Bleeding heart.

November 29, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Infertility, My life | 24 Comments

(This post has been seeping through the edges of my brain for what feels like a very long time. I’ve written and deleted it multiple times. So I’m pressing “Publish” because I’m tired of thinking about it.)

There are VERY few things in my life that have literally spun me off my axis and, when I was finally able to breathe, changed me to the very core.

My cousin’s suicide was one. Overnight, I realized that I had an IMPACT on people, for good or bad. It’s awful to say that I lived for 19 years without realizing that, but it’s true. The moment I heard my mother crying, the person I had been was no more.

Losing my job 10 years ago was another. Overnight I lost all semblance of security and realized that the life I had been living was a complete sham. Not only did I have no income, but I had creditors knocking on my door and bills I couldn’t pay. It was a very hard lesson in fiscal responsibility.


I was one of THOSE infertiles.

I didn’t WANT to take the badge of infertility and wear it forever. When we brought home O, I wanted to be done with it. Because the moment I held him, I realized that it didn’t matter how long it took us, or how many doctors we saw, or how many times I cried at night, or how many failures it took to get pregnant, or how much I despaired, or how little hope I had left at the end of our treatments.

None of it mattered. He was ours, and he was perfect, and the way he came to us was Meant to Be.

I wanted to move on. I downplayed how hard it was to people who didn’t know what we had struggled. I never exactly SHIED away from telling people that it took us a lot of doctors and treatments to bring O home, but I never harped on it. I wanted to heal, to get away from it.

And even now, as we look ahead to trying for a potential sibling for O, I don’t really CONSIDER it not working as failure. I do feel confident that if O were our only child, I would feel as fulfilled and happy as I am now.

I think.

But my sister is having trouble conceiving. And my sister in law has had three miscarriages.

And this weekend, J’s single cousin S confessed that she is starting to DREAD the holidays. Because it’s all about the kids. And she WANTS kids. She wants kids so badly she can’t even breathe. And she is losing hope that she will EVER have kids because she’s going to be 37 this year. And she’s single.

And I found my heart constricting in remembered pain with every word she said. And I told her that she needs to make a safe place for herself, and if the holidays are too much, then she needs to take CARE OF HER and NOT GO.

Thing is, though. She left, and the heaviness settled on me again. The “why her?” and “it’s not fair.”

What do I DO with this empathy? I know the hurt. I LIVED IT myself. I know the fear, and the pain, and the hopelessness.

And I can’t do anything about. Not for my sister. Not for my sister in law. Not for J’s cousin.

Infertility has changed me to the core. It’s made me sensitive to other people’s struggles. And it makes me want to take their burden FOR them. Because I KNOW that pain. I know how awful it is.

I can’t.

Worse yet. I don’t have the time to crusade for infertility. I don’t have the talent to write a book about my struggles with infertility. I’m not a therapist. I can’t write poetry about it, or educate people, or gather a community together which links infertiles to others who are in the SAME situation.

I am just an accountant with a blog and a family of whom I often feel that I don’t have enough time to devote in the first place.

And I have no idea what to do with this bleeding heart.


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  1. Sometimes, just being there and getting it for your loved ones can help. Just being there is something. You may not be changing the entire world, but you may be changing theirs.

  2. This is a beautiful post.

    You are doing so much more than you think. I have never even met you but your blog keeps me going on the days I feel as if I can’t breathe.

    I share your struggle. The more I reach out to those struggling with infertility the more I want to take it all from them. I want to be the only one who suffers from it so everyone else doesn’t have to.

    You are an amazing woman.

    I wish I knew what to do with bleeding hearts. I have one too. When/If I ever find an answer, you will be the first to know.

  3. I could have written this post myself. Being there seems like nothing–but it is doing something. Being there and being empathetic is so helpful to those who are often misunderstood to the rest of the fertile community.

    As to what else to do, I think your blog really helps people. I know that yours was one of the first ones I ever read concerning infertility. Your matter of fact way of putting things really appealed to me. And though I don’t know you, I felt like I had a kindred spirit in my struggles.

  4. At the core, there is nothing you can do; nothing that will actually remove this pain. If they were lonely, you could be a friend and if they were bleeding, you could give them a bandage, but their problem is beyond the abilities of another person to fix and fixing it is what they actually need.

    And so you do the next best thing–you be there for them. As a venting space or a source of information. And if you have made the difference in a single person’s life, you’ve altered the state of the world for the better.

    Gorgeous post, sweetie. I’m glad you hit publish.

  5. It’s hard to let go of the desire to fix everything, to just be happy to do what you can do and then breathe and relax and stop clutching for things you can’t do. It’s like that one: give me the serenity (how appropriate) to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. We are often reminded that the middle one is hard, but it’s true that the first and last parts can be equally hard, or in some situations, even more difficult.


  6. I beg to differ, Serenity! You do have a talent for writing, and your blog is very likely making a difference for some people already. You may not have the time to do all you would like, but you are already using the time you have for what you *can* do. Right now, that’s blogging; maybe in the future, a book. Maybe what this world needs is a book written by someone like you that’s *not* written by a therapist, but *is* written been someone who has mucked it out in the trenches, and has come out with a tremendous sense of empathy for others.

    Reading your blog has given me insights into infertility that I could not have gotten any other way. I’m “on the outside,” and your posts give me a glimpse through the window into what it’s really like “on the inside.” I am not infertile, so I cannot know by experience what you have discovered; but through your posts, I can gain more sympathy and empathy for others who are going through this.

    Maybe you don’t believe in a purpose for everything; but perhaps this is a purpose or a reason behind your struggles and your current difficulty/inability to just let it go. Maybe you *need* to write — a book, a blog, an infertility website — to “get it out.” For me, writing is therapeutic. It helps me organize my swirling, nebulous thoughts into something concrete, something that makes sense. I’ve written so many letters that I’ve never sent, because I just needed to say what I needed to say, even though the person I was writing to did not need to hear it.

  7. You help people every day just by writing, you helped a lot of women who read this blog and went about their day today..because even if they are not Infertile, even if they are not struggling, someone they know is…and you helped them today.

    I could have written this, I even asked Mel about it and she made it part of the advice column that week , I asked how do I do this?? What do I do with all this empathy, and survivor guilt and feelings deep down. I don’t know what to do, so I do what I do best and that is TALK..if someone makes a big deal out of the boys, they get the STORY and if they stand there long enough they get the WHOLE thing, along with “you probably know a couple that is struggling, be kind ok? ” and let them go about their day. John gets red, but he understands, this is what I DO…I share, I talk, I “educate and entertain” and if that’s all I ever do, it might be enough to make the boys understand, that I am never going to forget, leave behind or move past how they got here, it made us a family and instead of being ashamed of it, I celebrate it for the medical miracle they are to me. 🙂


  8. you have the time to be a blessing and support for these around you that are hurting with infertility. Give them the support that you wish you had or that you had when you were going through infertility. HUGS and yes, you have a great talent for writing. maybe you should let them know about your blog, about the support we found here. I opened up a support online group in my native language that now has more than 10,000 members and took a life of its own. Now I am at this point in my life again that I try not ask “why me?” but what’s for? You can do this

  9. When you reach out to a fellow infertile, when you offer encouragement or just a “it totally sucks, doesn’t it” you are helping.

  10. I often wondered when I could put my infertility badge in a drawer…then I discovered that wearing it can give other people hope and comfort.

    There is no one answer.

    Some people will consider you “lucky”, some will resent you, and some will cling to hope knowing that ‘something’ worked for you.

    The only thing you can do is listen and if they need a hug, give them a big one.

  11. Oh Serenity, I bleed, too. I think the best thing to do is to be there and to not forget that the holidays suck, and that you feel like such a failure.

    I tell my story when asked, but I don’t walk around with a “formally (and still) infertile” shirt on, though sometimes I wish I did. I wish I could tell everyone who means well, that no, adoption isn’t easy, IVF isn’t about designer babies and it certainly doesn’t always work. And neither does relaxing. But then there’s this life to live and this niceness about it not always being about IVF or infertility.

  12. Thank you for hitting publish. You do help, just by putting your words out there, to act as a source of solace for those who stop and read.

    And for those in your offline life, just being there is so important. To have someone listening who actually does understand what kind of a toll this process takes…that’s priceless.

  13. My heart bleeds for every single person I ever come across that has trouble. I try to reach out in whatever way I can. I do hope that compassion for others going through what I’ve been through never changes.

  14. Your writing, your desire to not be silent about your own struggle, that is what you have done. And that? It’s amazing and epic and strong. It makes you a better sister, a better friend, and maybe even a better accountant. Okay, I made that last one up, but don’t sell yourself short. By acknowledging your struggle, you are helping others to hurt even a tiny bit less.

  15. What a great post. I must say I ‘get it’… and if you ever figure out what to do about the bleeding heart please let me know.

  16. My bleeding heart has actually prevented me from getting involved in blogs because it just aches to much because their pain just brings back all the pain I have been able to crush down.

    I’ve read a few books about fertility/infertility since we started our journey and I have to tell you that not one of them (or even the combination of them) ever did me as much good as having an hour to read blogs.

  17. I think the pain just never goes away. It ebbs and flows certainly, but it is always there.

  18. Here from the Stirrup Queen’s Friday roundup. Great post. And I agree with the commenters above. You have probably helped more than you will ever know just by being there with a sympathetic & understanding, listening ear, & willingness to share your own hard-learned lessons.

  19. As everyone else has said, you help by listening and you campaign by being open.

    Did you ever get the feeling of peace inside when you realize that someone else understands what you’re trying to say? That’s the gift you’re able to give to others.

  20. This post gave me chills. I’m not on the other side of IF yet, but I’m far enough along in the journey that I know how much it’s changed me for the good. I can completely identify with becoming so much more empathetic because the struggles I’ve been through. I want more than anything to take that hurt away from everyones heart. It must sound crazy, but I wouldn’t change a thing about the last 2+ years.

    I agree with Kathy you are most definitely a talented writer.

    This post right here – helped me. Commiserating, empathizing, reaching out with your words. Beautiful post, keep up the great work.

  21. came over from the roundup. this is truly a lovely post. as others have said, you are doing more than you think. you can’t fix it, but you can be there, you can listen, you can understand, offer compassion and support. and you know that is WAY more than the rest of the world does. you can’t take away the hurt, but what you do? it matters. a LOT. remember?

  22. You are already helping so many people by writing this blog. I think that my own struggle with infertility has made me a better person. It is a journey with lessons that will stay with you forever. It certainly changes you, in some good ways and some ways that you wish didn’t happen. I work in the veterinary medical field, and this experience has made me more compassionate and understanding, not only with my patients, but with their owners as well. For some reason, I am better able to empathize.
    I have a feeling that you bring comfort to those you interact with, just by the nature of what you have been through. I know for me that sometimes it is the simple kindness of one person that can make or break your day. Even though you can’t take away your loved one’s problems or fix everything for them, the support and compassion you are able to give them makes an enormous difference.

  23. I’m so glad Mel put this in the roundup b/c it somehow slipped through the cracks of my reader.

    The unfairness is what gets me too.

    And, um, if *you* can’t write a book, who on earth can???

  24. Popped over from the crème de la crème list.

    A support network implies that there are many small threads forming the net. You’re a part of that network through your blog, and I’m sure you are to those around you. You can’t actually take over part of their burden, but helping them carry it is worth a whole lot in itself.

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