Infertility is…

It was hard to first admit to myself that we were experiencing infertility… By the time I did, we’d already found out I wasn’t ovulating on my own, and as a result I’d been through three cycles of clomid. Even though I had already started fertility treatments, I didn’t consider myself “infertile” because we hadn’t been trying for a whole year yet. Sure, my first diagnosis and those first few treatments were hard, but I told myself that we were just delayed, that everything was going to be fine because they had found a correctable problem.

But when those treatments failed and we hit our year mark of trying, it was time to admit that we were struggling with infertility. At that time we took a few months off treatments to give my body a rest and to give ourselves a break, and I started researching infertility — some things about treatments, of course, but mostly I researched coping with infertility. Because with infertility (at least for me!) there’s a lot more to consider than just the physical problems preventing a healthy pregnancy… Admitting to myself that I was experiencing infertility meant that I was struggling with not only my body and its inability to conceive, but also all of the ways infertility impacted my well being.

The technical description of infertility might only include the failure to conceive or carry a baby to term in a 12 month period, but “infertility” means so much more than that to me. The one line definition I find in the dictionary doesn’t cut it for me. Infertility has wreaked havoc all over my life, and as the months go by, my experience with infertility has packed more and more meaning into the word “infertility”. It has become so compounded in my mind, it means so many things, that I’ve decided to write a series of posts on what my infertility is, what it is like, and what it feels like for me. My posts will by no means be a complete list of what infertility is, nor will they be representative of all infertility experiences; rather, my posts will be about my own experience with infertility. I’m just hoping to shed some light on what my infertility is to help my loved ones understand and to help others who are experiencing infertility feel understood.

So if infertility is more than the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term, what is it? What is my infertility like?

Infertility is living with constant disappointment and uncertainty, in a surreal world where I constantly can’t believe what’s happening to me. It is having to face my own anger and jealousy, and feeling isolated. Infertility is waiting. It is grieving. It is trying to remain hopeful despite months and months of heartache and disappointment. Infertility is being brave enough to face my reality, one day at a time, and decide what to do with this unexpected and unwanted direction.

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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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Due Date

After shrieking with joy and sharing the news with Matt, one of the first things I did after finding out I was pregnant last summer was calculate the due date for our baby: February 6, 2017. This date has been imprinted on my heart from that day. And after months of waiting, it’s finally here.  

But our months of waiting didn’t unfold the way we expected. After finding out that my pregnancy was ectopic, the dreams of our future child were crushed and our hearts were shattered. Our months of waiting for a baby’s due date turned into months of grief, recovery, more fertility treatments, and waiting for another pregnancy.

Back in June when I first imagined February 6th, I pictured meeting my child today. But that’s not happening; I’m not holding our child in my arms, listening to her cry, or watching her open her eyes. I’m not going to be awake all night tending to her or memorizing her every feature while she sleeps.

Instead, today I’m reflecting on life, loss, and love. I’m grieving our loss and feeling the emptiness in my arms and my quiet home. Tonight we lit a candle in memory of our pregnancy, of a child we never had the chance to meet. I’m remembering the joy I felt and dreams I had when I was pregnant. And I’m feeling love. I feel my love for Matt and the love that urged us to want to become parents together. I feel my love for the child I carry in my heart instead of my arms, and love for a future child I hope to still bring into our family.

We begin the egg stimulation phase of IVF soon, and today (of all days) I had my final check-up and lab work before the injections begin. When I first saw the date for the appointment I was a little freaked out, but I’ve decided to take it as a sign of love and good luck that we were given the green light to proceed today, on my due date. We’re moving forward with love and science in the hope that soon we’ll have a new due date to look forward to, one that will turn into a birthdate of a living child.

Today we’re honoring our due date with memories of my pregnancy, hope for the future, and love for each other and our family — family who live among us and family who live in our hearts.

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Mixed Emotions

As we prepare to begin the stimulation phase of IVF in a few weeks, I have been thinking hard about all of the things I’m feeling… and it’s certainly a mix. Many people assume that I’m feeling very excited and optimistic, and while I certainly do feel those things right now, I also have some darker feelings that I need to acknowledge. It’s most important for me to acknowledge them to myself, but I figured it can’t hurt too much to share some of them here for anyone seeking validation on their IVF feelings or anyone wanting to know how I am really feeling.

So I won’t lie. I’ll be honest. I’ll admit my feelings — the good and the bad.

I’m feeling scared about IVF. Scared of the numerous needles, injections, and blood draws. Scared of surgery. Scared of all of the side effects that might occur. I had to sign 44 pages of consent forms, and while not all of those were related to the medications and procedures, many of them were. I’m scared of how I’ll feel when I know the final mature egg count, the fertilization count, and healthy embryo count. Mostly I’m scared of what we’re going to do if IVF doesn’t work.

I’m feeling disappointed. There was a little hope inside me that a miracle would occur between October (when we signed up for IVF) and now and I’d get pregnant naturally. I was hoping I’d be one of those people who’d sign up for IVF and my lucky pregnancy would happen and there’d be no need for IVF. I’ve known for months and months that our chances of natural conception are ridiculously small, but it’s hard to silence the little internal voice that hopefully whispers to me, “what if this is the month?”

I’m feeling a little surprised that we’re going to do IVF. The surprise feeling is two fold. First: I’ve written about how I never thought I’d do IVF, but here we are. Second: we fully expected IUIs to work. My ectopic pregnancy was the result our first IUI after all, but in the three IUIs following my pregnancy, our male factor infertility problem was confirmed and there’s some concern about how much damage my ectopic pregnancy might have actually caused. Therefore, even though I’ve come to terms with our decision to pursue IVF, it’s still a little surprising to me that we’re actually going to do it — we thought we’d already found a successful treatment.

I’m feeling a little angry. And before anyone judges me and thinks that I shouldn’t be angry — bear with me, because infertility truly sucks. How could it *not* cause some anger? How could my pregnancy loss *not* cause some anger? These experiences are horrible. They are heartbreaking and difficult. They are unfair. They happen to good people who don’t deserve it. So yes, I’m feeling a little angry that we’re at the point where the challenging process of IVF is our best option. Natural conception aside, we were *so hopeful* that the other treatments we’ve tried would work, but they didn’t. After nearly two years of treatments, we’re very frustrated, and a little angry, to still be without a living child in our arms.

Luckily I also have some good feelings about IVF — I’m starting to feel excited about the possibility of success. I am starting to feel optimistic. Right now IVF looks like our best chance for bringing a baby into our family. Dr. Two believes that our odds for success are good, and that is exciting.

I’m also feeling grateful that we’re good candidates for IVF and that we’re able to move forward and give it a try. Not everyone who experiences infertility is eligible for or able to do IVF and I’m thankful that we are. I’m glad for the opportunity and so grateful for the support we have as we pursue it.

All of that said, the emotion that’s really ruling the day right now is feeling ready for IVF. At least as ready as I can be. How can one truly prepare for this anyway? I believe I’ve done as much as I can to prepare for what’s ahead. I have read and read and read; I have showered my medical team with questions; I have asked previous IVF patients about their experiences. And I am ready to give this treatment all we’ve got. I’m ready for needles, blood draws, and injections. I’m ready to keep track of hormone levels and dosage amounts. I’m ready to handle the bruises and manage side effects. I’m ready for ultrasounds. I’m ready for surgery and transfer.

We’ve been waiting and waiting for some good news and we’re ready for it. I’m ready to become pregnant and bring home a healthy baby in the end. And if the outcome of our IVF cycle is bad, I’m not sure that any amount of preparation would have been adequate… so we’ll take it one day at a time, and survive together — good news or bad. I am scared and disappointed and surprised and even a little angry. I am excited and optimistic and full of gratitude. But I’m also ready, and at this point, I think that’s what matters the most.

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Coming to Terms with IVF

I’ll admit it: I used to say that I’d never do IVF if I couldn’t get pregnant. I used to tell myself I’d accept that pregnancy wasn’t in the cards for me and I’d stop pursuing it.

But then again, I never imagined that I would actually have any difficulty getting pregnant, and I never imagined that I would lose a pregnancy either. I used to assume that I would be able to get pregnant easily, naturally, and when I wanted, and further, that every baby of mine would come home with me alive and well.

However, life doesn’t always unfold the way we think it’s going to, and I’ve learned just how naive I used to be. Since I never truly expected to be infertile, I think it was easy for me to pretend like I knew exactly what I would do if I were. But I was wrong. Back then I knew nothing about infertility. I knew nothing about all of the reasons why someone might pursue IVF or other fertility treatments. And I knew nothing about the deep love that’s possible for a child who doesn’t even exist yet.

As it turns out, it’s a lot harder to make decisions when it’s your reality instead of a hypothetical situation. At every step of the way during our infertility journey I’ve had to let go of expectations, and at times re-examine old opinions. Infertility has reminded me how important it is to try to keep an open mind, and to be more accepting of my own decisions and others’ decisions too… because it’s quite hard to know what we would do in a certain situation until we’re actually in it ourselves, facing the facts and handling our emotions.

There are many things I didn’t know about infertility until we were infertile, and learning them has definitely given me a new perspective on fertility treatments. To start: infertility is random bad luck. No one I know deserves their infertility — it just happens. And it sucks. On top of that, infertility can strike in so many different ways. In our case, I have some problems, Matt has some problems, and our infertility is also a bit unexplained… which leads me to another thing that I’ve learned: there are many things about infertility that the medical community has yet to understand.

But just because we have some medical problems, maybe even some undiagnosed ones, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a biological child “isn’t in the cards” for us. Like we would do with most diseases, we are attempting to treat the disease of infertility. At this point in our journey, treating our infertility and doing what we can to attempt a pregnancy still feels like the right choice. Doctors and scientists have worked hard to come up with some ways to correct reproductive problems or work around them, and luckily for us, there is still a treatment that we’re good candidates for trying: IVF.

While this may not be the right choice for everyone, right now IVF is the right choice for us, so we’re moving forward with it. It definitely took a lot of thought and preparation to get there, but it feels right. We’re hopeful that IVF will help to bypass some of the problems that are preventing us from conceiving, and bring us the good news we’ve been waiting so long to hear.

I’ve also come to realize through infertility that my old self didn’t fully appreciate all of the ways in which people can enter into parenthood. For most people, their route is through natural conception. For others it is adoption. For some it is through assisted reproductive technologies like IUI or IVF, and may also include third party sperm donors, egg donors, and/or gestational carriers. There are so many ways to build a family, and all of them are valid and beautiful… And as long as Matt and I attempt to build our family out of love, I think we’re headed in the right direction. Sure, this particular direction may not have been in our original plan, but directional changes in life are expected… after all, isn’t that what happens when we live and learn, and love?

From where I’m standing now, I can see that IVF provides us an opportunity for a chance at conception that we might not otherwise have. We’ve explored other options. We’ve tried other methods of conceiving. Now we’re to the point where our best chance for bringing home a baby lies in pursuing IVF. So we’re all in. We’re going to embrace the science, hope for the best, and continuing loving each other and the child we’re trying so hard to bring to our lives.

For more thoughts on IVF, please visit:

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New Year

The very first lettering I posted on my musings blog last year was this one:

I lettered it on January 5, 2016.

It was actually the quote that inspired me to start practicing my lettering. I had found the quote in the late fall of 2015, and I could see the door opening with hope shining through. After some thought I decided that perhaps it would be a good start to practice hand lettering, so in early January last year I sat down with pen and paper and illustrated and lettered the quote.

It came out just how I’d imagined it and I was so pleased to have been able to capture on paper what my mind’s eye had seen… I also thought it was the perfect sentiment to start out the new year. The quote really, really resonated with me… I believed that after what had happened in 2014 and 2015, the new year of 2016 *had* to be a happier year. It had to be.

But it wasn’t. 2016 was pretty miserable for me.

I think about that quote now and how much I believed it a year ago, and I kind of feel like a fool. Looking at this illustration that I once loved actually makes me cringe now. It’s sad. But really, just because I’m hoping life will be better doesn’t mean it will be. Turns out that when you think things can’t possibly get worse, sometimes they do…

And I know things can always get even worse, but I’m not trying to get philosophical or competitive. The facts are that 2016 sucked for us. It doesn’t matter to me what else could have gone wrong too, because in the end, it was not a great year for us. It was full of loss, grief, disappointment, bad news, and tears. Full of procedures, needles, and waiting, waiting, waiting. Last year was full of writing and reading about infertility, and trying (and often failing) to communicate to my loved ones about the extent of my heartache.

And on top of my personal struggles, I feel like our world in general had a bad year. I feel like our nation is crumbling… it feels divided and full of hate. I fear for our future. And the international community is struggling too, with wars and terrorism, refugees and immigration… Every time I turned around in 2016, I felt like there was another horrible thing happening somewhere, either in the US or abroad. 2016 was a tough year for us and, I think, for the world at large too.

And yet, despite all of our loss and heartache, our disappointments and fears, I have a full journal with an entry every day since February 10th of things that I am thankful for.

Life is funny like that sometimes… It may have been a really bad year for us, but because of my gratitude journaling, it’s also probably the year I’m most aware of the things for which I’m grateful. Practicing gratitude certainly doesn’t negate or remove the bad things; it doesn’t fix anything that’s going wrong; it doesn’t fulfill wishes and dreams… but it does remind me that not everything is horrible; it has helped me to be more aware of things that are good in my life; it has helped me to find some balance in this miserable time.

So while I do hope that 2017 will be better, I’m not necessarily counting on it. 2016 reminded me that sometimes things don’t get better. I have no idea what’s going to happen this year… and I’m trying to be realistic. At this point, we’re still trekking through a lot of misery, and we can’t see the way out yet — we don’t know where we’re going.

What I can count on in 2017 is knowing that we have the ability to survive our grief, and the ability to continue finding and creating peace and joy. As we move into this new year we will hang on to a bit of hope that things will in fact get better; we will to continue to look for the light; and we will continue to pay attention to the bits of joy and peace that are present in our lives. In this new year, in whatever comes our way, we will continue to look for the good.

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I started scrapbooking when I was in high school. My mom has scrapbooked for years, and ever since I started my own albums, it’s something we love to do together. We like to go shopping and find fun stickers and paper that will coordinate with photos and mementos. When possible we like to work on our pages together too — but this is a rare treat now since I live across the country. Now we like to sit together with tea and look through each other’s albums that we’ve worked on since our last visit. We look at the pictures, read journal entries and letters, and share memories.

But, like so many other things, infertility and loss have affected my relationship with my scrapbooks, and I have really struggled with scrapbooking since my pregnancy ended. And I think the reasons for this are complicated and tough. It’s been hard to admit to myself the reasons for my disconnect with scrapbooking…

To start, like with my lettering practice and other creative endeavors, I no longer feel inspired. On days when I feel like I might want to scrapbook, I go sit at my desk and look at my pictures and papers, and I have no inspiration, no vision of a completed page, no desire to arrange them nicely and write down thoughts or notes. I look at the completed pages and sometimes it feels like someone else must have completed those ones because I can’t imagine having the inspiration to put that all together. In the last six months, I have scrapbooked only two single-sided pages. My materials have sat out for months with no forward movement.

But it goes so much deeper than *just* a lack of inspiration.

When I look at older pictures, I see myself before infertility, innocent and happy, with no idea of what’s in store for my future with infertility. I’m reminded of the dreams and expectations my former self held close, and then I think of my present state, heartbroken and disappointed… In those moments I struggle with acceptance of what’s happened. (“This wasn’t how it was *supposed* to be!”) I feel like I look different now too, and I struggle with acceptance of those changes — whether they are physical or psychological. Sometimes it’s hard to even look at pictures of myself because it reminds me of all of the innocence, hopes, and dreams that I’ve lost since the photo was taken.

And to be quite honest, I’ve really struggled with the thought that if I do not have children, who even cares if I’ve preserved our memories in scrapbooks? Who cares about our photos, our travel journals and mementos, or our progress on house projects and landscaping? Who cares about the silly things our cats do or the presents Matt received on his birthday? What does any of it matter?

I admitted this to Matt recently and I think he was pretty horrified… But seriously, my mind goes there and I think it’s important that I’m honest with myself about it. Because scrapbooking is (or was…) a favorite hobby of mine and if I’m going to be able to continue doing it, I need to make peace with the things holding me back. Inspiration is one thing — I’m ok with waiting for inspiration and exploring other ways to be creative in the meantime. However, accepting my situation and facing my concerns about preserving memories without children to pass them to definitely need to be addressed if I want to continue scrapbooking.

Accepting this disappointment and the gap between what I *thought* family building would be like for us, and what it is *actually* like is a constant practice, a work in progress. I’m working on accepting what’s happened and what continues to happen. I’m working on accepting this new me, scarred — both physically and emotionally — by my experience. But acceptance is a lot harder than it might seem. In time I hope that when I look at old pictures, it won’t hurt so much, but right now it does. So in the meantime, I’m trying to be patient while I give myself space for acceptance.

When I asked Matt, “Who even cares if I scrapbook if we don’t have children?” after the initial shock subsided, he responded that *we* care if our memories are recorded; that we like having our photos printed and journaled; that it’s for us. And I suppose he’s right…

After all, I didn’t start scrapbooking as a highschooler years ago with the intent of passing them down to my children — I scrapbooked for me. Because I liked it. Because it was fun. Because I enjoyed revisiting my photos, writing down reflections, and sharing the finished product with friends and family. We like having our finished albums on the shelf, ready to look over together. Not everyday, but sometimes. And I’ve enjoyed showing albums to friends and family who are featured in them, or to someone who is soon to be visiting a place we’ve traveled to previously.

But at the same time, there was always a part of me that was excited and proud to have our photo albums ready to share with future generations… and not knowing if I will have children to pass our memories to is hard for me. So I’m working on letting go of that and reclaiming scrapbooking for myself. Like accepting my situation, letting go of the desire to preserve our memories for children is a work in progress. I’m trying to be patient and give myself space to feel these things and let them go; to acknowledge that this is holding me back; to accept that whether or not we have kids doesn’t matter for my photo preservation — if I like scrapbooking I should do it for me.

However, it’s easy for me to sit here and type out the list of what I need to do. Knowing that I need to accept these things is different from actually doing them. But I’m working on it.

One of these days I’ll get back upstairs and I’ll finish scrapbooking that trip I’m working on. I’ll tackle the next year, and revisit all of the things we did that year and memorialize the loved ones we lost. I’ll work through our photos and record memories so that Matt and I can revisit them when we want. I’ll finish pages so that my mom and I can drink tea and look through my albums. I’ll work on my scrapbooks because it’s something that used to bring me joy, and I believe it still can — when I’m ready.

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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…

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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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