“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain… when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.” –Haruki Murakami
When Dan and I got married instead of a guest book we asked our guest to write a few words of advice on marriage/life and place it in a box…we read them all on our first anniversary. One bit of advice we received repeatedly from married couples was “don’t speak to one another in anger.” It’s a concept we’re still working on…knowing when to pause and say ‘let’s revisit this conversation later.’ But it is something I have always applied to this blog…don’t write on a bad day. When I’m overcome with anger or consumed by sadness I put a pause on writing. I wait until the negative feelings pass, I wait until I can discuss my grief but in a positive way, I wait until my post leaves me feeling like all this is bearable.
But…I’m not sure that’s the best thing anymore. See, I worry people will read a post (and by people I mean my mother and great aunt) and worry about me. I’m scared my friends will start staging an intervention (or an impromptu visit to my house the way they did a few months ago when I started ignoring everyone after the miscarriage) I’m worried even my ‘blogger friends’ will think I’m not handling all this appropriately. I mean in many ways I like when people read my blog and feel inspired… I cannot imagine anyone would walk away feeling positive emotions after a post about how I spent an entire day off crying while looking at #bump photos on Instagram.
But, if I don’t authentically share the struggles I continue to have…I would be a liar. And I am a lot of things… overly type A, a terrible dancer, an ugly crier and the queen of resting bitch face…but I am not a liar. So I’m going to share a post I started writing a few days ago, deleted, and then typed again… It’s not happy, it’s not positive, but it is real.
I’ve been feeling differently lately. I’ve been crying less. I’ve been grieving our loss less. I’ve been enjoying life more… I think this means I’ve reached the final stage of grief- acceptance…but let me tell you something, acceptance doesn’t look or feel anything like I imagined it would.
I don’t think I cry less because I’m no longer sad, I don’t think I grieve less because I no longer mourn the loss, I don’t think I enjoy life more because I’m happier. I’ve just accepted this new life and have come to terms with my sadness and my grief. I think I’ve taken ownership of the disappointments, the anger, the misery…and I think I’ve made room for those emotions in my everyday life. If I allow myself to be equal parts happy and sad, angry and thankful, excited and disappointed…well then I live in a balanced, neutral world. And I think that’s how I survive…
See, this new life I’ve learned to accept has changed me entirely, and one of the greatest losses in this journey is the loss of who I was. I use to be naïve, optimistic and positive. I believed that by marrying the man I loved, building a healthy/happy home and making responsible decisions meant I would have a baby…but they didn’t. I was a dreamer. I believed if I put goodness into the world, goodness would come back. I didn’t just want to wear the gold dress, I expected to wear the gold dress. At the beginning (which seems like a lifetime ago) when we weren’t getting pregnant people would say to me “Of course you’ll get pregnant! You’ll be a great mom!” And I believed them. I agreed- I did think I would be a great mom. So I assumed, I would be a mom. But now…well when people say “Of course you’ll get pregnant! You’ll be a great mom!” I only smile, because there is no ‘of course’ anymore. I don’t know if I’ll be a mom. I still think I’ll be a great mom, I still try every day to be a kind, thoughtful person- someone a child would be lucky to have as a parent…but I don’t assume any of this means I’ll be a mother. I don’t know if I think any of that really matters anyway. (It’s matter in the sense that I have to live with myself, and I like being a good person. But I don’t think my behavior determines if I get to have a child….)Let’s be real here: some of the top fertility experts in 2 states cared for us and our Warrior…and I still had a miscarriage. I put a lot more faith in the power of Science than in the power of my being a good person…and yet both have failed me.
It makes me sad, saying goodbye to who I was. See, I liked the person I was. I liked that I researched baby monitor and strollers, I liked that I stressed about whether or not to have an epidural during labor, I liked that I questioned the importance of using a family name as a child’s middle name. I liked that I already picked out my diaper bag (FEED), our nursery décor (white, the walls decorated with framed literary quotes) and our splurge baby item (the Owlet baby monitor). I liked what life felt like, having that much hope and optimism, but I don’t anymore.
I still have hope (you can’t do IVF without it!), but it’s not the same… I have realistic hope now. I have the type of hope that comes with loss and acceptance. The type of hope that allows me to lie awake at night saying ‘please let me have a baby’, but that never allows me to research baby items. The type of hope that allows me to want a baby, but not expect a baby. The type of hope that comes with being this new version of myself. I can’t say I’ve been changed for the better (Wicked anyone?!) It’s just that acceptance has changed me, and I guess I’m learning to accept that.
“Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.“ -B. Kingsolver
So we’re in the process of packing up our condo to prepare for our big move (September 30th cannot come fast enough!) and it’s been an interesting experience. It’s funny the things you find tucked into the ‘junk drawer’ or in the back of the pantry: silly little notes we’d leave on the counter when I was working night shift and we went days without having a real conversation, half a bottle of Baileys from St. Patrick’s day two years ago when it snowed, but we still stood outside at the parade in Hartford for hours, and a broken vase from a kitchen dance session gone awry that Dan’s been promising to fix for 10 months now (he won’t). These little finds make us smile.
But there are the other finds… the ‘picture’ of our Warrior embryo and the one directly after transfer…the pictures my doctor told us would have to go on the first page of the baby book. The positive pregnancy test I kept in my bathroom drawer…because it was so amazing to finally see a + sign. The half used vial of Progesterone and packet of Estrogen patches that I stopped abruptly when they informed me the pregnancy was no longer viable and hormones were no longer necessary. And the even older finds… the notebook that still has the pregnancy announcements I was working on 2 years ago, before SMA, IVF and the miscarriage… back when I was naive and thought my period being 2 weeks late meant I was pregnant (even though 4 pregnancy tests promised me I wasn’t.) The list of baby names tucked in my bedside table, from a time when I assumed Dan and I would have four children (just like our parents had). And of course the gold dress… from when I bought clothes to accommodate a pregnant belly I’ve never had. These little things are scattered all over our condo…a reminder of 2+ years of waiting for a life we don’t have.
It’s therapeutic to be leaving. We came here 2.5 years ago so sure it was going to be the home we bought our babies home to. (We never did get around to decorating the guest room…aka the nursery) We were overjoyed when we moved in and discovered the couple next door had a young son and the couple next to them were getting married in 2 months… I remember saying to Dan how lucky we were we would have friends in the same ‘life phase’ as us… but now the one couple has 2 young sons and the other has a 10 month old…and as much as we like our neighbors (enough so that we’re moving to the same neighborhood as them) they moved forward in life…and we didn’t.
I look around and see the kitchen I danced in when they called and told me I was pregnant, the stairs I cried on when they told me the pregnancy wasn’t progressing and the bathroom floor I laid on as I miscarried our perfect Warrior. There was a lot of happiness in this home, but there was also an unimaginable amount of grief, disappointment and loss. And I’m happy to be leaving those things behind.
Closing the doors to this condo is like closing the doors on this chapter of our life. It was a chapter we never imagined entering into when we moved here. We are leaving this place two entirely different people then we were when we arrived. I am thankful to be moving out, I appreciate the finality of it…the fact that we literally (and figuratively) move on (out) from this time in our life. I’m allowing myself to be sad for a little bit longer about the disappointments and struggles that came our way here. I’m sure over the next 2 weeks I’ll cry a few more times, I’ll struggle to throw away those small reminders of the life we almost had that litter this condo. I’ll also remember how happy we were here, I’ll be grateful for how much stronger our marriage is and thankful that this kitchen is where Dan perfected his shrimp scampi recipe and dance moves! I leave here optimistic about where we’re going…our new home…our new cycle…our new chapter. Here’s to hoping that the bonus room in our new house really does become a nursery!
I have a confession…. I’m a closet Hallmark Channel original movie fan…and by fan I mean I’m borderline obsessed with them. There’s just something about watching a movie so utterly predictable, where you know the good guy (gal) is going to win, the restaurant is going to be saved, the play is going to be perfect…etc. etc. etc….that makes me so happy. I love the big romantic gestures, the long-winded speeches and the highly anticipated first kiss. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
The other night I was sitting down, indulging in a movie as Dan worked on his Fantasy Football League (or Draft Kings…whatever it is he does) when a friend text me “Hallmark Channel on a Saturday night! Welcome to life at (practically) 30!”…My response “This is awkward…” and a screen shot that I was also watching the same channel. We text back and forth (for longer than is probably socially acceptable for two educated adults to discuss a Hallmark movie) and both ended with the same sentiments… they just make you feel good. And I think the point for her…for me…for everyone else who loses themselves in something so completely senseless is sometimes we just need to feel good.
Why? Because life is hard.
I mean, it’s a lot harder than I ever thought it was going to be.
Growing up you don’t plan on infertility…or job loss…or divorce…or finding yourself 30 and wondering when you stop trying to get ahead in your career and start trying to get ahead in your life…(or whatever your struggles are). You plan on life working out the way you dreamed it would at 15. You plan on basically being a real-life Hallmark original movie, but instead you find yourself confused, disappointed and wondering what the heck happened to the life you planned on.
And for me, it’s nice to take two hours to remind myself people do get their happy ending. Sure, it’s predictable and utter nonsense 90% of the time…but what do I care? (I don’t need to be reminded life can really stink sometimes… I live that truth!) I like seeing people end up content. I like seeing people struggle and finally get everything they wanted. I like watching someone (even 1 dimensional characters) have their dreams come true. I like being reminded it happens…
I think we all like being reminded it happens. I think that’s why my friend and I were both immersed in Mina & Clays love story on Saturday night. I think that’s why adults still read YA series or re-watch 13 Going on 30 for the 100th time on Netflix… because regardless of how old we are or how hard our life is…we like being reminded happy endings exist. We like being reminded people do have their dreams come true. We like being reminded that someday, we may end up happy too.
…and personally, I enjoy taking two hours off from coordinating the next 6 months of my life around IVF, our new house and my job change (because life isn’t hard enough, I’ve decided to take on a new job too!)…and focus instead on what an idiot Danny is, because Laurel obviously loved him too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to try it too… a ridiculous movie might be exactly what you need!
“It’s probably my job to tell you that life isn’t fair but I figure you already know that. So instead, I’ll tell you that hope is precious and you’re right not to give up.” –C. J. Redwine
One thing I have struggled with over these past 2 years is my response when someone in my life announces they’re expecting… I try very hard to be happy for other people. I gush over their baby bumps, I like every post on social media, I comment on how they’re ‘just all belly!’…and yet inside my heart breaks a little. Every time I smile listening to the details of their circus themed nursery and the amazing deal they got on a Kate Spade diaper bag I feel my pulse rise… Not because I want a circus themed nursery or a Kate Spade diaper bag, but because I want a baby…and the jealousy monster pops up for every baby-oriented thing someone else has.
And this is something I’ve been so disappointed with myself about. I struggled with the feeling that I must be some selfish infertile monster because I cannot seem to look past my own disappointments and simply be happy for other people… I told myself a better, stronger, kinder person would be able to put aside her own feelings and purely feel joy for the other women in her life, without the background noise of “poor, infertile, nursery-less me.”
But you know what? I’m not going to feel bad about it anymore.
See, I actually think it’s appropriate that I feel happy for someone else and still feel sad for me. I don’t think it makes me a monster to be disappointed someone else is getting the one thing I want. When the people in my life tell me their happy news, I’m sure they feel a little guilty too. I’m sure they know their happiness hurts my heart a little. But I don’t think a single one of them is ever as sad for me as they are happy for themselves….so does it make me a bad person to admit I’m not as happy for them as I am sad for me?
The truth is, watching other people have the one thing Dan and I want more than anything is challenging, and that’s okay. Now, I don’t get to be an asshole…I don’t get to go out of my way to make other people feel bad about their happiness, it’s not acceptable if I make my friends feel bad about being fertile. But inside…if I want to feel a little sad for their happiness… if I’m frustrated when my co-worker announces her pregnancy was an ‘accident’ or genuinely annoyed at the girl I went to high school with who complains daily about being a mother and then posts that she’s pregnant (again!)… It doesn’t mean I’ve become a bitter, negative monster…it just means infertility is tough.
So… I’m giving myself permission to not be okay. I’m going to stop feeling like a bad person for allowing myself to be disappointed. I’m going to continue to be happy for people in my life and share their joy with them, while accepting that their joy can still hurt me a little…and that is fine (as long as I don’t allow my disappointment to hurt them.) Sometimes it’s okay to not always be okay.
So summer has (unofficially) ended…Labor Day has passed, I’ve packed up most of my summer clothes (in preparation for our big move in a few weeks) and I’m officially back in “fertility mode”. After taking the summer off to rest our bodies and minds (and broken hearts) Dan and I are ready to tackle the tasks of the next few months (moving and settling into the new house, going through all the pre-tests again and getting my medication/hormone regimen squared away and ordered). We want to be in a happy, healthy, calm place come January when we start our second IVF cycle.
And as exciting as all of those things are, and truthfully I am actually very excited about starting Cycle 2, this cycle already feels very different then our 1st. See the first time I only had one fear going into it… I wouldn’t get pregnant. When we were told we only had one embryo, my only concern was making that embryo stick. I never EVER thought about miscarriage… I just assumed that getting pregnant with a healthy baby was the issue (because that’s what had always been the issue), but then I was pregnant with a genetically perfect embryo (thanks PGD)…and then I wasn’t anymore. And I was not prepared for that.
And now I find myself trying to prepare for that. I find myself thinking about this cycle and knowing that there are no promises to this thing… I may respond fabulously to this ‘aggressive’ hormone plan and produce 30 mature eggs, we may get 25 fertilized embryos, we may have 15 make it to day 5 for DNA analysis, we may end up with 6 healthy, SMA-free embryos, I may get pregnant with 1 of those 6 genetically perfect embryos…and I still may miscarriage. And that is just the way it is.
Which is why I’ve been asking myself one question over these past few months… “Do I want a baby badly enough to survive not having a baby?”
See, after the miscarriage I said to Dan “I’m not sure I can do this again.” I wanted our little Warrior so badly…I was devastated when we lost the pregnancy. The idea of putting myself through the stress and heartbreak of another IVF cycle only to end up childless and miserable again was just too much. But now… well the idea of ending up childless and miserable again does sound terrible, but it doesn’t sound as bad as not doing another cycle and 10 years from now saying to Dan “I wish we had tried again.”
And that’s how I know we’re making the right decision. Because I’m not entering into this cycle naïve, I don’t think just because we’re doing IVF with PGD we get a baby (and truthfully, when we started, I did.) I know that this may end in heartbreak. I know a year from now I could be wearing another gold plated necklace around my neck with the nickname of another lost embryo engraved (I currently wear a ‘Warrior’ necklace every day). But this time…I know all of this…and I still choose to continue. I still want our baby enough to be disappointed and heartbroken…because I still have hope (damn you hope!) that this cycle will end with happiness.
So this is me…saying goodbye to the wine, oysters and late nights of the ‘summer of us’ and embracing the pineapple cores, red raspberry tea and acupuncture (maybe, I’m still scared about that last one) of the ‘fall of fertility’.
“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” -Jane Austen
…some of my favorite words to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. (and my favorite photo from that day to go with it)