I have many faults. Like being too wordy. Planning too much is not one of them.
But its always a comment I seem to get when the issue of sub-fertility is brought up, both in general and to me personally. Oh, everyone wants to control and plan these things, sometimes it just doesn’t happen as we plan it. As if that is the sole source of frustration with sub-fertility.
Not to negate the difficulty of planning something you have no control of. I agree that things “not going to plan” is part of the frustration of dealing with sub-fertility. You don’t know how much it meant to me to hear from someone very close to me who was trying to conceive recently, how they never realized how much planning goes out the window when you’re trying to conceive and don’t know if you’re pregnant yet and/or will be soon. Should I drink this cup of coffee? Should I go to the dentist and get that x-ray? Should I plan that international trip for 8 months away?
Practical questions that come up everyday and need answers, at least if you’re going to responsibly try to raise a child. Attempting to answer these questions doesn’t mean you’re unnecessarily worrying or stressing, you’re dealing with reality and the gravity of potentially bringing a new life into the world. You do lose elements of being able to plan your life when you’re not able to answer these questions. And with that comes frustration. She pointed out that its like living with uncertainty that may occur due to other life changes, new job or a move, etc., just, with no end in sight.
Yes, that is a bad part about sub-fertility, I agree, but that largely fades away with time. As my husband says That was so 14 months ago. But I feel like perhaps that is harder on the planning-type of personality. I don’t know how much it applies to me.
I am not a planner. I know many, many women who are and have many close friends who are ‘the planning type’. But, on the American scale of “planniness”*, I feel somewhere towards the “unplanned” side and I’ve been inching closer there mostly on account of my extremely planning-averse husband (who really, makes even the mildest person look like a worry wart). I’ve come up with a few examples to illustrate this, reaching far back into my history:
- In fifth grade I bounced a ball off my teacher’s head, even though he told me I’d get detention if I did it. Perhaps that illustrates impulsiveness more than planning, but I drastically neglected to plan for the very realistic consequences of my actions.
- In college, I decided to spend a summer in China without any exchange program for the first 5 weeks. It didn’t hit me until I was in the Japanese airport and I realized I was halfway around the world with no one and I wasn’t even sure someone was picking me up from the airport when I landed.
- Growing up, I had no ideas how my life would go. I didn’t plan to get married and have kids. I just didn’t think about it. I never dreamed about my future and when I tried, I never saw it, which honestly used to scare me because I thought it meant that I would die young.
- Our closest “plan” to wait to have children was cut way shorter than we “planned”.
- I didn’t originally plan on getting a PhD. I just knew I liked the subject matter and would go for a Master’s and if I had funding and my adviser liked me enough, I’d stay.
- I never really knew what I would do with this PhD. Embarrassing.
- Who plans to have children in grad school? No one I know even thinks getting married in grad school is a good idea. I just knew we had the resources to make it work if it happened. We did know that we didn’t want to end up in the academic cycle of trying to plan for a baby during the summer or after tenure or any other mythical “perfect time”.
- We just decided we would move to Mexico, even though we were trying to have a kid. I remember a talk with my Dad who said we should think about what if we did get pregnant and where would the baby be born, would we be able to get medical care/immigration paperwork to bring the baby back. We’ll figure that out if it happens, we thought.
OK, those are just some examples. Maybe they illustrate bad planning or impulsiveness more than anything, but clearly I don’t have an attachment to over planning or relying on great life plans. I just have never been someone to say I will never get married before I am X old, I will have Y children, but not until I am Z years old, at which point I will be well into my career of J. I have never even had soft answers for those questions, outside of Y equaling more than 1.
I do feel like never feeling in control of my surroundings and moving frequently as a kid, yet still with the security of my family, has probably made me adverse to making plans. I have a general, life will take care of itself attitude, probably because my life has been pretty normal and fairly predictable. This has been a privilege and I’m thankful that my life and reality has been so secure that I haven’t felt the need to try to control it all.
I’ve noticed that the desire to assert control usually motivates people who like to plan and that equally ‘fluid’ people who aren’t attached to reality are usually ambivalent to planning for a situation, perhaps in part because they lack the ability to predict reality.
Yes, not all planning is bad (its clearly serves some purpose) and planning something and having it dashed to pieces isn’t really fun but its part of the game. And while it is a difficult part of sub-fertility, I maintain that it is not the most difficult part. In fact, to pretend like that is why this is so hard, belittles the really hard part that comes more in the form of a question. The question evolves from:
How can I deal with this uncertainty?
To the more serious question that every sub-fertile must ask:
How can I live without ever having children?
I can understand why people run from that question. Its a scary question. My husband wrote that that’s one of the scariest things he’s had to confront. I know it definitely is for me. Most people with children I know always announce that Oh, I just can’t imagine my life without them. Probably because it hurts too much? Or maybe because that’s just their reality. Maybe previously I was someone who could afford to not plan, to not think about these issues based on my circumstances, but my reality has changed.
For me, what made this so hard in the very beginning (fully aware that I am still in the ‘beginning stages’ as we speak) was that I was desperately trying to run from that question. I didn’t have enough information to feel that question was really a question for me, and I didn’t want to answer that question. That wasn’t a reality I wanted to think about.
I feel like I can now at least have a stare down with that question. It still makes me cry sometimes. And I still don’t have an answer (neither does my husband) but I can stare it down like no other. This is my reality whether I planned it or not (who plans sub-fertility?) but I guess that’s progress.
Sometimes I envy those people in my life, who can just go on living their lives with their totally different reality, and just pop in every so often to say “Oh you’ll have a baby one day, I just know it!!”, thinking that everyone ends up with their cookie and I’ll get a baby somehow. I understand being optimistic, but there’s also ignoring reality. They get to conveniently ignore the reality that faces every sub-fertile and infertile couple, the reality that statistics provide that show, Well, if you haven’t had a baby by now, it doesn’t look good. To put it nicely.
But more importantly, they get to ignore that hard question.
That question that points to what is ultimately optional, yet that so many of us take for granted. That question that challenges your existence, your purpose.
It has been such a tricky balance, to having a life that I have not need to plan for, to avidly not wanting to have my plans include this, and then to forcing myself accept to that I need to plan for a reality that I didn’t think was possible.
Yet the hardest part remains that question.
How can I live a life without biological children?
Have you been able to ask yourself that? Have you found a suitable answer?