Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Typical Question with an Atypical Ending

Last week I had my first clinical rotation. I cannot even begin to describe how awesome it was!! As much as I hate school, I know I am on the right path with my new career. I can barely wait to graduate and get out into the work force.

Oh the work force... I am thankful every day for how far I've come in my recovery from infertility. After the first day of my clinical rotation I came home and told my husband, "I would NOT have been able to do this a year ago."

Dang, people talk about their kids all the time!!!

I was mentally prepared for being around a bunch of women all day and that there would be a lot of conversation centered around their children, but even with my foresight, I was still surprised.

I did fine though. I didn't get sad or depressed. I listened a little and tuned out a little. One woman had just returned from maternity leave. I asked her baby's name, because I've always had an interest in what people name their children. But I was conveniently out of the room when newborn photos were being passed around. (I just stepped outside the room while it was happening and nobody even noticed. Never underestimate the importance of self care! I know newborn pics are still a tough thing for me so I just discreetly stepped out of the room and pretended to be studying my notes in the hallway.)

It wasn't until my second to last day that someone even asked me if I had children. I was asked by an 80 year old woman, a former volunteer who had stopped by to say hello. At first, I thought we were headed toward a train wreck. Then the conversation ended in a surprising way.

Her: Do you have children?

Me: No. (Expressed with no sadness or any other emotion. Simply stated with no further explanation.)

Her: You missed all the good parts!


Her: And you missed all the bad parts... Nothing is perfect.

So there you have it, folks! "Nothing is perfect."

Be careful out there in that fertile world. Always take care of yourself.
And remember that you are not alone.

You have a sisterhood that understands you and believes in you as you work toward recovery and creating a new life for yourself that you want to live. 💜

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Survivor Anniversary

Two years ago today my life changed forever.

Two years ago today my final IVF did not result in pregnancy.

Two years ago today I knew it was over.

Two years ago today I lost my children.

Since then I have completely changed my life.
Not, my life has completely changed. That doesn't give me enough credit. Because I had to do it.

I had to do all the work.
I had to climb out of the deep, dark pit I was in.

I had to move out of my children's house, fix it up, put it on the market, and sell it.
I had to find a place to move to, pack up all my stuff, and coordinate the movers.
I had to box up all the stuff in the nursery and put it in storage because I couldn't deal with it yet.

I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I decided to change careers.
I had to navigate the school application process, take all the prerequisite courses, arrange my
              observation hours, track down letters of recommendation, write an essay, take the GRE.
I had to go back to school: register for classes, buy books, go to class, do homework, study for
              tests, meet for group projects, write papers.

I had to let go of relationships that weren't working anymore.
I had to let go of friendships that weren't there anymore.
I had to let go of an old me that didn't exist anymore.

I had to grieve.

It has not been easy.
It has not been fun.
But I did it anyway.

Two years ago I was still living in the house I bought for my children without any direction.

One year ago I was living in a cool little rental property with my former house on the market.

Today I am actively recreating my life with every waking day.
Today I am a survivor.
Today I am free.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My CFNBC Reflections on Spring Break

I had a great Spring Break. Nothing was planned, but I ended up meeting with friends for lunch every day. From a childfree not by choice (CFNBC) perspective, I found things to be particularly interesting.

  • My first lunch was with my friend, a former co-worker, who is 12 years older than me. Her two kids are grown (ages 19 and 21) but will still be financially dependent for several more years. I have known her kids since they were 5 and 7. Wow, time flies. I enjoyed getting caught up on her life and catching her up on mine. She knows what all I've been through over the past several years. She said I looked happier and healthier than I've seemed in years. She was so happy for me. She is parenting young adults in her early 50s. I asked her if she would want to be parenting teenagers in her late 50s and, without hesitation, she said "No!" Me neither. If others want to do that, that's totally fine. But my husband and I are moving on. Our window for parenting has passed.

  • My next lunch was with two new friends from school, 12 and 14 years younger than me. Not surprisingly, children never came up once in all of our conversations.

  • The next day I went to dinner with my good friend from school (also 12 years younger than me), his wife, and their 1-year old baby. I like their kid, and I really enjoy how they parent in a reasonable, flexible, yet firm and understanding way. And, full disclosure, I am kind of picky about parenting styles. It was a great meal with lots of laughs, and the kid even tolerated the restaurant experience pretty well. Interestingly though, I felt no jealousy, no longing. I've never particularly liked going out to eat with small children, so maybe that was it. Or maybe I have better boundaries between other people's children and myself than I have in the past. Whatever it was, I was glad I could enjoy dinner with my friends without any residual negative feelings.

  • The next day I went to lunch with my parents. Sigh... I love them. But I have to get to a place of acceptance that they will never understand my infertility. They know I want to move and they know my relocation plans are a part of the rebuilding of my life, but they are not exactly supportive. I've done well in school and have made progress in the area of moving (researching, networking, etc.), but my mom still cried when I told her the progress I've made. I love them so much but it's complicated. I wish they could be happy for me.

  • My final Spring Break meal was a totally spontaneous lunch with a really awesome friend I hadn't seen since Thanksgiving. She is my age and does not have children. We ended up spending seven hours together, talking and hanging out. I can't think of many people that I would even want to spend seven hours with these days hahaha, but the time flew! It was energizing and so much fun. I told her that my mom told me the day before that I could be friends with people my age with kids and I told her (my mom) that I couldn't. My mom was confused but my friend immediately got it. She said, "Of course we can be friends with people with kids," but then she followed it up with, "But not really." Hahaha. She said she liked her friends with kids but she often didn't call them because she knew hanging out with them meant also hanging out with their kids, which, as much as she liked them, that sometimes wasn't what she felt like doing. She went on to say that friends with kids had schedules that we didn't. They had birthday parties and school functions and baseball games and dance practices. It was just so nice to be validated and immediately understood.

So, no closing thoughts really... It was just a great Spring Break, and I couldn't have planned it any better. I'm thankful I got to see so many friends. This month alone has been such a contrast to the last five years of my life. As I continue to say, I do not take any of it for granted for a second.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Weird Ending to a Friendship

I'm on Spring Break, which is something I never thought I would experience as a student again. But, here I am in my late 30s with a week off from life. Of course, life never really stops, so I'm trying to use my time wisely. Go to the doctor, take the car in, meet a friend for lunch... I'm thankful for this time, but I am also pretty bored. I'm in a better head space than I was over winter break and last summer and the years preceding going back to school. But honestly, I still need to stay busy. Having a lot of free time to myself, I am still letting my mind wander a little too much... Which brings me to today's post.

I apologize if I've written about this before. I think sometimes I repeat myself here on this blog (and definitely in real life- just ask my husband hahaha), but I'm what I call a "verbal processor" so sometimes it takes me a couple of times of rehashing something before I'm able to glean some helpful points and then do my best to let it go. (Side note: I think that's the first time in my life that I've ever used the word "glean.")

So, here we go!

I had this awesome friend. (Uh oh, past tense. So you can see where this is headed...)

She was so, so awesome. She always told me, even years before I ever started trying to conceive, that I was going to be the best mom. She was a mom herself, loved the role and her daughter so much. We daydreamed about us both being parents and raising our kids together. In fact, we were hoping she would get pregnant with her second the same time I got pregnant with my first. But you know how life goes... Instead, she got divorced and I learned I was infertile.

Still, we supported each other. We made time for each other. We really had a lot of fun just sitting and talking in each other's backyards. It's the simple things that really are the greatest.

After I had been trying for a couple of years she gently encouraged me to see a doctor. Then when I decided to try fertility treatments, she was my biggest cheerleader. It was such a difficult time for me. I was so raw and wounded and profoundly sad. I didn't tell anyone about my treatments because I didn't have the strength to deal with people's well-intentioned, yet incredibly insensitive and often hurtful, comments. But I told her. I trusted her. And she was the awesome friend I needed at that time. I will always be thankful for that.

Well, as we all know, the fertility treatments did not result in pregnancy for me. I don't like to say they failed, because I got to go through all the steps. I got to try the treatments, my follicles grew, we gathered a couple of eggs, they fertilized, and we were able to return them inside of me. But I've never been pregnant.

It's weird. I knew a lot of people couldn't support someone who is infertile. Either they don't know how or my reality made them too uncomfortable or they were busy with their own lives, I don't know. But support for someone going through infertility is extremely rare. This friend I'm telling you about was a gem.

But what I didn't know was that some people can't support you once you somewhat realize you can't have children. And this friend was like that. She could rally for me all day long as I tried and tried treatments and tried acupuncture and diet changes and vitamins and supplements, but it was beyond her capacity to support me as a woman who was not going to be a mother.

She and I tried. After all of my unsuccessful fertility treatments, my husband and I (well, really, me, my husband was getting over the whole thing by this point, but he kept going for my sake) kept trying the good old fashioned way for another year and a half. I thought maybe he and I would be one of those couples that got pregnant years later after everything else didn't work. My friend remained hopeful and optimistic. But I never got pregnant.

That's when things got weird. I wasn't pregnant and there was nothing I could do about it. I was grieving and it was extremely difficult for me. I was reading blogs written by women who were living life after infertility and I started thinking about what my life would be like if I never became a mother.

I guess that's where her support ended. It really took me by surprise. Here was the one friend who I felt had stood by me through everything and now this friendship was fading too. And then I got my feelings hurt. We were out having a couple of beers on a gorgeous day when she was sharing with me how upset she was that she only had one child. I never thought about it before, but all of her friends had two or more kids. I said something along the lines of, "Huh, you *are* the only person you know with an only child." And she replied, "Yes, it's hard. But then I think of you and remember it could always be worse."




Uh... I didn't even know what to say to that. I don't remember what I said to that. But it stung. Bad.

My life is so much worse? Well, dang, why don't I just give up now??

In that same afternoon she was encouraging me to pursue adoption. But then she followed it by saying she could never love an adopted child as much as she loved her "own" daughter, that it was important for her to carry the child to develop that maternal bond.

Again...  Uh... Okay...

Like I said, it got weird. I don't even know.

I continued the friendship for a little while longer, even though part of me deep down knew it wasn't working anymore. Our visits got less and less frequent. I noticed on social media that she only hung out with other moms. And once I stoppped reaching out every month or so, I just never heard from her.

So. Weird.

I will always be grateful for her support during the darkest time in my life. I wish we were still friends like we used to be. But, life has weird ways of changing. I am not a mother, I am not pursuing motherhood, and my former friend and I have grown apart.

I wish this was the only friendship that has faded away during my struggle with infertility, but, unfortunately, there are many. But this is the only friendship that faded away in this manner.

I don't even know how to end this post. I have no closing words, other than that situation took me by surprise and the whole thing was very weird. I wish her well.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Other People's Pregnancies

I'm skipping another party today.

This one is for a gender reveal party.

I can't stand the idea of a gender reveal party.

First of all, to be more accurate, they should be called sex reveal parties. Gender is a social construct. Sex refers to anatomy. Second of all, it kills me that people start gender socialization before the baby is even born.

At least with this friend I could joke about it. When she told me she was pregnant, she told me in the funniest and most thoughtful way. She knows about my infertility and lifelong desire to have children, and I will always be grateful for how she shared her news of pregnancy with me. In fact, I noticed that she told me before she announced on social media. A little consideration goes a long way.

When she invited me to her gender reveal party, I told her it should be called a sex reveal party. She agreed but said she didn't feel comfortable inviting her friends and family to her baby's "genital reveal party" so she was just gonna stick with the regular "gender reveal party" title. Hahaha. She has a great sense of humor.

Because of all of this (how she told me, her awareness of gender/sex, and the fact that she's just so cool), I thought about going to this party. I was added to the event invite on social media and I RSVP'd with a Maybe.

I couldn't do it.

Because of the nature of the event invite being on social media, I could see every update to the event and everyone's comments about it. Everyone is SO excited. As they should be. This is a super cool couple and they have a ton of friends. But, me personally, I was having a hard time with all of their comments and mommy advice and everything. And my friend is very excited as well. As she should be. But when she posted her fourth ultrasound picture, I knew I couldn't do it. I changed my RSVP from Maybe to Can't Make It and quickly left the event invite.

It's going to be a fun party. There will be a lot of interesting people there. And they are going to have a nacho bar. But my absence will in no way diminish my friend's happiness. And I have to do what's best for me.

I can't be a part of other people's pregnancies. And that's okay.

My life is going in a different direction.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Getting Closer to Resolution

Well, I've got a midterm later today that I haven't yet studied for because I've been so busy with class and assignments. And then another midterm tomorrow. I feel short on time... So of course I'm going to log in and jot down a quick post. :)

I feel like I am getting closer to resolution. I know I will still have my ups and downs. I know I am still grieving. But I also know that I like my life now. I like what I'm doing and I like who is in it. I am excited when I think about the future. I don't take any of this for granted for even a second. I know how hard I've worked to get to this point.

The counselor at school asked me a good question. She asked, "What has been most helpful for you in your grieving process?" And I immediately listed off three things. I will share them with you now, in case they can help anyone else.

1. Selling my children's home

     It was time to go. That house, that neighborhood, that location- it was all meant for a different life. A life I wasn't having. It was way too big for the two of us. And that neighborhood made no sense for us if we weren't going to be having children. It was a gorgeous house, truly beautiful. But I could no longer walk by the nursery/storage room. I could no longer drive by the neighborhood park. I could no longer live there. Period. And I'm thankful that a large family full of children bought it, and I like to think that they are very happy there.

2. Deciding to celebrate the holidays differently

     This was a hard one for me. I love my family, the holidays, and seeing my family over the holidays. But it started to be very painful for me. I was living a nontraditional life, still grieving the loss of the traditional life I had planned, and it was jarring to jump into everyone's family lives and celebrate the holidays traditionally. I tried for several years, but this past year I knew I needed to try something different for my own mental health. My husband and I went to a special restaurant for Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law. And it was perfect! And we stayed home for Christmas instead of making a long drive for a quick overnight trip to see extended family. I missed my cousins, but I did not miss feeling like an outsider in my own family. At that point it was still too hard for me to be the only woman in the room without children. Maybe things will be different in the future; maybe they will not be. I will remain open and trust that I will know what's best for me each year.

3. Making new plans with my husband

     This is what helped me the most: coming up with new dreams with my husband. Since our first choice life didn't work out, we felt like we could choose almost anything for our second choice life. And our second choice is even starting to feel less and less like a consolation prize. We are really excited! About my new career. About where we want to move to. About how we envision the rest of our lives together. I could not have done this alone. Well, I could have. But it was more fun to rebuild my life with my partner. It helped me feel not so alone after the very alienating experience of infertility.

It has a taken me a long time to get to this point, and I don't think grieving and mourning are processes that can be rushed. It has been a ton of hard work, both physically and emotionally. But it has all been so, so worth it.

I am so thankful for my life, my loved ones, and my new dreams.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Success? What is this foreign concept?

Infertility almost broke me. It wore me down and eroded away my self-esteem, my self-confidence, and my belief that anything was ever going to work out again.

I couldn't get pregnant. I couldn't "get over it." My friendships were disappearing. My house was falling apart. I was sleeping too much and eating too little. I was incapable of making the smallest decision. I was unable to enjoy what I did have in life. And I absolutely could not envision any kind of future for myself.

I've written everything in this paragraph before, but when my fifth fertility treatment did not result in pregnancy (3 IUIs & 2 IVFs), I knew I was done. It was time to figure out how to climb out of my deep, dark, and lonely well. But first I took a week to just cry and stare at the wall. After that I decided to move. I could no longer live in the house I bought for my children. By chance, I saw a video that inspired me and I decided to apply to graduate school. I got in, we moved, we sold our house, and school started. And I hated it. The rental house had plumbing problems, rendering the kitchen useless, and school SUCKED.

At my wit's end, with nothing working out, I started a blog.

And with that blog, I started receiving some much needed encouragement. I received so much care, so much UNDERSTANDING, from complete strangers and I really started to heal.

I debated quitting school and just impractically running away somewhere, anywhere with my husband, but then I remembered things like the car payment and the electric bill would need to be paid wherever we went. So I stayed. I decided I'd rather fail out than quit school, so I kept waking up in the morning, showering, getting dressed, and showing up.

But I was pretty sure I was going to fail. My school program is in the healthcare field and I don't feel like I have a science-y, biology-inclined brain. I'm great with people, not so much with dry textbooks. It was an uphill battle. Not only was school extremely difficult, but I was still grieving. And grief manifests in many different ways physically: fatigue, apathy, stomach aches, inability to concentrate (just to name a few).

And now?
After completing my first semester and making it halfway through the second semester?

Drumroll please...

I have been inducted into my future profession's honor society!!!!!

I am giddy with joy.
I am proud of myself.
I am thankful for your encouragement.

I am experiencing a very weird and foreign concept: success!

As I've written before, I will keep going. :)