Sunday, March 10, 2019

Grief Affects Cognition

I was trying to find an important document this summer. I looked where it was supposed to be and then I looked everywhere else. I couldn't find it, made a mental note, and went on with life.

Several months later I looked again. I checked my files and my important papers and my unsorted junk mail and the piles of miscellaneous stuff I'd kept. I still couldn't find it.

Last week came the time when I actually needed that document. I sighed and told myself I'd look again. I started with the file folder where it was supposed to be, the file folder where I had already looked multiple times before.

And there it was. Clear as day. Right in front of my face.

And my first thought was "Dammmn, grief really affects cognition."

(I know I had looked in that folder before. I know for sure. At least I thought I had... Ha! What I do know for sure is that I looked for this document multiple times and didn't find it when it was actually filed away where it was supposed to be the entire time.)

My brain is finally starting to calm down. The grieving process demands a lot. After years of heightened vigilance that comes with trauma and then years of hard work as I changed nearly everything to create a life for myself that I think I'll enjoy, be successful at, and be of service to others, I finally have some breathing space. And not only am I taking this breathing space, I am fiercely defending it. I am mindful of the commitments I am making and how I am spending my time, money, and energy. It's easy to think I'm fine now, that I am at The End. That I made it. I mean, I moved and graduated and changed careers and surely I'm over the whole infertility thing by now. But I'm not. It's a part of me and it always will be.

I am thankful that my current stage of recovery includes my brain calming down and I'm thankful that my current period of life allows me some breathing space. Going through infertility and grieving the loss of motherhood exhausted me. Experiencing it and then recovering from it took everything I had, every single bit of energy I could muster.

Eight months ago I couldn't find an important document. Last week it was right where it was supposed to be. With the passing of time and the conscious permission to myself to think my thoughts and feel my feelings, healing has come. And with healing comes clarity and peace of mind. And then simple tasks, like locating a document, become simple again.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

My Other Sister

I swear my family likes me. I promise you they're good people and they love me and I love them. But damn do they suck at understanding anything related to infertility.

As I make progress in my recovery, I take more risks in talking honestly about my reality. I was talking on the phone to my oldest sister last night and she asked how I was doing. I said pretty well but admitted that I had been feeling sad lately. She asked why and I said infertility and she said, "Why are you still sad about that?" And I said, "Because this is the time period when I was going through IVF. Because infertility is a lifelong loss. Because I didn't get to raise my children." She said, "Oh."

If it only could have ended there... But it didn't.

My sister started telling me about her grown son who lives nearby whom she hasn't seen in a month. She said, "You're lucky you don't have kids. Children are a blessing and a curse. Just remember that."

So of course I told her, "You are lucky you got to have a kid. Children are a blessing and a curse. Just remember that."

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Forgiving Myself

I've been crying more than usual lately. I haven't been feeling my best, and I've just been overall a little sad. January, February, and March have always seemed hard since I quit fertility treatments. This is the time period that I was going through IVF. This three-month period has felt pretty melancholy for the past five years now.

But I was getting mad at myself. Why was I crying so often?
Was I ever going to stop crying about this topic??

I didn't realize how mad I was until I realized that I forgave myself.
I forgave myself for being emotional and, after being reminded to do so by a friend, I extended grace to myself, allowing myself to feel everything I was feeling without judgment.

Life can be HARD.

Yes, I worked my mind, spirit, and butt off to come up with a life that I wanted to live and then I did everything I had to do in order to make it happen and now it's here.

But I still continue to be freaking exhausted.
But I'm also really happy.

I'm finishing up my final step so I can start my new career and I'll be able to start looking for a job soon. I'm meeting new people and going to new places and doing new things. But the world is very, very fertile. So fully participating in life again comes at the cost of having to deal with reminders of what all I've lost. Simple conversations with great new friends can unexpectedly catch me off guard and hurt me deeply. I tuck my pain away in a safe place to process later when I am alone. Hence, the recent uptick in crying...

I forgive myself for still being sad. I allow myself to continue to grieve.

I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there, for getting involved and interacting with the rest of the world again.

I'm also giving myself permission to cry. It's a lot to deal with; it's a lot to process. There are so many layers to living without children after infertility.

I was mad at myself, but I'm not anymore. What initially looked like regression to me is actually progress. It's a new chapter in my life and I am forging ahead.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Power of Acknowledgement

I think what was so meaningful for me about my sister's apology was that it contained a hint of acknowledgement, which reminded me of this brilliant video about grief and loss.

I just rewatched it and was reminded of its powerful messages.

  • You cannot talk someone out of their pain.
  • Acknowledgement is the best medicine.
  • Acknowledgement makes things better when they can't be made right.

The video describes how trying to cheer a person up can make them feel like they have to defend their feelings. It states how giving unsolicited advice can make a person feel misunderstood. 

Plus, the animation in it is just perfect. 

Happy viewing. 💜

Monday, February 4, 2019

My Sister Apologized

One of my most popular posts is about my sister being really inconsiderate and mean to me. She made many hurtful comments during my darkest years, not knowing how deeply she was cutting me with her words. We grew up very close, but I had to keep her at arm's length for several years. Unfortunately, I think maintaining safe distances is something that a lot of women dealing with infertility have to do.

What all she said hurt. It hurt so bad. It made me question who she was anymore, to say such mean and nasty things to me. Here was my sister who was completely obsessed with her own child, almost her whole being seemed to be wrapped up in being my niece's mother, and she could not empathize with my pain of not having children. It didn't make sense to me. Really, not much did make sense to me at the time.

I told myself that she did not intend to hurt me. Although she was being mean, my sister is not evil. I think there is definitely a difference. I knew that she loved me and that I loved her, but I didn't know if we would ever be close again. I sensed that she was sad and confused, but I had no energy at the time to explain anything to her. I had to protect my raw, grieving self.

I suppose it should've come as no surprise to me that my sister was going through some stressful stuff over the years. It's her business so I'm not sharing here (typical life stuff, nothing dramatic or movie-worthy), but a metaphorical dam broke when she called me crying on Thanksgiving and shared what she had been dealing with.

But what else she said was very interesting. She said that she had already talked to our mother, our other sister, and her best friend. She said she had learned a lot just by telling people what she was going through. She told me that everyone asked her so many questions about what she was going to do and gave her so much unsolicited advice. She said I just listened. She said I didn't stress her out further when she shared with me. She said, I am not even kidding, "Whenever you were going through your stuff, I never meant to hurt you but now I know I did. I don't know what all I said, but I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry."

Wow. Even now, months later, I still get feelings when I think about it.

I told her thank you. I told her thank you very much, that she did hurt me many times, but that I always tried to reassure myself by reminding myself that she loved me and did not mean to hurt me. She and I don't really want to go back and rehash together all that was said, but I did tell her that I really appreciated her apology.

My sister apologized.
Maybe my "miracle baby" never came, but miracles are still happening all around me.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Greatest Compliment

I'm back to my blogging roots--blogging as procrastination hahaha. I started this blog when I was deep into the first semester of graduate school and had absolutely no time or energy. Yet I was also drowning in grief and loneliness and desperately needed an outlet. Who cares about assignments and grades when you're grieving the loss of your children?? So while all of my classmates spent their time reading and studying, I started an infertility blog.

A lot has happened in my life over the last several months while I wasn't blogging. One of those major events was graduating. I did it! I completed my coursework and clinical rotations and walked across the stage to receive my degree. I am proud of myself and my current self thanks my past self for not dropping out. I love the profession I've been studying for the past 2.5 years. Now I just have to study (that's what I'm currently procrastinating by blogging right now) and pass my board exam and I will get to start my new career!

As I progress in my recovery from infertility (three steps forward, two steps back is still progress), I'm able to talk about things or overhear things or just be around things a little more easily. I'm relieved. Living in a heightened, traumatized state is no way to live. It is exhausting.

My last clinical rotation was in a pediatric setting. I'll probably write more about that experience, working in pediatrics as an infertile woman whose lifelong dream was to be a mother, but for now I'd just like to say how much I loved and appreciated my clinical instructor. I got really lucky. All of my clinical instructors were awesome--knowledgeable, experienced, good teachers, and also overall all around cool people.

I got along well with my instructor and we worked very closely together every day. I don't remember how it came up, but I told her that I wanted children and couldn't have them and that's what triggered my whole going back to school venture. Over the semester, I even shared that I had failed treatments and spent years dealing with major depression. It was never awkward and whenever I disclosed any personal information it was always organic, in the moment, and non-dramatic. She was an amazing fertile woman who never said anything insensitive (shocker!!). She'd had her own unexpected life and was very wise. I learned so much from her.

It was a challenging rotation. It would've been for anyone but especially for someone dealing with infertility. I spent five to eight hours a day working directly with children, many of whom experienced abuse, neglect, food insecurity, and homelessness. It was both rewarding and heartbreaking, and I could not have done it at any point earlier in my recovery. I wasn't ready yet. But by the fall of 2018, I had worked hard on my grieving process, worked hard in school, and had mentally prepared myself as best I could for a semester working with children. I chose to do a pediatrics rotation. I needed to know if I could do it or not before committing to a job.

There is no dramatic conclusion to this post. I just woke up, showed up, and did what I could while maximizing my learning for twelve weeks. But at the end of the semester, I received one of the greatest compliments of my life. My clinical instructor told me I did an incredible job. It felt good to hear her say that. But she continued. "No, I mean it. This is a difficult experience for anyone. All of my students have had a hard time. But for you to do as well as you did, especially after everything you've been through with infertility... It's amazing. You have a gift in working with people and I am so proud of you for working so hard to create a new life for yourself."

Damn... Who knew a little recognition of my pain, loss, and hard work could feel so good?


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tough Anniversaries

It happened again.

My mind forgot, but my body remembered. I felt emotional all day yesterday, not really knowing why. I felt foggy, lethargic, and disenchanted. I felt like crying but tears never came. The tears came this morning. In the shower. And all of a sudden. It was relieving but it also kind of sucked.

Four years and several days ago my first IVF did not result in pregnancy. I haven't thought about that day in awhile, and, quite honestly, I don't really feel like thinking about it now. But I know I was devastated. I remember hanging up the phone, collapsing to my knees on the floor, and letting out a gutteral howl as my dog came running to check on me. Even she knew it was extremely bad and nothing could be done as she lay down on the floor, not moving a muscle while keeping her eyes on me.

And now around this time every year, I feel all out of sorts and have a seemingly random emotional breakdown. It seems random until my mind remembers what my body has yet to (will ever?) forget.

I'm scrapping my plans for the day. Everyone and everything can wait. Today I think I'll indulge in doing whatever I freaking feel like doing. I'm going to feel my feelings and think my thoughts, while simultaneously giving myself a break from them both. Today I'm going to enjoy the life that I've worked so hard to create. All the stuff and things can wait until tomorrow.