Monday, December 27, 2010

Heart Pangs

This holiday season has been so incredibly blessed for us.  After several very painful holiday seasons, I cannot begin to explain the happiness I felt as I cuddled my little man on Christmas morning.

Christmas has always been one of those big benchmarks where, as a person experiencing infertility, you say, "We will definitely have a baby by (insert some big event)."  For the last four years, we were certain we would have a baby of our own at the next Christmas gathering. But every year, Christmas came and went without a baby and was just a huge reminder of our heartbreak and failure.  This year we finally have so much to celebrate.  For the first time, our family photo did not entail me holding my dog while my sisters clung to their beaming babies--this time I held my own beautiful bundle of goodness!

That isn't to say that there haven't still been painful moments this holiday season.  Today, we received a late holiday card in which our friends announced the impending birth of their third child.  Reading this announcement set off a pang in my heart.  There is still this unexplainable longing when I hear friends talk about being pregnant.  That longing is less painful than in the past--I can now walk down the hall and peer into the peaceful, sleeping face of my little angel, and the pain dissipates.  I cannot fully explain the longing that I still feel, and that inability to explain is part of what makes it so difficult to deal with.  There is a huge part of me that feels if I talk about--or even acknowledge--the longing that it makes me less of a mother or less grateful for the gift we have been given through adoption.  But, I know that without talking about the pain and longing, I will never be able to move on and fully heal. I am grateful for the strong women in my life who have talked about their continued struggles with infertility, even after having/adopting babies.  Knowing that I am not alone makes me feel less crazy and makes this wacky journey more bearable! 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Life After Baby

I have taken a break from blogging for quite some time. 

During the few months that I was away, we had yet another match with a birthmom, got word that the match had fallen through, were told the match was back on again, and now have a beautiful seven-week-old son.  Talk about ups and downs!

During the adoption process I considered what would become of my blog.  I was under the allusion that my infertility woes would disappear once we finally had the baby we had been longing for and believed that I would end my blog once I was finally a mommy.  Perhaps I was jumping the gun.

As much as I tried to tell myself that my infertility pains were over, I have noticed the sadness and jealous still creeping up on me—albeit far less often then before.  When I look at my nephew, who is a mirror image of my sister, I feel a pang of envy because I know that I will never look into a face and see a melding of my husband and me.   When I see a pregnant belly, I still find myself looking the other way because I continue to carry so much jealousy over the fact that I will never experience the feeling of a tiny life inside of me.  When Aunt Flo came a week ago—for the first time since having my son—I felt the usual pain in my chest.  I have tried to suppress those feeling, writing them off as lingering “habits” that would eventually go away.

A couple of days ago I called a pregnant friend of mine.  I happened to catch her as she was leaving a doctors appointment.  She gushed about how amazing it was to hear the baby’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound.  After I hung up the phone, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me and was overcome with tears.  And then the anger arrived—I feel angry with myself, because maybe I am not grateful enough for the beautiful gift of my son and maybe I am a bad mom for still grieving the loss of my fertility.  For the last two days I have been apologizing to my son for the feelings of loss I still carry.  Even though I love him more than I ever knew it was possible to love another person, I worry that it is not enough and I am a horrible mother because I still can’t seem to shake the infertility blues.  

The path to motherhood has been extremely turbulent and painful for me.  I know that it is unrealistic to expect the sadness and jealousy to disappear overnight but I hope those feelings continue to dissipate and that I can let go of the anger that these feelings have brought on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some Thoughts For Loved Ones About What to Say (or Not Say)

I recently spent time with extended family that I haven't seen for almost a year.  None of them acknowledged or asked about how things are going with our adoption or how we are dealing with our infertility issues.  I know in my head that their lack of acknowledgment is probably because they don't know what to say, but it doesn't negate the fact that it hurts in my heart and feels as if they don't care.  

The following information is from a group called Life Medals.  It is meant for people with loved ones dealing with infertility.  I posted both of the lists on my facebook page a couple of years ago and they really made a big difference in my interactions with family and friends.  Many of my friends thanked me for sharing it because it helped them know how to be more supportive.  So, I am passing it on to you all and encourage you to share it with your family and friends.

Top 6 things to say to a woman struggling to conceive

Due to the sexual nature of infertility there is a shame and stigma attached to this life and medical crisis. Bringing awareness is key to changing the way people feel about and react to the issue of infertility.   

Simply acknowledging those suffering will help fortify their spirits.  Here are some things you can say:  

1. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. 

2. I am sorry you are going through this. 

3. I don’t know what to say, but I am here for you. 

4. Do you want to talk about it? 

5. I will support whatever decisions you make. 

6. What can I do to help? 

Studies have shown that infertility is as stressful as battling cancer or being diagnosed with a disease such as diabetes or HIV.  Offer the same support you would to someone who had lost a loved one or was battling a life-threatening disease.  

Be respectful and try to understand their grief.  Infertility is extremely difficult emotionally, physically, and financially.  Relationships suffer and some fail due to the stress, and repeated disappointments.  Acknowledging their pain and not minimizing it, goes a long way. 

Top 6 things NOT to say to a woman trying to conceive 

More than 6 million Americans are affected by infertility. Their pain is similar to the grief of losing a loved one, but this grief reoccurs month after month, sometimes year after year. Infertility is a tough enough rollercoaster ride without hurtful comments.  Here is what NOT to say: 

1. “Just Relax.” 
It minimizes a diagnosable medical problem. These type of comments add to their stress.  Would you tell someone with cancer to just relax?  I didn’t think so. 

2. “Enjoy being able to travel, sleep late, have free time, etc.”  
Don’t minimize their pain. Being able sleep late does not provide comfort to someone who has always dreamed of being a parent.  Your hectic life making memories sounds pretty good compared to an empty house wondering if you will ever be a part of “first steps”, soccer games, watching your child graduate. Would you tell someone who just lost their home how lucky they are now that they don’t have a lawn to mow? 

3. “Maybe you aren’t meant to be a mom/dad.” 

Do you notice all the abusive, neglectful, drug-addicted parents out there? Do they ‘deserve’ to be parents??? Enough said. 

4. “Why don’t you just adopt?” 
Do you ask this of ‘fertile” couples?  Why not?  Many people dream of having a child that is biologically related to them, to experience pregnancy, and birth. Many infertiles become parents by adoption, but adoption is not easy or  inexpensive. It is it’s own difficult journey. 

 5. “You should try In-Vitro, my naturopath, supplements, etc.” 
Infertility is a complicated problem to diagnose and you probably do not know all the facts. Don’t play doctor and don’t give unsolicited advice.  Anyone dealing with infertility has seriously considered or tried IVF, if they can afford it.  In-Vitro Fertilization is very costly.  If you are under 40 your chances for success are around 25% at a cost of at least $12,000 a try.  Maybe for medical reasons they cannot pursue IVF.  Alternative health practices may work for you and you can mention it, but don’t push it.  You have no idea how much they have researched and tried to figure out what will work for their situation. It is disrespectful to push your treatment plan. 

6. “Being pregnant isn’t fun” 
If you are pregnant, do not complain about your pregnancy to someone struggling to have a baby.  Leave these complaints for others that have children. It is painful enough to be infertile and be surrounded by women that easily get pregnant, to watch their bellies grow. Your infertile friend would give and do ANYTHING to feel your discomfort, weight gain, etc.   

Monday, May 10, 2010

The "Weighting" Game

When my husband and I first spoke with the doctors about medical interventions for infertility, they warned that one of the side effects would probably weight gain.  Since I felt pretty confident that the treatments would lead to a baby, I didn't mind.  I wanted a baby so badly, I didn't care about the potential damage to my body.  

Three years and 30 pounds later, there was no baby.  But, there was depression.  Then the adoption fell through.  I spent two weeks laying in bed, crying, and eating cookies--none of which helped me to feel any better, but I did gain another eight pounds.  And now, because of all of the fertility drugs, my hormones are so out of whack that I am beginning menopause, which of course, doesn't help with the weight issues.

In the beginning, I thought gaining weight was no big deal because I would get a baby out of it.  I figured getting a baby was worth any toll on my body.  But, in the end, I have no baby and can barely handle looking in the mirror.

When I think about our infertility journey and when I talk with others about infertility, I usually only acknowledge the emotional pain.  Rarely do I speak about the toll that this journey has taken on my body.  But the physical toll is ever-present.  I don't think an hour goes by that I don't think about how uncomfortable I am in my own skin.  And, the weight that I now carry is another reminder of how my body has failed, and continues to fail, me.    

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trying to Scrape Myself Off the Floor, While Being Honest

I am a bad blogger.....I have been missing for awhile again.  Over the last month and a half, I have sat in front of the computer numerous times trying to write, but it has been too painful.  Writing meant having to explain, one more time, what happened.  Explaining hurts.  Anyone dealing with infertility knows how explaining hurts.  Explaining why you don't have kids, explaining that your latest treatment hasn't worked, explaining why "just relaxing" isn't going to get you pregnant, explaining, explaining, explaining.  Blah!!  But, I suppose it's part of the journey and in some way, it must make us stronger (even if I can't see it right now!).

Our birthmother gave birth to a boy on March 9th.  She called on her way to the hospital asking me if I was ready to be a mom.  She called after he was born to congratulate me on finally becoming a mommy.  We talked throughout the night.  I was on cloud nine.  But then, at 8:00 am the following morning, our caseworker called to tell us that she had changed her mind and was going to keep the baby.  I was frozen, as I felt my world collapse around me.

It is surprising how this failed adoption has brought back so much of my deepest, darkest infertility baggage.  For so long, I felt like I was in a much better place than I had been for a long, long time.  I felt like I had really dealt with a lot of my grief and loss issues related to our infertility.  But then, BAM, it hit me right in the gut.  A not-so-gentle reminder of how my body has failed me and how because of this failure, if I ever want to be a mom, I will have to keep putting myself through the wringer.  I feel like I am back where I was two years ago--at my lowest point in the infertility journey.  Clearly I have a lot more work to do.

After the fateful call from our worker, I went into hiding.   I sent a message to my friends telling them I wasn't ready to talk and that I needed some time to myself.  I allowed myself two weeks to feel miserable--crying, lying in bed, crying, eating cookies, crying, crying, and more crying.  After two weeks, I decided it was time to get back to living.  What I found out was that living is hard, especially when you have to do so much explaining.  Everyone wants to know what happened, why it happened, and all of the dirty details.  Augh.

And here we are, right back to the infertility dance.  It seems like when you are dealing with infertility, or any other kind of loss for that matter, the person who is grieving ends up spending a lot of time trying to care for everyone else's feelings. When going through fertility treatments everyone wants to know how things are going.  When you explain that the treatments aren't working, they start apologizing and saying all of those things that people say to try to make you feel better.  And then, for me (and I think many other people), this weird thing happens where I feel like I need to comfort the other person; to tell them, "Oh, it's okay, I am fine...blah, blah, blah."  Why don't we ever say, "Yeah, the pain in my heart is debilitating and most days I don't think I can go on living."  Nope, instead we tell everyone that we are fine so that they don't feel uncomfortable.

After I returned to the world of the living, after my two-week cry-fest, I jumped right back into the lies; telling everyone I was okay, when most days I struggled to even get out of bed.  I went to lunch with a friend who chastised me "disappearing off the face of the earth for two week."   She was upset that I wasn't there for her--she too was upset that we lost the baby.  I am now able to see how absurd it was for her to expect me to be there for her, but, of course, I starting apologizing and trying to comfort her.  I need to work on this.  I need to let people feel what they feel, but more importantly, allow myself to feel what I feel and to be honest with myself and other about my emotions.

To all of you reading this who are dealing with infertility, I challenge you to be truthful about your journey.  This doesn't mean you have to tell everyone the details of the process but be honest.  Allow yourself to be sad when you are sad, to hurt when you hurt, and don't apologize.  You deserve to feel what you are feeling, without apology.

And to those of you reading who love someone who is dealing with infertility, I challenge you to support, acknowledge, and validate the feelings of those you love.  Infertility is often a very lonely journey because people tend to keep their pain inside.  Encourage your loved ones to talk about how they feel--how they really feel.  It will make a world of difference to them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hope on the Rocks

This is a poem that was posted in a recent issue of the "Stepping Stones" newsletter from Bethany.  This poem beautifully captures how I feel everyday so I thought I would post it here. I imagine it is how many of you feel as well.

Hope on the Rocks
by Kim Caloca

Today someone's hopes lay dying against the rocks
Today the waves come crashing down
Reminding her of what is not to be
Reminding her that in nine months there will be no tiny feet
Her husband's eyes won't be staring back
Her nose won't be crinkled on another little face
She beats the ground with her balled up fist
She wipes the tears and puts on a calm face
Wondering if this dream will ever come to pass
Wondering if this nightmare will ever fade at last
Advice is offered once again, it's not the right time
Advice is offered once again, relax and it will happen
But the pain still feels the same, gut-wrenching
But the pain still feels the same, heart-breaking
And no amount of comfort can be offered
And no consoling words can bring relief
She watches other ships in the distance
She watches other families grow and evolve
In the flotsam and jetsam she waits, struggling to stay afloat
In the cold harsh water she clings to the cross she bears

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Maybe Once You Adopt You Will Get Pregnant With a REAL Child"

I apologize that I have been M.I.A. for awhile.  Much has happened since I last wrote.  We have moved, opened a new business, and got the much anticipated call from the adoption agency.

It is amazing how much the impending adoption feels like the "infertility wait".  Those painful two weeks at the end of your cycle--waiting to see if you might actually have a baby or if the bottom will drop out, AGAIN.  Now, we wait to see if the birth mother will change her mind--if this new bottom will drop out.  And, there is still the ever-present infertility grief, constantly tugging at my heart strings.

And, even though we may have a baby soon, I still find myself dealing with the CrAzY fertility-related comments from well-meaning people.

Even before we started pursuing adoption, I must have heard the "adoption leads to pregnancy" comment a million times.  It seems everyone "knows someone, who knows someone" who got pregnant after  adopting.  I can't count the number of times in the last three years that I have been told, "Well, why don't you just adopt, then you will get pregnant?!"  Like somehow adopting will jump-start my non-functioning ovaries.  

The reality is, this is NOT TRUE.  Research shows that in only 8% of cases do infertile couples get pregnant after adoption (Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 33, No. 6).   The fact of the matter is, adoption doesn't cure infertility.  And, to insinuate that it does is a slap in the face.  It is like telling me that my infertility is just in my head and not a medical condition.  My non-functioning ovaries will not start functioning just because we adopt. Those two things are not related.  

Infertility is a medical condition.  My ovaries do not work.  Adopting a baby will not fix that anymore than adopting a new puppy will.   Inferring that adoption will "cure me" is a slap in the face, minimizing the years of pain I have experienced because of my infertility.

And, a note related more to adoption than to infertility:  Saying that all I need to do to get pregnant is to adopt infers that I am using my adopted child to get what you deem as more desirable--a biological child.  I will love my adopted child as if I had grown it in my own womb.