Secret Handshake

Secret Handshake

What I have learned on this nine (9) year journey of adoption and fertility struggles is that no one talks about their own struggles. Ever. I am sure some people are thinking, “Why in the world is Kellie so open about this?” I will tell you why. There is no shame in having difficulty starting a family or choosing not having one. It is, in our case, a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”. We have now found out, after a zillion tests and tens of thousands of dollars, that we can (and did) get pregnant. It was a miracle to me that we even got this far after every door was shut in our face – both medically and on the adoption front. I got to say, “I’m pregnant” to a few people. I never thought I would utter those words. Words you never want to tell your parents most of your life and then eventually long to shout from the rooftops. I am thankful, no matter what happens, that I got to say that. We earned it. We paid for it. It just did not turn out the way we wanted, but I have faith that it will all be okay. I could have died in labor, our child could (and would have) been ill. I don’t know why things happen the way that they do, but it could always be worse. I hear these infertility stories from friends about their struggles and I feel almost embarrassed to complain about anything in my life.

 Infertility is an illness. Do people get all hush hush when they have cancer or Parkinson’s? No. Where would this world be if no one ever talked about illness, medicine, treatment and research? We would be in the dark ages. There would be no Susan G. Komen, no Michael J. Fox Foundation, no American Heart Association. All you people running 5K’s each week would have no races to run, there would be no money to raise and no charities to donate to. At some point, people need to realize that having challenges in having a child, AND TALKING ABOUT IT, is not shameful. It is not weird. It is not taboo. Of course, no one ever thinks it could happen to them. When you say your I do’s (or partner up), I think infertility is part of that vow “in sickness and in health” and “in good times and in bad”. If someone is brave enough to randomly open up to you about it, listen. Don’t think, “Oh, T-M-I”. Would you say that if a loved one told you he/she had cancer or an addiction? I certainly hope not.

 By me being fairly open about it, by just starting a conversation, I am amazed at how many people have now come to me with their own stories of miscarriages, IVF and stillborn births. Bravo to those that have opened up to me. I have heard unbelievable, horrible and also wonderful stories. Women that have tried IVF fifteen (15) times, those that miscarried seven (7) times and those that have had to give birth to a dead child or children. It is like there is this secret club out there with millions of members and no one wants to open up about it until they get the secret handshake from someone. I hope to give the world the secret handshake.

I am actually, especially now, in absolute awe of all the couples and women that have been through this time and time again. I have no idea what our future holds. I do not know if we will try again. First of all, adoption and seeing a specialist are very, very, very (that’s right – I said it three times) expensive. I know couples that have emptied their 401K’s and gone into extreme debt in order to attain the goal of a family. Money may be a taboo to talk about, but it is true. It has made me mindful of couples that are unable to buy gifts for a friend’s birthday, don’t donate to your child’s school fundraising or if they are driving an old car. You have no idea what is going on in that person’s life…mainly because no one is talking about it. Everyone is fighting some sort of battle and I guarantee you that you know many, many couples that are going through this and you just don’t know it. No matter what religion, what sexual preference, what age, or how many children they may already have, infertility affects many people.

Adoption agencies and fertility specialists are also not a picnic. I would not wish this challenge/illness on my worst enemy. With adoption, it is so much paperwork (and I am a paralegal – I do paperwork every day for a living), evaluations, interviews, tests, background checks, etc. With seeing a specialist, it is a lot of tests, blood work, ultrasounds, shots, pills, procedures, etc. Neither one is a pleasant experience. In short: It. Is. Rough.

In the words of “Tressel”, our specialist, “The economy is not hurting my business at all.  So many people want a baby and cannot have one.” No joke. Look around. Think about how many twins you see nowadays. In my high school class of almost 900 people, I can think of two sets of twins. Do you think absolutely everyone is naturally having twins these days? They may not tell you they had treatment or took hormones, but Tressel’s office is packed every time we go. Single people, couples, families. That is right. Families.

I cannot tell you how many families I see in the waiting room at the specialist’s office. Couples have had one or two babies and all of a sudden cannot expand their family. It is called secondary infertility. It has sort of opened my eyes to be a bit more sensitive to couples with a child and not say things like, “So when are you having the next one?” Maybe they can’t. I try to think now before I speak because I am a member of the secret club.

 I remember during my very last test (in April – after starting the tests in September), I had to drink liters of water and hold it until they could do an ultrasound to get a good view. The water expands the bladder, which expands the uterus (or something like that) so they could get a good view. My husband went with me to that appointment. So, I did as I was told and drank and drank and drank water. I am the girl who flew to Hawaii from Ohio and never used the loo once. Holding it is one of my many gifts. Anyway, we arrived at Tressel’s office and we were early but they made us wait. Long. I squirmed in my seat and kept crossing my legs. My husband just laughed and laughed. He had never seen me this way. He said, “Just go use the restroom.” I said, “Noooo way. After all we have been through, I am not blowing it now on the last, and easiest, test. I am holding it!” I remember after the ultrasound, I was faster than Usain Bolt in getting off that exam table and into the restroom.

 We go back to Tressel next week and we will listen to what he has to say and then think about if we are able to do this financially, emotionally and physically again. It is a lot of work, but it is nothing to be ashamed of no matter what happens. One friend said to me, “It will be all right in the end. If it is not all right, it is not the end.” Right now, for the next few days, as I redefine my purpose in life, I simply want to give the world (those in the club and those not in the club yet) the secret handshake.

 Thanks for sharing, reading and commenting. Until next week, socks.

First published: Friday, August 10, 2012    

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Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash

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