Great art has the ability to inspire and motivate us. While going through my infertility journey, Hamilton (an American Musical) has been helping to keep me sane and hopeful. It was during my 5th IVF cycle in the spring of 2016 that Hamilton began to serve as a fun diversion and coping mechanism. I have a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve, and don’t respond that well to fertility treatments. Additionally, I’ve had two early miscarriages over the course of treatment. Being a poor responder and having a history of loss make an already nerve-wracking process even more stressful. I was trying to summon as much strength and courage as possible to do a 5th round of IVF. I wanted to go into treatment with some optimism, but felt like I was closing my heart off a little more with each cycle to protect against despair. IVF involves a great expenditure of resources- of all kinds- with no guarantee of anything in return (it seemed as though Hamilton tickets might have been a better investment). The 5th round has felt especially momentous, because I’m not sure what our next steps are if this cycle fails.
Hamilton has been both a distraction and source of encouragement during this difficult time. It may seem odd that I could relate my infertility journey to a historical play about the first US Treasury Secretary. However, the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, infuses historical figures with a great deal of humanity and complexity, so it’s not hard to feel a connection to people and events from hundreds of years ago. That sense of compassion is heightened by strong performances from the talented cast (disclaimer: like many fans, I have not seen Hamilton…yet).
I could listen to the Hamilton soundtrack over and over and not grow bored. There is a great density to the lyrics, and the music covers a wide variety of styles. My frequent early morning drives to the IVF clinic were made more tolerable by listening to Lin-Manuel’s music (I supplemented Hamilton with the soundtrack of his first Broadway musical, In the Heights). I kept myself amused while administering injection after injection of fertility medication (I’ve done more than 200 shots in total) by thinking “I’m not throwing away my shot.”
In addition to being entertained by Hamilton, the story moves and resonates with me. Hearing Hercules Mulligan (the tailor spying on the British government) proclaim, “when you knock me down I get the f*** back up again” helped give me fortitude to get back into the ring for a 5th round of IVF. This was another shot to try to get pregnant, and while the odds didn’t seem in my favor, look at Alexander Hamilton’s unlikely story and all that he overcame. Just you wait.
One of the songs from Hamilton that especially strikes a chord with me is “Wait For It,” in which Aaron Burr highlights the difference in his temperament from Hamilton. Unlike the less cautious Hamilton, Burr’s willing to wait for action. It can seem like all you’re doing is waiting for it when struggling with infertility. Months and years go by, and others become parents while your life remains on hold.
Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes
Bad things happen to good people (and vice versa). Infertility can seem very arbitrary and unfair. Yet despite the challenges of the infertility battle, we find it in ourselves to keep going. Admittedly, there were some times when I wanted to shout back to the song, “god dammit I’m NOT willing to wait for it!” But I try to cling to the belief that by continuing to wait for it, something good will eventually come of this endeavor. And that it will have been worth the wait.
Another Hamilton song that hits close to home is “Quiet Uptown,” which reflects on how Alexander and Eliza Hamilton react to the death of their son. I am not professing to know what it’s like to lose a child, or say that my heartbreak is on par with that situation. Still, there are universalities with grief and loss.
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable…
The Hamiltons…learn to live with the unimaginable
Infertility involves a series of losses. Not just the loss of being able to fill the parent role, but also the loss of the ability to conceive a child without a lot of science involved, the loss of control over one’s body, and maybe the loss of having a biological link to one’s child. I attempt not to let the fear that I will never become a parent consume me. Push away the unimaginable. The two miscarriages I had following IVF treatment have been the darkest moments of my infertility journey. To finally feel some hope that it might work out and imagine a future as a mother, only to have those hopes and dreams crushed. In order to keep trying, I’ve had to put myself back in the position where that kind of loss could happen again. Learn to live with the unimaginable.
At the time of writing this, I am waiting to find out how IVF 5 turned out. It’s too early to know whether the treatment will result in a viable pregnancy. During times of uncertainty, it’s easy to feel anxious, but I think of the Hamilton lyric, “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” In the midst of this infertility journey, I need to remind myself to remain mindful to my surroundings, and still find things about which to feel grateful. I don’t know how this story will end, but I know that the music of Hamilton will be there to buoy my spirit.