Category Archives: infertility

Infertility update – the plot thickens

I have always strived to be honest in all of my posts.  There are times that I worry that someone will take what I have written and misconstrue the context or the meaning behind what I am writing.  So I have the dilemma on trying to sensor thoughts or words and yet stay true to what I am trying to accomplish.  Since all you are seeing is black and white words you can’t see if I am smiling, laughing, crying, or just plain mad when I write.  That can be the trouble with the written word.  Sarcasm can be lost in the black and white.  Seriousness can be down played when you aren’t looking into someone’s eyes while trying to grasp and understand where they are coming from with their words.  Even with this worry that you can be misunderstood, the written word is so meaningful to me.  Seeing my ideas come out of my head and giving them life so others can see and possibly try to understand is a huge deal.  I can write these bold thoughts (I can say them too but there is something about having it written down), carefully constructed words and feel through them.
With that said here is an honest post, words that have been bouncing in my head for almost a year that have finally fallen out into this post.  This was a hard post to write and possibly a hard post for some to read.  It is long – exceptionally long, but only because that is how long it took for it to all come out.  It is long out of necessity.  Thoughts that have been given life beyond just being silent inside my head, trapped for only me to live and relive.  A post that might be too personal with information that no one would really care to hear or read.  Words that some might find hurtful or offensive.  A story that some might be offended and mad to have not known and been in the dark.   That is not my intent and if you could see me write it, you would know it is coming from a place deep with in me begging to be released.  Not for approval from society or for an emotional response, mostly because I just needed to say it and it is time.
In my family, birthday’s haven’t always been a big deal.  I can remember growing up and having parties with the neighborhood kids and some school friends.  I remember opening gifts.  I remember celebrating my birthday.
birthday
(Birthday celebrated in pajamas before bed)
But it wasn’t something that my parents really dwelled on.  Or at least my perception was of that.  We knew we were loved, we got gifts, we got cake, we had special meals, but birthday’s were pretty much just another day.  Not like some of my friends who got new outfits galore and flaunted that this is not only a birthday, but birth week and birth month.  That worked for their family and that is fine – no judgment there, just wasn’t my life.  The older I got the less I cared about my actual birthday.  I wouldn’t yell if someone wished me a happy birthday but I don’t publish my birthdate on social media just because I don’t.  It just isn’t that important to me.  I don’t like the attention that is dished out on my  birthday, I feel singled out and for some reason it just makes me feel bashful and uncomfortable.
Andy would always tease that he would throw a surprise party (which would be my definition of pure torture) or would make a big deal on my birthday.  Since my birthday is right before his we worked out a truce.  If he promised to not do anything like that to me, I wouldn’t do anything like that to him (he can’t stand surprise birthday parties either).  All of that to say when my birthday for 2018 started to approach I wasn’t dreading it, but definitely didn’t want to make a big deal about it.  I said as much.  Andy rolled his eyes as he normally does, but that was that.
This is not an advertisement or endorsement of birth control or political statement by any means, but I take my birth control religiously.  I have PCOS and the birth control makes my life much better.  It keeps me regulated with my periods and with symptoms and I am just a better person on birth control.  A month before my  birthday I woke up from a Sunday nap and had to pee.  I was slated to start my new pack of birth control that night and while I was walking to the bathroom I didn’t remember really having my period.  I remember going to the store and buying feminine hygiene products, but didn’t remember actually using them.  I remembered being moody and displaying the symptoms of PMS with the poise of someone that needs Midol, but the actual period I didn’t remember.  I did some math and thought, “crap that’s weird.”  But that isn’t completely unusual for me.  Birth control keeps me regular 99% of the time, but if I am under a lot of stress or some other factors I will miss a period (and work had been super stressful).  I looked in my cabinet and just happened to have a home pregnancy test.
Just for giggles and to continue with the habit that if I start a new pack of birth control and don’t have a period I always test.  It has been a habit for a long time and just a hard one to break (starting way back shortly after we got married).  I peed on the stick, put it flat to dry and finished my bathroom experience and got up.  I grabbed the test and headed for the trash and glanced at it as I tossed it in.  I started out the bathroom door and froze.  I went back to the trash can and picked it up.  Two pink lines formed a plus mark.  I sat it down on the sink and stared at it.  I dug the box out of the trash and re-read the key.  Then looked at the test again.  I took a few breathes and went back to the bed.  Andy was lying there looking at his phone and I flopped down and looked at him opened my mouth and closed it, then looked at the ceiling.  At some point Andy asked “What’s wrong?”  I responded.  “Nothing’s wrong, per say.”  I had his attention.  He put his phone down and he looked at me and asked again.  I said, “I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.” “What does that mean?” was his reply.  “I’m pregnant.”
We both stared at each other in disbelief.  I never had a positive pregnancy test.  Not even when we were in the middle of all of our treatments.  We were shocked.  We laughed.  I cried.  I got out of bed and walked around the house then got back in bed.  I went to the bathroom and looked at the test again.  We dedicated years, and a lot of money, and so many treatments and appointments to this plight with only negative results.  We were told it wouldn’t happen, so we gave up on ourselves and started the adoption process.  We have been through so many tears and sorrow and heart break with the adoption process as well.  But now, while on birth control, when those dreams had long flown away, been completely changed forever and that hope gone, I am pregnant.
We thought maybe it was a fluke with the test because God only knew how old it was.  We went to the store and bought a different brand and the next morning I tested again.  Two pink lines.  Pregnant.  I called the doctor and set up an appointment to have lab work done a few days later.  I left work and peed in a cup and they confirmed that I was pregnant than did some lab work.  I was scheduled for a new OB appointment the following week.  We went to that appointment and they did an ultrasound.  It was amazing.  We were there for something we long thought we would never experience.  She tried an abdominal ultrasound but decided to switch to a vaginal ultrasound.  She stepped out so I could get undressed and was back in the room in a minute or two.  She could tell I was a little nervous, but she said that it is common for this US (especially early on) when trying to see something so tiny.  I didn’t correct her, I was nervous that there would be no sac, nothing there.  She looked around for a few minutes and was quiet.  I lay there knowing the news was coming.  I gripped Andy’s hand tighter and braced myself.  The tears were gathering in my eyes and one slipped out down my cheek.  The technician opened her mouth and said.  “This is the sac, and do you see this thing moving?” We both nodded not speaking.  She said, “That is a heart beating.”  She continued on measuring and explaining what she was doing.  She said we were 6 weeks.  She said she wanted to see if she could hear the heart beat, but said at this early we might not be able to hear it.  She pulled it up and I held my breath.  In that small quiet room you could hear the fluttering beat of that precious heart.  The tears streaked down my face leaving a salty trail.  She gave us our due date: 12/13/18.  She printed out our Ultrasound pictures and handed them to Andy.  We met with the Nurse Practitioner, learned a lot, got a lot of congratulations and made a follow up appointment.
Our world changed.  We had this little baby now.  Despite all the things that went wrong prior to this place and all of the things that it had to endure to get here, we had it.  Our magic bean.  One of the ultrasound pictures made it look like a Koala Bear, so we started referring to our child as Magic Koala Bean or MKB.
We decided to keep it a secret for as long as possible because we know the risks that can happen, but we were elated.  There were funny things that happened that we had to lie to protect our secret.  We giggled about them all and knew that when the truth came out it would be forgotten or at least understood.  Otis was excited about MKB too.
Two weeks later I started spotting.  Which I was informed was normal.  After a day of that, I called the doctor and spoke to the doctor on call, just to calm my nerves.  She gave me some things to look for and told me when to call back, reassured me and I was able to breathe.  It eased off.  A few days later it started back, and was heavier.  I sent a message to my doctor and after he asked some questions he said call Monday for an appointment if it hasn’t stopped.  It hadn’t stopped.  It wasn’t in the danger zone (soaking a pad), but it was still there and I was so scared.  We made an appointment for May 8th.  The day before my birthday.  A month after we found out about our MKB.  It wasn’t with my normal doctor but with one of his partners.
The ultrasound technician tried the abdominal route and decided to switch (I am not an expert, but I saw the sac at least I thought I did, and I feel confident that she did).  She stepped out so I could get undressed and was gone for 15 minutes or so.  I looked at Andy and told him that it wouldn’t be good news.  Last time she was in our room quickly, this time she was gone too long.  I told Andy that she would be waiting on the doctor to come in and break the news to us.  I said she is probably waiting outside whatever room he is in to tell him to come in here.  I don’t know if he believed me, but I just knew in my entire being that was what was going on.  When she reentered the room she stated that the doctor would be joining us in just a minute, because they like to be there for ultrasounds.  I knew right then and there that our MKB was gone.  The tears started to fall silently.  He came in and she started the US.  He stood there staring at the screen.  I don’t know if he was willing something to happen or if he was hoping that he was missing something.  He could have been trying to come up with the words that would shatter our lives a little less.  In the silence of the room, I said from the table, “the sac looks empty.”  He took a deep breath and said sorry he just wasn’t seeing anything there.  There was no heart beat.  There was nothing viable.  We lost our MKB and the doctor confirmed it.  We cried.  We were given options and we cried.  I opted out of surgery and elected for the miscarriage to happen “naturally.”    He didn’t know my history so through tears I walked him down our long road to this moment and I asked him if this was a fluke.  Was this just a cruel punishment for something?  Why did this happen now when all those years ago treatments didn’t work?  He showed compassion and empathy because him and his wife had been in this same position (miscarriage).  His answer was one that made me feel better, but also didn’t.  He said he didn’t feel like any pregnancy or baby was a fluke.  He completely understood why I asked that – given our history.  He said he wished that he had an answer but that he couldn’t provide an answer to why now.  What he did say was that he didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t try again.  Try again?  We didn’t “try.”
This was just one more reason to not be excited about my birthday.  On the way home I forbid Andy for uttering one word about my birthday, this time he didn’t have any smart remarks.
The next day was my birthday.  I went to work and acted like my life was fine.  On the inside I was shattered, broken beyond repair.  I spent my birthday bleeding.  The life literally draining out of me.  The next day I was scheduled to be in a different office to help cover people being out so I couldn’t call out myself.  I took my heating pad with me because the cramping had already gotten so bad.  I sat for 8 hours tattered to a heating pad and popping Advil and Aleve like they were candy.  I sat there wanting to cry, but not having the tears.  Wanting to be at home, but not wanting to be alone with my thoughts.
My thoughts that were fractured and broken already hurt in a completely new way.  At a time when I thought the next heartbreak from this journey was admitting failure and having to withdrawal our name from the adoption agency – not this.  Thoughts on miscarriage and what the world doesn’t tell you.  Harsh realities that you don’t know until you walk that path.  A path that isn’t the same for every person that miscarries, but similarities that cross over into different stories.
Things like:
Miscarriage is a taboo for most people, like infertility struggles.  People don’t want to talk about it because it isn’t “happy”.  And that because people don’t want to talk about it, you feel shame.  Shame because your body rejected your baby but also shame because you will make people uncomfortable.  Shame because these thoughts stay in your head and eat away at you and feed your self doubt.

What the world tells you about miscarriage is silence.  Is this unfair to say?  Yes it is.  People can’t reach out to you and support you if they don’t know.  For the people that we actually told, we mostly got support.  Is it unfair to hold that information to yourself and expect that other people will pave the way for you in society by sharing their painful stories?  Yes it is.  I can’t expect other people to share their miscarriage stories, when I am too ashamed and sad to share my own.  A double standard, clearly, but one that is hard to navigate inside your own head let alone sharing those things out loud.

What the world doesn’t tell you….

When the ultrasound tech starts the ultrasound and decides to switch gears and goes out of the room so you can get undressed and says be back in a minute, but it takes 10 minutes – expect the worst.  She has gone to get the doctor to deliver the news that is coming that she doesn’t want to say.  It isn’t her responsibility to shatter dreams and hopes and tell you that your prayers didn’t work.  When she comes back and says doctors like to be in the room for the test (but you have already had ultrasounds in this facility and know they don’t – unless something is wrong).  It is ok to let tears fall after she comes in and she says sorry for the delay but she was waiting on the doctor to come out of the room he was in to “let him know you are there.”

That the doctor comes in the room and is squinting at the empty sac turning his head like a German Shepherd puppy (minus those amazing cute floppy ears) trying to see something that isn’t there and trying to come up with the words to soften the blow.  When you say from the exam table “the sac is empty” and he breathes almost a sigh of relief that I already know the inevitable, so the next words coming out of his mouth won’t be the complete shock he thought they might be.

That his hasty retreat from the room isn’t to be rude (at least in our case) it was to research my chart and try to provide answers once we are moved to an actual exam room.

That after this kind of news the ultrasound tech changes her tone and won’t make eye contact because she looks like she wants to cry with you.  That her “I am so sorry” was the first of many at the office and had pain behind it because she knew that she was instrumental in bringing this reality to light and even though it isn’t her fault – changing our lives for the worst.

The walk of “shame” from the ultrasound room to the patient room to talk to the doctor is one of the most emotionally difficult walks there is.  Wallowing in the floor sobbing was not acceptable when that is what I wanted to do.  Punching the wall and leaving a dent was not acceptable when that would at least give me some outlet of frustration.  That tripping the next person that walked by smiling was unacceptable (granted that would be mostly unacceptable any time) but when you are that sad and frankly pissed off you don’t want to see happy people.  In the matter of one minute from US room to exam room all of these emotions slam into you like a semi barreling down the highway.  People staring at you trying to decode the tears as you attempt to slow the sobs.

That even when you felt like you knew what the answer was going to be, that it would hurt just the same.

That behind the closed doors clutching your spouse those emotions just turn into tears and sobbing.  Angry tears, sad tears, devastated tears, frustrated tears, dreams ending tears, jealous tears, distraught tears, failure tears, shame tears, what if tears.  They streak down your face like the ocean leaving a salty streak that you won’t notice for hours.

That for a few minutes you would be grateful for the time alone with your spouse to cry and be alone so you can wrap your head around things and process before the doctor comes in to talk to you.  But after a few minutes you would wish and hope the doctor would just hurry and come in so that you can leave and escape this place.

That when he comes in he talks to you, not at you, and he apologizes over and over.  His compassion is there and as you are sobbing you cling to his compassion and that holds you together for the time being.

That when the smiling check out girl takes your encounter form and looks at you and asks how you are and you try to be polite and say “I’m ok,” then she looks at the form and sees the code for miscarriage and she stops smiling and says “I am so sorry” with such sympathy.  Then she excuses you from the rest of the check out process so you don’t have to be in the “baby office” anymore since you don’t have your baby.

That when you call to cancel your next OB appointment and the f/u from the miscarriage appointment, the person on the other end offers to pray for you and that is nice, because you are having a hard time finding the right words to say to God.

That you want to sleep.  When you sleep, you don’t feel the cramps and you can escape from the pain – physically and emotionally.

That with each passing “milestone” you think, if you lived you would…  (be certain gestation, size, due, first holidays, age, etc).

The cramps are horrible and add to the emotional aspect.  The bleeding is horrible and gross with clots and just weirdness.  That your cervix opens to pass the “biologic material” or “biologic remains of tissue” – and you can feel it.  That the only time you will ever “hold” that child is when you wipe them away.

That there is an emptiness, a new broken, and your heart hurts.  Each time it beats there is a searing pain.

That there is a grief so deep and wide.  And aiding that grief is that shame.  That you don’t want to tell other people because it would make them sad.  That our road has already been a difficult one and people supporting us don’t need to add one more chapter of sad disappointment to it.  Telling people would lead to those looks of pity.  Telling people would admit to the failure that happened.  Not that you did anything (so to speak) wrong, but that things went horribly wrong and you had no control to stop it, to protect your child.  That you don’t want to tell people because you don’t know if it would ever happen again, and the added stress of people asking you if you are pregnant again would just add to your anxiety and shame if it actually never did happen again.  That asking would emphasize that you lost something already.  That you would interpret people asking that question to mean that your baby that is no longer here doesn’t matter and possibly never did.  That I wasn’t far enough along for me to really care or be upset or for “it to count”.  That people wouldn’t understand that a loss is a loss, and it is hard.  That your grief goes beyond the physical loss and extends into the loss of dreams and ideals.  That the hopes that were tied up in our MKB were lost and with that comes a profound grief as well.

That they can tell you to “try” again and there is complete fear in that simple word.  We didn’t try in the first place and what if it doesn’t work.  How invested do we get in opening up these old wounds?  How far are we willing to go to prove this was or wasn’t a fluke?  How much money are we willing to sink into this and add to the money we have already sunk?

There is so much to learn in the world of miscarriages.  There is so much I have to tell myself, to remind myself it wasn’t my fault, even though when the world crashed down around me it certainly felt and some days feels like it is because I couldn’t hold it up.  I have to remind myself that there is no shame in our infertility journey.  That even though it is sad and heart breaking and that sometimes people don’t want to talk about Addy (and now probably MKB), because it is too sad, that it is our story no matter how broken and messed up it is and that is ok.  That our children matter to us and we talk about them all the time.  That even though our children aren’t breathing they live inside us.  That broken can be beautiful.

As we approach my birthday for 2019, I remember those moments of joy and elation last year.  I also remember the devastation that lead to my birthday boycott.  In almost a years time, since our loss, Andy and I have been on a roller coaster with so many different things.  Highs of Andy graduating and work done on the house to lows of Otis passing and the loss of family members and the uncertainty of was MKB just a fluke?

After the darkest and most horrible storms come a rainbow.  We are excited (and yet cautious) to say we are expecting ours 10/6/19.  Working with the doctors we tried again and just when I was about ready to toss in the towel we got news that we are pregnant.  Our doctors are great and have done a lot of hand holding and double checking to make sure we are on the right track.  I appreciate everything they are doing for us to keep us calm and reassure us.  This excitement doesn’t erase our journey this far.  This doesn’t make all of that “ok.”  But it does help.  It hasn’t completely healed our brokenness, but it has helped.  This doesn’t take place of Addy or our MKB.  This baby will know of their siblings in heaven, Addy that we saw and loved, and MKB that we felt and loved.  While we are over joyed at this miracle we long gave up hope for, I am still feeling anger and bitterness towards God.  Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful for this chance at carrying a child and being a biological mother and Andy a biological father, but there is still this feeling of why.  Why did it take this long?  Were our prayers not good enough then?  Why did Addy have to die?  Why has this road been our road?  Why did we have to experience so much heartache?  Why did we have to empty our bank accounts before?  Why did we have to go through the adoption processes?  People saying that this was all in God’s plan or timing – they may feel that way, but to me that is not comforting.  To me that minimizes Addy’s birth and death as well as our weeks carrying MKB and that tiny heart beat that stopped too soon.  That takes away from their stories.  That takes away from this long road we have been on.  That makes it seem like we should just “get over” all that we have been through instead of allowing it to be part of our story, no matter how sad.  This does not minimize the years we have dealt with infertility – this does not ease that hurt.  It changes it – yes – but that sting lingers, as I have been told by other infertility friends it always will.  My God is big enough to deal with my bitterness, anger, continued sadness, and lingering grief.  He is so great that he can see those emotions and walk with me through them and at the same time see the joy and happiness and how thankful and blessed we are.  He knows that my heart has been shattered to pieces and that while this fills my heart with so much joy there is that possibility it might never be entirely hole again.  He is ok with that.  He understands my fears that this will all come crashing down around me and that I won’t be able to breathe easy until I hold this baby in my arms.  And that after that I will hold my breath as we reach each milestone until the day I take my last breath.  He understands that this happiness comes from a road of pain and tears, and that we will embrace all of that road and will remember where we have been to get this far.

Infertility messes with your head.  It creates self doubt and feelings of worthlessness.  It has this taboo and shame that no one wants to talk about.  I understand all of that.  The statistics glare at you.  1 in 8 experience infertility.  1 in 4 experience child loss.  I belong to both of those categories.  This pregnancy doesn’t erase those facts.

We are grateful and blessed.  Our journey is not over.  Our road is not final.  Our story starts with a new chapter.  My heart still aches for the heartache of the past and wounds that have been open too long; but it beats for the hope and love of the future.

oliver plot twist

Family Photos

With Andy’s immediate family we draw names for Christmas.  Each couple gets another couple to buy gifts for.  The older I get the harder it is to buy Christmas gifts and to put a “wish list” out there for people to buy us stuff.  I am to the point if I need something, we get it.  If I want something, eventually, we get it.  So telling people what I want or need has become more difficult (and the times that I gave the brand of shampoo, toothpaste, conditioner etc it was laughed at as a joke).  Last year we had Andy’s parents as the couple we were buying for.  I think they feel similar because they couldn’t think of anything they wanted or needed for their Christmas wish list.

Part of the problem was that they were in the process of packing boxes and moving and with most things they packed his mom would say something along the lines of why did she had so much “stuff.”  I didn’t want to add to the stuff she needed to pack so we thought extremely hard on what to get them.  We decided to get her a gift card so that she could have family photos done by a professional.  Not just my camera and tri-pod.  They seemed happy with their gift card.  Fast forward to 10 months later and they lined up using the gift.

I don’t like pictures anyways.  We will start there.  But we went into town (I had a dentist appointment too) and got dressed up.  I straightened my hair (which is always an ordeal) and put on mascara and lipstick and we did this picture thing.  The photographer did great and worked fast.  The nieces and nephew seemed to smile for all the pictures.  It worked out nicely as a good gift.

kids

See the kids looked great.

I smiled and hoped it would reach my eyes.  The entire time I was watching our nieces run around with our nephew I couldn’t help but think that Addy should be here with her cousins.  Each time one of Andy’s siblings asked if they should be holding the kids, I couldn’t help but think I want to hold Addy in our pictures.  I couldn’t help but think that she would have fit right in with them.  I couldn’t help but think of how unfair it was that she wasn’t with us.  I couldn’t think too hard because then I would shed the tears that were hiding behind my hopefully real looking, fake, smile.  The photographer would say “family with girls” or “family with the boy” and then “you two.”  To her credit she didn’t say “childless couple” because had she, I would have lost it right there in the park with my mascara running down my face.  She didn’t know where we have been.  It isn’t her fault at all.  But standing there with my in-laws in front of the picture.  To the right of the picture was their oldest child, his wife, and 2 daughters in a tight little clump.  To the left but still middle of the picture was their youngest child, her husband, and their son in a tight little clump.  To the far left was their middle child, and me.  And a heart so full of holes and sorrow.  But that was our clump.  I love Andy with everything I have but there is still that emptiness.  Addy should have been there.  I miss the dreams and answers to prayers that she represented.  I miss the what could have beens.  But mostly I just miss her.

Infertility sucks.  In my story, nothing emphasizes that more than “family” stuff.  Be it holidays, vacations, going out to eat together, or family photos…family stuff is hard – yes still (and sometimes worse than before).  We have been travelling this road far too long.  We are no stranger to sadness and disappointment and loss.  One would think we could “get over it already and be happy.”  But family is hard.  Family reminds me of that family I don’t have.

Holidays are fast approaching and I feel like there will be some moments I sneak out of rooms, or step out onto the porch for fresh air.  There will be times I lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes just to breathe and give myself permission to be sad and happy.  To give myself the grace and space I need to grieve the could have beens.  To quietly brush a tear off my check.  Yes, I live infertility each and every day, but holidays are a different battle.  All of that to say – forgive me if you turn to ask for a refill on your wine, or to pass the salt and pepper and you are telling my back as I am walking away.

writing

So I had a list of all the things I was going to catch up on and write about when I took a break waiting to gain more storage.  But I re-read that list and there wasn’t much on there that actually seemed important now.  So I crushed it in my hands and tossed it in the trash.  So with no prompts or lists of topics I am just going to write.

For a long time writing has been therapeutic for me.  I have so many documents in word and drafts in my e mails where I just free write to get things out of my head.  It is so funny to go back and read some of the things I have written and seeing where I was at that time in my life.  Then sometimes reading the things that I have written just takes me back to places I don’t really want to be again.

Over the past several years infertility has been my demon.  It is something that consumes a lot of my time and thoughts.  The what if’s roll though my head.  The why plays over and over in my mind and heart.  The insecurities are crystal clear in the writing.  The blame I placed/place on myself and God are there.  The frustration creeps back in.

Let me be very clear that while I am living and breathing infertility and it consumes so much of my life – it does not consume everything.  I have moments, days, weeks, and months even that I exist with this label and don’t bat an eye.  That I push it to the back of my mind the best I can and enjoy life without worrying what happens next, without feeling like I have to be an advocate, without feeling like I have to explain why we have no children or defend why we haven’t been chosen with the adoption, without feeling like everyone that glances at me has a look of pity for me.  Where the past and the future don’t taunt me.  So while infertility is my demon – I still have some freedom to hide from it.  But that is all I can really do is hide.  Eventually it finds me.  Eventually it allows those thoughts to flood back in and I become that infertile girl again, and she warps into this monster.

As I read back through and think about where I have been and where I am, I realize I am caught between despising who infertility has made me and being proud.  With Mother’s Day approaching I swing closer to the despising side.  I think about the years I have missed out on that holiday and how each year is breaks my heart a little more.  Yes I celebrate my mother and other women that have “mothered me” but with each year that passes my time feels further and further out of reach for me to actually get to be on the receiving end of Mother’s Day.  It hurts.  It makes me mad.  It frustrates me.  I hide on that day because I worry that the monster that infertility has created will do something or say something stupid or offensive to someone.  That my bitterness will be more evident and that I will hurt feelings and people will make me feel guilty because I don’t have a child, that make me feel selfish because I can’t just “get over it and be happy.”  In years past I avoid church and will this year as well.  Sad but oh so true.  I can’t do it.  I avoid facebook and other social media.  I do my best to avoid going out to eat.  I attempt not to communicate with people in public because strangers tell women “Happy Mother’s Day” even if you don’t have a child with you.  And sometimes people that know you don’t have a child will speak that phrase to you and makes you wonder why?  Why in the world would you say that to me knowing the road that I have traveled.  And those three words when spoken or texted to me cuts straight through my soul.  I don’t deserve them.  I am not worthy and those words are wasted on me.  I despise that part of me.  The part that hides from the world – that allows the bitterness to creep in and fears that I will forever be 1 in 8 and never get to experience what motherhood is.

So this year as we get closer to Mother’s Day I find myself surrounded by emotionally bad days, the monster that comes with those days breathes bitterness and disdain and hopelessness.  Not with everything in my life, but with everything infertility related.  That monster has crawled into my head and heart and set up a tent, built a little camp fire, sitting all smug in a chair roasting marshmallows.

 

8 days

**I wrote this in the days following Addy’s funeral, but until now didn’t feel like posting**

addy’s life was short.

there is no way around this subject.  her life was short.  8 days to be exact.

while you may not agree with the next several thoughts, you have to allow me to believe them because i do.  we don’t have to agree, but we can respect each other.

when addy was born the odds were not in her favor.  she was 12 weeks early, she had the PDA, she developed the infection, and she had the massive brain bleed.  if she only had any one of those things (instead of them all), this story may have played out differently – but we will never know and playing the what if game is pointless.  with all of those complications we believe there is mercy in her passing.  we obviously didn’t want that to happen and we wanted the outcome to be different, but we were constantly reminded that we are not in control.  death is some times the most compassionate thing that can happen to a person, and we believe that to be the case in this situation.

even though the birth mother changed her mind hours before addy’s death she wanted us to be at the funeral.  we got an e mail from our caseworker with the arrangements.  we knew we wanted to go to support the mother and her family, we wanted the agency to know that we really did care, and while addy was alive i spent a lot of time with her and wanted to say goodbye.  so for us we knew that we would go.  we wouldn’t attend the grave side service, but we would go to the funeral home.  since the birth mother hadn’t told a lot of people that she was giving the baby up for adoption we didn’t want to go to the grave side service where people talk to the people around them afterwards.  we didn’t want to just say we were “friends” because we didn’t want the follow up questions.  the safest thing to protect the mother and the best thing for us was to just go to the funeral service at the funeral home.  when we got there we signed in and found a seat.  shortly after we sat down the pregnancy counselor came over to us and we stood up and hugged her.  she slipped something in my hand and told me that the mother wanted us to have it.  it was a tiny knit hat that belonged to addy, they also gave us a card signed by the people that worked at the agency.  i gave her a card and a flash drive of the photos that i had taken of addy to give to the mother.  we spoke with our caseworker and gave her a hug.  a few minutes before the service started the birth mother came over and gave me a huge hug and the dad came over and shook our hands.

i don’t love funerals – besides the obvious that someone is dead, but because i don’t feel like funerals capture a persons life.  i have been to a few funerals that have made me feel closer to the deceased, but most of the time i feel like funerals paint a picture that isn’t an accurate image of that person or their life, or that they are so far off on who that person was to the people they have left behind.  i will say that this funeral was no different.  it was painful.  i mean no disrespect for addy, her family, or the preacher that performed the funeral, but it was the worst funeral i have ever been to.

to begin with, it was a funeral for an 8 day old baby.  it doesn’t matter that we were connected through the adoption process and that she was so close to being ours, it would have been horrible even if that wasn’t the case.  it honestly felt like a pre-memorial service for pat summit (she was eulogized more than addy was).  i liked coach pat as much as the next person, but the tiny little body up there wasn’t pat summitt, it was addy.  the other thing that stuck out to me so much as being terrible was that in talking about pat summitt the preacher continued to say that millions will remember pat, but no one will remember addy.  that her life meant nothing.  she was insignificant.

maybe we misunderstood the point of what the preacher was saying, but we both would have misunderstood the same way, because we were both very upset when we left the funeral.  during the funeral andy’s hand would grip mine a little tighter and i returned the gesture each time something didn’t sit right (at one point in time it was just a continuous squeeze).  we couldn’t  believe some of the things we heard, and granted at a time like this it is hard to know what to say, but I feel like other things could have been said.  i silently prayed that the preacher would step aside and ask if anyone wanted to come to the front and say a few words – because i would have gone.  i thought about the fact that most people didn’t know of the adoption plan and thought “i don’t care, addy deserves better than this.”  he never left the podium, and never gave me a chance to speak. so allow me to say what i feel like should have been said in the first place.

one thing that the preacher did say was this: “how do you eulogize 8 days?”  that is how he started his sermon and that grabbed me, so i will keep that.

how do you eulogize 8 days of life?

you shouldn’t have to.  it isn’t fair and it is hard for us to understand why things happened the way that they did.  we can sit here everyday and say it was all part of God’s timing, but that implies that God was ok that her life was cut short.  or the implication can be made that he planned on her life to be short for a “greater good” or to “teach” someone a lesson.  i have a hard time believing that some people are born to die to show other people something because that would imply that their life is expendable – that God doesn’t value their life as much as other lives.  i don’t believe that we are God’s pawns that he just kicks us off the chessboard whenever he feels like it.  i just don’t believe that.  i understand from a physical stand point why addy died.  i know that she was early and that she was very sick.  i understand that her chance of survival was slim with all of the complications – so her death wasn’t a complete shock to us.  what i don’t understand is the spiritual side.  i don’t know why we were chosen to be part of her 8 days.  my heart tells me that there is a reason, but i can’t figure it out – and possibly i will never know the reason – and i have come to believe that this is ok.

addy came into this world with a dramatic flair – butt first; however, that first breath of life was her own.  she was a 13.75 inch long, 2 pound 10 ounce miracle.  for weeks before her birth she was our miracle.  her short life was full of tubes, medicines, tests, needle sticks, glow lights, beeps, and monitors.  her cry was never louder than a kitten’s meow. she never found her voice and we will never know the depth of it.  she never got to sleep in a real bed, only knowing the warmth of the incubator.  she will never know the silence on a starry night gazing at the moon, she only knew the beeps, constant noise, and bright lights of the nicu.  despite never holding her, and never being able to be that close to her, i was able to pick up on her scent.  the “new baby smell” that everyone talks about.  when i left the hospital after she was born to go to the hotel, i fell asleep with my hands next to my face drinking the smell in.  the smell that i associated with dreams coming true, hope, and our miracle. the smell that a few days later, triggered the tears to fall as i leaned my head against the incubator praying that the doctors were wrong.

it is hard to imagine what kind of person she would have been.  in her short life you could catch glimpses of characteristics of who she might have been.  when she was uncomfortable or in pain she put her hands to her face covering her eyes.  when she was completely relaxed she would hold her ear or put her hands above her head.  her heart rate reacted to music showing that she enjoyed music.  she would have liked to have been snuggled because she always responded to touch.  she was quick to grab your finger and to latch on and squeeze.  but beyond these things we will never know addy as being beyond 8 days old.  we can imagine who she would have been, but because her beginning was brief and the ending came too soon we will have few thoughts of her growing and living beyond the incubator and the nicu.

she was surrounded by love before she took her first breath.  her birth mother loved her enough to do the adoption plan, andy and i loved her more than any words i can express, our families loved her, and friends loved her.  she was a little girl that was never at a loss for love or prayers.  they poured in for her.  the nurses and the doctors loved her too.  i walked in several times to see the nurses talking with her and telling her that she was beautiful.  she might have just been their patient, but the love in the nicu was palpable.  addy received more love in her short life than some people get in a life time and for that i am thankful.

while her life didn’t reach millions of people (maybe not even hundreds of people) she touched lives.  deeply.  the people that she leaves behind have felt her presence deep within our souls and we mourn the loss of sweet addy.

and while i still don’t understand the “purpose” in her life cut short and i don’t believe that God “caused” this to happen to teach us something i do believe that we can use terrible things – this death – to find beauty.  we can find beauty in the fact that she wasn’t alone and that she died being loved by many.  personally, i am holding onto the beauty that this experience has opened my eyes and proved that i can love a baby that isn’t biologically mine.  there is beauty that relationships were strengthened surrounding the birth and death of addy.  the beauty that God never left us throughout this entire process.

i will never believe that she was put here as a dispensable life.  for some unknown reason her life was an essential part of our story and of our lives.  there is a part of addy that will remain in my heart, and i hope in the hearts of others, forever.

how do you eulogize 8 days of life?

her life was short and and her death won’t affect millions of people.  her footprint might have been tiny, but in the 8 days she was alive she left a mark – her mark – an impact and love that was immense, beyond measure.

goodbye sweet addy, goodbye.

our little twitter-bird

I have started and deleted this post so many times I have lost count.  Nothing seemed right.  Nothing seemed to do it justice.  One time it would be too detailed and too much information for the reader and other times it was so vague that it didn’t feel right either.  So I will start this post again and see if I can find some middle ground.

When we were chosen by the birth mother at the end of May 2016.  We were told she was due in September, but that she always went early so to be ready by August 1.  We made our lists of things to do before we were to bring the baby home.  We bought furniture and had it delivered to the house while we were at Montreat.  We started to talk about paint colors for the nursery, and we started to discuss what we would need immediately vs what would be on our wish list for later.  We had a plan pretty much for each week until August 1st.

We were chosen (officially) on June 1, 2016.  We went to Montreat as planned and while we were there we got a call on June 14th that our birth mother was in the hospital and they were trying to decide if they were going to do strict bed rest of go on and induce and take the baby because both mom and baby were in danger.  We were told to be on stand by.  June 15th we got a call stating they were going to induce as mom was now 28 weeks and they couldn’t wait any longer.  They were planning on starting the process at 5:00 pm.  We decided Andy would stay at camp with the kids since he wasn’t going to be in the delivery room anyways.  I made my way to the hospital and we waited.  5:00 came and went and nothing was started.  It was around 9:00 that night that they actually got things started with the induction.

This is where I end up being way too detailed or not detailed enough.  I remember every second (mostly) and detail about the time I spent in room 10 of the labor and delivery floor.  It was an experience like no other and that words don’t completely capture the essence or the magnitude of the moments we spent together.  Exactly 2 weeks after we were chosen, two weeks and a day after we met this amazing woman we were tossed into a whirlwind experience.  We hadn’t had our next scheduled meeting because we thought there was time.  We hadn’t had time to completely process the extent of our relationship and how connected we were because we knew the other existed for only 2 weeks.  We thought there was time to get the furniture assembled in the nursery.  We thought there was time to meet the birth father.  We thought there was time, but what we didn’t have was time.  It was here and now and all of my plans and lists were null and void.

I write about the timeline of events that happened in June 2016 and am thrust right back into the calm before the storm and then the absolute chaos.  And while all of those elements are so important to Andy and I, they may not be as important to anyone else, and that is ok.  Maybe in the moment those details would have been important to other people beyond Andy and myself, but this far out from that date, I just don’t know.  It is hard sorting out what others might feel is important and what I think it is important for other people to hear.  I can describe in detail the induction process and when things stalled or progressed.  I can describe to you how truly amazing it was to listen to the heart beat on the monitor.  How in the quiet of the night it would slam into me with so much emotion I would escape to the bathroom to gather myself.  How the chairs were arranged in that room and each person had their spot, but when they rotated, where we all went and how often we moved around.  How we took shifts to make phone calls, get drinks, ice chips, and eventually something to eat.  How birth mom would wake up during the night and ask if her “baby mama” was still there.  Those details are there and etched in my brain.

What is important regardless of how much time passes is the beauty that encompassed room 10 and OR room 1.  Two families connected through adoption.  The birth family and the adopted family supporting each other, barely knowing each other.  We laughed together, we got choked up together, we sat in silence together.

The awkwardness I thought would be palpable wasn’t there.  The conversation flowed between procedures and contractions.  The smiles and tears were genuine.  The concern was real.  She apologized to me so many times for having to be induced and the magnitude of the situation didn’t elude me.  She was saying sorry to me and yet she was about to give me my hopes and dreams for so many years.  It didn’t seem quite right.  I thanked her over and over.  We held hands like old friends.

Around 2:15 in the morning of June 16th I found myself sitting alone in the cafeteria eating the first food I had in hours and reflecting on life.  A terrible piece of pizza and a luke warm cranberry juice was all that was available at that time of morning.  I sat in the booth staring off into space, tired from being awake and exhausted from trying to be supportive and remaining hopeful and calm.  We were not delusional to think this delivery at 28 weeks would be without complications.  I knew what we were up against.  Andy did too.  But we held onto the hope that things would be ok.  The heart rate was perfect and I held onto that thought.  For the first time in years I imagined our life as a family with a child.  I grabbed onto that hope that it was really happening to us.  I reached into the back of my mind where I stashed all of those thoughts and feelings and allowed them to resurface again.

Birth mom and most everyone else in the room fell asleep around 3.  Myself and another lady stayed awake until about 4:20.  We were awaken at 4:40 by total chaos.  Birth mom was rushed to the OR to deliver there (as a precaution).  I was told to wait by a door to see the baby as it went by the door on the way to the NICU.  The friend that was in the OR with the birth mom was texting the pregnancy counselor and the pregnancy counselor was sending me the information and I was sending the information to Andy.  It was a long line of cell phone communication.  My favorite was when I got the text that she was here.  Our little girl.  She was 2 pounds 10 ounces.  I got to see a video of them taking her to the incubator.  They stopped by the door and I could see her.  The NICU doctor was with her.  I hadn’t been able to speak with her earlier so she stepped through the door and answered some of my questions.  She said the good news was that they didn’t have to intubate right away that she was breathing on her own (she warned me that could change at any moment).  She wanted to go to the NICU with her and told me I would be able to come see her and find out more information after their first assessment.  I went back to room 10 and watched the sun rise.

The day our daughter was born I saw the beauty in the creation of not just her life, but in the world around me.  In my tired state I marveled over the colors dancing in the sky.  It didn’t matter that it was coming up over construction and dirty machinery.  It was the most beautiful sunrise I ever saw.

I waited for what seemed like hours and was finally able to go to the NICU and be with our girl.  I was educated on how to scrub in and went through the dragonfly covered door to her little incubator.  I will admit in full honesty that I was glad Andy wasn’t there for my first meeting with her.  Biological mothers get to have that bonding time for 9 months (or so) while the baby is growing in them.  I hadn’t had that and was so happy that we could have a few minutes to bond alone.  I know that is selfish, but hey at least I willingly admit that.  The nurse was amazing.  She walked me through everything about the NICU.  I knew what to expect in the coming hours and what to hope for with the first 72 hours (what we were told would be the biggest challenge).  We were guarded but so far everything was ok.  She had a PDA (hole in the heart) and they were starting to treat that.  She would have cranial US to check on bleeding on the brain.  I was able to open the little door on the incubator and she grasped my finger and in that instant, my heart.  I talked to her and sat in silence staring at her.  Taking in her tiny little fingers and toes.  Watching her chest rise and fall.  Listening to the beeps and looking at the machines she was hooked up to.

With stories from the NICU.  I have a hard time knowing what to share.  Things happened quickly some days and other days not so quickly.  The omission of the massive amounts of details of what went on in the dragonfly wing of the NICU isn’t due to be uncaring or flippant about all that happened.  But rather I still can’t grasp what to say about it.  I almost feel callous in not writing more.  Most days were similar to the days before.  I would get to the hospital and go see the birth mom (she remained hospitalized after birth due to complications), then I would go to the NICU and scrub in.  I found a chair and would roll over to the incubator.  I would normally be met by the nurse and updated on progress or set backs.  I would then climb in my chair and talk to our sweet girl.  I would hold her hand.  Stroke the side of her face.  Tickle her tiny little toes.  It was just amazing and the images still come so vividly to me.

After the first doses of medications she still had a PDA and they were going to try another dose of medicine before they considered surgery.  Her oxygen was still good.  She had some help from ventilator, but wasn’t intubated.  She passed her cranial US with no bleeding.  She was a rock star.  She did have some episodes of Brady’s (forget to breathe), but I was assured that was normal with NICU patients.

One day I was at the incubator and the birth mom came in and we stood on each side of her and semi held her up for a family photo.  It was a moment I will never forget.  We marveled over how tiny she was and how dark her hair was.  There was a silence among us and looks of understanding, appreciation, and love between us.  A relationship that was so new and yet very deep.

Andy coming to meet her before he went on his next trip made me almost weep.  He couldn’t believe how tiny she was.  I told him, but he said seeing it for himself was surreal.

She passed the 72 hour mark with very little complications (except the PDA).  All of her cranial US came back normal and her blood work was great.  She was doing wonderful on the ventilator, but still wasn’t intubated and was breathing on her own too.

Day four is where things changed.  I got to the hospital and the nurse said she seemed a bit off the night before and now.  They were waiting on lab reports to come back, but thought she had an infection.  She was fussy and not comfortable.  The nurse showed me how to tuck her arms and legs into my palm and hold her securely in the incubator.  That seemed to help calm her.  Otherwise she would flail her arms and legs and cry (he tiny cry sounded like a kitten).  I sat with her for hours holding her arms and legs in the palm of my hand so she would be comfortable.  You could see the distress on her face and in her actions.  You could see it in her vitals and on the monitors.  It broke my heart.  There was nothing I could do to really help.  Touch seemed to help and I just wish that I could have held her.  I was informed that if she continued to have problems they would intubate to help relieve some of the stress on her body.  I asked them to call and let me know if they did that.

Results came back and she did have an infection and they started antibiotics.  They did intubate.

Wednesday morning I got a call asking me to come to the hospital because the doctors wanted to meet with us.  They informed us that she had a massive brain bleed likely caused by the severe infection.  We were all devastated.  Andy drove over from camp to talk with me and the doctor and to visit with our sick little girl.  Things changed so quickly it was hard to breathe.

Friday morning 8 days after her birth I got a call that the birth mom changed her mind and wanted to back out of the adoption plan.  I feel like there were so many factors in that decision and we will never know the extent of why she changed her mind, but she did.  That was her choice to make and we respect that decision.  Her decision kept us from having to make the decision to continue with the adoption verses backing out with such a poor prognosis.  A decision that neither of us wanted to make.  After the call I climbed in bed and grabbed onto Otis and cried.  For 8 days I had a little girl that I loved so much.  For 8 days I was a mother, not legally or biologically, but I loved that sweet baby with everything I had.  She was mine and I was hers.  It was an experience that showed me without a shadow of a doubt that shared DNA didn’t mean love.

It is important, I think, to note that we had a name picked out for our child.  Ever since we did infertility treatments we had a name.  The birth mother had chosen a different name and we planned on changing that at finalization to the name we fell in love with.  While I was alone I called the baby the name we intended to change it to.  But while others were around I respected the birth mother and called her Addy.  Since the birth mother changed her mind we have taken to remembering our time with her as Addy.  That is who she will always be to us.  Addy our little twitter-bird.

We were notified on Monday by our adoption agency that hours after the birth mother changed her mind.  Just 8 days into her life, Addy passed away.

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a frustrating reality…

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

today is not a good day…actually the last few weeks have not been too good.  i try to maintain a persona that, yes i have bad moments, but that i am completely ok with everything that has happened and everything that is going on.  i have been hesitant to write anything negative in a while dealing with the adoption or infertility because the fear that i have that my words will be misconstrued or used against me somehow.  when i have my “poor me” and “bitterness” episodes i fear that people (i don’t have a specific person i am looking at – but rather just people in general) will take what i am saying out of context.  that they will say i will be a terrible mom if we are ever placed because I still have insecurities about the hand that was dealt to me.  i fear that someone will take what i am saying and make generalizations that i am unhappy and bitter towards all people who have biological children.  i fear that my words will be mixed up and used to imply that deep down i always feel this way.  i fear that people will look at me and say i deserve everything that has happened.  i fear that people will look at me and say it is all my fault.  i fear i will be considered selfish (again).  i fear that i will become one of “those people” that people won’t feel it is genuine when i have positive things to say about our situation or about theirs.  i fear that people will be nervous around me so that they don’t “upset” me or will constantly be worried that they will make me mad.  i worry that people will walk on egg shells around me just in case i am having a bad day and that they won’t share things about their kids/pregnancies/etc.  i fear that one day my child could use my words and thoughts against me and question my love.  but mostly, i fear that my thoughts make me a horrible monster.

 early on when we were dating we dreamed of being married and having a family.  we had no reason to suspect that when we were married that it would be difficult to have kids so we dreamed of the days that were to come and the excitement and adventure of the milestones that we would get to experience.  after we got married i was living out my fairy tale and day dreaming of the possibilities, waiting on the moment that we decided the time was right.  when the timing was right i was elated at the possibilities (and my day dreams got bigger and my hopes soared).  after several months when panic was starting to set in it wasn’t so fun.  it wasn’t until then that i realized how much hope i had in those milestones.  how much i wished that they would come true.  how my daydreams had pretty much ruined me and finally how my world came crashing down all around me.

after the months of treatments and the time after where we talked about what we wanted to do next, part of me didn’t want to admit anything about the treatments or about the adoption because i felt like i was giving up on my dreams – on what i always wanted.  i was acknowledging that i would miss those milestones and that i lost faith in me and i was giving up on myself.

in my devastation that i wouldn’t be able to expand my family in the way i planned, those milestones flowed through my head like racing hot lava.  a list, constantly growing, formed and circulated around in my thoughts causing my heart to break a little more with each bullet point – when i didn’t even know it could hurt any more.

 i will pause from my pity party to emphasize that we HAVE gained from this experience, but there are times when it is difficult to see the positive and to not dwell on the negative.  this is one of those times.

let me be dramatic.  each mother’s day i feel like a little bit of my soul dies.  i feel like my heart is being shredded from the inside out and the bile rises up and the taste lingers in the back of my throat.  it isn’t that i am not thankful for my mom and all of the women who have been wonderful influences in my life.  it isn’t that i don’t think about all of my friends and family who are mothers or are about to be mothers, because i do.  i give thanks for them and for their children and pray they know how blessed they all are to have each other.  it is the day that constantly reminds me of what i am not able to do.  that i have to rely on someone else to pick me to make my dreams come true.  the reality is that someone has to pick me out of a lineup and read my profile book like they are buying a car and i hope that they do it quickly so we can be done waiting.  it reinstates those negative feelings i have about myself.  i expressed those thoughts with someone and was asked, “don’t you think that will change once you are placed?”  my answer is simple.  it will change but not in the way one would think.  if that day ever comes i will be thrilled (for the biggest understatement of the year) but that day will always be a painful reminder of our struggles.  it will be like a birthday of someone who has passed away or the anniversary of the death of a loved one – it will be bittersweet.  i will relish the homemade gifts and crafts (hint: andy, remember that).  i will act like my over done pancake breakfast in bed is the best thing i have ever eaten.  i will slip my macaroni necklace over my head while tears of joy threaten to overflow.  i will take a huge breath and will look at my child that will call me mom and i will look at my husband who has stuck with me, even when i gave him an out, and will smile.  but later that night i will kiss my baby on the head and will tuck them in bed, andy will be reading a book, who am i kidding, watching something on tv, and i will slip out of the house to sit on our porch swing and take 10 minutes to stare at the stars while the tears roll down my face in memory and silent reflection of all that has been lost.

all of the times i prayed and begged to be pregnant “this” month, all of the treatments and tears, all of the negative pregnancy tests, when the doctors gave up on us.  in all those times and more infertility has robbed us.  it has taken from me so many different milestones that we promised each other.  it took away part of me:

i am hesitant to continue, but writing has been surprisingly therapeutic and why pay someone when you can write?  i feel like when i put my words down in black and white i can look back and see them and there is something tangible that i can hold on to – i can look at them and feel like my feelings and my rampant thoughts are conveyed and together.  it organizes the chaos that is in my mind, somewhat.  i feel that i am too far gone and despite my hesitation here goes…my compiled list (thus far) of how infertility robs us.

i will never know what it is like:

1. to see that plus sign on a pregnancy test and feel the excitement of knowing a tiny human is growing inside me.
2. to use one of the many ways i came up with to educate/reveal to andy that he was going to be a dad.
3. to go to the first doctor’s appt after the positive test and to see that black and white image and hear the heart beat.
4. to grab andy’s hand and cry with him as we listen to the heart beat.
5. to have andy look at me the way expectant husbands look at their wives.

6. to have andy place his hand on my belly and talk to our baby.
7. to have that print out of the ultrasound (and possibly have a fun ultrasound – for once).
8. to use one of the hundred ways we talked about to tell our parents and then our families that we were expecting.
9. to dress in maternity clothing and apparently use maternity pants as buffet pants on down the road post birth.
10. to have weird cravings (and for that to be socially accepted and expected).
11. to take “bump pictures” (even though i hate pictures) and to post them along with updates on “today my baby is the size of an orange”
12. to feel the baby move – which people constantly will say is their favorite thing about being pregnant and people constantly say that is the time when they felt like they “connected to their baby.”
13. to pee all the time (ok with this one it is more of the excuse of the pregnancy to pee all the time – seriously i could drink a ton of water and pee more in a day than any pregnant woman).
14. to pee a little when coughing or sneezing (ok the older i get i think i don’t have to be pregnant…)
15. to use mommy brain as excuse for everything (once people announce they are expecting EVERYTHING becomes “due to mommy brain”)
16. to cry at everything for no reason but to have an excuse that people accept.  people don’t like the crying for no reason because of treatment side effects.
17. to bond with the baby inside me.  to ride down the road in an empty car and to know that i am not alone.
18. to experience the bonding with andy over the pregnancy.
19. to have andy pull me into his arms and thank me for making his dreams come true as well.
20. to take naps “for the baby” (everything becomes “for the baby”)
21. to have people ask me if they can touch my belly or ask me other exciting questions because i am pregnant.
22. to park in the expectant parent reserved spots at the stores.
23. to experience the birthing class with andy.
24. to have weekly doctor appointments where i can “see and hear” my baby.
25. to experience some ice cream or take out tradition after my doctor appointments.
26. to pre admit for the birth and have a tour of the labor and delivery center.
27. to pack the suit case for the hospital and worry that i will forget my pillow.
28. to have baby showers that are normal and where games come directly from being pregnant.  where there isn’t a fear of “giving back” gifts because a mom changed her mind.
29. to participate in pregnancy nesting and having a pre-baby to-do list and crossing things off that list.
30. to have the frantic ride to the hospital if my water broke at home.
31. to have the dull ride to the hospital if being induced.
32. to experience the entire birthing process.  sitting in the hospital bed, getting an iv, being hooked up to fetal monitors, seeing the lines move predicting contractions, holding andy’s hand during bad contractions, watching andy turn various shades of white, having andy tell me that he loves me before things get crazy, getting the epidural and watching andy create an excuse to leave the room to update family, knowing that family is out there or close by waiting, pushing, the nurses and doctors being in the room, the excitement and the rushing.  the end result.
33. to hear the doctor announce boy or girl after months of waiting to find out.
34. for andy to kiss my forehead after that announcement.
35. to hear that first cry.
36. to have the baby put on my chest and to know that immediate love. and to know that one of the first people other than the medical staff holding my baby was me or andy.
37. to have those moments right after everything has calmed to be a family of 3 without the rest of the world in our room, where andy would present to me an awesome push present.
38. to see the face that i have carried for 9 months and know that “we made that”
39. to have family and friends come in so they can be introduced – and to tell everyone their birth story.
40. for andy to go to the waiting room and simply say boy or girl.
41. to experience the post birth shower that everyone claims is the best shower ever and if you never experience it – you haven’t ever really showered…
42. to experience breast-feeding and once again that “connection” that people talk about.
43. to not wonder if it was something that i did wrong years ago and wonder what i could have done differently.
44. to not worry that when we are placed the parents will change their mind and come back for their child.
45. to not worry that one day my child will ask me about their birth story and to possibly have no clue – thus making my child feel different.

46. to not worry that whatever child we are placed with will resent us at some point in time and tell us that they wished they were with their “real” mom and dad and that they hate us.

as i sit here and read back through my words i have mixed feelings.  i have such bitterness that boils up and anger that bubbles to the surface and both of those roll into one ball of irritated, irrational, frustrated, rage.  another part of me has weariness and fear: weariness that we have waited so long to be parents and a fear that we will never be chosen to be parents.  there is a part of me that reads through that list and has a list just as long as the things that we get to do because we are adopting that “normal” expecting couples will never get to experience – and that really is exciting.

i spoke to a friend and to make a long story short she asked how i was.  i will admit it hadn’t been a great day and with the thoughts above running rampant in my head i jumped on my soap box before i even really realized it and felt bad about it.  my words (not directed at her in any possible way) were dripping in annoyance and hurt.  i told her that i was sorry i got up there and she said it was ok that “i think your soapbox was right on point” and “you deserve to be frustrated and have your grief.”  she didn’t call me selfish or overly dramatic or insensitive and those simple words of acceptance and understanding came flying at me during a time i needed my feelings to be validated.  so yes i am still sulking and mulling around all of the ways i have been robbed because of infertility (as i do from time to time) but they are becoming, more and more, just bullet points in a mere chapter of our story.  a story, that like most, has highs and lows.  as the bitterness simmers, and i work my way back to dwelling on the positive i tuck my ever growing list somewhere deep in my mind. 

adoption update

after the decision to adopt, we found an agency and went to an information meeting.  at that meeting we listened to the agency talk about the different types of adoption, what to expect, time lines and next steps.

going in we knew that we wanted to do domestic adoption (adoption in the US) and after that meeting we knew that was still what we wanted to pursue.  a few days after the meeting and after we processed the information we were given, we emailed our caseworker and told him to send us a preliminary application.  i will be honest, i don’t remember a lot about that application.  i know we had to put some of our information down and i think our history (as far as why we want to adopt).  we sent that back in (with a check to cover our informal application) and our caseworker called and set up a meeting.
at that meeting, he gave us our formal application and a book of other paperwork that would have to be completed with our formal application.  all of that paperwork is considered part of our homestudy (screening of our home and us through paperwork, as well as interviews).  once we had our book of paperwork, we started working on it.
 in our paperwork we had a formal application, additional questions, personal statement of faith (which was hard to write despite having direct questions), statement of intent (that we planned on adopting and that if our family status changed we would notify them), fingerprinting instructions, background check information, IRS forms (past 3 years), financial worksheet, credit check release form, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, health insurance form, employer reference letters (for each of us), family reference letters (one from each family), friend reference letters (total of 3), medical exam report, family history data, self study (SAFE questionnaire – state mandated), family info sheet (non identifying information for the family), letters to birth parents (which was one of the hardest things), openness questionnaire (which i will go into more detail later), discipline policy statement (we can’t spank or anything until the adoption is finalized), triad release form, and our reading requirement checklist (we have to read 3-4 books).
once we got our packet of paperwork, we started going through all of it.  most of it was just simply trying to get documents together and making copies to send in.  we did that first.  then we had to work on answering questions and filling out forms.  we were able to get a lot of it done very quickly and send it in (with a check for our formal application).
this would be a good time to note that no one really knew that we were going to adopt at this time – including our families.  we didn’t want to say anything yet (mostly because of my perceptions at the time and because we wanted to be further along in the process).  one of the things i worried about was that when someone announces that they are pregnant there is a time line (9 months) and then the baby is here.  i feared that if we said something when we first went to that meeting that people would be tired of hearing about it (especially since we didn’t know how long the paperwork process would take and since we have no idea how quickly we will be chosen).  as stupid as it sounds, i didn’t think it was fair to our baby to say anything too soon because i feared that the excitement would be gone because of the longer than 9 month wait time and that by the time we were chosen people would be rolling their eyes saying “about time, thank goodness they can stop talking about it now.”  isn’t that weird?  it wasn’t about us, but more for the baby.  i guess since it will be a different story of how they came to be with us – i wanted them to have some sense of normalcy when we talk about it and tell them that people were excited that they came to the family.
with the letter to the birth parents we had strict rules about what we could and couldn’t put in there.  we couldn’t put anything that would help identify us (like the name of places we work, name of town, our last names, church name, etc).  they gave us ideas of what to include and we wrote our letters.  the weirdest thing to me was writing to someone i have never met and trying to tell them about myself being as vaguely detailed as possible, all the while trying to say what is from my heart about being a mom – hoping that they pick me and that my heart felt comments don’t change their mind to keep their baby.  that is one of the weirdest feelings i have ever had.
openness questionnaire: questionnaire of what we are open to as far as situations and how open we want to be with the birth parents.  in this questionnaire we had 3 answers: yes, no, and willing to consider.  it asked us specific questions like boy or girl?  we said either.  it asked us if we would meet with the expectant parents before placement.  yes.  how open will you be after the baby is placed?  we said willing to consider different options.  it went through several scenarios about the birth parents and their history.  we put willing to consider on a lot of things because if you put a definite ‘no,’ you could be overlooked.  we prayed and decided that we would take each scenario as it comes up and go from there.  we didn’t want to limit ourselves.
we got to a place where one of the only things we lacked were our references.  we realized we would have to ask our references before we just put them down so we asked them (2 family, 3 friend, 2 employer, 1 pastoral) and begged them to keep our secret for a little while longer.
we mailed the paperwork in and waited (story of our lives).  we waited and waited and waited and finally got tired of waiting so we emailed our social worker and asked if we were missing any paperwork.  he said yes. all of it.  so we told him when we mailed it and he finally e mailed stating that he had our paperwork, but that someone put it on the wrong desk so we had been waiting for almost 6 weeks for nothing.  but he went through the paperwork and we had to do a few more things that hadn’t been included, and waited a little more.  about 2 weeks passed and andy e mailed him to make sure everything was still ok.  we got an auto response that he was no longer with the company and gave us the name of our new caseworker.  i emailed her (in a panic) and she responded very quickly, which was great for my nerves.
we mailed our second packet of paperwork while we were at the beach.
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we had a state mandated training that lasted an entire day.  i had to ask off and luckily my boss knew by this point so i didn’t have to fabricate some story with her why i needed a day off.  at that meeting we listened to people who have adopted, a birth mother presenting her story, and two people (16 year old and 50 ish year old) that had been adopted.  we met other people that were in the midst of the adoption process.
after that we had to schedule our interviews.  couples interview was first.  it was stressful.  we met with our local caseworker and had to fill out another SAFE questionnaire (state mandated) and we weren’t allowed to sit near each other or talk while we were doing it.  it had questions on there about personal experiences / family history / our relationship.  we talked to the caseworker about our lives and she asked a lot of questions.  after a while she closed her notebook that she wrote everything down in and told us to call in a few weeks so we can set up the individual interviews.
we set up the individual interviews on the same day as each other so that we could ride together.  i went first because i thought i was going to throw up if i had to wait.  she pulled out the two SAFE questionnaires.  there is some sort of grading scale on those and we had to talk about the ones that were red flags for her .  one of the questions that we talked about was that i put that we witnessed an act of violence.  (it was a domestic violence thing in the neighborhood years ago).  i explained it and she made notes.  another thing she asked me about was i checked that i had alcohol before lunch or during work hours.  i explained that i had a mimosa on a few occasions at bridal showers and weddings.  she wrote things down.  she asked about my family and had me clarify some answers.  she flipped through the rest of the paperwork and asked more questions (that have escaped me) and then it was andy’s turn.  he went into the room and i was just as nervous.  i was nervous that he wouldn’t answer something the way i would/did.  he was in there for what seemed like hours (maybe 40 minutes) and then came out.  we left and compared notes.  it looked like we passed!
next came the home visit (this is not the same thing as the home study – but is part of the home study.  this is where they actually come to the house and look around).  i was nervous about this too.  we cleaned the house from top to bottom.  under beds, in all cabinets, in all closests.  we had to lock some of our cabinets to prove that we wouldn’t let our baby drink bleach.  we had to test all the smoke detectors and had to show that we had a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  we also had to show that otis wouldn’t eat a child.  the caseworker came out and into our perfectly clean house and we sat at the table and went over our paperwork one last time.  she explained the financial agreement.  she petted otis and he jumped on the couch and went straight to sleep.  we gave her our homestudy fee.  she walked around the house and looked at everything she needed to.  she told us she would write up our home study and would let us know when it was done.
several weeks went by and we got an e mail and a letter in the mail stating that we had been approved and that we were officially a waiting family (family that has been approved but is waiting to be picked by a birth mother). 
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we had to put together a photo book of our family, friends and lives for an expectant parent to look at if we matched their qualities.  it took hours and days of putting it together.  this is basically the thing that the mother will look at to pick us.  we tried to put pictures in there of all our family members so that they could see who we belong to.  we put in there pictures of vacations and things that we have done.  we had a page of otis so they would know we had a beagle.  we put in there a page of farm and cows and a page of the donkeys and horses.  we tried to put together a book that captured who we were so that someone looking at it would have a good idea of if they wanted their child to live with us.  it was very hard.  at the state mandated training we heard stories of how certain pictures led the birth family to pick the adopted family.  for example: one couple was picked because in one of the photos the husband had on a college hat and sweatshirt of the birth father’s favorite team.  another was picked because they included photos of their doberman dogs and the birth mother had two dobermans when she was a child and loved them.  another family was picked because in one of the pictures they had on camouflage and it reminded the birth mother of the times her and her brother went hunting with her dad.  so with each picture we tried to choose pictures that would be interesting but not threatening.  for example: at the farm, we included pictures of us on the outside of the gate (to show how safe we are) and inside the fence (to show that we love the animals and will allow chances to be close to them).  we included otis as a puppy to show how long we have had him and as an adult to show that he is still spoiled.  on the inside of the book we included our birth parent letters.   we had to order 5 books and were so happy with the results.  we turned them in and our books are available for birth mothers to view!
now that we have all of our paperwork in and our books completed there is nothing more to do than to wait and pray.  we go to waiting family meetings (where we learn different things and have a support system).  we pray constantly for our future child, for the other waiting families, and for the family that will be giving us the chance at our own family.
we are still raising money for the adoption.  we have paid 1/3 already up front and are still trying to get the rest.  we have been selling things on bossy donkey company and we made some jelly and sold that.  we have been looking at grants and will be sending applications for those in the next few weeks.  we have to have all of the money up front.  when we go to the hospital to pick up our baby once we are chosen, we have to pay the balance on our account.  since we could have months or only hours notice we are trying to get the financial part taken care of.
now that we have moved, we will have to do an update…but we don’t have to have it done yet so we are holding off for a little while longer.  we have the nursery room picked out and ready to be completed.  we have talked about colors and designs for that room but for now we haven’t done anything – it is a blank slate.  (we have already put some things in the closet – books and stuffed animals and some other things that we have been collecting for a while).  we have talked about names for boys, girls and twins.  we are a family of 3 (including otis) and we have talked about what it will be like to be a family of 4 or 5.  we have talked about getting twins and how that would be.  we have talked about day cares and vacations.  we have dreamed of holding our baby and bringing them home.  right now that is all that we have – the dream that our prayers will be answered.

addoption add on

when a loved one dies we mourn.  it takes time to “get past” it.  once you do that, you are mostly ok with it.  you can understand the implication of what is lost with that person’s passing and why it is lost.  you can understand the reason they are gone (sometimes), and will be ok because you have to be – because you have no choice.  what happened is done and there is nothing you can do to change it.  most days are ok.  those memories of how they died or how you found out they died are locked away.  not necessarily deep, but locked away.  then there are days that you are not ok.  a holiday, milestone, or hearing their favorite song unlocks those memories and what is lost.  the tears can’t be held in.  you cry not because it is just hitting you but because there is a moment of despair that you don’t want to be ok with their loss.  that you don’t want to believe that the rest of the world has moved on.  that you don’t want to deal with the realization that the rest of your life you will be without them. so you weep, pouring out all the tears that have been trapped inside.  that is what infertility is like.

we are at a place where we are “ok” more times than not, and even when we are not it doesn’t take long to get back to a good place where we are “ok”.  with that said i am not sure that someone who goes through infertility will ever be “ok” with it.  i don’t believe there will ever be a day that i wake up and say thank goodness i had infertility issues.  i don’t think i will ever believe that i was better off because i had infertility issues.  but what i do believe is that for the rest of my life i will have days where i am fine and i can tell you everything without batting an eye and there are days where i will open my mouth and tears will pour down my face before any words are spoken.

so after the infertility journey and once we felt we healed enough from that part of life we started talking about what was next.  i knew that i wanted to be a mom and that andy would be the best dad.  something we talked about long before we infertility would become part of our vocabulary.  we decided to proceed with adoption.  now, i still struggled with those stages of grief.  they came in waves – and to be perfectly honest they still do.

with all of that said we are very excited about adopting.  in our minds we didn’t expect to go down this journey but this is the adventure that we have been dealt, so we will do so with as much grace and understanding as we can.

since i have written my 4 post leading up to the adoption announcement a lot of questions have been asked.  i will attempt to answer some of them in this post, but some of those questions will be answered in a later post dedicated specifically to the process of adoption.

1. why did we announce the way that we did?  i wanted people to know that we had tried several other options and it wasn’t like we woke up one morning and decided to adopt.  i wanted people to know that they could feel free to ask questions, but that hopefully i gave enough information to satisfy.  i really didn’t want people to come up to me and say “oh you are adopting – have you tried fertility treatments?”  i wanted it to be out there so that people could understand where we have been and the raw emotion associated with our story.  i wanted to tell it once instead of to each person we told we were adopting.

2.  what does a donkey have to do with a kid and adoption?  absolutely nothing.

3.  why did you start a company?  the company started because of a fundraising idea that went a little crazy.  we know that adoption is expensive and we knew that we would need to raise money and we looked into a few fundraisers and we feel in love with the idea of the bossy donkey co and ran with it.

4.  why not just fund-raise or ask for money?  as i have said earlier, infertility has caused me to look at myself in a negative way.  at times it has caused me to feel less like a woman and human.  i didn’t want to come across as begging people to help me adopt.  i know a lot of people sincerely want to help with no ill intent.  the deeper we get in this process i am able to really see that i am still a woman regardless of my faulty ovaries.  i am able to get my pride in check and realize that by people wanting to donate it isn’t a way they are looking down on us, but rather, a way that they can join in our excitement – and be a part of our child’s amazing journey to our home.  in short, infertility robbed me of having a biological child and i couldn’t stomach “begging for a baby.”  it took me a while to realize that my way of thinking was the bitterness, pain, and hurt still seeping out of my soul – a by-product of infertility.  we have talked to the adoption agency and they will take donations directly for our adoption.  if you want to make a donation, you can look at the about us page on the bossy donkey website.  checks for 250.00 and above can be mailed directly to them (with our names in the memo line) and smaller checks can be mailed to us and we can send them once we have collected 250.00 or more.

5.  why did you have horrible friends?  we didn’t really.  part of the reason i didn’t put names is because i really feel like it was just a horrible way for ALL parties to deal with the situation.  for me it is easy to justify the “abandonment” and them jumping ship – we weren’t in a place to join them FULLY in their happiness and they weren’t in a place to understand our pain and sorrow.  in each relationship our expectations weren’t met and feelings got hurt.  let’s be honest – who wants to hang out with a girl who looks like she is doing drugs and cries all the time?  i was hesitant to put that in the post but for me it was important to illustrate how things for us personally and socially got turned upside down.  it was important for people on the outside of infertility to maybe see what it is like inside as far as the social aspect.  it was important to show our entire side of the story and maybe show them where we were while they were going through their joys.  maybe communicate some sort of explanation that we never could visualize before – assuming they would even take time now to read this.

6. has deciding to adopt made not having a baby easier?  a lot of times this comes at me as a statement and not a question.  i will be very candid here.  when we first made the decision to adopt i felt like i was saying “i give up on me.”  it isn’t really like that now and we are so close (to waiting) we can’t stand it.  with each milestone we pass in the process it gets more and more real and the excitement and giddiness escalates.  we can’t wait for the day that we get to hold our baby in our arms.  with that said i do feel that infertility has robbed me of certain “passages” and i will always wonder “what if” and will mourn those – adopting or not.  this question brings me to things that are not ok to say to people with infertility problems – which will be its own post (compiled by a collection of people and experiences).

7.  isn’t it amazing this journey that you are on and the plan God has for you?  this one comes in many forms as well.  i will say there are days were i still struggle with understand God and his plan.  i still have moments of anger towards God.  i have times where i don’t understand.  i have times where i want to scream when someone pats my hand and says but “God’s plan…”  i understand that having faith means that you trust even if you don’t understand – i get that.  but i don’t think that means i have to love it.  i don’t understand why i had to go through everything we have been to get to the same result – before infertility we talked about adopting at some point.  i don’t understand how a 19-year-old addicted to meth can get knocked up the first time she has sex and someone who would do anything can’t get pregnant.  i don’t understand how someone can hide a pregnancy and when their baby is born, drown it, when someone did everything in their power to get pregnant and lost everything.  i don’t understand God’s plan.  the beauty of it is that i don’t have to.  i don’t have to understand, i just have to take it one step at a time and have faith that one day when i am having a cup of coffee with God, looking back on my life, his plan will make sense.  so our journey through the pain and hurt and the lack of understanding will be known to our child as the greatest love story – their story.

8. are you happy now?  yes we are.  we are thrilled.  we can’t believe that we are almost done with the long process of paperwork and state laws and almost to the “just waiting” stage.  we are happy.  through the pain and hurt of our journey we have found unexpected things.  we found that our relationship (mine and andy’s) that we thought was pretty solid turned out to be the strongest foundation.  we found the joys in simple things again.  i still get an ache in my heart when a pregnant woman walks by – my heart hurts but healing eventually comes.  and while sometimes i dwell on the things i will miss because of infertility, i come back to the unique things andy and i will share that other couples won’t ever get the chance to.

9.  are you going to write a book?  no. i will be honest i have never felt like i was a good writer.  i felt like i was good enough to get by (and still do) but not fabulous.  i have been completely humbled by all of the compliments on my posts. in college i did take a creative writing class and he encouraged us to write a lot and i did start a “book” so maybe i will pick that back up.  but for now i will continue to feel like the average writer that i am and hopefully will be able to use words to inspire others.

several people told me that i was able to express their emotions when they couldn’t come up with the right words.  i was able to give them a tool to show their families so they could say “that is what i have been trying to say.”  i don’t want to be the next poster child for infertility by any means, but i do hope to raise some sort of awareness which will hopefully instill compassion and understanding and obviously to share the story of the cutest baby ever (to be determined).

part 4 of 4: the inconsolable soul – the end

part 4…the end.

this is the part in this crazy story where i should be able to start out this post with these words:

‘with every great story comes a happy ending and in the end it was all worth it because we are pregnant!’

this is not that story and that is not our ending.  we are not pregnant.

every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – semisonic

in the years since our story begun, we have come a long way – we still have a long way to go, but we are on the right path.
before our “break,” in my last conversation with dr. w, he said that if we wanted to come back to him he would recommend ivf but that he didn’t feel that would even help.  he told me in his no sugar coating fashion that the medicines would be tougher and considering what i went through the past few months, i could and should expect the worst when it came to the side effects.  as reassuring as that was, we talked about it.  we really did.  we dissected our thoughts and actions, we looked at the positive and negative, and we prayed.  at the end of the day, we decided to wait.  we didn’t really want to do ivf at that time since the percentage of success would be so low.  and, we wanted to give ourselves extended time to heal before we tried any more iui’s, so we waited.

in our waiting, we were faced with new challenges.  challenges of dealing with, and learning to live with, infertility.  one of those challenges was being able to respond to people when they ask why we weren’t pregnant and asking if we just didn’t want kids.  it takes time to respond to those people because with each question it rushes me through all of the stages of grief.  when i get back to the acceptance stage, i don’t know how to answer.  i don’t want to make the person feel bad because they didn’t know, but all i can really do now is give a sad smile and shrug.  sometimes when people complain about their children or their pregnancies, all i can do is breath and relive the pain.

**i am not saying now, or ever, that 1. i would have been a great mom that didn’t complain.  i might have, but having been through all of this, if i could have gotten pregnant i would have embraced the bad and horrible because for me it would have been a victory.  it would have been better than being in the state that i am in right now.  2. That people can’t complain. everyone has a right to be miserable in their own situations and i get that.  sometimes it is hard for me or other people going through infertility to grasp what people are saying because we are stuck in the mentality of “if only i had that problem.”  3. that other people can’t share their happiness with people going through infertility or that we expect people to only be sad around us and not share their good news and their joys.  it isn’t that we aren’t capable of being happy for anyone, because often times we are.  but with everyone else’s happiness inside us, there is still that sting of heartache.  that with everyone else’s happiness, even though we are genuinely happy, there is still a place in our heart that breaks.  and i am not sure that there is anything that will make that go away.**

each month that passed, a little bit of sadness enters in, but it eventually leaves.  most of the time that we have been taking a break has been uneventful.  i have had some more cysts rupture (but nothing that sent me back to the hospital) and i have had some lingering effects of the treatments (mental and physical).  i am telling you, my hair used to be so sleek and shiny instead of the afro fuzz ball that it is now.

in april of 2013, i found myself having some issues.  i started bleeding and wouldn’t stop.  i called my doctor and told him i was annoyed and to fix it.  he prescribed something and told me to call in 3 days.  i did and he said “did it stop?”  i said “no, what else is there?” he gave me another medicine and told me to call a week later.  i called and he said “did it stop now?” i said “no and if it doesn’t stop soon i am going to go insane.”  he told me he would call me back.  he wanted to check into something.  a few hours later, his nurse called and told me that he wanted me to have an ultrasound (still not a fun one) and to come see him in the office.  this has become a new way of life – just do what we are told when it pertains to my “mickey mouse.”  i went to the ultra sound and the tech asked me if i was familiar with the “type of ultrasound we were doing that morning.” i laughed at her and said yes.  i am sure that she didn’t get the joke but i giggled.  if only she knew where this all started.  i had the ultrasound and when i asked what she was looking for, she wouldn’t tell me.  i asked her if it looked ok and she said, “the doctor has to go over it with you.”  i will admit, i wasn’t overly concerned because i have been here before.  after the ultrasound, we had several hours to kill because my appt with him wasn’t until that afternoon.  we went and had breakfast.  we went shopping and i got to go to target – i love target!  we killed time and i went to my appt.  andy went in with me, but opted to stay in the waiting room.  when they called me back, i went into the room and the doctor walked in. he sat down and pulled up the ultrasound so that we could look at it together.  he showed me that my ovaries were fine (not in the ‘you can have a baby’ fine, but in the, fine for alison’s screwed up ovaries).

he then went on to show me my uterus. he said, “ok, do you see this?” and showed me something gray and white on the screen (let’s be honest, everything on those screens is white and some shade of gray – but i digress).  he told me it was the lining of my uterus.  oh – i don’t know why i didn’t recognize it because years before, i got to see it each month four or five times a month.  he told me that the lining was a great thickness and he was glad to see that.  i looked at him as he continued.  he stated, “i was worried that since you were bleeding so bad and since you didn’t stop with those medicines that you had cancer.”  i nodded. “oh ok – wait WHAT?” he told me that because my ovaries don’t work right that i am at an increased risk for cancer (which dr. w did mention to me at our initial consultation).  he said that when i was talking to him on the phone that he had a bad feeling about it and wanted me to have the ultrasound and come in to talk to him about it.  he stated that he was concerned that he would see a very thick lining and if he did, he would want to do a d&c to clear it out and do biopsies to diagnose.  he was certain now that i was fine and that for some reason unknown to him and to myself, i just had a lot to bleed the past month and a half.  he offered to do a biopsy if it would calm my nerves and put my mind at peace.  i said, “um, yes please.”

he got his nurse and told her that we were going to proceed.  then he told me how he was going to do it and that he was going to get several samples.  he told me it was going to be a bit uncomfortable.  i remember hearing this when i had the xray and when they did the actual iui procedure, so i said ok – thinking that this would be the same.  i was on the table and he said, “here we go.”  all i have to say is: uncomfortable, my ass – it hurt like hell!  he did the first biopsy and i almost climbed over the top of the table.  i was mad.  i may or may not have said a choice word and told him through clenched teeth before he took the second one that he needed to revisit his definition of uncomfortable.  he moved a little faster and at the end of it he asked if i was ok.  i said i was, but i wasn’t happy with him.  all in all, i was glad that he had the forethought to be worried even when i hadn’t been. i had labs drawn that day as well and those were a piece of cake – since i am an expert now!

time passed and the results came back.  i was fine – cancer free and, for the time being, worry free.  he counseled me on what to look for in the future and when i needed to come in for more tests or biopsies (which i told him i didn’t think i would ever do again).  that biopsy was something that you can do once because you don’t know, but once you know that pain you wouldn’t volunteer for it again – ever.

at any given moment you have the power to say this is not how the story is going to end. – christine mason miller

In our story, we will always be labeled as an infertile couple (if not by other people – by ourselves).  we will always be a part of that club even if we didn’t ask to be.  we will always wonder what could have been.  but we decided that our story is not going to end how so many do.  we were going to stay together and love each other.  we would not let this rip our relationship to pieces.

something that i haven’t talked about that much is andy.  yes he is sprinkled here and there in the story, but i haven’t really focused much on him.  through all of this, he was my rock and my sanity.  he was my punching bag (verbally) and the recipient of my anger and lashing out.  he was my voice of reason when i went on an irrational rant.  he was the calm to my raging storm.  if I was having a bad day, his look of understanding and compassion and a smile of “bring it on, i can take it” was all i needed to see that there was a light at the end of this.  in his eyes, i could see, and still see, the promise that he made me – that i was his forever.

there are days that i still question if he will wish he walked away when he had the chance.  there are days i wonder if he will ever resent staying married to me because of all of this.  there are days where i feel so insecure that no matter what he says i believe that he will hate me.  but then there are the rest of the days.  the rest of the days that have built our relationship. the days where we were in the midst of our darkest time together – in the midst of anguish and despair that a lot of couples don’t experience together.  it wasn’t like there was one sided, earth shattering grief for one of us where the other was there to hold you up. it was earth shattering grief for both of us.  we had to hold each other up and keep from falling in the process.  we were fully invested in the good days, where we hoped and dreamed of having a family.  and we were fully there in the dark days when it seemed like a black cloud was flying over us raining down despair.  our story, as horrible as it was, gave us a foundation stronger than we ever thought was possible.

because of the lack of spontaneity and intimacy that comes with fertility treatments, we have spent the last few years re-falling, deeper and deeper in love.  we have found tremendous joy in doing even the simplest things together because, through all of this, we have realized that we don’t need to take things for granted.  we run our errands together.  we make a game of giving ourselves challenges (find the most random gift for someone or something we can restore) and go to thrift stores to try to fulfill those challenges.  we are more intentional about having date nights (something that we didn’t really do before we realized we had infertility problems).  we find simple pleasures in random mini road trips, looking for hidden treasures in the world.  i knew that i loved andy a long time before we even started dating and i knew i loved him when he asked me out.  there was no question in my mind that i was head over heels in love with him when he asked me to marry him and on the day that we said “i do.”  and as cliché as it sounds – the love that we had back then is nothing compared to the love that we have right now.

every great story on the planet happened when someone decided not to give up, but kept going no matter what. – spryte loriano

when we said our vows, i believed that ‘for better or worse’ would come with old age – dealing with ailments and sickness.  i never imagined that it would creep in so early in our marriage.  i can honestly say that andy has been there through the best of times and the worst.  he has seen me at my best and at my very worst.

our story, as imperfect and unwanted as it is, has been our greatest love story.

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. – victor hugo

i feel God again.  that doesn’t mean that i understand everything that he is doing in my life.  i still don’t understand why he put the desire for children in my heart if he knew that i would never be able to get pregnant.  it doesn’t mean that i agree with everywhere he has led me.  it doesn’t mean that i don’t still get angry with him and ask him why.  especially when i see a new mom with a 4 week old baby and the mom admits she did heroin 3 weeks earlier.  it doesn’t mean that i have to like what he has done in my life.  it doesn’t mean that i am not broken anymore, because i am.  it doesn’t mean that the sting isn’t there sometimes.  it doesn’t mean that i only have good days now.  it doesn’t mean that i have it all together and don’t cry anymore.  the important part is, i feel him again.  my faith has returned – a little damaged but there.

the youth and their families we worked with in monroe and here in greeneville have helped.  family and friends have helped. little glimmers of hope for peace have helped.  understanding and compassion from people in and out of our situation have helped.

as weird as it might sound, pancake helped.  i was already doing better (most of the time) by the time we moved to tn, but i feel like i have been doing even better when pancake arrived.  we loved going to the farm and riding around and hanging out with the animals (even when they didn’t have the time of day for us).  it was a scene of calm and peace and we needed that.  we would sit and listen to the cows chewing on the grass (which is surprisingly louder than you would think).  we would watch jack wander around, ignoring us.  we would listen to the river and look at the mountains and ponder why they never looked the same.  but when pancake arrived a whole new ballgame began.

i was responsible.  ok, i really wasn’t “responsible” for anything other than love and treats because gene fed him and took care of basic needs, but i felt responsible.  we uprooted him from his family and took him to a strange place and contained him in the barn for a few weeks.  i watched him go from refusing to leave the barn to waiting for me in the barn lot when i took too long.  i watched him go from standing as far away from me as possible to running full speed to us when he saw us.  pancake.  my weird little donkey.  i watched his personality develop and with each development, we laughed more and more.  everything from his squeaky bray to his obsession of walking behind the other animals with his head on their rump made us laugh and smile.  we shared our stories of pancake and his equine friends and we noticed that other people laughed too.  it seemed like there is something about an ass that makes people smile (not all people, i am sure, but just go with me here).

we were talking one day about doing some fundraising one day and our ideas became bigger and bigger and we decided we needed to just start a company.  we played around with it (one of andy’s wild ideas) and came up with a name and a concept and a business plan.  we laughed about it.  one day at lunch, andy told me that we had a website.  that our fundraising idea was now no longer just an idea.  it was real – tangible.  within the last little bit, we have a business license and a website.  we are business owners.  we are starting out small, but our plans are huge.  pancake and his equine friends made us happy and helped heal us and if it brings a smile to someone’s face, then we have made a difference.

from the pits of despair to the path of healing, we have turned the story into something we never could have imagined.  so sometime tomorrow, november 1, 2014 will be the first day of:

the bossy donkey company

http://www.bossydonkey.com

tomorrow will be a new adventure in it’s own right with the launching of our own company.

i know that infertility has robbed me and us of certain rights of passage, and no matter what happens from here on out there are some things that deep down i will always grieve, but it is ok.

our story has lead us here and in the end, our story is just beginning: we are adopting!

part 3 of 4: the inconsolable soul – numbness

Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life. – Lord Bryon

i took my break.  i told andy that we would get through the summer and reevaluate our situation.  andy agreed.  i went through stages of intense crying and apologizing.  the more tears that fell and the more i said i was sorry, the more i realized how much i was hurting andy.  i did my best to hide the tears from him.  i cried a lot in the shower.  i took really long and really hot showers.  the noise covered the sobs and i was able to have my outlet and andy didn’t have to watch me cry –  again.

those five months of intense treatment were catching up with me.  i was able to process what happened because while it was going on things happened too fast and really left no time for coping with each failed treatment.  i was able to analyze our movements and our numbers.  i was able to reflect.  i cried a lot.  i would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and the realization would hit me.  i would roll over and cry into my pillow while andy slept beside me.  sometimes he would wake up enough to roll over and pull me close.  i was able to breathe and i started putting my life and my soul back together.
i was off pretty much all of the medicines and i felt myself slowly coming back.  i could look in a mirror and see the life coming back to my eyes and feel a little bit more like myself.  no more hot flashes.  unfortunately my hair stayed a frizzy fluff ball.
during infertility treatments, timing is obviously everything.  because of that timing and the type of infertility treatments we were doing, we quickly learned that spontaneity and intimacy were gone – just bury it in the back yard.

dealing with infertility is very much like dealing with the stages of grief: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  i guess because in a way, it is a loss. it is real, heart breaking, soul shattering grief.

denial/isolation:

we dealt with this early on.  maybe not the denial part because all of this was pretty hard to deny!  but the isolation part really hit us. we found that being around certain people hurt more and if we controlled that, it seemed that life hurt less.  it wasn’t that we thought that we could cause the pain to cease to exist, but we thought sparing one ounce of hurt would break our hearts less.

with the group of 4 couples, in a way, you could say that we isolated ourselves when i sent that letter asking for space.  we were told that nothing would change and that i was wrong for insinuating that things would change.  whether we want to admit it or not, life experiences like marriages and pregnancy will change group dynamics.  it might not be intentional but those changes will happen. when we noticed those changes within our group, we slowly withdrew to allow even more space (for them as well as us) and unfortunately after a while of declining invitations, we stopped getting them all together.  i tried to stay in touch with people individually sending private messages when life happened (birthday’s, Christmas, death in the families, etc), but after a year or so, i was told that “it is kind of obvious that you don’t want anything to do with us” and was asked to stop sending birthday wishes and Christmas cards.  at the end of the day, i still try to keep up with our group of 4 couples through other people or personal messages sometimes.  in isolating ourselves we didn’t stop the hurt because that came even when we were in a room alone, but it dimmed it just a little and that little bit helped.

Anger:

anger was the biggest obstacle for me.  i was angry at myself and i was angry at God.  there were times i was angry at andy but those times faded quickly and i placed the blame and anger back on myself.  this anger was present from the emergency room visit and escalated into a rage over the course of the year.  my anger was directed at myself and i replayed everything in my life, wondering at what point my ovaries stopped working and asking myself what if.  what if i knew what was going on before we got married?  what if i did something wrong to cause them to stop working right?  what if?  i was lost in a world of ‘what could i have done’ – i wasn’t just lost, but consumed by it.  i looked in the mirror at my reflection with hate and couldn’t wrap my mind around why andy didn’t have the same glare when he looked at me.

**I am writing this knowing that some people may be upset by my perception of this, but this is how i felt in the moment.  feelings that are still very raw for me.**

most of my anger was directed at God.  i was pissed.  it wasn’t fair to me that we were “faithful people” that prayed, but i felt like we were being punished.  i felt like if i had done something better in my life, or with my life, maybe things would be different.  that maybe if i had been a better person, God would have allowed my ovaries to be good.  it wasn’t fair.  each and every day i was reminded of how unfair life was when i turned on the news and saw women killing their babies.  or women strung out on drugs getting pregnant in the blink of an eye.  when people who didn’t want those babies got them so easily and i wanted one so bad, i was willing to put myself mentally and physically to hell and back.  it wasn’t fair and i blamed God.

my faith, that had been pretty rock solid growing up, was spread thin.  really thin.  almost transparent.  i was really questioning why i believe what i do.  i was questioning if i still believed.  i was questioning if faith was real and if God was real.  i was searching for answers and couldn’t get past my thoughts that if God allowed this to happen to us, or made this happen to us, was this the God that i wanted to believe in.  i wanted to believe in a passionate, caring God that cares for his people.  with all the heartache, i couldn’t feel him caring.  i could no longer feel his presences in the wind.  i could no longer feel his arms around me in an invisible hug.  when i needed to understand why and feel God the most, i couldn’t.  not only was i abandoned by my ovaries and my hopes of being a mother, but God left me too.

i searched for him in all the places that i could look – if I was going to be enraged with him, i wanted to feel him because that meant he was near and that he could feel me.   if he could feel me, then i could inflict pain back to him like he was doing to me and andy.

we went to church each sunday.  sometimes i didn’t want to go, but i went.  i wanted my faith to be strong again.  i wanted people to ask me why bad things happen to good people and be able to rely on my faith for an answer – not bitterness attacking God.  i went to church.  the place that i should have felt God without question.  i was wrong.  i felt love from the people that went to the church and in hindsight, i could feel God in those people, but i couldn’t see that at the time.  but i couldn’t see or feel God from the pulpit.  i was sitting there each week wanting to see God and instead was yelled at and told that i was going to hell because i wasn’t singing.  lets face it, i don’t sing well.  i don’t.  i am not going to act like i do.  if i do sing, usually i sing quietly.  but to be told before each song that i had to sing, made me mad.  so now, not only did God give me bad ovaries but God gave me a crappy singing voice.  and now, apparently, i am going to hell.  it wasn’t a picture of the God i wanted to believe in.

maybe it was because i was already so critical of God and so angry at God, but i felt like all of the sermons were based on God hating some group, or telling me that i wasn’t good enough in God’s eyes.  that isn’t what i needed or wanted to hear.  what i needed to hear was that we are all broken and that even in our brokenness, we were still made in God’s image.  that faith goes beyond our understanding, our dreams and our needs. that faith pushes us to be better, to get better and to get beyond.  i needed to hear that God loved me, not that he was judging me.  i needed to hear that God’s grace rained down over me when tears poured down my face.  to let go of the anger, to be at peace and to give myself grace.  i needed to hear that it was ok to be angry at God as long as i kept talking to him.  i needed a place i could go on sundays to escape all of my negative feelings that i had during the week and to feel God.  i needed to hear about the God that i grew up believing in that was compassionate and loving.  that is what i needed to hear.

during all of this, i was working with a youth group.  it was through them that my faith flickered.  i surrounded my heart in ice to protect me from any more disappointment and it was those youth that started chipping away at that ice.  i latched onto those kids as if they were my own because, in a way, they were – and will always be.  they made me laugh and, for a moment, my anger would fade and i would laugh.  they made me so very proud.  they played sports and instruments and we tried to support them outside of church.  they took an active role in participating and they put up with me. they allowed me to interrogate their friends and, in their own way, would ask for advice.  they would ask questions and discuss faith questions.  their blunt honesty put an new spin on the faith that i was trying so desperately to reconnect with.  on a sunday, they were my sanity.  they were my angels that kept me from getting so lost in the darkness that i didn’t want to come back.

it was during this time that i learned of several other friends having infertility issues.  i made it a point to reach out to them.  with one in particular, we made it a point to go to dinner and be away from it all.  just a girls date night.  during dinner, we would take a few minutes to catch up.  we would fill each other in on life as we knew it.  there was always that moment where our laughter died down and we looked at each other.  the subject of infertility would come up.  she would ask what was new and i would fill her in on our story and  i would ask her how she was doing.  i leaned on her and still do.

in my anger at myself, our situation and at God, we decided to keep a lot of our story to ourselves.  it was too raw to really talk to most people about it because a lot of people just didn’t understand.  it was too hard to be able to admit how broken i really was.  how to admit that the vision that i had instilled in my own mind was unraveling.  how to admit that i was mad at God. we wanted to be able to control who had what information because, after all, it was our story to tell.  it was also too hard to deal with the look of pity.  people say that look doesn’t exist, but it does.  i was at a funeral and someone came up to me and gave me that look.  i said hello and she grabbed both of my arms and said “i am so sorry.”  i knew that she was genuinely sorry for us and meant what she said, but for starters, she should have never known – someone gave her information that she should have never known.  secondly, that look of pity – that look of, ‘i know what you can’t do.’  i know that you can’t create a family for your husband.  i know that you are broken beyond belief.  we also didn’t want people to know because we had hoped that treatment would work.  we hoped that if we kept it to ourselves, we would be able to “announce” a pregnancy to the world instead of having everyone know when our iuis were and knowing when the pregnancy test would be.  since it was based on timing, it wouldn’t have taken too long to figure out and we didn’t need the added stress of people knowing when to expect good news or bad news.

another thing that made me angry were people taking their pregnancies and their children for granted.  it wasn’t that it just made us angry, but that it shattered us into a million pieces.  we would have been thrilled and we worked so hard for it and nothing.  one of my friends told me that she was nervous that i would be upset at her when she told me that she was pregnant.  i will admit that my heart skipped a beat, but at the same time, i was overjoyed for her.  my only request was that she know how lucky she was and how fortunate she was to have this life growing inside her – to take the good and the bad and embrace it.

bargaining:

i bargained a little bit i guess.  i told God that if he allowed me to just have one baby i would do better.  i asked him what it would take.  i prayed and begged.  when i was home alone on saturdays (because andy was in school), i cleaned.  i would put my headphones in and listen to ‘doubting thomas’ by nicklecreek over and over while i cleaned and prayed.  i would sing  scream the lyrics hoping that it would help me move past the bitterness and the anger.  i would scream the lyrics and start crying hysterically listening to those words.  the words that were very much who i was.  i often found myself in the laundry room with my back against the washer sobbing.  i often found myself in the most normal situations sobbing – completely broken.  i don’t know if it was all the medicines coming out of my system or just every once in a while the reality hit me like a ton of bricks.  i didn’t bargain for long because it got me nowhere.

depression:

when the anger faded, sadness filled the void.  i don’t think that we ever went into depression.  we were sad – yes, of course.  but we weren’t depressed.  we wanted to act like nothing was wrong and sometimes we could, but the truth was that it hurt.  there were some days that we couldn’t get cereal from certain stores because that aisle shared the diaper aisle and that was just asking too much.  i remember going to the store to get one thing and decided we needed poptarts.  i was in a hurry, grabbed them and when i turned around, i was looking at baby food.  i started crying in the middle of aisle 8.  we had good days and we had bad days.  we were very honest with each other about this.  all it took was “this isn’t a good day” and we knew what we needed to do to help the other one out.

acceptance:

i am going to get off topic right now and say that i have never liked this last stage of grief.  because i don’t believe that acceptance is really the end result.  i feel like with each loss (in the situation of a person passing away or the loss of dreams and hopes) there is no real end.  i think that you move beyond the first stages and you enter a stage of “mostly ok.”  it isn’t that you fully accept the situation but that you move past the rest.  acceptance is such a strong word.

the thing about grief is that it sneaks up on you.  even when you feel like you have gotten past the first four stages and move into the fifth and once you feel like you get through the fifth stage, there are triggers that will take you back through all the phases again.  the stages might move a little faster and don’t take as much time to process them through to the next, but all of those stages resurface.

since the word is acceptance, we have accepted a few things.  we have accepted that even in our own personal grief, we can still have joy.  joy for other people and joy for ourselves.  we have accepted that even though we were thrown unwillingly into the infertility club, that we will survive.  we have accepted that other people are going to take things for granted and our feelings will be hurt.  we have accepted that people will unknowingly ask us why we don’t have children.  we have accepted that people will ask us questions about when we are going to get pregnant.  we have accepted that even in the depths of the darkest place we have ever been, the world will continue on around us, regardless of our grief and loss of what could have been.

I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it. – Kristin Arstrong