The War on Negativity

I’ve decided to issue a moratorium on bitterness, resentment and fear.

I know I’m far from alone in having been subjected to these terrorizing emotions for so long, it seems they’ve taken over every waking second of our lives. I know we’ve been struggling, grappling, trying to make sense of it all and desperate to regain some sense of our former, happier, selves. Like a wounded animal, we retreat to solitary confinement as it feels like our hearts become blacker and shrink with every month, every year, that goes by without our most fervent dream becoming reality: motherhood.

I feel like I keep slipping and sliding around in the muck that my emotional, mental and physical “well-being” has become – a misnomer, at this point, because I obviously DON’T feel well. I haven’t felt well in a really long time. I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat well, I’m angry all the time. I’m jealous, bitter, resentful, sad, scared – all the time. I don’t do anything I used to enjoy doing. I don’t go anywhere. I avoid people. I avoid leaving the confines of my little cocoon of self-imposed isolation because it’s too scary “out there”. I feel trapped in a prison of my own making.

And I’m so sick and tired of feeling this way.

It’s easy for me to blame it on my circumstances, on infertility, on my ensuing isolation, on the words and actions (or lack thereof) of others. I’ve been stewing in a sense of failure, of self-loathing, for so long that I apparently stopped fighting back. At some point, it felt like everything got to be too much; my world caved in and I got buried under all the rubble. I lost my sense of self, I lost the belief that I have skills, talents, and that I’m a good person. I let the actions and words of others define who I was, who I became, because I felt like I was fighting a war on so many fronts that I just got too damn tired to swim against the stream. We have no support, no one to turn to – so I convinced myself that it was all our fault: our fault that we couldn’t get pregnant; our fault that people we put our trust in deceived us; our fault that we’re hurting, angry, sad and alone.

The truth is that I’m at a crossroads, and I have a choice to make. I can keep feeling like crap, I can keep beating myself up, I can let my inner critic convince me that it’s my fault we don’t have any children yet, it’s my fault that we might not be able to, it’s my fault this, that and the other. I can get angry at the world, angry at everyone else’s fecundity, IVF coverage, supportive relationships. I can throw in the towel and just exist in a vacuum of misery that will become a never-ending pity party. I can wait for my marriage to disintegrate because I can’t snap out of it, I can drag my husband down with me as every ounce of love is drained from my heart because everything is dark, angry and bitter – and watch him blame himself for not being able to help me, to make me feel better. I can keep beating myself up about my shortcomings and comparing myself to others with the end result that I feel bad. I can let things I have no control over make me feel like I’m weak. I can despair to the point where I stop getting out of bed altogether.

OR…

I can stop fighting with myself. I can stop pretending. I can stop lying to myself. I can stop comparing myself to others, berating myself for the choices I’ve made. I can stop thinking, and feeling, like not being perfect or not having the same way of doing something as someone else makes me worthless. I can stop hating myself for the fact that my life isn’t exactly the way I thought it would turn out. I can stop judging others just because they’re not having to walk a mile or three million in my shoes, because they haven’t had the same experiences, because they don’t care, because they don’t get it, because they’re doing/saying things that hurt me.  I can stop blaming myself for the things others say and do because, really, it’s not my fault and it’s not something I can change. At the end of the day:

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Some days, I feel like I’m dying – both emotionally and physically. I feel raw, I feel beaten down to the point that I don’t even want to try to get up anymore. I just want to tap out. I know those feelings won’t just go away. I know I’m not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow, a reformed pessimist suddenly chipper like I’ve had a lobotomy or a Walt Disney makeover. But I realized, with strange clarity, that I’ve been playing the victim – instead of actually remembering that I’m not weak; I’m not pathetic; I’m not hopeless, hapless, stupid, or a failure.

I’m human.

A few days ago, I got really worked up about a site that I felt had a bunch of posts by women who’ve clearly never had their reproductive abilities called into question. I was so angry at what I felt was a set of completely insensitive, selfish posts that showed absolutely ZERO consideration for women who struggle to conceive. But then I thought – hold on a minute. Why am I getting so angry? This site is clearly run by women who don’t have these problems. Why should they think about infertility when it obviously hasn’t touched their lives? I mean, you don’t see me writing posts about Asperger’s, to throw out some random medical condition. It’s my choice whether or not I read these types of things – so getting angry about something that, technically, I’m not the target audience for is just plain ridiculous. It’s also pointless, because the end result is inevitably detrimental to ME.

I feel like having a family should be considered an inalienable, constitutional right – and that, consequently, all 50 states should be required to carry mandatory IVF insurance. However, the fact that this isn’t actually the case and that the current state of affairs makes me angry does absolutely nothing to change MY situation. I don’t live in a state that has IVF insurance, nor is IVF covered by our medical insurance – not even a portion of it, no cap, nada. But this doesn’t make my situation unique at all – I know there are many others who are in exactly the same boat. It also doesn’t mean that I should get angry at other IFers who do have IVF coverage – it’s not their fault that, apparently, our society considers it more important for a guy to be able to have a boner than for a woman to be able to get pregnant. 

I realized, these past couple of days, that I am so incredibly lucky to have had some wonderful experiences in my life, to have choices and freedoms, to have a roof over my head. I have a husband who loves me to the end of the earth. My life is far from perfect, and I myself am definitely a work in progress. But I know I’m not alone – even if it feels like it. I know that there’s hope, somewhere, out there, for all of us. We can’t know which bend in the road will lead to the next chapter in our lives, but I’m tired of feeling consumed with negativity. I’m tired of getting worked up, seething silently and letting all this crap fester as it chips away at my very soul.

So I’m just going to keep working on ME and try to change my perception of the world around me. I’m going to try to remind myself that I have a choice of how I’m going to receive information and how I’m going to deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the things that make me unhappy, I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy – and work on finding more positive ways to deal with the things I struggle with. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to end up being a mother who can’t find the good in small things, the sunshine in spite of the rain, the proverbial silver lining.

Carpe Diem, my friends!!

PS: It goes without saying that reserve the right to occasionally think that someone is a total a$$hat and deserves to be poked in the eye with a really hot french fry rolled in ghost peppers. I’m not bucking for sainthood.

Fostering an Idea: The Sign

Anyone who was a teenager in the 90s will be very familiar with this song – and it’s the first thing that popped into my head after what just happened.

But let me back-track for a moment so you can understand – once I get to the point (eventually) – why this moved me to write a second blog post today.

It may surprise you to learn that my husband and I were not the kind of people who talked about babies before we got married. Or as newlyweds even. I mention this only in passing because I recently read a story somewhere about someone who basically started her TTC journey either on her honeymoon or as soon as they got back – and I honestly couldn’t have imagined doing that, even in hindsight. In my family, we don’t marry early, and we don’t procreate early – everything is done in stages, none of which is even contemplated before you graduate from college. Alternative choices are not an option – and, quite frankly, it would never have occurred to me to choose a different path.

Of course I had no idea that, apparently, somewhere along the lines my connect-the-dots was missing some very crucial ink blots…

Ahem.

When people ask me how long we’ve been trying, I find myself laughing mirthlessly (confession: it’s out of a combination of panic and embarrassment because I don’t have a good answer) since I can’t really pinpoint when we really started – and we haven’t done so consistently. The reasons are many – peppered with family strife, death, moves, etc – so that if our “attempts to conceive” were mapped on a graph, they’d probably look a lot like someone who’s having some minor heart problems. Erratic may be a slight understatement.

But here’s what I can tell you: I’ve been ready to become a mother for almost 8 years now. I always assumed – stupidly, naively – that like for everyone else around me, things would just sort of “happen”. I mean, we did everything “right” – neither one of us is a raging alcoholic, we don’t smoke, gamble or use intravenous drugs; we’re upstanding, tax-paying people with a nice house. In other words? We’re parents without babies. SIGH.

If I had a dime for the many, many times that I’ve drive down a road and caught myself listening to music, thinking – what would it be like to have children in the backseat? Would they sing along? Would be laugh, would they fight like siblings do, would my heart swell each time I caught a glimpse in the rear view mirror? I’d be halfway to paying for a cycle of IVF.

I try to quell those thoughts because, well. You know – it’s painful. It feels like you keep picking at a scab, not letting it heal. And while we’ve still not made any progress with really making a decision in regards to IVF – partly because finding a new RE will involve going out of town, and the logistics of coordinating that are daunting to say the least – I’ve also told my husband that I wanted to make time to sit down and talk about alternative family building options. (Of course, finding the time to actually sit down and have an in-depth conversation with him is kind of hard when he works all the time – and I how can I give him a hard time about it when the truth is that I love him for being a diligent, hard-working man that I adore and respect?)

When I was younger, I always thought I’d want to adopt. Now, I feel bruised and battered – partly because, as someone dealing with DOR and facing the very real possibility that biological children may not even be an option for us (and I can’t even put into words the raw pain that this is causing me on a daily basis), it suddenly feels like it’s not a choice, not an option – but something you’re forced to consider because you may not be able to have a child any other way. Unsurprisingly, I have a hard time coming to terms with my conflicting emotions on this subject.

Worse, though, is I know now that adoption isn’t as straight-forward as I’d believed in the past. If, as I’d naively assumed long before we got to this point, it was just a matter of saying “yes, please!” and being open to adoption – I’d have no problems with it. As long as I can have a healthy baby, I could cope with one that’s not biologically ours – regardless of gender or race. But I was in for a rude awakening. Adoption can be far more expensive than IVF – which, in itself, boggles the mind – and seems poised as a sort of popularity contest of sorts, almost like a cattle auction. The other day I was reading a brief paragraph about how domestic infant adoptions usually run between $20-40K (yes, thousand – as in, five figures) – but can be even more expensive. I’ve seen numbers quoted that were closer to $50,000 – which is more than both of our cars, brand new fridge, washer & dryer etc. cost when we bought them. It’s years worth of mortgage payments – money that is then no longer available for college tuition or other more immediate family concerns.

(Did I mention that this is for domestic adoption? As in, right here in the good old US of A? We’re not even talking about international adoptions, at which point you obviously have to factor in travel and accommodation – so that, at least, I understand why the bottom line would be augmented by things that aren’t strictly related to the adoption itself.)

At the risk of putting my foot in it, I think that’s preposterous. I don’t agree with it, and I think there’s absolutely no justification for it whatsoever when you’re dealing with domestic adoptions. I know some people are willing to do whatever it takes to get a baby, any baby, by any means necessary – but for me, that’s just not something I don’t think I’m even willing to consider, especially in this day and age when you see adoption agencies vying for prospective birth mothers by promising them free iPads and/or iPhones (unreal!) – unsurprising, really, when you think about how much money they (the agencies) are making off of the whole transaction.

But I don’t want to get into that too much because I’m so angry that, in dealing with IF, you’re constantly penalized for a medical condition (that isn’t even recognized as such – which is why only 12 out of the 50 states even have IVF coverage, and most insurance companies also don’t cover ARTs) for which you are not responsible. Suffice it to say that, unless we magically find someone who wants to give us their baby, this avenue is closed to us – because we definitely will NOT be going through an agency and mortgaging ourselves up to our eyeballs for this.

The alternative, then, is to adopt from foster care. Which, if you’ve ever watched anything on tv at all or read anything online, you’ll probably know two things (a) there are far too many kids in foster care, which is nothing short of tragic; (b) adopting from foster care can be extremely difficult and traumatic for both the child and the adoptive parents. Again, I don’t really want to get into details here – mostly because I’m not an expert and I don’t know much of anything about it – but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately. I thought about whether I could see myself adopting a child that wasn’t a baby, perhaps not even a toddler. Could I see myself “mothering” an 8 year-old? What about a 10-year old? Because the reality is, of course, that everyone who is forced to consider adoption wants a baby – so the sad reality is that the children who remain in foster care the longest are always the ones who are already older. It’s heartbreaking – but I struggle between what I think about the situation and asking myself what I can realistically take on. And, of course, what my husband is willing and able to deal with.

So two nights ago, I started doing a little bit of reading online – wondering whether maybe we should at least talk to someone about the whole process so we can find out exactly what’s involved and so on. I figured that since the likelihood of getting a match even by being amendable to adopt through foster care within less than a year (and most probably 2 years or more) is slim to none, we might as well “hedge our bets” even before we start IVF.

What prompted this whole blog post is a pamphlet that came in the mail yesterday – not 24 hours after all these issues weighed heavily on my mind. We’re not even supposed to get it – it’s a residual from the previous owners of our house from a local hospital that I assume they were patients at. Normally I just put it in the recycling bin because there’s nothing relevant for us – but I decided to flip through it…and on the second page, there was a story about foster care in relation, specifically, to teenagers. If I were religious, I might ascribe this to a whack on the head from a higher power – but even without ascribing to such a philosophy, I still thought…coincidence? Or a sign? Not a sign that I should open my home to a teenager – which I honestly don’t think either one of us would be prepared to do as first-time “parents” – but I thought, what a coincidence that this showed up in mailbox the very day after I was just looking into this subject.

I’d be lying if I said that this was something I can just gloss over and say – sure, no problem. I’ll do it! I know that part of the reason I’m reading up on these things is because, deep down, I’m steeling myself against the fact that I don’t actually know what’s going on with my body – and that, a year after my last AMH test, I’m not even sure if I’m still dealing with DOR or if it’s already much worse…I shudder to think of all the people who completely fail to grasp how the mere thought of not being able to have biological children is absolutely devastating; and how, consequently, the reality would – and is – so horrific that just contemplating it makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.

Sometimes I tell myself – this isn’t the end of our story. We’re not meant to be childless. We’re such loving people, we’re caring, we’re funny, we’re empathetic and compassionate. We have so much to offer. Sometimes I imagine having a conversation with someone who is giving up her child for adoption. I imagine what I would say to her – but part of me always wonders how difficult it would be to “sell” yourself while trying to remain calm and not freak out at the possibility that this person who has what you want most in life can just change her mind at a whim. But when I can disregard the scary bits, I imagine what I would say about us – to a birth mother or to a child we’d consider adopting. I would talk about our travels, our love of music, our pets and our belief in bringing out the best in each other. Would it be enough?

Sometimes I think I could – I want to – give a child what I’m good at. I’m the person who blends into other families as the aunt – the one who helps with homework, chimes in (when appropriate and obviously never overstepping the parents’ authority/boundaries), helps you navigate through the minefield of tween and teen conversations around emotionally charged but important issues. So I think to myself, if we can provide a safe, loving home for a child that hasn’t had one – a child who deserves to be loved, cherished, helped to grow into whoever they’re meant to become…how can I not consider that?

But of course I know that I’m idealizing the situation. Even with as little as I know, I’m aware of how much emotional baggage children in foster care come with. As time goes by and I ask more questions, I find out things that make an already daunting prospect even scarier – conditions like RAD (reactive attachment disorder). I wonder if I can deal with trying my hardest to love a child…and accepting that, sometimes, no amount of effort and love is going to turn the tide. I think my biggest fear would be dealing with a “psychotic” child – and by that I mean seriously deranged to the point of being homicidal etc. – or a child that lies, steals or has serious aggression problems. Because dealing with a child that really, genuinely WANTS to be loved – a child that wants to have a home, a family, wants to learn, wants to have a good life? THAT is something I can give – even if I know, of course, that it would be a journey filled with many, many lessons and a need to learn how to deal with things I’ve never had to deal with before. But I know it’s just not that easy.

I’m still scared – of all of it. Mostly, I’m scared of the mere thought of being – or, rather, remaining – childless. I admire people who choose to be childless because I think it’s so much better to make that choice than to have children if you don’t really, really want them. But that’s just not for us – at least not at this point. I can’t imagine a life without children. So I have to continue to believe that somewhere, at some point, our child will find us – whether through assisted reproduction or adoption. All I can say is that, whenever he or she comes into our lives, our arms will be wide open…