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The 'Whose Pain Is Worse?' Competition


a blog by Jay Pal, June 10, 2011

I’m currently nearing the end of my two-week wait after my third in vitro fertilization (IVF).

It has not been pretty.

Intense Pressure on This IVF

Going in, the pressure has felt intense on both my husband and me. We have spent our entire savings account on this particular IVF, and we are literally without any more money to finance another. Our insurance company has made it clear that it will not cover any fertility treatments and the emotional strain has been almost too much on both of us individually and our relationship together. It’s been two and a half long years of unexplained infertility, no pregnancies, a good amount of fighting and little hope.

So, when we got 13 eggs at the retrieval, we were cautious but hopeful. When we got the fertilization report the next day however, our hope was basically crapped on. We were beyond disappointed to find out we only had one embryo. For the second time in our “IVF Career," we only had one lone embryo. It was déjà vu all over again.

When you’ve already had a cycle with one embryo that didn’t take, it’s hard to “get it up” that this time will be different. At least with the last time, IVF No. 2, it was through a clinical trial, so it didn’t cost us any money. This time though, we were paying, and to be honest, we thought we were paying for a lot more than one embryo. Silly us.

Needless to say, it feels like there's a lot riding on this eight-cell embryo implanting, and I’ve spent the last two weeks crying, obsessing, worrying and doing my best to cope. During all the time that we’ve been trying to get pregnant, this has been the lowest I have ever been. More than ever before, I don’t just want this to work. It feels like it needs to.

Infertility Community Losses

While having my mini-meltdown, I had heard about several different women in the infertility community suffering tremendous losses. There were miscarriages, pre-term labor and fallen-through adoptions. Out of respect for these women, I won’t give details, but I will say this: What they had to deal with and suffer through, I could never even imagine. So much so, that my sadness began to feel almost self-indulgent.

And that got me to thinking. I’ve often heard statements like:

  • “She only had one miscarriage at 7 weeks, and then she got pregnant again, no problem. She doesn’t know my pain”
  • Or, “She got pregnant on her first IVF. That’s hardly suffering.”
  • Or, “They were only trying for a year. I’ve been trying for two!”
  • Or the one I felt this week, “I have no right to be upset when there are worse things that can happen.”

Why are we in a “Whose Pain Is Worse” Competition? Why do we judge ourselves for what we can be upset about or what other people are allowed to be upset about? Pain is pain. It sucks no matter the situation.

An Annoying Friend

Granted, during the past week, as my mind was reeling from figuring out how we’re going to deal if this IVF doesn’t work, I read a few status updates on Facebook that damn near made me homicidal. One of my friends — a stay-at-home mom of two who lives in a beautiful big house and who got pregnant by barely even trying — was posting daily updates on the new car they bought. Apparently, they got a new BMW, but they weren’t able to bring it home yet. Every day, I’d read statements like, “So frustrated! We still can’t bring the new car home!” and “Ugh! Another day without the car. I can’t take it anymore!”

Frankly, thinking about this still annoys me. I mean, really. This is the worst problem she has? If so, she should consider herself lucky. However, since I don’t think she’s had a whole lot of suffering in her lifetime, this very well may be extremely upsetting to her. Again, I’m not sure why, but I’m going to try to give her the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe she leads an empty life and getting a new car makes her feel whole. Maybe the car is a status symbol of something, and she feels that without it, she’s less than. I have no clue. All I know is this is a real problem to her.

Ending the Pain Competition

Within the infertility community, we should consider stopping this whole, “I see your pain and raise you my depression” mentality. I have every right to be worried and upset, and frankly, so does everyone else. No one can gauge one’s pain. It’s real to you whatever it is.

Mind you — I’m not giving everyone permission to be a drama queen or to put up with people who bring you down or who find a trip to the grocery store a major crisis, but again, when it comes to the issue of fertility, we must be supportive of each other. This is not easy no matter what your experience. Whether you’ve never been pregnant, whether you’ve had a miscarriage, whether you’ve had more than one miscarriage — this stuff hurts. It’s emotionally, physically, mentally and financially draining. It can kill your sex life, strain your marriage and make you feel less than. Anyone who has had even a taste of fertility issues knows that and can relate to it. We need each other.

So, I want to close this entry by saying as concerned as I am about what my blood test results will show tomorrow, and as scared as I am about what will happen if it did once again not work, if you are someone who is also sad or worried, no matter the reason at all, I’m sending you hope and humor. We all need both right now.

Comments (4)

I wholeheartedly agree with this post...THANK YOU for posting it. I sometimes feel that we can be hardest on ourselves. I am not in an ivf cycle and I am lucky enough that I have had 2 with a 14 yo daughter and one that was terminated...they were that I am with my husband and trying to get pregnant they have discovered that I have PCOS and am now getting medical assistance to get pregnant. I feel guilty being upset when I see the bfn or have another month where everything is in limbo when I have an amazing friend that has to try ivf as there is only a very remote chance of getting pregnant naturally. As hard as this is on me I have a child and a step-child...she wants kids so badly and has to go through so much for it to happen...anyway thanks for your post and for letting me ramble.

you have voiced in each of your posts exactly what i am feeling or have felt. i hate to see you and anyone suffer due to infertility but it is comforting to know that my emotional meltdowns aren't abnormal. i too feel as though this frozen cycle (had one fresh fail and that are our two last embryos) we are about to embark on is a NEED to work situation. we are financially done...emotionally done...and just want to live life (with a baby of course) but just LIVE!
i wish you the very best and know that even though i don't know you we are bonded by our experiences, pain and desire.
you help more than you know...


Excellent post, Jay! I was JUST having a conversation about this very subject with my DH while we were at Target earlier this evening. You're absolutely right: each of us has valid pain; each of us is dealing with something in our lives that is causing us grief, pain, or anxiety; each of us is facing a very real situation that seems rather big to us when not compared to another's circumstances. Thank you for writing this post!
P.S. For a split second, when I read the heading "An Annoying Friend," I was afraid I was going to read a little blurb about me ;-) I love you SO much! I can't wait to hear about your results! I'm here for you either way, whether it's to rejoice or to weep. You are loved, my friend!

Thanks so much for this post. I too hate the fertility one-upping that we do. Grief is not scalable. Good luck with tomorrow's beta. I've been where you are - and I know it's ugly. I was lucky and got a good egg harvest - but an IVF BFN is horrible no matter how it happens. My two cents - don't let your fertility battle define you. I made it a side job that I always worked at - but refused to make it the focal point in my life. I needed to know that life would go on beyond it if it all failed.

Hang in there!

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