Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When Does IF End?

I first started writing this a long time ago, but Amy's post about her new identity brought this question back to the forefront for me. When does IF end?

Are those who never conceive doomed to be IF forever? What if you conceived but miscarried? If you conceive and bear a child, are you no longer IF? Many have said it over and over and over again - adoption does not cure IF, though it remedies childlessness. Does IF ever end?

I think each of us has a choice to make, not just once, but many times during our journey. To what extent does IF affect our identity? We should never let it be the sole definition of who we are, though at times it may be a primary characteristic. We are more than our diagnoses. We should think about how we describe ourselves: I am infertile, but I have endometriosis. In comparison, someone would probably say "I have cancer," later "I am a cancer survivor." I am not my disease, though that disease is a part of me. My experiences dealing with it helped make me who I am. The decision of how much to let IF affect our self-definition may be related to where and how our energy and time is focused at the time. With so much of my energy and attention focused on treatment for IF, it is a major part of how I see myself; at times I struggle to remember who I really am: a reader, gardener, biochemist, investor, wife, Catholic, homeowner, child of God, cat lady, coupon clipper, daughter, sister, aunt. I am infertile, but that is not all that I am.

Many of us know someone who went through IF and once pregnant eagerly shut that door behind her, almost refusing to acknowledge that she went through infertility. Sometimes she becomes the annoying pregnant lady/new mom who will not shut up about their pregnancy/new baby, disregarding the pain of those around them. Some almost view their child as a talisman that will fix everything; I'm not (was not) really IF - who I really am is a mother. Some days I worry for this type of person, wondering if they have recovered from and dealt with the stresses and losses they experienced; I should remember to pray for them more often. IF forces us to accept how little our plans matter, how vulnerable we are; it is frightening to accept, but trying to deny it doesn't keep it from affecting us.

For others IF more obviously remains a part of them, coloring and affecting what they do and how they live. If they remain childless the pain and loss may diminish over time, but it is still part of them. It might show up most on holidays and special occasions or it might be at unexpected moments. If they have children or adopt it alters how they see their children and their expectations; it may not appear daily, or even frequently, but it is still be there. 

Despite having once conceived, I still see myself as IF. If asked, I usually say that I don't have any children. Most people asking are enquiring about children I am raising, not those in heaven. Do I deny being a mother? No, but it is a very small part of who I am; my only real experience of motherhood was the joy at seeing "Pregnant" on a home pregnancy test. Even if I am able to successfully carry a pregnancy to term, IF will still be a part of me. I might adopt Marie's phrase of "infertility survivor," but IF will never quit being a part of my life. No matter what happens, in time it will have less effect on my daily life, but these years have shaped and changed me. 


  1. Interesting take on "IF" but the same goes for children with disabilities...a child has autism...child has down's syndrome, etc...those disabilities are what they have and not who they are. I'm careful to use labels sparingly. Due to IF, I don't have children but I don't like to think of myself as some infertile doesn't define me. No one would think about that unless I told them. I guess a woman can make IF whatever she wants it to some point...children or no won't be infertile for ever. At some point...all women become infertile and at that one is really going to care. How will a childless woman define herself then?

  2. I totally related to what you wrote here. My only moments of physical motherhood happened when I have miscarried as well. We never even got a positive test to celebrate though, so I can't even identify with ever being allowed to be happy about pregnancy...or even anticipating or dreaming of what was to come.

    I'm starting to realize that IF isn't going to go away and I need to start praying to understand why this is my cross how to grow closer to Christ in my struggle with it.

  3. Ahhhhh yes the in between of having conceived yet not carrying the child to term! This is where I find myself also and it feels so strange at times. I am a mother but I am not raising my child but we haven't conceived I am just Kat Crow. IF has definitely made me realize that I am a creature of God nothing more and nothing less, so when I get confused about the labels and questions I just start there. I feel like I am out of the main trenches of IF and now on the little trenches of living with it day by day.

  4. "When does IF end?" Such a good question. IF definitely still affects me, how I live, how I respond to others, and even how I parent. But at the same time, there are times when I *need* to forget IF, to pretend it never happened, so that I can enjoy where I am right now and hope that we don't have to go through it again in the future. I think you hit a good point at the end, there--eventually, for all of us, IF will have less of an effect on our daily lives, but it will have shaped and changed all of us.

  5. You are right, we all have the choice on how we are going to let IF be part of our everyday life regardless of how our emotions are. Hopefully each day this trial will bring us closer to Jesus and make us live a little more like he would as we interact with others. It is not an easy road...

    We often think what it would be like to finally get pregnant... But this joy would be equally scary since there are real conditions that I (AM) have that could get worse with pregnancy... And I am a carrier of these problems that I could give to our potential children. ... So I could hurt myself and my future children. PCOS could turn into many terrible things and it feels so selfish to want children of my own.... So I could carry IF grief and not hurt people or carry regret if I give this same hardships to others...

    We are just praying for miracles right now. And for the doors for adoption to open..

  6. You are right, we are so so so much more than our IF. It is hard in the midst of all of this to remember that. It reminds me of when I was younger and homeschooled. I felt like my whole identity was wound up in my being homeschooled, because whenever anyone asked me where I went to school I always said, "Homeschooled." Then I went to college and no one cared and it felt weird, since i was so used to that being a part of my identity. It was freeing in a way (even though I loved being homeschooled). I hope that if we ever conceive that we can make peace with IF, but never forget the road that it was. At the same time, you are right there is so much more to us and to our marriage than our childlessness.