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?

* – Yes, I’m making up words.  And I put American scale because my experience with other cultures is that acceptable levels of planning vary greatly.

12 thoughts on “Plan-tificating

  1. I thought yes I could live my life without children and a biological clock. Until MY BIOLOGICAL CLOCK went crazy around 37 years old and I ABSOLUTELY KNEW I could not live without being a mother. Infact I was willing to go crazy to be a mom.

    I never planned my life either. But, plans have a way of finding the planless.

  2. I am a moderate planner. Not so much because I need to control things, but because I enjoy thinking about the future, for better or worse. But in terms of having children, at this point, I do not feel the need to plan for my timeline in the least.

    I totally agree with you about the hardest question being how to live a life without biological children. It is such an incredible, painful loss to have to contemplate. It forces me to take a hard look at the heart of my desire which I am finding is to be a mother- to nurture, love, share truth, sacrifice, etc. And the need for mothers in our world is infinite… The opportunities are abound, but it does not diminish the potential loss.

  3. Love this post. As with the others, perhaps I am perseverating on the part that wasn’t the true point of the post, but it was what related to me, so here goes.
    I am a huge planner :) However, faith allowed me to just let things happened. In our unusual case of IF (dx and most tx prior to marriage, even prior to engagement), I didn’t have to wait long fortunately. It saved me from a lot of head games among other things. Anyway, I had to smile about your grad school bullets. I didn’t at all plan on what to do with my PhD either. Its like, I saw it as another
    degree closer to what I wanted to do (subject wise) and not for what a PhD really is. somehow I am finishing school with a bach that requires a masters I quit in the middle. A masters that rquires a certification I chose to skp b/c I didn’t want to teach and wouldn’t use it (sped) and now a PhD that I feel I am lacking the prerequisites to effectively use in the manner it was intended. Sort of heading into unchartered territory now, but whats new?! I suppose as far as getting married in grad school, I just didn’t care. A family was always ten times more important than a career to me so I guess I just didn’t think twice-the sooner the better I figured-with getting married and ttc. And so we did. Here I am. Graduating eight years later. And it took this long b/c I did get married during. And had babies. Two in heaven. Two on earth. But as my acknowlegment page states: mom will always be my favorite title. So there stupid committee. I mean, I love them for their academia, but my advisor actually said in his “I am so proud of you” speech, I couldn’t influence your religion (or political affilitiation). Sigh. No, and I didn’t influence yours either, I said. I will never admire any of them for anything beyond our field, unfortunately. Sorry for the long off topic random comment. :)

  4. Even though this post is very serious and significant I feel the need to laugh about you bouncing a ball off of your teacher’s head. It sounds like a very funny story.

    I’m not sure where I fall on your scale of “planniness” because I am an extreme planner in the sense of thinking through consequences and possible ramifications of various possible outcomes, but I do this precisely because I feel that I have little to no control over life.

    The “How can I live a life without biological children?” was actually hardest when it came to dating Josh. When he first expressed interest in dating I stalled for time for several reasons, but the most concrete one was that for the first time my body was giving indications of fertility troubles. I thought that it was impossible to have a fertility conversation at that point since he, being a decent guy, would feel obligated to tell me that it would not matter. But I knew that he was extremely oriented toward fatherhood, so I tried to protect him from something that was too significant to deal with at that point (we’re talking the very start of what should be casual dating, not exactly “so, what sort of marriage would we have, and how do you view children?” territory). I waited until I’d gotten reassurance from a gynecologist and my body chilled out before proceeding.

    Of course later we still had to have the tough conversations about biological/genetic children and adoption, but that is a much longer story with the boring ending that we both feel the same way.

    Any desire I have for biological children is honestly about the process rather than the child. I don’t need a child to have half my genetic material in order for me to love him/her. And I know that my obsession with fertility is perfectly fine, provided I don’t let it control my life, but the tendency for selfishly desiring a certain experience is there, and must be beaten down every once in a while.

    So my answer to “how can I live a life without biological children?” is “very easily, provided I don’t let my (often/usually hormonally driven) desire for natural biological processes to take over”. If the question were “how can I live a life without children?” then the answer would have to be changed to a much weaker “one day at a time…I hope… maybe.”

  5. I’m a HUGE planner. I fully planned out my entire college course selection (ALL semesters) each of the times I changed my major (4!). I planned when we would “have” our baby. Start trying at the end of July to have a late April baby. Timing was perfect because we’d have our car loan paid off then AND I could take off the rest of the school year and go back in August. Heh.

    So when people ask me now, “Are you going to find out the gender?” I always say, “Yes” because there’s no way that I couldn’t know. I’m not a patient person when it comes to planning my life. Another example–I knew I wanted to marry DH after only 3 months of dating, but it took another 2 1/2 years for an official engagement.

    I think lack of patience and obsessiveness with planning is a correlation for me…

  6. I’m a planner and an organizer and an over-analyzer. Still, the hard part of infertility or RPL wasn’t that it didn’t fit into my “plan” (for I always knew there would be issues) and we honestly didn’t have much of a plan the way a lot people do these days, but more because it didn’t follow the natural order of things. Actions have consequences (good ones, too). Your intimate with your husband = a baby for everyone else. It didn’t for us.

    I hated having to stare down that question and ultimately *felt* like I could (with a caveat), but I think a lot of that came from being married year after year without children. We were still happy and still in a loving relationship and that made me think it was possible. Whether or not that would have been true, I don’t know and now being where I’m at, I still don’t know that my answer now would be the same. But I had some peace about it.

    (My caveat was that knowing myself, I knew I needed to do what I could to try every option which was moral and which I felt was reasonable/beneficial while I could. Being such an analyzer leads me to having regrets when I don’t feel like I gave something my all. I didn’t want to look back and have regrets.)

  7. I read this last night but just now commenting, so if I miswrite what I was going to comment last night – it’s because I’ve slept since I read it.

    I think I’m like you in that I plan what I can but there is so much that you can not plan that I’m not much of a planner in a large sense. I mean, hello, who knows where I’ll be living in a year let alone what kind of vacation I’ll want to take? If it’s not within the next three months, it’s probably not on my radar. The military taught me a lot change in three months.

    I completely agree with you that IF doesn’t cause massive depression because oh boo hoo my plan isn’t working. It causes massive depression because you are faced with a new reality that children may not be in your future. I don’t think you have to plan to envision a future with happy laughing babies bouncing around on knees. So many kids / pregnancies are unplanned to begin with, so it does amaze me that so many folks think that just saying “oh relax, just because it’s not on your timetable doesn’t mean it wont happen.”

    Yes folks, we realize that. If we could get some sort of guarentee that yes, we would concieve sometime in the next 10 of our fertile years, than yes, we would relax. But life does not come with guarentees.

    As usual, great post.

  8. When my single years started to drag on, and the heartache got really bad, I found myself facing the question: “What if I never marry?” Most people marry, but plenty don’t, and I have plenty of elderly singles-who-never-married in my own family. In fact, those family members would often comment about how I reminded them of themselves, trying to forge some kind of bond with me (or perhaps just being honest?)

    For some, perhaps never marrying would be sad but would not prevent children. As a Catholic, never marrying (sad enough for me, who loves being paired off) also dashed my hopes of motherhood. The combination was so devastating, I finally just had to stop thinking about it. I simply could not fully process it at that point in time, and I decided that if God allowed life to unfold that way, He would give me the graces I needed at some later date when I was more advanced in the journey. That was the best I could do. I too got comments about planning, but I agree, it wasn’t really the, “Oh, drat, things aren’t’ going as planned today!” that hurt the most. It was the fear that nothing would *ever* work out that kept me awake at night.

  9. I really resonated with this post because I am also not really a “planner.” While it was hard to try to plan my life when we were trying to get pregnant – I didn’t want to put everything on hold just because we were waiting for a baby, i agree that it wasn’t the worst part.

    I grieved that my body was failing me. I have always been a bit of an over-achiever, and here I was failing at something that even unmarried teenagers seem to be able to do without any thought.

    It was scary to think about God’s plan for our future and wonder if children were in it. My head knew that even if we never conceived he was still good and in charge and that it would all be ok and work out for my good, but my heart struggled.

    Even after having a baby, I’m still working through some of these feelings…

  10. Pingback: How to make yourself sick on “health food” « Matching Moonheads

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