At my fertility clinic, they put out large jigsaw puzzles in the waiting room. Once one is complete, they replace it with another. As patients drift in and out of the clinic, consumed with their own problems, they connect a few pieces here and there until it is time for their appointment. Eventually, the puzzle finds its way to completion, painting a full picture.
I can’t even think of a more fitting metaphor for enduring fertility treatments.
It works on a few levels.
The problem is often a puzzle.
When people start fertility treatments at a clinic, they want the fastest path to a baby. But almost as important, they want answers. Why aren’t they getting pregnant? Why isn’t it happening naturally, as it does for so many? We’re looking to our REs to solve the puzzle of why and to give us clarity, almost as much as we want them to make us parents.
It took me four REs to answer why. The answer wasn’t good – it was the kind of answer that makes you lose all hope. But even with an answer like that, it was better than not having an answer at all. My diagnosis meant that I could finally make informed decisions on the path forward, and that I could finally walk away from the journey without feeling haunted by ‘what if’.
No matter how much you do, you may not be the one to finish the job.
I love chipping away at the puzzles in the waiting room but my frustration is that I never get to be the one to finish any of them. Sometimes I start one. I usually find myself in the middle of one but I’ve never completed one. And that’s also how I feel about having another baby.
I’m very lucky to be the parent of a spunky six-year-old boy. But for five straight years, my husband and I have been chipping away at our fertility puzzle, piecing it together slowly. And whenever it feels like we’ve made progress, our half-complete puzzle gets replaced with a new one.
But that’s infertility, right? Success does not correlate to how much you do, how much time you put in, or even how much of the puzzle you solve. Sometimes, you’re just not the person who is there to place the final piece.
Sometimes, it takes a village.
For many, it takes two to have a baby. But for 1 in 6 couples in Canada, it may take much more than that. Sometimes it takes REs, nurses, embryologists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and ultrasound techs. It takes counselors, support groups, family, and friends for support. It takes a village.
Just like the puzzles do. Different people with different skills coming into your life to put you back together, piece by piece.
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I had the pleasure of speaking with the person responsible for the puzzles at my fertility clinic. She told me that when they put the puzzles out, they make sure to solve the first few pieces. Otherwise, it could feel overwhelming and the people in the waiting room already feel that way.
It’s embarrassing to say, but hearing that made me blink back tears. Yes, infertility is a puzzle that not everyone can solve. I’ve been trying to solve mine for five years and not much further along than when I started.
But there is some comfort in knowing that there are people out there trying to piece it together for you.
By: Vidya Ledsham