Thursday, March 20, 2014

Yet another one of those posts about sex

Yep, you read that one right. This is going to be one of those posts about sex, or more specifically the frustration caused by lack there of. For those of you who know Grey and me in real life, I apologize for the mental imaginary you're about to experience. But, like so much other stuff in my life, I need to get this one out.

Whenever talking about sex, there are always many points in time one can begin with. One could talk about their relationship with sex from a young age, retelling the embarrassment they experienced having "the talk" with your parents (my mother was ahead of the game and I got all the facts about conception by the time I was 9 yrs old), you could start about talking about your first crush, your first sex-dream, the first time you and your love-interest decided to explore, the role religion played in your decision to either wait until marriage or throw caution to the wind. So many places to start. But one common theme comes out again and again when people decide to talk about sex: most of us have a complex relationship with it. The idea of engaging in an act that basically requires letting go of one's inhibitions in order to truly find enjoyment (hence requires lots of trust and good communication) is deeply in contradiction with societal views (sex is shameful, dirty and is not to be discussed), hang-up with self image and even issues with power (sexual abuse, rape, or even a partner who shames you because you don't fit into their skewed idea of "perfect').

On my end, I've always had hang ups about sex. Growing up as a Catholic, it was very much engrained that sex outside of marriage was a major sin. The idea of "impure thoughts" let alone exploration was always quashed. There were additional levels too, with me viewing myself as an ugly duckling and thinking that I would never find a boyfriend, let alone get married. And there was the fact I was desperate to get out of dodge, with anything standing in my way of spreading my wings, especially an unplanned pregnancy, needing to be deflected if not eliminated all together. Add in one unfortunate incident where I had the pleasure of witnessing my parents in the act (for all parents, PLEASE consider other arrangements for sexy time, as trying to be quiet in a hotel room you're sharing with your teenage children isn't really a great idea), and you've got the makings of an asexual.

So it wasn't until college that I really allowed myself to explore the topic of sex at any level. And even then, my access to resources were limited.

Meeting Grey changed all of that. From the very beginning, he was patient with me as we explored not only my hang-ups (some of which he shared) but also provided a safe environment so we could both explore. Shaming has been the ultimate no-no in our relationship, as it inhibits not only exploration but also dampens trust. So from the beginning, open and honest communication has been key. And for the first 6 yrs of our relationship, this model worked out great.

Then we decided to try for a baby.

I don't need to elaborate with this audience how much infertility fucks with one's sex life, but for those who are looking for more information read here, here and this study, which is also summarized here. Regardless, it's well known that the prescribed sex, the monthly grieving pattern following BFNs, feelings of failure associated with the act to a general decay in self-worth. Infertility is the nuclear warhead to a healthy sex life. The thing is as one is in the midst of it, there's this hope that one day, after infertility is behind you, you'll be able to reclaim the sex life you once had. The problem is no one really openly talks about how to accomplish this.

There's an added wrinkle to all of this. For me, my pregnancy with the Beats ended very traumatically. Though I am forever grateful to the amazing medical staff who not only saved my life but also provided amazing medical care to the Beats during their time in NICU, the truth is that seeing my twins hooked up to machines, having wires and tubes coming out of their incredibly small bodies and having them live in a plastic isolette for about 2 weeks solidified how much my body had failed them and their siblings. Instead of marveling at what my body could do, providing a warm, safe environment for them to grow, I was struggling with the growing guilt and shame of this failure as a mother. Add in the fact that my body is still distorted, I'm at least 30 lbs overweight and Raynaud's phenomenon makes it so that my boobs are on fire every couple of hours and the result is the idea of "sexy" is pretty much quashed.

The past week a lot of this has come to a head. Grey is frustrated with this element of our relationship being gone and, frankly, so am I. I find I'm much more irritable with people, resenting the idea that others have found ways to bring this back into their lives (which is evident by the recent pregnancy/birth announcements). The problem is how to overcome it. And for this, I'm completely at a loss, as compared to other pressing items like sleep, job security, dealing with a leaky roof, dealing with destructive neighbors (who by-the-way have INCREDIBLY noisy sex makes one wonder if they aren't simply filming a porno), on top of child-care and day-to-day logistics, sex and personal care is pretty much at the bottom of the list.

So, my question to all of you is this: how do you do it? How do you prioritize sex during/after infertility? Thoughts, suggestions and even crazy stories completely welcome.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Part IV: The road to resolution

The final post in my transition back into blogging. Something I've been thinking about a lot over the past year since that first BFP. As always, if you are in not a good place, please, please, PLEASE take care of yourself first. And please bear with me as I ramble.

Years ago, following an official diagnosis of "unexplained infertility" and all the emotional turmoil that comes with it, I held fast to the belief that having a baby would automatically lead to me resolving. As naive as it sounds, the thought was that obtaining that elusive BFP and going through pregnancy would result in my crossing over into a world of bliss and happiness. I believed this so much that my original plan was to shut down this blog once I got the positive pregnancy test.

Then the losses happened.

And I learned about all that could go wrong with pregnancy.

So as I white knuckled my way through this pregnancy, I modified my belief, hoping that once the Beats arrived a lot of the anxiety would disappear. Sure, parenting would be hard, but I subconsciously believed that all that would change if/when I could hold the Beats.

And, obviously, I was still very naive.

Over the past 7 months, both Grey and I have gotten into the habit of checking the Beats every night around 2 am. The ritual is always the same, involving checking their lips to see if they are blue, counting breaths and assessing their quality. At moments where their breathing is so peaceful, making it difficult to detect, we've been mean enough to wake them up. All out of fear that by not checking that the worse will happen. And though this fear is slowly subsiding, the running joke is that these breathing checks will continue well into the time the Beats move out and marry (and will be an interesting thing to have to explain to their future life partners).

As I've reflected on this ritual that both Grey and I have adopted, I've realized my view on resolution being a destination has been a flawed one. After all, infertility has changed and shaped both Grey and me in such a way that we are both very different individuals compared to who we were before this trauma. So to view resolution as a destination, a final point on our map actually is an injustice to all we've been through and learned along the way. Hence I've been modifying how I view resolution, seeing it more as a process, a journey all it's own.

A couple of weeks ago, Mali @ No Kidding In NZ wrote this post where she talks about how she wants to see less gratitude and sensitivity from those who are parenting after adoption/infertility/loss. Her point being one that is completely reflective of where she is in life and one that I hadn't considered. When I argued that she was a "minority of a minority," what I meant was that most people I had meet IRL who had resolved to not to parent following infertility/loss were still addressing the emotions and logistics surrounding this decision. Hence the reason I've been so mindful about the warnings for posts for the Beats. But Mali, as usual, got me thinking more and more about the resolution process. Just as Loribeth had. A similar post from Mo @ Life and Love in the Petri Dish has added to this too.

So here's me taking a leap and being honest with all who read this: the truth is that as much as I love and cherish the Beats, I still am battling the demons from infertility. I'm still in disbelief our babies are not only here, but thriving (and man are they thriving), waiting for me to wake from this dream and find it all gone. I also mourn deeply the loss of our other potential babies, as I now have a more concrete comparison of what we lost. It's not to say that my grief before was any less, but it is different. On top of all of this, I worry that because of all we've been through that I'm actually unfit as a parent, failing these babies on a daily basis. And I still feel unworthy of this gift. Of being able to hold these two at night, feel the softness of their skin against mine, receive their smiles and inhale the sweetness of them.

Recently I found a quote from Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore that seems to summarize this best:

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”

In short, though told that the hurricane that was our journey this past 3 yrs is now over, I'm finding that I don't entirely trust that. Looking back on how exactly this last FET and subsequent pregnancy played out, I'm still in disbelief. Hence resolution isn't a destination at all; for me it's actually been a journey.

One thing is clear, though my journey towards pregnancy is over, this chapter of my life is not. As Grey and I travel down this road, there are some additional things we need to address. But day by day, I'm finding the wounds are healing and I'm becoming less afraid of showing the scars. Still, I have a long way to go. This part of our journey has just started, but I'm lucky in that I have some fantastic role models to follow who have bravely blazed the trail.

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