Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What makes someone an "infertile"?

I'm most likely going to offend someone with my thoughts on this one. It is not my intent for anyone's feelings to be hurt, but this ~is~ MY blog and it's something I've been thinking about. I welcome any comments and please feel free to even let me know if you disagree (like I've ever has a lack of that, eh?). I will try to explain further if it needs to be done.

The official definition: "Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a man or a woman to contribute to conception. Infertility may also refer to the state of a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term." And most doctors will give this definition to someone after not being able to get pregnant after the normal 12 months of trying. But is it all wrapped up in a simple time frame?

I'll admit that when I read various infertility blogs, if someone had not been trying for at least a year, I don't have much sympathy for where they are. Don't confuse my lack of sympathy with not feeling bad when they have a failed cycle, for BFNs suck no matter when you get them. But in the whole scheme of things - I figure if they haven't been trying for at least a year, they have no ~clue~ what it feels like to be infertile.

There are exceptions I think about though. What about someone who has two blocked tubes? I would go ahead and put them in the IF category right away. They don't get to try normally like anyone else and they definitely have a special situation. Yet, if their cycle fails, I still don't feel anymore badly for them than I would for anyone else trying in their first year. Failure sucks no matter what and treatment cycle sucks a little bit more because of the added hope and expense, but I just can't get past the fact it's only one of their first cycles trying. I'd also put someone with multiple losses in the category right away to. They may have succeeded multiple times in their first few months of trying, but if loss continues to happen, that's something I couldn't even imagine. But I do know I don't think they have the same kind of newbie-hope I talk about below.

Some people definitely don't believe I should be in the IF category because I have children. And that's okay if those people can't think of me as suffering infertility. But the fact remains that even though I succeeded 2 cycles, there were 32 other cycles that ended in failure. I can't really fault someone ttc#1 for feeling like this. Honestly, I don't think I was able to think of someone who had kids as "infertile". All I can say is you can't judge something until you are in that situation.

I know I already said this, but I did want to reiterate that I still do feel for the failed cycles of those who are under the 12 month mark. I've always said the feeling of failure is the same for everyone - whether they have kids, they are on cycle3 or on cycle 40. It's the rest of their circumstances that is the difference.

So why do I not feel ~as bad~ for someone still under the year mark? I thought about this and I think it's because they still have the chance of normalcy. They still have the chance to conceive in the "normal" time frame. And no, I don't think they get to use the title of "infertile" if they conceive under a year. I think they can say "it took me 11 months to get pregnant and boy, did those failures suck!" but I don't think they get to say they dealt with the sting of infertility.

Why do I care? I don't know. Maybe it's just because I think it's such a shitty thing to have to deal with, I don't want someone who never really felt it to take it for themselves without the fight the rest of us went through. It's like jumping ahead in line.

It's like someone who is 10 lbs overweight going to obesity support groups. Sure, those 10 lbs must suck for them, but they just aren't obese. No one wants to be in either situation, but you can't claim the extreme until you are there. At 10 lbs, you have a good chance you'll lose it without any help and it could be very easy. For someone who had much more than that, it's going to take some work and maybe even some expert help. And unfortunately, it may never come off. And maybe that 10lb-er has a thyroid issue and soon will be a candidate for the support group. And this is where the lines become fuzzy. Just because she doesn't fit into the definition now, doesn't mean she won't next year.

Bottom line is it all sucks. I don't want anyone to ever have to deal with infertility. And I'll say it again, a BFN on any cycle blows.


Jen said...

Yeah, I haven't been trying a whole year yet so I don't consider myself infertile. But I agree that the negatives suck every time.

BethH6703 said...

Personally, I have a really hard time labelling myself or DH as "infertile". It feels too final to my heart to think of it that way. I personally think of us as "struggling with infertility". (Is that the same as "cancer patient" vs "battling cancer"?) I suppose the meaning is the same to the outside world. But in my head, and my heart, it's different.

Let me recap for you, and ask you when I'd have "belonged"...
- Off BCP Apr 04, No AF
- endo surgery Sep 04, everything else clear, given go ahead
- lots of meds, procedures, tests, blah blah blah, and over 3 years later, still no 2nd line
So, when did I join the club? With the surgery? A year after the surgery? When we first started seeking out treatments?

I ask because I don't feel like I "crossed a threshhold" into infertility. I feel like it's been part of our journey from day 1, way back in Apr 04. Is that jumping the gun? Or does it make sense to start our "label" back that far?

Tammy's Thought Pattern said...

You know, I completely get what you mean.

I refused, at the two year mark, to admit that I was infertile. I didn't want to see a doctor because that meant I had to actually deal with the stigma.

After a year, with testing, the title can be given out but after 11 months with not even a doctor's appointment? No, they are far from infertile.

Kim said...

I'm not really sure how I feel about this. After all, there's not a *huge* difference between trying for 11 months and trying for 12 months. Nothing magical happens at the 12 month mark. So, I think that if you've been whole-heartedly trying for 6-12 months, I can respect your decision to go in and have some tests done just 'to see'. If it turns out that you have a MF issue or a tube issue (or whatever it may be), I'm sure you'd rather know sooner rather then trying for a certain length of time just to be 'official'. So anyway, I think it's really an individual thing... a lot of women who are actively TTC probably have some issue that they just don't know about yet, so it's only a matter of time. I don't believe in jumping the gun either after just a few months, but I think if you're doing things the right way (charting, temping, etc) for a good 6-12 months, you have a right to wonder if somethings going on. I really try not to judge others and their situations, though.

P.S. I hope you're hanging in there with the foot thing! Will you be getting a hard cast? Can I sign it? hehe... I've been MIA, sorry about that... sooo sick.

Shayna said...


The one thing I don't understand is why do people who haven't been trying long WANT to be titled "infertile"? It's not something to be proud of or anything. To me, it feels like there is something wrong with me that I can't do what so many other women can. Had I concieved before I hit my year mark, or even shortly thereafter...I would have gladly said "No way am I infertile, I just couldn't get the timing down."

I don't want to be titled infertile if I don't have to. Unfortunately for me, it's too late.

I agree with you though.

Meredith said...

Well I once said that I was infertile. I used to say we have a hard time getting pg. I started saying this when we got dh's sa results back 7 months into trying and was told that our best chances of getting pregnant would be an IUI - it would be unlikely we would get pg on our own. However then I got pg on cycle number 9. I still told people that we were considered infertile, my son was a miracle (I do stil believe he is my miracle) But not anymore. Not that I now see so many wonderful people trying for years. What I went thru wil never compare to what they go through. Am I worried about ttc #3 - hell ya - will I ever say I am infertile again, probably not, even if #3 never comes to be.

nancy said...

Kim - I think people should get fertility testing as soon as they can/want to. I don't think finding out what is wrong is anything someone should wait on. I'm more talking about some blogs where I see someone talking about the "trials and tribulations of infertility" and I look back to see they started ttc in March of this year. ~gasp~! How horrible it must be for them. Again, the failures of each cycle sucks and I do have sympathy for each, but the using the "IF" card is what I have the personal issue with. I want to tell them "Yes, it's hard when it takes more than even a month to get pregnant, but you are still in the normal time period - so don't start crying infertile until you really did have to try PAST what is considered normal".

Beth, given your history, you were "IF" from the beginning, April of 2004. But if you started telling everyone how hard it is to be infertile in the summer of 04, I'd of rolled my eyes at you. I don't think there is a time period when someone moves "into" infertility. I just think there is a time that it's too early to diagnose yourself as such, because if all people said that, 85% of them would be wrong. See what I mean?

And katbug - 100% agreed what you said. I'm obviously not going to publish your comment though! :)

nancy said...

Meredith, but if you do have trouble if you go for #3 and you end up trying cycle after cycle after cycle - you would be considered secondary infertility. That's what sucks about this whole thing - it can hit anytime (hopefully you'll NEVER have to feel it).

Monica Fayth said...

I totally get what you're saying. I've only recently started using the "I" word. Previously, I would just say that I was "having fertility issues." And I always used the word fertility, not infertility.

BethH6703 said...

Nancy, I totally get, and agree with, your point now. Thanks for clarifying. I guess that post struck a chord for me, and it was hard to turn off "me", and look at others.

With ya girl, totally. This isn't a merit badge, or something to wear with honor. Don't gripe about "how hard it is" or claim "IF" if you're on your 3rd cycle and you have beautiful charts!

Anonymous said...

That was an interesting post to read. I think I pretty much agree with you.

I also have to say I think the label "social infertility" is total bullshit. Being in a samesex relationship or single just isn't the same as trying and failing month after month, year after year and/or getting a devastating diagnosis.