Monday, October 31, 2016

Hardest Day of the Year

Not Christmas. Not Mother's Day. Halloween is the hardest day of the year for me.

For years I dreamed about being pregnant at Halloween. I was going to draw on a white t-shirt and have my pregnant belly go as a baseball. Silly I know. And it probably wouldn't have even looked that good. But my dad is a die hard baseball fan and it was just one of those things I always daydreamed about.

I would also daydream about going to fall festivals and dressing up in costumes and going trick or treating and hosting Halloween parties for my kids.

When I first started trying to get pregnant, three months had passed by the time Halloween arrived. And I was NOT a chill "it'll happen when it'll happen" kind of woman trying to get pregnant. No, once my husband agreed to try I wanted it to happen immediately. I was beyond ready. So I was very sad when it didn't happen right away. When Halloween came around I consoled myself by saying, "This time next year I'll be pregnant or have a baby."

Then the next Halloween came and I thought, "It's okay. This time next year I'll be pregnant or have a baby." Halloween became a time marker of sorts for me.

Then the next Halloween came and I had started fertility treatments and I thought again, "This time next year I'll be pregnant or have a baby."

Then by the next Halloween I had decided to stop fertility treatments for good and I thought, "Well, maybe I'll be one of those women that gets pregnant after years of trying and failed treatments."

This Halloween I am not saying any of those things to myself anymore.

It's hard. Letting go of a lifelong dream is not easy.

I'm thankful I have such happy memories about Halloween from my own childhood. I'm thankful I'm working toward rebuilding my life. I'm thankful I don't feel stuck in infertility limbo anymore.

And one day I will feel well enough to get dressed up again and pass out candy to trick or treaters. But I am not there yet.

Friday, October 28, 2016

I Survived

I survived midterms!

A couple of readers asked what I was going to school for. I want to remain anonymous on the internet. Just having a blog is way outside of my comfort zone. However, as a reader of others' blogs, I always want to know more too haha. So I will share that I am in graduate school for a health care profession. And it is hard. As they all are. Becoming a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, pharmacist, whatever... These programs are very demanding.

But I survived midterms!

But of course I did. Because I am surviving infertility. And nothing is harder than that, in my humble opinion. I mean, quite honestly, who really cares about a test when you've already lost your children?

Infertility changed me. I was irreverent before, but now I'm on another level. Ha!!! My poor classmates, taking everything so seriously... Don't get me wrong. I'm taking it all seriously too. I'm showing up and doing the work. But this program is definitely not the life or death of life as I knew it. The worst case scenario is I fail out and my husband and I move out of state sooner. So, really, the worst case scenario isn't too bad.

But seriously, infertility changed me. For example, I used to be SO afraid of roaches. If I saw one I would throw a heavy textbook on it and deal with it a couple days later when I had calmed down. I know, dramatic and gross. Now I just grab a shoe, whack it, and promptly dispose of the body. The first time I did this it surprised me. I turned to my husband and said, "I survived failed IVF. I'm not scared of roaches anymore."

So, yes, I survived.

I survived midterms. I survived failed fertility treatments. I'm surviving infertility.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Identifying as Infertile

When I started this blog, I thought about whether or not I wanted to use the word "infertile" in the name or title. Am I really healing if I keep calling myself infertile? Am I moving forward or picking at the same old wound? Is being infertile central to my identity? How do I truly see myself?

But, I wanted to write a blog about living life after infertility and I liked the mythology of the phoenix rising from the ashes so "Infertile Phoenix" just seemed to capture what I was going for.

I mean, it's not like I walk around in my daily life with a scarlet "I" on my chest.

Even though I chose to disclose my infertility with classmates two different times last week, today I chose not to do so. I came to a big decision over the weekend: I decided I want to graduate from this program, not drop out at the end of the semester. I had previously shared my ambivalence with a professor so today I said, "I have some big news!" And she immediately, joyfully exclaimed, "You're pregnant!" That could have been a perfect opening to share, "No, I'm infertile," but in the moment I chose not to. Instead I said, "No, I decided I want to graduate from the program." And she was equally excited by this news as she was by her first guess.

So I don't always share my infertility. It's not my central identity, not to myself and not to the outside world. For a long time, it DID feel like my central identity for myself, but that's why I'm rebuilding my life with new hopes and dreams.

There is more to me than being infertile. However, it is a part of me. My experience with infertility profoundly changed me and changed how I see the world.

Being infertile will be central to this blog, but it is not central to my existence. I am much more than that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Responding Honestly

I was expecting some sort of kids-type comments from my classmates at some point, and I'm actually surprised it took this long. Maybe going to school with a bunch of younger people has its advantages haha. Child bearing is just not on most of my classmates' radar screens. Although they are not all 22 and many of them do have kids, it just hasn't come up in conversation until this week.

This week I was on the receiving end of two comments.  Well, one comment and one question really. And my response was unexpected by me. I didn't know what or how I was going to say anything when asked, but I thought I was going to remain private. But I didn't and I'm pleasantly surprised by my gut reaction.

The first comment was made Monday morning. We are in the middle of midterm exams and projects and a small group of us were sharing how stressed and overwhelmed we are, not knowing how we were going to get everything done. And one of my classmates said it: "At least you don't have kids." She didn't say it maliciously, rudely, or in any way with a negative connotation. She just said it matter-of-fact. And before I knew what was coming out of my mouth I said, "Well, if I had kids I wouldn't be here. I tried for years and it was very traumatizing. So, actually, I wish I did have kids." And I didn't say it rudely or bitterly. I just stated it matter-of-fact. I didn't feel stung by her comment and I didn't perceive that she felt stung by my comment. It was just a very small moment that simply passed. Huh. How 'bout that...

Then yesterday I was talking to two classmates during a break. One of them is close to my age and he asked, "Do you want kids?" And again, without thinking, I simply said, "I wanted them very badly. I tried for years and it was very traumatic." To which he replied, "I'm sorry." Wow. What? I seriously went two whole years while trying to have kids before I heard a single person say "I'm sorry" and a classmate said it within seconds of my disclosure? It felt like a small miracle. It felt kind of good. I said, "Thank you. I used to never talk about it, but I think it's important to be honest because it's actually kind of common." Then the other classmate asked, "Do you think you'll go into pediatrics?" And I very honestly and immediately replied, "I think so. Because I love working with kids so much. When I was deep into my depression I wasn't so sure I'd be able to handle it, but now that some time has passed I think I'll be able to do it. I hope so. Because I love kids." And that was that.

It was almost odd. To have two normal-seeming conversations about my infertility with people I just met two months ago. To speak about it without anger, resentment, or bitterness. To be received so well. To not be dismissed. It was nice.

:)  :)  :)

Like I said in my last post...  Onward!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Keep Moving Forward

Right as I'm sitting down to start a long day of (boring) studying, I read this quote just now:

"You've already moved away from every disappointment you've ever experienced. Keep moving positively ahead." -Ralph Marston

What a good reminder. I thought long and hard about school yesterday. I even cried. I questioned whether or not I am on the right path. But as much as I don't like the program I'm in, I really like the profession I am working toward joining.

I am also starting to separate my New Life (going back to school) from my Old Life (trying to have kids). What I mean is I don't think "I'm only doing this because I can't have kids" every single time I go to class or sit down to work.

I also went to a concert on Friday night so that helped. I really didn't have the time to step away from my schoolwork, but I also needed to feed my soul so to speak. Going to hear one of my favorite bands was probably the best decision I've made all semester.

Onward! :)

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Surprising New Friend

I've made a surprising friend in grad school. He's a guy. He's almost 13 years younger than me. And he and his wife have a ten month old baby.

I started talking to him at orientation and we had a lot of things in common. I thought that was pretty cool until he mentioned something about his baby and I immediately thought, crap, well we'll see where this goes. I even came home and told my husband that I met someone cool but he had a baby so we'd see.

Turns out, he's a really nice and funny guy. He doesn't talk about his kid incessantly and the few pictures of the kid he has shared with me are super cute. I even shared with him that I wanted kids badly and couldn't have them and that's what brought me to grad school.  It's a very surprising friendship. But this program is so hard, his wife is awesome, my husband is awesome, and I keep saying that, between the four of us, we WILL survive. And maybe even graduate.

Yesterday I went to his house to work on some projects. I was curious how I would feel since I still feel pretty raw about babies in particular. Of course, their house had toys and baby things everywhere, but it didn't bother me. In fact, I loved seeing the kid's room; it was just so cute. I even went with my friend to pick up the baby from daycare. The daycare was adorable. There were no funny smells and it was decorated so cutely. We went to the baby room and when we walked in about six babies were just staring up at me and I kind of wanted to take them all home. I smiled at and talked to each of them, asking how their day was but obviously not expecting an answer haha. As we walked back to the car, I had a moment of sadness as I thought about how I'd never be picking my kid up from childcare. I didn't say anything to my friend or even my husband when I got home. I just felt the sadness and then let it pass, and, thankfully, it did pass. Mostly.

This is my life and there's really nothing I can do about it. I tried my best to have kids, it didn't happen, and I am surviving.

I've wondered why this new friend's baby (who is one super cute baby, by the way) doesn't bother me like other friend's and family member's babies have. I think part of it is I am healing a bit. I am not allowing myself to stay stuck in my despair. (How I'm not allowing myself, I'm not so sure. Maybe moving and school have helped me move forward?) But I think another part is that my friend is so young. I wasn't even with my husband when I was his age. Because it's not even possible that my husband and I could have had a kid together at his age, I'm just not jealous.

I don't like my feelings of jealousy and avoidance, but I can't deny that they're there either. But things like this new friendship help me to believe that I am slowly but surely healing, and for that I am thankful.

Monday, October 10, 2016

When Plan B is a Disappointment

After my last fertility treatment did not result in pregnancy, I had no idea what to do. I was a shell of my former self. I had no energy, no enthusiasm, and definitely no inspiration. All I knew was that I couldn't go on living the way I was because I wasn't really living; I was walking death.

So I took a week to cry and stare at the wall.

One week later I decided to move.

I told my husband, "We're moving. We're selling this house and we are going to live somewhere else." Fortunately, he was on board.

We bought that gorgeous 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house with two-story ceilings, lots of windows, and natural lighting for our children. It was close to his work so he could spend more time with me and the kids instead of having a long commute. It had an upstairs loft that would have made a great family room/play area. It was nearly perfect.

But our children never came. And I could no longer live there.

So we thought about where to go and what to do.

And then I got the idea to change careers and go back to school. After spending the last several years putting all of my energy into trying to conceive, going to doctor's appointments, getting acupuncture, refilling prescriptions, buying supplements, getting injections, having ultrasounds, and undergoing procedures, I threw my whole being into Going Back To School. It was The Thing that was going to save me.

I researched programs, found one I liked, realized I had a short window of time to get everything done for the application, and charged forward.  I took prerequisite courses during summer school. I cried every night while I studied. I knew that I was supposed to be taking care of my baby, not studying for classes where my classmates were half my age. But I kept moving forward. I took 14 credit hours in 15 weeks. I took the GRE.  I found people to write letters of recommendation. I agonized over my one-page essay. I completed the application. I mailed it off.

And I waited... But I was used to waiting.

So I started packing. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I wasn't staying there.

I started with the nursery. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Maybe it was weird that I had started collecting onesies and kids' books, but, hey, I thought I was like everyone else and I was going to get pregnant and have a baby. It took me a week to clean out the nursery/storage room.

Then I tackled the rest of the house. Just as I was about finished cleaning out, getting rid of stuff, and boxing up what we were keeping, I got my acceptance letter. And I. Was. Elated.

This was My Next Thing! I was Going Back to School!

We found a place to rent next to school, moved in, put our house on the market, and sold it, all of which I will probably elaborate on in future posts. I just said it all in one sentence but it was HARD. Every stage brought unexpected feelings, and not many of them felt very good. I was glad to be moving on, but I was sad for the circumstances which brought it all on.

So. Fast forward to this fall when I started school. Here it was, what I'd been waiting for, what I'd poured my heart and soul into for the last year, what I'd completely transformed my life for.

And it was horrible. Absolutely awful.

The class content was not what I was expecting. The work load seemed impossible. I was overwhelmed with being so behind with technology. School had changed A LOT since the last time I went, which was a very long time ago. My new plan was a big disappointment.

I tried to share my disappointment with other people and, of course, my feelings were dismissed. I was told, "That's how school is." And, "What did you expect?" And, "You can't expect everything to be easy." It was crushing. It was another let down, another experience where I felt unsupported and misunderstood.

And then I realized it was all a part of infertility. Well, school DID suck, that part was true. But the reason it was so disappointing was all connected to infertility. I thought if I couldn't have children, then I at least was going to have a fulfilling career. Then school was not fulfilling or meaningful at all. Plus, I was going from a deep depression coupled with low activity to all of a sudden having a lot of work and deadlines. I mean, I hadn't even been around people much in the last couple of years. It was exhausting. And intimidating.

I came home the first day and told my husband I was quitting. I told my parents I was quitting. I told anyone I talked to I was quitting. And everyone knew better than to argue with me. But then I thought, well then what am I going to do? Go back to how I was living? It was an extremely tough couple of weeks.

I decided to do it. Just go for it. I decided I'd rather fail out than quit. And I'm giving it my all.

It has gotten a little better. Not the workload. That still seems impossible. But my classmates are nice. And whatever happens, I'm reaping some side benefits of being productive again. I have a routine again. I'm eating better. I'm drinking more water. I'm interacting with the world around me.

And I might even pass this semester.

So, it's not what I hoped it would be, but I'm doing it. And, of course, in the middle of all this I thought, I think I'll start a blog. It's a really good study break.  :)

Speaking of... I better get back to the books.

'Til next time... Sometimes Plan B doesn't go how we want either. It's okay. Everything is temporary. My husband and I have a long-term plan that we're working toward. New career or not, we will make our new dreams happen.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Week Old Blog

Wow, my blog is already one week old.  They grow up so fast...  ;)

This blog has already proven to be a great outlet and a great way of connecting with others.  I look forward to what the future holds.  And, as a person learning to deal with the lifelong repercussions of infertility, looking toward the future with excitement is not something I take for granted!

Last night I brainstormed a list of topics and wrote them down in a spiral notebook.  Hopefully, I will continue to post regularly.  On the days that I have writer's block, I'll just look at my list, pick a topic, and ramble a little.

Plus, writing this blog and reading others' blogs is a great study break.  I will write about my school experience sometime, but let me just say, it has not been what I was expecting and the whole thing has been very disappointing.  But I haven't dropped out of the program (yet), and, regardless of what happens there, I am committed to creating a new life for myself.

To anyone out there who is reading, thank you very much!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Changed Relationships

Here's a topic that I will probably write a lot about. So this is kind of like an introductory post. But, again, if I waited until I had it all written perfectly, that would be never. There's so much to say so I might as well get started.

Changed relationships.


I had no idea my experience with infertility was going to change every single one of my relationships.

In retrospect, I understand that you don't go through trauma and emerge the same person, so of course it seems obvious to me now that all of my relationships would change.

But for years, while I was going through it, I was so hurt and confused. And lonely. Very, very lonely. Not only was I grieving the loss of a dream every month, but I was grieving the loss of my relationships as I knew them.

It's easy to be friends with someone when they live or work nearby, when their life is going well and they have lots of warmth and energy to give, when they are asking nothing from you in return, and when they are available for whatever you need.

I know, true friends will always be there. But, the fact of the matter is, between work schedules, traffic patterns, and the demands of living an adult life, convenience is a factor that plays into friendships.  Plus, it's always good to have things in common or to be in a similar place in life, and most people either have kids or aren't trying to have them. Not many people live in infertility limbo land. They just get pregnant and have a baby.

And it's not just friendships; relationships among my family members changed too. There is so much I can say on this whole topic of changed relationships that I know I will just ramble about it every now and then. Needless to say, it was one of the hardest parts of infertility for me. Aside from not becoming a mom.

Every single relationship in my life either got stronger or faded away. Fortunately, my marriage got stronger.  And two friends in particular stand out as awesome supports. They were always available for my true self (even if one of them lives in another state), and they both always allowed my sadness yet also succeeded in making me laugh. I started seeing a counselor, which was immensely helpful, and she told me that having three strong people to count on in time of crisis was actually a lot. So I am very, very thankful.

I still miss a lot of my old friends, but I wish everyone well.

I am now busy rebuilding my own life and that is a good use of my energy.

Life is hard. Life is beautiful. Life goes on.

Until the next time I ramble... Be compassionate to yourself and take care.  -L

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

It's always there.

In an effort to work toward a new career, I've gone back to school. (more on that another day)

Today I was sitting in a meeting where someone was informing us about some upcoming program requirements. The woman was emphasizing how important it is to not make any plans that would interfere with these requirements. You see where this is going? Yep...

The program is female-heavy.  Out of 42 in the class, only 6 are male.  The presenter was saying not to plan any weddings or start a family during this one particular crucial window of the program. She looked out at us students and said, "Well, that doesn't apply to everyone. Not everyone in this room can get pregnant." And everyone laughed. Except me. Instead of laughing I thought to myself, "No, there are at least 7 people in this room who cannot get pregnant."

It didn't make me sad. After so many years, I think I'm tired of being sad. Numb to it. For that I am thankful. But the infertility is always there.  And the fertile world is always quick to remind me.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thankful for the Blogging Pioneers

I think if I waited until I had my thoughts perfectly collected and perfectly articulated I would never post, so I think I'll just jump in and write.  So there probably won't be any grand organization to this blog, just a collection of thoughts that reflect what's on my mind on any given day.  Hopefully the blog will get better over time, as I learn how to insert tags and links, but, hey, no promises! :)

First and foremost, I want to give a HUGE thank you to all of the bloggers that have been writing for years.  There are several blogs that I have read from start to finish, and there are many blogs that I check almost daily to satiate my craving for connection and understanding.  They have all contributed to my healing and to my ability to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly I was crawling in the beginning.

Infertility devastated me.  It was tragic and traumatizing.  My whole life dream was to be a mom. Nearly every decision I made in my life was made with the idea that I would be a mother someday.  When it didn't happen, I became very depressed.  Ha!  "Very depressed" is an understatement.  I felt isolated from society and alienated from my peer group.  Not only did I not have what I wanted (what I felt I was born to be) and it seemed like everyone else did, I received no compassion, sympathy, or empathy.  I received no acknowledgement for what I'd lost and what I'd been through.  I kept thinking, "#@&%!!!  Where's my damn casserole?  Aren't loved ones supposed to reach out in times like these??"

So I turned to the internet, where I learned about disenfranchised grief and found other women who were bravely writing and sharing their stories.  I have yet to meet any of them, but I am so grateful for these bloggers.  Infertility isn't fatal, but these women may have saved my will to live.

The first blog I came across was Infertility Honesty.  Oh.  My.  God.  Thank you Sarah!!!!  Your writing.  I am speechless.  But you put words to so many thoughts and feelings that had been swirling inside of me for years.  You helped me breathe again.

From there, I learned about our pioneer, Pamela Tsigdinos, and her book Silent Sorority.

Then it just grew.
Klara from The Next 15000 Days
Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled
Mali at No Kidding in NZ
Bent Not Broken
The NotMom

I was not alone!!!  I was not crazy!  I was even entitled to my feelings!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of my broken, healing heart to these pioneering bloggers and their courage and willingness to be vulnerable on the internet. Thank you.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Out of the Darkness & In to the Light

Hello!  Welcome to my blog.  This is my first blog and I don't know what I'm doing (yet?), but I figure I should just go ahead and start where I am.  For the last year and a half I've been reading other people's blogs and I kind of want to join the conversation.  I kind of don't because being on the internet makes me nervous.  But I kind of want to overcome that because I would really like to have a community.  You know, a group of people that understand my perspective without me having to explain things that are so fundamental to my experience as a woman without kids living life after infertility.  So here I am.  Hello and welcome!  -Lucia