As you read this, Rocky Raccoon is over and done and DB and I have just returned from a week in Cabo. I spent an entire week tasked with only rest, rejuvenation and rehydration. I’ll have to remind myself about that stuff called water, because I spent the better part of last week getting in as much coffee and alcoholic frozen deliciousness as I could. Cause things are changing now that we’re home, and pretty quickly at that.
Like Salty, I’ve agreed to take a big personal step in sharing with our Salty readership. Salty is documenting her post-pregnancy body and return to running, offering up difficult belly shots and tales of (temporary) incontinence. On the flip side of the equation, I have offered/agreed to share my next four months of infertility treatments, blow-by-blow (or shot by shot).
For those women (and men) who aren’t interested or at that point in their lives, you are obviously under no obligation to read. For those that are interested – whether out of curiosity, empathy, or past experience – I thought I would explain a bit more about why I’ve decided to take such an open and sometimes self-intrusive step.
I have three primary reasons for sharing my journey, two minor and one major. The minor reasons are stigma and running. There is still, in 2013, far too much stigma around the disease of infertility, and not nearly enough information. It’s getting better to be sure, but infertility isn’t merely the realm of those who waited too long, are too thin or too fat, or just can’t relax. One in eight American couples is affected by infertility, which is defined as the inability to conceive naturally after six months for those under 35, and one year for those over 35.
Salty Running is a site about women’s running, which brings me to reason number two: these treatments have affected and informed my running in the past, and they will continue to do so in the next six months and into the future, whether I am blessed with a pregnancy or deal with detox and weight loss at the end of the treatments. One of Salty Running’s two resident ultra chicks is going to be “off the grid” for a bit – bye-bye 100-mile weeks! – and this is why. It’s part of my life right now, running and otherwise.
But finally, and most importantly, there are almost NO resources out there whatsoever for athletes struggling with infertility. Do a quick Google search of the words, and you’ll quickly find out that it’s all our fault. Once weight gain and activity reduction are accomplished (often with no results – shocking!), the literature ends. Yes, we have the standard blogs, websites and chat rooms to turn to, but there are almost no exclusive resources for the athlete that struggles with infertility that isn’t directly related to their athleticism.
As I stated in one of my first blogs, we are not infertile because I run, because he runs, or because we run. We are not infertile because we are thin, and we are not infertile because we’re too busy running and training to get around to the other stuff. But there is a huge dichotomy at work. I’ve learned from sitting in the labs and treatment waiting rooms long enough that everyone that struggles with this hurts the same. We all share this most simple and human desire: to carry our own child. You must learn quickly not to judge; it may look like little Clove just needs to eat some hamburgers, but I assure you, our situation is far more complicated than that. So, too, is the situation of the person you assume just needs to lose weight, or looks far too old to be attempting a pregnancy.
But the dichotomy for the athlete, whether runner, dancer or gymnast is this: we lose our hobby. We may lose part of our professional lives or income, and most of all, we lose our primary escape and coping mechanism. Fertility treatments don’t demand that you stop knitting, watching tv, going to the office, reading, cooking, fishing, shopping, sewing or playing the piano. That’s the thing. Of course, you have side effects from the treatments, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the emotional impact is the same. But that stuff – that day-to-day stuff that you do – you get to keep doing. Your general lifestyle remains the same.
But you can’t race marathons and run 100-milers. You can’t necessarily train for competition or lead roles. And what’s even worse, and yes, jealousy inducing, is that you’ve watched other women do it.
I want to make perfectly clear that I do not feel sorry for myself. DB and I have often said that if we were offered a guarantee of long and healthy life and marriage into our nineties, but it meant not having children, we would take the offer at the speed of light. We have each other and we are healthy, and there is no greater gift in this world. This is, however, part of our journey, and a complex one at that.
What form will this take? I’ll have some posts about how we’ve gotten to where we are. My weekly posts will then morph into the challenges of running and staying in some semblance of shape when you become an emotional, exhausted, bloated version of your former self – a version that is also chemically pregnant (with symptoms) for about ten days every month.
My weekly training logs will chart both my mileage and my “protocol,” or what shots, drugs and procedures I’m having done. It won’t be overly graphic, and if you’ve been through labor you’ve heard worse – but there will certainly be some details, as well as some explanations.
But Clove, you’re saying. Won’t we know the minute you’re pregnant then? Like before your mom and your family and your friends?
Nope. Not at all. Because these treatments are complicated and not a straight line. If I have to travel for work, I may have to take a month off depending on when I’m gone. You have to be closely monitored on these drugs, so you can’t be out of town for certain periods of time. And some months you can get cysts, which means no treatments until they’re gone. Oh yes, there’s any number of things that can go wrong – or cover. And as you know, young Clove has not exactly been consistent about this in the past, so it wouldn’t be shocking for her to announce she’s running Burning River again after two months because she’s just – FED UP.
But for now, I have a big cup of coffee to drink while I look at vacation pictures, as I’ll soon be back on restriction. Decaf’s not that bad, right? Right?!?!?