If. Two letters that could be used to express hope or promise. “If only …” Or better yet, “If I could, I would …”

And then there’s IF; both letters in caps. The medical “Alphabet soup”-version of the word “infertility.”

Please click on image to learn more about this week

Somehow, the meaning between these two simple “words” seem worlds apart. Yet they can also go hand in hand with one another. When I think of the word “if”, I think of possibilities; even though it can also mean “a supposition” or “an uncertain outcome.” When I think of IF (as in infertility), I certainly don’t consider infertility in terms of possibilities or futures. No … I immediately think of that “uncertain outcome.”

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For NIAW, Mel over at Stirrup Queens has partnered with RESOLVE to increase the awareness of how Infertility affects everyone. The project, aptly called “Project IF” is something that has become more powerful than even I, an infertile for well over 10 years, could imagine. The first part of this project set out to unite all Infertility Bloggers under one common thread by simply writing a question addressing the biggest “What IF” in regards to an individual’s infertility. The emotion behind it is weighted in more than just gold or platinum. And if you haven’t already gone to visit … please go now.

The second part of Project IF expands on Part 1 by asking the blogger to choose from one of the recurring themes that came from the over 500 “What If’s” and explore that theme on our personal blog. And since I’m a firm believer in the power of words, I felt the need to participate.

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“What if, after years of struggling with the roller coaster of infertility and FINALLY accepting the decision to live child-free, I get pregnant?”

This was the “What IF” I submitted for Part 1 of “Project IF.” I chose to write about how infertility impacted my future. And based on that statement, it would appear that infertility continues to weigh heavily on my future decisions.

In the Filipino culture (like most other cultures), family has always been held in the highest regard. And despite being a well-educated Filipina with a successful career, being a mother is considered the noblest profession for a woman.

As a first generation Filipino-American, there have been many things within my culture that clashed with the very “American” environment I grew up in. But being part of a family, let alone being the matriarch of my own family, was something that I constantly carried with me throughout my childhood and for many years after that. I had dreams of having a large family (larger than two, because *I* always wanted more than one sibling), and of having my parents there to help raise them with some knowledge of our Filipino culture. After all, that was another Filipino consideration; to have grandparents there to pass on the traditions of our culture.

Although I somehow found myself marrying within my culture, it’s no surprise that my Hubby would also share that same love of family; the same dream of wanting to have a brood of children of our own. And along with this dream, we had dreamt of moving out-of-state (Chicago, to be precise); but not before our first-born would be old enough to start school. After all, we wanted both of our parents to enjoy the early childhood stage of their grandchildren; and yet also didn’t want to uproot our children from a school that they were already attending. We had all these plans for our lives that revolved around raising our children.

So it came as a big surprise to us that we weren’t able to conceive. What was worse was the painstakingly long process it took determine why we couldn’t conceive; only to end up with a diagnosis of “Unexplained Infertility.” And because of this struggle, we ended up putting all of our dreams on hold. We put off advances in our careers; we put off moving out-of-state.

Instead, we spent years going to various OB-Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) offices in our hometown of Suburban Detroit; spent many lunch hours with various Ultrasound Technicians that I got to know on an “intimate” basis. We spent many hours in line waiting for various prescription drugs to be filled; used many needles poking myself in my belly or thigh, or — worse — rear end. We spent enough of our “retirement” money financing an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle that gave us three perfect embryos; two which were implanted in me, and one that we “let go” a year later after we knew our chances of defrosting one frozen embryo and financing another IVF cycle were slim to none.

We spent six years of our married lives leading up to our one failed IVF cycle. By that time, I was emotionally and financially spent; I was at my absolute breaking point. That was the first time Hubby & I decided to step away from actively trying to conceive (TTC). Not that I didn’t hope for a miracle every month (only to be let down every month), we just decided to take a break from the IF roller coaster.

Looking back now, that would probably have been the best time for Hubby & I to move on with our other dreams; perhaps look at moving out of Michigan and some place else. But hindsight is always 20/20; and truth be told, I just wasn’t ready to give up my biggest dream of being a mother; the one in which I felt I would finally have a reason to exist … at least that’s what I believed.

So instead Hubby & I continued with our daily lives; me secretly hoping for that “immaculate conception.” And in the fall of 2006 … in the midst of status quo … my emotional foundation was shaken to the core. I received the news that my husband’s sister, who just remarried four months prior, was expecting.

Never mind that before all this TTC-business started, my SIL and I were the best of friends. Never mind that my SIL already had a 10-year old child from her first marriage, who was born the same year that Hubby & I got married. Never mind that I always believed that my oldest child and her son, following in the Filipino tradition of extended family, would be the closest of friends. And certainly, never mind that I had always harbored resentment towards my SIL because I felt she was never there for me, as I felt a best friend should, after the failed IVF cycle. The fact of the matter was that my SIL was pregnant … and I wasn’t.

I’ll be honest and say that I had a complete emotional breakdown with that pregnancy announcement … and it’s not just because my SIL was pregnant. It was because like any “good” Filipina, I had spent the entire “trying to start my own family”-time pushing all those emotions aside. I never gave myself the chance to cry; never gave myself the chance to fully grieve the loss of my babies … even if they were just embryos. Instead I spent the time shoving all these emotions under the rug just so I can, as Asian-Americans call it, “Save Face.”

It was at that time, I finally sought counseling; and it was with this therapist’s encouragement that I decided I would have a heart-to-heart conversation with my SIL. And we did talk rather openly about my feelings. I told her how hard it would be for me to be as excited about her pregnancy as she and the rest of the family was. I even told her that I may not always be up for a conversation about her pregnancy. In fact, I told her that unless I brought up the subject, it meant that I wasn’t ready for baby talk. I came away from that “powwow” with a renewed sense of hope towards our friendship. And I also came away with a sense that I could start healing those emotional wounds that stifled me from moving forward on my Infertility path.

But then less than a week later, the proverbial sh*t hit the fan.

At 20 weeks, my SIL found out that her baby would be born with some congenital anomalies. Despite our recent chat … there was no other recourse but to be available for my SIL during this difficult time. And even though I was pretty uncomfortable about discussing the issues surrounding her pregnancy, I just knew that my SIL needed someone to talk to about her fears and her emotions.

I tried to be there for her as much as I possibly could. And when Liam was born prematurely and passed away four months later, I tried even more. Perhaps it may have not been as much as she wanted me to be. But I can honestly say I tried to give her all my support … as much I emotionally could, anyway.

Two months after Liam’s passing, Hubby & I received a card in the mail. It was a beautiful card expressing how much Hubby & I meant to both my SIL and her husband; especially during the past year. It was also a card to tell us some news that no one else had yet known …  that she and Mr. SIL were expecting again. And while I truly appreciated the manner in which she told us, I can’t say that I was emotionally strong enough to be exuberant about another pregnancy.

If I was honest enough, I would have to admit that I felt as if I just barely survived a “Tour of Duty” in Babyland and was then suddenly and  unexpectedly deployed for another “Tour.” And while I was incredibly happy that SIL was able get a “second chance” (if one could call it that) at having another child with her new husband, I was still trying to survive the Post-Traumatic Stress caused from her first pregnancy and subsequent birth. In a word, during this pregnancy, I was apathetic.

My apathy came across as trying to go back to the “status quo” I was prior to my SIL’s pregnancy with Liam. I was desperately trying to get back to whatever sense of normalcy there was before my world got so turned around. Quite literally, I was frozen and at a dead stop on the road through the Land of Infertility. And because I was still in a state of post-trauma, I didn’t know how to move forward … I didn’t know what to feel.

A week before Kairi was born, I finally felt something stir inside me. And, okay … perhaps it wasn’t the best thing to feel, but at least it was something . What came out was was a volatile anger; one that had been brimming at the surface for months … probably since the events after that heart-to-heart with my SIL during her pregnancy with Liam.

I can now say, without hesitation, that my SIL’s reaction to my post was certainly justified. However, what resulted from that reaction was a powerful blog post that forced me to take stock of everything that had lead me to that point in my life.

And today, I can now say with 100% certainty that it was that post that pushed me just a smidge forward towards finding a resolution to that dream (the one that involved a large family with me as the center) that I was obviously meant to let go. It was that post which forced me to quit putting my life on hold … to look towards a different future.

Since September of 2008, I have started to dream my new future; I’ve began to live that new life. But first, I managed to fulfill one old dream … Hubby & I actually did make it to Chicago and have now been living here for the past 18 months. We moved here for the career opportunities we both put on hold for so long. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say we moved here to put our “past dreams” to rest.

Our new dream? Our new future? Well it’s a future that, after much soul-searching, involves living child-free. It’s a future that also involves refocusing our lives around our relationship as “just husband and wife” … and not as “Mr. & Mrs. Genetic Dead End.”

It also involves the freedom of being able to plan future decisions without the constant need to determine whether it’s the optimal time during the month to conceive; without worrying where our dossier or “Dear Birthparent” profile is in the adoption process.

It allows us to travel together; explore a life together without the constant worry of not knowing if we’ll ever have a child to look out for us when we get older.

It allows us to dream again.

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There was one last piece to Project IF: Part II. Mel had asked us to end our post with a positive “What IF” statement.

The thing is, I could only come up with the same statement I used at the very beginning of this post. And I’d like you to take the time to re-read it again below.

Because despite the apprehensions I would have about rearranging the life I had finally accepted I would live … I would happily rearrange it again, if it meant that I’d be able to bring a life (made out of the love my Hubby & I have for one another) into this world.

“What if, after years of struggling with the roller coaster of infertility and FINALLY accepting the decision to live child-free, I get pregnant?”

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This entry is a contribution to Project IF. Bloggers from the ALI (Adoption, Loss, Infertility) community are writing “What IF” entries for National Infertility Awareness Week, April 24 to May 1, in conjunction with Stirrup Queens and Resolve.

To add your own “What IF” and to read others entries, click here.

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