Follicle Envy

I wrote in Confessions of a Sister and Fellow Infertile that I feel like the odd barren woman out when it comes to the jealousy that often accompanies infertility. You see, I am largely immune to it. Sure I get that momentary pang in my chest when I pass a pregnant woman or see an infant, but for the most part I look at other’s pregnancy success as a huge accomplishment and I don’t let it bother me.

That is with the exception of family and other infertiles. In both those cases I glow as green as the the Jolly Green Giant exposed to radiation in a massive nuclear meltdown.


In my first post I described my heartache at being beaten to motherhood by those closest to me, my sister and my sister-in-law. In this one I will share a much more light-hearted but never-the-less true confession, I am wildly envious of my closest sisters in infertility.

Now don’t get me wrong, the only time I have ever cried tears over one of these women is when the “joy sucker” known as infertility kicks them in the uterus when they are already down. While I was pregnant with Spork, I felt total despair and cried buckets of tears for a dear online friend who lost twin boys only a few days after giving birth to them too soon.

Last year, I died a little bit inside when one of the first women I cycled with lost her baby to a miscarriage while she was struggling through a shift at work. I love these women and the community that surrounds us through this unfair, sometimes defeating, and otherwise lonely battle. I don’t know what I would do without them.


I suffer from extreme follicle envy. Not pregnancy or baby envy, follicle envy. I am fine with pregnancy and babies. In fact, I am seriously geeked when my infertile friends have strong positive beta results or climb back from no man’s land when a beta or a baby’s heart beat rallies and defeats the odds. I never, ever, envy that moment when they achieve their long anticipated dreams.

Now that is not to say that like most infertile women I don’t sometimes secretly wonder if they got my winning ticket in the baby lottery. After all, only a certain percentage of us IVFers will get pregnant. But I am smart enough to know that their success is independent of my own and does not mean imminent  failure for me.

No, I don’t want their pregnancy tests with their two bright pink lines any more that I want their babies.

I just desperately desire their follicles.

Oh, and their textbook blastocysts too.

I want to have a follicle count that consistently hits in the 20s and embryos that are perfect quality and number in the double digits. I want enough embryos to “go to blast” with confidence. I long for those blasts to get there by day five and earn perfect 5AA grades.

I’ve never had that. My embryos are often fewer in number, a little slower and are average quality. If my embryos were in a beauty pageant, they would be like the smartest girl in high school standing next to all the Victoria Secret’s models all glammed up and ready to hit the runway. Sure mine are pretty enough and hopefully worthy in a way that really matters, but they are usually outdone in both number and physical beauty.

Even though it is illogical, there is no limit to my envy. Even when I know someone’s Reproductive Endocrinologist has overdone it, producing too many follicles and risking OHSS, I want to be in their stirrups. I want that basket full of eggs because what it really represents is a basket full of options, a veritable guarantee that a baby is in their future.*

Its nothing I could or would ever cry over, and just as it is with my family, deep down inside I am genuinely pulling for my infertile friends. When I hear of their fantastic results, it just hurts a little bit as I realize that those days have passed for me and my hopes of having a beautiful blast that grows into a baby will be realized a few embryos at a time and possibly over many cycles. I have to travel the long hard road and may be looking down the barrel at…wait for it… donors eggs.

Donors egg cyclers are not spared my envy either, however, with their young cycle buddies who also often have a lot of follicles and blastocysts. Plus this group has like the best odds of us all and they have already made that emotional and mental leap that I am still fighting against. What’s not to envy?*

Speaking of young, I really think its the young part that gets me if I am totally honest with myself.

I say this because the infertile women who really cause the little lump in my throat when I read their updates are the really young women who knock it out of the park on their first at bat. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I have seen so many of them join the infertility community and leave it before the pee is dry on that first positive pregnancy test.* I am happy for them, glad they will not have a need to build bonds with others the way I have after years and multiple treatments. And I am glad to be there for them too. Because I think they need me and others like me, if only for a short while.

I remember back when I started IVF.  I was so nervous about posting for the very first time on my first infertility board. So many of the women there were so knowledge and slightly intimidating to me at the time. Here I was having to look up what BFP meant (Big Fat Positive) and they were talking about new technology and protocols and donor eggs, and blastocysts, and it all made my head spin. But I wanted to be a part of it and every time one of them got pregnant it made my heart almost explode with happiness. They were proof it could happen for anyone. It could be me someday.  And of course it was. I have a beautiful baby. I got lucky.

But I am back here now, and I am one of those older “been there done that” ladies. A veteran of the war against infertility back on the front lines to fight again. Only now I am older and battle scarred. I am so weary and some days I just want to stop the fight. But I can’t stop the fight, not now and not ever. Because even if I were done fighting for me I would still need to fight for them.

So maybe that is what this follicle envy is all about. Its not about follicles, or embryos, or low FSH levels. Its not about odds or blastocysts or numbers.

Maybe its all about growing older, being jaded and battle worn.

Maybe I am just longing for the good ole’ days when I didn’t know better and I got lucky in spite of myself and my naiveté.

Whatever it is, I do love the infertile community and everyone in it. Old, young, gay, straight, married, single, male factor, tubal issues… whatever brought you here I am sorry you are here, but I am glad we are here together.

Still… I do sometimes wish I had your follicles and your beautiful blasts. Sorry for that one little detail.





 * Yes I know infertility is not resolved by a first successful pregnancy, I am exaggerating for effect.

*studies actually show that too many eggs can impact quality, so it may not be all its cracked up to be, but still its hard not to want it.

*I know the decision to move to donor eggs is hard. I am not making light of it, I am once again just exaggerating for effect.


Confessions of a Sister and Fellow Infertile

Image by Alison young via Flickr

Image by Alison young via Flickr

I always thought I was different than many of the women I know when it comes to infertility and jealousy. I never struggle in the same way others sometimes do when I learn of someone’s pregnancy or happen to walk by a glowing Mom-to-be on the street.

Like anyone trying to conceive, my awareness of pregnant women and babies is elevated when I am actively cycling. I am human after all. Because I am in the middle of the two week wait, I currently feel trapped in a fictional and terribly done B movie that plays in my head called “Invasion of the Baby Makers.” Pregnant women and infants are everywhere I turn, and of course I feel that tiny pang in the center of my chest when I see them, especially when I am unprepared to bump into… well… a bump.

But that’s it. The good fortune of strangers as evidenced by their tight round bellies rarely elicits more than that little stab of feeling that sinks rapidly and deeply into my heart but fades as quickly as it came. You may recognize the feeling, it lasts only a moment. And that feeling is about the extent of it. I do not have break downs, cry, or break out the Ben and Jerry’s when I find out someone is pregnant or receive an invite to a baby shower from a lucky friend or acquaintance. I never have.

I always remind myself that I don’t want their baby, I want our baby. Besides, I tell myself, I don’t know what version of hell they may have faced or demons they had to slay to achieve their blissful full-bellied state. For all I know the path they tread could have been as long and hard as my own, so I generally just let it go.

Generally.  There are two notable exceptions. Family and fellow infertile women.

I will talk about my illogical envy for other infertile women in my next post, Follicle Envy, but my issues with family members who get knocked up is really quite strange and deserves a post all its own.

Of course the baby blessings of my family members genuinely make me happy, but a few years back when I learned of my sister-in-law’s unexpected pregnancy only a few days after a failed cycle, I sobbed in Bill’s arms until I ran out of tears. I did this despite the fact she was 37 years old and I had been mortally terrified up until then that she would never have the kids I knew she desired. To this day I still do not know why it upset me so much, but it did. It was probably as simple as timing, as well as the fact that it came so easily to her when we tried so hard for so long.

Then there was my middle sister’s first pregnancy. She literally got pregnant as soon as she started trying and announced it to me and the rest of the immediate family in a pretty dramatic an unexpected way while we were in the two week wait of our very first IVF cycle. I am sure its not a choice she would make today knowing what we all know about infertility and IVF. Back then we were all so naive so certain IVF would work and work quickly.

Once again, I was happy for her but I ached at the thought that I was the much older sister and should have been first. I also envied the confidence she had which allowed her to announce her pregnancy with such utter excitement at only 5 weeks. I already knew then that any pregnancy I had would always have a small cloud of fear over it that would prevent my joy from emanating so purely.

In the back of my mind, I also wondered if she was deliberately trying to beat me to the punch since she knew we had just completed our first cycle. I know now that wasn’t the case, she was just expressing unbridled bliss of the greatest news any hopeful mother-to-be can receive, but try to tell that to a hormone crazed woman in the two week wait. It was painful. The experience was almost as painful as being invited to her shower for her second child while I was going through my first and hopefully only miscarriage.

I already had my daughter then, but it still stung and made me want to crawl under the covers and sleep through the nightmare of her pregnancy that was timed so inconveniently with my loss.

These three pregnancies are the only ones ever to cause me real pain or tears. I am sure there is some psychological reason why only those I am closest to make me to feel the jealousy and despair my other infertile friends seem to reserve for catty women at work that they didn’t like that much in the first place.

Maybe it is as simple as proximity, knowing I would be reminded of what they have and I couldn’t every time I connected with them or anyone in the family. I don’t know. But it ached. Thankfully I think its done for awhile. I am happy for that. But I am even happier to have my beautiful nieces and amazing nephew.

While it was hard at the time I would never consider having it any other way.