Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Episode 9: the importance of validation

Episode 9 of Bitter Infertiles is live. This episode is one that we've been waiting to do for a while; one that had me tearing up while we were recording. This episode focuses on baby loss. Joining us for this important topic was the amazing Alissa from MissConceptions. I honestly don't know if we would have gotten through it without her.

*Spoiler alert: I'm starting this post by talking about the episode. If you would prefer to listen to it, please don't read any further. I really believe it's an important episode and don't take away the experience with my observations.

Sunday afternoon was a tornado of emotions and realizations. Mo, Shelley and I had been talking about recording an episode on baby loss for awhile, but the Sunday after Mo's return from the US made it clear we needed to prioritize it. The morning of, I was nervous. I've been worried about Mo for awhile and was hoping that talking with Alissa would help her find some peace and solace, as Mo was clearly still grieving for Nadav. What happened instead was the floodgates for her grief were opened.

Through her tears, Mo talked about how she relives losing Nadav on almost a daily basis. That she hurts so much and just wants the pain to go away. This was part of the push to become pregnant again so soon, as she hoped that it would help promoting healing and would allow her to move forward with life. Instead, with this last failed cycle and the realization that she should be holding her baby, she feels trapped.

It was at this point that I started looking for plane tickets to Israel.

Alissa's words were powerful ones that touched me to the core. She talked openly about Michael and Alena and about the fact that her pregnancy with Raz doesn't erase the pain of losing her first borns. She talked about grieving them, living with the "what ifs" and even about things that trigger that awful day in October

And then she said something that resonated with the gatekeepers. That circled back to what David and Dee had been trying to help me see for so many months. She told Mo how important it is to remember Nadav and to validate her loss. That healing from this terrible tragedy requires her to reopen the wound and to care for it properly. She suggested a scrapbook for him, using the posts she wrote about the lessons he taught her as potential entries. Or to claim a space in her home to hang the images of his name in the sand. A soundtrack. Or even to paint. She acknowledge how painful and scary all of this is; how tempting it is not to do this, as loved ones will worry that you're becoming obsessed, not healing or even worry that you're doing more harm. But, without honoring the dead, the living can not move on. Validation is that important.

Following the episode, I spent the rest of the morning reflecting on what both Mo and Alissa had said. Angered and pain were stirring beneath the surface and I thought of all the friends I have met through this journey who had suffered from the pain of infertility and loss. It was while I was showering it all came together. Like getting hit by lighting, where all you feel is tingling for the impact.

Infertility and pregnancy/infant loss are painful tragedies that affect so many. But what makes them so unbearable is that those suffering are rarely validated. Comments like "at least you don't have cancer/Alzheimer/6-months-to-live," "just adopt," or even "it's G_d's will" invalidate the individual who is suffering. Talking about these topics is often met with discomfort and silence, even from loved ones. And then there are the haters. Those who are so bitter in life that they think nothing of tearing you down with their callous comments and simplified rational for your pain. All of it invalidation. All of it adding more trauma.

Here's a basic psychological fact: we all need validation. Without it, wars start, families break apart and humans are miserable. With it, we bridge gaps, find purpose and move mountains (sometimes literally). We all need validation. Without it, it's easy to go mad.

What I realized is that I had spent most of my life feeling undermined. My mother was skilled at doing this, pointing to the needs of others and reasoning that my feelings didn't matter when I felt wronged. Being a good midwestern girl, I played into it. What changed that was infertility and losing two pregnancies. Suddenly, as my mother tired to minimize the pain of infertility because of my sister's unexpected pregnancy, I found myself unable to stuff the emotions. I found myself drawing away and cutting off contact. In April, when we lost our second pregnancy, I focused my rage on Lucas because I felt he invalidated our pain by announcing the news they were expecting again. That as Grey's family has silently watched us suffer, assuming space is what is needed, I felt isolated and even more invalidated because I viewed them as labeling me as "crazy."

That I have felt so incredibly invalidated in all of this for so very, very long.

Grey and I having been talking about this realization for the past few days. With David's help, we're beginning to formulate a plan for reversing these feelings and teaching those around us to give support. But a big part of learning how to teach others involves me walking the walk. To offer the same thing that I need so desperately.

Ladies, Mo needs your love. She's missing Nadav so much and needs support as she begins this painful process of reopening the wound. For awhile, I wanted to tell her exactly what to do in order to heal, what to create to honor Nadav. But what hit me most was not that she needs the project, just the support  and love. So please, go give it to her. Wrap this amazing soul in love and light. And tell her that she's validated. That losing her baby isn't something to be minimized or hidden. Reread these posts and share with her what you've learned from your journey too.

But most of all, let her know you understand and that's she's not alone.

Spoiler alert #2: next week's episode is about Ricki Lake. Jessica from Too Many Fish to Fry will be back from her hiatus to talk about this. Be prepared for lots of ranting.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I am the evil queen

First off, thank you all for your wonderful comments to Grey. I sent him each and every one and the discussions that post has sparked between us have really been interesting. The post was very cathartic for him, but all of your comments on top of the news this week about the disaster of an episode on the Ricki Lake show has really pushed a new level of insight. I'm still gathering my thoughts, and promise to post soon, but in the meantime, you can read about it here, here and here.

This past week has truly been an exercising in herding cats (hence my absence). Work has been all consuming, between fellowship applications, teaching and mentoring. One of the things I've noticed, though, is that despite the stress I've been more calm. Moments where I use to been easily frustrated, particularly towards the individual causing the stress, have been spent instead asking questions and trying to drill down to the root of the "why." Grey has noticed it too. During our meeting with David, he talked about how I've been validating him more, being more open to explore thoughts and feelings vs. shutting him down. When he told David this, I found myself shocked and confused: I guess I always assumed that he understood that I was hearing him in the past, but apparently I wasn't sending the right cues.

All of this has spurred me into digging deeper personally, exploring thoughts and feelings about myself. Why am I so angry with Lucas? Why do I feel I deserve this lot? Why do I live, knowing the hell of infertility is far from over? The answers haven't been forthcoming; a lot is still hidden from me behind a wall my subconscious built. But in my quieter moments and even in dreams, the answers have been slipping out. The gatekeepers are finally talking. Or maybe, it's that I'm finally listening.

Part of the realizations have come after watching two series: the first being Tin Man, an adaptation of the "Wizard of Oz" and Once Upon a Time: a series about fairy tales transported to our world. Before you criticize me too harshly about my choice of entertainment, let me just say that two characters from these shows have helped open the lines of communication with the gatekeepers. And it's not at all surprising who they are: the evil queens.

I wrote in the past about how villains are created, reflecting on how the difference between the hero and the villain is success. As I've explored this idea more, though, it's become clear how off I really was. Though most certainly the formula for the creation of an antihero, a true villain is someone who has become corrupt along the way. Suffering some great hurt, they've gone down the slippery slope of incorporating elements into their lives in hopes ending their suffering. Honestly, who can blame them? When living with abuse, chronic pain or loss, who wouldn't give part of themselves to no longer hurt?

In Once Upon a Time, the evil queen is portrayed as someone who is power-hungry and filled with malice. Blaming Snow White for ruining her life, she banishes everyone to our world, stripping them of their memories and subjecting them to her eternal rule as the town mayor. She's also an adoptive mother, adding perfect commentary about how our society views adoption. As the series progresses, the writers begin to the evil queen, showing her childhood with an abusive and controlling mother. How she is continually punished for her chooses as a young woman (mother kills her soulmate after Snow White reveals their plan to elope, her being forced into a loveless marriage, etc). It isn't long before this character makes the decision to kill her abuser, pushing her through a mirror during a moment where she feels she has no other choice.

In Tin Man, the evil queen is the sister of the heroine. It is reveal she is possessed by an ancient evil witch when the younger sister breaks her promise and leaves her older sister the be taken. So much pain and hurt comes from this one act, with a whole land living in fear due to the tyranny of the evil queen.

As I've watched the character developments of these evil queens, I've found myself drawn to them; drawn to their pain. Both of these women hurt immensely, having been betrayed by those who were meant to love and protect them. Both of them have been abused, with others forcing them down paths they would never have chosen on their own. And both of them simply need to be loved and acknowledged for their pain.

The messages from the gatekeepers has been loud and clear since viewing these shows: the rage and sadness that exists inside me stems from feeling abandoned by the world. Grey has been the exception to this, but my anger with Lucas has come because I perceive him striping me of the last bit of support I have. Yes being a parent is hard and yes a new baby will require work, but it's clear he's clueless to our lot (at times willfully so). Hence the hardened exterior, the anger and the snapping. All defense mechanisms of a wounded animal.

The messages about why I feel deserving of this lot, though, have been veiled and scattered. I've tried on the ideas of destiny or fate, neither of which really ring true. What has, though, is a realization one came from a song called "The Merry Minuet" by the Kingston Trio, written in 1959:

They're rioting in africa. They're starving in Spain. 
There's Hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. 

The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch

And I don't like anybody very much!
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud

For man's been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day

Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.
They're rioting in Africa. There's strife in Iran. 

What Nature doesn't do to us will be done by our fellow man.

In other words, we need villains. We need them so badly that we will create them. As fearful we are of evil, we as humans see nothing wrong with this practice, justifying it as "destiny," "bad seed," or even "G_d's will." That we are willing to destroy someone simply because they are different or strange to us. This truth makes me so sad, yet ring so true because I feel like a living example.

I'm struggling with all of this, trying to process what the gatekeepers are telling me. Trying so hard not to reject what is being revealed, instead being curious about it. It's hard and I continue to fail, but it's slowly coming out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

First blog anniversary: A guest post from my better half

One year ago today, I decided to create this space as a place to share our journey with the world. During this time, it's mostly been a one-sided point of view. Grey and I have been talking about this blog and how amazing this community is. But the thing that I noticed missing was a guy's point of view on infertility and pregnancy loss as well as the hurdles involved with expanding one's family. In honor of the one year anniversary of this space, Grey has written a post. And as I promised to him, I will be reading it will all of you, seeing his point of view on these past 3 years only after he hits the "publish" button. 

Cristy has invited me to share my experiences and feelings on her blog with a series of guest posts. She's cool that way. I'm Grey. Infertility has been absolutely awful. I'm lucky though; at least Cristy and I are together through this. That has not been easy. The anxiety, fear, shock, sadness, the despair, the anger, the tears take a toll on a relationship. There have been many fights followed by crying and making up. But having held tight to each other through this, I love Cristy more deeply than ever and I feel we have discovered aspects about ourselves and our relationship we would otherwise have overlooked.

One of the earliest experiences in this journey that sticks in my mind is the day of the HSG. I'm a scientist, but (overly) conservative on some matters of health. I'm not a fan of directly irradiating our reproductive organs for any reason. I freaked out. I thought we were going to harm our children, fry their DNA to a nice toasty mutagenic crisp with x-rays. Not the sexy kind of fantasy mutations you see in X-Men either; the bad ones, the cancer ones and worse. They say that they do this all the time, the dose is low and perfectly safe. I'm sure that's also what they said about painting radium on watch dials and installing asbestos insulation. I started studying horrible diseases because of how awful they are and my imagination has a diverse inventory. Then I worry about the conversation I had once with a radiology tech who flies around the country adjusting this kind of equipment and can find it out of tune. Is this clinic competent? Why do we have to do this? Why can't we just wait and try some more? Cristy and I fought. This was about 1 hour before the procedure. I waited until then to address these feelings.
It was the first of many diagnostic interventions, then meds. Every time I asked: "Do we have to do this? Why are you so impatient? Why do we have to risk this?" then I'd say stuff like "I can't believe you'd risk this, you're obsessed!" I took my insecurities over the experience out on Cristy. It was a lesson on how a wedge can be driven between two people who love each other dearly.

Then came the day. My first one. Not nearly as invasive as what Cristy had to go through, not painful at all, but more than a little awkward. I'm sure almost every guy feels this way doing this, except those 6'2'', MD-PhD-JD-triathelete-Returned Peace Corps-MENSA 20/20 vision in their beautiful blue eyes, professional sperm donors you read about, they must know that they offer a quality product that the world can't do without ;) . For me it was extra awkward; this was the department at the university I'm affiliated with, there are people I see in seminars that have offices 2 doors down from the "production room." Then, I'm on. The reading material is interesting. I'm amused by and support the inclusive diversity; all your standard guy-magazine fare (subscription tags on the front, the clinic is dedicated), and also offerings if your sperm can't really ever impregnate your domestic partner for same-sex reasons. I make my choice, standard stuff, she looks hot. I like the lipstick and her hair color. She also looks non-judgmental, given the situation. Kind of a: "Hey big boy, let's just enjoy the moment." I go to it, thinking how I'm doing this while my coworkers are, well, working, during working hours and I'm doing this. It's slow at first, but I'm experienced and low-maintenence. Job is complete. Ahhh... never a bad finish. Yeah, I'm a guy.

I wash up, make sure the lid is on tight and put it in the plexiglass box I've been instructed to leave it in. The office staff and technicians are great, they remind me of diner waitresses that make you feel special. This isn't meant to be insulting to their training or important role. It's sincere and a complement. I leave and consider myself lucky that I didn't need to do some of the more sophisticated, invasive retrieval techniques (you guys are tough!).

I need to level with Cristy. I know now how she has felt, she fears that it's her, now I have the fear that it's me. Her tests aren't done. More to go. My counts aren't back yet. I love her. I say: "Cristy, whatever the outcome, it's you and me all the way." She agrees. We're a team.

Time goes by. Counts come back. Not great, but ok. Slightly low this, but high that. Doc says nothing particularly informative. Future counts fluctuate, some great (self-esteem booms), others a bit flat, one due to a fever from a Reno wedding food poisoning incident confirmed by 20 other victims, including Cristy (why did I eat the fish?). Maybe it's me. Maybe not. Maybe they're great. Maybe they suck. Maybe I suck. Maybe I'm not a man. Maybe I'm a useless sterile blob, a flesh dumpling just taking up space and depriving my wife of a child, a child some real man could give her if I'd just get out of the way. I'd be better off as a robot. If I was a robot, I'd have a purpose and I wouldn't care that I didn't have the parts to build a little robot. Up, down. Then I see what a "normal" guy's counts look like over a year. They vary at least as much.

More tests for Cristy. Then the diagnosis: unexplained. Constant speculation about things. Is Cristy's progesterone a little too low? Time goes on, "mild male-factor?" gets tacked on to the diagnosis. With the question mark. Are we mild-combined? Is Grey a carrier of some exotic balanced translocation? Does Cristy have a coagulation disorder? I blame me. Cristy blames herself. We are both insecure. We both fear abandonment and being defective. Some nights, suffering very quietly to ourselves. Other nights, leveling with each other and holding each other. Some nights, fighting.

Three IUIs. With the first, I panic again. What if the clinic screws up and mistakes my sperm for someone else's? The old sample swap, a shell-game of gametes. What if I end up with a genetic child with another woman (if my sperm could do that ever at all with any woman) and (gasp!) Cristy bears the child of another man? Cuckolded by the clinic. What if that guy is HIV+? These tests aren't required for this procedure. What if it happens and Cristy and that guy hit it off? Judge how you want, until you are there, you are full of shit in what you think about a man in this position. Insecurities abound. Then I finally stop being so crudely selfish and remember this has become our best shot at a child. Cristy is running body and mind risks too. And she fears me leaving her for some 19 year old fertility goddess.

All IUIs failed. Not one positive. I feel naive to ever have believed in them. Now for the big guns, the BIG three letters, IVF.

More tests. More forms. Scratch together some money. Borrow, borrow, borrow. Save, save, save. Plead with your employer to cover IVF? Fat chance. In this recession? Or ever.

We need pathogen testing to deposit embryos into cryostorage. At least all our blood tests come back negative. I didn't have any reason to suspect, we are insanely dedicated to each other and profoundly low risk for anything. But when you're feeling defective, you wonder just how far it goes.

All I want for Christmas is you. You little baby. Oh to finally see you. That's what I'm thinking in mid-December as we go through our first round. All those mornings, getting up with Cristy to help with her injections. She feels awful. Pain, discomfort, it goes on. The big trigger shot night. The gown, the scrubs, the stirrups. Will they fertilize?

They do. We get about 20 oocytes, nine embryos, eight make it through. Excellent quality. We were finally there, the tide was turning! All I want for Christmas is you. Two days after Christmas we test. Cristy can't look. I look. I tell her: "Sweetie, I think it's positive...". She looks. We hug and cry.

Heaven. For a couple days. HCGs fall apart. Cristy is on the phone with one of the docs, tears drop from her eyes instantly. I deny. It's just a lab fuck-up, man I tell you those jerks can't get anything right...But I'm dead wrong. The lab is good at what they do. They are right. 2012 starts as a miscarriage.

I hold her hand during the D&C. I try to distract her. Don't look down there, look at me. Pain. Failure. Loss. Death.

We try again. How could we possibly go wrong? Pregnant again! HCG is so good, maybe twins? I'll take 'em. Loss of sleep: don't care. No money: don't care. Constant chaos (my brother has twins, I know how it rolls): don't care. I'll take 'em. Now! Finally! Done, done, done! Just give me this! Let Cristy have this!

Then....blood, pain. Miscarriage. My boss reminds me via e-mail about not posting my next week's goals. I write back to him: "I'm sorry, will do ASAP. Right now, Cristy is having another miscarriage, passing appx 50mL clots, in distress..." I feel bad for having answered, but after years of infertility screwing with my employability, I feel the need.

It isn't as bad while it's happening. It's after. And before, if it's happened before and you're anxious. Cristy cries and mourns. I do the guy thing, granite-faced, there for others (Cristy).

It catches up with me. The reality sinks in over the next weeks. I want to die. I imagine two little headstones, about the size of coasters, each with their own little name. Names I fantasized about giving them when we were pregnant. The names for the kids I won't be teaching how to ride their bikes. This hits hard. Bikes are very personal symbols to me. I dig into the carpet with my hands. I cry finally. I also think no little socks for them. This is the stuff that materialized it for me. No bikes and no socks. Intimate symbols.

The tears and the pain expel the cold grey barrenness I live in and have come to adapt to. The pain reminds me I'm alive. The pain separates me from the graves. I remember what it feels like to be alive. The tears are better than the wasteland of a reality I had been living in as a consequence of infertility. This pain is better. This pain feels healthy somehow.

This pain is life pain. I felt a strength from this pain. Like I could live somehow. This is not what I feel most of the time.

I'm writing too much about myself. There are countless nights I came home to find Cristy crying or raging. It was awful. It's not over yet, but it's better right now. I try to support her. I focus on our partnership in life. There are times we are exhausted and can't support each other. There are very few who understand. I think you do. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your support. I don't know how many times Cristy has been supported by you when I could not because I was in pieces. I hope this story helps you somehow.

I'll write some more later on, I especially want to describe our efforts to adopt, our experience with marriage counseling and wrestling with the decisions on further treatment.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Episode 8 and learning about validation

First off, Episode 8 is live! This one we talk about Mo's dream of peeing on a digital HPT (apparently I haven't lived), Shelley's good news, Keiko's big news and FB and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. And, of course, we rant.

The week has been an exhausting one. I had the day off Monday and originally intended on spending the weekend catching up on grading and finalizing some drafts of fellowship applications. Instead, following the blow-up on Sunday, I found myself in too much of a haze to do anything. So instead of being productive, I made my way to Puget Sound to take a remembrance walk.

Being by the water calmed me and it wasn't long before I became lost in the rhythm of the waves and rustle of the leaves. And with all of this, I began to remember those few happy days of pregnancy. Those few moments where all was right with the world.

It wasn't long before this peace gave way to the tears. The grief of still feeling so lost and alone in all of this.

Just when I thought I would be lost in my grief, I felt something plop up next to me. And when I turned, the hot tears in my eyes were quickly lapped away by the tongue of a black and white cocker spaniel. He was quickly joined by his golden-colored sister and instantly my tears were replaced with a giggle of surprise.

As their caregiver shouted at them, they both inspected me. Finally giving me a look that seemed to say "better," they hopped off the log we were sharing and continued down the beach. It was in the moments that followed, watching both of them trot down the beach, that it became clear everything would be okay.

Last night, Grey and I met with David. The session was far from easy, as we are both so frustrated with each other and life. After listening to both of us pour out the chaos from the last couple of weeks, David finally spoke. What he noticed is that neither of us are feeling validated. That we both are spending so much time trying to explain our reasoning to one another that it makes it nearly impossible to actually hear what the other is saying.

He then proposed that we practice being curious. In addition to using "I" statements, allowing us to take ownership for our feelings (vs. "you" statements that are attacking and make us victims to the outside world), he want's us to begin exploring issues by asking questions. This concept was most certainly intriguing and one that I want to practice. Of course, it will require work and learning to step back from each situation. Hence, I don't know how effective it will be in daily life. But with Grey, I want to try. And as frustrated as he is with me, I can tell he's already trying too.

So, we're rebuilding. Pulling out the broken parts of the foundation and trying to replace those with stronger beams. We're filling the cracks and repairing the leaks. It's hard work, but I know in the end it will be worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An update, remembering and socks

Thank you all for your thought-filled comments yesterday. I read each one of them carefully while lying on my office floor and processing (aka balling my eyes out) everything that had happened. The long and the short of yesterday is Grey and I are both miserable from this journey. Try as we might, it's been hard to find joy in our lives, as it's either being undermined or feels unattainable. The reality is, most people say or do terrible things when it's assumed you won't have children. And I'm one who has trouble forgiving.

Grey and I continued our talk yesterday, getting to a point where it was clear we were both exhausted, though still angry. At that point we called a truce, agreeing work on all of this with David on Wednesday. I know some of you pushed for an earlier meeting, but David's been away and I've learned after many years of therapy how important it is to see the person who knows your history.

On top of feeling like my world is crashing down around me, today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Though my heart is filled with joy over the news of BFPs and birth announcements, there's a sadness that comes with remembering what we've lost. Though I was pregnant for only a brief moment in time, the memory of those few days of bliss will forever be etched on my soul. As silly as it is, I still hurt from the loss of those potential children and not a day goes by where I don't remember the the images of our beautiful embryos that could have been. Today I've planned a walk by Puget Sound, allowing myself some time to do what I haven't allowed myself to do since I've lost them: remember the good moments. The joy of seeing those images, the feeling of being at peace and of hope.

Finally, here's the sock exchange list.

Jessica @ Dreaming of Dimples with Toni @ Who is this "Fertile Myrtle"

KelBel @ Tales from Our Yellow Brick Road with Janet @ Just a little off Kilter

Alicia @ Queen of the Slipstream with D @ My Life is About the Journey

MRHK Musings with Sharon @ Ova Achiever

Rochelle @ all the things we hope for with StacyLee @ Conceptionally Challenged

Aspgriswold @ Growing Griswolds with Stork Chaser @ Dog Mom Chasing the Stork

Joey and Maria with AmyG (Joey and Maria, please contact me so I can give you AmyG's contact info)

returntogobaby with Our Journey through this Lovely Life

Jenn @ The Future Fords with Amanda @ From here to Maternity

HRF @ Waiting for little feet with K @ Our Growing Gardunn

Trisha @ The Elusive Second Line with Cristy @ Searching for our Silver Lining

Lola @ Waiting for Baby with Emhart @ Follow Every Rainbow

Ladies, I have an extra special plea: please don't add to my heartache by not contacting your exchange partner. Most of you I know will not do this, not I occasionally get a couple with each of these exchanges and it breaks my heart. So many women have written me to tell me how much these socks mean to them, so please write me if you want to bow out. No hard feelings if you communicate with me, I promise.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The end of a marriage?

About a year ago, I started this blog as a way to document our journey through infertility and IVF while  hoping to seek support, as I really wasn't getting any in real life. Fast forward a year: 2 miscarriages, 3 failed rounds of IVF and no closer to an answer or path to resolution. Add in the multiple pregnancy announcements, births and expansion of children in our lives. Though joyous at times, it's definitely been hard on our marriage.

At the end of June, following our last failed round of IVF, Grey and I followed Dee's recommendation and started seeing David for marriage counseling. Initially the sessions were freeing, as we had someone to help mediate while we pursued difficult topics and rehashed arguments. But things have shifted in our sessions with the past couple focusing on me and my hang-ups from surviving child abuse. I've worried with all of this that Grey was falling back into a pattern of assuming his feelings could wait and pretending everything is fine on his end. All the time, stewing and becoming more and more angry with me. Needless to say, it all came to a head this morning.

I've talked in the past about the difficult relationship I've had with Grey's family. Though far from being as destructive as my family, they still have been a source of stress for both of us, especially while dealing with infertility. This has been especially true regarding my relationship (or lack there of) with Grey's younger brother, Lucas. Lucas's wife is expecting a baby with a due date that is similar to what mine would have been if I haven't miscarried in April. This is the brother who so nicely decided to announce their news following the news of our miscarriage. The truth is things have always been tense between me and Lucas. Early on in our marriage, it was clear that Grey took the role of "older brother" very seriously, protecting and guiding Lucas. The problem was, Lucas displays all the classic attributes of the youngest child and thinks nothing of unloading all his worries and grievances onto others. Even as newly-weds, I felt like I was battling with Lucas for Grey, competing for the attentions and affections of my husband. It's never done maliciously, but I do believe he's very self-centered.

This pattern of caring for family in a all-or-nothing way isn't limited to Lucas, as Grey has really attempted to put himself second to the needs of his family. The fact that he loves them to this extent is admirable. The problem is, they don't reciprocate in the same way. It's assumed because we don't have children, our lives are filled with free-time and energy. Communicating any of what we're feeling with the losses has been difficult, as they either assume that the solution comes in relaxing and accepting the role of the childless couple or that once we find our children that these years will simply be forgotten.

The last week was a rough one for me. News of friends welcoming their son (with pictures to boot), learning that a coworker is 2 months pregnant and quitting in December (meaning more work in hiring and training a replacement), multiple pregnancy announcements in general (cue the happy for you/sad for me feelings), multiple appointments (therapy and meeting with advisor) and PMS; what a wonderful mix. Saturday was suppose to be relaxing, but scheduled "me" time went out the window with some other obligations and chores. So by Saturday night, I wasn't feeling overly jocular. Meaning that when Grey joked that I was responsible for Lucas slicing his hand open after he broke a sugar bowl (because apparently I fit the description of the bitter infertile witch who's skilled at hexing people), the response he got wasn't one he had hoped for.

It was downhill from there, both of us walking on eggshells around each other and a heated exchange to follow. And finally me sleeping on the couch. This morning, when Grey asked if we could talk, he told me how angry he is with me because he doesn't see me getting any better. That he doesn't understand why I'm so angry with Lucas and his wife; why I see them as being so selfish. And then he expressed a huge amount of hatred towards my parents, specifically my dad for abandoning me. That he's still so pissed about how they've ruined so much. How he feels I'm simply filled with venom.

The truth is, I don't know how to resolve all of this. We initially brought all of this up with David and his solution was for Grey to initiate the conversation between Lucas and myself so that we could have an open conversation (with Grey butting out, btw). Problem is, Grey is not only protecting his brother from my wrath, but with their daughter being due next month feels that this is simply a huge inconvenience. Hence, I'm the bad guy because I can't get over April and move on. That I'm the reason he can't go see his new niece (which I didn't know was on his mind). Never mind the fact we haven't taken an actual vacation in years, instead spending any free time visiting and caring for family. Never mind the fact that as hard as I try all of this still hurts. Never mind the fact that we now know that me bottling things up doesn't work.

Through my frustration, anger and a hell of a lot of tears this morning, I dropped the "D" word about 3 times, breaking a rule that David firmly put into place. And I threatened Grey with the reminder of how skilled I had become with eliminating people from my life.  As I marched out the door, Grey screamed after me that I was quitting and clearly wasn't getting any better. Branding me the monster that I know they all believe me to be.

I'm at a loss of what to do. If I was pregnant, in the process of adoption or even knew which road to take for resolving I would fight for this relationship. But how does one fight an entire family that simply wants you to disappear? Who views you being barren as a good thing because it gives their son a good excuse to leave and try again? For too long I've felt like an outcast with all of them, pitied for being in this situation and with whisperings that maybe it would be better to just let go.

So, I'm at work today, trying to distract myself from the pounding in my heart and the grief of the realization that our marriage may be over. Also trying to figure out where I'm going to sleep and how I'm going to get through the next couple of days before our session with David. Because we are in trouble. Serious trouble.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A call for help

One of the things I love about this community is everyone's ability to rally when called upon.

I'm calling for everyone's help today.

About 10 minutes ago, I received this post from Erin @ Will Carry On, an RPL blogger. News with an explanation for a long hiatus was due to her learning she was pregnant with triplets. News that though she lots one of her precious babies at 11 weeks, there was still the hope of her bringing home her son and daughter. News that at 20weeks 5days, she lost them too.

Please take a moment today to visit her blog and offer your support.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Episode 7!

Episode 7 of Bitter Infertile is live! Shelley's synopsis is here.

This episode we talk about pregnancy after infertility and all the hurdles surrounding finally getting the BFP. As Mo is currently on vacation (and currently rocking Las Vegas) and Jessica is on hiatus, Shelley and I had the opportunity to have a special guest for the entire episode: Rebecca (aka HRF) from Waiting for Little Feet!  Needless to say, though we missed Mo and Jess, we still had a lot of fun.

Special assignment: share with us all the crazy stuff you've done while TTC. And if someone knows anything about beets and implantation, PLEASE fill us in. Dr. Google is worthless for this one.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beware the Jabberwocky

How does one start talking about dark topics? Delving in to things that have been buried for so long? I've struggled with this post for weeks now, trying to figure out how to put into words what has been revealed.

All of this started a couple of weeks ago, where Grey and I spent a session with David exploring why I believed I didn't deserve to have children. I had just finished reading "Sweet Grapes" and was overcome with the realization that even though we could live a life without children, I didn't want to. And yet despite that realization, an equally strong feeling of damnation and deserving the pain of infertility/loss continued to rear it's head. That these wants of happiness were futile, as I was damned to lead a life of watching others move on to raise their families while I was meant to watch.

So, we did what any good psychologist would do; we dug. The more we dug, the more it became apparent the life-long trend of feeling inferior and deserving of misery: from double-standards from my childhood where I was punished or threatened for sins that others were easily forgiven for, to witnessing my family embrace life decisions of other family members while laying the costs on those who were trying to simply escape. Even now as I think about so many events, it becomes clear how backwards and destructive all of this was. Yet, it's something I have a hard time shaking. And infertility and loss feel like they are deserved because of who I am.

At this point, David asked me about the Gatekeepers. I swear one could have heard a pin drop at that moment. David continued probing, asking me what they were saying and wondering what they were holding back/protecting me from. And then David asked me about the Jabberwocky they are guarding.

 Through the Looking-Glass, 1872; illustration by John Tenniel

"Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem that was written by Lewis Carol in 1872. Since it's conception, it's become a mythical creature with an undefined appearance other than having sharp claws and a fierce bite.


by Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Here's the thing about Jabberwockys: we all have them. Some of us can define them quite well, as we stare them in the face on a daily basis, but most of the time they are a shapeless, faceless terror. We know they exist and it scares the hell out of us. Hence the Gatekeepers; those guardians we've put into place that protect us from the Jabberwocky, keeping it caged. Their job, as cruel and destructive as they may seem, is actually to help keep us safe from the Jabberwocky.

There's a problem, though. As necessary as the Gatekeepers are during those moments where we are in danger, those loving guardians can hinder us in life. The abuse and jeers to steer us away from the Jabberwocky can hinder us, preventing us from living full lives. So it becomes important to reach out to the Gatekeepers, embrace them, thank them and then to ask them to step aside. To face the Jabberwocky, in all of it's fury.

What's been hard as of late has been that the whispers of the Gatekeepers have turned into dialogues, communicated mainly through my dreams. Instead of finding peace, I've been running through childhood homes, terrified of being caught by those who don't want me there. I've had visions of children on conveyor belts, winding through factories only to be perfectly packaged for their "parents." I've tossed and turned while reliving painful memories. And I've woken up crying after seeing images of my dad.  

In a lot of ways, this is a dangerous period. It's hard not to feel like there are moments that I'm losing my mind as I reflect on all that has happened. I'm fortunate in a lot of ways because Grey is helping me during this time, holding me as I shake and cry while helping me explore the rushes of anger I haven't experienced in so long. There's also the internal desire to stop, to run from it all and go back to a place that's far less scary and a hell of a lot more comfortable. What keeps me going is the promise of a better future; of finally being well. Knowing that the pain is acute because we are resetting a broken skeleton and forming a new foundation not only for us but for our children.

I'll be honest: I feel so weak at the moment. Today I see my Gatekeepers: a girl of about 6-8 yrs old and a young woman who is 15-18 yrs old. Both of them are jeering at me, while visually warning me not to approach. Yet, I can here the roars of the Jabberwocky too. This faceless terror that has been sealed for so long and yet been the poison that exists in my life. And as much as I want to turn-tail, I'm preparing myself to open the doors to this prison and do battle. To face what has been hidden for so long.

I just hope I don't lose myself in the process.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Autumn Sock Exchange

It's been a rough week. On top of craziness at work and on the home front, Grey and I are sick. Like needing 16 hrs of sleep sick.

Then I woke up this morning and received amazing news from my good friend Shelley. I've known Shelley for 2 yrs and we've both been on this journey together for too long. To hear good news makes my heart soar and I'm am beyond overjoyed for her.

So, riding this wave of hope, I'm hosting another Fertility Sock exchange.

Background: The idea is not my own and those who are not familiar with them should read here and here.  I have added one change to this exchange: it is open to anyone touched by infertility/loss. Though the original idea was to have something interesting to wear while in the stirrups (either as a conversation starter or to keep your feet warm in style) I've come to realize that fertility is not limited to the ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. Far from it, as I'm now met too many who either are still in the trenches or have resolved either through adoption or choosing to live childfree or successful treament who live fertile lives. Sometimes far more fertile than those who can easily conceive. So, whether you are newly diagnosed, preparing for treatment, in the thick of treatments, pregnant after IF/loss, parenting after adoption/IF/loss, in the adoption process, made the decision to live childfree, or simply stuck at the crossroads (like me), this exchange is for you.

Here are the rules:
1) Leave a comment below to let me know if your interested. This exchange is open to anyone who has been touched by IF/miscarriage/infant loss, be it you're currently in treatment, preparing for treatment, recently diagnosed, pregnant after IF, parenting after IF, pursing adoption, living child-free or even supporting someone dealing with IF.

2) Once you've received your recipient's names, please contact them within 24 hrs. Recipients, please response within 24 hrs too. This is incredibly important so that everyone has all the necessary information. For those who will be difficult to contact, please leave an additional comment with your contact information. I will not publish it, but it will help with making the connections.

3) Socks do NOT need to be handmade. Again, when I originally started doing this, I did it because I'm a crazy knitter who in addition to wanting to give something that was handmade also uses knitting as a form of therapy. Please do not feel that you need to learn to knit, crotchet or sew in order to participate. And there are some amazing sock stores out there.

4) If you can no longer participate in the exchange, please contact me immediately. Yes, life happens and unseen circumstances can require you to focus your energy elsewhere. (Trust me, I get it.) But please don't leave your recipient hanging. I'm more than happy to reassign, as long as I'm aware that you can no longer participate.

Deadline for participation is Sunday October 14th. I'll post a reminder as the deadline comes closer.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are we actually at episode 6?

Hard to believe, but it's true! Episode #6 for Bitter Infertiles is live.

This week, our special guest is Belle from Scrambled Eggs. We talk more about FETs, giving up control and deciding boundaries for giving others control over one's life. We also do more ranting.

Episode warning: we talk about miscarriage in this one, ladies. It's an important topic, which is why we go there, but it's still a hard one. So, if this topic is a trigger, this episode is one you'll want to skip.

Monday, October 1, 2012


First off, thank you all for your thought-filled comments. It's given me a lot to think about in the past week. Particularly on the end of relationships, forgiveness and even human nature.

Let's pick up with human nature.

Since 2009, I've been following The Daily Coyote. For those of you unfamiliar with the blog, it features daily photographs of a coyote who was rescued by a photographer. Shreve Stockton has written a book about her life with Charlie, describing a decision that was not made lightly. As a spin-off of this blog, she started another blog detailing her life in Wyoming.

From very early on, Shreve has written about her decision to live childfree. And she's done so unapologetically, filling her life instead with adventure, love and her farmily. Her decision to live her life this way, nonetheless, still comes under fire. And when it does, it's usually an interesting exercise about how our culture views children and parenthood.

Last week, during a Q&A session, a reader asked Shreve "how do you make the decision to not have children?" Shreve response to the question, which you can find here, was one I expected from her. What was unexpected was the 124 comments that have emerged surrounding this topic, ranging from those who also didn't want to have children to those who pity those who don't have children. Needless to say, it's been interesting to read everyones' thoughts and views on the topic. Equally interesting and sad are the comments from women who, though they love their children, openly express that they wish they had never ventured down the road of motherhood.

All of this has had me reflecting on the work Grey and I have been doing with David and Dee. 3 years ago, when we made the decision to starting TTCing, our reasons for having children were very similar to those around us: to experience parenthood, to have a bit of legacy, to meet life milestones and even to part of the crowd as many of our friends were starting families. Then infertility hit. Suddenly we found ourselves looking on the outside in. While others announced their pregnancies and prepared nurseries, we were making appointments to see the RE and staring at BFNs. When others celebrated birthdays, christenings and first moments, we faced miscarriages and failed cycles. While others complained about the loss of freedom and the increased pressures of family life, we mourned the loss of our biological family.

But, through all the grief and pain, Grey and I have gained something invaluable: we've been forced to really analyze why we want children, to determine what their role will be if/when they come into our lives. What we've found is that we've redefined what children mean to us and what our role as parents will be.

There's a poem by Kahlil Gibran that summarizes this well:
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
Though my heart is still heavy from the loss of my biological children, I no longer have a child-shaped hole. It's not to say that my arms don't ache to hold our babies, but I no longer see children as a means for making me whole. As I work hard to heal childhood trauma, I've learned that this burden of filling a parent should never be a child's to bear. Instead, I see children as an enhancement of my life, an added joy. After all, each child is a unique being with their own story, their own purpose.

Reading Shreve's comment section really brought this realization to fruition. Too often, people have children because this is what they are suppose to do. Equally often, that decision can be met with regret and pining for a life-lost or the days of freedom. And despite what these parents think, the knowledge of this unhappiness is not lost on their children.

I've said before, I would never wish the pain of infertility and loss on anyone. But, part of me wonders if the one gain of all of this is that general knowledge that by going down this road, and making the choice to fight for one's family, leads to a better generation of parents. I'm not completely naive to assume that this assumption is universally true, as I've met my fair share of excellent parents who barely had to try to expand their families as well as infertile couples who abuse and use their children for their own selfish means. But I also wonder if there isn't some blessings from this process. Is there some method to this madness?

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