Nurse (with an "ugh, do I have to explain everything to you" attitude) to Lisa: "Is this your first IVF?"
Lisa (with a "don't worry about me, I'm an expert" smugness) to Nurse: "No, it's my 6th."
Nurse (with a "you don't know everything, you snot-nosed infertile" look) to Lisa: "Oh, but, it's your first one here with us, right?"
Lisa (with a "so the eff what, do you want to count the needle holes in my body from all of my previous cycles" defiancy) to Nurse: "Yeah, the 5 others were at another clinic, but, this is my 6th overall."
This exchange happened between me and a nurse at Clinic C last week, on the first day of this IVF cycle. As it was happening, there was a training nurse standing nearby, observing. I noticed an expression on her face, which I couldn't clearly define. Was it pity - a sadness for this poor infertile creature in front of her who has gone through this so many times and, a minute ago, told the nurse that she had suffered an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage for it to be put in yet another medical record in yet another doctor's offices computer systems? Or, was it an expression of respect - respect for this poor infertile creature in front of her who had been through so much and was still here, still trying?
I realized that the line between pity and respect is a really thin one. And, it made me wonder - do we wear our infertility, the things that have happened to us that define that, as badges? And, are these badges our way of garnering respect (or pity, remember it's a thin line) from those who have not earned as many badges as we have?
I say that I have had 5 IVF's, but, have I? I have started 5 IVF cycles, only to have 2 of them cancelled 7-9 days into stimming. Do I have the right to count those as IVF cycles? Is it really a cycle if you haven't gone through retrieval and transfer? Has someone who has had 1 fresh IVF cycle and 2 FET's (frozen transfers) really gone through 3 IVF's, or have they only gone through 1?
Do we use the larger number (in my case, 5 IVF's and not 3) because it sounds better? Are we looking for pity or are we looking for respect?
On the IF message boards, most women have their infertility history in their signature, so, every time they post a message, you know exactly what they've done treatment-wise, as well as what losses they have suffered. Many IVF bloggers (myself included) have this history somewhere easily viewable on our blogs. Is this purely informative, or, does each line sit there like a badge sewn to a girl scout sash? (Totally off subject, but, wouldn't it be ironic if you could earn a sewing badge for sewing on your badges?)
Badges tell a story. They show perseverance. They show experience. They show commitment. They are a way to honor the effort that has been put in, even if success has not yet been achieved. Yes, to answer my questions from above, I think that every cycle that we do counts. Every cycle is a badge earner. They are badges that each and every one of us wishes we didn't have. But, those badges tell the story of my struggle and, whether they earn me respect or pity, neither of which I want, I will wear my badges proudly and hope and pray that IVF #6 is the last badge I have to add to this already overflowing sash.