Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 NIAW: You're Not Alone

I remember sitting in a windowless computer lab. Tears streaming down my face as I sat with my thoughts and confronted the reality that 10 months of TTC without a single BFP could mean something was wrong. I remember feeling so alone in that moment. Cursed by the world for my failure to achieve what so many do without a second thought.

You are not alone.

I remember that first appointment with my RE. Sitting in the waiting room and willing myself not to run away. I remember watching from across the waiting area as pregnant belly after pregnant belly passed through the double-doors to the OB/GYN clinic. Something so close, but it felt millions of miles away.

You are not alone.

I remember calling my parents, telling them of my diagnosis. Tearfully confessing the pain and fear that filled my whole being. I remember feeling foolish during that conversation. My mother who told me stories about how she easily achieved pregnancy clearly couldn't understand. I remember feeling ashamed of my jealous towards my teenage cousins who found themselves accidentally pregnant; of hurting all the more when admonished for not being more supportive simply because they were expecting and were going to be mommies.

You are not alone.

I remember the news that my first round of IVF was ending in miscarriage. That the baby Grey and I so longed for had failed to develop. Sitting on those stairs and holding my husband as we cried together. Utterly heartbroken.

You are not alone.

For three years Grey and I faced shots, pills, exams, tests, blood draws and invasion of privacy. For three years we struggled to find meaning in our days and hope in moments where it seemed lost. For three years, we struggled to find a reason why. Why us? What did we do to desire such a curse?

The only thing that saved us was finding others who understood; those that allowed us to express our grief over what had been lost without judgement or platitudes. What saved us was knowing we weren't alone.

No matter where you are in your journey, be it the very beginning, smack in the middle, facing the crossroads or transitioning in resolution. No matter my darkness fills your heart, leaving you wonder whether you will ever know joy again. No matter how cursed or undeserving you feel, wondering why you are facing this terrible disease that is riddling in shame and isolation. No matter how alone you feel today, tomorrow or in the days to come.

I can promise you one thing. You are not alone in this. You are not alone in your grief or your fear. You are not alone on this life altering journey.

For more information about infertility, please visit these sites.

#Microblog Monday: One foot in

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

The road to transition is rarely a smooth one. Grey is actively in job-search/interview mode, thinking a lot about the next step and making connections almost daily. Still, there are moments where this potential future seems surreal. With daily deadlines and continual commitments, it still seems very much like a dream.

I remember a similar feeling following our last round of treatment. While your average fertile would immediately declare themselves pregnant and would be writing a birth plan, I was continually reminding myself that we were finally transitioning out of the trenches to the future we so desired. Many days, it all seemed surreal. Hence I always felt like I still had one foot in the trenches; waiting for it to all fall apart so that I would once again be back where we started.

This week is NIAW. I have a post in the works for the theme. But one thing is clear, even now with the Beats quickly approaching their second birthday: on some level, I'll always have my foot in the trenches. I'll always have a need to reach back and let those still fighting to resolve that they are not fighting alone. Even in the moments where it all seems surreal. Even now as Grey and I fight for the next transition.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


The past couple of weeks have kicked my ass. Between teaching at two separate institutions and working at the Beat's daycare center, I have been getting an education in tolerance, communication and the importance of organization. Needless to say, blogging has become a difficult endeavor as most days when I allow myself any down time it's usually quickly followed by me passing out.

Despite this, a lot of what's happening has had me reflecting and trying to figure out the message of underlying themes. So many times I wish I could steal a few moments to get my thoughts written out, just so I could make sense of the feelings those moments spark.

About a week ago, I had a strong moment that I've been coming back to a lot. As part of the morning routine, He-Beat will bring a couple of books into his room to sit and read while Grey and I are getting ready and allowing She-Beat a few more moments to sleep. Usually these are his boardbooks, which are well used and loved. But recently he's taken to exploring books from my childhood; small treasures that I could not part with. It's been years since I've opened many of them and the exact details of the stories are hard to recall. Still I kept them for a reason, even if it wasn't entirely clear to me at the time.

Anyway, on this morning He-Beat selected one of my books and handed it to me to read. Sitting on my lap, we began the story about a unicorn who had no horn. And as I read I found myself chocking up, struggling to finish such a short story. Holding him close, I let the tears fall as He-Beat watched me quietly and then encouraged me to continuing simply by looking at the pictures.

Later that night, I read through the story in its entirety. And I've been rolling it around in my head ever since. I'm still struggling with exactly what this story triggered, but some themes are immediately obvious while others still lurk beneathe.

The Unicorn Who Had No Horn
~by Margaret Holland and Craig B. McKee

Alexandra was a unicorn who had no horn. All the other unicorns laughed at her. They called her a horse. When the other unicorns made music with their horns, Alexandra was silent. When the other unicorns went flying, Alexandra often lost her way. She had no horn to guide her.

One day Alexandra went to see Ursula, the oldest and wisest of all unicorns. "Ursula," she said, "why don't I have a horn?" 

"You are not like the other unicorns, Alexandra," explained Ursula. "Yours will be a special horn."

"But what must I do to have this special horn?" asked Alexandra.

"You must go on a long journey to find a magic crystal. The crystal will help you grow your horn," said Ursula.

"Where do I go to find my crystal?" asked Alexandra.

"I cannot tell you. All I know is that it is far, far away. And you must go alone. You will find the help you need along the way," said Ursula.

None of the other unicorns could tell Alexandra which way to go to find her crystal. "It could be anywhere," they said. So Alexandra began her journey without knowing where to go. She flew and flew. With no horn to guide her, she soon lost her way.

After many hours, Alexandra decided to land and ask for help. She walked through the forest. Suddenly an acorn dropped from a tree and hit her on the head. Two squirrels rushed down to get the acorn. Then they rushed away.

"Hello," said Alexandra. "You certainly are in a hurry."

One of the squirrels stopped. "We have no time to waste," said the squirrel. "Our winter supply of acorns has disappeared."

"Perhaps I can help you. You can ride on my back and we can find lots of acorns," said Alexandra.

"That wouldn't help. We can run as fast as a horse," said the squirrel.

"I'm not a horse, I'm a unicorn," said Alexandra.

"You're no unicorn. You don't have a horn," said the squirrel.

"I am a unicorn," said Alexandra. "I may not have a horn, but I do fly."

"Then let's go," said the squirrels. And the jumped onto Alexandra's back. Alexandra helped the squirrels gather many acorns.

When the squirrels had enough nuts for the winter, they stopped. "Now I need your help," said Alexandra. "I'm lost. I'm looking for a magic crystal to help me grow my horn, and I don't know where to go."

"Grandfather Tree will know," said the squirrels. "All you have to do is fly until you find the tallest tree in the forest. That is Grandfather Tree."

Alexandra flew until she came to the tallest tree in the forest.

"You must be Grandfather Tree," said Alexandra.

"Yes, I'm the oldest, wisest and tallest tree in the forest. But right now I'm also the loneliest," said Grandfather Tree.

"Why is that?" asked Alexandra.

"All the birds think I am too old. They don't want to build their nests in an old tree," he said.

"Maybe I could help you," said Alexandra, "There must be some birds who would like to live with you."

"There may be," said Grandfather Tree, "but they are all too far away."

"Let me try to find them," said Alexandra. "I can fly."

"Horses can't fly," said Grandfather Tree.

"I'm not a horse. I'm a unicorn," said Alexandra sadly. Then she flew away.

Alexandra flew in wider and wider circles around Grandfather Tree. At last she saw two owls standing on a tree stump. Alexandra flew down to them.

"Where did you come from? And what are you?" asked one of the owls.

"I'm a unicorn," said Alexandra.

"But you don't have a horn. You can't be a unicorn," the owl said.

Alexandra started to cry. "I am a unicorn. I just don't have my horn yet. I'm looking for a special crystal that will help me grow my horn. And I promised Grandfather Tree that I would find some birds to live with him. Where do you live?" she asked.

"Our home is gone. We lived in a tree that was struck by lighting. All that is left is this stump," said the owl. 

"Grandfather Tree would like to have you live with him," said Alexandra.

"We're too old to fly such a long way," said the owl.

"And we're too tired to build a new nest," said the other owl.

"I can help you," said Alexandra. "I can fly you to Grandfather Tree and help you build your home. I will give you some of my mane to make your new home soft and warm," said Alexandra.

"Would you?" asked the owls.

"Of course," said Alexandra. "Fly up onto my back and we'll be off."  And away they went.

Grandfather Tree was delighted to have the owls live with him. The owls were happy to have a new, warm home.

"Now I have a question for you, Grandfather Tree," said Alexandra. "I'm looking for a crystal to help me grow my horn. Can you tell me where to find one?" she asked.

"Once long ago," said Grandfather Tree, "I heard a story about a valley of crystals. This crystal valley is very far away," he said.

"Which way is it?" asked Alexandra.

"I don't know," said Grandfather Tree.

"We know how to find the crystal valley," hooted the owls. "All you have to do is follow the North Star until you see the crystal sparkling in the starlight." 

"Oh, thank you very much," cried Alexandra as she flew away.

Alexandra followed the North Star all night. Just as the stars were beginning to fade, she saw the crystal valley. Alexandra landed in the middle of the valley. She was surrounded by beautiful crystals of all shapes and sizes. When the sun came up the crystals began to sparkle in the sunlight.

"My crystal must be here somewhere," thought Alexandra. "But how will I know which one is for me?"

Alexandra walked slowly around the valley. She looked carefully at all the different crystals. Some were tall. Some were short.

Alexandra stopped in front of the largest crystal in the valley. "Oh Great Crystal, is my crystal here in your valley?" she asked.

"Yes, your crystal is here," said the Great Crystal.

"Will you give it to me?" asked Alexandra.

"You must find it for yourself. But you may not take it from the valley unless you leave something in its place," the Great Crystal told her.

Alexandra lowered her head and walked away sadly. "I have nothing to give in return for my crystal," thought Alexandra. "I've come all this way for nothing." 

Alexandra began to cry. She didn't notice that where each tear fell, a beautiful flower sprang up.

Suddenly she hear a small, tinkling voice. "What beautiful flowers! We've wanted flowers in our valley for a long time. And now you have given them to us." 

Alexandra looked down and saw a small, shining crystal. "You're my crystal, aren't you?" she asked.

"Yes, and I'm ready to leave the valley with you," said the crystal.

"You are?" asked Alexandra. "How do I pick you up?"

"You don't need to," said the crystal. "Rub your forehead against me and I'll always be with you."

Alexandra touched the crystal with her forehead. She felt a funny tingle. Something was happening. The crystal stuck to Alexandra's forehead. It began to grow. It grew longer and longer. Alexandra was growing a beautiful crystal horn.

Alexandra thanked all the crystal in the valley. Now she had her crystal horn to guid her. And all the way home, she made beautiful music with her magical crystal horn.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Pennies

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

Last Tuesday, He-Beat went in for a second surgery to place ear tubes. The tubes that were placed last October (when both Beats went in) had fallen out/become blocked and he was starting to develop chronic ear infections. After a couple of months of pain, Grey and I made the decision to bring him back in knowing full well that surgery would be quick, but recovery could take awhile.

Unfortunately, shortly after surgery He-Beat caught an upper-respiratory infection. Between the high fevers and rapid breathing due to his immune system being stressed out and him not fighting this infection very well, it's been a stressful week for all involved. Two nights ago I laid with him, scared out of my mind because I could feel his little heart pounding away as he lay there. Praying that the fever would break soon and that he would soon be back to his cheerful self. All while pushing away the terrifying thoughts of losing him.

Yesterday Grey took over childcare for a few hours, giving me a chance to work on lectures that have been neglected. As I walked to the coffee shop, I found myself scanning my surroundings, taking in the day and the scenery. Looking down, I found two scuffed-up pennies laying face-down in the asphalt.

Many are familiar with the rhythm "See a penny, pick it up. All day long you'll have good luck," but years ago I was corrected that one is only suppose to pick up pennies that are facing face-up, otherwise their luck is canceled if not turned bad. For years after that I would think about that as I would find pennies, wondering if my causal disregard meant anything.

And then infertility hit. Followed by our losses. Like so many, I became superstitious. I held on to anything that would bring hope and luck each cycle. It was after our third failed cycle, though, that I threw all that out the window. I stopped looking for token and good luck charms. Instead, I started embracing symbols that reminded me to live regardless of the outcome. To find light even in darkness.

Before our final treatment cycle, Grey informed me that we were black cats as others viewed us harboring bad luck. And yet we continued to persevere, choosing to live and exist without apology. It was after that conversation that we started embracing symbols associated with "bad luck," such as petting black cats that crossed our paths, celebrating Friday the 13th and stepping on cracks in sidewalks. And it was then I started picking up face-down pennies; carrying them in my pocket for the day and pressing them in my palm during moments where it felt like it was too much.

Seeing those beaten up face-down pennies made me catch my breath. And as I lovingly scooped up what others would avoid, I closed my eyes and whispered a soft prayer. "Please hold my family safe during this time. Please help us transition."
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