has 4 children, but she also had 3 miscarriages. However, she says that doesn't count as being infertile - she refuses to share any part of infertility. I don't know why. Its like we have some sort of terrible disease she's ashamed of. She says it all comes from my dad's side of the family. Funny how people get when you're talking about infertility.

    At least now you can feel some sort of stilted solace at knowing you aren't alone in your family.