Infertility: Your Own Personal Health Marathon

It’s Patriots’ Day here in Massachusetts. One of those random holidays I never knew existed until we moved to this fine Commonwealth five years ago. It’s not a glorious celebration of the regionally-adored New England Patriots football team, rather, this holiday commemorates the start of the American Revolution. Just about everyone in the state has off; it’s a civic holiday.

It’s also conveniently the day of the Boston Marathon every year.

Let me boil down my feelings about running as a sport for you:

I believe that running should be reserved for catching that bus/train/plane you’re about to miss and/or running away from an imminent threat. The thought of running for the sake of running bewilders me, to be honest. I just don’t get any enjoyment from it. I hit up the elliptical and break a sweat only out of necessity to not be (so much of) a fatty.

I have friends who are runners. In fact, a friend of ours is running in the marathon today (go get ’em, Kristina!) and I am amazed by the people who not only say “I’m going to run for enjoyment” but then tack on: “I’m going to run TWENTY-SIX POINT TWO MILES for enjoyment.”

I mean, kudos to the runners out there, at the Boston Marathon or otherwise. Let me be clear: I have nothing against runners, it’s just that running doesn’t really do it for me.

Today Is Not That Day

Did you ever think, that on the day you began your infertility journey, that you’d need to lace up your metaphorical sneakers and get ready for the infertility marathon ahead of you?

I certainly didn’t.

But three years later, I start to see metaphors everywhere. And a marathon is certainly a fitting metaphor indeed for infertility.

We very literally engage in physical training. We exercise. And then we stop exercising because we’re told it can affect our fertility. We diet, we start taking wheat grass shots or handfuls of supplements and vitamins – you know the drill. And while doping is strictly prohibited in sports, we inject ourselves full of a myriad of synthetic hormones to kickstart our reproductive organs.

They say that getting ready for pregnancy is like preparing for a marathon. Thing is, when you can’t get pregnant, that’s it’s own marathon, too.

I mean think about it: we have good days, we have bad days. Those good days are like perfectly level straightaway sprints. Those bad days? Uphill inclines.

Those really bad days?

They might as well be Heartbreak Hill. Like marathon runners, we can hit the wall on those days. Or, we could be like Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, who rallied after the particularly grueling climb to go on and win the Boston Marathon in 1936, the scenario for which “Heartbreak Hill” gets its moniker.

Heartbreak Hill is often where runners make or break the marathon.

We have all our Heartbreak Hills, those moments in our journeys that make or break us.

. . .

The best part of any marathon?

The finish line.

No matter where you place: first, second, third or three-hundredth, when you cross that finish line, you’ve accomplished something few people do. No matter my personal feelings on the sport of running, I recognize that to complete a marathon is a spectacular feat of human athleticism and will.

We talk getting “lapped” in this community a lot. You know who I’m talking about: those friends who are churning out baby number 4 while you’re still working on number one. For a lot of people, they’re not running the infertility marathon like we are. For those blessed with fertility, it’s just 100 meter dash after 100 meter dash while our footfalls on the track keep going at a steady, but exhausted pace.

At some point though, whether it’s after 26.2 miles or two years, five years – even ten years later: you will cross your finish line.

And everyone’s finish line looks a little bit different. For a lot of us, it just broadly means becoming parents. But our finish line could look vastly different from when we started this marathon to when we actually cross that line. Maybe we took a different route and crossed that finish line via adoption. My finish line looks like it’ll be with donor egg. And for some of us, that finish line may be living a childfree life.

No matter how we resolve, that finish line represents the end: that glorious end to our infertility journey where we can look back, battle-weary and fatigued as we may be, and finally forge ahead with a new chapter in our lives.

And just like 26.2 miles to Boston looks like a very far distance away when you leave the mark in Hopkinton, the end of your infertility journey looks just as far away from the day you’re diagnosed.

But every marathon has a finish line and we are all capable of crossing it.

. . .

I found this great piece from The Boston Globe about why people run the marathon, about what inspires them. It couldn’t be a more fitting way to think about our infertility journeys.

Writer Ty Velde has this to say:

“When the gun goes off tomorrow, we’ll all be partaking in something amazing. It will be an experience that we will all take with us forever. During the race there will certainly be a lot of challenges. You will hurt. You will experience discomfort. This is all because of “what” you are doing. However, in these moments don’t think about the “what.” Think about the “why.” It’s in these moments that you’ll grasp the true spirit of the marathon. It’s what has gotten you this far and what will carry you across the finish line.”

(Source: The Boston Globe, April 17, 2011).

If you’re looking for inspiration along your marathon infertility journey, check out my eBook, With Hope in Hand: Walking the Path of Your Infertility Journey. It’s over 35 pages of 12 essays to keep you motivated at any stage of your journey. Get your copy today.

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  1. says

    Good analogy (and hmmmm… isn’t there an analogy project happening somewhere?… :-) I do run for fun, but I’ve never considered doing a race of any length, even though I’ve been running on-and-off since I was 13. I don’t need the motivation to run, and I don’t get into competition, AND I like to run on my own schedule and not at a time when other people tell me to run so I can be the group. I wonder how that factors into the analogy. I’d certainly love to run 26.2 miles, but I wouldn’t want to do it at the time of the marathon and not with everyone else.

  2. says

    This IS a good analogy, one that hadn’t occurred to me.

    “But every marathon has it’s finish line, and we are all capable of crossing it.”

    Well said.