Saturday, October 18, 2014

Work, Work, Work

My job has been busy and exciting lately. Thank God for that, because it's kept me from being able to obsess over the two week wait like I normally would, and it's just generally kept my mood in a good place. What can I say? I'm a girl who likes having things to do.

But there's another kind of work--the emotional kind--that's been proving more challenging lately. I've noticed how many negative thoughts and feelings arise inside me, usually prompted by a photo of someone's newborn, or talk of breast feeding, or pretty much anything baby-related. I see something, and automatically I catch myself judging and thinking thoughts I'm not proud of. I get angry when people pick names for their children that resonate with me for whatever reason. I get jealous when I see pictures of new mothers with their infants. I get hurt when people don't think to ask how I'm doing over here on my lonely, childless island.

My therapist says it's important to remember that there's a difference between feelings and actions. We really can't do anything about our feelings--we're human, after all. But we can do something about the things we say and the way we act. So I've been trying to summon my better nature on the outside, making polite inquiries about how so-and-so's baby is doing, and commenting on how adorable so-and-so's is.

This is very, very hard work. Every time I act according to my standards of what constitutes a kind person, I feel a twist of pain around my heart, and find I have to remind myself to breathe. For example, if I reach out to ask how a friend's little one is doing, or how her pregnancy is going along, I end up feeling incredibly sad once I receive the inevitable response. It's complicated and confusing and it makes my day job seem like a cake walk.

But I think it's good to keep practicing. My therapist also says it's not necessary to always say the nice thing; some days it's just too hard. On days when I feel strong, though, it can be good to take advantage of the moment and go ahead and call that pregnant friend or relative. Or ask to see a picture. This way, I don't feel like a terrible friend or sister or whatever, but I'm also taking care of myself when I need to.

I think this is something every woman struggling with infertility has to face. You want to be that supportive, excited friend, but you don't want to cause yourself extra pain.

In short, my personal daily assignment is this: Notice how my heart is doing. If it feels up to it, do something to show my love for the friends who have babies (this could be "liking" an update on Facebook, calling her on the phone, or sending a joyful text). If my heart is sad, don't do anything, other than give myself a break and try not to judge my feelings too harshly.

I'm not scoring an A + at any of this, by the way. For once in my life I'm fine with bringing home a B.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Falling Into Step Again

Like everybody else, I love fall. The leaves are gorgeous and the clothes are great. School is back in session and the air is crisp, but not cold. Everything about this time of year is just so cozy.

Usually I celebrate the onset of my favorite season with a hearty meal and a drink made with Calvados. This year I rang it in with pasta bolognese and a generous dose of Menopur.

That's right. I've started my first cycle since May. Some people go back to school in September; I go back to the fertility clinic.

How am I feeling? Oh, terrified. Anxious. Bitter. Hopeful. You know, your typical mix of emotions, just multiplied by a million percent now that I've had two miscarriages.

It doesn't help that one sister-in-law is about to give birth any day, and another is preparing to have twins in the winter. I have other pregnant women in my orbit, of course, but the ones in my family affect me the most, since they're closest to me. I'm happy on the one hand (more nieces or nephews to love), but devastated on the other (feeling invisible and insignificant, wondering when it will be my turn).

This is the part that I think is hardest for many of us going through prolonged infertility: The longer we have to endure the losses associated with it, the more difficult it becomes to connect with feelings of joy—especially for other people.

That said, I'm trying my best. I think we are all trying our best. And now that the seasons have changed, maybe our luck will, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Last Hurrah

How is it already late August? This summer, like most, is flying by, and the kids in my neighborhood are going back to school on Monday. The Labor Day will be here, then my birthday, then, well, fall.

But before all of that, we're going to the beach for one last hurrah. I'm looking forward to sleeping in, drinking wine with lunch, reading in the afternoon, and, above all else, letting the ocean wash over me.

Sounds heavenly and cathartic, right? That's the idea, because when we return home, I will likely be heading right into my first treatment cycle since the miscarriage. I'm ready for the injections and monitoring appointments. I'm not so ready for another two week wait, and all of the attendant anxiety. Fourteen days of over-analyzing my boobs, my mood, my every bodily function. Oy. I'm not even going to think about it right now. (Just call me Scarlett O'Hara!)

No. Right now I'm going to think about packing, and whether or not I should buy a hat. I'm going to think about my pedicure tomorrow evening. I'm going to make a list of things I need from the store.

Also: On a non-vacation note, I want to send a special hug to my friends out there who are grieving losses this week. There are many of you, and you're all on my mind. XO

Friday, August 8, 2014

I'm Trying To Live In The Moment. Really, I Am.

I've been practicing mindfulness for several years now. Books by Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach rest on my nightstand, and noticing my breath comes as naturally to me as talking does. Yet I can never seem to truly live in the moment, to honestly say the past doesn't matter, nor does the future. I constantly catch myself regretting decisions I made years ago and worrying about what bad things might happen as life moves forward.

It's exhausting. But I keep telling myself it's normal, or at least that it's ok. (Believing what I tell myself is another challenge, but let's not go there right now.) So welcome to my brain. It feels like a crazy place on a regular basis, and my biggest worry lately is that, if I don't learn how to really be present, I'm going to wake up one day an old lady and wish I'd appreciated little things, like still having nice boobs in my late 30s, and being able to run fast, and do whatever I want, for the most part.

The problem is, time—and the various ways we mark its passing—is really starting to freak me out. My 38th birthday, for example, is around the corner, and while I haven't yet reached the point where I dread it, I am at the point where it makes me slightly unnerved. The fact that I haven't got any children yet only highlights that sensation. Then there's the invitation to my 20th high school reunion. That one really made me panic, and has several times sent me down the old road of "what if?" and "why?" more times than I'd like to admit. I won't be going, of course, largely because high school was very tough for me, emotionally, but also because—again—I haven't got any children and I don't want to have to say that to people who made me feel terrible about myself when I was a teen.

My husband and I were sitting on our deck last night, talking about the fact that we've now had our dog for a year, and lived in our house for longer. We sat there, remembering certain moments and marveling at how much has happened, but for me there was this sense that I wasn't enjoying everything enough, because I'm always focused on how quickly life is moving on as I remain childless.

I looked up a bunch of people from my class on Facebook and it seems that all of them have at least two children. As I said to my therapist, this makes me feel like I'm developmentally behind, and that feeling is only getting stronger as my birthday approaches.

But I can't do anything about my lost babies, or my husband's infertility, or so many other things that didn't turn out the way I'd pictured them. So I'll just keep trying to stop and smell the roses. And if you have any tips on how to do that, please, do share.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

When The Going Gets Tough

There's a lot of pain associated with infertility. We give ourselves injections, undergo a panoply of procedures involving hormone-heavy drugs, catheters, and anesthesia, and get a ton—I mean, a ton—of blood drawn. But for me, its the emotional pain that really hurts.

A shot is a very specific, relatively quick kind of sting. A wave of depression, on the other hand, lurks just under the surface, percolating at a low enough boil that you can still go to work, and smile and laugh, and function pretty well overall. But then out of the blue some days it sneaks up on you, unannounced, and literally leaves you flat on your back. That part's not so bad; what's bad is when you realize you can't explain it to anyone, and even your most compassionate friends can't really understand.

Other days, your depression is on the surface, looking back at you every time you stand in front of the mirror. It's waiting for you when you wake up in the morning, and it follows you out to dinner, to the grocery store, to the movies. You see it in other people's faces, reflecting back at you, never leaving you alone.

That's the place I've been in for a while. Right now my depression is like an unbearably stuffy coat I can't take off. It's always there, and if I could just unzip it and breathe I would be able to enjoy the summer, and the birds, and all the other good and happy things around me.

I think it's going to be a while, though, before that happens. There are too many hard things going on right now. For example, today is my sister-in-law's baby shower. It's taking place about five miles from my house, but I've decided not to go. There will be two additional pregnant women there, and between them and the onesies and everything else, I know that if I go I'll end up crying in the bathroom.

Still, I feel sad about not being there. It's a weird, lonely feeling that's difficult to describe. I don't want to go—I can't go—but I don't want to not be there. I keep thinking if I'd only had my baby in May, or not lost this second pregnancy, all would be generally right in the world and I could be there. No more complicated feelings, no more frustrating attempts to explain. No more fractured relationships.

But it's a waste of time to go down that road. So I'm trying to do what's best for my heart today. And that means shielding myself from major triggers. It means trying to avoid extra pain.

There's also a family dinner tonight, which will include two pregnant women and one baby. I want to join, or rather, I don't want to be alone. But again, I think I'm going to find myself fumbling this afternoon, declining the invitation—and searching in vain for words to describe an indescribable pain.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And Then There Were Three

No, silly. I'm not pregnant. But my one of my sisters-in-law is (I have four of them). Again! Just ten months after the birth of her wonderful son, she and my brother are getting out the word that she is due in January.

Except it might be more like December, because she's having twins.

Yup, you heard me. They're going from zero to three kids in just a little over a year. And as you have probably deduced, I am crushed.

These are not fertility-treatment twins. These are the old-fashioned, oh-my-gosh-how-in-the-world kind of twins. The kind my mom says "run in our family." The kind I will never have. The kind that remind me of just how unfair life can be.

Of course I am going to pray for these kids and that the pregnancy is healthy, the delivery smooth and successful. But I'm also going to cry buckets for myself, as I have been off and on for the last few days.

It's just unreal. I was expecting to hear she was pregnant. I told myself that would be ok. Hell, everyone around me is pregnant already, what's one more? Then my brother said the "t" word, and I almost dropped the phone.

So here I am, trying to pick up the pieces of my heart yet again. I swear, I've just about reached my breaking point. If only I knew there would be a happy ending for me, then this would all be so much easier.

But we don't know how anything's going to end, do we? I had a dream last night that I was pregnant--probably about seven months. It was amazing and in my dream I knew it was amazing. I remember trying to squeeze myself into a tiny bathroom stall and thinking how funny it was that I couldn't fit on account of my big belly.

Then I woke up. And all my feelings of emptiness came rushing back.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

People Suck And Other Confessions

Warning: This post contains graphic bodily functions, real feelings, and explicit language. It is intended for mature audiences only.

Today marks exactly two weeks since my (second) miscarriage. I was coming home from work, waiting as I had been for several days for my dying embryo to make its exit. I'd had some vague cramping earlier that day, but as I sat, sullen, waiting for my stop that evening, I was jolted by a wave of deep, almost-nauseating pain in my uterus. Then just as soon as it came on, it disappeared. I took a deep breath and figured my body was gearing up for the big event. Then another wave. This one hurt more, and then just like the first one, it vanished. "Oh, shit. These are contractions," I realized.

For my first miscarriage, I had a D&C. For those unfamiliar with the term, it's short for "Dilation and Curretage," a surgical procedure in which you are anesthetized and the doctor goes up into your uterus and removes the "tissue," also variously known as your pregnancy, your fetus, your baby. Whatever you call it, the doctor gets rid of it because it's no longer viable. I chose to have a D&C that time because I'd received my bad news at seven weeks and hadn't started bleeding yet, and I just wanted to get it all over with.

This time around, it was about nine weeks into my pregnancy when the doctor "called it"—we sort of already knew anyway, partly because I'd been spotting for a couple days. So we decided to let this one pass naturally, and that's exactly what happened that evening on the train. The contractions came on quickly. I was scared and pictured myself hunched over in agony all through the night, running to and from the toilet, crying, bleeding, cursing.

But instead, I got off the train and started walking to where my husband was waiting to pick me up. "I need to get home," I thought, and hunker down for this thing. And just as I was thinking that, I felt a big, warm ball come right out of my vagina. "Oh, God!" I thought. "It's starting already! I HAVE to get home!" I jumped in the car and told my husband what had happened. As we drove toward our house, I noticed how much better I felt, physically. I kept waiting for another round of excruciating cramps, but none came.

We got home and I checked the contents of my maxi pad. Yup, there were some scary-looking clots there, which I showed to my brave husband and then, after a confusing bout of emotions, flushed down the toilet.

I changed into comfy clothes and arranged to take the next day off from work. I ate dinner and drank some wine, and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. "Where is the rest of it?" I wondered. Through the night I bled a bit and had some very slight cramps, but that was all. No gushing blood. No massive pain. No tears.

And that was it, my friends. I still stayed home from the work the next day, thinking for sure there would be more. But there wasn't. I went to the doctor later that week and he confirmed it was over. Just like that. Here one minute and gone the next. I still haven't cried. I still haven't cursed (any more than usual, that is). My only guess is that I used up all my tears when my doctor gave me that 80% prognosis a little while back.

So, here we are, two weeks later, which brings me to the title of this post. Even though I haven't really cried since the miscarriage, I sure as hell have felt sad, lost, alone, and fragile as blown glass. So maybe you can imagine, then, how much it hurts that some people have said nothing to me about this loss. These are people I love, mind you, and who I know love me. They also know I had a previous miscarriage and they know how long I've been struggling with infertility. Yet since this last loss, it's been crickets. I keep waiting for the card, the email, the flowers, the ANYTHING to acknowledge my misery. But no, it's just radio silence.

Yes, I understand that some people don't know what to say, blah blah. I know that because after my father died the same thing happened. Certain friends just clammed up.

But this is different. This is chronic, this is recurring. This is my second time losing a baby and my millionth time feeling afraid, alone, and lost. I got so drunk one night I blacked out. That's right. Scary! Worrisome. But also human. I am a woman without a baby, and I am grieving huge losses. That's uncomfortable for a lot of people. Hell, it's uncomfortable for me (hence the drinking).

But here's the thing. Life is uncomfortable. People feel pain. Bodies malfunction. Hearts break.

I'm sorry if that's too hard for some to hear. But guess what? It's the fucking truth, and I wish more people could handle it.