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.

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)

Get Healthy Challenge 2014

Ah, Sunday. This most conflicting day of the week. It’s the day before you have to go back to school as a child or to work as an adult. It’s the day where plans for the week ahead are forged – but also the day where you sleep in with your sweetie and have a nice, leisurely breakfast or brunch. Steaming waffles, a nice strong cup of coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and maybe a newspaper or other weekly item to peruse at length.

For me, it’s one of the few days that I can spend some quality time with my husband. It’s also a day where I sit down to make a lot of lists – for the week, the month, and just general bullet points on my endless list of things to do, ever.

The first item on today’s agenda is my desire to participate in a fellow blogger’s Get Healthy Challenge 2014. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how it’s supposed to work, but one thing I do know is that it couldn’t be more apropos for the things that I desperately really, truly want and need to get done this year. I was especially drawn to her contemplation about the mind/body connection – in so far as “getting healthy” isn’t just about losing weight but also about tending to your emotional well-being. As I’m rather flailing in both areas, this challenge is just what I need to keep me focused on the big picture by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable bite-sized tasks.

In the past, I’ve been rather…ineffective at enforcing my own New Year’s Resolutions. I actually happened across an old list from something like 20 years ago just last month – and it was both laughable and shocking that I still, unbelievably, want to get many of the same things done. The ubiquitous “get healthy/lose weight” is an obvious one – that’s pretty much been the headliner for, oh I don’t know, 25 years (sad, I know). Coming up behind it is the whole carpe diem, goosfraba deal – meaning my perennial desire to dissolve my negative feelings and accept myself and those around me with more grace and calm (you know, without resorting to a super-size helping of narcotics).

I decided to write my updates – to see how the week has treated me – and weekly goals on Sundays instead of Fridays: what challenges I faced, overcame (hopefully there won’t be too much drama as the result of the inevitable setting of lofty goals until I actually figure out what I can, realistically, tackle and accomplish inside of a week), and what’s on the table for the next week.

So as I am preparing to launch myself into a goal-driven challenge to help me keep my eye on the proverbial ball (instead of, you know, constantly freaking out about the mountain of things I should do but am too petrified, worried, anxious and cranky to deal with), I received a message from a cantankerous family member with whom I have not spoken in some time. Said person has caused a great deal of heartache in our lives and was therefore expedited to the emotional version of Siberia – because, honestly, as I’m approaching 40 in the next couple of years, I really have less and less desire to deal with emotional vampires and people who constantly act like your heart is their own personal trampoline. I’m still smarting from the tone and wording – clearly designed to aggravate and guilt me into a response, which I have decided is not only beneath me but not worth the time and effort to compose.

Of course there’s a little “secret” behind this – a confession that pains me to make but that, in light of preparing for this challenge, I know I have to own. The truth is that I hate conflict of any kind. I hate arguing. I hate the mere fact of not getting along with someone. I’m the product of many unpleasant experiences that involved being yelled at, beaten, chastised, humiliated and otherwise being generally treated like the square peg that wouldn’t fit in the round hole. The overall message was that I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, to be loved without some major “renovation” and caveats. Needless to mention, I’m still trying to rise above things that happened a long time ago – and even just admitting them in the first place makes me want to run away and hide under a rock while meekly pleading to be informed of if and when the storm has passed.

Because of all those experiences, I always tried to be nice to everyone. I tried so, so hard to be pleasing, to be “good” – whatever such a subjective term can ever mean. And I fell for promises and assurances over and over. I trembled and walked over metaphoric eggshells for years and years – always tacitly trying to maintain the frail balance for whatever period of time was granted until there was another blow-out. Each time the tears came, hot and salty, I swore to myself that it was the last time: the last time I would try, the last time I would believe, the last time I would let someone else treat me like I wasn’t good enough.

But reading the experiences by so many others in the last few months, I’ve realized two things. First, Eleanor Roosevelt was right: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – and that consent has just expired, been revoked and will not be renewed. Second, I am done with trying to please and appeased people who do nothing of the sort for me. I won’t bore you to tears with the tedium that has been almost my entire life – with family members who treated me like garbage, or who were nice just long enough to get what they wanted and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on me. I AM DONE. I’m not going to placate someone else insecurities that they chose to abuse on me. I’m not going to be conned into trying to maintain relationships where I’m the one always trying to be nice, trying to do the right thing, trying to help and put myself out there for people who – clearly – by their words and actions have long since demonstrated just how little they truly care about us. And while I know that this will be an uphill battle for me, that I will struggle with conflicting emotions, that sadness and regret will wash over me periodically, I know that it’s time I actively work to overcome this lifelong struggle.

So, without further ado, here are my Get Healthy Challenge 2014 goals for this coming week:

  1. No tv during the weekdays (and only 1 hour per weekend day).
  2. Make the phone calls and appointments I’ve been dreading for months.
  3. No caffeine on weekdays other than in herbal tea (meaning no coffee, chocolate etc).
  4. Deal with emotional turmoil and/or adversity through creativity (writing/journaling) and diversion (chores, bubble bath, walk the pups)
  5. Do some type of physical activity each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
  6. Try or do something new.
  7. Take my supplements every day.

I decided to pick 7 items to correspond with 7 days in a week – not because I plan to do those things only on one day (some obviously apply to the whole week) but because I wasn’t sure how many goals to pick…and this seemed like a befitting number. I think #3 is going to be the hardest because, omg, I love my coffee. Did I say love? I meant I’m mildly obsessed with it. I mean…just opening a bag or can of the current favorite and deeply inhaling the scents wafting up…it’s like nirvana for me. It’s the thing that I relate to relaxation the most – the one thing that makes me feel like I can get through a tough spot. But I also know that (a) I’m consuming way too much caffeine (which is especially ironic given that I absolutely never have or do drink sodas); (b) I might as well ween myself off it before we even find a new RE because, eventually, when (yes, my instinct wasn’t to write if for a change!!) I get pregnant, I’m not going to be able to guzzle the stuff at the current rate anyway.

In line with the whole challenge idea, DH and I also agreed to make time to have lunch together once a week. It the past year, it’s been more like once a quarter – partly due to his hectic schedule but also in consideration of the added expense of eating out. We used to love going out for dinner – the dressing up, the ambiance, maybe a cocktail if it was appropriate. But in recent years we’ve all but become social recluses, as we both recoil from anything that could open us up to questions about our continued childlessness – not to mention the inevitable heartache of thinking we’ll have a nice, quiet and romantic dinner – only to be surrounded by families. (Sidebar: I can so, totally relate to this blogger’s post about almost crying in the grocery store – because I’ve had those moments in virtually every. single. public. location. It’s unbelievable and shocking – even when it’s happened more than once – how gut-wrenchingly painful some of these moments can be; and how hard you have to fight the tears. I’ve had moments where I tasted bile in my mouth and seriously thought I would actually, no kidding, vomit in a public venue. NOT something I would like to experience, e-v-e-r, if I can avoid it.)

Of course this brings me to an issue that I keep meaning to address and that I keep, ahem, failing to deal with in a – shall we say – “mature” way: I am way, way too stressed out. I mean, I have anxiety in the capacity of a medical condition. I’ve taken anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants at various points in the last few years – until I decided that I didn’t want to live a life where I had to rely on medication for anything that wasn’t immediately life threatening. Of course the truth is that, at this point, my ticker is decidedly unhappy with me – and the heart palpitations have become disturbingly frequent, so that when I lie in bed at night, I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep just because my heart is pounding like a jackhammer, thundering in my ears to such an extent that I’m tempted to yell “keep the damn noise down!”. 

It goes without saying that I know what’s to blame. I know I need to get out more. I know I need to stop worrying about things that I can’t do a darn thing about. I know I need to think less and act more – which may sound like a bad idea, if you weren’t someone like me who has a propensity  slight tendency to overthink, like, everything. If you’ve ever seen the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, you’ll probably know what I mean: lying in bed, staring holes into the ceiling and making lists. Only – I completely disagree that this is something particular to the working mom. I think it’s specific to a type of person – someone who (a) worries too much and (b) isn’t that good at prioritizing actionable items on their to-do list. In other words, I know that I need to work very hard to overcome my tendency to worry rather than tackle.

Rather than worrying about the nastygram I received and the fear of whatever may be lurking behind it, I’m going to write it off. I’m not interested in maintaining the relationship’s status quo; and since I know for a fact that trying to have a frank, honest conversation with this person is simply not possible, there is just no avenue to address or redress the issues between us. Which means that, as hard as it is for me and as frustrating as I find it to be in this situation – I have more pressings things commanding my attention and I simply WILL NOT waste my brain power on this, anymore.

Toodeloo! 🙂

Would you like some cheese with that WHINE?

The last few days have been a blur of mind-numbing pain. As usual, AF is reminding me once again that, despite over two decades of monthly agony and the assorted ailments that come with it, I’ve still never gotten pregnant. It’s hard, at this point, to keep hoping this will ever change. And, as a bonus, my migraines kicked into overdrive and yesterday I woke up retching. Sometimes I think there’s no amount of morning sickness that’s ever going to be a problem for me because of the many, many times I’ve been vomiting in the past couple of years with no baby to look forward to as compensation.

So I have to admit that when I recently saw some whiny post on an infertility forum from someone who doesn’t just have one kid but actually has TWO, I just about had it. I realize that my perception is clouded by my own experience, and that there are other parts of my life that I have every reason to be grateful for. I have a loving, supportive husband. I live a comfortable, safe life in a house I love. I want for nothing other than the chance to become a mother, to have a child with the man I love. But yes, I know that even my problems seem trivial compared to others – people who have no home, don’t know how they’ll put food on the table, or in other countries, have to worry that a simple trip to the grocery store could end up in death because of an explosion or gunfire. So, yes – I know that everything in life is about perception, about where you’re at in relation to any given situation or problem.

But I HATE and resent it when people who already have children fail to grasp that they should be grateful – and it makes me beyond irate when they tell primary IFers, especially those who have experience m/c or, worse even, s/b, that secondary IF is either the same OR worse (puhleeze, don’t make me slap you).

I know we shouldn’t be getting into a proverbial p***ing match over who has it worse – where does it end? I wrote about this in another post, I think, because I kind of feel that way sometimes when I read about someone else’s AMH levels being much higher than mine. But none of that is nearly as irritating to me.

It may seem callous, mean-spirited or selfish – but I just don’t understand how someone can even think, for a split second, that there’s not a difference between having at least one child and NOT having even one? How is that the same, at all? How does someone who is struggling with secondary IF not get, for a split second, how horrible it would be if they didn’t even have the one child they already have – the one they can fawn over, cuddle, dress in a cute Halloween outfit and take pictures with while the closest we’re getting is yet another exam that shows an empty womb. Yay for us. 

I’m always incredible grateful when I read a post by a secondary IFer who acknowledges her blessings. I am so grateful to her because she is thankful, she’s aware of how much worse it could be. She understands.

So when I read the post from this woman who was comparing primary infertility to what, in her case is technically tertiary infertility, I really, really just wanted to b****-slap her. Let me tell you something. I would love love LOVE to have three children. I would LOVE to adopt an infant that someone else doesn’t want – if it didn’t come with such a horrendous price tag that it makes IVF look cheap. But at this point? I’d be so grateful if I even got pregnant at all that I’d be crying tears of joy. I have zero indication, so far, that my body is even capable of getting pregnant by any means whatsoever – never mind sustain a full gestation to result in a live birth. So as far as I’m concerned, even though I want three, just ONE, just a single, healthy baby, would be better than winning the lottery to me right now.

Today is the first tiny ray of hope that I won’t be spending the entire weekend wishing I had a way to blow out my own brains – because if you’ve ever had a real migraine (as opposed to people calling a barely noticeable headache a “migraine” – which, fyi, it is NOT), you know that it can get so bad that you literally want to die just to make the pain stop. The last time I had to take a trip to the ER because of them, it was so bad that they administered morphine. TWICE. Yeah, it’s that bad.

The silver lining of having these migraines is that, when they go away, I feel so grateful and happy that I almost have tears in my eyes. And it makes me more positive, it makes me happy – it makes me more productive. So right now, as I’m still laboring in pain and secretly worrying about the amount of medication I’ve taken in the last few days just to be able to get out of bed at all, I’m hoping that I’ll be feeling much better by the end of the weekend at least. It has to…

All of these considerations made me realize that I’m just as bad as the secondary IFers I keep complaining about. Sure, I still find it annoying – but that’s not the point. The point is that they’re coming at it from a different perspective, just like I am. The only thing I can do is to make an earnest effort to change ME, to change my lifestyle, to do the things I need to do to prepare my body for when we can afford to do IVF, finally. Of course I’m scared that it’ll be too late by then, but there’s no point in worrying about this when I can’t do anything about it right now.

I pledge to do better. I pledge to take better care of myself and not to blame my body for not giving me a baby yet. I pledge to treat myself with more love, more compassion, more consideration. And I hope those of you who’ve been feeling as crummy as I have will do the same – because at some point, our time will come.

Running With Stabby Nachos

Sometimes, there are moments in this stupid IF journey that feel like someone kicked me in the face without so much as a “Hello, I’m going to rearrange your visage for free!” My heart skips a beat, the familiar constriction in my throat is a foreboding of impending tears. But I’m trying to turn a corner on a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing, of feeling like everything under the sun is somehow my fault – no matter who or what may be the real root of it.

So when I checked my email and received a reply that wasn’t meant for me because, you know, some people still haven’t figured out how NOT to reply to the entire list that the original email was addressed to – I was confronted with the following:

“I didn’t know babies snored.”

A perfectly innocuous sentence, one would think – right? Nothing to get upset about, make a fuss about, certainly not worthy of a meltdown. But for a split second I kind of wanted to put my fist through the computer screen. WHAT. THE.  !!@#(*@##$^&#%#%$. !!!! (Look at me getting creative and trying hard not to swear. Yay me! Of course, what I really need at times like these is my very own Russel Dunbar – someone who can tell others that they “kinda are” total a$$faces. OOPS.)

For anyone who’s what we in the “industry” – bwahahahaha – like to call an IF veteran*, my reaction is probably not at all surprising. If you’ve been TTC for 2 months you’ll probably fail to grasp why I didn’t just think, awwwww, how cute – snoring baby! Must tweet! Oh, no – not cute or sweet to me. And not because, obviously, I would SO think it was cute if this was MY baby snoring. I can imagine myself perched over a crib, or gazing down at a little drooling mini-ME slobbering and snoring like my grandfather after a copious meal – and yes, if I were in that situation, with MY baby in my arms, I would absolutely think it was cute. I’d probably chuckle. I’d marvel at how otherwise irritating or annoying things are so much less so when done by babies. I’d sigh contentedly because, finally, I’d know the bliss of motherhood.

Instead, I was sitting there all by myself – and the only snoring I was hearing was from one of my dogs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of cute in a way because she has the weirdest way of sleeping sometimes – but those 5 words made me feel like someone had spat in my face. After chewing tobacco. Yeah, think about that for a minute.

For a split second, I was so irate that I wanted to fire back a reply to the person – someone who knows me, knows my situation, and therefore should OBVIOUSLY have realized that this was not information that would be happily received by me, especially in relation to the baby of someone I’m not on speaking terms with. I wanted to email back and say, could you PLEASE stop using modern technology if you haven’t grasped the basic concepts thereof and are apparently unaware that you’re launching emotional grenades my way? Or should I just block you? Because, you know – this stuff is NOT good for my waistline.

But of course I knew that I was overreacting. I knew that it wasn’t intentional. The person in question doesn’t even get how absolutely horrific the mere possibility of a life without biological offspring would be – having not been confronted with this issue personally – and therefore also has absolutely no idea that the tiniest, most seemingly insignificant sentence, picture or event can cause an emotional earthquake.

So I thought – hah, I’m just going to write my annoyance away somewhere else. Because, lately, I’m finally starting to realize more and more that all the things I’ve carried around with me for years – it’s not always about me. Sometimes, it’s not my fault – it’s not me. It’s someone else who’s being an idiot, who’s being inconsiderate, who doesn’t have the wherewithal or brain power to think beyond the tip of their nose because it doesn’t affect them personally. My husband has been trying to tell me this for years – bless his heart, he’s always been my biggest champion and has been working overtime for a decade to repair the damage done by people who shall remain nameless. So, rather than lash out, stomp my feet or shove a big cupcake in my mouth (although, the truth here is that I don’t have a cupcake and I’m to lazy to make one from scratch. Ahem.), I thought to myself: yep, that’s just typical of someone who doesn’t THINK. BEFORE. THEY. ACT. And If I’m going to feel that way about someone else, maybe I should apply the same standards to myself.

At this point, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with the headline of this blog post. Honestly? Nothing at all. You see, when I sat down to write, I was feeling really annoyed and irritated – and for some reason, the expression “running with scissors” came into my mind. But I was already starting to turn the corner and kind of laughing about how something as silly as a snoring baby had almost derailed my self-composure (yet another lovely side effect of long-term IF – the gift that keeps on crapping on your doorstep)…and somehow thought about the hilarious story that floated around years ago and had been forwarded to me by a friend. It was a parody about the “feud” between then BFFs Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, which referenced Stavros Niarchos III, heir of a Greek shipping magnate, incorrectly as “Stabby Nachos”:

http://gofugyourself.com/the-simple-fug4-10-2006

I still remember being in tears from laughing so hard the first time I read this (snorting and guffawing may have been involved) – a perfect (albeit fictitious) soliloquy of vapid reality tv “stars”. I will admit that, even though I think Paris Hilton is just awful, I kind of thought The Simple Life was a little bit hilarious – although very obviously staged – and Nicole Richie may have been the only “celebrity” I didn’t hate for being pregnant. Because, you know, it was either motherhood or death by anorexia. Plus? How cute was her daughter Harlow? And I will say that I just ADORE her fashion style since she became a mom.

ANYWAY. 

My point is that writing is cathartic and sometimes finding the right way to put your feelings into words – even if it’s in a diary that only you read – can act like a pressure valve. Plus, laughter really is the best medicine – you know, so long as the source isn’t excessive schadenfreude.

And you know what? I feel better already. 🙂

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(*NB: I’m not sure I “technically” qualify as a “veteran” since I haven’t yet gone through a litany of ARTs. But since I have been on the TTC rollercoaster for what seems like FOREVER and am starting to feel as old as dust, I’m going to consider that my honorary badge. Sad, but true. )

A Crack in the Glass

This weekend has been one of reflection for me. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the struggles of other women who, like me, face the uncertainty of what life has in store for them as they muddle their way through, trying desperately to cling to a sense of themselves instead of letting infertility redefine them in a new, hollow sense of “normal”.

I wanted to wallow in self-pity. I wanted to go and buy myself a self-indulgent cinnamon roll (or three), scarf it down while fat tears rolled down my face, burning in my eyes as I pretended, for a second, that processed sugar could melt away my pain. But I didn’t. Not because I suddenly had a great proclivity towards nutritious food (I’m still working on that), but because I thought to myself, this is what I’ve always done, what I’ve BEEN doing: feeding the pain. Stuffing food on top of it until I’ve shoved it so far down that it’s been replaced by guilt or self-loathing – at times, unbelievably, a preferable choice over the constant screaming in my head that reminds me of the very real possibility that I may end up being one of the unfortunate ones, the ones who never make it across the finish line. No baby. Not now, not ever. Too painful to contemplate – especially when I realize that I miss my husband when he’s at work but am secretly glad for the time alone, when I can cry without seeing the pain in his eyes as he sees my misery, unable to do anything to help me. Sometimes I look at my husband and I think, why does he stay? Why does he still want to be here? I’m broken. There’s no 24-hour repair shop, no super glue, for this.

I took a stroll down memory lane as I sat in an arm chair and opened a journal I kept in 2008 – a burst of color, full of vibrant life, appointments and parties, social events, names I don’t even recognize anymore. I sat there and let my eyes rove over the pages, slowly going through the first few months of the year – the year that I know we wanted to get more serious about “trying” but that eventually started a cascade of personal tragedies in our lives. I stopped when I got to April – having wandered past entries for cards sent and received, birthdays celebrated, pictures glued in haphazardly because it didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect. My life was messy, and I loved every minute of it.

I closed the journal and felt like I was in an empty hall, hearing the echoes of my past. The deaths that came, without warning. The people I thought were friends who turned away – too busy with their own lives, it turned out. Or maybe it was because I stopped being who I had once been. Maybe it was because they saw death reflected in my eyes. First, I felt nothing. Then I was hurt, angry, and felt betrayed. Where were the people whose children I’d comforted, whose birthdays I’d celebrated, whose pregnancies I’d cheered for?

Now, looking back, I think it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I couldn’t function, couldn’t cope – too many lossses in such quick succession. I couldn’t talk about it – still can’t – because I thought, who wants to hear about it anyway? Who would understand? Just like a woman who’s had a miscarriage talking to a young girl in college, or a women in her 80s whose friends have all died trying to explain the passing of time to a child. We can’t understand the experiences of others, and empathy – I’ve learned – isn’t something that comes easily to many.

I tried to fake my way through it. I tried to smile, “get back out there”. But I felt nothing. Surrounded by people, I felt as alone as on a deserted island. As someone who’s not religious, I found myself struggling to such an extent that I contemplated, not once, but several times whether I should talk to a minister. I needed…something. I knew, deep down, that God, religion, wasn’t the answer for me – but there was nothing else, either. I had no child to keep me connected to the cycle of life. All I saw, all I see, is death.

I’m supposed to reach out to others. I’m supposed to try to make new friends, to connect with other people. But I don’t know if I still have it in me. I feel like I’ve been trying to climb the same mountain forever, the end nowhere in sight, and every little progress I made the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back”. You’re not supposed to admit defeat. You’re not supposed to ask for help. You’re supposed to smile, take medication if necessary – but, as a woman, you must function at all cost. You must keep smiling, through the tears, through the pain, no matter what. It’s what you’re expected to do. We’re daughters, sisters, wives, friends if we’re lucky – and we’re expected to shoulder the burdens passed onto us as well as our own. Where others feel no empathy, no sympathy, no guilt or remorse, we pick up their lot and carry it too. We question our place in the world, our lives, our relationships – are we good enough? Are we worthy? Maybe if we just try harder. Smile just a little wider.

But after a while, there are signs of strain. I remember reading something about how continued, long-term stress actually frays the muscles of the heart – or something to that effect – and I had a mental image of electrical cables being severed, sparks flying, injuries ensuing. My heart is hurting. It has been hurting for so, so long. I’m not doing enough to heal it because I don’t know how anymore, I don’t know how to make it better. We retreat into ourselves when we hurt, and eventually, it seems, people just forget that it was ever any different. They forget that we were once vibrant, engaging people – interesting, loving, funny. I was funny! I was hilarious! I laughed all the time – unabashedly, unreservedly, without apology. I was open to meeting new people because it was my favorite part of being alive: the promise of new ideas, new friends, new adventures.Now all I see are strangers all around me.

Tonight, I thought I’d have some iced coffee. I had already poured the dry contents into my very favorite glass and was boiling water, which I use a little bit of to dissolve everything first before adding milk. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular as I poured just enough into the glass…and heard a loud, unmistakable crack. I held up the glass, and sure enough, the boiling water had obviously caused it to crack. Now, this isn’t an ordinary glass – it’s a pretty hefty, thick glass, so I was shocked that it had cracked in the first place. But as I turned the glass in my hands and saw the extensive crack – splitting the bottom and running clean upwards diagonally about 2/3 to the top – I had another epiphany. The water was like a metaphor for all the crap that’s been happening in my life – all the drama, the ups and downs – and the closer it got to the boiling point, the more I was getting to my wit’s end. And when I poured the boiling water into the glass, it was like all the things that have happened in the last 5 years came together in a visual display of my broken heart. 

But then I realized something else. This is my favorite glass. Obviously, I’m mad that there’s a huge crack in it now – but as I ran my hands over the crack, over and over again, I marveled at the fact that the glass remained intact. In fact, no liquid spilled out at all.

And I realized that there may be a crack in the glass, but if it’s strong enough to hold together – so am I.

Gratitude

In light of today’s date, I thought this was an appropriate topic. I know that I will never forget where I was when I first found out about the events of 9/11 – shocked to the core, silent in disbelief as images unfolded on the screen before my eyes and I took them in as though it was a movie. Because it couldn’t be reality, could it?

So before I got any further, I just want to say how grateful I am, every single day and night, that I can go about my days – hard as they may be for me sometimes – because of the people who selflessly serve in our Armed Forces, leaving behind their loved ones when it is deemed necessary. Thank you for doing a difficult job that not all of us could do because we don’t have the resilience, the strength or the courage they require – and thank you for doing it despite the fact that we don’t always show you enough appreciation.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

But the subject of gratitude has been on my mind for a few days now. During the weekend, I kept trying to zero in on a subject for a new blog post. I wrote, saved drafts, started from scratch, saved more drafts – but nothing really felt right. In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m definitely a right-brain kind of person. I was beginning to get frustrated when I came across something on one of the infertility sites I frequent (wow…did I just have a flash of just how much my life has changed compared to 15 years ago), which was essentially a call for contributions to a virtual gratitude journal. It wasn’t a big to-do, nothing formal, not involving a competition, prizes, deadlines or anything crazy like that – just a simple question and reminder to, perhaps, put things into perspective.

And boy did THAT come at the perfect time for me.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I lose sight of my many blessings – mainly, of course, because sometimes I wallow in self-pity because I haven’t (yet) been blessed with our little miracle and sometimes get a little too wound up about the fact that it seems everyone else in the world is able to pop out babies like there’s a race to be won. Which is really kind of unfair since I was never good at running anyway, and how do you compete with the baby-making equivalent of a popcorn machine? Pop! Look there’s another one. Pop! Pop! POP! What do you know – in the last half hour, 228 babies have been born in the continental US.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the heartache. The longing to have a child with my husband becomes such searing pain that, sometimes, crying actually seems to relieve it – if only temporarily – because there’s just so much build-up. And because I’m not, say, 22 anymore, I also spend a lot of time thinking about everything that could go wrong even if (when!) I do eventually accomplish the seemingly impossible (pregnancy); all the things I have to then worry about even if (when! when!) the impossible has led to the desired miracle outcome (healthy baby); and before you know it I’m reading an article about cyber-bullying or sexting, and I start freaking out about what, oh what, are you supposed to do to keep your tween/teen safe?? (Ok so “a lot of time” may have been an understatement. But as I’ve told my husband a million times whenever he tells me to “relaaaax“: I come from a long line of overreactors – and the way I see it, if I freak out ahead of time then maybe it won’t be so scary when I’m actually in the situation. Or something less crazy-sounding. Ahem. Moving along swiftly…)

In all seriousness: sometimes it’s hard not to be sad all the time. I wake up sad because, you guessed it, I obviously can’t fail to realize or remember that the pooch I wish would disappear has nothing to do with the joy of impending motherhood. I shuffle through the day with yet more pockets of sadness as I either (a) leave my house to run errands or go about my day and try desperately not to fall apart every time I see a pregnant woman or someone cradling a teeny tiny swaddled baby in the crook of their arm, or (b) avoid leaving the house altogether for fear of the afore-mentioned and realize, once again, how ridiculously different my life is not just in comparison to what it used to be what feels like light years ago but also how I thought it would turn out.Yes, MY life is just a bowl of cherries!

But then, I’ll read about someone else’s IF journey or just a comment/response to something a third person may have posted on a community board. And some of those stories make everything I’ve been through and am going through sound like child’s play – even though I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to walk in my shoes, either. Both DH and I come from small families, scattered all over the place – and at this point we’ve basically lost most of them either to death or estrangement. Consequently, our “support system” is the equivalent of a ratty no-wire bra with a worn-out elastic.

When I saw this simple reminder the other day and found myself reflecting on what happened on this very day 12 years ago, I felt like a bit of a heel (surprisingly common these days). I thought to myself – wow. I really need to stop being so self-absorbed and whiny (especially considering how much that annoys me in other people) and get back to eating the humble pie I was in the middle of. Because, you know, sometimes? I may forget that being reproductively challenged isn’t actually the worst thing in the world – not nearly.

So, let me start out by saying that I’m grateful for a necessary reminder to be grateful – all the more so since it’s so very apropos at the beginning of fall and heading into the holiday season. More specifically and off the top of my head, I’m grateful for:

(1) My husband. Always, first and foremost, my husband. Don’t get me wrong – we have our ups and downs like any other normal married couple. But I still adore him, he still loves me in spite of moments that involve verbal diarrhea, reliving teen angst, and a whole new can of forms full of anxiety and panic when someone mentions the terms “egg donor” or “child free”. He’s hard-working, honest, loyal and the kind of stand-up guy who will turn down a free offer when a service call gets totally botched up because he’s not looking for a handout. The man deserves an award – although on most days, his wife is a pretty good runner-up.

(2) Our pups. They are so amazing, loving, loyal and patient. They come running to the door, they wag their tails eagerly in the morning – and they forgive bad days filled with balled-up tissues, going so far as to cuddle up with you even if you ignored them for hours because you were so busy crying your eyes out that the best you could do for them was remember to change their water and let them out occasionally. They love you even when you’re having a bad hair day, or just a bad day, full stop. We spoil them not just because we want to but because they deserve it.

(3) Freedom. This one I DO actually think about every day – and I’m grateful, every day, not just that I live in a country that still believes in the freedom of speech (despite some people’s apparent desire to limit the applicability of the First Amendment for their own purposes and “philosophy”) but also for the brave men and women who risk their lives even as I write, and while I sleep, to do what their leaders deem necessary to keep the rest of us safe. I mean, how can you not be grateful for that? How can you not be humbled when the closest you’ve ever been to a combat zone is through the pages of a book or the screen of your tv? They all deserve a lot more appreciation than we can ever show them…

(4) The infertility community. While there are always people you’re not going to agree with or who make statements, comments, posts etc. that will either make you want to gouge out your eyes or slap them for various infractions ranging from bad spelling through repetitiveness, right to insolence and idiocy – the vast majority of women you find there are heroines in my book. They are women who are not afraid to, you know, do the proverbial gross thing into the wind – because they’ve already endured so, so much worse. They’ve been poked, prodded, examined and excavated from here to eternity and back again. Many have had multiple miscarriages; some have experienced the worst possible trauma for a mother-to-be: stillbirth. I am always in awe at the resilience, the refusal to give up, the endurance and willingness to trudge on against seemingly insurmountable odds or financial nightmares that keep these women going. And you know what’s even more amazing? That despite all the crap they’ve already been through themselves, they’re still willing to give support, sympathy and a virtual shoulder to cry on to perfect strangers they’ve never come face to face with. That? Is AMAZING – and to be part of a community like that is both humbling and a privilege despite the fact that none of us chose to have to struggle with IF.

(5) My brain. I don’t give my brain nearly enough props because there’s a cantankerous little nay-sayer somewhere in the recesses that keeps arguing with any praise I may direct at my cerebrum. I constantly lament my seeming inability to overcome procrastination and actually do something more constructive with my brain before it gets totally fed up with being under-utilized and under-stimulated, packs its valise and has me committed to a vegetative state without so much as a “GOOD LUCK performing basic bodily functions without me!!”. (In case it wasn’t obvious here: brain activity is very important to me. Not just for the obvious necessity of full-functioning body commands but because lower brain function scares me intensely. More than being childless. YES it’s that scary to me. Please don’t leave me, brain!!) But beyond that, there are moments where I am just in awe at the vast amount of multi-tasking my brain is responsible for – and the tasks it’s able to accomplish when given the chance. 

(6) The fact that my body hasn’t divorced me yet – despite years of both physical and verbal abuse. I’d like to think that my brain – which is clearly the boss of the whole meshugganah operation – would’ve jumped ship if I had ever been in a relationship with another human being that was as unsupportive. And despite the fact that I’ve definitely had some scary warning signs of my comeuppance in the last 3 years – proof that even intelligent people can be extremely obtuse – my body is definitely something I should be grateful for (despite the whole, you know, failure to reproduce and all) and treat better. A LOT better.

(7) Modern conveniences. It seems like a doozie, but how lucky am I to be living a life where I don’t have to worry about electricity and running water – or choose between them? How lucky am I that air conditioning is something I can take for granted – because, honestly? You don’t want to see or talk to me if I have to deal with a summer in any part of the entire nation without air conditioning. It’ll give a whole new meaning to “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” – because, seriously, hell hath no fury like a woman parched, scorched and without air conditioning.

But there are other, less obvious things I’m also grateful for. I’m grateful for forgiveness – and the fact that my husband and I are both willing and able to practice it frequently. I’m grateful for laughter, which I used to take for granted because it was such a predominant part of my life that it never occurred to me that a life without laughter – or a very tiny amount of it – was possible or worth living. Yet, here I am – living a life where laughter, far from the previously ubiquitous commodity, has become a rare and welcome treat. I realized this the other day when we shared a good laugh that was almost followed by tears as it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so freely and heartily.

To some extent, I’m also grateful that this journey is having an unexpected byproduct: perspective. I’m kind of obstinate. Ok, sometimes not just kind of but very obstinate. It’s on my list of things I’m not especially proud of because, even though it can pay off when I’m trying to get something done, it can also be a hindrance.Sometimes I think that being too obstinate borders on stupidity because if you’re not the least bit flexible, you can’t learn – and that’s just dumb. So while I’m definitely a slow learner when it comes to putting things in perspective, I’m learning – and, more importantly, I’m not giving up. Because in a world where there are so many people who are dealing with much greater adversity than I am, I have absolutely no right to complain – and to give up on myself, my husband, and my dream of motherhood would be like saying that struggling with IF is harder than struggling with the obstacles and hardship that others have overcome or are working hard, every day, to overcome. And that’s just not ok.

I know that I’m always going to have dark days – days when the sadness, frustration, resentment and anger threaten to swallow me whole. But lately, I feel like I’m finally starting to get more perspective, and reflecting more on the good rather than the bad. As I think about how lucky I am to have a husband who loves me and to live at a time and in a place where I can express all my feelings anytime, I realize not only that I have much to be grateful for, but also that I alone am responsible for making the changes in my life, my thoughts, my day-to-day routine, that will make me happy. Because no matter what happens, I am grateful to be here.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy