Jealousy

Infertility has made me feel like *everyone else has kids* and I don’t. (This isn’t even all in my head either… most people do have children) Families with children are all over the place: nearly every book or article I read mentions families with children; everywhere I go — from stores and restaurants to hiking trails or airports — I run into families with children; and on every social media site I visit, I see babies, children, and pregnant women. I feel like the world reminds me all the time that I do not have children and *everyone else does*. And I’m jealous.

Infertility is feeling jealous of complete strangers who I see out and about with their pregnant bellies or their children. Other people would look right past the pregnant mom at Target, or the family with kids at the grocery store, but I see them and despite looking away or trying to look past them, their mere presence has already upset me. As I turn green with envy, my internal voice cries out, “Why them and not me?!”

Infertility is feeling jealous of people I know and people I love — my friends and family who have children. I’m happy that their families are growing and I’m glad that they aren’t in the kind of pain I’m in… but infertility is overwhelming, profound sadness for myself and jealousy that they have children. I certainly do not wish infertility on my loved ones, but that does not stop me from feeling jealous that their routes to parenthood have been smooth and infertility-free. I’m jealous that they are rapidly growing their families and enjoying their children. I feel so heartbroken and left out.

Infertility is feeling jealous of the whole experience my loved ones are having with their children — even the parts they complain about. It’s so hard to be left behind while *everyone else* moves on to parenthood. I wish I had a child like everyone else.

Infertility is feeling jealous watching children interact with people and their world. I feel jealous seeing children play, laugh, and smile with their parents and their grandparents. I feel jealous of the bonding that is taking place. I feel jealous when milestones are reached and holidays and birthdays are celebrated. I wish all these things could be happening for me and my child, and I’m afraid that they never will. My heart breaks with sadness for who and what I’m missing.

Infertility is feeling jealous of the kinds of things my loved ones with children are studying and learning to cope with in their lives. I wish I were reading about pregnancy, childbirth, and how to best parent my newborn/toddler/growing child, instead of reading about infertility and pregnancy loss. I wish I were tired from pregnancy or from the demanding schedule of being a parent, instead of being exhausted from disappointment, heartache, and treatments.

Infertility is feeling jealous of the activities my loved ones are doing with their children. I wish I were taking my child to music class, soccer, or playdates, instead of going to endless doctor’s appointments, lab appointments, and infertility support group.

Jealousy is a hard part of infertility… it mixes with my grief, anger, and isolation, resulting in a terrible combination that makes me feel absolutely miserable and sick inside. I know comparing my experience to someone else’s is not productive; I know asking “why?” is not productive; but knowing those things does not make them stop. Feelings of jealousy do not go away just because I don’t like them… and all feelings are valid — even jealousy. So what do I do to cope with it?

Well, to start with, I know a lot of the things that trigger jealousy, so I try to avoid those things. For example, we prefer to go to the grocery store after dinner, when families with children are typically at home. I avoid reading books that I suspect will upset me. I avoid facebook and other social media sites that trigger me, and I’m very careful about who and what I follow and like. I say “no” to social engagements, especially when I’m feeling really vulnerable.

However, it is not always possible to avoid everything that might trigger jealousy. So when it strikes, I acknowledge it and work through it. I might write about what I’m feeling or talk about it with a safe person. If I’m in a social situation I might need to leave the room to give myself some space, or leave the gathering completely. When I’m jealous of strangers, I try to remember that I do not know their story — maybe their path to parenthood has not been as easy as it appears… perhaps that pregnancy is a result of IVF, or maybe those kids were adopted. And at the end of every day I give myself some perspective too — I practice gratitude and write down things I’m thankful for from that day.

Even though I know that someone else’s success growing their family doesn’t reduce my chances of having children, it is still hard to accept the feeling that everyone else but me has kids. Infertility has turned on some kind of hyper-aware-of-children radar in me, and activated a jealous streak that I didn’t even really know I had, but it’s there now. I just try to keep it in check.

For more reading about jealousy, please visit:
http://www.scarymommy.com/infertility-jealousy/
https://www.fertilityauthority.com/blog/amira-posner/2015/1/27/6-coping-techniques-handling-jealousy-infertility

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Anger

Infertility is anger.

I’m angry that I’m experiencing infertility and that all of this is happening to me.
I’m angry that I lost a pregnancy.
I’m angry that we don’t have a baby yet.
I’m angry that my transferred embryos didn’t implant and survive.
I’m angry that our IVF didn’t result in more frozen embryos.
I’m angry that I’ve endured months of treatments with no success.
I’m angry that infertility treatments are expensive and not covered by insurance.
I’m angry that everywhere I go I am reminded that I don’t have children.
I’m angry when I feel misunderstood.
I’m angry when someone offers a quick fix to my infertility.
I’m angry when someone tells me to enjoy my freedom from the burdens of parenthood.
I’m angry because this was not part of my plan.
I’m angry because infertility sucks and I don’t deserve it.
I’m angry at the world for being unfair and miserable.
I’m angry because I think I’d be a good mom, but I can’t seem to get there.

There are a lot of things about infertility that REALLY tick me off. This is just the tip of the iceberg… Get me going too much and I’ll raise my voice and shake my fist at the world!! INFERTILITY IS ANGER.

But no matter how angry I get, I can’t go around all the time being angry and shaking my fist at the world. So I’ve found that part of my infertility is finding ways to deal with my anger. I’ve never had much anger before, but infertility brings up a lot of it… so it’s important for me to address my anger appropriately. I need to feel it and release it in a safe way and safe space.

Infertility anger is wanting to yell or scream or tell someone off, but instead it is remaining as calm as I can be and biting my tongue in the moment, and then later ranting to a safe audience… Sometimes I talk to trusted loved ones, my support group, or therapist. Often I privately write about what is making me angry and let all of my feelings out. SOMETIMES I USE ALL CAPS OR CURSE ABOUT WHAT’S MAKING ME ANGRY. (Fun fact: people who swear tolerate pain better.)

Infertility anger is wanting to break things, but instead it is exercising and working energy out of my system in a positive way… To feel strong and controlled I might go to kick-boxing or weight-lifting. To find balance and quiet my mind I might go to yoga or take a walk.

Sometimes dealing with my anger means finding humor (usually dark humor) that hits on what’s upsetting me and makes me laugh. Not many fertile people seem to understand my infertility humor, but I don’t really care… sometimes laughing about infertility is the release and relief I need, whether or not anyone else gets it.

The anger that comes with my infertility comes and goes. More often than not, my prevailing emotion is grief… but anger takes charge every now and then. And at times when I’ve been angry, I’ve had people tell me that I shouldn’t feel angry about my infertility, that I shouldn’t feel angry when someone upsets me, and so on… but that’s just not right. Emotions aren’t right or wrong, good or bad — my reaction to my emotions might be good or bad, but simply having the feelings isn’t right or wrong. What I feel is what I feel, and that’s okay. Pretending emotions aren’t there won’t make them go away… so even if it’s unpleasant, I need to feel my anger and work through it in appropriate ways in order to move forward. Whether I like it or not, INFERTILITY IS ANGER.

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One day at a time

I wish I knew the secret to fixing a broken heart… But I don’t. Instead, I’m here with my heart shattered all over, trying to collect all of the pieces and put them back together; trying to make sense of this mess around me and the uncertainty of my future; trying to keep functioning, despite feeling broken, confused, and lost.

The embryo transfer after our IVF cycle did not result in a pregnancy. The grief resulting from this disappointment has been overwhelming, and I have had some really, really hard days since my negative pregnancy test last week. I knew going into IVF that I wasn’t guaranteed a pregnancy, but our odds were good and I was so hopeful… so ending up not pregnant has been a major blow.

IVF is such a huge undertaking. It’s an enormous and risky investment — emotionally and financially — and it’s very physically demanding. And standing on the other side of IVF, not pregnant, is… well… devastating.

In between episodes of intense grief, I feel numb. I go through the motions of my day, without real awareness or any enthusiasm I might normally have. I make jokes with my clients and try to smile… then I come home and stare at the wall. Friends offer to talk, and I decline. At this point in time, I simply have nothing to say and making small talk is unbearable. (Bear with me, loved ones; I won’t feel like this forever.) Matt does his best to accommodate me, asking what I need and how he can help. I’m so lost in my own grief, I rarely even think to ask how I might help him.

It’s almost easy to forget how hard bad days can be once they are over… I’ve had a lot of ups and downs during infertility (and in life…), and now that I’m having really, really hard days again I’m amazed that I’ve made it through days like this before. I look back at previous dark days and I wonder how the hell I got through them?

The only answer I can come up with is: one day at a time.

I don’t know the secret to getting through bad days. I don’t know the secret to fixing a broken heart. I don’t know the secret for surviving grief. But I know that all of these are experiences I must work through. There’s no detour for getting around this stuff. There are things I can do to help myself along the way… but in the end, the only way out of a hard experience is through it — one day at a time.

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Observations and Fun Facts

  1. During the stimulation phase of IVF, my cat and I were taking the same steroid. It was even the same dosage.

  2. I like to wear fun socks to amuse my doctor and nurses (and myself). During IVF there are many, many appointments, and my socks have been giving me something fun to look forward to each day… “What kind of conversation will my socks start today while I’m in the stirrups?”

  3. Human eggs hatch. I’m serious. After the egg is fertilized and begins to divide and grow, it needs to hatch in order to attach to the endometrium in the uterus. We employed the technique of assisted hatching to help the embryo implant after the transfer.

  4. It hurts a lot when an injection hits a nerve. Heating pads help.

  5. Bedrest doesn’t have to be boring. My mom has been a wonderful activity director during my bedrest — keeping me occupied with a rotation of activities like looking through magazines, watching Friends and movies, reading out loud to me, and taking time for phone calls, texting, and looking at kitties on instagram. And Matt has been a great chef, preparing yummy and healthy foods for me, in addition to making sure I have enough chocolate!
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Creativity

At the beginning of this year I decided that I would work on my hand lettering skills… I intended to pick a theme for each month, then letter and illustrate quotes in that theme, and post them on my other blog. For five months I stayed the course and I lettered some really nice quotes — quotes about new beginnings, love and friendship, life, home, and gardens. I drew pictures of flowers, bikes, and houses, and found new ways to design letters.

After my ectopic pregnancy, however, my lettering pretty much stopped. I have managed to letter a few here and there, but overall I’ve done very little practice since the beginning of June. I still have a large collection of quotes on a spreadsheet and I occasionally sit down with my materials and attempt to design something… but I don’t feel inspired like I used to. The ideas don’t come to me like they used to. I’ve abandoned a variety of attempts and not had the energy to start others.

I really wanted to letter something for Thanksgiving. Something on gratitude. I stared for days at gratitude quotes. Only one whispered any kind of an idea to me, and when I put pen to paper I failed to capture it. I closed my notebook and put my pens away. They’ll keep until I’m ready to letter again.

Another creative endeavor that’s currently on hold for me is scrapbooking… I usually love to scrapbook. But since my pregnancy it’s been really hard for me to even consider working on my scrapbooks. At this time I have so many complicated feelings about scrapbooking that I’m working on a blog post about it. Stay tuned.

Additionally, I’m no longer interested in playing my piano. I used to practice nearly every day, and now… I can’t even remember the last time I touched the keys. I actually had the piano tuned two weeks ago for the first time in over a year in hopes that I might get inspired soon and start playing again, but so far I haven’t played a single note.

Infertility, loss, and their close companion depression have seemingly killed my creativity.  And I hate it. I’ve tried so hard to not let infertility ruin everything, but it is sneaky and has managed to impact all kinds of things in my life — including limiting my ability to be creative in the ways I’m used to. I’m no longer inspired to create music or art or scrapbooks. I used to love these things and now the thought of doing them brings me no joy.

So what does a depressed, infertile, hurting girl do when her normal creative outlets aren’t inspiring, interesting, or enjoyable?

Well. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far for myself:

Let it be.

I don’t force it. I see no point in making myself work on a creative project if I’m not interested or inspired. Sometimes when I wish I were inspired, I go sit with my materials and see what happens. If inspiration strikes, I run with it (see my second to last point) and if not, I get up and do something else. I’m not happy that I haven’t scrapbooked more than two pages over the last six months, for example, but I’m not going to beat myself up about my lack of progress. It is what it is. I let it be.

Find other outlets for creativity.

At times it has been useful for me to find different ways to explore creativity. I don’t always have to be doing the same activities as I would normally do… infertility and loss are extreme experiences, so I think it’s ok if I change up other things in my life too. When I need a creative outlet and my “go-to” activities aren’t working, I look to what else I have enjoyed in the past or don’t do very often, or I try new activities.

Sometimes I color. I have a variety of coloring books — all gifts from loved ones — and sometimes coloring is just the thing I need for a calming, creative activity.  

Sometimes I crochet. This requires thinking of something to make, but when I’m inspired for a project, I’ve found that crocheting can be very soothing and enjoyable.

Sometimes I dabble in painting. I have taken a few painting classes with friends since June… you know — the kind where you sip on your wine and the instructor tells you which color to use next and where? Turns out those are pretty fun! In addition to canvas painting, I also painted some pottery this summer, and I love the mug I designed.

And sometimes I do something completely different: earlier this year I was inspired to create new playlists. I made playlist after playlist with different themes. My favorite one is a list that I named “this too shall pass”. It’s full of songs about getting through hard times and being ok. We also have a fun “wake up music” list with songs about the morning and waking up. There’s one called “pretty sweet” with songs about sugar, sweetness, and honey. We have lists called “dreamy” and “sky songs” and many more… Sorting through our music and creating new playlists was such a great project for me, and it’s been useful too — the lists have received lots of playtime on our stereo and iPods.

Find other activities to do.

Other times, I do something else entirely… Just because I’m normally pretty creative doesn’t mean I need to be creative all the time. Sometimes I need to do something else. Read. Take a walk. Watch a movie. Play a game. Sometimes my mind just needs a break or a change of scene or focus.

Run with it when inspiration strikes.

When inspiration does strike, I go with it. I try to take advantage of any and all inspiration when it presents itself. I’ve always kind of been like that, so I’ve had a lot of practice running with inspiration. I do feel like inspiration strikes less and less these days, but when it does hit, I switch gears as soon as I can and get working.

Give myself space.

When I look back over my time with infertility I sometimes feel guilty for having accomplished what feels like so little. My former self would have been working on this project and that project, and being useful and productive. But sitting with the grief of infertility and loss is hard, hard work. It’s demanding and exhausting. Sometimes I feel so depleted from dealing with everything in my reality that there’s just no room for anything else, and I have give myself time and space to heal. And by giving myself that space, I also think that I’m keeping myself open for inspiration to present itself, and that I’m open to my creativity even if it’s different from what I’m used to. I hope that in time, once I’ve had space to heal, some of my former creative endeavors will be enjoyable and meaningful again. And until then, we’ll see what else comes up.

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Coping This Christmas

christmas2016Well. It’s officially that time of year — the “most wonderful” time of year. Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I’ve always loved it. It is such a special time for families — being together, sharing meals and gifts. Baking cookies. Watching Christmas movies. Making snowmen. Driving around looking at lights. Going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service and singing carols. Drinking hot chocolate and playing games. It’s such a happy time of year.

At least for most people.

Not for me this year. Or last year. Or the year before. Christmas has become a sad time for us because it emphasizes family and traditions, and it marks another year gone without having children. Matt and I want so badly to have our own family to share traditions with, to make new memories with, and instead of being a joyous time, Christmas reminds us of what we are missing. Our hearts have been ready for children for years now, but instead of growing our family, our heartbreak grows. With each passing year of involuntary childlessness, the holiday season becomes more difficult.

The past two years I tried hard to stay joyful at Christmas, despite heartache. In 2014 and 2015 my family suffered some significant losses, and those in combination with our infertility made my holidays hard. But I pulled myself together and did my best to celebrate. I decorated my house, sent cards, and made cookies. We hosted parties, and visited with friends and family. I did my best to be happy, even though I was feeling more and more broken as the days passed.

Now for a third year I am still struggling with infertility. I have no baby to introduce to my family and no happy announcement to share. Instead, I have a pregnancy loss added to my list of losses, and I have the hard job of accepting that again my life is not where I’d hoped it would be a year ago.

I think back to a conversation I had in early June with my mom about how I’d be close enough to my due date by Christmas that I shouldn’t be traveling… But as it turns out I’m not lucky enough to still be pregnant, and we’re not staying here for the holidays. Instead of welcoming a baby into our home soon, we’re preparing for IVF. This month we’re having procedures done, having blood drawn and genetics tested, and waiting for financial estimates. And in the meantime, I’ve been searching for the right ornament to add to my collection to memorialize our lost baby. No surprise, there’s no good ornament for “lost baby 2016”.

So I’m having a hard time with Christmas this year, and I’ve decided that to make it more bearable, I’m going to make some changes. To start, I’m not going to pretend this year. Because things aren’t great right now for me. I’m not happy and there’s no point pretending otherwise. I’m distraught at what 2016 brought us and I’m so disappointed to be facing yet another holiday season feeling broken and lost. So instead of going through the motions of things we usually do and pretending that things are ok, I’m going to focus on what brings us joy. I’m trying to leave myself open to whatever strikes me as fun or meaningful. I’m not interested in doing things that we feel like we should do just because we’ve always done them or because someone expects it. I want to do what I can to find some happiness for us. For example, Matt and I have planned dates for the month to make sure that at least twice a week we’re doing something fun together. In addition to those planned dates, I’m going to make sure we watch the best of our favorite Christmas movies. And I’m only going to send out Christmas cards if I think it would make me happy. I’m only going to put out Christmas decorations that really bring me joy in that moment. I’m only going to put up a tree if I feel it would bring me more joy than pain…

image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/148689225171132468/
image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/148689225171132468/

In addition to focusing on activities that bring me joy, as I said in my fall post, I’m going to make sure I continue to practice self care. I have been doing that as best I can and I will keep it up. I’ve been outside walking and hiking, and going to the gym. I’ve treated myself to massages and manicures. I’ve been reading and writing. I’ve been saying “no” to social events when I need to,  and saying “yes” when I want to. I practice gratitude to find something good in everyday. I’m doing what I can to take care of myself — mind, body, and spirit.

And I’m going to make sure I give myself space to feel sad. Because not all things are going to bring me joy, and some Christmas traditions now make me really sad. I’m not going to pretend that I’m ok, because I’m not — I’m hurting. I will need to take time to check in with myself and give myself breaks and quiet time. I ask in advance that my family accept that I’m in a sad place. Holidays during infertility and after loss are painful, and I’m carrying a lot of pain right now. You don’t have to feel sad too, but please respect where I am with my grief.

Another thing we’re doing this year is rewarding ourselves — after visiting our families we’re going to take a trip with some friends to a city we’ve never visited and ring in the new year with them. We will see the sights, eat good food, and we will toast to our survival of this miserable year and hope together that 2017 will be better.

After writing all of these things down it seems like maybe I’m being a little bit selfish this Christmas season, but I really don’t think I am…. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. And besides, if we can’t care for ourselves or show love to ourselves, then how can we possibly care for or love others? If our vessel is empty, how do we expect to pour from it? I believe that by focusing on myself and Matt, we will better be able to survive this tough time; that we will be able to create some joy together, share some happiness with others, and find more things for which to be grateful.

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Looking for Rainbows

looking for rainbowsAt support group once we were talking about how we are not our infertility and how we can identify ourselves separate from our infertility…. And I understand that on a rational level, but I argued that it’s not how it feels. I may not *be* my infertility, but it *is* a part of me and one that I can’t get away from, although I wish I could. I explained that sometimes I think of infertility and loss like my own personal cloud… From day to day, the forecast might change, but it’s always there.

Sometimes my cloud is far away, puffy and light, and I can more easily focus on the good things in my life — the spots of sun and blue skies. Sometimes my cloud is looming over me, and sometimes it’s actively storming and I try not to drown in the torrential downpour of grief. Often I feel like it’s partly cloudy with a chance of scattered storms. But no matter how close or how big the cloud is, the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss is with me nearly all the time, following me around.

In the baby loss community, some people use the term “rainbow babies” for babies who are born after the loss of an infant or a pregnancy. The idea is that a rainbow baby brings hope and joy after the storm of grief experienced after the loss of a baby. I frequently see in descriptions of the phrase that the rainbow doesn’t negate the storm, and it doesn’t mean the parents are done dealing with the aftermath, but that the rainbow offers hope, energy, and color in the midst of the darkness.

I was not aware of the phrase “rainbow baby” until one of our support group meetings… and since I learned about it I became pregnant myself, and then had to say goodbye to our baby. So I’ve had some time to think about rainbow babies. I’ve had some unsuccessful treatment cycles since our loss too… Overall, I feel like our experience has allowed me to gain some perspective on the meaning and feelings associated with the phrase. Additionally, I’ve done a little research and reading on it, and talked about it with a few people close to me… and I have some thoughts I’d like to share.

My first thought is that I hate the idea that my lost baby caused a storm or was a storm. Our baby was, and still is, surrounded by love, and I do not like the idea that someone so loved, so missed, and so very innocent, would be blamed for the grief that followed her death. Comparing my lost pregnancy to a storm surrounds our baby with negative feelings, and that makes me sad. Because of this association with the negative, many people refuse to use the phrase “rainbow babies” — it essentially names the lost baby as the storm. Still Mothers, for example don’t use the term. And I understand why. I don’t like the negative connotations either.

But nonetheless, the loss of my pregnancy was filled with grief and pain, and describing the overwhelming emotions as a storm seems, to me, to be a pretty good metaphor, especially considering how even before our loss I felt like my infertility was a cloud following me around. What helps me to move past the negative feelings about the storm is knowing that our baby wasn’t the storm and didn’t cause the storm. What happened in my pregnancy wasn’t the baby’s fault — it just happened, and we will never know why. The storm wasn’t her presence, but it is grieving her absence. In fact, her presence in our lives was joyful, even though it was short lived. And knowing she was here still gives me hope for us. In a way, I think she was like a rainbow for us even though she didn’t survive, even though she wasn’t a traditional “rainbow baby”… after trying to conceive for two years, we finally managed to create a life — she was our miracle. The grief after our loss has been enormous, but the love we have for our lost one and the hope we have for our future is still there.

Once I start to move beyond the negative feelings about the storm and what it actually is — the grief — I can see great beauty and symbolism in the phrase “rainbow baby”.  The beauty of rainbows and the hope for joy and sunshine in the future resonates with me. And when I see and hear about other people’s rainbow babies (e.g., here  and here) it gives me hope for us. I so want to be able to bring home a healthy baby, and knowing that others have successfully brought home healthy babies after loss helps to keep me hopeful that it might happen for us too.

I also think the phrase is a special way to acknowledge and honor the previous life that was lost, while celebrating the new life. If I were ever pregnant with a new baby or were so lucky to bring home a healthy baby, mentioning that the baby is a rainbow baby would be a way for me to acknowledge that it was my second pregnancy. It would be a way for me to remember and honor my lost baby while also celebrating our new baby. I know it’s not the only way to honor and acknowledge the loss, but I think it’s a sweet way of doing it.

All of that said, another reaction I’ve had to the phrase “rainbow baby” is awareness that the phrase can be alienating and hurtful, because not everyone who has experienced baby or pregnancy loss will go on to have a rainbow baby — not everyone gets a rainbow. For various reasons, a couple may not have another opportunity to bring home a healthy baby of their own. So then, in a community that should be supportive and inclusive, talking about rainbow babies can hurt and alienate grieving parents. However, I also think that the fact that some loss parents go on to have healthy children and some don’t is still going to be divisive. I suspect that some pain will always be present whether or not the phrase “rainbow baby” is used. Therefore, I think that no matter what we call a baby after loss, we need to be mindful and sensitive of the fact that some people are not so lucky.

I also believe that to promote more widespread healing we can start to think about rainbows in more ways than one; I think that that the phrase “rainbow baby” has some room for improvement. The writer of the Still Standing post above said, “Let’s stop pretending the best way to heal is to feel the redemption of birthing a healthy baby and recognize that sometimes healing has to come solely from within.” And I think she’s onto something, but I want to expand on it — I do think healing has to come from within, but I also think that there are sources of encouragement, hope, and joy outside of ourselves that can aid in our healing. I think a new baby is one kind of rainbow that might bring loss parents color, energy, and hope, but it is not the only one. I still hope that one of my rainbows is going to be a baby, but if I wait for healing only in the bringing home of a healthy baby, I may never be healed. And that’s not ok. So I look for rainbows in other places in my life too, and I can say that some are already shining.

Since the loss of my pregnancy I have become closer to a new friend and I consider her to be a beautiful rainbow in my life. She has given me so much support, joy, and love. The loss of my pregnancy was horrible, and in the midst of the darkness and rain, this friend has been a beautiful energy shining in my sky. I am so thankful for her.

2016_10_25_bearainbow

After our loss this summer Matt and I had the opportunity to take a small vacation during my recovery. We used frequent flier miles and spent four days in a destination we’ve always wanted to visit. This trip was so lovely and so rejuvenating for us — it was like being somewhere over the rainbow. We were together and happy and felt carefree. Our rainbow trip reminded us that we can still find joy with just each other.

This blog has turned into a rainbow for me too. It’s become a beautiful way for me to connect with people in ways I never expected… infertility aside, some of my loved ones experiencing different kinds of emotional storms have told me that my words here have comforted them or given them new ideas for coping and healing. And, for me, hope for happiness and healing in all of our futures is a very beautiful rainbow.

I have also realized that not all of my rainbows are new. Love and encouragement from long standing rainbows in my life help me to continue finding joy and holding hope — even if they have to hold it for me at times.

The storm of infertility and loss is a nasty one. It has ravaged my life and shook me to the core. As I said in my post about strength, I know that I am not the same person I was before. I have had to focus my strengths into areas that help me to withstand the downpours and the rough winds of the storm. I have to sit with my grief and let the storm rage. There’s nowhere I can hide or run to when the clouds roll in and the storm begins, so my coping techniques act as umbrellas, and I try hard to use them appropriately to protect myself. Humor acts as rain boots so that I can try to splash the rainwater collecting at my feet. My rainbows shine as bright as they can trying to bring me hope and joy, support and healing. Sometimes I find that my rainbows sit with me in the darkness while the storm rages; they glimmer in my sky during my moments of greatest despair. But sometimes I just can’t see them for all of the darkness. So when the storm is finished, I look for rainbows.

Contrary to the belief repeated on rainbow baby onesies or announcements, there isn’t *always* a rainbow after the storm… But sometimes I’ll find one. Sometimes I’ll even find more than one. Whenever and however a rainbow appears, it is beautiful and helps to bring me happiness, hope, and healing. The rainbows that shine in my life help to open up space in the clouds for spots of sun. Despite the fact that I haven’t yet brought home a healthy baby, I have seen a number of rainbows. They are out there in different forms. I just have to remember to look for them.

2016_10_25_lookforrainbows

For more perspectives on rainbows, please visit:

http://www.scarymommy.com/grieving-without-hope-rainbow-baby/

http://adrielbooker.com/rainbow-baby/

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Writing

writingAs I’ve said before, I like to write. And my enjoyment of writing has enriched my life in multiple ways. Ever since I learned to write, I have been writing: writing little books, writing in diaries, writing letters, writing a blog, writing a new blog… and in school I wrote a numbers of papers too. They were necessary at the time, of course, but not so important to me in the grand scheme of things; my important “works” have been the bits for myself and communications with others. Writing in my personal life has been far more satisfying than any writing I ever did for teachers or professors… writing has allowed me to connect with other people, it has connected me to myself, and in both situations for me, writing has been therapeutic and healing.

During infertility, especially, I have found writing to be immensely helpful, and I have taken advantage of several writing outlets during my journey. Ernest Hemingway said, “write hard and clear about what hurts”… and although I haven’t read any of his work, I have taken this advice — I have written lots and lots about my painful infertility journey… and I believe it has been healing for me. Writing has been a way for me to release my feelings and work through them. I know this is not the case for everyone, but it has been for me… and for anyone on the fence trying to decide to write or not to write, maybe knowing how it has benefited me will nudge someone else in the direction of giving it a try.

Journaling

On and off throughout my life, since learning to write, I have journaled. I started in a little kitty cat diary with an actual lock and key when I was younger. That filled up quickly, and during my teen years I filled many journals with my thoughts… After a pipe burst in our basement last spring I had to repack all of those old journals and make sure they were dry and undamaged, and wow — reading some of those took me back. I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore. Anyway. I have since switched from writing in a physical journal to writing in private documents on my computer. Some people say that typing doesn’t provide the same release that handwriting does, but I disagree — that might be true for some people, but typing works for me and I don’t think there’s a “wrong way” to journal. If it’s helping, who’s to tell me that my way is wrong?

Whenever I choose to journal, I have found it to be a therapeutic way for me to release my thoughts, worries, fears, and wishes. Sometimes I don’t know how I am feeling about something until I try to sit down and write about it. When I write it down, it can be easier for me to acknowledge what I’m feeling, to accept, or try to accept my feelings, and to release them, if I need to. And I think that writing it down and getting it out of my head seems to end some of the internal narration that plays itself on repeat in my mind when I’m upset. I don’t think that writing fixes anything, but it has helped me to process situations and work through my feelings.

Letters

Writing letters has been a wonderful way for me to communicate with many of my loved ones for a very long time. My best example of how writing letters has enriched my life is my friendship with my pen-pal — we have been writing to each other for 18 years! I also love to write thank-you notes, send greeting cards, and send postcards when I travel. There’s something so lovely about receiving a meaningful piece of mail, so I like to spread that joy when I can. In general, I think that writing things down and sending a letter is a special and meaningful way to communicate with a loved one. However, I have also written some letters that are best unsent or cannot be sent…. But for me the act of writing them is still very powerful and therapeutic.

Unsent letters

I have had some times during my infertility where I have been extremely upset about something someone has said to me. These have been good opportunities for me to write someone a letter, to be honest with them, and let all my feelings out… and then never send the letter. (It can be deleted, or burned, or whatever.) Writing unsent letters has helped me to release emotions and thoughts that would not necessarily have been appropriate to share. After releasing the emotions I can calm down, and then more appropriately address the situation. Sometimes that’s to completely let it go — forgive them and move on, and other times it’s to confront them. But either way, the unsent letter has been helpful for me to avoid nasty confrontations that would not have been helpful or productive.

Released letters

During this journey, I also wrote a letter that we released. After my ectopic pregnancy we did a few things to honor our lost baby… one of them was writing a letter to our baby. I wrote my letter privately — Matt didn’t even read it — and we released it together in a river at a quiet park. Writing this letter was very hard for me… But I had really wanted to do it, and I’m glad I did — it turned out to be very healing for me. In writing my letter, I felt like I had found a small way to connect with our baby. To tell her how much we love her and miss her. To explain what happened. Writing the letter also allowed me to acknowledge a lot of emotions I had been feeling. It brought them to the surface. And releasing the letter helped me to feel like we had done something meaningful to acknowledge our loss and to say goodbye.

Other people have published or posted their letters to their lost babies. I was not comfortable doing that myself… but I am grateful to the mamas who have been so brave and open. Reading their letters to their children has been healing for me. In the book Our Stories Of Miscarriage there are a number of letters and poems written to children, and online I have found some too. Here’s one example — a letter written to a baby lost in an ectopic pregnancy.

Blog

Most recently, writing this blog has been a healing project for me too. The writing I do here is very different from my journaling or my letter writing, and it’s been helpful. Even a little fun. Although to be honest, I never thought I’d be writing publicly about infertility… not in my wildest dreams.

Gratitude Journaling

About nine months ago I started a gratitude journal. This one is a physical journal. It lives in my bedroom and every night before I go to bed I write down the things I am thankful for from that day. It was a simple and quick addition to my nighttime routine, but it has been very powerful. There are lots of things “out there” about how practicing gratitude is good for us, and I won’t bother trying to look up statistics, but I will say that it has helped me.

When I started my gratitude journal, I was not really in a good place emotionally. So many months of disappointments had made me feel like everything was awful. Once I started practicing gratitude I was able to keep my mind more focused on the good things that were happening in my life. That said, practicing gratitude doesn’t take away the bad things or even make them less painful, but being more aware of the good things has helped me to stay more balanced, more positive, and, at times, more hopeful too.

There are some days where writing down the things for which I’m thankful is easier than others, but I can honestly say that there has been something good in every day, even my really, really bad days. Practicing gratitude on my really bad days has reminded me of some of the simple things in my life that bring me joy: my kitties, a walk with Matt, a relaxing dinner on the deck, time to water my flowers and sit in my garden. Thinking about and writing down the things I’m thankful for has reminded me that even when I feel absolutely miserable, there are still things in my life that bring me joy.

Until our infertility journey took a major toll on my emotions and outlook on life, I had never kept a gratitude journal. I wrote thank-you letters for gifts and for favors from loved ones, but I had never taken the time to sit and write down the daily things for which I was thankful. Now writing in my gratitude journal is something I look forward to every day and I plan to continue to the practice. I would even say that I’m grateful for being alive and well enough to practice gratitude — practicing gratitude has brought me joy and given me a renewed sense of hope for our future happiness.

Writing is powerful

With my all of my writing about infertility in my journals, my letters, and now my blog, I think Mr. Hemmingway would agree that I have written hard and clear about what hurts. And it has helped — writing has been therapeutic for me. It has aided me in working through my emotions. But it’s not just writing about the things that are painful that has been important. I have also found great healing in writing about the things that don’t hurt — the things that bring me joy. Words and writing are powerful and I plan to continue using them to aid in my healing.

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Reminders of Hope

According to Emily Dickenson,

Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

(Click here for the full poem.)

I think the thought of this is lovely. So lovely that I lettered it recently and originally posted it on my other blog.

But as I lettered it, I wondered… what happens if it does stop singing? What then?

After my ecoptic pregnancy, my “thing with feathers” stopped singing… or at the very least it sang so quietly that I couldn’t hear it anymore in the midst of all of my pain. It was a dark time. But I knew I needed to remain hopeful. I knew I needed hope to keep singing in my soul. As my mom has reminded me several times this since June, “hope is vital to our will to survive.” She’s right… But knowing I need it is different than actually harnessing the hope, so in an attempt to build back some hope, I have been collecting things to visually remind me to be hopeful. And to me being hopeful isn’t just having hope that I’ll get pregnant and have a baby — please read my survival post or my introduction to see my thoughts on that — more importantly, I am hopeful that regardless of what happens to us, Matt and I will survive this and be happy.

The first thing I found for my collection of hope was at a gift shop shortly after I was treated for my ectopic pregnancy. At that time I wasn’t even looking for hope. I like to think it found me. There it was, an unusual and beautiful necklace with matching earrings hanging on a jewelry display. Waiting. It spoke to me, and I responded by purchasing it. I have worn my hope necklace many, many, many times since. I’ve worn it to nearly every doctor’s appointment since. I wear it to work, and on the weekends. I even wear it with my comfy clothes. It’s comforting to me. And I think it may be comforting to other people too — many people have commented on it when I’m out and about… maybe it’s reminding them to be hopeful in their lives too.

source: http://www.trishawaldrondesigns.com/product/is101-hope-set/
source: http://www.trishawaldrondesigns.com/product/is101-hope-set/

Ever since I found my hope necklace I have been collecting reminders of hope, and it has been a positive experience for me. The things I have found have helped me to think about hope in different ways and what hope means to me. The searching process has also been almost like an alternative form of affirmation practice for me — while I look in stores and online for reminders that speak to me, I’m thinking of hope over and over while I search.  (How’s that for an excuse to go shopping or scroll down, down, down on pinterest?!)

One of the early digital reminders I found that really resonated with me was the saying “Hold On Pain Ends”. It has been a good reminder that regardless of what happens, I know I won’t be in the middle of my infertility forever. At some point it will be resolved in some way. I will never be the same again, but the wound won’t be open and raw for ever. At some point I can start to make some peace with what has happened and some of the pain will subside.

source: http://quotesgram.com/hope-quotes-and-sayings/
source: http://quotesgram.com/hope-quotes-and-sayings/

I found some quotes that spoke to me and I lettered a few:

I saved some more quotes on pinterest that I haven’t lettered. Here are a few of them:

source: www.pinterest.com
source: www.pinterest.com
source: www.pinterest.com
source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/208643395215889306/
source:  www.pinterest.com

And recently my mom sent me a charm for my Origami Owl locket. I had been looking for one for weeks, and as soon as I told her what I was looking for she took it upon herself to find the perfect one and surprised me with a card in the mail. Thanks, Mom.

img_20160927_173702

I won’t say that these reminders have completely cured me of my hopelessness, but I will say that they have helped. Sometimes the hopelessness still hits — infertility and loss are absolutely overwhelming at times. But when the time is right and some of the grief has let up, wearing my reminders of hope and looking at my reminders on pinterest help to keep me trusting that our future is going to be ok. And if it takes a visual reminder on a piece of jewelry to keep me hopeful, to keep my soul singing, so be it — at least I’ll look cute in the meantime.

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The Arrival of Fall


the_arrival_of_fall2My favorite time of the year, fall, is officially here. I love fall weather and the clothing it accommodates — sweaters, scarves, cute boots. I love the colors in the leaves and the way the leaves take flight and dance in the wind. Fall brings the harvest and asks for warm, comforting foods — soup, apples, apple cider, and all things pumpkin. Fall means my birthday is coming and all the best holidays of the year. But some of these things I that love about fall have become difficult for us during infertility. Instead of celebrating the season change and looking forward to upcoming events, fall is now the beginning of a rough time of year for us: it signals that more time has passed, it brings my birthday, and it starts the big holiday season. Infertility has made all these things painful and it’s threatening to ruin fall for me.

Strike One: Fall is a Marker of Time

It was hard for me to acknowledge the arrival of fall this year… I love to decorate for the seasons, changing out my decor with every season. But this fall I struggled — I sat on my sofa and stared around the room for days before deciding that I would decorate. It seemed like a lot of work, and my heart wasn’t in it… but I ultimately decided that if I didn’t change my decor for the season, the lack of pumpkins and leaves and yummy scented candles would probably make me more depressed than I already was. So I asked Matt to go fetch my totes in the basement and I put out a few things.

I know that acknowledging the arrival of fall doesn’t seem like such a big deal… but it is: the turn of every calendar page marks another month of our heartbreak. Every season change marks more time in which we have tried, and failed, to grow our family. Time keeps moving on while Matt and I feel stuck, going nowhere, waiting for our miracle. We are doing everything we can to grow our family, but so much is out of our hands and it feels like every month we’re right back where we were before.

Strike Two: Fall Means My Birthday is Coming

My birthday is less than a month away. Birthdays used to give me great joy — a day for me! But my birthday has been hard the past couple of years, and this year I expect it to be worse. It’s not necessarily that I’m getting older; it’s that birthdays mark time. My birthday puts me another year older in my quest to become a mother. And if I’m not dreading my birthday enough, I’m reminded of it all the time — my age and birth date are all over my medical paperwork, prescriptions, and instructions. My nurses mention my age when they discuss treatment or try to encourage me. I confirm my birth date at the lab before having blood drawn and at the pharmacy when I pick up meds. And having my birthday celebrated… well, it’s a day I’m not looking forward to this year. I’m certainly not where I thought I’d be by now and turning another year older without a child here with me makes me so, so very sad.

Strike Three: Fall Means Holidays are Coming

The arrival of fall means that holidays are just around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. I’m dreading the holidays already and they haven’t even begun. Holidays are hard because they naturally emphasize the very thing we are lacking: our own family. Please don’t get me wrong — we LOVE our families. And we have, for many years, travelled back across the country for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to celebrate with our families. But sometimes just being with our families, even just our parents and our siblings, reminds us that we have yet to create that magic of our own. We want so badly to have children to share these special moments with and to create new traditions with, and holidays brutally remind us of how much joy and love we are missing due to our infertility. Holidays make our hearts ache for our losses.

The upcoming holidays again mark time that has passed. This will be our third holiday season since we’ve been trying to conceive. This will be the third Halloween where we hand out candy to other people’s children while feeling sad for ourselves. And I so hope I’m wrong, but at this point, we are potentially looking at a third Thanksgiving and Christmas without a pregnancy announcement to share with our loved ones. This could be our third New Year where we have tried, and failed to meet our goal from the previous year: grow our family. For the third autumn, already I’m anxiously wondering if next year’s holidays will be different. I hope so.

Three Strikes: You’re Out? Fall Officially Sucks?

Good thing I have at least a small say in how infertility affects me — I hate the idea of letting infertility ruin my favorite season. Infertility has already taken so much away from us, and caused us so much pain. Is it really fair for it to take my favorite season too? Absolutely not. But there’s only so much I can do — the painful reminders of the time passing, the disappointment of my birthday, and the heartbreak over the holidays are all probably still going to happen. I can’t stop them and I’m not going to try — I’ve learned it’s not good for me to fight my feelings.

But I can do little things to reclaim fall and the upcoming holidays for myself. I did decorate a bit for the season. I like my pumpkins and leaves and spiced autumn candles. We will make soups and drink apple cider. And I certainly will wear cute scarves and boots. However, I will need to do more than dress myself and my home for the part; I will need to take care of myself in order to survive what’s coming. I will need to give myself plenty of time to sit with my grief during this hard time of the year. I will need to be ok with feeling sad on my birthday. I will need to be gentle with myself over the holidays. I will need to give myself space during family events or large social gatherings. Resolve has a list of recommendations for surviving the holidays that I have found helpful. I will need to make sure Matt and I have enough time for each other. I will need to remember that we are not alone… there are many others having a hard time too: here and here just to name a few. In short, I will need to practice a lot of self care in the months to come. And I hope that with enough love and care for Matt and myself, we will be able to get through this hard time of year and maybe even enjoy some parts of it.

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