Where did IT go?

When one of our nephews was very little, he had this really funny, super cute way of saying “where did it go?” whenever you played ball with him. Because he was so little and couldn’t enunciate very well yet, it sounded more like “wheredeego?”. He’d look at you with his big eyes and actually shrug, his arms at an angle and his hands in the air. It’s was so funny and so adorable that, well over a decade later, I still remember it. I also remember that it was the first time I felt that pang in my heart, the thought of having children with my husband.

What made me think about this today is the fact that I feel like I’ve lost my zest of life. I feel gray and drab pretty much most of the time. I try hard to lift my spirits and count my blessings, to move forward in a more positive way – but, honestly, I kind of feel like I’m down for the count. I keep dusting myself off and getting back up, but rather than standing tall, I feel like I’m crouched like an old, arthritic woman. I can’t remember the last time I actually wore lipstick, heels, jewelry or anything else I used to revel in doing. My skin and my hair look lackluster to me, and so on top of all the other mental crap, it’s like another nail in the coffin: I feel like a loser.

Today, I’m trying to get back to my motivational journal. I started it about 6 years ago – and even the way I wrote it in it back then conveys so much more energy and “attitude” than I can bring to the table these days. I sat at our dining room table after breakfast and thought, ok – I need these visual cues. I need to remind myself of who I am, deep down – and make myself a “scrapbook” of sorts to get me back on track. But I’m flailing.The motivational cues and sayings are falling flat before my eyes because I just don’t believe any of it, right now. I can feel it because I’m not enjoying the process like I used to. I feel like I’m faking it. I don’t know where IT went: my life force, for lack of a better term. I’m not really a weak person, generally speaking; but in the past year or so, I often feel like the fight is just drained out of me and I’m too tired to keep trying to make my life into something I can love, again – even if it’s not the life I thought I’d be leading at this point.

I keep thinking about a quote by Margaret Thatcher that I read somewhere a long time ago:

“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.”

It gives me pause because I feel like none of my good habits have survived the onslaught of IF, the family strife and the grief following the death of several of them. I feel like I’ve become more closed-minded, resentful and judgmental – none of those things are what I want to be, obviously. Sometimes I don’t even realize how much of myself I’ve lost until I see it reflected in the eyes of someone else – through their words, their perception, of how I come across to others. At times, I want to cry and say, THIS ISN’T ME! I’m not really like this!! I used to be funny – so funny, in fact, that when I was in college people kept telling me I should be on Friends. I made people laugh – and that, in turn, made me happy. I enjoyed being around others, talking about anything and everything, learning about their experiences without judgment.

This, in turn, brings me to the other issue that I know is playing a big role in my state of mind right now is how isolated I’ve allowed myself to become because of IF. I’m so terrified, at this point, of having to field questions about our childless state that I haven’t tried to make new friends or socialize in a long, long time – longer, in fact, than I can believe or admit. And this is a vicious circle: the more time I spend alone with all those thoughts and anxieties, the more I turn into a nervous wreck – to the point where, as horrible as it is to fess up about something I’m incredibly embarrassed about, I honestly don’t know how to connect with others anymore.

It used to be so easy for me. I was always really outgoing, vivacious – one of those people who loved “getting out there”, mingle, meeting new people, having fun. Shy, me? Not on your life! Social situations never really worried or scared me. But now, as both of us are heading down-hill towards 40 at what feels like an alarming speed (propelled, I’m certain, by the time pressures of our combined IF issues), I just don’t know how to act anymore. I feel like admitting to wanting children with a response of “not YET” to inevitable questions about whether we have children will invite derisive snorts. I’m also uncomfortable with people who ask a lot of personal questions – especially when you’ve just met them – and don’t really know how to deal with that without coming across as…mmm, a battleaxe, shall we say? (picture me cringing at this point, btw).

So what I do is avoid those situations altogether, because I know that, at the moment, my knee-jerk reaction would be to go on the defensive – either by pretending I’m “sort of vaguely” considering motherhood “at some point in the as yet to be determined future” (in other words, a complete lie); or by snarling. Yep, that’s right, snarling. Because I feel like I have to justify myself and our childless state – completely ridiculous, of course – to what I assume would be smugness of women my age with a gaggle of kids. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail:

Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them. “Hello, it’s Mr Nasty.” I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I can’t allow myself to believe that this is what I’ve become without thinking that there’s still hope for me, that there’s reason to carry the torch for who I really am beneath the rubble of what used to be my life.

Which is why I really wanted to take a moment to thank my fellow bloggers and IFers – your encouragement and comments are more valuable to me than you know. Even if you (politely but firmly) disagree with me on some issues or my approach to certain topics – I appreciate the time you take to read my posts, to comment, and to share you own thoughts and experiences with me. Sometimes I let fear cloud my judgment; I let the dark clouds of self-doubt and anxiety take over my heart and soul. But I’m a fighter, and in the words of a woman far more eloquent and insightful than myself:

I AM NOT AFRAID OF STORMS FOR I AM LEARNING TO SAIL MY SHIP. (Louisa May Alcott)

Things I Wish I Could Tell People About Infertility

I came across this “list” of sorts on someone else’s blog by coincidence. I’ve seen this posted before on different blogs or sites, and I know that most people tweak it to add their own personal spin. Like others before me, I’ve made some changes and added or deleted sections where it seemed appropriate for me. 

I wish you would not be afraid to speak to me about what is going on in my life, and to ask me what you can do to help. But, more than anything, I wish you would not make empty offers that you never expect to be taken up on.

I wish you wouldn’t pretend that nothing is happening to me, because it is a large part of my life.  I need my friends and family by my side.

I will have emotional highs and lows, ups and downs.  I wish you wouldn’t think that if I have a good day, my grief is over, or that if I have a bad day, I need psychiatric counseling.

I wish you would realize that things you take for granted are miracles in my eyes, and sometimes I wish you would stop mentioning them because it just reminds me of what I don’t have.

Grieving and what I’m going through is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn’t shy away from me.

I wish you knew that all of the “crazy” grief reactions I am having are in fact very normal.  Depression, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and questioning of values and beliefs are to be expected during and following what is happening to me.

I wish you wouldn’t expect my grief to be over if and when I appear to be smiling or happy. I’m trying to keep going, and I’m doing the best I can not to bring everyone down.

Please don’t try to “cheer me up” by telling me about how much better my life is without children, how I have so much more fun, more disposable income, fewer sleepless nights or how I can live vicariously by being the “fun aunt”. There’s nothing fun about going through countless invasive, embarrassing and sometimes painful medical procedures; family-building “options” that require any outside assistance (whether through IVF or adoption) are exceedingly expensive (like, “you could buy a shiny new car” kind of expensive); and the last time I had a restful night’s sleep, we had a different President.

I wish you would understand the physical reactions to grief.  I may gain weight or lose weight, sleep all the time or not at all, want to surround myself with others or be all alone… all of which may be related to my grief. Sometimes just getting out of bed requires all the energy I can come up with.

A birthday, anniversaries of big days, holidays, and the day I found out, are all terrible times for me.  I wish you could tell me that you are thinking about me, and if I get quite withdrawn, just know I am doing my best to cope.  Please don’t try to coerce me into being cheerful or tell me that it will be better soon.

Platitudes are not helpful; hugs are.

It is normal and good that most of us re-examine our faith, values, and beliefs throughout this journey.  We will question things we have been taught all our lives, and hopefully come to some new understandings.  I wish you would let me tangle with my opinions, and beliefs without making me feel guilty or telling me that my infertility is the direct result of the fact that I don’t share your beliefs.

The only way I can get through this grief is to experience it, and sometimes immerse myself in it.  Sometimes I have to wallow in self-pity. Sometimes I have to be alone with my grief. And none of this will be solved in one afternoon, cured by any number of glasses of wine or pints of ice cream. Bottom line: I have to hurt before I can heal.

I really appreciate your attempts to distract me from my grief, but most of the time I barely have enough energy to get dressed. Just because you think skydiving gives you a new lease on life, or white-water rafting is the bomb, doesn’t mean that this is going to be the right thing for me – now, or ever. Suggesting that an activity complete out of character for me would be the solution to my struggle with infertility is like telling someone to have a lobotomy to cure a broken heart.

I wish you understood that grief and difficult situations change people.  I am not the same person I was before I experienced it nor will I ever be that person again. Sometimes I hate that the most because, like you, I miss the “old” me. But if you keep waiting for me to “get back to my old self,” you will be frustrated – and I will feel even more upset about how negatively my life has been impacted by infertility.

Please understand that I did not choose this path. No one asked me if I wanted to deal with infertility. But I am trying to adapt to this situation as best as I can, and as a result I am a new person with new thoughts, dreams, aspirations, values, and beliefs. Please try and get to know the “new me”…maybe you will still like me.