Monday, March 30, 2015

Deep Thoughts

If you're around my age, you might remember a Saturday Night Live skit called "Deep Thoughts, By Jack Handey." It was a joke, of course, featuring a guy's random musings, but instead of being truly deep, his thoughts were things like, "I'd like to see a nude opera, because when they hit those high notes, I bet you can really see it in those genitals."

My deep thoughts are a tad more intense than Jack Handey's, especially lately. Even when I'm not under the influence of major hormones, I tend toward existential thinking, most of which is really unhelpful and often sends me reaching for the Ativan. But these days, at 27 weeks pregnant and facing the most significant, game-changing event of my life, you can bet things are getting pretty heavy up in my head.

I don't see any good reason, though, to list all the crazy thoughts. I used to do that in my diary when I was a teenager, and when I read those entries now, I feel like, if they were ever to land in the wrong hands, I'd be hunted down and committed to the nearest mental hospital.

I will say this much: One of the things I find myself pondering often is whether or not I'm "appreciating" this time. As someone who aspires to being mindful, I strive to be in the moment, and to not cling to or resist whatever's going on. (This is SO much easier said than done, by the way.) I want to be fully aware, every day, of the fact that my dream of being pregnant is finally a reality, and I have this wish to be constantly attuned to the wonderfulness of everything that is happening: seeing my belly in the mirror; feeling teeny kicks and turns inside it; having people offer me their seats on the train; being told I look great; getting extra attention almost anywhere I go; watching my home slowly fill with the most adorable baby clothes, blankets, and toys.

It's all stuff I used to worry I'd never experience, and I spent many awful hours crying about it, to my friends, family, and therapist. There was so much searing pain in the years before this pregnancy, it's almost like I'm in unfamiliar territory, where most days are happy and life is actually pretty great, instead of an enduring struggle.

Things are so lovely, in fact, that I sometimes catch myself wondering when it will all come crashing down. This of course is veering back toward the existential and the unhelpful, so I won't indulge it.

Instead, I'll finish on a grateful note, and name some things I'm thankful for right now: the fact that my third trimester starts next week; a deeply loving husband; the most generous, caring friends; a supportive mother and family; my sister, who is always there for me; my upcoming baby shower; my beautiful belly, my readers, and above all, my sweet baby who I can't wait to meet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Unhinged, Party Of One

My friends, it is here. I've been sensing it for a little while now, catching tiny, fleeting glimpses, but last night it made its complete and unmistakable debut. Allow me to introduce you. It's name is Hormonal Monster.

HM reared its crazy head last night, entering gently with an innocent enough request for mint chocolate chip ice cream. But it absolutely had to be the green kind, ok? Not white. Green. Two bowls later, HM decided to get a little rowdier, picking a fight with my husband who clearly does not care about my needs and only thinks of himself. I'll spare you the details; suffice to say most of what came out of my mouth was inarticulate, jumbled, and, at best, mildly valid. 

I went to bed crying, angry, and self-loathing. I woke up much the same, though at least heading to the train I could have blamed my tears on the biting cold, should a sympathetic stranger have inquired about my fragile state.

And here we hit the nerve center of my problems. As a 22-weeks pregnant woman who has gone through years of infertility and two miscarriages, I feel as though I should now be treated with extra special attention. Or carried around on a bed made of feathers. I want people to offer me their seat, tell me I ought to take the day off, bring me ice cream (and it had better be the right color!). But even in my most clouded, emotional moments, I can see the problems with these wishes. First, the world doesn't work this way. People are busy, wrapped up in their own stress, grief, ecstasy, or whatever. Even my husband, who I know adores me, doesn't always have my needs at the forefront of his thoughts.

All of this makes me crazy mad, which gets me twisted and negative and—eventually—feeling extremely small. Did I mention self-loathing? As much as I can't bear other people and their inadequacies right now, I most of all can't bear my own whiny, needy, minuscule self. Why do I need so much? Why am I still jealous of other women and their babies? Why can't enough just be enough? And most confounding of all: Why am I so miserable, when I finally have exactly what I have most wanted for so many years? Talk about unhinged.

Which brings me back to Hormonal Monster. I'm convinced this is all her fault. After all, I am too enlightened a person to be behaving this way. I've done too much emotional legwork, spent too many thousands of dollars in therapy, read too many self-help books to be this crazed and unreasonable.

Or, I hear some faint, gentle voice saying, perhaps I'm just a regular human with no special insight. Perhaps I'm just fumbling through life like everyone else but maybe spending a teeny bit too much time analyzing how I'm doing, and wearing myself out once again by attempting perfection. Yes, I want to cry when I see the ducks outside my office, swimming in their little pool, probably fine but also maybe suffering because it's freezing outside. And yes my heart feels squeezed and panicked when I see an old person and I can't tell if he is happy or not. 

I'd like to be less worried. I'd like to feel lighter and more optimistic and carefree. After all, I'm pregnant. Plus, it's the second trimester! Oh but the truth is my back hurts. And I know I'm supposed to be all frisky and what not but really I just want to eat chips and then go to sleep. 

Ok then. Hormonal Monster, I invite you to stay. Let's just be in this together, falling short of my expectations, needy, and far, far from perfect. A mess sometimes, even. Maybe if I work with you instead of against you, I can find the space I need to ease up on everyone--most of all, myself. Here's hoping, anyway.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Putting On My Big Girl Pants

Along with marrying Eric, being pregnant is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I have never been so happy, so engaged with life, so inclined to socialize. (Anyone who knows me well or reads this blog knows that the last several years, in particular, were quite the opposite.)

There is a downside, or at least a challenging side, though, to this new found joie de vivre. Growing right along with my waist is a mental strain that comes from having had an eating disorder as a teenager.

I was anorexic in high school and, if I'm really honest, part of college as well. At my lowest, I weighed less than 80 pounds, a fact that is extremely frightening to think about now. What caused it? Oh, the usual demons that prey on sweet, young, self-doubting girls: puberty, peers who compared bodies, hair, and skin, movies that celebrated impossible ideals, and yes, perhaps, a mom who made unintentional impressions by cutting herself out of photographs.

Therapy and help from loved ones—including my mother, who was the first to my rescue—got me to a better place over the years. Of course I still have bad days, and there are times when I still catch myself analyzing how much I've eaten, but generally I am healthy, and have been able to keep myself around 110 or so pounds, normal for my 5'2'' frame.

Still, I'm really uncomfortable talking about weight. In fact, it's a subject I do my best to avoid, but since I'm pregnant now—thank God!—I feel like it's time to address this topic, and my difficult relationship with the scale.

It says I weigh 118 pounds now. That's a good thing, I know, and the number's only going to go up, as it should. But every time I think about it, or someone asks, "How much have you gained so far?" a little wound from my childhood is jabbed. Even hearing my doctor tell me I should put on about 25 pounds was enough to leave me stressed. "How am I going to look when I'm that big?" I panicked. "How will I deal with the mirror?" And worst of all, "What will other people think? What will they say?"

You see, one of the cruelest side-effects from my anorexia has been a lingering concern over what the rest of the world thinks of me, how they perceive me. "Do they think I'm cute? Do they think I'm pretty, or just ok? Do they notice my long nose, my unpredictable hair, my freckles? Or is that all just stuff I focus on?" Who even cares? Why do I even care?

This never goes away. And now, predictably, it's all a bit louder, a bit stronger. "Do they think I look too big or too small for 18 weeks pregnant? Is she saying I should be eating more, or less? Why are they staring at me? Does she want to say something about how huge my boobs are?"

I can deal with this barrage of unhelpful thoughts and questions. What I worry I can't deal with, is the truth of how I really feel, deep down, about my body, pregnant or not. And that truth is, I'm not convinced it's ok. I'm not sure what is ever going to be enough, or fine, or just what it is. I worry I'll always have one eye trained on my self-image, one eye judging my outward appearance and comparing it to others'.

Most of all, I worry about passing this useless energy onto my child, especially if she's a girl.

If you have any tips for how to embrace the physical aspects of pregnancy, I'm all ears (and belly, haha!). If you've struggled or are struggling, I'd love to hear from you as well.

In the meantime, I'm going to go take a shower, and try really hard to accept what I see. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll even be able to appreciate it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Is for Answered Prayers, Avocados, and Anxiety

Note: If you are reading this, first, thank you. I know it's been months since I last wrote, and I appreciate your not giving up on me. Second, if you are struggling to have a baby, please take care of your heart if you choose to read this post. It could be very triggering. Last, here's hoping 2015 turns out to be a good year for us all.

So, it's been a while. Looking back, October seems really far away and I feel like I should be ashamed for not having written anything since then. But the truth is, I've been too scared to write, because I learned I was pregnant shortly after that last post, and the thought of putting anything about it into words here has caused me so much anxiety that I've just stayed away.

Anxiety. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I could magically replace it with some other sensation, like joy, or contentment. I think I could probably solve all the world's problems and then run two marathons and create twelve new flavors of ice cream. At the very least, I think I'd be a much harder worker, a much gentler wife, and a much, much better friend.

But of course anxiety, at least for me, is not going anywhere, not anytime soon. It's been with me in some form or another, hiding out in various parts of my body, my whole life. Recently it has taken up residence in my mind.

How could this be, when I am now sixteen weeks pregnant and I am finally living the life I've craved for years? How could I be anxious when, at twelve weeks I learned my baby was doing fine and I got to see photos that made my heart pound with love? What anxiety is left to cling to now that I'm sporting a rounder belly and soaking up attention left and right?

I'll tell you. Becoming pregnant is not this oh-my-gosh-how-great! experience for women who have been struck by infertility and loss. Instead, it's more like an oh-God-please-let-everything-be-ok-now-I-can't-sleep-what-if-there's-no-heartbeat-or-I-lose-it-later kind of experience. I'm finding that yes, some of those fears have lessened in the second trimester, but the worrying is still there, every day, and it's kept me from wanting to say too much, for fear that...what? I don't know. Something will go wrong. My happy, amazing little miracle of a time will come crashing down around me.

My husband was the one who nudged me to get back on the horse. "Why haven't you been writing?" he asked. "Oh, I was going to wait until after the appointment on Monday," I mumbled. As the words were coming out, I knew I could go on like that forever. "Oh, I'm just waiting until I have more to say. I'm just waiting until I buy my first pair of maternity jeans. I'm just waiting until the 20-week ultrasound. I'm just waiting until I know everything is perfect and the baby is born healthy."

If left to my own devices, I could see myself never writing another word until my kid is what, graduating from college? Sigh. I get weary of my brain sometimes.

So I'm fighting it. These are words about being pregnant. I love where I am. I love that everybody at work and on Facebook knows. I love that I'm thinking about names for real this time, and that we aren't going to find out the sex until the day our son or daughter is born. I love that I just typed "our son or daughter." I love that I'm due at the end of June. I love that I'm the pregnant girl in my Pilates classes. I love that my morning sickness is over, finally, and I'm sleeping like a worn-out puppy. I love that my baby is now the size of an avocado.

At the same time, though, the anxiety lurks, taunting me with questions like, "Do I look pregnant, or just fat? Why am I being so hard on myself about what I'm eating? What if I'm becoming "that girl" who only talks about babies and birth plans? What about my friends who don't have children? How can I show them I still get it, that I am never going to forget that pain, or that every conversation doesn't have to be about kids?"

These are questions for future posts. For the rest of today, I'm going to try to just be happy.

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