Who’s that girl in the mirror?

I was trying to take a picture of myself to send to some of my far-away loved ones who haven’t seen my purple hair in person… I just had my hair re-purpled and it is most brilliant when it’s freshly dyed, so I wanted to take the picture right away so it would show up well in the photo.

I stood in my bathroom and took some selfies, but they weren’t turning out right. I deleted every one. Thinking that the light in the bathroom wasn’t quite right, I decided to move to the living room.

I took a series of pictures in the living room with the natural afternoon light shining through the big windows. The pictures still weren’t right. Something was still off.

I turned on the lights to supplement the natural light in the living room. I took more pictures.

After more selfies I realized that the light had nothing to do with it. I didn’t like the pictures because they didn’t look like me. I couldn’t bring myself to send these pictures to anyone, because that’s not how I look. Or is it?

I looked through the pictures we’ve in taken the last few months and although there were some good ones of my hair, I felt like there was something off about those pictures too.

There’s just something about recent pictures that isn’t right, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it. There’s nothing necessarily *wrong* with the girl I see in the mirror or in pictures; it’s just that she’s not me. I feel like I’m looking at someone else or some fragmented or altered version of myself. Like all of our cameras are stuck on some strange filter that is changing my face and no one else’s.

Apparently I don’t have a single current picture of myself that I feel looks like me. But why? What’s different? Has my appearance really changed? What’s going on?

Has my face changed shape? Is my face thinner or rounder than it used to be? Or do I look different because my hair is longer than it used to be? If I think about that closely though, I don’t think either of those are the problem. My weight has fluctuated slightly all my adult life and I always thought I still looked like me, so I don’t think face shape is throwing me off. I’ve had long hair and short hair and all kinds of lengths in between, and I feel like pictures of myself still look like me.

Or are the dark circles under my eyes throwing me off? Because they are definitely there. I try to get as much sleep as I can, but some nights just aren’t meant for good sleeping, apparently. And even after a good night of sleep, the circles are still there… constantly reminding me of my exhausting journey walking the road of infertility and loss. I’m so tired. Physically. Emotionally. And it’s hard to hide it. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to with makeup; it just doesn’t work. But do circles under my eyes really make enough of an impact to make me feel disconnected from my reflection? I doubt it.

I look hard at the pictures. I think I look sad… Have I lost some kind of sparkle in my eyes? Is my smile less authentic? Do I just look sad all the time now?

When I smile for a camera I feel like a fraud. Like I’m lying to the world. Because I’m not happy right now. Unless I’m really in the moment and actually feeling truly happy, I don’t think I’m smiling too much these days. When I was trying to take a selfie to show off my purple hair, I struggled with smiling or not smiling. Smiling for my own camera feels so fake to me, but not smiling for the camera feels weird too. And when I do smile, even for someone else’s camera, I feel too often like the picture shows a smile that’s forced, a smile that’s not authentic. Maybe when I see pictures of myself I’m uncomfortable with the smile I see.

Or it could be that this disconnect is all psychological. Maybe because I feel different now, I also feel like I look different when see my reflection and pictures of myself… Do I think I look sad because I *am* sad? Do I think I look tired because I *am* tired? Is this some kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Do I see the world through lenses of sadness? I like to think that my infertility couldn’t possibly affect the way I view my reflection, but our minds are quite powerful. Maybe the change I sense is psychological.

I asked Matt if he thinks I look different now. He doesn’t think so… but if a change has actually taken place, if it’s not all psychological, I think maybe because he sees me every single day he hasn’t noticed the change. Maybe whatever change I think I see has happened slowly, over time… Because when I look back at older pictures, I think I look different.

When I see pictures of myself taken before infertility, I see myself happy and full of hopes and dreams for my future. I see real, authentic smiles. I don’t see sad eyes or dark circles. I look at those photos and think of how innocent I was then, with my heart mostly intact and not yet shattered to pieces. I see those pictures and I yearn to be back in a place where my heart didn’t know this kind of loss. Back when I felt and looked like myself.

I do think I’m a different person now compared to before, but I thought that was all in my heart and mind. Infertility has changed me in a lot of ways… but I didn’t realize infertility was changing my appearance too. But I think it is… because when I look in the mirror and when I see pictures of myself, I hardly even recognize that girl. Who is she and what is she doing there? Where did the girl I once knew go? Will she ever come back?

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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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Our Never-ending Chapter

never-ending_chapterIf I think of life like a story, I feel like Matt and I have been stuck in the same chapter of trying to grow our family for too long. Months. Years. We read the same sections, pages, and sentences over and over, unable to move forward in our story. Unable to turn the page and start the next chapter. We might inch forward with a new treatment, only then to remain stuck there while we give it “enough” tries. And when it ultimately fails, it feels like we’ve been sent back to the beginning of the section to start over with a new plan… Scratch out that paragraph and try this one instead. Let’s see if it goes somewhere else… We’ve tried so hard to turn the page and continue forward in our story, and it stubbornly remains unwilling to turn over, refusing to budge at all.

The one time we did move forward into the “pregnant” chapter, it was so short and had a tragic ending. Then we found ourselves in what’s probably going to be a lifelong “recovery and healing” chapter, and at the same time back in the familiar old “trying to conceive” chapter. I hated that chapter before, and I hate it now. It’s exhausting and miserable.

While we remain stuck in our “trying to conceive” chapter, most of the couples we know are swiftly moving right through theirs and into their early chapters of parenthood. We know couples who started trying to conceive way after us who already have their babies at home with them. We even know couples who have gotten married, conceived, and given birth to their child in the time we have been trying to build our family. We know couples who have given birth to more than one child (in singles, not multiples) in the time we have been trying. People tell me it’s not a race, and I know that… but when I’m getting lapped on the path to parenthood, I can’t help but to feel like a major loser who’s going nowhere.

We stand still, with our story stuck while the rest of the world moves forward in their stories around us. Sometimes it’s almost easy in our quiet home to forget how much time has passed, but when I see the changes in my loved ones’ families I am reminded that time is moving, children and families are growing, and Matt and I are stuck and alone.

I am trying not to let my infertility keep me stuck here forever. I’ve tried to move forward in other areas of my life — grow my business, explore areas of my creativity, volunteer, travel when we can… I’ve tried to explore some new chapters unrelated to parenthood. But it’s hard to get excited about moving forward anywhere else when the thing that’s most important to me hasn’t been attained yet. These things feel like side stories that give depth to the novel of our lives, but they are not advancing the main plot that I’m most interested in. Additionally it’s hard to even put focus on other things in my life because treating infertility is so physically, emotionally, and financially demanding. I’m stuck in treatment cycles and my schedule is dictated by appointments, medications, and managing side effects. Infertility takes over, despite my best efforts to contain it, and it limits my ability to participate in the other storylines in my life.

The story I most want to experience is being a mom. I’ve wanted to be a mom my whole life. Ask my kindergarten teacher — I went to school that year as a mom with my baby (doll) on “what do you want to be when you grow up day?” My whole life I have assumed I would be able to make that one dream come true. “You can be anything you want,” the world tells us. Unfortunately, that’s just not true for everyone. Conception is something that, for most of the population, requires no education, no money, no doctors, and nothing but getting busy with a partner; but for us, it has turned into an agonizing, multi-year, financial, physical, and emotional stressor filled with doctors and nurses, and way too many needles, exam tables, and tears.. And so far, it has left us empty and heartbroken.

I’m not usually one to skip to the end of the story and read the last page, but this is one story in which I’d love to get a glimpse of the ending. I’d love to know if it’s worth it to keep trying… Will we end up with children? Or are we just wasting time, money, and energy, and delaying the inevitable — having to accept our empty arms, empty home, and broken hearts?

Infertility has made me realize that my story might have a very different ending from what I expected… This part of our story has certainly not met expectations. I’d rate this chapter with zero out of five stars. It has sucked. And I have no idea where our story is going. But I do know that I don’t want to envision a different ending. I want the one I thought I’d have when I was five. I want to get into the chapter of being a mom with living children. I want my last chapter to be growing old with Matt and with our own family. I don’t want an alternate ending. That said, I know that the world isn’t fair and that we can’t always get what we want… I’m going to have to accept where my story goes whether I like it or not. I’m trying *so hard* to keep myself open to adjustments in my expectations, open to alternate endings, but that’s so much easier said than done. I’ve built up my expectations and dreams for my future since I was a very small child, and it has proven extremely difficult to envision something different.

We’re doing everything we can to guide our story in the direction we want, but this chapter we’re stuck in is horrible. I know that the only way out is through, so we keep on trying to move forward. Every month we read the revised paragraphs and then try to turn the page and start the next chapter. I know it will turn at some point, but I have know idea when and I don’t know what the next chapter will hold for us. All I really know is that this part of our story is miserable, and I’m so tired of being stuck here in this never-ending chapter of disappointment after disappointment. I hope we reach the end of this part soon. We are *so ready* to move forward.

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Strength

strengthWe’ve probably all been told at some point, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” And we’ve seen the motivational posters. We’ve maybe even said it to someone else or told it to ourselves. It seems like such a nice encouragement, and I’ve heard variations of it a number of times during my infertility journey. But when I hear it I hesitate.

This journey is making me stronger? Please. When I’m told this I roll my eyes, or more often I try *not* to roll my eyes — I know it’s not considered nice — but, to be honest, I have never had a good poker face and I’m sure that even as I bite my tongue and try to control my eyeballs, the well-intentioned person trying to encourage me can see the unpleasant emotions filling me up. Because honestly, this is how I feel about it: if I wanted to be stronger, I would go to the gym more often.

I know that no one says this kind of thing intending it to be physical strength. I am aware that they are referring to strength of character. But I really don’t think infertility has had much of a positive impact in my life — infertility certainly doesn’t make me feel strong. In fact, I think the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you broken” is far more accurate for describing infertility.

Having my heart broken by infertility has made me feel weak and powerless. Crying on the way home from bad news at the doctor’s office doesn’t feel strong. Feeling hopeless and sad when my period starts and my blood test confirms no pregnancy doesn’t feel strong. Sitting with my grief is important, but it does not feel strong. Facing the fear of not knowing whether or not I will have children is certainly powerful, but not in a victorious, strength-filled kind of way. And honestly, I don’t really like the idea of only proceeding with half hope — it’s not fair and it feels weak. I’d like to push forward with full hope and forget all of this agony crap. But we all know I can’t do that. I’ve learned the hard way to be cautious and careful. The infertility roller coaster is a rough ride.

But I don’t really like the idea that infertility is making me broken… and I’m trying hard not to think of it like that, even though it’s how it feels. So I try my best to put the broken pieces of myself back together. I hold them together with love and hope. And I try to think of other ways to think about the experiences I’ve had on this journey. I have a quote saved on pinterest that says, “You are not broken. You are breaking through.” I really hope that’s the case.

image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/208643395216284517/
image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/208643395216284517/

So as I go around trying my best to stay in one piece, and then I’m told that infertility must be making me stronger, I really wonder if and where that strength is accumulating. Because infertility doesn’t feel strong. So where *is* all of that strength going?

Perhaps the strength is building up my stubbornness. Because I really want to be a mom. Like really, really. Ugh. Don’t you get it, infertility?? <she says as she crosses her arms and stomps her foot> But really. I’m stubbornly pursuing treatment despite our failures, asking questions to stay informed, and hoping for the best even though the past has repeatedly let me down.

I also think that infertility has strengthened a little defiant streak in me, particularly in regards to my body. Infertility has made me feel so out of control of my body, so in attempts to take a stand and own myself again I’ve made a couple small changes. A few months ago I added purple highlights to my hair. I pierced my nose last summer. And I like the changes. They suit me, at least right now (I sometimes have to remind my mom that these changes aren’t permanent!), and these little changes have been a tiny, somewhat defiant, way for me to take control and make a statement about owning my body.

Or perhaps the strength is increasing my patience? I have certainly been waiting for a long time for our child, and although I have bad days, I think I have yet to throw any grand tantrum. But… then I do find myself stuck in traffic feeling frustrated with the badly timed lights and poor traffic flow in our city… so it must not be that. Infertility has given me a lot of practice in patience, yes, but apparently it’s not helping me in daily life… darn. It’d be great if I could claim patience among my virtues.

Maybe after all this, all I’m building is insanity. After all, we keep trying again and again and expecting different results — isn’t that a silly definition of insanity on t-shirts or something? Yikes. To be honest, sometimes I do feel like I’m losing it… but I like to blame that on my medications and hormones. Let’s really hope insanity is not gaining strength.

So if not patience or insanity, perhaps infertility is strengthening my courage. In the face of all of our failures, we do keep trying and hoping for the best. Infertility keeps throwing me around, and I keep picking myself up and carrying on, trying not to let it get the best of me. I may not always feel very strong while I pick myself up and brush the dust off, but with Matt’s help, and love and encouragement from our family and friends, I’ve managed to have enough courage to continue on.

image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/208643395215303793/

When I asked Matt where he thought my strength was going, he told me that maybe this journey is making me more resilient; that I’m handling the lows better than I used to. Hmm. Practice makes perfect? Ha. I’m not sure this is the case. I told him maybe infertility has just made me more jaded. Usually I’m not even surprised anymore when I’m not pregnant. Don’t get me wrong — I’m still sad and disappointed, but not altogether surprised. Sad, right? But why should I expect different results?

But if I think about resiliency more carefully, he might be onto something. He’s a pretty smart guy. Maybe infertility *has* made me more resilient, and maybe this is what people really mean when they say this journey is making me stronger. I have practiced a lot of coping mechanisms that have helped me to try to stay in one piece, so that I can bend with the harsh conditions of the roller coaster instead of snap. I really don’t think I am able to just bounce back; after all I’ve learned that sitting with my grief is really important…but I do think I’ve learned a lot about myself, Matt, and our relationship during this time, and I suppose that the things I’ve learned have brought us closer together and better equipped to face this tough world we live in.

But I think that maybe most of my strength is going into my ability to hold on to the threads of hope we still have. Half of the threads we’ve got left on our rope are agony — they’re filled with pain and loss and disappointment, and we’re trying to let those ones go. We’re still hoping for children.  We’re hoping for our future to be happy and full of love. We’re hanging on to our threads of hope with all the strength we’ve got, and we’re trying to let the other ones blow in the wind, hoping that they’ll loosen and fall out of sight.

So is this journey making me stronger? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just making me flex my muscles in different ways than I used to, focusing my strengths into different areas. Either way, I think this journey is shaping me into a different person… One who is trying to be hopeful in the face of disappointment. One who is practicing patience. One who is attempting to hold the pieces of herself together, and break through this difficult time. And all of that requires strength, whether it’s newly gained strength or not.

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Blessings

blessingsI see and hear the word “blessings” all the time… I see people pointing out their blessings in baby announcements, Christmas cards, and home decor. I hear people discussing their blessings in conversations and on facebook. And usually what I hear are people saying things like they were blessed with good health this year, blessed with their satisfying job, blessed with their home, or blessed with their children. But every time I hear someone talk about blessings, I wonder if this word really means what everyone in our society thinks it means.

I understand blessings to be favors from God that he has bestowed upon someone. And I think that a lot of people I know (and let’s be honest, probably most of America) would probably agree with that definition.

But it’s not the definition that gives me pause; it’s the way our society currently identifies blessings… I think that the way we currently identify and discuss blessings can be alienating and hurtful, and I believe that we can do better.

In general, when our society thinks of blessings, we think of our good fortunes — good health, sturdy and warm homes, a steady job, financial success, our families and friends… and basically all of the wonderful things that make our lives easy and joyful. But if these are truly blessings, then what does it mean for the people who live in poverty or with disease or in a war zone? Doesn’t God love them too? Why isn’t he showing them these favors?

In regards to infertility, I am told on bumper stickers, commercials, at church services, and in conversations that children are a blessing from God, and even that children are God’s greatest blessing. If this is the case, then obviously God does not favor Matt and me. Or anyone in my support group. Or anyone else out there struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss. And this is so hurtful. Being told repeatedly in our society that children are a blessing makes me feel like I have done something wrong and am being punished with my childlessness.

But this is wrong. My infertility and my lost pregnancy are not punishments, and someone else’s child is not their reward.

The things that happen in our lives are mysterious and strange, and in the end none of us know why things happen. But if we pretend to know what’s going on and count our good fortunes among our blessings, it implies that some of us are more favored by God than others. That some of us are more worthy of having our prayers answered than others. But that’s not the case.

Unless I’ve read the Bible wrong, I understand that God’s blessing is to make us holy, and that his greatest blessing was his son Jesus. You know, the one who saved us from all sins and wiped the slate clean for us. He showed us love, and gave us forgiveness and hope. In the Bible the blessings that Jesus talks about are spiritual blessings, not blessings in the form of fortune, family, or good health. Therefore, children are not favors God has bestowed upon someone, and neither is success in business or school, nor wealth or good health.

I think many times when someone names something in their life as a blessing that isn’t a spiritual gift, they are intending to give God the glory, and possibly not considering the weight that the name carries. But I think we can fix this; we can do better. So I propose that we be more careful with the identification our blessings. I suggest that we say that we are grateful for our good fortunes and tangible things in our lives, and that we are blessed with our spiritual gifts. If we can more carefully identify and name our blessings, while remaining grateful for the other things in our lives, then we will be more compassionate and inclusive, and we might be able to make more meaningful connections with others. I believe we have the power to use our words carefully, and that we can spread love instead of hurt.

If we want to say we’re blessed, let’s use it in reference to our spiritual blessings — things like forgiveness and hope. When we count our blessings, let’s count the ways we can share love and peace in our world.

If we want to express gratitude for the things in our life that bring us joy, let’s do just that. For our partners, families, friends, pets, homes, health, and success; for music, books, and flowers; for mountains, oceans, deserts, and plains; for food and drink; for being alive; for anything and everything that makes us glad — let’s say we’re grateful and give thanks.

 

For further reading, I suggest:

  • The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying — I think the title is a little click-baity, but I do think the post is good. This writer gives a wonderful explanation for why we should stop saying we’re blessed. He calls out material fortunes, but I draw the same conclusions for pretty much anything else in life that we might desire. As he says, God is not a “wish granting fairy” who favors us with our wishes come true.
  • This page is helpful for a quick refresher on blessings in the Bible: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/blessing/
  • In regards to infertility, this post that I shared on my Recommended Reading post does a nice job (and it’s funny) of summarizing how infertility is surrounded by weird, outdated beliefs.
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My Invisible Scarlet Letter “I”

isolationInfertility has turned me into a social outcast, except that no one really knows it but me. My scarlet letter “I” marking me as an infertile is invisible, etched on my heart. It affects me everyday… but since it’s invisible, no one else is really aware of what is happening. In general, I’d say that the far reaching effects of infertility are largely a secret, known only to the invisibly branded members of this horrible club. Most people I know do not understand how painful it is for me to walk around in this fertile world trying to fit in, trying to survive, and trying hard to not let infertility ruin everything. I know that the world isn’t trying to shame me, or intentionally exclude me, but my status as an infertile, grieving mother turns me into an outcast nonetheless: I become awkward when conversing with others and can easily become sad or uncomfortable during conversations; I’m anxious about social interactions, and sometimes I just avoid social gatherings all together.

Conversing with people I don’t know very well or don’t know at all has become very difficult for me because small talk is very uncomfortable. Simple questions from acquaintances or strangers make me uneasy. A “how are you today?” from someone I don’t know makes me wonder if I should lie, “I’m good”; or if I should be honest, “I’m terrible, everything sucks today”; or if I should go somewhere in between, “I’m ok”. And sometimes by the time I’ve decided which answer to give, they are already uncomfortable and probably wondering what is wrong with me. Doesn’t she know how to interact? In the end I usually lie or give an in-between answer… but even the in-between answers make people uncomfortable. “Just ok?” they’ll ask, alarmed. No one likes to hear that someone else is having a bad time, but I don’t like going around pretending everything is great either, just to avoid disappointing strangers, so it’s hard for me to give updates on how I am doing to someone I don’t know very well or at all. Perhaps we as a society could be more accepting of the in-between or bad answers. It would be such a relief to be able to more honestly respond to someone with, “I’m ok”, or “I’m having a bad day”, and instead of alarming them, they could just say that they are sorry and that they hope things get better. Feeling like my reality is acceptable to others would be comforting.

Another isolating question that is frequently asked in small talk is, “Do you have children?” Strangers, new acquaintances, and clients at work all ask me this regularly, and it never fails to make me feel uncomfortable, isolated, and sad. My friend Melinda, who blogs at www.youarerooted.com, wrote a wonderful post about this question… She thoughtfully proposes that instead of asking people if they have children, we ask, Who makes up your family? This question is much more inclusive of people in all kinds of different situations, and as a bonus, it doesn’t put me and my reproductive system on the spot. Please give her post a read.

These little changes in small talk could make a big impact on reducing the isolation I have experienced during infertility. Having my not-so-great days accepted, and feeling like Matt, me, and our kitties is a valid type of family would make me feel like less of an outsider. And I suspect that other people who are having a bad day for reasons unrelated to infertility, or who have unique or unconventional family situations would also appreciate feeling like their realities and situations are accepted and valid.

Small talk aside, I don’t fit in at most social gatherings. Nearly everywhere we go and nearly every event we attend, there are families present, or couples talking about their kids. Even if the event is adults only, so many of the conversations of parents is focused on their kids. And I get it — their kids are so important in their lives. In the case of friends and family, I LOVE their children, and at times I even enjoy being with their children. I’m glad that my loved ones are not experiencing infertility and I’m happy that their family building has been joyful. But at the end of the day, I’m left out. My desire for, and lack of children can be so sad and isolating in social situations. I don’t fit in with my broken, grieving, marked heart, and since my scarlet letter “I” is invisible, no one understands why I’m shutting down and making excuses to exit a conversation or leave a party early.

In general, my infertility has led me to limit my participation in the social world, making me feel like an outcast. Sometimes this is due to feeling left out or feeling anxious about social situations, and sometimes it’s because I am unwell due to treatments. I am often not feeling well. During our infertility journey I have declined invitations to numerous parties, happy hours, and other get-togethers for various reasons. And sometimes if we do attend we might leave early if I get overwhelmed or if I am feeling unwell. Either way, I’m left feeling like an outsider — infertility has ruined many events for me that should have been fun.

Even being in public spaces without talking to another person can be difficult while I navigate the world with my invisible scarlet letter “I”. Reminders of what I’m missing are everywhere I go. I see pregnant women all over town, and I avert my eyes because I’m so sad for my non-pregnant tummy. I see parents with their babies and kids everywhere, and I walk the long way around them because seeing their smiling faces make me so sad for Matt and myself. There’s a daycare across the street from my house and all of our neighbors have kids. There are kids at the shelter where I volunteer. More often than not, my clients at work have children. At the grocery store the baby items are in the same aisle as the paper goods, and I walk down the aisle quickly, my eyes focused on the prize — kleenex or toilet paper — while I try to avoid seeing anything intended for a baby. At Target the baby items are across the aisle from some of the home goods. And I won’t even get into how I feel about facebook. The world is filled with families, and things to support and help families, and that’s ok — I know it takes a village to raise a child — but it leaves some people out… and for me, with my infertility etched on my heart, it hurts. I know the world is not intentionally trying to increase my pain, but it still happens. And the only thing I can do is carry on the best I can.

My infertility has also led some of my loved ones to exclude and avoid me — the scarlet letter “I” isn’t always invisible. And before I write any more, I want to be clear that I understand that it’s hard for my loved ones to relate to me and to know what to say, and I know that none of them have intentionally caused me pain. I know they love me and want the best for me. But my infertility has been like an elephant in the room… we all know it’s there, but no one knows what to do with it. I’m socially paralyzed by my infertility, not knowing how much to talk about it and with whom, and I think my loved ones are often afraid of upsetting me by bringing it up. So, to my loved ones, I suggest three things:

  1. Please don’t be afraid to talk to me. I am trying to share and be more approachable… and a big start to that is this blog, so thank you for reading this. Please feel free to discuss with me anything I post here. If you aren’t sure that I’m in a good place to talk, please text first. I like texts and if I’m in a good place for a call, we’ll make it happen.
  2. If you haven’t already, or if you need a refresher, please visit the links on supporting someone with infertility and supporting someone who has experienced pregnancy loss. These are especially helpful if you are struggling with not knowing what to say to me.
  3. Ask me how I’m doing. In our society we often ask complete strangers the question, “How are you today?” without really meaning it, but I have realized that we don’t often ask the people we care most about how they are doing. More often we ask the questions like, “What’s new?” or “What’s going on?” to one of our loved ones… I think because it’s more informal, more friendly… but the questions are different. Asking a loved one, “How are you doing?” invites the recipient to answer how they really are, instead of listing what activities they have been doing lately. It’s a more meaningful check-in, and I instantly feel more connected to my loved one when they ask, “How are you?”

My invisible, or maybe not-always-so-invisible, scarlet letter for infertility has made my interactions with the social world complicated and painful, but I know that I won’t always be in this tough place… I know that infertility won’t last forever and that at some point it will be resolved. Either we will have a child, adopt a child, or not have children. And as I’ve said before, I hope that wherever we end up, Matt and I will be happy and surrounded by love. I’m hopeful that we will heal from our infertility and our pregnancy loss, and that the social world will be less isolating and more inclusive for us in the future… but I also do not expect that transition to be immediate. I do not think I will be “fixed” overnight whenever a resolution to our infertility presents itself. This journey has wounded me deeply and I know I will never be the same. And regardless of what happens, I expect it to take a while for me to heal and be ready to fully engage in social activities. I ask my loved ones now, in advance, to be patient and gentle with me whenever Matt and I end up moving forward.

And until then… I’m doing my best to survive with my invisible scarlet letter “I” etched on my heart. Sometimes the thing I need to remember most is to be gentle with myself. I am doing my best to navigate my path in the world. I may feel isolated, but I know deep down that I’m not alone. There are many others who are also struggling on their paths and feeling isolated, and I’m wishing them strength, peace, and love on their difficult journeys. My loved ones are hoping for the best for us, and I’m thankful for their love and support. And Matt is here, by my side, holding my hand every step of the way, reminding me with his constant love why we’re on this journey.

 

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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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The Two Week Wait

two_week_wait

By this point in our infertility journey I should be able to consider Matt and myself experts in practicing patience. After all, we have waited and waited and waited. We have waited in doctor’s offices and our local hospital. We have waited in labs and pharmacies. We have waited for phone calls and test results. We have waited each month to find out if I’m pregnant. We have waited for our child for over two years.

But even with all of that practice, the two week wait gets me every time. The two week wait is the two weeks we have to wait after ovulation to find out if this is finally our lucky month, and it’s agonizing. I end up anxious and preoccupied. I fluctuate between thinking of the next month’s treatment and how the dates will affect our schedules, and thinking of what my baby’s due date would be and how I’ll share the news with my family. I lose sleep, even though I’m exhausted from treatment. I become annoying and pester Matt with silly questions. I’m excited and fearful at the same time. The wait is difficult and practice has not made it easier… if anything, it just keeps getting harder.

Right now you might be thinking that pregnancy tests are so sensitive that I should just take one of those “six days before your expected period” varieties to end the agony. And you would be correct that they exist, but I’ve learned that those tests are not for me…

When we first started trying I was buying pregnancy tests every month, taking tests early and anxiously awaiting that desired double line. One problem with that is that the cost of these add up. Another is that these tests are not *that* accurate that early. I would read the statistics over and over trying to decide which percentage of accuracy I wanted so that I could pick the perfect day to satisfy my need to know while being fairly confident in the result. But this always failed me. The test would display one line every single time and even when the accuracy was high I would tell myself, “I might be in the 5%! I might still be pregnant! This test is garbage.” It was a waste and it made me crazy. I knew the test was probably telling the truth, but I still didn’t want to believe it. I actually got to the point where I stopped taking tests completely and just waited for my period to start. It seemed to eliminate some of the anxiety.

However, at this point, I can’t even test early because I have been receiving HCG trigger shots during my recent treatments — HCG is the hormone pregnancy tests measure — and the trigger shot delivers enough HCG for me to test positive on a pregnancy test for up to 12 days after the injection. So I truly can’t test early. I have to sit out the wait. Which is probably better… I’m not spending money on multiple tests each month, I’m not agonizing over how early to start testing, and I’m not telling myself over and over that the test *must* be wrong.

So I’m left with the full two week wait.

The two weeks before finding out if I’m pregnant is much harder than the first two weeks of the cycle, but it’s not just because it’s closer to finding out. In the first two weeks I’m having appointments at the office and the lab. I’m taking medications, receiving injections, and having IUIs. Sure, I’m feeling miserable all the time from the side effects, but at least I feel like I’m *doing something for the cause*. I feel useful even though the medications render me mostly useless. But the second two weeks aren’t like that. I do need that time to recover from the treatments and procedures, but I’m just waiting. Aside from taking care of myself, there’s not much I can do. The rest is out of my control.

While I wait my mind and body play games with me. The medications I’m on give me pretty much every early pregnancy symptom in the book… so when my girlfriends ask me if I feel different, I just don’t have a good response. Sure, I feel different from before I was treated with fertility medications, but otherwise no, the medications give me basically the same side effects every time. Even when I was pregnant, I didn’t feel more or less pregnant than any other month of treatment — that’s how powerful the side effects are for me. But even knowing that the medications give me the side effects, every month I fall victim to the belief that perhaps this month it is the real thing! And then I tell myself that I should know better and to stop getting so excited. But it could be! … it’s a vicious circle of overanalyzing every sensation in my body and every change, getting excited, and then telling myself to STOP. I try hard to moderate my expectations.

During the wait I try to keep myself busy and I try to stay calm, peaceful, and rested. When I’m not working or volunteering, I might read, go to the gym, take a walk, or watch an episode of Friends or the Gilmore Girls. I try to do something that might make me laugh. I make plans with friends. Matt and I go on date nights and try to plan fun activities for the couple days leading up to *the big day*. I repeat affirmations to stay positive. I practice mindful breathing, meditation, and prayer. I send love to myself, Matt, and our baby. I practice gratitude. I also practice napping pretty much every day… during the two week wait I’m so tired; the more medications they have added to my treatment, the more tired I have become. And while I lie there falling asleep I wonder if my baby is snuggling down in my uterus with me… the wondering never ends. Some things distract me better than others, some things calm my mind better than others… but at the end of the day I’m still left waiting and wondering and wishing for our child.

The two week wait tests Matt’s patience with me. My anxiety spills out nearly every day and I’ll ask him, “Do you think I’m pregnant?” He has answered this question so many times for months and months. Usually he’s quite patient… “I hope so,” he’ll reply and give me a squeeze. On really optimistic months, he’ll tell me, “Yes. I think you are!” When I’ve asked too many times, he’ll reply with something completely random and off topic as if I asked him a completely different question. I guess I don’t blame him… but I know he doesn’t really blame me for asking either. We’ve been waiting and waiting for our child.

The two week wait is so hard. I’ve sat here and written lots of words about it, but I’m not sure that I have managed to properly articulate how very hard it is to wait, and guess, and constantly be wondering what my body is up to and where our path is headed in the next month. Will we be scheduling a six week ultrasound to hear our baby’s heartbeat? Will we be sharing happy news with our families and friends? Or will we be scheduling an appointment to outline the next treatment plan? We’re just not sure yet. We have to wait to find out, but I’m tired of waiting… so please excuse me while I go ask Matt if he thinks I’m pregnant. I’m *sure* he knows the real answer this time.

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The Roller Coaster of Infertility

reflections on the ups and downs of infertility, and why I need to balance optimism and realism

roller_coasterWhen I was younger I loved roller coasters. Loved them. The thrills, the speed, the surprises. Then one summer in college I suddenly became afflicted with motion sickness. Even half hour car rides can make me feel ill, so I keep dramamine handy to avoid feeling sick in the car if I’m not driving. However, I have learned the hard way that dramamine doesn’t quite do the trick for roller coasters. I can only manage to participate in the simplest rides at places like Disneyland. Peter Pan, Snow White, Winnie the Pooh — those are the kinds of rides for me, and that’s still with dramamine. It’s disappointing to sit and watch Matt go on the rides that my former self would have loved, but it’s not worth the sickness. So I hold on to my happy memories of getting off rides like Space Mountain, feeling the rush and excitement…

Unfortunately, the roller coaster I HAVE been riding for the past two years has been the worst ride of my life. And unlike the real life, fun, roller coasters, there are no cheerful workers who ask us kindly to buckle up and keep our hands and arms inside the car at all times. There are no warnings about the whiplash that’s possible on this ride. There is no screening process or recommendations in the beginning making sure we’re capable of tolerating the ride. Nope. This is the roller coaster of infertility. Pure chance signed us up for this twisted ride of ups and downs, and emotional whiplash, and we’ve been struggling to stay seated in our coaster car as we’ve been jerked around month after month.

The ups are when things seem to be going right. When I have a good follicle count. When Matt’s sperm counts are good. When we try a new medication. When we go in for an IUI. When the results of a diagnostic test or procedure come back normal. Anytime I have built up hope that *this is going to be the month*. Last month, for example, Matt and I were *so sure* I was going to be pregnant. We were so optimistic and full of hope.  

The downs are when things don’t go right. When I found out I wasn’t ovulating. When I was diagnosed with endometriosis. When there was only one follicle ready. When Matt’s sperm counts are not good. When I test negative for pregnancy and my period starts. When I am pregnant and it ends up being ectopic.

The twists and turns are when something unexpected happens. These unexpected events have done everything from throw us off balance to nearly throwing us completely out of the coaster car. Sometimes the fact that we’ve managed to continue hanging on surprises me. Things like learning that sperm counts can change daily threw us for a loop. Matt’s first low count surprised us — we were not expecting that news because his analysis had originally been great. When I was pregnant we had an abrupt turn when we learned that my progesterone levels were low. Enter: progesterone injections. This was a twist we did not expect at all, but we re-adjusted and got used to doing the daily injections at home. The worst turn of all was the oh, so very sharp turn, down and to the right, corkscrewing round and round and out of control when the evidence of an ectopic pregnancy in my right fallopian tube became clear. They had been monitoring me for several days before the diagnosis, but even the knowledge that something might be off didn’t help to brace us for the impact. We reached the bottom of that corkscrew completely dazed and in the dark.

In any given month of trying to conceive and any given treatment cycle there are so many opportunities for ups and downs, twists and turns. Before we were using assisted reproductive technologies (ART), we’d build up hope, I’d do everything I could to prepare my body for pregnancy, we’d play “the baby name game” as I call it… then my period would arrive and I’d be disappointed and sad. The more we have progressed into ART, the more monitoring and data there is — meaning that there are even more opportunities for directional changes. We know the number of follicles, the thickness of my endometrium, and the number of sperm. People who have been through IVF know their follicle count, how many eggs were retrieved, the number of fertilized eggs, and the number of healthy embryos. There are so many ways for things to go well or poorly, ways to be delighted or disappointed.

Please note that I am not suggesting that knowing the data is a bad thing — I want to know everything that’s happening. It may not be right for someone else, but it’s right for me. Matt and I have so little control in this whole process and knowing as much as possible is something we like. It helps me to feel more in control… it’s not much, I’ll admit that, but knowledge is power and knowing what’s happening helps me. So we ask for numbers and details. And if they are good, then we are happy! But if they are bad, then we’re undoubtedly disappointed.

Even though there are opportunities for ups, during infertility the downs are more common. And they seem to last longer for me. They stick with me and they’re so painful. They make me afraid to let the car ride up to the top again. Reaching the optimistic point at the top where I’m full of hope and expectation means that the fall is greater when it doesn’t work out. And this kind of fall is not the fun kind where I’m screaming with excitement. It’s the kind where I want to scream out with fear and pain and despair because all I can see is darkness and the coaster car is plummeting as fast as it can, but I can’t even manage to scream. And then I’m down at the bottom feeling hopeless, confused, and foolish for getting my hopes up so high again. The emotional whiplash of these transitions and falls seem unbearable at times.

source: www.someecards.com
source: www.someecards.com

Here is where I wish I could share some kind of wonderful miracle cure for the emotional whiplash of infertility. Unfortunately I haven’t found one yet. The only thing I can say is that I have learned that the best way for us to handle this is to try to balance our optimism with our realism — to be cautiously optimistic. This is not always easy… and not everyone understands why it’s important to me to be cautious. But I need to stay balanced. Full on optimism (like last month) will likely lead to a great big fall — so far for us, it has every single time. I certainly hope this is not the case for us forever, but I have to be realistic with myself. There are no guarantees with treatments. And as we’ve learned, there is no guarantee of a live birth even if I get pregnant.

Just like I can no longer tolerate real life roller coasters, I do not tolerate being thrown around by infertility very well either. Proceeding with half hope feels right. It feels safe. We need enough hope to keep trying at this point, but I stay cautious in an attempt to guard my heart. The ups and downs, twists and turns are still going to happen. There’s nothing we can do about that, but we can attempt to moderate our expectations. For now we hold on to the hope we have and our cautious optimism, and buckle our seat belts tight.

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3,000 sqft and a table for two

3000 sqft and a table for twoIn 2014, a few months before we started trying to conceive, Matt and I decided to buy a bigger house for our soon-to-be growing family. We were planning to start trying in the late spring and assumed that I’d be pregnant in no time. I was young and healthy; Matt and I were stable and happy. We decided that it would be best to get moved and settled before I was pregnant. We found a house sooner than we expected and got our old house ready to sell. We were thrilled and ready to start this new chapter in our lives. We closed on our new house in early March, and over the next couple of months we worked on the house, painted nearly every ceiling and wall, replaced light fixtures, cleaned every surface, and moved in. We started feeling at home in our new place.

The new house has four bedrooms. It has an open floor plan. It has an unfinished basement — ready and waiting for us to expand into and enjoy. The house is perfectly situated near the end of a quiet cul-de-sac and has a lovely little backyard. It’s within walking distance of our neighborhood’s elementary school and middle school. We knew for sure that soon the house would be filled with our children. We were so excited. We left one of the upstairs bedrooms completely empty, knowing it would be filled soon with baby furniture. We didn’t paint that room either — I wanted to match the paint to the baby’s bedding that we would be picking out very soon. We called it the baby room. When I was at my parents’ for Thanksgiving that year I loaded up and brought back my childhood rocking chair, stuffed animals, and a box of Winnie the Pooh decor. I already knew how I wanted to decorate the baby room.

The baby room sat empty for over a year. At first it wasn’t a big deal. I knew some couples took longer to conceive than others. Most of my friends had gotten pregnant after three months… one took six months, another eight months. After nine months and an annual exam at the women’s clinic where my nurse practitioner frowned upon my crazy and unpredictable cycles, I started to feel like we were in trouble. We scheduled an appointment to see a doctor at the clinic that my nurse practitioner recommended.

After three unsuccessful rounds of clomid with Dr. 1, I informed Matt that we were going to paint the baby room and turn it into a second guest room. I was tired of the empty room. It was mocking me and filling me with sadness. And it made me mad. We were ready for our child. We had a room waiting and a house much too big for just the two of us! Where was our baby?

We painted the room green because we had a gallon of green paint that we had decided wasn’t right for the kitchen cabinets but would be fine in a bedroom. We had already painted the ceiling and changed out the light fixture. We painted the walls, cleaned the woodwork, replaced the outlets and light switches (mind you, we’d already purchased child proof outlets for the entire house, as well as outlets with built in nightlights) and moved in the furniture. We had a futon in the office that we could lay flat and dress as a bed. We also had a few lamps and a chest in the basement we weren’t using anywhere else. We put the room together, and I bought new bedding. Now we call it the green guest room. We already have the purple guest room.

When I was pregnant, before we knew it was ectopic, we went into the green guest room and I shared with Matt all of my plans for the placement of the furniture and the awesome tree bookcase I’d like my dad to help build for our child’s books. My dreams were finally coming true; we were going to have a baby and our house was going to have a child in it! The dream was short lived. The baby room turned back into the green guest room the day Dr. 2 told us that the baby was definitely in the fallopian tube.

Putting the guest room together was a good thing and definitely something we needed to do… but I’d be lying if I said that cured it of its reminder of our child’s absence. It hasn’t. Our children are still missing from our house. That room, the backyard, the basement, and in general the whole house are reminders of what we had dreamed of and hoped for when we bought this house, and what it’s still missing. We bought our first house intending it to be our starter home for just the two of us. It was wonderful and it served us well. We bought this house intending to grow our family in it. Two and a half years later and we have yet to see that dream realized. I haven’t given up hope, but that doesn’t mean the house isn’t still a little painful.

Sometimes I wonder if we should have waited to buy a house until I was pregnant? If I had known then what I know now what would we do? But that question isn’t quite fair. If I had known then what I know now I’d simply adjust my expectations so that I wouldn’t be so full of despair. We didn’t know and we decided to buy a bigger home. So I’ve decided to be grateful for what this house has brought us, even though it also reminds me of what we don’t have.

I am thankful that we had the opportunity to purchase this house when we did. Since we bought this house the housing market here has gone totally nuts. If sold today it wouldn’t even be in our price range anymore… which would be sad because our home is wonderful. Even if we never fill it with children, we love the house, the location, our neighbors, the walking paths, and the views of the mountains just outside the neighborhood.

This house has also provided many opportunities for home improvement and decorating projects, and if there’s one thing that’s good for distracting us from our infertility sorrows it’s a good project. Our last house was practically perfect (in every way!) when we sold it, so if we had stayed there, we wouldn’t have had any projects left on the home front to keep us busy. I’m grateful for the time we’ve spent together working on our house and the improvements we’ve made.

So here we are… In our big house near the elementary school, with four bedrooms, an unfinished basement, a fenced in backyard, and no children. Our dining table is set for two and there are no high chairs in sight. But I can still see my child in this house. I’m still hoping to turn that guest room into a baby room… Still hoping to one day finish the basement and watch my kids have slumber parties in the basement family room and camp outs in the back yard. The house is a reminder of the hopes and dreams we had two and a half years ago and it encourages me to keep going. We’re ready.

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