Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday in my shoes. I have an excellent mom, a really amazing mother-in-law, a sister and sister-in-law that are mothers to 2 whole nieces and 2 more half-baked babes on the way, a kick ass grandma and another kick ass grandma-in-law. So, legitimately, I have a lot to celebrate.
But, what about me and motherhood? How do I think about that?
Am I a mom? Was I?
Lots of people in positions similar to the one I currently occupy — GXP0, in medical terms, where X can is any whole number greater than or equal to 1 — might say yes.
Personally, I am G1P0 — pregnant once with no pregnancies reaching viable gestational age. Because I miscarried. And I do not say yes, for me. I say no.
No judgment on anyone who believes otherwise. It’s necessarily personal.
I’m honestly not saying this out of a sense of self-deprecation or even self-pity. This is a legitimate no. I do not feel as though I have ever been a mother and truly do not want to be celebrated as such. In fact, to do so only makes me feel worse — simultaneously a fraud and a failure. I never really knew what it was like to be a mom and I did not succeed in bringing life, or even the possibility of life, into this world. Anyone can imagine motherhood, and that’s all that I ever did.
Yes, it’s true that I would love to be a mother. Very much. It’s also true that I think I could be a good one. In fact, in a lot of ways, I’m quite good at caring for and supporting others. I can clean up vomit without flinching and I’ve done so on a number of occasions. But that’s not the same as motherhood and Mother’s Day is not a day for me. I don’t expect you or anyone else to worry about me on this day either. I mean that.
Is it hard? Most definitely. But as with most things that are hard these days — bumps and announcements, ultrasounds and smash cakes — it is not about me. And it’s certainly not my job, nor my desire, to take the joy away from others on account of my own pain.
So this Mother’s Day, please do celebrate yourself and the mothers in your life. Grieve with the mamas you know who have lost little ones, help them know that they are loved and their sweet angels are remembered. But also know that not everyone considers themselves a mother or needs to be told that they are – we’ll have other days, this one isn’t ours.
I’ve been at such a loss for words. (You: But you always have words, way too many words…) I know, I know. The words are in my head… but they won’t move to my fingers and I can’t get them on the page. Blogging feels impossible. Because what do you write about when you just wrote the biggestthing you’ve ever written? Where do you even start?
And, more importantly, what if you have to take it back?
I don’t, thankfully. But I am so scared that I will. And that makes me scared to say anything at all. Lame. My husband is rather fond of saying, “like water off a duck’s back, babes…” He thinks it’s somehow not worth worrying about something you cannot control. Pppsshhh. I am so not a duck.
Yesterday, I came across a lovely description of my weirdness courtesy of Anne Lamott (living proof that The Hard can make you so so Good):
“My six-year-old associate, who sleeps down the hall about thirty feet away with both our doors wide open, wakes up on many mornings and predicts, ‘This might be the best day ever!’
Then, in the dead of night, a tiny voice calls out to me, ‘Nana, will you ever get sick or die?’ Then he cries at the very thought. He terrorizes himself.
I think this says it all.
If you are alive, conscious, and sensitive, which is to say, human, you’re going to have incredible joy and terror this side of eternity. It’s Life 101, life on life’s terms, not on ours, all these things – fear, joy, grace, mess, isolation, communion, all mixed up together.
I hate this more than I can say. I don’t like everything to touch.”
Mmmmm hmmmmm. (Nods enthusiastically.) Joy and terror, always touching. Like the world’s most poorly crafted dinner plate, everything leaking it’s juices all over everything else. Life. Ugh.
The only person who has ever said it better? Why, Bayside High’s own Jessie Spano of course — you know the very special episode. When poor, over-committed Jessie starts taking caffeine pills just to keep up with it all.
“I’m so excited! I’m so excited!! I’m so… scared!”
That is exactly it. I’m so dang excited I can barely stand it. But I’m SO SCARED. And as such, I’m trying way too hard to temper my excitement… just in cases (not a typo, watch Love Actually)… it’s no good.
Honestly, it’s no way to live. Yes, the bad, the worst, the unimaginable can happen. It has been happening for over three years. Month after month of disappointment, bad news, procedures and pills and injections without success. But in this moment, the good, the best, the unimaginable in a completely different way has happened. We’re pregnant. Pregnant!! And right now, we have a baby on the way. Incredible joy. Terror can always show up. But it’s not here now and worrying about it, collapsing into my real world Zack Morris, doesn’t help.
Fortunately, I ran back into the house on my way to work last Friday morning to puke up my breakfast. I had chalked everything else up to the progesterone injections (seriously guys, my backside is like swiss cheese — injections every day until 9/23) or elaborate psychosomatic responses to knowing/thinking I was pregnant (my brain can be such a powerful little beast), but you can’t just imagine puking. That’s real! I’d been feeling so good that I’d even peed on another stupid stick (positive!) last Monday. Kind of pathetic.
It’s just… the FEAR. I can’t escape it! I honestly don’t know how and I feel like I’m skipping from rock to rock across a 40 week wide river at the moment, desperately hoping I make it to the other side. Always looking ahead to the next rock, barely believing I made it across the last. Blood HCG to peeing on a stick to puking in a toilet bowl and ultrasound on Thursday. At some point I’ll have to stop, or I really will end up like poor, stressed out Jessie Spano. I’m just no good at being a duck.
It’s funny because I thought that when the IVF was over, we’d have an answer and I’d feel resolved in some way. But I don’t. Not at all. Excited and happy, of course, but definitely not resolved. And what I probably need most of all is to circle back to that lovely prayer of relinquishment — the one that, with both hope and gratitude, accepts what is to be. Or, as Hagrid says, “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” (I just finished The Goblet of Fire last week. Oh my goodness. Onto the Order of the Phoenix — no fake book interlude this time, just straight through the magical goodness.)
Because why shouldn’t Harry Potter be part of my spiritual solution? (Which reminds me to say that dang, Hermione’s hair is so much better in the books than in the movies. I mean, lots of love to the brilliant Emma Watson, but her hair really should have been a lot bushier in the movies, don’t you think? Perhaps I’ll spend some time worrying about that instead for a bit.)
I’m sorry for not writing yesterday… I know I said I would and people were waiting… it’s just… this isn’t the post I expected to write.
Remember this little ball of cells?
Well, s/he appears to have decided to stick around.
We had a positive pregnancy test yesterday.
So positive that while we still have to test again tomorrow to make sure my HCG levels are increasing, when I asked the nurse what the chances of a false positive were, her reply was, “You’re definitely pregnant.”
She had me re-order the progesterone and gave me all the pregnancy instructions.
(She wouldn’t have done that if it weren’t really truly true, would she?)
Shock. Happy shock. But shock.
And as happy as I am, I still find myself wary. Very wary. Wery wery wary. Seth and I have to decided to believe it fully after Friday morning’s test… but there’s definitely a big fat piece of us that I think believes even now.
We’re so happy. Honestly. Crazy, ridiculously, over-the-moon happy. But then there’s this nagging bit of guilt — how did we get so lucky when our odds were so low? And who have I left behind in the trenches of infertility? And the thought of making someone feel bad because of our pregnancy… because I know that feeling. I know it so so so well. The heartache. And I don’t want that for anyone. Ever.
Also the fear. Because not all pregnancies result in babies. How tenuous is that little ball of cells in there — has it latched on well? Are we due to have the rug torn out from underneath our feet somewhere else down the line? Like maybe even tomorrow when we do the confirmatory test?
Scared and guilty. Worried and wary. But so undeniably, crazy, ecstatically, furiously (shout out to Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, for that adjective) happy.
So I wasn’t sure what to say, but here was my little page-a-day calendar to the rescue once again:
(Also, self-done, Pinterest-inspired, sparkle gradient manicure — like a party on my nails and the color is called “marshmallow” so I’m in love with it.)
So there’s the happy news! (Probable) IVF success… can you believe it?
The caveat, of course, is the confirmation tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe the HCG won’t have risen 50% and the “definitely positive” we got form the nurse wasn’t actually so definite. It’s ok to continue to be reserved a bit, I think. I’ll let you know for sure… promise.
At the end of the race, there are almost always bananas.
At the end of the rainbow, there is supposed to be a pot of gold.
At the end of a journey, a destination.
And at the end of the five stages of grief, there lies acceptance.
I don’t know that I’ve ever grieved heartily and with enough awareness as an adult to really notice any given stage of grief. Not until yesterday… when in less than 24 hours I managed to go from stage 1 (blissful denial) to rapid vacillation between stages 2, 3, and 4 in a torrent of tears and snot (so much snot) before I finally settled into a puffy-eyed, rosy lipped (my lips get very bright pink when I cry a lot) depression.
So, what happened, exactly? We’ll do it stage by stage.
I had a lovely time on Sunday night, the night before the embryo transfer. My cousin-in-law Megan had her second annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis fundraiser at UPaint and Party in Wausau. Almost everyone painted a gorgeous picture of a lovely little bird silhouetted against a bright sky flying from it’s cage. My painting somehow got a dementor in it, but I still had a blast. It was nothing but fun and I was in good spirits about Monday’s transfer. Yes, I only had three embryos, but it could be great! That was three chances — making for a potential family of five humans and my sweet Curly girl to boot. I was good.
Even Monday morning, though nervous and stressed about heading out the door a bit late, I was still making The Jerk-based jokes with my family.
And that’s all I need…
We arrived in Madison a mere 4 minutes late for our scheduled appointment. Big thanks to the state of Wisconsin for upping our speed limits to 70 mph — big help yesterday. The nurse brought us back to the procedure area, same as before, and began to collect vitals, provide information, prep us with our gowns and caps and booties and all that… and I noticed that all the while, she kept saying “the embryo.” Part of me assumed it was because they were planning to just transfer one, which was always the goal. A much darker part of me knew what it really meant though.
There was only one embryo left. Two of the three we had, the three I had been banking on, had stopped developing. Just stopped. We were going to transfer only one because we had only one.
And that one? Not even ideal. Not sure on the details… and this image means pretty much nothing to me (no wonder they call it a ball of cells, eh?) so I can’t exactly glean anything from that, but something about it not being as developed as it should have been — an early blast instead of a mature/late/something one. I don’t know. It was hard to hear the embryologist over the buzzing in my ears that always comes when I start trying to hold back tears.
I was so unbelievably, inconsolably (even by Valium) sad. And angry. ONE?!?! After ALL THAT?! After all we had been through, all the thousands of dollars and hundreds of injections and ultrasounds and trips and tears and everything… just one. One shot. One sub-par shot.
But we did SO much. We’ve been through SO FREAKING MUCH. And so many people who do NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, but get it on once or twice have babies all the dang time. ALL THE TIME. Why are they special? Why am I not? Why are they so obnoxiously #blessed and is #cursed even a thing?! Because I obviously am. What’s wrong with me that even with thousands and thousands of dollars of medical intervention this is still the best I can do??? One.
And if that one doesn’t work? There’s nothing in the freezer to try again. Nothing. We have to start over from zero. Physically, emotionally, financially from zero. Do it alll over again. And I know I’m too close, and I know this isn’t where we are yet, but I can’t. I shouldn’t have to! I don’t want to!! It’s not FAIR!!! (Which is truly the worst thing you can say as an adult because by this point in my life I am well aware that life is not fair and nobody every said it would be.)
But it only takes one. One is enough. One is better than zero and I’ve prayed and hoped and begged and done everything right. Everything I could do. I would do anything — hasn’t what I’ve done so far proven that? Wouldn’t we be good parents? Don’t we deserve a family?
Even just this weekend, the priest talked about the little boy who made a miracle happen by bringing Jesus his meager loaves and fishes. I’ve brought him mine, haven’t I? With everything I have done, all that I’ve been through… it’s time for our miracle now, isn’t it?
And there it is… the little embryo between the two air bubbles.
Or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, this actually could be a print out of an ultrasound from a cow and I’d be none the wiser. But that has to be good, right? That you can see where it is? Inside me? Please, I’ll do anything to keep it there, to make it grow, to let it be life.
But then again, it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s out of my hands and come next Wednesday, when we can finally test, this will all be over. Yes, pregnancy is a possibility. But really? If after all that, we were left with one embryo. Just the one, just hanging in there, is it really very likely that we’ll be pregnant at all? I have lost my hopefulness, my optimism. The best of it, the stuff on the inside. I have to keep saying to everyone, “Oh yes! It’s very exciting! We could be pregnant right now– not too much longer ’til we find out! Keeping our fingers crossed!!” When really, I know otherwise. I know, you know? And the best news of all — my attitude will not change anything and if ONE MORE MOTHER EFFING PERSON TELLS ME OTHERWISE I AM GOING TO FREAKING LOSE IT. (Oops… that bit might have been anger again.) You cannot visualize or positive energy or pray or wish or hope yourself into pregnancy. It’s biology. And my biology hasn’t really felt like cooperating so far. It is what it is (sorry, Aimee — I know you hate that phrase, but isn’t it the best depressive phrase kind of ever?) and I am where I am and what’s done is done and it’ll all be over soon.
Back and forth and back and forth, sometimes anger, sometimes bargaining, sometimes depression over a frightening number of cycles since yesterday afternoon. And then sometime this morning, as I chatted with my friend Marie (Seth, if we ever do have a baby, her middle name (or even his middle name, to be honest) is going to have to be Marie — fair warning) about normal things, the things we chat about all the time, and I felt my funk start to lift just a bit I started thinking about what acceptance might actually mean. And I realized that Seth’s Aunt Becky had kind of already set me up for it a while ago, believe it or not. Probably on purpose too. She’s super wise and all knowing like that. Like Dumbledore. A doctor even, the good kind, PhD-style like me. Her PhD isn’t actually in theology, although as a self-taught theologian she’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself.
A few weeks back she sent me a link to this article about the prayer of relinquishment:
Maybe I’m really late to the game and this is old news for everybody else, but in this moment, I’m so crazy grateful to Aunt Becky, PhD, for sharing it with me and I can’t recommend reading the whole thing enough if you’re in any capacity inclined toward spirituality. It’s so good.
This is the crux of it all, at least to me and right now:
“…it says, ‘This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.’ Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope.
Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do.”
So as Catherine Marshall says Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne said once upon a time… why should I doubt the goodness of God?
I wear my bracelet all the time, the one that says “Always.” as a reminder that God is good. Always. No matter what. Why would this moment be any different? Pregnant or not, my life will go on. Pregnant or not, Seth and I will still love each other and we’re really lucky to have that. Pregnant or not, our little family will continue to flourish and decide what to do from there. All I can do right now is accept what is to come, relinquish the notion that I have any control over it, and carry on for the next several days until we have an actual answer to which I can react.
Yes, it’s hard. So so so hard. But as Melissa told me last night, even Jesus got angry. Why shouldn’t I? God gave me all these emotions and I’m free to feel them. They’re not wrong. They’re normal. And this is so hard. It’s no wonder that I feel angry and sad and depressed and worried and even hungry at times. (So so hungry.) We feel things. It’s what we do.
So stages of grief and all that aside… we had an embryo (i.e. the embryo) transferred to my uterus yesterday. At present, it’s a little ball of cells floating in space and the hope is that it will eventually implant into the uterine lining, effectively establishing a viable pregnancy. I don’t know how likely that is or is not. All I know is that on August 5th, we’ll do a blood test for HCG — a pregnancy test (not the pee on a stick kind). A negative is the real thing. Negative = negative. A positive could still be a false positive though, so if we do get a positive result, we have to do another blood test two days later on August 7th to look for rising levels of HCG, which will effectively confirm the positive result. It would be lovely to think that maybe I could look for signs and symptoms of pregnancy in the interim, but with the hormone overload my body is currently going through, I already have just about all of them and there’s no way any sign of actual pregnancy could be differentiated from the craziness happening in my body baby or no… so we wait.
Wait and accept and relinquish and let that little bit of hope in because that’s pretty much all we can do.
Remember the show Malcolm in the Middle? You know, before Brian Cranston was a psychotic meth head and back when he was just a suburban dad trying to make ends meet while honing his speed walking career…
Regardless of whether you remember it, there’s this excellent line that Reese, older of the middle two brothers, had in one episode that my friend and former roommate Steph and I (Steph-and-I… Steph-an-ie… Stephanie…) just adored that went a little something like this:
“My God. Women are the cows of people.”
As I chatted with my cousins-in-law this afternoon (because Seth’s cousin Meg says she and I are cousins-in-law, and Gary and Holly are Seth’s cousin and Seth’s cousin’s wife, respectively, so by extension, also cousins-in-law to me…), I realized how very true that is. Gary, the Gary of Gary’s Dairy in Halder, WI, was super inquisitive about my IVF drugs, you see… because it’s the same stuff he gives his ladies. And all of his ladies (with the exception of the lovely Holly and their crazy baby girl Ella) are cows.
My God. Women are the cows of people.
I mean, of course they are on account of bull : cow : : man : woman (thank the good lord I never have to take the SAT again), but the fact that me and the cows are kinda doing the same dang thing? Well. That was something.
Perhaps if I mosey my way into a stanchion, Gary can give me a hand with some of the injections…
So, yeah, all that to say… July has begun, and so has IVF. It’s been super stressful and emotional and crazy already. I won’t bore you with the details, which have been stressful and emotional and crazy really only to me (what do you mean you’re not shipping one of my drugs, pharmacy?! also… I got super defensive during a mandated appointment with a clinical psychologist and made Seth very uncomfortable), but no matter, it has started.
On Sunday, I took my last birth control pill. On Tuesday morning, I got up at 4:00 am and drove to Madison for my baseline ultrasound and blood work. Tomorrow morning, I start injecting myself with some stuff. And on Saturday evening, I add more stuff. Four injections a day plus lots and lots of ultrasounds until they tell me to use what I can only describe as “the big needle” to deliver a trigger shot (go eggs go!!) and then surgery. They say I can expect headaches first, then bloating, then hot flashes and tiredness and moodiness and breakouts (and probably freakouts) and so on until the week of the 19th when I have surgery to retrieve the eggs my body is supposed to be cooking up. Followed by fertilization, implantation, and the dreaded two-week-wait.
That stanchion, a nice pile of hay and oats right in my face, access to water ad libitum… it’s all looking pretty good right now. Better than living real life around all of the above, don’t you think? I wonder if Gary has some space… moo?
But, I guess, in that respect at least, I’m not a cow. And I have a lot more control, a lot more space to emote, and significantly more complex responsibilities (p < 0.05).
The craziest part of it all is the uncertainty. I don’t know how I’m going to feel or how I’m going to react and I’m not super great at dealing with uncertainty or with feelings. So. There’s that. Also, I tend to be very black and white with myself — I’m either doing awesome or suck, suck, suck at everything, which leaves very little room for grace.
So what to do about all of that? I don’t really know. I can’t run (original title of this post: Fat Girl Walking, but I’m gonna go ahead and save that for another day) or do yoga. I have been spending a lot of time eating lactose and being sorry for it later, but I suspect that’s also a bad plan and maybe even some sort of subconscious punishment for not doing as well as I want to be doing. But I am trying (trying) to do some productive and healthy things — I read Brene Brown, I subscribed to Headspace and practice mindfulness, I listen to Dean Koontz books while taking long long walks around town, I keep a gratitude journal, I read Shauna Niequist’s Savor over breakfast every morning, and perhaps most importantly, I sometimes find the strength to say these words:
I’m scared. I’m sad. This is hard.
And Tom replied, “here’s a picture of our niece’s disturbingly realistic horse:”
And I smiled even though I was scared and sad and this is hard. Where “this” refers to IVF, not the horse’s genitalia. Obviously.
This afternoon, I had a meeting with a child and adolescent psychologist. It was a legit work meeting, not actually a therapy session (as I’m neither child nor adolescent), but the psychologist I was talking to went through IVF herself and knows about my deal so we spent the first couple minutes talking about that. Free therapy — woot woot! Seriously though, my favorite thing she always says is that despite all she went through (and it was a lot), if she could go back, she wouldn’t change a thing. Not a single thing. Not the procedures, the dollars, the injections, the travel, the stress… nothing. She says that every step was necessary for the next step and that she learned something every day and that it was all worth it.
Come to think of it, even though I don’t have what I so desperately want, the thing that’s supposed to make it all worth it, (yet), I already kind of agree. Every day I am better at handling the unexpected. At appreciating my strength. At giving myself grace, patience, respect. At giving my body grace, patience, respect. I appreciate better the complexity of fertility and family and adulthood. I am more empathetic and sympathetic. In spite of it all, I am growing and learning and playing the hand I have been dealt. July is for IVF. It’s a chapter, a lesson, a small piece of what will ultimately be my narrative. It’s a scary, sad, hard piece. It’s a piece a cow wouldn’t have to deal with. But I am only like a cow, not an actual cow.
Moo, anyway… and hand me that syringe, I’ve got some injections to do.
And one in EIGHT couples? Wowza. Friends, I hope that for many of you I’m swaying the odds in your favor. Goodness knows I know many more than 8 other couples though. Dang.
Recently, I passed what I’ve long considered “the point of no return” — I started taking birth control.
Seems counter-intuitive , doesn’t it? But apparently, birth control is a necessary step in the IVF process. No more wishing, hoping, praying, imagining that this month will be the month that a spontaneous pregnancy catches us by surprise. We’re committed. Past the point of no return, if you will, on the way to IVF.
Early, early last Monday morning we headed down to Madison for the uterine mapping process. I’ll spare you the details, but it was not exactly a fun time. One step closer. Now that I’m on the pill though, I’m happy to just check, check, check these things off my list and get to the real business at hand. Egg collection, fertilization, implantation, and then, God-willing, a legit pregnancy. Cross my fingers, hold my breath, say my prayers, beg all the powers that be…
Honestly though, stumbling across this infertility awareness business, recognizing that I’m just another 1 in 8, makes me feel a whole lot less bad for myself. It’s a lot easier to be over-dramatic and woe-is-me-ish when I’m preoccupied with the utter uniqueness of my situation, which is really not all that unique at all. Tough, yes, but not unique. Barren, but not a barren-ess… nor the barren-est.
Misery really does love company, I suppose. But misery loves joy too. And support and friendship and happy news. Misery can even not be so miserable all the time because the notion of whether or not I’m going to have a family this way or that one is really only one small part of the life that I am living… which also happens to include blogging and smiles and products for curly hair and a floppy-pawed pup and buzz-cutted man, etc, etc, etc (please don’t tell Grammarist i just listed et ceteras, it’s so super wrong). Yes, sometimes procedures and tests and waits, anxiety and pain and grief, but even lives not marked by infertility include all those very same things. I’m just one of the eight in which infertility happens to be a major source.
Ain’t no thing. Except sometimes when it’s a thing. And in this week, I guess we should maybe chat about that thing on account of it being a week dedicated to the awareness of infertility.
So: some people are infertile. Some people like me.
Some people also have cancer or webbed toes or choose to adopt despite not being infertile at all. You never know. Different strokes. I guess the best way to go about it all is to remember what my fortune cookie said that one time: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their battle too.
Regardless of the appropriate etiquette and practiced responses we’re supposed to be referring to (those links are specific to infertility, of course, not webbed toes)– I think with a little kindness about it all, remembering that there is a battle going on, one we might know nothing about, we can’t really go wrong.
Even my own attitude seems to swing somewhat wildly… some days, like today, I feel relatively non-nonchalant, infertility is just another thing. Other days, infertility feels like The Only Thing. With respect to etiquette and responses and such, I certainly can’t expect you, my husband, my dog, my mom, or anybody else to try to gauge that. It’s simply not fair. I can hope for kindness, though, and so can you. And while you obviously don’t need one more thing to be aware of (infertility! autism! breast cancer! colony collapse, drought, pandas, and webbed toes! so many Things!) it can’t hurt to remember that the radar of others’ isn’t necessarily tuned to the same channel as our own and, as such, discrepancies regarding awareness do exist. Because our radar spheres have overlapped in this moment (and I know that all of these metaphors are super non-coherent, scientifically speaking, so yeah) here I am, bringing infertility onto your screen.
Blip! You’re welcome.
Not really though. More like I’m welcome. Because it’s my self-serving blog, not yours.
Anyway, I’m really going to go write that book review of I, Lucifer now. I keep thinking about it, obviously my mind wants to talk talk talk about it. See you then!
When I was in fourth grade, my Grandma Mormor (which as an adult I recognize is like saying “Grandma Grandma” since Mormor is the Swedish word for grandmother… but I don’t care) passed away over Christmas break. We weren’t planning to go to Marquette for Christmas, but when an aneurysm in my grandma’s head burst, sending her straight to the hospital with a severe hemorrhagic stroke, we packed up our clothes and our Christmas into our blue van and drove straight up to the UP. Although she came through a surgical repair successfully, another stroke left my grandmother brain dead and life support was removed the day after Christmas. She was only 60 years old when she passed away on December 26th. I chose not to go to the funeral because I was scared (of the funeral? of death? of my grandmother’s body? I don’t know…), but I regret that now. I did write her a letter that was placed in the coffin. Regardless of whether I was there or not, she knew I loved her, and that’s all that really matters.
My Grandma Mormor’s birthday was February 24th and I always think of her then. She was happy and gorgeous and made amazing oatmeal on her kitchen stove. Her house always smelled good and she wore a floral apron in the kitchen. I know other people have other memories of her, but mine stop at the age of 8 and it’s all beautiful to me. I also always think of her on December 26th… the day she died. She would have died on Christmas, maybe Christmas Eve, without artificial prolonging of her life. But nobody wanted that, so she was allowed to pass on the 26th and the 26th always had something of a pall over it. It was not a good day.
On December 26, 2011, my sister’s first child, her daughter Emma, was born. To me, it seemed like the universe had righted itself again. December 26th was no longer a day for mourning, but for celebrating this amazing little life that came into our family. Today, Emma is three and more amazing than ever and I am so grateful for the gift of timing the universe gave our family.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but December 26th feels bigger than that.
This year, December 26th also marked 14 days after IUI— the day I could take a pregnancy test. Something else to make the 26th of December even more significant. My sister found out she was pregnant with Emma on my dad’s birthday. We were both excited about the possibility of me finding out the same on Emma’s birthday.
I’m not pregnant though. No need to test. (I did, just in case, but it was negative. No ambiguity here.) Remember, I said I’d tell you either way. I was hoping for the other. But a promise is a promise.
I guess the fact of the matter is that we all struggle, in our own unique way. Maybe we don’t want children and others see our familial choices as incomplete. Maybe getting pregnant is easy, but the timing is poor. Maybe the timing works out, but our child isn’t as “perfect” as we would have expected. Maybe everything seems just right, but postpartum depression settles in. Maybe things get tough with your toddler, your adolescent, your adult child. Maybe you can’t get pregnant at all.
The good news is that you don’t have to get pregnant to have a family. And families are beautiful and imperfect, no matter how they come to be. There’s no right way, no wrong way, when you fill a home with people (or animals!) who love each other, it really doesn’t matter.
I know all of that, intellectually. But to really know it… that’s tough stuff. So for now, I’m going to let myself just be a little sad. Really sad. Disappointed. Confused and upset and frustrated and guilt-ridden. Just for a little while.
I’m also going to drink enough wine and take enough cold medicine to make up for all that I passed up over the last couple of days on account of the potential for pregnancy– a little Christmas cheer to go with my Christmas cold.
Many of you have seen and even complimented me on this awesome decoupaged book purse… made by hand from a real book.
All compliments belong to my friend Marie. She conceived of and made it for me as a wedding gift. I’m in love with it! It’s so clever, so thoughtful, so beautiful. Even the lining is gorgeous, but you’ll have to take my word for it.
Fewer of you are likely to have seen the cover of the journal Marie made me, though. That’s personal, after all. But it’s just as beautiful. (Marie is seriously talented.)
The quotations on the front are where I’m going with this. They constantly remind me of the importance of telling your story, even when you feel like you may not have the most important story to tell. Even if you are worried that you may not be the most eloquent at telling it. Regardless, story is powerful and I really believe that it’s important to put what’s in your heart out there if you feel you might benefit from sharing it or someone else might benefit from hearing it.
Trista and I talked a lot about honest story telling and shared experience last week. And this weekend I saw this great little image while scrolling through Pinterest:
Tell your stories! Yes! Your experience is your story… and it is meaningful.
You know how important story telling is to me; honesty is right up there. The thing that I want to talk about now, though, the stories I want to share, are taboo. (Like that’s ever stopped me before? Except, I would venture to say that this is even more taboo than poo. Dang, right?) They’re things we don’t regularly say and I find that unfortunate. I think that makes this topic all the more important.
The thing I want to talk about is pregnancy. If you’re between the ages of 20 and 45 you’re probably groaning right now at the thought of more of the ultrasounds and ultra-posed newborn pictures that have been gracing your Facebook news feed for years now. But it’s not that. Not for me, anyway.
My husband and I have been trying to have children since August of 2012. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened for us. In October of 2013, having finally met the “year of trying” requirement, we saw a doctor about it. Good news: it’s not Seth! Bad news: it’s totally me. Got to admit, that feels pretty crappy.
So, since October, I’ve gone through a series of unpleasant measures to try for the thing I want most– both psychologically, and clearly, biologically. A baby.
Intravaginal ultrasounds are invasive and embarrassing. The drug clomid causes hot flashes (mom! I’m so sorry for not being more sympathetic before– now I’m empathetic, and dang!) and a slew of other unpleasant side effects including literal pitting edema in my ankles. Also, it has lengthened my cycle time so that each passing cycle starts later and later… giving me more and more hope that maybe this month will be different. Maybe this month, the stick will be positive! And it’s not. At least it never has been for me.
Having reached the halfway point for ovulation stimulating drugs (they start to lose their efficacy after about 6 cycles) I had to go in for a sit down and re-evaluation with the infertility doctor again on Friday. What I didn’t mention yesterday was that in the midst of the intestinal virus and the eczema flare, I was 5 days late for my period. I was so hopeful. Until I wasn’t. I tried to be cool about it. I tried really hard. But I couldn’t keep it together during the appointment ( why, why, why did I say yes to a resident being in the room?! dumb girl!) and I spent pretty much the whole thing stifling sobs and wiping away my rapidly melting mascara. I wasn’t as ok as I had hoped. I mean 5 days late? Nausea? Really, body? This is how we’re gonna roll???
Fortunately for me, I really do have a good support system. My sister, my sisters-in-law, my friends from work, my friends from elsewhere, my husband, my parents an in-laws… I’m incredibly fortunate in the number of people I can force to listen to my sobbing, my ranting, my raving. Some seriously supportive, seriously patient people.
Trista and I talked a lot about all of that while we were in Phoenix and as we talked around and around and around the issue, we kept coming back to the notion that the bad parts (the miscarriages, the stillbirths) and the not parts (the struggle to get pregnant, the label of infertility) of pregnancy are too rarely talked about openly and with compassion. They may be whispered about, shared when we’re certain we are in a situation in which we’ll remain free from judgement either as a result of shared experience or familiarity and intimacy.
As a society, we have many deeply ingrained ideas about what pregnancy, and lack thereof, means. Pregnancy is good, it’s beautiful. If you can’t get pregnant, if you do but you miscarry, or, heaven forbid, you don’t want kids… suddenly it’s grounds for moral judgement. Every step you take will be selfish, foolish, whatever. Miscarriage? Told people too soon. Can’t get pregnant? Oh, there’s lots of suggestions for that– it’s your diet, your weight, your stress level, your sex position. Don’t want kids? Well, how sad for you, how selfish of you.
According to public opinion, the only way to win appears to be get pregnant (without talking about any trial or tribulation on the way there), to have a perfect pregnancy (and unless you’re the Duchess of Wales, try not to mention hospitalization for hyperemesis or any other unpleasant complication, if you don’t mind), to post 3D ultrasounds and pictures of your bump tied with a bow, followed by a perfect delivery and a blissful home. A little bit of motherhood difficulty is considered acceptable– so long as it deals with the delivery and/or raising of an actual human child.
So what about the people who don’t experience it that way? What are they to do? Personally, I think they should talk about it. Share their experience far and wide. Remind others that everyone’s experience is different and that judgement, no matter the case, is not warranted. Not fair. Not ok. Not necessary.
My personal experience is from within the trenches of infertility, with no success yet to speak of. But this experience has opened my eyes to a world full of infertility, miscarriage, still birth, extreme morning sickness and other crazy pregnancy complications, and other stories whispered, messaged, emailed, sobbed to me… always in private… always out of ear shot of anyone else. And all because I try, for the most part, to be honest about my own experience. Including here now.
I have a lot more to say, as always, and plan to tackle several issues in several posts. This is merely an introduction. But my big hope is this: will you share your story too? How do you feel about a little bit of catharsis? Writing is that for me, perhaps you too? Maybe just reading something honest… something real. A story from my heart to yours.
I’m a-o-k with anonymity if you’d like to share, just let me know and we’ll do this thing. It’s time to talk about what it means to not be pregnant, for any reason. And I’d really like to do that here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me please, I’m off to a hysterosalpingogram to check on my fallopian tubes. No better way to start the day!