When the Wound Has Healed, a Scar Remains

A-Bomb Dome at sunset. Hiroshima, Japan. October 2009.

A-Bomb Dome at sunset. Hiroshima, Japan. Photo by Keiko Zoll.

Three years ago, on March 18, I was diagnosed with infertility. I have written about that moment: opening the email from my doctor and reading those words that changed my life – many times here at this blog. March 18th is known as D-Day in our house, for Diagnosis Day.

In 2010, on the first anniversary of D-Day, the wound was still fresh:

I’ve come to a place of peace, a point of recognition, and the moment to start taking action. I’ve mourned and I’ve grieved and I’m sure I still have plenty of tears left. But I’m done spiraling down.

Last year, I turned the day on its head as a way of celebrating myself while still be cognizant of its emotional significance:

…when I think about [the anniversary of my diagnosis] from a Jewish context, it’s almost like a yartzheit. I lost something very dear to me, and so on its anniversary, I choose to remember, reflect, and redefine myself beyond what was lost.

And this year?

I had forgotten until my husband said something to me before we went to bed late Saturday night. We had a friend in from out of town, and when we juggling schedules to see which weekend would be best for her to visit, I vaguely remember mentioning that “Oh yeah, St. Patrick’s Day weekend is D-Day,” but never really giving it much more thought than that.

Typically, I get a massage. I do something nice for myself. Eat something tasty. In the weeks leading up to D-Day, I know I’ll need my full emotional reserves so I stock up accordingly, lining up massage appointments or figuring out what I’m doing for the day. I’ve spent the day alone to focus on myself, reflect on the my journey and reinvigorate myself for what lies ahead.

And yet, I didn’t do any of that this year.

We went out to breakfast with our company, bid her farewell as she got back on the road, and then I went clothes shopping for BlogHer Entrepreneurs, a conference in California I’m attending later this week.

What was uncharacteristically different about this shopping excursion was that I decided to walk the 4 mile round trip to and from TJ Maxx. I got a lovely top, a kickass pair of red kitten heels and a new laptop bag (turquoise blue!). I struggled with the decision to buy a very cute pair of lapis blue flats, but decided our checking account had taken enough of a hit for one day.

My husband, to me, at about 4pm yesterday: “This is going to sound offensive, but I don’t mean it that way at all: I’m really impressed with how you’re handling today.”

I was too, to be honest.

. . .

There’s the one from walking into Larry while he was holding a muffin tin that had just come out of the oven. Right next to that one, there’s a small white circle from when I was a child; I had walked into a neighbor’s lit cigarette that she held in her hands.

There’s the weird triangle one on my knee that must have been from childhood, but I don’t remember how it got there. Then there’s the one from a few years ago, a perfect white spot on the top of my left foot: a mosquito bite I scratched open.

Then there are the biggies: two inches and sunken in on the right side of my abdomen, just at my jeans waist. Two half-inch lines barely visible just at my underwear line. Another one hidden in my belly button. And there are IV scars still visible on the back of both hands, from as long as 19 and 12 years ago, from my appendectomy and oophorectomy, respectively.

My body is decorated with many scars from surgeries and clumsiness over the years. Each one of my scars were the results of wounds that hurt like hell. They all took a long time to recover, my skin imprinting the memory of each individual scar’s story into its very cells.

Premature ovarian failure may not have left any outward marks on my flesh, but it was a wound that cut to the core. I carry the scar of infertility with me wherever I go. And like any other scar I carry on my body, over time, it hurts a little less. The wound heals. Looking at the physical mark reminds you of how it got there. And you see how you’ve grown in the days and years since.

But for the most part, you start to forget about the wound.

I think that’s what happened to me this weekend, why I didn’t feel the need for the normal pomp and circumstance and “prep” that I felt I needed in years past for D-Day. I’ve learned to live so much more fully in the moment that I spend less head space thinking about the past and how I’ve been wounded by infertility and more about how to move forward: to live with my infertility and not in spite of it.

. . .

I originally wanted to title this post “How Do You Know When You’re Healed?” and thought better of it. I’m not fully healed. I don’t think I’ll even be fully healed when, G-d willing, we hold a child of my own in our arms.

Sure, I’m coping well. But even coping well doesn’t erase the scar that remains.

It just makes it easier to bear.

. . .

I talk about healing in the wake of my diagnosis three years later and the value of committing to self-care over at Bloggers for Hope today. Thank you so much to Suzy of Not a Fertile Myrtle for extending the invitation to write about infertility and self-care over at their wonderful, supportive space.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post. Healing from infertility is, in my experience anyway, a bit of a roller coaster… with the beginning full of really drastic ups and downs, and then as years past, it turns more into a kiddie coaster… ups and downs, but not as dramatic.

    I’m 10 years past my first miscarriage, and 9 years past the second and third, and I was blessed with twins who are two years old now… we are no longer in the active TTC game, and yet… Every November and May, I remember those lost babies (oh damn, I’m going to cry…!) I usually don’t remember the December loss, except as a passing thought.

    Each time my hubby brings up trying again (the man has amnesia, I tell you!), I tell him I remember the trying years OH SO WELL, and I remember the ache of those loses, too, and I have no interest in going back. While I can say this with some confidence, I admit there is an ache because if not for the infertility… I probably would try again.

    When people tell me they are expecting baby #14, I no longer cry, but I do sometimes ache a bit with jealousy, at the ability to just have kids when you want, as you want. Sometimes, when my period is late, I get frustrated at my body…

    But MOST of the time… 99% of the time… I feel ok. I’m no where near as affected as I was two years ago or four years ago. Like you said, it does get better, it hurts less and less… but the scar is always there.

    • Keiko says

      Rachel, thank you so much for this beautiful comment. I honor the legacy of your journey, of your losses and of the amazing resilience and grace you carry with you now.

  2. says

    Mmmm (that’s a happy noise), I love this post too. I think it’s interesting how our approach to anniversaries changes over time — both the good ones and the not good ones. Josh and I used to celebrate our dating anniversary and our engagement anniversary, and now we usually just turn to each other a day or two afterwards and say, “oh! Our dating anniversary just passed.” What seemed enormous in the moment has slid into a different spot in the continuum.

    • Keiko says

      Mel, thank you so much for featuring this post in last Friday’s Round Up! I’m honored :) It’s amazing how time might fade the pain we feel but how it remains with us.

  3. says

    Keiko, I’m so glad you’ve made it to where you are… it gives me hope that I might too come to some peace with this condition. I haven’t yet reached my one year anniversary of my diagnosis, but I’m approaching quickly to the anniversary of the date we started trying to conceive-that day in May last year where we just decided we were ready and threw away my birth control pills. I remember how I felt on that day. So excited, but nervous too. Not even filled with hope because I didn’t know then that I even NEEDED hope. The path ahead of me seemed wide open.

    When I think about that day – May 22 – anniversary of “trying” – I’m mournful for who I was. Unfettered by blood draws and negative tests and a dooming POF diagnosis. I was just myself. And I don’t think I’ll ever be that person again. Too much has happened.

    • Keiko says

      You know what Jen? I’m not the same woman I was before my POF diagnosis, either. POF fundamentally changes us, and there’s no use in trying to fight that. Let that change happen. Pull up your oars and let the current carry you where it may – it’ll be okay.

      And you still are “yourself” – it’s just a new version in a new context. And that’s okay too – because you’re still just as awesome, whole and beautiful as before. You’ve just got a new set of rules to play in a different game.

  4. Marie says

    Oh scars. I’m still waiting for the latest physical scars to heal, and it’s been sort of nice to have a spot on my body to point to and say, “This is here because I was pregnant (and got gallstones and eventually my gallbladder out), but I don’t get to have a baby right now, and I have faith that someday there will be another baby, one way or another.” It does hurt less now than it did but it will always hurt a little bit sometimes, and I think I’m thankful for the chance to learn more about me. I’d have missed so much of who I am now if I hadn’t learned from the lousy stuff that happened. Plus the scar is a way to honor the journey.

    • Keiko says

      Marie, this is so inspiring: “I’d have missed so much of who I am now if I hadn’t learned from the lousy stuff that happened. Plus the scar is a way to honor the journey.”

      Honoring the journey indeed. Thanks for such a wonderful comment.

  5. says

    Hi,

    I might be a bit early, but I’ve just found you via the March ICLW list. This is a really moving post. Even though our circumstances are different, I take courage from your coming to cope with the situation you find yourself in, and somehow I’m a little less intimidated by the coming fifth anniversary of one of my best friends’ death.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Casey

    • Keiko says

      Casey, welcome. I’ so glad you’ve found my blog and I hope you’ll be back for more than just ICLW. I too, have lost a dear friend and I think grieving an actual, physical death is harder than living with a scar. We live with a memory, instead. As you approach this anniversary of your friend’s death, I invite you to read a post I wrote about my own friend who died many, many years before her time: http://theinfertilityvoice.com/2011/07/but-not-forgotten/. I hope you might find some comfort in reading this post as I did writing it.

  6. says

    Love the analogy to scars, and how they heal … we can see them, but we don’t have the open wound to remind us any more. Sometimes they itch when the weather is right. Your commitment to self-care is an inspiration, Keiko!

    And: how did I miss ICLW *again*? (frowns) Maybe I’ll just go lurk there.

    • Keiko says

      “Sometimes they itch when the weather is right.”

      Like it’s our body’s way of telling us, “Hey – hey you. You need to remember this right now.” Thanks for commenting, Justine! I dropped the ball on the end of this ICLW – I’m making up the rest of my comments tomorrow.

  7. says

    I agree, infertility creates huge scars. Some of those scars, like physical ones, heal quicker than others, and eventually they start to fade. That doesn’t mean that we don’t know that they are there or that they don’t bother us to some extent every time we see or feel them. It’s great that you’ve gotten to the point where you can live with the scars and they don’t control you. I hope I can get there at some point.

    ICLW #24

    • Keiko says

      Peg, you absolutely have the capacity to get there. I truly believe we are each confronted with that choice at some point in our lives; the courage to make that choice lies within each of us. Thank you for visiting from ICLW and I hope you come back to read regularly! Thanks for commenting :)

  8. says

    Even scars, with time, start to fade, although they never go away completely. I agree that infertility isn’t something that you’re ever really cured of. It stays with you, no matter what happens or what decisions you make in terms of family building. I’m glad you’re at a point where D day isn’t as painful as it once was. And congrats on the new site!

    • Keiko says

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Daryl. Looks like the dust has settled and I’m really enjoying my new digs. Thanks for following me over!