Friday, February 23, 2018

An Infertile Visits the NICU

I wanted a baby my whole life.

(Well technically, after watching my sisters get married young and have their children young I knew I wanted some time being an adult without a husband and kids for a little bit, so I always wanted a baby in my early 30s my whole life.)

I wanted a baby to fall asleep on my chest. I wanted a baby to reach their arms out to me. I wanted to feed my baby and change my baby and soothe my baby and take care of my baby when they were sick.

But I didn't just want a baby. I wanted a toddler and a little kid and a big kid and even a pre-teen (my least favorite age). I wanted a teenager and a young adult and an independent adult. I wanted to watch my baby grow up and create their own life that brought them happiness, complete with a job and healthy relationships and hobbies and volunteer activities.

I didn't get that baby. I didn't get that baby the old fashioned way, with assisted reproductive technology, or through adoption. And now, after planning my whole life around my baby (making life choices about my career, where to live, etc.), I am creating a new life for myself. I am creating a new life that will bring me happiness, complete with a job and healthy relationships and hobbies and volunteer activities.

But yesterday I visited the NICU on a school field trip and it reminded me of what I will never have.

I knew the trip was coming and I was actually looking forward to it but the night before I started dreading it. Then I woke up in the worst mood. My husband said, "Good morning!" and all I said was, "No." He laughed at my grumpiness, not realizing what was on my agenda for the day.

Like I usually do on days/events that I anticipate will be tough, I texted my best friend. I told her I had to go visit the NICU. She wrote back with the most encouraging and inspiring words. She said this visit was about me as a professional learning more so I could help kids in need. (She knows that I love working with kids.) She said, "This is why you've worked so hard and put up with so much shit... This isn't about your heartache. This is about your gift of healing. You got this." It was just what I needed to hear; it really helped me shift my perspective and I told her so. She said, "Much love coming your way. You got this. And I got you."

Seriously, can we please just clone her??
Every infertile woman deserves a friend like her. She always knows what to say!

I got dressed in my scrubs and a trustworthy classmate met me at my house and I drove us to the hospital together. I was thankful I had someone with me that knew at least a little bit of what I've been through. I really didn't feel like being around anyone else. Especially the asshole professor who refuses to answer my questions in class but answers other people's. (Yeah, that's a whole other story... Not even worth telling. There's no reason for her to have ill feelings toward me. I've never said or done anything rude or unprofessional in her classes. She just has favorites and seems to hate the rest of us. Add it to the millions of reasons I can't wait to get out of there.)

We parked, we walked in, we found the NICU, and we waited for our visit to begin. I looked at my classmates. Other than one woman in her early 30s, I was ten to fifteen years older than everyone else. I knew this was going to be a much different experience for me than it would be for them and I took a deep breath.

The visit to the NICU began.

We first met in a room to hear about how our morning was going to go. It was the same woman from our lecture the previous week, the woman who was very mommy-centric. She began by asking if anyone was pregnant and everyone shook their head. She repeated that visiting the NICU can be very upsetting for pregnant women so she always gave them the choice of opting out. For a second or two I debated saying something. Here was my chance that I missed in class. I wanted to say something about how the NICU could be upsetting to women who have lost babies too, but before I said anything she said, "But really, that option is open to everyone. You can opt out at any time, no questions asked." Okay, I'll give her a point for recognition there...

The first baby we saw weighed about five pounds and was, of course, adorable. We were learning about the equipment she needed while in the hospital and what all services she received. We also watched her feed from a bottle, which took f  o   r    e     v      e       r. I knew then that working in the NICU was not my calling. I did not want to spend so much time holding and feeding babies. When it wasn't causing me heartache, I think doing that every day would be incredibly boring for me.

Since it took so long, we were also hearing our "tour guide" tell us so much more information while the baby was feeding. I looked around the room at my classmates and I think that was the hardest part of the whole trip. Imagine being in a very small room with 12 other women, most in their early 20s, with a very small adorable infant. They were ga-ga over that baby. Their eyes were glistening, their smiles were huge, and they kept uttering things like "awww" and "so cute!!" I immediately looked away and kept my eyes focused on the baby for the rest of our time in the room. I had no idea that the easiest part of the trip was going to be staring down a baby.

We also saw a baby in an isolette. This baby was born at 23 weeks and was now 25 weeks old. I was worried that this would upset me, but I wanted to get the full experience of the NICU visit and learn all I could so I gave her observation a try. And I am so glad I did. She was fascinating! This tiny little baby with so many lines and tubes attached, bundled up in her little incubator was waving her arms so strongly. You could totally tell she was a fighter! I never thought that I could find inspiration in a preemie, but I was in awe.

Throughout the visit, I avoided my professor as much as possible. She is just not a nice person. I also hung to the back as we were walking through the halls. I didn't want to hear my classmates talking about when they were going to have kids or hear stories about their little siblings or nieces and nephews. I tried to learn as much medical information as possible while tuning out all of the chatter.

Then when it was over I was supposed to go back to campus for a meeting, but I went straight home and fell asleep for three hours. Anticipating that trip, being in the NICU, managing my emotions, and protecting myself wore me out completely. When I woke up, I felt pretty numb for the rest of the day.

It was only late last night, at the very end of the day, that I cried. I asked my husband, "Why didn't I get to have a baby?" He didn't have an answer. But he did share how happy he currently was and how excited he was about our plans together. Honestly, his words didn't really help me in the moment but at least they didn't make me feel worse.

Overall, it was good experience, very interesting, but it wasn't easy at all. I'm glad it's over.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Getting By/Getting Through

What a tough week!! Some weeks are like that. It doesn't mean that they don't suck though.

Sometimes I feel like the best I can do is just get by. And that's more than enough. Getting by is good enough. And I've always been a "good enough" kind of woman. Good enough has gotten me where I am today and here I am so...

I saw the counselor today. I feel lucky that I am able to see a counselor. The school offers a set number of visits for free every year. At least they're doing *something* right. And whoa, talk about validation... Very much appreciated!! I get it from my husband, from my best friend, and from your comments. But there's something about hearing it from an outside source. I started out telling her the 3 - 4 things that upset me this week with the intention of asking her for ideas for coping strategies for me so I could get through the rest of this semester with my health intact. But one story led to another, which led to another, which led to another... And I have not even shared all of them here. Well, damn, you step back and look at it all at once, it's a lot!! Just the look on her face told me I wasn't crazy.

And then she put words to it. Toxic. Abusive. Condescending. Demeaning. Defeating. And many, many more. She stayed professional the whole time but was still able to validate me without talking trash about my program or the professors. However, I am pretty sure she has a pretty good idea about the faults in that institution...

So I am happy/glad/thankful to have this valuable resource. I made another appointment for next week.

But even more than the validation, I appreciated her helping me come up with strategies for how I was going to cope. For one, the professors are not very nice. Two, we are studying pediatrics the entire semester. And three, as you all know, I am infertile and still grieving the loss of my children.

I love pediatrics. I love kids and working with children. And if I am going to go into this area of the field (which is still to be determined), there are many things that I am going to have to put up with/deal with/stomach. With kids, come parents. (And quite honestly, parents can be annoying.) And with kids comes the constant reminder that I didn't get to have mine. But I have worked hard at my recovery from infertility; I have faced my reality head on, and I have developed a healthy sense of separateness between what is my life and what is other people's lives (although that is a work in progress). The future is to be determined...

For now, I WILL get through this semester. I have a happy home. I have some friends and friendly faces at school. And now I have some new coping strategies.

So not only am I getting by, I am getting through. I strongly feel like the only way through your problems is straight through them. You can't avoid them. You can't go around them. (Well, you can... But I feel like that just prolongs the inevitable of dealing with them.) You have to go through them. And it is far from easy. And there is no time limit. It is not a race. You have to extend the utmost compassion and patience to yourself. You know, while you face one of your greatest nightmares while you are awake...

So I blogged very honestly this week. Well, I blog honestly every time I write. But this week, I was willing to show the ugly side. I was struggling. I am struggling. And that's okay. I mean, it sucks, but that's all a part of the process.

I know I will get through.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Really Struggling

I am really struggling and I don't know what to do about it.

Yesterday I blogged about my experience at school as an infertile woman studying pediatrics with fertile professors and mostly very young classmates.

Today wasn't any better. It was worse.

I was in a small class that is discussion-based. We were discussing a research article about the NICU. And the professor asked, "Who here has children?" (Is every class going to start with this question from now on?) And the two people that do raised their hand. The professor proceeded to ask their opinions on babies and things related to babies. I just looked down. The entire time. Waiting for it to end.

Before class started, I complimented the professor on her skirt. She looked at me blankly.

During discussion, she commented on other people's comments but never on mine.

At one point she said, "Most of you are too young to remember this, but..." and went on to describe a typical classroom activity that was very much a part of my childhood. I said "Uhhh" out loud and raised my hand, indicating that I knew what she was talking about. But she kept on talking with no acknowledgment.

Okay, I get it. I hate to sound childish, but she doesn't like me. So do I just not say anything? Not contribute to discussion? Won't this affect my grade? I do not know what to do.

So then the discussion turned to who has kids. Because, you know, parents are the only people that know anything about babies and children. She asked a specific question and my friend, who is a young father, started answering. I looked up and the professor was smiling. No, she was beaming. And nodding her head.

I looked back down and wondered how long this part of the discussion was going to last. Either the parental talk or the poor treatment from the professor lasted the entire time.

How am I going to get through this semester? What do I do?

I am used to the world being unfriendly to infertile women. I am used to feeling invisible. I am not used to sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures like this from people that have power over me. School feels downright hostile. The cold, crappy professors combined with the fertile-friendly perspective on everything feels like more than I can handle right now.

I emailed a counselor hoping to make an appointment. But if anyone has any other suggestions for ways for me to cope for the next three months, I am all ears.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Studying Pediatrics Sucks Sometimes

Today was awful. Well, I guess there's still the rest of this afternoon, evening, and tonight. Let me rephrase. This morning was awful. It was tough and terrible and it totally sucked all of the energy out of me.

I knew this semester was going to be challenging and not just in the academic way. This semester we are studying pediatrics. Up until today, everything had been fine and for that I am grateful. I think I had even started to let my mental guard down a little... I shouldn't have. Because I got sideswiped today.

The morning started out with a quiz. Quizzes are never fun, but I was actually prepared and sitting outside the testing room reviewing my notes. That's when I overheard one classmate explaining the process of getting pregnant--the first day of your last menstrual period, ovulation, and implantation two weeks after that... To the pregnant classmate!!!!! She is pregnant and didn't know all that stuff. But of course she didn't. She didn't have to know it. She just had sex with her husband and got pregnant. For free. Gahhhh. I put my fingers in my ears to block out the conversation and kept studying.

(Side note: That quiz was hard. I studied for about four hours yesterday, took 18 pages of handwritten notes (because I am old and I handwrite everything, which is a better learning strategy anyway, but I digress on my digression), and I still only got an 80. I mean, an 80 is fine, but after all that work I honestly wanted a 100.)

Moving forward. The quiz is over and we began the morning lecture. We have an upcoming field trip to the NICU (the intensive care unit for babies) and the professor was going over the logistics. Then she said, "Is anyone else besides 'Pregnant Classmate' pregnant? Or is it just her?" Um what... Like someone is going to be all, oh yeah, I'm pregnant. I just haven't told anyone yet, but right now would be a perfect time to reveal personal information to the entire class. Gah. No one answers, so apparently no one else is pregnant. The professor went on to say that Pregnant Classmate is allowed to skip the field trip if she wants because she knows the NICU can be upsetting to pregnant women. I immediately thought: What about women who have lost babies? Wouldn't the NICU be even more upsetting for them? We don't know what everyone has been through. There might be someone sitting in that class who has had a traumatic experience in the NICU. But no one ever considers the infertile and baby loss population, do they? Now that I am home and thinking about my day, I am really regretting not raising my hand and asking that question.

Moving on. Then the guest lecturer came. She works in a NICU and was there to give a presentation about the environment, equipment, medical conditions seen there, and other related information. The first thing out of her mouth was, "Who here has kids?"

Can I just go home now? I am done with this day.

I haaate that question. It implies that only parents know about children, which is simply untrue.

So all the regular people raised their hands. We all know who has kids by now. And then the guest lecturer went on to talk about the NICU. Without even connecting her presentation to the question she just asked. Whether or not people were parents had nothing to do with the entire lecture! There was no reason to ask that question. And then, of course, the last slide of her presentation was a collage of pictures of her daughter.

It was too much. I was already stressed and sleepy. My emotional resources were low. And then I got caught off guard three times within an hour and a half. I came home and crashed for over two hours. It all just exhausted me. Studying pediatrics with fertile people can really suck sometimes.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Unwanted Shower Invitation

I haven't thought about infertility much in the last two weeks. That in itself is a small miracle, something I would have never thought possible a couple of years ago. I guess that's a plus side to being so busy you don't have time to think.

But I can share with you something that happened Saturday night. There I was--snuggled in my couch in some comfy clothes with a blanket while I watched a movie. I was warm. I was content. I was happy. My husband was out and I was enjoying a moment to myself where I didn't have to do or think about a single thing.

Then my phone starts going crazy. I'm getting message after message after message, and it really starts to interrupt my enjoyment of the movie. So I look at my phone and I'm confused for a minute. And then I immediately think, what in the hell?

My classmates use one of the many apps available to communicate amongst each other. It's helpful when asking each other questions, clarifying assignment directions, etc. A new group had been created. On a Saturday night. Called Surprise Baby Shower. And everyone was added to it (except for the pregnant classmate obviously because it's a surprise).

I immediately had a visceral reaction. My stomach churned and I felt feverish. I couldn't even really read the messages. Everything looked blurry and I felt a little dizzy. The first message said something about how they're planning a surprise baby shower for so and so on such and such date and could we all please give some money to buy her presents (for her THIRD child) and who all could bring what to eat. At least I think that's what it said. My reading comprehension capability was severely decreased due to my emotions.

Quite honestly, I was pissed. I did not ask to be a part of this party and I sure as hell did not want to be in this messaging group. Plus, they had interrupted my happy, cozy Saturday night.

How presumptuous to think that everyone in our class is emotionally invested in this girl's pregnancy or even interested in throwing her a surprise baby shower!

I left the group. Amidst the barrage of messages that were being hurled my way, I scrolled over to the screen that let me remove myself from the group and I noped out of there as fast as I could.

I know when you leave a group on that app everyone can see it. There would have been a message posted in the group: "Phoenix has left the group." (Well, obviously I'm not "Phoenix" with my classmates so it said my first and last name.) But I didn't care. I didn't want my Saturday night interrupted. I didn't want constant notifications about new messages. I didn't want to get on my phone and see "Surprise Baby Shower" in my list of groups. I. Did. Not. Want. To be. In. That. Group.

So I left.
And I didn't care that everyone could see that I left.
And I didn't care what people may have been thinking.
And I still don't.

I took a couple of deep breaths, texted my husband complaining about the situation, got some reassuring words from him, and went back to my movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

One funny thing came out of the situation. On Monday one of my favorite classmates asked if he could talk to me. "Sure," I said. I could tell he wanted to talk about or ask me something privately so we went down the hallway where there was no one. He asked me, "Did you leave that group that so and so created?" I said, "Yes." I think he was surprised that I left the group knowing it was public to everyone. He repeated, "Really?" And I said, "Yep. I didn't ask to be in that group. Get that shit off my phone." And he busted out laughing. He said he laughed so hard and so long when he saw that on Saturday night. He said that he thought to himself, "Well one thing is for sure. Phoenix isn't fake." And then he told me that he loved it and it was the funniest thing he had seen in a long time.

So, hey, I took care of myself and I made my friend laugh. Not bad for a situation I didn't ask for.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I Don't Have Unlimited Resources

I've been waiting for it to happen. It's been awhile so I knew something was coming soon. You know what I mean: hearing a comment that we are all used to. Well, I don't know if we ever get used to them. But we do get used to the idea that they're coming.

"I don't know why she gave up. If she wants to have a kid, she can. There are lots of kids waiting to be adopted."

That's what one of my friends chose to share with me. Her boyfriend said it. Immediately I said, "It's easy to say that when you haven't been in my situation." I was calm, but, honestly, I was so pissed off. Things are so easy to say when you've never had to deal with them yourself. This kid is 25 years old and doesn't even know what he's talking about. I told my friend not to to tell me things like that because it made me hate her boyfriend.

Like I said, it's been awhile since I've had a comment flung my way.

Damn. You want kids. You can't get pregnant. Well, you can always do IVF, right? Or just adopt!

Nothing I can write can convey the anger these thoughts cause me.

Because what the general population doesn't realize is I don't have unlimited resources. I don't have endless money to pursue treatments and adoption. I don't have endless energy. I don't have endless emotional reserves.

I tried until I almost died.

Quite honestly, I wanted to be dead. But what are you gonna do when your lungs are still breathing and your heart is still pumping?

So I've done the best I can. I didn't die and it was up to me to figure out how to live my life. And then someone comes along and says I shouldn't have given up. Who are they to say that? Who are they to judge me? They have no clue what I've been through. They have no clue what it is like to live my life.

So I educated my friend. I told her I tried everything. Without going into details, I told her I tried medical intervention. I tried adoption. I tried relaxing, being patient, and waiting for a fucking miracle. Guess what. Nothing worked. I never got pregnant. I never had a baby. I am not parenting, not in this lifetime.

And then some guy, some kid with no experience, comes along and inserts his opinion into my life?

My friend said she was so sorry for my situation, that she wished she could do something. I took advantage of the opportunity. I told her the way she could help was to educate people when they said incorrect, uninformed things. She could share what all she has learned from me. IVF doesn't always work. Adoption is no guarantee. Everything costs money, not to mention all of the other unquantifiable costs. She said she could and would do that. I hope she starts with her boyfriend.

It was just another reminder of how I live a life that the majority of people don't understand. I'm okay. I've had years of experience at this. This isn't my first month, my first year. It still hurts, stings, and makes me angry. But I find solace in the life that I am creating for myself. Even though I am playing the long game and this last year feels like it's gonna kill me, I know it won't. Nothing has killed me yet.

I am still here.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Proof of Progress

I am so excited! I am back in school for the semester, but that is definitely not the exciting part haha. What I am excited about is today was a nice, what do I call it... A signpost? A marker? The word or phrase eludes me, but what I'm trying to say is today I felt progress!

First, I had a conversation with my pregnant classmate. She is now visibly pregnant. And it was fine! I didn't feel weird, sad, uncomfortable, hurt, angry, depressed, or anything negative. In fact, I felt proud of myself. That may sound strange to someone who hasn't dealt with infertility so I wouldn't share that information with hardly anyone, but it's true. I am proud of myself.

We were in the computer lab and she said hello and I said hello back. She asked me a school-related question and I answered. I could have left it at that. I could have easily (and without looking rude or awkward) walked away after that exchange, but I didn't. I chose to continue to engage her in conversation. Well, I didn't ask her a single thing about her pregnancy, but, who knows, maybe she appreciated being talked to like the human being that she is and not just as an incubator for her future child. We visited for a few minutes about our winter break and being back at school. It was so... Normal. Yay!!! And there were no residual effects for me. My day wasn't ruined. There was no dark cloud following me around. Everything was... Fine. Super yay!!!

Next, I sat through a three-hour lecture on pregnancy, fetal movement, and fetal health in utero. (I'm taking a pediatrics course this semester and we are starting at the beginning. The very beginning haha.) And again... I. Was. Fine. What??

I even thought about it during the lecture. I thought, wow, if this was last year, I would not have been able to handle this lecture. But today I just found it fascinating. I noticed my friend sitting next to me glance at me a couple of times during the lecture. He knows there have been a couple of lecture topics in the past that upset me. But I didn't need that touchpoint today; I didn't need to make eye contact with him and roll my eyes in a self-preserving reaction. He's pretty sensitive so he probably noticed, but I'm glad we didn't talk about it.

And that was it. The only reason I'm still thinking about it all is the fact that it shows me how far I've come. I am so, so glad. I don't feel bad at all that I used to not be able to handle these things, but I am grateful that it's getting better. I mean, I need to be able to function in this (fertile) world!

So, it's no big deal really. Except it totally is. Haha.

I will continue working on my recovery from infertility. 🏆 🔮