There's been a question going around lately, and it's this: do you really and truly want to be the person you were before infertility? It was asked over at Are We There Yet?, and several bloggers have posted a full response on their blogs. It's made me think a little deeper than the first glib reply I gave. Here's what's occurred to me.

Back about ten fifteen to twenty damnit years ago, when I was a pre-teen, I went horse-crazy, just like the stereotypical pre-teen girl tends to do. It's important to understand there was no way in this whole, big, wide world my parents were going to buy me a horse, or even pay for me to go riding. So I saved up my pocket money, fifty cents at a time, and I went around the neighbourhood doing chores and errands for spare change, and I put it all into a little jar and made sure I didn't spend it on frivolous things. After four months I had saved up enough for a one-hour trail ride. My father agreed to drive me, I made the booking, and for that hour and days afterwards I knew it had all been worthwhile. So the process started again. That year I was able to save enough money for two one-hour trail rides, before the Christmas gift saving began. Two rides over twelve months. And I considered myself blessed.

For Christmas, my parents exceeded my expectations by buying me a few riding lessons. They explained they would love to have given me more, but it was expensive, and they hoped I would enjoy what I could get. I did. I was so enthusiastic the manager of the school invited me to be a "stable brat", working twelve hour days over the weekend shoveling shit in return for a group lesson with the other stable brats, and a sandwich at lunchtime. I was overjoyed. I turned up at 6:30am, and worked until my muscles ached and my hands bore deep callouses and the sweat drained off my back and into my boots. I still ran errands and did chores for money around the neighbourhood, but now I was saving for bigger things - a grooming kit, boots and jodhpurs, halters and lead-ropes. The start of my horse-owning inventory. And I considered myself blessed.

Over the next three and a half years I worked hard. I watched my stable brat friends get their ponies and move on, or decide to pursue other interests. The horse owners paid me little heed, especially those whose ponies came easily. "Why don't you just ask your parents to buy you one?" one girl asked, genuinely baffled. They didn't seem to understand. They even complained of the burden of having to muck out their ponies, week in, week out. We quickly grew apart.

Then one day a woman unloaded her horse at the school. I was eating lunch on the steps of the office at the time, and I watched her lead the horse out of the trailer and towards me. "Help!" she called out to no-one in particular. "Someone take him from me!" I put down my lunch and went over, taking the leadrope and leading him up to the hitching rail. "Thankyou," she said, relieved. "I don't know why, but ever since I had a riding accident last year I'm too scared to handle him, much less ride. Yet I don't want to sell him. You don't know of anyone who's looking for a horse to take care of, do you?" Two weeks later I'd negotiated a work-for-board deal with the manager of the school and an emergency guarantor plan with my parents, and was getting the hand-over talk from my horse's owner. It was four and a half years after I first decided I wanted a horse. I was sixteen years old. And despite not being my horse's legal owner, I considered myself well and truly blessed.

Not once, in all those years, did it occur to me that my dream was impossible. Looking back, I marvel at the audacity of that optimism over something so unlikely to occur.

So I wondered, after reading Teamwink's post, what the hell happened to that girl? When did I start expecting things to fall into my lap, like they fell into the laps of the pony-club crowd at school, whose parents bought them a new mount for every second birthday? When did I start looking at setbacks with such an overwhelming sense of despair? When did I stop being grateful, and believing that everything would turn out for the best - one way or another? What happened to me? And I wondered if, through infertility, I might finally get that girl back.

Do I really and truly want to be the person I was before infertility? Perhaps. But only if I can be sixteen again, riding off through the bush on the horse I worked so hard and waited so long to call my very own. This time, I hope not to forget.

My horse, whose owner gradually relinquished all practical aspects of ownership to me, was euthanased in late 2005 - just as we started fertility treatments - at the ripe old age of twenty-seven, due to untreatable illness. I spoke to his owner before signing the forms. She told me he'd been mine for many years and I should do what I thought best.


The Town Criers said...

This is an incredible story. It made me think about how I approached situations prior to infertility. I couldn't think of anywhere else where I had worked and worked with no pay off for so long. Everywhere else, I worked hard and small rewards kept me going. And I didn't have those small rewards (unless we're counting chemical pregnancies as evidence that I can indeed get pregnant even if I can't stay pregnant). Maybe that's it? You had small tastes of working hard and earning a small piece of the puzzle.


Regardless, this is such a beautiful post.

Meg said...

Bea - Thank you for a beautiful sotry and post. xxx

And incredibly thought-provoking for me. I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

Kris said...

That was a great story. I've seen this theme running through many posts lately... I'm going to have to give it some thought.

Vee said...

What a wonderful story.

Life is tough. I know I have had my fair share of crap dealt to me (apart from infertility ) and have learned that nothing comes easily. Like you, anything I want I have had to work hard for.

Lets just hope that it gets easier, that would make a nice change.

Ellen K. said...

This is a marvelous story. I too wonder when I became "that girl." I think so many of us can relate to this.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully told, Bea. I guess we just have to remember that nothing is impossible, even getting a pony.

ellie said...

great story. and an interesting topic as well. my dad was always telling me to enjoy the journey because it's the best part of the process. i might do things differently if i had to do them over again in regards to infertility-- but i think for me experiencing it has created a deeper more empathic, patient side of myself. i rather like that.

Thalia said...

Beautiful story, Bea. What an impressive young woman you were. I'm not sure the analogy works, though. It's not like we haven't worked hard at building our families. If anything, what this has taught me is that working hard can no longer get me what I want. In the end it's not up to me, it's up to some inchoate power over which i have no influence.

Bumble said...

Thats a lovely story Bea. Thanks!
The end made me bawl though! It just goes to show that there is always hope and that anything can happen.

Beagle said...

I too mucked stalls for lessons!

I enjoyed this psot very much. It brought back some great memories and brings up some good questions.

I guess the me I want back most is the one that remembers how to be happy more often than sad. But I have a feeling she'll show her face again.

Baby Blues said...

Bea I love your story! Thanks for sharing. It makes me ponder on life prior to infertility too. It was so much simpler then.

Mands said...

What a touching post.

It's true, we did not have much as kids either. Everything we've ever aquired had to be worked for. It may not always happen as we plan it, but it happens because we work hard to make sure that it does, and because we don't stop believing in the possibilities.

aah0424 said...

It is interesting that you discussed having things in life handed to you and when you stopped expecting that to happen. I've known my husband since he was a child and he has always said things "just happen" for him. Now I think you've sparked a post in me.

sharah said...

I think I have to agree with Thalia. I've always been able to get the things I've wanted if I worked hard enough, but IF doesn't work that way. It's taught me that there are times where I can't control the outcome of my situation, no matter how hard I try.

Nevertheless, it's a beautiful story and I hope you find that teenage girl again.

Lut C. said...

I enjoyed reading this post too.

But I agree with Thalia, the analogy with IF does not add up entirely. It's not only that hard work does not equal result.

Those girls who were given a horse every second birthday, were extraordinarily privileged, though they didn't realize it.

Being able to reproduce is not a privilege of the happy few, it is something anyone can do, rich or poor. Anyone except us IF of course.

Bea said...

It's not totally the same thing, I agree.

You could liken fertilisation of eggs, or a chemical pregnancy/pregnancy and miscarriage, or just being able to afford another IVF cycle to the "interim success" of a trail ride or a job at the stable, but it's definitely stretching the metaphor.

And life certainly didn't teach me to expect a pony in the same way we grow up expecting to parent one day.

Also, at the end of the day, working hard was probaly always going to get me my horse sooner or later - even if that meant waiting til I'd graduated and was earning my own money. Of course, when you're a pre-teen, waiting that long is more or less equivalent to "never", but still.

It was the best I could do.


GLouise said...

Wow- your post brought tears to my eyes, especially the last few lines.

Well done!

Nica said...

The audacity of optimism. Love it.

You kick a$$. (Which, in NYC, is a compliment).

Jess said...

I LOVE this story. What a great young woman you must have been!! :)

And I like the way it fits your IF journey.

I'm with some of the others, though...I feel like IF has taught me that things DO NOT fall into my lap. That sometimes, even if you work as hard as you can for something, God still doesn't give it to you. The girl I was before was a girl who got everything she wanted (practically speaking), and easily for the most part. The woman I am now knows different.


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