Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Excerpt - Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster

Iris Waichler, who wrote Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster was willing for me to share an excerpt with you. It seems (from what I've read on her site and in reviews) that she's chosen to approach the big picture a little more practically than some others - talking about, for example, how to find a doctor or lawyer and the possibility of deciding to stop pursuing treatment and to remain childless.

Here's the last chapter of the book. Enjoy!


This summer I took my daughter to an amusement park. We went with a friend who also has a daughter as a result of infertility treatment. We ended up taking a ride on one of those chute roller coasters that ends up splashing in water. Kids my daughter’s age and size were allowed to ride it. I hate roller coasters and haven’t ridden one in over twenty years. We slowly inched our way up and I thought this isn’t so bad. Suddenly we were at the top of a forty foot drop. Our car began falling down the tracks. My heart raced, my anxiety level shot up, and my head throbbed. I had my daughter in a death grip. We made it to the bottom of the ride and hit with a big splash, before gently floating into the stopping point.

My friend and I staggered out of the chute car. We were shaken. Our girls jumped up and screamed, “Let’s do it again and again.” I thought: let’s try another ride (not a roller coaster). There was a giant pirate ship that moved back and forth like a pendulum. We climbed on that, and as it began to rock back and forth, I lost my stomach on the second swing. I closed my eyes praying it would end soon, and hoping that keeping my eyes shut would ease my suffering. It didn’t! My friend and I got off that ride and I looked at her and said, “The things we do for our kids. I’m sure that’s not the last time we’ll do something for them we would never do otherwise.” She nodded and smiled knowingly. It was also somehow comforting to have my friend there with me going through it. She totally understood what I was thinking and feeling without me saying much of anything.

I thought about that day as I began to write this last chapter. There is the obvious parallel of the roller coaster, which I use as a metaphor throughout this book. I thought those rides that day really did mirror infertility treatment for me and many others. I would do something that terrified me, that wreaked havoc on my body and my mind for my child. I would take what I perceived as a personal risk for her. When I knew I couldn’t handle the roller coaster anymore I chose another ride, hoping that different ride would work, and it would please her and end successfully for both of us.

Those of you reading this book will be in many stages along your infertility journey. There will be days when things will go well, when test results are promising, or when you actually learn that you are pregnant. The day may finally come when it is time to leave and go bring home your newly adopted child and start your family. You may get word from your clinic that they have found a donor match for you or that a surrogate has been identified who will help make your dream of becoming a parent come true.

There will also be days where your test results will show that you are not pregnant. And days when you learn the medication you have been taking is not working, and you will have to try something new. Perhaps, you will continue to be unsuccessful at getting pregnant, and your physician won’t be able to identify the reason for your infertility. Maybe you will get to the point where you feel that if you have to undergo one more needle prick you will scream. You may ask yourself what is wrong with you or your partner—or what “bad thing” you did—that you are unable to create a child, no matter how many treatment options you use.

There may also come a day when you and your partner decide to stop infertility treatment and begin your post-treatment life, choosing to live childfree. It may be hard to imagine this day coming, depending on who you are, and where you are in your infertility journey. Not everyone succeeds, but life can have many fruitful outcomes.

All of these scenarios are emotionally charged. Whatever happens to you and your partner as you continue along the path of your infertility treatment, you can be certain you will be forever changed by your infertility experiences. Your relationships with your partner, your family, and your friends will also be impacted by your infertility experience. Your infertility will challenge and perhaps change these boundaries. You will be forced to make difficult decisions along that way that will test you in new ways. Your infertility journey may cause you to question your own instinct and your judgment. It will force you and your partner to look deeply inside yourselves to understand and define your values, religious beliefs, and life choices. By definition, the need to undergo infertility treatment creates a life crisis.

My hope for you is that you also recognize that you do not need to be a passive passenger on this difficult infertility journey. After reading this book, I hope you can and will be able to assume an active role. If you have a doctor that does not seem to be meeting your needs, you can find another one. You can hire an attorney to offer you information and provide you with the legal protection you need as you negotiate surrogate, adoption, or donor arrangements. Remember, you do not need to go through infertility treatment alone. If you are having difficulty coping with the challenges that arise, you can seek counseling on an individual or support group level. There are lots of places to go to get the specific information that you need to make informed decisions along the way. Friends and family can be educated by you and your partner, and if you enable them, they can help you meet your needs as you proceed through your infertility journey.

The surprising part about the challenges of infertility is that facing them can become an empowering experience for you. You will need to arm yourself with the proper tools, knowledge, and support systems. Don’t be afraid to rely on existing support systems or, if necessary, you can help build new support systems to aid you and others to get to where you are going. Allow yourself the flexibility you need to alter your course along the way, as your circumstances change. Your infertility journey may help you achieve a new and greater level of intimacy with your partner, your family, and certain friends. Your ability to overcome the crisis that may occur can strengthen you. You may make new and lifelong friends along the way. You can actively determine if and when your journey comes to an end. Give yourself permission to look at and consider all of the options that are available to you. Take comfort in knowing that the number of treatment options available to you is growing. The technology, science, and research are ongoing, and ever changing. As doctors gain a greater understanding of the realm of infertility, the success rates for infertility treatment are improving. There is no reason to think that this trend won’t continue.

There is no doubt that, wherever and whenever you emerge from your infertility journey, you will be forever changed. There is no way to know the outcome or what it will make of you. You will certainly be changed in ways that you had not considered when you began. The person you become as a result of this experience will be better equipped to deal with other life challenges that will undoubtedly arise in the future. The resiliency of the human spirit, and the potential capacity that we all have to cope with uncertainty and crisis, is something that has never ceased to amaze me in my many years of work as a social worker.

My hope and wish for you is that, wherever your own personal infertility journey ultimately takes you, it is a place you can accept and look forward from. Whatever our outcomes, we all need to find a future direction where we want and choose to go. My wish is that, wherever this leads for you, it ultimately offers you some sense of peace, belonging and fulfillment.

Find out more about Iris Waichler's book at her site - Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster

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