Two Weeks of Pure Anxiety

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A friend of mine recently referenced the “dreaded two-week wait” as we walked down memory lane, discussing our time stuck in the vortex that is infertility.  You might think that people move on and forget when they finally get to the other side.  That the anxiety, the sadness, the struggle, and the frustration just fades into our memories as parenthood takes over.

It doesn’t.

You’re stuck with us, infertility sisters, like it or not.

Some of us will keep trying for more.  Some will find success easily the second time around.  Others won’t ever have another baby.  But whether we give up and move forward, convincing ourselves that we are happy with what we have, or keep on fighting until the bitter end, we will never forget all of you.

And we will never forget that feeling…that utter anxiety…that heartbreaking process…we will never lose touch with the two-week wait.

People have their own strategies for enduring the dreaded waiting period.  Some keep so busy that time seems to pass them by.  Others obsess about every possible symptom along the way.  And some of us (hopefully I wasn’t actually alone in this) spend entirely too much time Google searching “early pregnancy symptoms” – symptoms that we memorized months earlier.  Ok, years.  There, I said it.  Years.

Anticipatory anxiety is a killer.  I’m telling you, it doesn’t do anybody any good.  I know this.  I counsel people about this.  I help countless people to gain control over, and eventually let go of, their own anticipatory anxiety.  But when it came down to my own, which ate up two weeks out of every month of my life for nearly three years, I was at a loss.

I read.  A lot.

I ate dark chocolate M&M’s.  A lot.

I watched Ellen DeGeneres.  A lot.

But still, I worried.  I obsessed.  I checked.  I took seven bazillion pregnancy tests and was genuinely shocked each time I faced the single line.

I hoped against hope.  I prayed for the first time in years (possibly a decade).  That felt selfish and wrong, and yet I did it.  I wished on wishing stones over and over again.  That felt juvenile and a little bit silly, and yet it was the only thing that brought a sense of calm to my otherwise anxiety-ridden world.

And still, I failed.

Over time, I learned to let go.

I learned to get lost in my thoughts without letting my thoughts make me feel lost.

I learned to live in the present and appreciate that my husband was right there with me every second of every day.

And I learned to appreciate the little things:  The roses in my yard that made my little world feel sunny, the lattes from The Coffee Bean that always tasted the best, and the fog that made me feel at home despite an impossible distance from my family.

And just when I least expected it…my wait came to an end.

Thinking of all of you stuck in the vortex and hoping you find your moments of peace along the way.

Some of us might make it to the other side, but none of us ever leave the sisterhood.

As for those wishing stones?  I’ve passed those to my daughter…here’s hoping you will do the same one day soon.

The Mother Within

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Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day to celebrate mothers.  It might involve things like flowers, breakfast in bed, cards, and endless hugs.  Sometimes large, unexpected gifts arrive.

It’s supposed to be a time to reflect on the greatness that is mom.

For the most part, it is.

But for some, Mother’s Day is not so simple.

Some of you have convinced yourselves to simply celebrate your mom.  To put all of your focus on her for the day.  To stay focused on the original intention of the day.  You’ve practiced your best smile, bought the perfect gift (large or small), and written the perfect note inside the perfect card.  You’ve poured your energy into your mom.

Been there, done that.

Some of you are planning to hide out.  You’ve stocked your kitchen with comfort foods, wine, and chocolate.  You’ve taped a Lifetime movie marathon and you’re ready to close the blinds and disappear for the day.  The phone?  Silenced.

Been there, done that.

Some of you aren’t sure what to do.  You’ve tried thinking only of your mom, but infertile thoughts kept creeping in.  You’ve tried blocking it out, but infertile thoughts kept creeping in.  You’ve tried doing a little bit of both, but those pesky infertile thoughts just kept creeping in…

Been there, done that.

Mother’s Day, as it turns out, is not so simple.

The truth is that there isn’t a simple solution to a day that brings so much joy and so much sorrow at the same time.

Yes, you should celebrate the mother in your life.  Now more than ever, you know that motherhood isn’t a given.  Now more than ever you know that motherhood is hard and challenging and completely worth fighting for.  You might not have your baby yet, but you understand the challenge just the same.

This Mother’s Day, you should also celebrate the mother within.  Each and every one of you fights this fight every single day because that huge mommy heart is already in place – it’s just waiting for the baby to arrive.  No matter where you are in your infertility story, you are fighting, working, begging, and maybe even praying to hold that little baby that your mother within is so very ready to nurture.

And that…is exhausting.  It’s sad, it’s frustrating, it’s gut wrenching, and it’s anxiety producing, but, above all, it’s completely exhausting.

So instead of focusing on others or hiding out, take a chance on you this Mother’s Day.  Head out to the spa, or don’t.  Enjoy a mimosa on the beach, or don’t.  Have brunch, lunch, or coffee with your partner, or don’t.  Whatever you do this Mother’s Day, remember to nurture your mother within.  Give her a break.  Send her some flowers.  Buy her that purse that she really loves.  That big mommy heart, that mother within, has been working hard to get to the end of the story.  And she needs a break.

Give her the rest and relaxation that she needs.

And remember this:  Your baby will find you.  One way or another, your baby will find you.  And when that happens, your new story will begin.

 

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Share Your Story: The Baby’s Room

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The Baby’s Room. An Extract From Motherhoodwinked, An Infertility Memoir By Anne-Marie Scully

My childhood dream of becoming a mother was, at least in my mind, a fairly simple one. Get married, buy a home and have babies – three to be precise. Thirty-five was the milestone by which I hoped to have achieved all of this; by age twenty-nine I was well on track with two out of the three ticked off the list.

 

Almost as soon as my husband and I got engaged we started looking to buy a home. Given that both of these are majorly stressful events, my husband would have preferred to get the wedding over with first before starting to house hunt but, in order to keep to my plan, I wanted to have everything in place for the babies that I was sure would follow soon after we were married. Many of the houses we looked at were modest three-bed houses marketed at young couples like us. The owners were usually selling on due to their expanding brood and the need for more room. I convinced my husband that we would be much better off looking for a bigger house that we could live in forever and in which we could raise a large family. I pointed out how much hassle it would be to move house with small children and how it would be so much easier to buy a place where we could permanently put down roots. As usual, I managed to persuade him and we ended up with a perfect family home in a seaside suburb of Dublin. With four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a garden with plenty of room for a swing set, it also came with a huge mortgage – but that didn’t bother me since I had a good job that offered fully paid maternity leave. As far as I was concerned, there were no obstacles in sight.

 

Before we even moved in I had mapped out all of the rooms and their purposes. I designated the largest bedroom as ours as it had plenty of space for a crib and a king-size bed (to fit the kids in on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons) and I chose the room off the kitchen as a playroom so that I could easily keep an eye on the kids while cooking. I abandoned my plans for a solid wood floor and cream linen couches in favor of laminate flooring and dark leather couches, which are more child friendly and easier to clean. Instead of installing a free-standing antique bath, which is what I really wanted, I kept the standard shower over bath affair that came with the house as it would be much easier for bathing children. I also had to forgo the polished walnut staircase that I had dreamed of as it would just be too slippery and dangerous for kids. When it came to overhauling the garden, again my husband was overruled; this time on the Japanese Zen inspired garden he wanted as I insisted we keep the grass for the children to play on.

 

After a year of trying to conceive my dream home felt very big and very empty, and became a painful reminder of the life that I didn’t have. I couldn’t help but wish I hadn’t been so cautious and that I had decorated according to what my husband and I both wanted for our lives as they were then, as opposed to a future life with children. The room that made me most sad was, of course, the baby’s room, chosen immediately as the nursery due to its quiet location at the back of the house. The sunlight that floods through the window in the early morning makes it almost magical. Even after two years of trying to conceive I was very reluctant to use this room for storage and I tried to keep it as clutter free as possible so as not to spoil its magic. I imagined where I would put the crib, the rocking chair and the changing table. I even planned a neutral color scheme that would be suitable for a girl or a boy.

 

Of course, I never told anyone about these plans, especially after hearing friends talk in horror about people they knew who had rooms decorated and wardrobes filled with tiny outfits before a pregnancy had even been confirmed. Such behavior was thought to jinx things, so I did all the decorating and planning in my head. I sometimes visited websites to get ideas for nursery furniture and other baby paraphernalia. After a while, I was horrified to see that wherever I went on the Internet I was being targeted with adverts that assumed I was a new mother. As someone who worked in the online ad industry for many years and helped advertisers understand user behavior patterns – and, in particular, the typical path consumers take to purchase – I wondered if these retailers ever questioned why so many users came back to their site over and over again without buying anything.

 

In time, the baby’s room inevitably became a junk room; used to store Christmas decorations, large suitcases, spare furniture and other odds and ends, and it broke my heart. Whenever people came to visit, and I was giving them the obligatory tour, I would feel self-conscious about showing them that room as it was obvious to everyone what it should be used for. The playroom also eventually became a sunroom, although I furnished it with less care than the rest of the house, convinced at the time that it wouldn’t be a sunroom for long.

 

Living in an area where the main inhabitants are young families can be challenging for an infertile couple. The first year that we moved into our new house I couldn’t wait for Halloween. I had grown up in a very rural part of Ireland and, as a result, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters coming to our door. After leaving home, I had always lived in apartment buildings occupied mainly by students or young professionals, so we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters there either.

On the first Halloween in our new house I made a huge effort, carving a real pumpkin, lighting lanterns in the window and stocking up on all the best sweets. The kids that came to my door that year actually referred to me as the lady that ‘has the good sweets’ which delighted me as I felt it proved that I really understood them. I enjoyed myself that night, despite the fact that the doorbell must have rung a hundred times and we ended up running out of treats and had to make an emergency trip to the local shop for more supplies.

 

I was smitten by the younger children, many still babies, adorably dressed as pumpkins or angels and I enjoyed the banter with the older kids who impressed me with the creativity of their homemade costumes. When I eventually sat down that night to watch a scary movie with my husband I was too excited to concentrate. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the Halloweens we had to look forward to as a family in our house. Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last through to the following year when I found myself making escape plans to a child-free hotel for the night.

 

Christmas was a similar story, with signs on every house (except ours) directing Santa to stop. On Christmas Day, every year, our road would be filled with excited children learning to ride their new bikes or scooters, or building snowmen if it happened to be a white one. It was hard looking out at them not knowing if Santa would ever visit our house.

 

We were also one of the few houses on our road with a front garden; most of the other houses had gotten rid of the grass in order to allow enough space for two family cars to park. Since we didn’t have two cars we decided to keep the grass. I regretted this decision when our front garden became a playground for our neighbors’ children. There were many evenings when, sitting in our front room watching TV, trying to relax and forget about infertility for a while, we would look up to see kids staring in at us. Although it was a bit disconcerting, we tried to put up with it so as not to offend our neighbors. After a while, however, seeing them playing there as opposed to the children we longed for upset me too much and I would scare them away like a cantankerous old woman in a fairytale. It did cross my mind that ordering them out of my garden might come back to haunt me if they grew up to become wayward teenagers who decided to pay back the grumpy lady, but it was worth the risk.

 

There were times when we considered selling up and moving back to an apartment in the city where we would not be surrounded by families, but something always made me change my mind. Buying the house had felt right and despite its emptiness it felt like home. I was hoping my instinct was trying to tell me that it would all come good in the end.

The above piece is an extract from Motherhoodwinked, Anne-Marie Scully’s infertility memoir which is currently available to buy in ebook on all Amazon stores. To find out more about the book and read sample chapters you can also visit www.motherhoodwinked.com

 

About The Author

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Anne-Marie Scully is an Irish author and founder of digital publishing company Orchard Wall Publishing.

 

Motherhoodwinked, her first book, is a memoir documenting her struggle with infertility and IVF. Named for the frustration Anne-Marie felt at finding out that having a baby was not a given, as she had been led to believe since she was a child, Motherhoodwinked documents the pain and the shame of life as an infertile woman.

 

She lives with her husband Micheal in Dublin, Ireland and is still hoping to add motherhood to her biography at some stage in the future.

An Infertile Apology

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Dear Readers,

I’m not sure how to start this letter because I’m not quite sure how I got here.

Lately, I feel like I’ve failed you.  I’ve been off the radar.  Silent, really.

You might think that I’ve simply been too busy to write here.  Life does get busy, and I could certainly make a case for that.

You might think that my freelance work takes top priority.  I do have specific deadlines each week, and I have to make sure that those deadlines are met.  So I could also make a case for that.

But that’s not it.  My silence can’t be blamed on daily life or deadlines.

The truth is that I struggle a little bit during this time of year.  I’m not sure what it is about March, but this is the time of the year when I think about the losses.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of being caught between winter and spring.  New beginnings always feel possible, but not necessarily the beginnings I might crave.

I’ve moved on from my infertility struggle as much as I ever will.  It was hard, depressing, anxiety producing, and downright devastating at times, but I’ve moved forward.

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I have my two and they are nothing short of miracles.  I enjoy every little thing with them, even the hard things.

But that last loss, the one that threatened to take my life, still haunts me.  Not every day.  Not even every week.  But when the memories of that horrible loss, of my baby boy – the one who would have been my third, come crashing in…I freeze.  I replay every minute of those 17 weeks over and over again wondering what I could have done to ensure a better outcome.  Alone, under the cover of darkness, I cry for his little lost soul and the toddler that he would now be, if only he had made it.  I wonder if I could ever convince my husband to give it one last try, knowing that I can’t.  He thought he might lose me that day – that’s the memory that he can’t shake.

And even though writing sometimes helps, I hesitate to share this story.  Because I am one of the lucky ones.

Many of you are still waiting on your first miracle.  You are fighting and praying and begging and hoping against hope that this one will take.  I remember those feelings well.  I remember the ferris wheel of hope and despair.  I remember the sadness and fear.

How could I possibly burden you with these thoughts when you are fighting so hard and taking every possible step?  I can’t.  So I went under.  I put pen to paper and used (gasp) a journal to work my through my sadness.

And I feel like I left you hanging in the process.

Know this:  You inspire me.  You continue to support each other and answer one another’s questions on the Facebook page, even when your not so fearless leader is hiding out.  You manage to cling on to hope when the months drag on and you cheer each other on along the way.  You are an amazing group of warriors, my friends, and I am so happy that you are making connections and checking in regularly.

I started this little community almost one year ago because I wanted something positive to come out of the negative.  I wanted to provide a place for you to chat, vent, ask questions, and find support.  I wanted to be there for you.

It’s time to get back to that.

I’m sorry that I’ve been so quiet – but now I’m ready to talk again.

Until next time…

 

 

A Happy Ending

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Even though I don’t always find the time to post as much as I would like to; I love this site.  I love the community that we’ve created.  I love the interactions on the Facebook page.  And I love the stories shared by all of you.  But there is one little thing that is sometimes hard.  Sometimes I find out that old friends, those I knew growing up, are also struggling.  In some ways, the familiarity makes it easier for them to approach me with their stories and questions.  But my heart aches for them in a different way.  While I shed tears for all of you who share your details with me, it really hits close to home when my childhood friends pop up on my radar…simply because of infertility.

Today and old friend shares her story – her happy ending.  After years and years and tests and more tests…after pregnancy and loss and fears and bed rest…after ups and downs and in betweens…she finally has her happy ending.  Truly – I couldn’t be happier.

Please welcome my old friend from Connecticut – I hope her words and story inspire some of you to JUST KEEP SWIMMING.

 

I’m no expert on fertility but I do have my own story and if it makes just one person feel less alone for even just a minute my smile will be a little bigger today. I hope that person is you!

My husband and I were married in the spring of 2008. About a month before our wedding my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He died almost a year to the day later. I tell you this because it was the main reason we decided to hold off trying to have kids right away. This was a big decision for us since my husband was 37 and I was 33 when we got married. Right after he passed we both decided the time felt right. And so our bumpy road began…

We started trying on our own in 2009 for about  6 months per my OB’s recommendations. I wasn’t sure how the game was going to play out because I went on the pill in college to regulate my periods. After 6 months with very irregular periods and no pregnancies my OB referred me to the “specialist” in their practice. After a  battery of tests I was diagnosed with PCOS. I wasn’t surprised knowing my cycle and family history. The next step was Clomid. I took it and went for my first ultrasound. At that point everything came to an abrupt stop when the ultrasonographer advised me to “stay away from my husband unless I wanted to be the next Octomom on the cover of People Magazine”. Yes, those were her exact words and no, she didn’t have to say them twice. Next stop: a Reproductive Endocronologist.  We got a referral and off we went.

Back to square one. Lots more tests and LOTS more waiting. The next part of the story is pretty monotonous: first IVF cycle- FAIL, second IVF cycle- FAIL, third IVF cycle- FAIL, and yes, the fourth IVF cycle- FAIL. All along I kept thinking there had to be something else wrong with me but my doctor kept saying “we just needed to get it right”. After our fourth cycle failed we decided it was time for a second opinion . So I gathered up my records and we started all over again.

During the first meeting with our new RE he asked what our doctor had said about the septum in my uterus. I’m sorry, the WHAT???!!!  Apparantly the ultrasonographer had written, “question uterine septum” in her notes and our doctor failed to address it. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of anger I felt in that moment. My instincts were right all along; there WAS something else wrong with me.  What an incompetent a**hole!!!! I had been to hell and back over the past 2 years  and it potentially could have been avoided?! After I stopped swearing and wiped my tears  I was able to listen to my new doctor’s plan: remove the uterine septum and try again.  Ok, sounded simple.  Can we do it tomorrow? Of course not.  Didn’t you know that everything in IVF takes twice as long?! Especially for me and my 40 day cycles. So in October 2010 I had my septum removed and then, you guessed it, we had to wait for my uterus to heal. At that point we decided to enjoy the holidays, drink LOTS of wine, do a bunch of skiing and start again after the New Year.

We started our fifth IVF cycle in January and on Valentine’s Day 2012 we found out we were having twins. TWINS! Oh my! Of course we always knew it was a risk, especially when we put two blasotcysts in, but we never thought it would come to fruition. After all, I’d never gotten pregnant before.

Next chapter: the IVF pregnancy. By this time I was what they call Advanced Maternal Age (AMA) or as I call it- OLD … 37 to be exact. I chose a new OB who was high risk since I was now old and carrying twins. All was going great. We were lucky, my husband was self employed so he was able to come to all my appointments. At 12 weeks I had my appointment with my OB in the morning and then my ultrasound in the afternoon. Since I worked in the hospital where my OB was it was easy to schedule things like that. I told my husband to only make the drive for the fun part; the ultrasound. During my appointment with my OB she said she wanted to “take a quick peek” at the babies. Ok, cool with me. I’ll never forget her face when she told me there was only one heartbeat. It’s all kind of a blur after that. After a day or two I picked myself up because Baby A was looking great and I still had a lot to be excited about.

Next stop:  the level 2 ultrasound. Look at all the cute baby parts and it’s a girl! Yay! Then, in walks my OB to tell us there’s a “bright spot” on the heart, also called a cardiac echogenic focus. She said It’s one of the many markers for Downs Syndrome. Are you freaking kidding me?! Is this a joke?! Without any other markers, which we didn’t have, the risk is very low, but there’s still a risk. And then she said because of the demise of Baby B there’s no way we could do the blood test to get the exact risk. Our only option was an amnio, which carries a 1 in 200 risk of miscarriage. Go home and think about it. Cue the tears. These tears were the ones I saved up from the miscarriage when I was trying to be all postiive for Baby A plus the tears of having to make a decision to have an amnio. In other words, there were a lot of them. My husband and I had many conversations about whether to do the amnio  but what it came down to was I could never forgive myself if the amnio was negative and then I had a miscarriage. Altough the risk for that was low, the way things had gone thus far I was convinced that would have been my fate.  So we decided against the amnio and hoped for the best.

Fast forward to week 25. I woke up one morning just not feeling right. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was just not right. If it hadn’t been Friday I probably would have  blown it off but I lived almost an hour from the hospital and didn’t want to drag myself in on Saturday. So, I waltzed down to the clinic to let them know how I was feeling. They did an internal and hooked me up to the monitor. What do you know, I was in premature labor at 25 weeks. I had just bought myself a full ride to labor and delivery filled with steroids, lots of magnesium and antibiotics. All I kept thinking was after all this I could not have this baby at 25 weeks. It was way too early. She wasn’t cooked enough. Thankfully they were able to stop the labor but I’d be going home to bedrest for the next 15 weeks.

My OB said my ultimate goal was 37 weeks and after that this baby girl could come whenever she was ready. Well 37 weeks came and went and I was still pregnant. Now, I live in New England where we have a few hot months a year so central air conditioning doesn’t exist. At least not in my house. So by 37 weeks, in my hot as hell house, I was past ready to have this baby girl. And sure enough at week 39, in the middle of the night, my water broke. So off we went to the hospital. Here’s the irony of this whole story: after being on bedrest for 15 weeks I had to be induced. Ha! After a much needed epidural and 16 hours of labor, on October 23, 2012, our healthy, beautiful girl, Caroline, was born.

So here I sit writing to you. I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t easy. It was 4 years of heartbreak and physical pain. There were so many days I cried thinking it was never going to happen. All my friends were having their second and third kids and I was still trying to have one. There were lots of pity parties in my house and if you wanted to come you’d better bring red wine, and lots of it! It got to the point where friends didn’t know what to say to me anymore so they stopped saying anything at all. There were many days I felt like my husband and I were on an island and I wondered where all my friends went. I felt like they just didn’t understand.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I can tell you that when I wake up to my beautiful girl smiling at me every morning I know it was all worth it. I equate it to labor amnesia; I remember it was horribly painful but I don’t remember the pain I felt when there was a hole in my heart. Only that it was there. Perhaps that’s what will make me do it all over again….someday.

It will all feel like too much sometimes because it just is. And on those days when you feel so alone try to remember that you’re not. Sometimes the most comforting words come from someone you’ve never met through blogs. So stay strong, trust your instincts and forgive yourself for whatever it is you’re feeling. You can do it.

Thank you, my sweet friend.  May motherhood be all that you hoped for and then some.  xoxoxoxo

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Find the Fight

Confession: I also drink a lot of coffee. 

 

You hear a lot of catchphrases when you’re wandering your way through infertility.  And that’s exactly what it is, by the way:  Wandering.

 

We think of it as struggling.  We think of it as a roller coaster (which it often is).  And we think of it as lonely (right again).

 

But what it really is, when it comes right down to it, is wandering through an endless maze complete with fun house mirrors (you know, just to mess with your head) and hidden doorways (ok, maybe I just always wanted a hidden and doorway and that’s why I picture it that way).  We’ll try a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  It might be this, but it might also be that.  Actually…it’s unexplained.

 

It’s a maze.  It’s an endless, frustrating, anxiety-producing maze.  And the phrases people throw out there to somehow make it better?  We could live without those.

 

Hang in there, something will work out.

 

Or it won’t and every time you say that to me I will want to scream.

 

Don’t give up. 

 

Do I look like I’m giving up?  Would I still be talking about this if I had given up?

 

You’re next.  I can feel it.

 

Really?  That’s funny…because all I can seem to feel are bruises from the shots and hormones racing through my body, making me crazier by the second.  But let’s go with your feeling, shall we?

 

It’s a journey.

 

This one gets me every time.  What does it even mean?  In my mind, a journey takes place on a boat or down a nice relaxing dirt road.  It doesn’t involve weekly medical appointments or shots in my rear.  There is no sex on command or IUI in the journey of my dreams.  I think the people who rely on the journey reference have never actually been on a journey (or even fantasized about one, clearly).

 

You will hear these phrases over an over again.  People don’t often know what to say.  On the bright side, at least they are saying something.

 

So here’s my catchphrase for you, my friends.  When you hear something inane that makes you want to rip your hair out, when you hit a wall and can’t stand one more appointment, or when you just want to walk away from everything…

 

Find.  The.  Fight.

 

Infertility isn’t a journey.  It isn’t fun.  It isn’t relaxing.  And you might or might not find what you’re looking for – there are no guarantees.

 

You have to find the fight.

 

It’s not your job to educate the world about infertility.  You can’t change the way people react when you share your latest infertile thoughts.  And you don’t have control over the outcome of the testing or medication trials.

 

But you can fight.

 

You can take that frustration and make it useful.  You can ask more questions, question the answers, and seek more opinions.  You can hide out when you need a break and come back strong when you’re ready for another round.

 

YOU can find the fight.

 

And as for those people with the catchphrases and don’t give up speeches?  Go ahead…send them my way.  I can handle them.

 

Find the fight in 2013, my friends.  I know you can.

 

 

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This and THAT

 

Our very own Dr. Marc sent me the original link to this very powerful story.  I cried when I read it.  Then I waited two days, read it again, and cried just a little bit more.  Meet Terry.  She’s strong, insightful, and a fighter.  She blogs over at Terrilox.  This post was originally posted on Terrilox on November 19, 2012 and is reprinted with permission.  Warning:  Tissues required.

At the begin­ning of Novem­ber I signed off of Facebook.

It was my way of retreat­ing from the empty, shal­low, judge­ment spew­ing from my news feed.

I have always been too sen­si­tive, and on Novem­ber 4th I deter­mined I was way too sen­si­tive even for Facebook.

In real­ity, I did actu­ally have a lot of work to do, and after remov­ing Face­book from all of my devices, the Face­book Anx­i­ety went away.  How­ever, two weeks in, I real­ized I needed to con­nect with some­one I was only con­nected to on Face­book, and my Face­book boy­cott ended, with­out nearly as much fan­fare as it had started.

I only talk about Face­book, because in writ­ing this blog about this and THAT — I real­ized my retreat had so lit­tle to do with Face­book and more to do with a retreat into myself and away from the world.

I woke up last Fri­day ambiva­lent about the fact that I had signed up for a yoga retreat. All I could think was, “I am not in the mood for forced inter­ac­tion with strangers, even strangers that do yoga. If we get in a cir­cle and start shar­ing any­thing, I might die. Why did I say yes to shar­ing a room with strangers? How am I going to sur­vive this?”

The ques­tions were swirling.

As I loaded my lug­gage, I flashed back to when I was four and my mother left me at day­care for the first time. I was trau­ma­tized. My mother had dared to send me into a room of strange lit­tle chil­dren. Fri­day morn­ing, as I was hug­ging my hus­band good­bye, I felt like I was head­ing to day­care, only this time I was 43-years old, I was dri­ving and pay­ing for it myself.

It had been eight years since my last yoga retreat. It was an entirely dif­fer­ent per­son ago. Would Terry ver­sion 4.3 be able to han­dle this?

Anx­i­ety Rising.

To act out even fur­ther, I stopped at Taco Bell for a bur­rito and a Dr. Pep­per.  Just the way to kick-off my healthy, heart-opening week­end. Eat­ing crap in an act of com­plete defi­ance.  Terry ver­sion 3.3 would have bought a pack of cig­a­rettes, so I con­sid­ered this progress.

There was no traf­fic. The music blar­ing from the radio was punc­tur­ing my armor.  Coun­try music can do that like no other music can.  I started to relax.  I credit part of this to the Dr. Pep­per, which I have always believed has med­i­c­i­nal prop­er­ties hid­den in those 23, prob­a­bly com­pletely unnat­ural flavors.

The music played on.  It was as if God was play­ing DJ on The High­way at Sir­ius XM, care­fully build­ing a playlist in an effort to reach my taco-bell-eating-dr-pepper-drinking-why-the-hell-am-i– doing-this-soul.

I’m a tough nut to crack in the God depart­ment. We’ve had a life­long love-hate rela­tion­ship, but some­how I always real­ize if He was not around I would have no one to dis­cuss all of the things no one else in my life wants to lis­ten to — most espe­cially me. I know some peo­ple call God the Uni­verse or even like to think of Him as Her, and I say, what­ever works for you — but for me, there is some­thing com­fort­ing about a grandfatherly-type fel­low with white hair and a long beard, sit­ting on a heav­enly throne.

Depend­ing on the con­ver­sa­tion, I fluc­tu­ate between that and some­one who looks just like George Burns.

My sun­roof was open. Rain or no rain, I always love the sun­roof open when I can see the ocean.  The ocean was now in view.

Kenny Ches­ney was singing El Cer­rito Place — it was blar­ing through the speak­ers.  I found myself singing louder with each verse, as rain poured though the sunroof.

Some­one said they might have seen you, where the ocean meets the land

So I’ve been out here all night lookin’ for your foot­prints in the sand
Did you hear the ocean singing, baby did you sing along
While you danced out in the water, to some ol’ for­got­ten song

Were you even here at all?

I’ve been lookin’ for you, baby. I’ve been lookin’ for you baby. I’ve been lookin’ for you baby all night long … 

Tears were stream­ing down my cheeks by the end of the song. It’s an absolutely beau­ti­ful song, but it was more than that. As the final note of El Cer­rito Place played out, I heard a song inside my own head.

“De-Da-De-Da-De-Do”

The tears mul­ti­ply and become sobs. My grand­mother was in the car. Per­haps she was only in my mind, but the song and the voice was so dis­tinct it was as if she was there.

I sud­denly remem­bered I was sup­posed to bring some­thing for the altar at the yoga retreat. I had planned to bring some­thing that reminded me of her. I for­got. Or per­haps I just did not want to remember.

I miss her every sin­gle day, often to the point of intense sob­bing, usu­ally in the shower.  No one in my young life was more awe­some to me than my Maw­maw (except pos­si­bly Donny Osmond in third grade), and I always knew she thought I was equally as fan­tas­tic. Every kid should be made to feel that absolutely perfect.

I never real­ized until Maw­maw was phys­i­cally gone how large the hole in my heart had grown in her absence from my life while she was still here on earth. I hope she knows how impor­tant she was to me, with the way it all ended for her, I will never be cer­tain. I know that is part of what makes remem­ber­ing so painful. But on Fri­day, in the car, my spunky Maw­maw was singing her favorite made up song and I silenced the radio long enough to sing along with her. Out loud, with the sun­roof open, as the driz­zle set­tled on my steer­ing wheel.

I arrived at El Cap­i­tan Canyon at exactly 3:00.

After releas­ing so much in the car on the drive up, I was feel­ing slightly more open to the week­end. Actu­ally, I was feel­ing a lot more open, but still scared to death. As long as I did not have to talk about THAT.  Let’s keep THAT in the box.  Locked.

I was sched­uled to share the cabin with Tatyana (some­one I did know) and two women I did not. I was the first one in our cabin and I had two glo­ri­ous hours of alone time, read­ing and tak­ing it all in. I could not have asked for a bet­ter transition.

Our first yoga class was at 5:00. We started with a writ­ing exer­cise. All I could think was,“Thank God we are not shar­ing in a circle.”

I started writ­ing down every­one I was grate­ful for in my life. My hus­band. My par­ents. My in-laws. Ellen. Chaz. Heidi. Selma. Dr. Kalan. Tatyana. Maw­maw. Bob. Memom. GranGran.

The list filled three columns. I had so many peo­ple to be grate­ful for, so why was I still feel­ing so incred­i­bly sorry for myself? I hate weak­ness.  I hate whin­ing. I was feel­ing like a weak-willed whiner.  It’s no way to start a week­end like this.

In my first down dog the tears started to roll. I knew there was no way I was going to get through this week­end with­out fac­ing THAT, but not tonight. Not now.

The tears sub­sided and turned into sweat. I was slightly pissed off at my inabil­ity to fool myself.

The pulse of THAT grew stronger.

After din­ner, Tatyana and I finally met our other cabin mates, Mar­sha and Laura. They were great. Easy. We all sat around the cabin, drink­ing wine and talk­ing. I was able to hold back shar­ing any­thing at first, but Mar­sha and Laura were talk­ing about their children.

Yes, THAT.

Chil­dren.

No, I don’t have any. I can’t have any of my own. My eggs are too old. Iron­i­cally, I’ve never felt phys­i­cally bet­ter or stronger, despite the fact that I drank a Dr. Pep­per this after­noon. This is one rea­son I am quite cer­tain God is a man, a woman never would have made us like this.

My hid­ing ended when some­one asked me directly about THAT.

“Do you have children?”

I spoke softly on the bot­tom bunk bed. I have been try­ing nat­u­rally and via IVF.  No suc­cess. Our next step is donor eggs. I choked up and noth­ing came out. Just tears.

Will they ever stop?

When I talk about THAT, my soul feels as bar­ren as my womb. I feel empty. I feel incom­plete. I feel like a bad wife. A washed up celebrity from the 70’s. A woman who needs to be returned. Expired. My hus­band does not put this on me, I do. I feel uncer­tain of what the hell I am doing here if not to pass a part of myself on. What is the fuck­ing point?  How did this hap­pen? There has never been a prob­lem I could not solve until now.  How did an only child who wanted Eight is Enough (I used to name all eight of them) get to be 43 years old and childless?

These are the never-ending ques­tions run­ning through my mind.

This is why God and I have a love hate relationship.

Sleep was wel­come. Any­thing to escape all of THAT.

We woke up at 7:00am on Sat­ur­day for break­fast. Yoga was from 9:30–11:30. I hit the mat again. Feel­ing stronger. No tears. As long as I did not have to look any­one in the eye and speak, I could get through it.

When class ended, we were get­ting ready to head to lunch and some­one asks if we can intro­duce our­selves. I think to myself, “Please, God, no. Just let me eat lunch. Let me wal­low in my own crap. No sharing.”

God is George Burns.  He is laugh­ing. I am sit­ting in a cir­cle. Petrified.

As the cir­cle opens up I hear very lit­tle, except every time some­one men­tions THAT. Chil­dren. The word is mock­ing me. When it’s my turn, I intro­duce myself. I talk about where I take yoga. I say it’s been a really hor­ri­ble year, I am try­ing to be grate­ful and I start to cry. I pass the Kleenex box. I could get noth­ing else out.

I could feel it stuck between my shoul­der blades, right behind my heart.  Burning.

My heart. My bro­ken heart.

Tatyana hugs me and whis­pers, “You will be a Mom. I know it.” In that moment, I am grateful.

After lunch all I could do was sleep until it was time for breath work at 3:30. Breath work. Am I breath­ing? I keep ask­ing myself.

Before we start the breath work there is more shar­ing. At this point, I am just going with the flow. A sweet young woman named Hay­ley comes and sits on my mat. With­out real­iz­ing it, I am shar­ing again. It turns out her step-mother had infer­til­ity issues in her early 40’s — but she ended up get­ting all the way to 50 with­out a child. She had recently started a foun­da­tion to help women in this sit­u­a­tion to adopt older children.

My eyes glaze over when I hear this. Will I be one of those women? I want to ask about the foun­da­tion, but I can’t. I am not there yet. I am not ready to give up, despite the hope­less­ness I feel inside.

I retreat unable to accept the pos­si­bil­ity that I will not carry a child. I am pro­cess­ing the idea of donor eggs right now, but when I hear about this foun­da­tion, I think — what if I am child­less at 50?

I lie down and start breathing.

In-in-out.

In-in-out.

This goes on for a long time. I am dizzy. I am cry­ing. The pain behind my heart is burn­ing. I have to stop and lift my neck, try­ing to release it.

The instruc­tor asks us to think about our own per­sonal sym­bol. Mine was a Tiger. Maw­maw always called me Tige, short for Tigeroo.

Today I was not think­ing of Terry the tiger cub, but Terry the Mama Tiger.

As the breath is puls­ing through my body, warm­ing my hands, my toes, and yes, even my heart … For the first time since this jour­ney began, the THAT starts to scatter.

I was not child­less.  I was not barren.

These few moments of allow­ing myself to open to the pos­si­bil­ity starts to fill the hole in my heart.

I kept flash­ing back to this video I saw on YouTube of a real Mama Tiger tak­ing care of baby piglets as fiercely as if they were her own. If a Mama Tiger can take care of an entirely dif­fer­ent species as if they were hers then I can fully open my heart to donor eggs.

Not as a last resort, not as the end of the line, not as the result of a fail­ure — but as a gift from God via a self­less young woman.  A mitzvah.

Breathe deeply.

After breath work we had Yin Yoga with Ellen. Ellen was the rea­son I was on this retreat at all, really.  End­ing the day with her class was good for me.  I felt open, vul­ner­a­ble and safe.

The burn­ing behind my heart was dis­si­pat­ing.  Was I finally let­ting go?

Some­times peo­ple come into your life at just the right moment.  Iron­i­cally, she came into my life because of Chaz.  I love how the world works some­times.  As crap­tas­tic as 2012 had been, I can’t imag­ine it had I not had Ellen guid­ing me through it on the mat.

The evening ended with a Thanks­giv­ing din­ner in the rain.  I was so incred­i­bly grate­ful for the rain.  I felt cleansed.  Scrubbed clean, ready to fin­ish the year unafraid to talk about THAT.

Sun­day morn­ing was the final yoga class of the week­end.  I held noth­ing back.  I was just so incred­i­bly grate­ful.  It was a great feel­ing to have four days before Thanksgiving.

I drive home full of grat­i­tude.  I was glad I dropped myself off at that day­care full of strangers.  I was ready to see my hus­band, feel­ing much lighter than when I left on Friday.

My sun­roof was open while blar­ing The High­way.  I am singing Kid Rock, Tim McGraw, Sug­ar­land, Kenny Ches­ney, George Strait and so many more at the top of my lungs for 115 miles. This is some­thing I can only do alone in the car, my hus­band would rather poke out his own eyes than lis­ten to Kenny Ches­ney or Sug­ar­land. I would rather poke out my own eyes than lis­ten to sports on the radio. We gen­er­ally com­pro­mise on a good mix of 70s and 80s with some Sina­tra and Willie thrown in for good mea­sure. It works for us.

In that moment I was grate­ful to have my own time, with my own music.

Through­out the week­end, Chaz had asked us to take a video diary of our expe­ri­ence.  I tried, but it was too scary.

So I write.

A lit­tle of this, a lot of THAT.

As I was dri­ving away from El Cap­i­tan Canyon, I looked to my left and there was Hay­ley.  Our eyes met and she made a curve over her own belly to sym­bol­ize preg­nancy and mouthed, “good luck.”

I was really grate­ful and for the first time in a long time, I felt open to any and all possibilities.

The Mama Tiger was ready to receive her cubs, how­ever George Burns wants to man­i­fest them.

 

As I Wait

Today on Share Your Story, Whitney, shares her long journey toward pregnancy.  Whitney is no stranger to the waiting game, and knows a thing or two about saving up to make your family dreams come true.  What strikes me most about Whitney is that, despite the long and exhausting struggle, she manages to find the positive and remain grateful for what is good in her life.  Very inspiring, indeed.  You can catch Whitney over at There She Goes

It is November 6, 2012 and the world is waiting to find out who the next President of the United States is, I on the other hand am waiting to see if my period shows up. This is the life of any woman, who wants a child, and this has been my life for the last 3 years; this is my story.

 

I always knew that I wanted children. I could never explain it, I did not come from a big family, in fact I was an only child, but I always babysat and was a nanny in college, and I remember feeling so happy people would tell me what I wonderful mother I would make someday.

 

I never thought that at 21 I would meet the love of my life and then be married by 22. At 23, I held a positive pregnancy test in my hand and felt true joy, only to watch it slip away days later. At first we were optimistic, I remember my husband telling me that he had a feeling that “you will be really good at getting pregnant”, but as months went by we started to realize that this might be a little harder then we thought.

 

Months turned into a year, and I tried to be patient. We moved to Orange County my husband threw himself into law school and I graduated college, still no baby.

 

The tests were done and advice was given, “just give it more time,” “try to relax”, “go on a trip” not to mention all of the other weird advice “keep a pillow under your hips,” “keep your legs up for 20 minutes” …like anyone can do that? Clomid was given and taken, two years and still no baby.

 

When people talk about the cost of infertility they often don’t think about young students who are working as hard as they can to pay the rent and saving their pennies so they can do one round of IUI. And putting it off month after month, watching couples around you have their first and then second child.

 

And now we are waiting. After two doctors, two semen analyses, one HSG, and a million ultrasounds all we know is this:  We are young and healthy and there seems to be no reason why we cannot conceive a child. The only diagnosis that we have been given is that I might have a slight resistance to insulin, and a very mild form of PCOS, but I have no typical symptoms.

 

Full of excitement we counted out every dollar and paid for the one round of IUI. Clomid 100mg twice a day. Ultrasounds stated that I responded very well, took the HCG trigger and released three eggs. IUI went perfectly and now we wait.

 

During this whole process I have tried to be optimistic, and not angry. But there were times when it seemed like the whole world was pregnant and I wasn’t. When family members who didn’t know about our struggle would complain about their pregnancy, and how they didn’t really want children anyway.

 

I know that one day my husband and I will hold our child in our arms, I know that child will be worth every negative pregnancy test that I have taken, it will be worth all of the ovulation kits I bought, and all of the crazy drugs we have been on. That child will be the answer to all of our prayers and hopes and dreams.

I have found comfort in my sweet friends who know of my struggle, how have encouraged me and make me find the humor in infertility. I have found comfort in the stories from the old testament of Rachael, Sarah and Rebekkah. I have tried to smile and nod when people tell me “just relax and it will happen.” I have tried my best to be supportive when friends and family have babies even though it hurts a little. Sometimes I get so angry I want to break something, then I remember “Thine adversity shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”

I have come to accept that things do not happen on my timing but on the Lords. I don’t know how long the road to our child will be. But I do know that the Lord has plans for me and my family. I know that one day hopefully soon I will look into the eyes of my child.

But until that day I will try my best to be content with the blessings that I have already been given. A husband who loves me, who is kind and supportive, a safe home, a job, food to eat, rockin abs, a sweet puppy who I suspect might be better then some children. And the assurance that good things come to those who wait and that I have so much more than I could ever have imagined. These are the things that I suspect we all think about as we wait…

Thanks, Whitney.  Every story told helps another someone along the way…

Facing the Loss

 

“I believe that my life’s gonna see, the love I give, return to me.”

-John Mayer

 

My wounds have healed as much as they ever will.  More often than not, I feel like I’ve finally reached some version of acceptance.

 

There will never be any making sense of it, and phrases like “all things happen for a reason” still drive me nearly insane, but I’m full of gratitude for what I have, and a little less consumed with what I could have had.

 

I’m putting one foot in front of the other and finding my way.  I’m in repair…

 

A very dear friend of mine is a big believer in karma.  It’s kind of her thing.  She finds karma in every little thing along the way.  I envy her that.  I would love to have that safety net to carry me through the ups and downs. It would be nice to be certain that everything will proceed as it should.

 

I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure about helping others.  I am certain that being there for others is exactly what I am meant to do…

 

But as much as I enjoy making the connections and helping in some small way, I wish that I could do more.  I wish that I could take the pain for all of you.  I wish that I could speed up the process and make the finish line a little bit closer.

 

Most of all, I wish I could make the losses stop.  While every little piece of infertility is devastating and all consuming, my heart breaks for each one of you when you write with news of a miscarriage.  I know that pain.  I know that heartache.  I know that tunnel of grief.  And all I really want to do…is make it better for you.

 

There is no easy button when it comes to grieving a loss.  There is emotion.  There is devastation.  There is denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance.  But there is no easy button to get you from here to there.

 

There is only time.

 

Give it time:  You have to allow yourself time to grieve.  This loss is no different than any other.  It doesn’t matter that you never held that baby in your arms.  You nourished him, spoke to him, bonded with him, and loved him.  A loss is a loss.  So go ahead and feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, and misunderstood.  Take your time; there is no race to the finish.

 

Be selfish:  Sometimes you just need to hide out and read.  Or take long walks and enjoy a mug of tea upon your return.  Isolating during those first few weeks is not actually a bad thing.  Hearing and reading stories about others reopens the wound repeatedly.  Or worse, hearing insensitive words from someone who doesn’t understand can really leave you feeling lost and broken.  Do what feels right to you.  Put your needs first as you try to find a way to heal.

 

Ask for help:  While some of you are working on a first baby, others have a little one running around.  Either way, help is essential.  With the pregnancy hormones dropping at an alarming rate, your body is likely left in a state of physical and emotional upheaval.  This is no time to be wandering the grocery store alone, foraging for food.  Lean on family, close friends, and your spouse.  Know when to ask for a little help along the way.

 

Accept the help that is given:  Yes, you need some time alone.  No, you are not ready for social engagements.  But that lasagna that your best friend really wants to drop off?  Might be just what the doctor ordered.  People feel helpless when someone they know and love has suffered such a loss, so they do what feels right.  Accept it.  Let them feed you and check in on you once in a while.  Even when you need some time to just be, it’s nice to know that someone else is thinking of you.

 

Pen a letter:  Many women find that writing a letter to the unborn child helps them release some of the difficult emotions that refuse to budge.  Share your dreams, your hopes, and your feelings now that all of that has changed.  Let it out.

 

Release a lantern:  Sometimes symbolism serves a purpose.  Many people experience a feeling of closure after releasing a lantern in memory of the baby.  Wait until you feel ready.  Only you will truly know when the time is right to finally say goodbye, but a lantern release can really soothe your soul.

 

Take care of you:  Eat well.  Sleep.  Get some light exercise.  Nourish your soul.  In times of great stress, we tend to eat poorly and rely on maladaptive coping strategies to pull us through the worst of it.  Coping with miscarriage is complicated by the hormones and changes that your body endured.  You have to take care of you.

 

Some people want to get right back into baby-making mode following a loss.  Others take the slow lane.  You have to listen to your heart, and to your body.  Allow yourself the freedom to do what comes naturally to you.

 

And don’t forget to hold onto hope.  Because hope is a very powerful thing.

 

 

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The Ferris Wheel

People always reference roller coasters and waves when discussing grief, sadness, and extreme stress.  The ups and downs and there and back again always seem to conjure this imagery.

 

Chances are, I’ve done the same.

 

I’ve experienced the ups and downs of grief more than once.  I’ve felt lost.  I’ve been found.  I’ve been stuck in the grey more than I would even care to admit.

 

I’ve taken that ride and surfed those waves.

 

But lately I’ve been feeling like it’s not so simple.  Roller coasters have a slow build and fast fall at fixed intervals.  If you take that ride more than once, you know when to scream and when to breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Waves crash down and then quickly double back.  Sometimes the waves come hard and fast, other times the water falls flat for a little while.  Either way, you can see it coming.  You can watch the tides and prepare for the weather.  You can make plans.

 

Infertility is a little less predictable.  In fact, it’s a lot more circular…

 

It was the first day that actually felt somewhat like autumn.  The air felt a little less heavy.  The colors seemed just a bit crisp.  A gentle breeze grazed the back of my neck at just the right times.

 

Surrounded by families with kids of all ages and babies at every turn, the longing returned.  I felt the pull as I stared at each little infant wrapped snug against a mommy.

 

Hand in hand with my not-so-baby boy, I listened as he described the scene around us.

 

Look, Mommy.  Look at the huge Ferris wheel.  I’m too small for that.

 

It’s beautiful, sweet boy.  It makes beautiful circles.

 

That’s when it hit me.  Infertility isn’t a roller coaster.  Infertility isn’t a series of waves crashing and retreating.

 

Infertility is a Ferris wheel.

 

Infertility is a continuous circle that never really leaves us.

 

In the beginning, we jump on ready for results.  We will do anything along that first rotation.  Just tell us how to fix it and we will comply.

 

But then we make another loop.  And another.  And another.  And before we know it, we are stuck in the rotation, searching for clues and answers.

 

We watch others get on and cheer when some get off.  And each time we head toward the ground we hope against hope that it’s finally our turn to get off of that ride, but often it’s not.  Often there are more pills, more shots, more suppositories, more tests, and more surgeries.

 

It’s hard to see the end when you’re stuck in the loop.

 

Some of us become to numb to the ups and downs.  Extremes start to feel a little less extreme over time.  At some point, it all begins to fade into the continuous circle.

 

Infertility is a Ferris wheel.

 

Enjoying the ride isn’t an option.  But you can bring some good music and fight like hell to make your exit.

 

Because your time will come.

 

One way or another, your time will come.   You will exit that ride…