Friday, March 30, 2018

My 3rd Survivor Anniversary

Last Friday I celebrated my 3rd Survivor Anniversary. On my 1st Survivor Anniversary I'm pretty sure I spent the day in bed crying. I honestly don't remember, but I'm pretty sure it was spent doing something like that. Then I wrote about my 2nd anniversary last year. And now I've lived through my 3rd anniversary. But let's take it back to three years ago...

On March 23, 2015 the nurse called to tell me that my latest round of IVF did not result in pregnancy. I was so exhausted and so depleted that I didn't even have any tears left to cry. I sat there numb and knew it was over. I could not go on "living" like I was. I put "living" in quotation marks because I wasn't really living. I was alive. My heart was pumping and I was breathing, but... That's about it. Like I've written before, I was walking death. A shell of my former self. I looked back at the last three years of my life and all of the time, money, and emotions I had put into everything, and I felt like I had nothing to show for it. All I could think was I wanted my life to be entirely different three years later from that point. And I knew it was going to be by far the hardest thing that I had ever done.

I always wondered what my life would look like on March 23, 2018. And then the day came.

I was 1500 miles away from home, on a school-related adventure by myself, studying for a whole week under my mentor. It was an awesome opportunity and an incredible experience.

But more than that, it was a miracle.

Not only was I alive, I was LIVING. And not only was I living, but I was HAPPY. Three years ago, I didn't think that would ever be possible again. I figured I would figure something out and go on about my life, but I was not expecting to ever feel truly happy again. I just wanted to do something different with my life so I didn't feel like such a waste of space.

But I worked my ass off (and am still doing so), and here I am!

Like I wrote last year:
I am a survivor.
I am free.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sick of Nightmares

I am so chatty (bloggy?) this week. I guess I'm just encountering a lot of material...

Last night I had a vivid dream. Nightmare. Is there a word for something in between a dream and a nightmare? Oh, that might be a good title for a novel or an album: In Between a Dream and a Nightmare. That's actually kind of how I feel right now. I am in between my new life that I am creating (a dream) and the living hell that was infertility while trying to conceive (my nightmare). Anyway, I digress...

So last night I had a very vivid dream/nightmare. I was a mother. Apparently I had adopted a baby named Olivia. I'm not sure where that name came from because it was never on my baby name list, but it's a very nice name nonetheless. She was cute and tiny and babbled a lot. She had bright eyes and a big smile. She loved me and I loved her. I held her in my arms and she fell asleep on my chest. She even had a dirty diaper that I was not quite sure how to change but I managed. It was all very, very real.

And then I woke up.
Empty arms, quiet house, and a bit depressed.

Why do these nightmares keep happening?? I haven't had one in a long time. Last night seemed to be out of the blue. I know I am not going to be a parent. I have resolved my infertility without children. I am moving forward and working hard to create a life that I want to live. In this moment it feels like I have made no emotional progress.

I try not to think about having children, as that is not a healthy line of thinking for myself. I tried. It didn't happen. I had to stop letting this single-minded effort consume me. I HAD to move on if I didn't want to lose everything else along with my children: my marriage, my sanity, and myself.

So it would be really nice if I never had another one of these dreams/nightmares again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"But you lost your children."

I was having lunch with a friend yesterday. We worked together, oh wow, fifteen years ago (time freakin' flies) and always stayed in touch. She knows my story. She also has two boys of her own that I have watched grow from young elementary school kids to young men in their early twenties.

We were talking about my upcoming move, which has been a plan almost three years in the making. She is sad I'm moving but understands why. I had a different life planned for here. Now I'm going to live a different life somewhere else, somewhere that offers me more of what I'm looking for. My current place is a great place to raise children, but now I'm looking for a place that offers more things that appeal to me.

There are various groups throughout the world, though not nearly enough, designated for women without children. I haven't found one where I currently live, but I did find one where I plan to move. I was excitedly telling my friend about it, saying I can meet these women, invest my time in getting to know them, and know that they won't be having children which would then take our lives in different directions.

As she was listening, my friend said, "But you lost your children."

Wow. I stopped mid-conversation. I had never had something like that said to me.

What she meant was that I wanted children and the women in this group might be childless by choice. She was concerned that I still wouldn't find the connection I was looking for. That never crossed my mind, but I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of her. I explained that these women get together regularly for happy hours, fun excursions, and volunteer activities. I said a lot of them are probably childless by choice, but I bet there's at least one or two that were in a situation like mine, worked through it, and resolved to live a life without parenting. Then she got it, understanding that it was a social group and not a support group, and she was very excited for me.

But back to her comment. My previous post was about how fertile people never seem to get it and here was my friend who has two sons that she loves with all of her heart saying the most true thing that has ever been said to me: I did indeed lose my children. It was so validating to hear it from her and my heart swelled with joy that someone outside of me understood my experience in these terms.

I could barely believe my ears. I haven't even heard as much as an "I'm sorry" from a fertile friend or family member and here was my friend expressing my loss for what it really was. I was in awe and I was so grateful. And it was a nice contrast from what we are all so used to hearing that I just had to share it with you.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Talking to a Fertile Woman

I don't talk about infertility very often with other people, especially not with people that have kids. Yesterday I made an exception. I was hanging out with a friend and one of her friends. I had met her a couple of times before and really enjoyed her company. I felt fine saying things around her, so I spoke freely without guarding what I said. What I mean is infertility completely changed my life and I wouldn't be back in school nor would I be moving if life had gone as I had hoped. But I'm so used to censoring myself around others that I do it without conscious thought. However, when I feel like I'm around "safe" people, I feel like I can speak honestly and openly without editing my experiences.

This woman is in an interesting spot. Her relationship of 20 years is rocky. Her son is almost finished with his 10th grade year of high school. She shared with us that she spent most of the last two decades being a wife and a mom. Now she wasn't sure her marriage was going to make it and she knew her son was growing up and would be out of the house in two years. She was wondering what she wanted out of life, what she was going to do next.

It seemed to make sense to share that, although our situations were different, I was in a similar position several years ago. I told her I wanted kids my whole life but when it became apparent that it wasn't going to happen for me, I got extremely depressed and thought "Now what." Like her, I didn't know what to do with my life.

I felt safe in speaking honestly. I didn't feel self-conscious. My only concern was that I hoped my comparison didn't bother her at all. I mean, I have a secure relationship and her lack of one is one of her current struggles. But I thought that maybe the fact that she did have a child and I didn't, that it balanced out our circumstances. Thankfully, she didn't seem offended or bothered or anything.

But she did almost immediately say, "What about adoption?" To which I replied, "Tried that."

(I've posted about this before, but when I say I "tried" adoption I did not get very far in the process at all. After extensively researching agencies I found one that I wanted to work with. Then they went bankrupt. It shook my confidence to the core. I didn't know how I could trust another agency after the one I had spent so much time looking into had just left so many families hanging--no child and now no money. Plus, that was the last little bit of energy I had. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't live in limbo and, after all of the heartbreaking years, I couldn't keep trying to parent anymore.)

I shared with her that adoption wasn't as easy as everyone thought. That a lot of things had changed in society, which was good, and it was no longer shameful for women to be single mothers. That adoption was very expensive, that it was a very long wait, that it wasn't guaranteed, that there were more people wanting to adopt than there were babies available for adoption, and that I knew more people who had tried to adopt unsuccessfully than had been successful.

Without pause she asked, "What about surrogacy?"

At this point I looked at my friend and she and I exchanged looks. This friend knows everything. She was my rock during the years I was going through it all. We've had many discussions about the weird things people say to me and the questions that I'm asked. Also, this friend doesn't have children and understands the pro-natalist bias of society as well.

But my friend's friend wasn't being rude. I didn't feel an ounce of judgment from her. I felt like she knew I wanted to be a parent and it was almost as if she wanted to fix my problem for me. But I also didn't want to explain myself or educate her any further.

I said, "No. We're not going to do that. The whole situation is closed now and I've moved on with my life." The woman accepted this and didn't ask any more questions.

I think she was just genuinely curious and I was the one who brought the whole topic up by being forthcomingly honest. I could tell I was in such a different place compared to years past because her questions didn't anger or hurt me. But they did reinforce the idea that fertile people just really have no idea. They do not understand the toll infertility takes at all.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


Failure is never fun. It never feels good. Especially when you've put your blood, sweat, and tears into your endeavors and have given it your all.

I almost failed high school chemistry. I just didn't understand the subject. And my teacher didn't know more than one way to explain the concepts. I kept doing my homework and studying for the tests, not understanding anything. To this day, I have no idea how I passed.

My first semester in college I had to take chemistry as part of the requirements for my biology major. I was really, really dreading it. But on the first day of class the professor explained his "No Fail" contract. If you went to every class and every review session, turned in every homework assignment on time, and kept a daily journal about what you did and didn't understand from lecture and turned it in at the end of the semester, you were guaranteed at least a D. I was relieved! It was actually going to be impossible for me to fail the course!! So, despite failing every homework assignment and every exam, I kept showing up. I went to all of the review sessions, again not understanding anything. I wrote in my journal every day after class about what the topics were and what I did not understand--which was, you guessed it, everything, but I tried to write in detail about what and how I did not understand. Then at the end of the semester he never asked for our signed contracts or our journals. So I looked up where his office was and trekked over to a part of campus I had never seen and to a building I had never been in. I nervously knocked on his door and he said to come in. I walked in to see a stereotypical scene, a professor writing furiously at his desk surrounded by piles and piles of papers everywhere. He said, "Yes?" obviously not recognizing me. (Chemistry was a very large class.) I said, "You never asked for our No Fail contracts or our journals in class, so I brought you mine to turn in." He stared at me for a second and said, "You did that?" And right then I knew I was the first student he'd had that had ever fulfilled the requirements of the contract. I said, "Well, yes. I don't want to fail the class." He said okay and asked my name and asked me for my journal, trying to find a spot in his office where he could set it down. I shared that chemistry was a difficult subject for me and thanked him for offering the No Fail contract. He smiled, said "you're welcome," and almost seemed entertained by me (but not in a condescending way). And you know what? After failing everything all semester, I got a C! I think by just doing all the requirements of the contract, he bumped my grade up from an F to a C. That is, by far, the grade I am most proud of in my life.

Which brings me to my biology course... It was the first class required for my biology major and the reason why I had to take chemistry in the first place. After going to every class and doing all of the readings, I still, yep, failed every exam. I was very concerned. I had wanted to be a marine biologist since I was a little kid, but how could I if I was failing the basic entry-level biology course? I went and talked to the professor. Who was also the head of the department. To say I was intimidated is an understatement. But he was very friendly and approachable and spent a good amount of time talking with me. Our meeting concluded with him basically saying to do whatever I wanted but he didn't think my calling was to be a biologist. Without putting me down at all, he encouraged me to explore other avenues. I took his advice and enrolled in the most random collection of classes the next semester in an effort to find something I felt passionate about learning. Not understanding the course numbering system, I inadvertently signed up for a senior level sociology course. And I loved it. After turning in our first assignment, the professor asked me what other sociology courses I had taken because she didn't recognize my name. I admitted I was a freshman but requested to stay in the class, assuring her that I knew it was my hardest class that semester and I was committed to putting in the time and the work it required. She let me stay and it was one of my most favorite classes of my life. I had found my new major.

So I've experienced failure. I've experienced disappointment. I've experienced having to change the course of my life when what I was doing wasn't working out.

But nothing prepared me for my "failure" to parent. Nothing.

Losing your children does not compare to failing a class. Not getting to parent and changing your entire life because of it does not compare to changing your major, even if you thought your career was going to be in one field your whole life and then it ended up being in a completely different field. There is no comparison between infertility and anything else.

But here I am. I survived. I survived two and a half years of taking my temperature every morning. I survived over four years of getting my period every month. I survived countless blood draws, injections, and ultrasounds. I survived five failed fertility treatments. I became an expert at failure.

And now I am failing my pediatrics course. Yes, after over 20 years of experience working with children, I am failing pediatrics. Yes, after digging deeper than I ever thought possible to find the will to engage in the world again and recreate my life, I am failing one of my last classes in my last semester of coursework.

I am stressed. I am angry. I am concerned.

I have attempted to set up a conference with the professor, but nothing has been scheduled yet. My classmates keep trying to tell me that it is fine, that it will all work out and that I will pass. But I cannot sit idly by, doing nothing, after everything I've been through.

There is no reason I should be failing. I blame the poorly designed assignments and the extremely poorly written exams. But here I am. I am failing the class.

Just like in the past, I will keep showing up. I will study my butt off for the rest of the semester. I will try to meet with the professor to express my concerns, and I am absolutely documenting my efforts to do so. I am keeping all of my study notes I have written as proof of my efforts and hard work. I will not go down without a fight.

I think I will pass.
I will be okay if I don't.
I am still going to move to a different state, and I am still moving on with my life.

Just like I've done with everything else so far, I will survive.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Another Day, Another Insult

I woke up Tuesday morning and as I got ready to go to school I thought, "I wonder how I will be insulted today?" Sad, isn't it? That I've just come to expect it now...

My question was answered within the first hour of class.

We were discussing a research article and a classmate made the observation that the condition being studied was more prevalent in mothers 30 years old and older. The classmate shared, "This makes me nervous because I am getting close to 30." So regardless of what comments, if any, followed my classmate's comment, the fact is she just shared a very personal (and some would even say very private) worry with our class. And what does the professor do? She blasts all of us, effectively shutting everyone down. I saw it happen before my very eyes. Not only that one classmate, but at least a quarter of the class immediately stopped participating in discussion. And then the professor had the gall to tell us that we were "awfully quiet this morning, even more quiet than usual." Wow. Talk about not being able to read a room... Additionally, talk about being a thoughtless and insensitive person... So what was it that the professor said?

The professor (weirdly looking directly at me, more on that later) said:
"It's a major problem when women wait until they're 35 to have their first child."

She said that.
I can't even make this stuff up.

So... Let's unpack this...

  • As I said above, my classmate just shared with the class a very personal concern of hers regarding a very sensitive issue and the professor provided no support and instead fueled her fears.
  • My professor, who is not a medical doctor, stated her opinion extremely strongly and aggressively even though it was not necessary or even directly related to what we were discussing that day.
  • My professor played into the fears that a lot of my classmates have, who are delaying getting pregnant because they are in this graduate program where we have been explicitly instructed not to get pregnant. (That in itself is messed up. I've said it before, but you cannot dictate other people's reproductive timelines.)
  • The professor went on to talk about how women are the most fertile in their teens and early 20s and that it wasn't right that so many women "waited." First of all, I would bet a million dollars that this same woman would judge any teen pregnancy HARD. Don't have them too early (irresponsible), but don't have them too late (idiot), am I right? UGH!!!
  • Furthermore, does she really think all people CHOOSE to WAIT? Maybe people don't want to have children until they can, oh I don't know, afford food, clothing, and shelter. Not to mention day care, health insurance, a car, car insurance, and everything else that costs money and adds up quick. Maybe some people don't meet their partner that they want to have a family with until they are 30 or 40. Maybe they spent their 20s overcoming an addiction or an eating disorder or cancer. Maybe a million other things that are out of people's control...


I was disgusted. Of course, I had a visceral reaction. My body immediately got warm, and, even though her comments and attitude were so outrageous they didn't even warrant a reaction from me, I still got angry. I looked down, took some deep breaths, sent out love to all of my classmates whose fears were just preyed upon, and pictured my husband who has told me repeatedly, "Just don't cuss anyone out. You are almost done with these classes. Those professors are not worth your time or energy."

I said nothing. I am not here to argue with her. I am not here to educate her on the intricacies involved in the wrong assumptions about childlessness. I am here to learn as much as I can for my future profession (which apparently includes experiencing how I do NOT want to treat my future patients). I am here to keep my head down, mouth shut, and graduate. I cannot fix the culture of that terrible place. Not when the professors hold all the power and have no accountability to anyone.

But later I was thinking about how she looked directly at me when she said it. Now I know I can be hypersensitive, maybe even a little paranoid, but I have come a very long way in my recovery. I don't personalize everything anymore. I have lowered my expectations. I know this world doesn't understand my reality and when people say their ignorant comments it is about them and not about me. But I still thought about how she looked right at me. And then later that day while I was exercising, it clicked.

She knows.
She knows I wanted children and she knows I don't have them.
And she is blaming me.

What a terrible, unhappy person.

I put a couple of pieces of information together in my head. I wasn't doing this consciously. I really want to spend as little energy as possible on those professors and that educational institution. I just want to learn the academic material and graduate with my degree. But my subconscious put it all together and the realization just rose to the top.

There was a short essay I wrote first semester. There was an email I sent second semester. There were the innocuous comments I made when participating in class discussions. I have never explicitly stated anything, but, regardless of her negative traits, she is a very smart woman. She connected the dots and you cannot convince me that she doesn't know, at least in vague terms, that my not having children wasn't my choice.


And this makes her cruel and evil.

I have nothing to say to her. I have no points to make. I will not change her mind. But what I can do is reach out to my classmates and agree with them that this woman is not a nice person. We are all sticking together to get through what has been an extremely disappointing experience.

I am fine. Don't worry about me. The situation has reached a point of ridiculousness that it's not even hurting my feelings anymore. I've told all of my classmates that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation in a future job that they should just quit. This is not normal; this is not okay.

Have I mentioned that I'm looking forward to finishing my coursework?