Hopeful Healing

It has been a long time since I posted here, and in that time so much has changed..! The remaining two frozen embryos that we transferred in May not only implanted, but one also split into identical twins, and somehow, amazingly all three have turned into my beautiful children! Everyday this still surprises me. Everyday this still amazes me. It is still surreal and strange and wonderful that we have triplets and that I was pregnant and stayed pregnant after three long years of infertility and loss.

These changes have been wonderful and overwhelming and confusing at times! There are lots of things I don’t know… I’m not sure how or why our transfer in May was successful. I’m not sure why our transfer last February was not successful. I do not understand why we had success and others have not. I cannot explain why we ended up with more babies than we had embryos. I do not know why all of this has happened. I don’t think I ever will.

But one thing I know is that Matt and I are very lucky to have our triplets. There are no guarantees with infertility treatment or pregnancy, and I am so thankful that we had success and that my babies arrived safely after my hard, high risk pregnancy. And despite how overwhelming and exhausting caring for newborn triplets is, at the end of the day I know I have an opportunity that I thought at one time might never happen — I get to be the mom to living children! So I’m trying to enjoy the moments that I can, sleep when I am able, and do my best to take care of my little ones and raise them into kind hearted, loving people.

I also know that my pregnancy in some ways allowed me to connect with others who are experiencing infertility. Some people have opened up about their struggles with infertility after hearing our news, and I have been able to hear their stories, share with them our story, and remind them that they are not alone. I suspect a lifetime of questions regarding the conception of our triplets, so I’m prepared for discussions about this in the future too… I think part of my healing process will continue to be connecting with others to share the heavy load of infertility.

As for this blog, I intend to leave it here, untouched. It’s an honest record of my infertility experience, and until this post is untouched by our outcome. I hope my words will continue to be a source of comfort and connection to those who need it.

Even though I now have living children, I suspect that healing from my infertility and pregnancy loss will still continue for a long time — I would not say that I am “fixed” now. I do find that my babies are helping to heal my wounds from infertility, but I cannot count on them to do all the work for me. As I wrote in my post on rainbows, I believe healing from infertility needs to come from more than just a baby (or three!). So I continue to care for myself, process my feelings, and appreciate the multiple rainbows in my life.

I don’t know where this new adventure with triplets will take us, but I know we are headed there together, surrounded in love — Matt and me and our children, with our family and friends. We head into our new adventure with half agony, knowing that the world is a confusing and unfair place with loss and heartache, but we also head there with half hope that our sacred lives will still be beautiful and filled with love and rainbows if we look in the right places.

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Hope

I’ll be totally honest — when I started writing this “infertility is” series, I thought by the time I got to “hope” I’d be ready to write about it. I thought maybe by now I’d have some again or maybe even have some amazing insight about hope after all of my emotional processing following our IVF failure. But as it turns out, I continue to struggle with hopelessness, and I feel entirely unqualified to write about hope.

In an attempt to cure my hopelessness, I’ve been searching for hope everywhere — in books, blogs, quotes, exercise, therapy, sermons, meditations, you name it. I even desperately asked my therapist what I could do to feel hopeful again, knowing already that there was no easy answer for this, no checklist or homework assignment I could complete. She told me that I needed to feel my grief first. Sigh. “I’m tired of grieving,” I complained. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. But she was right. Hope cannot be turned on, just as grief cannot be turned off.

And after all of my searching, I can only conclude that which I already knew: hope isn’t “out there” waiting to be found — it is within me. As Emily Dickinson said, “hope is the thing with feathers” and it’s in my heart singing, or at least trying to. Sometimes it sings loud and clear. Sometimes it sings very, very softly. Emily claims that the thing with feathers never stops singing, but there I think she’s wrong — sometimes all hope is lost. Sometimes the hope inside me actually does stop singing… as if it has completely burned away, leaving only the ashes of my hopes and dreams.

When all hope for something is lost, I have to let go of that hope and find something new to hope for. In Resilient Grieving the author wrote about redefining what we are hoping for now when all hope has been lost. This really resonated with me because we’ve been redefining hope throughout our infertility journey: at each step in the treatment process we’ve had to let go of the hope that the previous treatment would work and grow new hope that the next treatment would work. Further, infertility has made me consider what I’m hoping for in my life and with Matt in the event that we do not have children.

The process of grieving and redefining hope takes a lot of hard work. It’s not quick or easy, and I try to be patient.  It takes time for my phoenix of hope to grow anew, to slowly rise out of the ashes and start singing in my heart again. I cannot just turn up the volume because I want to. I cannot just turn off all of my other prevailing emotions to feel only the things I want to feel. I have to feel all of my emotions, process and work through them. Only then will there be room for other emotions, space for the phoenix of hope to grow.

My infertility is trying to hold onto hope in the face of repeated disappointments, loss, and heartache. It is trying to hope when all seems hopeless. It is struggling to redefine hope after all hope has been lost. It is working through hard emotions and letting new hope grow in my heart again. My infertility is trying to maintain hope that this pain will end, that there will be more peace and joy in my future, and that our lives will continue to be filled with love and happiness regardless of the outcome of our infertility.

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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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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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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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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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Reminders of Hope

According to Emily Dickenson,

Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

(Click here for the full poem.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 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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