Monday, May 18, 2015

Steel

"The longer you have to wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when it finally arrives. The harder you have to fight for something, the more priceless it will become once you achieve it. And the more pain you have to endure on your journey, the sweeter the arrival at your destination. All good things are worth waiting for and worth fighting for."

~Susan Gale

I thought about updating at the bottom of the Microblog Monday post, but this seemed like a better way to do it. Before I go on, thank you for the amazing comments of support. Very much appreciated. Now bear with me as I start with some self analyzing.

I can't remember the first piece of bad news I got. There was the time I didn't make the lottery picks to be part of a community play, the time I was picked last to play kickball, the time I was the only girl not invited to a classmate's birthday party, the time I didn't make the volleyball team. Later it would be emotional rejections from crushes, doing poorly in courses, rejection during my first round of graduate school applications (I only applied to 2 programs, but still....) and then failure with presentations, fellowship applications and even potential jobs. And of course, infertility. 

Throughout all of this, I've become a master at steeling myself. Even after giving something my all, to become self critical and convincing myself that what I desire won't happen.

Today is the first time I've found myself steeling for bad news for someone else.

At about 2 pm today, I received a text from Grey. "Went well." Later I got another few texts. 

"I am exhausted."
"Toughest interview ever."
"Well, also the most fun."

At this point, I had a million questions. But I also knew I had to pick the Beats up from daycare and navigate getting them settled for the night. Grey did FaceTime during dinner to interact with them and it was then that we got a chance to chat more.

The long and the short of it is that he had a non-stop, on-your-toes day, interacting with members of the team he would be joining. They grilled him. They picked his brain. And he loved every second of it. He got to think, critic, share ideas and use his skills at a level he's been craving. As he learned more about the position, the more excited he became about the possibility. This opportunity is one he's been dreaming about that neither of us even knew existed.

The only problem is they are not going to be making final decisions until next week. Which means a whole week of waiting.

Hence the steeling. 

I've always been supportive of Grey with his endeavors. Always proud of his work and all he does. But for the first time, I am hopeful/worried with him. "He's done all he possibly can," and "keep having hope" is what I hear. But I also know how crushed he would be if the answer is no. 

And somehow my gut reaction to make it better is to focus on preparing for the worst instead of letting him relish this one win. Because no matter what, today was a win for our family. Today Grey got to walk in the world we've been hoping to find.  

#Microblog Mondays: Anticipation

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

I'm not a patient person. I'm guilty of reading the last chapter of a book to stave off the anticipation of the outcome of the story, reading spoilers and even hurry through projects just so I can get the answer. I've struggled with knowing outcomes for as long as I can remember and beside massive progress on learning to live in the moment, I still tend to drive myself crazy from the unknown.

This lack of patience was torturous while dealing with infertility. Not having a firm answer or an idea of an outcome left me chronically depressed and anxious. One of the gifts I gained from this experience was learning to let go of needing to know. I've gotten better. I swear I have.

So knowing this, you can imagine how tortuous today is for me. Grey is currently on an interview with his dream job. Landing this position not only means he'll finally have a new direction for his career but will also be the catalyst for relocating so I can start my postdoc. There's a lot riding on today. We've both been preparing and stressing for this.

And I have zero idea how it's going. No clue if things are going well or if he's hating the whole experience.

Can it please be 7 pm already? 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Flashbacks of NICU

It's always amazing what can trigger memories. A moment, a pause or even an unsuspecting object. Anything can bring it all back. But there are other things that are more obvious. Stories from others that can immediately take you back to the event in question.

Today Grey sent me a text alerting me to an email he was forwarding. Back in March, he learned a former coworker and his wife were expecting twins. We learned today that they arrived at 27 weeks. Though both need only minimal respiratory support (no ventilators, thank goodness) and these kiddos are doing amazingly well, the family has a long road ahead of them in NICU.

I learned about this as I was feeding the Beats dinner. After reading the announcement , I looked up from my phone to see these two NICU graduates happily eating together, chatting with one another about everything and anything. It was then that the flashbacks started. A surreal experience of what had been and where we are today.

The NICU experience is one many remember vividly. From the wires, the tubes, the counting and weighing wet/poppy diapers and feeding tubes. Fear is always on the horizon: fear of hurting your child(ren), fear of doing something wrong, fear of the worst case scenario. Fear of losing this being you love with your whole being. Like infertility/loss, it tests you, often bringing one to the brink.

Yet you're not allowed to talk about it. Or at least not bring up the fear and uncertainty.

Since looking at those first photos of Grey's former coworker's new babies, a need to reach out has been brewing. Grey has already reached out to this family, congratulating them and letting them know we're thinking of them. But I hesitate to say more as I don't want to taint their experience with my own, as their road ahead will certainly be different given the circumstances.

And yet, what I want to say to them is more than I'm thinking of you. I'm willing a good outcome for you. I want you to know that the fear and anxiety you face from having your child in this place is very real and founded. That I wish I could take it from you and tell you all will be okay. That all I can give you instead is assurance that you are doing everything right to bring your child home, even when it doesn't feel like it. That even though they spend so much time inside that plastic bed, they know when you are there. That it's okay to be sad and frustrated.

But most of all, that you've done nothing to cause this. That having your child in this place isn't because you are a bad person or somehow unfit as a parent.

Tonight, as I look through our own photos, I have a simple wish. My wish for all who are currently in this place is that in a couple of years from now it all is a distant memory. That you are sitting and eating dinner with your child, the same way I did with mine tonight. And that you bring them home very soon.


Monday, May 11, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: her brother's keeper

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

From an early age, the Beats have interacted. From sharing playmats to fighting for toys, their relationship as brother-sister is firmly established. A favorite game as of late is the sibling version of king-of-the-mountain, with them fighting for lap-space on mom. 

Recently, though, I was informed by their teachers how protective She-Beat is of her brother. Follow bumps or crashes, where he calls out in pain or frustration, she is one of the first on the scene to comfort him and make sure he's okay. Even more interesting is to hear stories of her intervening when there are moments of conflict with other kids. The teachers laugh about her constant need to put herself in the middle, grumbling angrily at the offender in question and making it clear that no one gets to beat on him except for her.

Though 2 minutes younger and 3.5 lbs lighter, she is her brother's keeper.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Celebrating my M.o.Ms. on Mother's Day

Last Sunday, the Beats and I had an impromptu playdate with some of the other children from their daycare. As the group was corralling kids, one mother asked what everyone was doing the following Sunday. "After all, it's Mother's Day! I hope you all have something special planned." Thankfully, this caught everyone else in the group off guard, as responses of "Oh yeah, I completely forgot," or blank looks were common responses. Despite that, I found my eyes were downcast and I focused my attention towards the kids. Feeling the familiar tug at old wounds. 

To say Mother's Day is painful for any infertile or RPLer is like stating that Superman's one weakness is kryptonite. It should be obvious. And yet, year after year, society demonstrates what a difficult concept this is to grasp. The idea that this day would be painful in anyway just doesn't register. Instead the focus is on cards, gifts, flowers, jewelry and brunch. Making sure that those who fit the stereotype are showered with affection while the rest are suppose to suck it up. After all, being a mom is the most important job in the world, right?

The kick in the gut is that even though I am now parenting, I still very much identify as being infertile. I have too many friends in the ALI world who I know are hurting during these celebrations and feeling unnecessarily excluded because they don't fit the stereotype. And then there's also the fact that I'm estranged from my own mother. That I struggle even more because my mom is not part of my life. Yes, I made that decision, but it doesn't make it less painful.

Two years ago, I made a conscious decision to expand the definition of "mom" by celebrating the people in my life who have had an impact. Pamela's recent post outlines this perfectly, giving an official name to the concept. In short, I'm spending the day honoring my Mentors of Many or M.o.Ms. The goal is a simple one: let these amazing individuals know on this day what an impact they are making in the world. Because even though many on my list don't qualify for the title of "Mom" according to society, for me they most certainly do.

Finally, in addition to honoring my M.o.Ms, I'm also reposting my attempt at a survival guide. Please feel free to add to this, modify it or use it as a template for creating your own version.

Mother's Day Survival Guide:
Let it out. I'm going to start here, since most survival guides list this one dead last. Look, infertility/loss is hard. Very hard. So instead of suppressing the anger, sadness, frustration, worry, etc., do the one thing that so many well-meaning people will tell you not to do: just let it out. Give yourself a good 30-40 minutes to get the pain caused by this disease out of your system. Shed those tears, voice your worries, curse the universe. Write, exercise, scream. You get the idea. Because once you get it out, you'll feel better. You'll no longer have to worry about being sad the rest of the day because you've given yourself some time.

Acknowledge what you have accomplished. Living with infertility and loss is not for the weak. Anyone who's been on this path for any length of time has changed and will continue to be changed. Most of the time, this has only been for the better. You may have learned how to stand up for yourself, advocating your needs. Your marriage/relationship with your spouse, significant other, family and friends may have strengthened and deepened in ways you didn't know possible. You may have overcome your fear of needles. Whatever it may be, celebrate it. Take a moment or two to give yourself the acknowledgement you and your loved ones deserved for battling this disease. You've earned it.

Get out of the house. This one I can't stress enough. As tempting as it will be to spend the day in your pajamas watching bad TV, plan instead to spend the day doing some sort of activity. If seeing families is a trigger, plan a non-family friendly event. If being with family is a comfort, plan on spending some time. What ever it may be, get out of the house!

Celebrate the "mother" in your life. For those of you who have been reading this blog long enough, you'll know that my biological mother and I are not on friendly terms. That said, I do believe that Mother's Day is a time to celebrate those who have been "mothers" to you in some way. I also believe that one does not earn the title of "mother" simply by being able to birth a human being. There have been many amazing women in my life who have helped me become the person I am today. And I'm sure I'm not alone on this. So spend the day thanking your "mothers", be it spending time with them, shooting off a short email, or simply doing something that they taught you.

Distractions, distractions, distractions. I once read that an emotion lasts for about 10 minutes. The reason why people experience any emotion for longer periods is because they are "refiring" that emotion, be it with mental images or play inner dialogue. So like getting out of the house, find some way to distract yourself. Again, it's okay to be sad, frustrated, etc. But give yourself a break from all the madness too.

Treat yourself.  When all is said and done, Mother's Day is like any other holiday: sometimes just getting through is an accomplishment. So, at the end of the day, do something special. Take a bath, schedule a little "me" time, hog the covers. You get the picture. Reward yourself for making it through this day.

To all of you wonderful warrior women; those who dared to take this long journey toward motherhood: those dreaming of their children, those celebrating the news of a BFP, those awaiting results from treatment/a recent cycle, those making their way through the scares and doubts of pregnancy after IF/RPL. Those mourning a loss/losses or news of a BFN and those holding their children, either in their arms or in their hearts. My wish for you is this: may there be a moment of peace during your reflections/celebrations this weekend. And may you all be wrapped in love.

Knowing that you truly want it

This blog has been quiet lately. The quiet here is in direct opposition to everywhere else in my life. Grey is currently home from a conference, preparing for another one followed immediately by an interview for a much desired position. We're both stressed and on edge for what is coming, which has only been compounded by dealing with never ended work obligations and managing others expectations.

I would say we need a vacation, but we both know it's not going to happen.

In the few moments of quiet I get in the evenings, I reflect on the feelings all of this is stirring and how similar these are to the ones we faced while in the trenches. The stress from the uncertainty, the hope of the possibilities and feeling isolated as others around us can't always support us (though this time we are lucky help is readily available and willing).

But most surprising has been the silently sadness that comes with the idea that all of this could fall apart. And I find myself going back to a place I did while in the thick of infertility: the convincing oneself that you truly don't want this.

Steeling oneself from pain is a natural thing. As infant we had the moro response, which had a role in protecting ourselves from falling. As toddler, pushing/hitting/biting was a response when we were unable to verbally communicate our distress. Later we learned techniques like "tuck and roll," how to duck a punch and developing social skills for dealing with social exclusion, gossip and fights with loved ones. But it is in those moments where we encounter pain again and again that steel becomes a valuable coping techniques. Not getting ones hopes up is suppose to dampen the pain, making rejection and defeat all the more bearable.

I remember the months following my second miscarriage questioning myself about my desire to be a mother. There were moments where I would convince myself that I really didn't want to be a parent and that this was actually all for the best. Those moments usually followed encounters with the parade of bellies or seeing sleepy newborns tucked in their strollers. Those moments came following questions about when Grey and I were going to "stop screwing around and get to it" or getting "helpful" advice on resolving our infertility. Those moments came on holidays or special occasions,  where families were put on pedestals. Those moments came following news of uncertainty and failure.

Looking back, I can tell you without a doubt that this wasn't the case.

That those moments of questioning and uncertainty didn't mean I wanted children any less. If nothing else, it demonstrated a thoughtful contemplation that most rarely engage in. And it prepared me in ways that many lack.

Because now when the Beats wake me up at 5:30 am for a morning sippy cup, we spend that time for morning cuddles and bonding instead of groaning over the lack of sleep. Now when we mention that I'm solo parenting while Grey travels, we find ourselves embracing the challenge and learning how to ask for help. Now when the Beats encounter moments of frustration, I find my temper is constantly checked while calmly teaching them to love their friends and use their words. Now it is clear that we wanted this so much, we're willing to make sacrifices without batting an eye.

So for all of you today who are wondering where you really want this. Be it following diagnosis, bad news on the treatment end or uncertainty on the road ahead. You do want this. If you didn't, you wouldn't hurt the way you do. You wouldn't put your body and your heart through this torment without purpose. You do want this.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The stories that change us

We are surrounded by stories. Whether it's daily gossip about happenings in the neighborhood to reports on the evening news, it's nearly impossible to go through one's day without hearing a tale. What is more rare, though, is happening upon stories that change the way we think or our outlook on the world. Stories that touch us at our very core, acting as a catalyst for something new.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on these types of stories. With both Beats exploring stories from my childhood on the heels of a lot of change in my own life, I've been picking through the ones I know have shaped me, acting as roadmaps during times of uncertainty. The underlying themes of these stories has been one of perseverance and strength, even in the face of massive opposition. Yet there's always a special element too. Something that sets them apart and often transports us into those same stories, making us one with them.

A few weeks ago with NIAW, I found myself once again reading lots of stories about journeys through infertility. Most of these stories I am very familiar with, as I've read along and supported these amazing authors. Others were new to me, but still left me nodding along and feeling familiar aches. In general, a common theme emerged: one of survival during a trauma that turns life upside down. Though each path is unique, every author talked about the importance of finding support for their journey and finding their own road to resolution along the way. All of these are powerful stories. All the messages were very important.

Reading all these stories brought me back to my own time in the trenches and the bloggers that kept me going. Initially, I found myself gravitating only to those who were in treatment and finding resolution through pregnancy. But as time went on, I started to expand my reading list to those who were finding other roads to resolution. And their stories changed not only my outlook on those paths, but also spurred some serious self reflection that catalyzed some life-changing decisions in other aspects of my life. Their stories laid new foundation for my own road to resolution.

Back in February, following my post about wanting to find ways to advocate, Pamela contacted me. She told me about a new book she was working on and shared a draft with me, asking me to take a look. What originally started as a promise to Grey that I would only need 30 mins quickly turned into 3 hours of reading and rereading Pamela's work, nodding along and pausing to reflect on thoughts and feelings that resurfaced through each of her chapters. But most importantly, I found myself shocked when I came upon the section about how society views women who are not parenting after infertility and realizing that prior to infertility I too believed these myths and how it's thanks to women like Pamela, Loribeth and Mali that I no longer do.

The core element of stories that change us is that the touch on truths that society wants to repress. For those of us living with infertility, the idea that living a full life after infertility without parenting is one that many consider impossible. And yet, the myth of this impossibility is damaging. I firmly believe that everyone living with infertility should be given options and opportunities to grow their families. But I also believe that our society also needs to recognize that there is more than one road to resolution and each road is an individual as the players involved.

Pamela's new book "Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds its Voice," addresses all the above. Newly released (and I encourage you read it), Pamela goes beyond the emotional aspects of the infertility diagnosis and finding oneself at the end of treatments without a baby, bravely tackles both society's view of those living without children as well as the dark-side of an unregulated fertility industry. Though this last part is definitely unpopular, the message that Pamela brings is important for anyone who decides to pursue treatments to consider.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, there will always be stories that help you move through the mile-markers. Some stories will provide inspiration to take those first steps down a path while others will have you stopping in your tracks and re-evaluating your path. These are the stories that change us.
 
Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved