Daily Archives: February 26, 2016

The Lessons of Infertility


Is This Why We Don’t Talk About Infertility? – Pamela Tsigdinos

At times, a writer comes across something so powerful, so visceral that she must comment on it, even if she originally planned to discuss something else entirely.  That happened today.  I came across the article today on Facebook, and upon reading it, I knew immediately that I would have to write on infertility.  I have never read anything as honest or thought-provoking on the subject, and it is wonderful.  Pamela Tsigdinos makes it clear that not everyone dealing with infertility later becomes pregnant or adopts.  She acknowledges what no one tells you, what no one can prepare you for as you deal with fertility issues:  It doesn’t just go away.  Old wounds can be ripped open in a matter of seconds, and you may not fully understand why until later, even if you later become a parent.

The truth is it takes time for the many wounds to heal — and sometimes they re-open.  Each of us comes to terms with infertility in our own way, but even that can be complicated by the weird way society expects us to pretend away something that has shaken us to the core.  It’s only when we can give voice to our infertility experience and be heard that we can find our north star and move forward. – Pamela Tsigdinos

Society does indeed have a weird way of pretending away infertility.  I’ve witnessed it in those closest to me.  When I first learned of my infertility as a child, my mom would reassure me that the technology would catch up with me by the time I was ready to have children.  She, of course, was referring to in vitro fertilization.  In a sense, she was absolutely correct.  However, as I grew up, particularly in my 20s, the more I learned about in vitro fertilization, the more I recognized that it is not for me.  I don’t know how I could put myself through the physical and emotional roller coasters that in vitro demands only to possibly experience heartache time and time again.  It didn’t make sense to me, especially when I thought of how many children need parents and a home.

In contrast, my Grandma R. had quite a different reaction.  In fact, hers cracked me up.  She used to tell me that there was always the possibility that I would fall in love with a man that already had children and had lost his wife, that I would have a ready-made family.  If nothing else, it is a great story, and if you know hers, certainly within the realm of possibility as she saw it.

As for me, when I found myself confronted with my first serious relationship, I panicked.  How was I going to tell him about Turner Syndrome and my infertility?  I shouldn’t have worried; a friend of mine beat me to it.  When I finally recognized that I had to tell him, it was one of the most anti-climactic experiences of my life.  He already knew.  I just wish I hadn’t worked myself over it.  As much as he reassured me that it didn’t matter, it did.  It mattered to me, and frankly, I don’t think he knew how to deal with my feelings.

While it appeared to me that those who knew and loved me understood, my worst experiences were with people who had no idea.  One experience in particular left me shattered.  My ex and I had been together for well over five years, still (thankfully) unmarried.  As we were sitting around a bowling alley enjoying a beer and conversation after putting on a road rally fundraiser, this stranger immediately asks my ex’s mom if she was anxious for us to get married and have children.  This woman I did not know hinted that my ex needed to get with it and marry, have kids already.  I sat there panicked, willing myself to recognize that this woman only meant well.  I fought back a flood of tears.  I then gained a whole respect for my ex’s mom.

In response to the question as to whether or not she wanted grandchildren, she simply said not particularly.  The thing is, I know for a fact that this was an outright lie.  I know she wants grandchildren.  Frankly, she reminds me so much of my own grandmother.  Any child would be lucky to have her as a grandmother.  That day I learned she cared enough about me to shut down a nosy neighbor with a lie.  I will never forget it.

This is precisely why weddings and showers can be so difficult.  It seems to me that as soon as a couple marries, there are immediate questions as to when they will have children.  I can’t stand it.  Why do people feel they can ask such intimate questions such as when someone will get married or have children?  I realize that most people mean well, but I just wish that they would take half a second to recognize that not everyone gets married or has children.  It isn’t always a choice.

One more thing (and this may be a particularly hard concept to accept): children are not the elixir for happiness.  Beyond being massively unfair to expect any child to shoulder that burden — making you happy — it’s important to remember that happiness comes from within, as does finding peace with all the messiness of life. – Pamela Tsigdinos

One would think that so many of the issues surrounding infertility would go away when one makes the decision to adopt.  Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.  I badly needed to recognize that my happiness is not contingent upon motherhood.  Oddly enough, it was my dad who made me face this, even though I was extremely angry with him at the time.  In all fairness to my dad, I don’t think that he will ever understand why I want to be a parent.  He simply asked me a bunch of difficult questions that I did not want to face.  What it comes down to is this:  I am no less of a person if I don’t have children.  My happiness is not contingent upon whether or not I adopt.  My life will not have any more meaning if I am a parent.  As much as I do not want to admit this, he is correct.

Does that mean I no longer want to adopt?  No.  I want to adopt more than over.  It simply means that it isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t happen.  There is no one way to be in the world.

Click on picture to read Pamela Tsigdinos's post on infertility that inspired my own.

Click on picture to read Pamela Tsigdinos’s post on infertility that inspired my own.

Chasing Happiness

meant to be

As February and Turner Syndrome awareness month comes to a close, some old debates in the Turner Syndrome community rear their ugly heads.  Every now and then, someone brings up the subject of how women with Turner Syndrome are portrayed in popular culture.  Believe it or not, Turner Syndrome is portrayed in popular culture with varying degrees with accuracy.  Some stereotypes do more harm than good.

One of my old favorite TV shows, Law and Order:  SVU, once aired an episode named Clock with a protagonist, 17 year-old Janey Speer, with Turner Syndrome.  Originally Stabler and Benson believe that Janey is the victim, but soon it becomes much more complicated than that.  Inaccuracies relating to Turner Syndrome aside, the way in which Janey’s boyfriend is treated in the episode is particularly troubling to me.  Essentially he is treated as a pedophile.  Connor’s motives for being with Janey and going along with her plans – and they are certainly her plans – are continually questioned due to the fact that Janey looks so much younger than she actually is.  Janey’s emotional and intellectual maturity is never mentioned.

The episode is also troubling because nothing is mentioned about hormone replacement therapy and suggests that most women with Turner Syndrome have a short window in which to become pregnant.  I understand that this piece of information drives the plot; however, I worry that it gives younger girls with Turner Syndrome false hope.  While this may be true for an extremely small percentage of women with Turner Syndrome (less than 5%), it certainly isn’t the norm.  This fact was never mentioned in the episode.

There is one particular scene in Clock that I love though.  When Janey is the hospital and her entire plot to become pregnant comes to light, someone mentions that women and girls with Turner Syndrome are extremely stubborn.  While it is fair to mention that I would have been extremely stubborn anyway given family history, I love the idea that it is a trait of women and girls with Turner Syndrome.  Why wouldn’t we be?  We have to fight that much harder to get what we want out of life – and I see nothing wrong with that.

Another well-known portrayal of Turner Syndrome in popular culture, Gwen in The Condition by Jennifer Haigh, is much more realistic in my opinion.  There is a scene in the beginning of the novel where Gwen is compared to her slightly older female cousin.  That scene sticks with me because it is precisely what I did at that age.  While the way in which Gwen’s family deals with the fact that she has Turner Syndrome is extreme and appears false to me, I love Gwen’s reaction to it all.  She comes across as the most levelheaded person in her family.  Ultimately, she realizes what she is missing in her life and pursues it with all that she has.  Her decision to risk it all for love by uprooting her life and starting over in the Caribbean is one of the most personally satisfying endings to a novel that I have ever read.  It is something I would consider if I were in Gwen’s situation.  I couldn’t help but cheer for her sheer force of will to be happy.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion about Clock and The Condition.  I admit that both have their issues, but it still amazes me that Turner Syndrome is portrayed in popular culture at all.  What impresses me is that girls and women with Turner Syndrome are largely shown to be strong willed and determined to let nothing stop them from achieving anything.  It may come across as naïve or overly optimistic, but I would rather be determined than resigned.  Resignation never helped anyone.