Category Archives: pretending

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.

part 1 of 4: the inconsolable soul – in the beginning

leaning against the cold wall with the taste of bile lingering in my nose and throat, my knees bent with my toes touching the base of the cold porcelain toilet, i knew i had to stop sobbing.  i was beyond the being sick phase and was dry heaving because there was nothing left to come out.  my cheeks were soaked from the shed tears and my head was starting to pound.  i gasped in some deep breaths and closed my eyes trying to pace my breathing – in (pause) and out, in (pause) and out,  swallow down the bile, repeat.  what got me in the floor of the bathroom in the house that i was raised in?  why was i here?  an inconsolable soul.

i offered my husband, a man that i love so incredibly much – an out.  i knew that i could never be the wife that he deserved/needed and with that realization came my deal to him – leave now with no questions asked.

rewind to 10 months earlier

10 months earlier, on a saturday in may (2010), i found myself in the ER.  i was at the church in Monroe getting things set up for the silent auction dinner (while andy was still at school) and i had a massive cramp that took my breath away and knocked me to my knees.  i was able to catch my breath and get up, but the cramp turned into more with each one getting more intense.  each month i get cramps (like most women) but i know my body and i knew that i have never ever in my life experienced pain like this.  it wasn’t much longer that i realized that i was bleeding uncontrollably.  i sucked it up and got through the set up until andy showed up and i eased away and called my doctor.  she said go to the ER.  i went and was told that i had a cyst rupture.  this was causing the cramps that took me to my knees (literally) several times and the bleeding and the clots.  i asked what that meant.  the ER doctor shrugged and told me to follow-up with my regular OB/GYN doctor.  i left the ER with less money, less pain, a cool paper bracelet, a million questions, and a level of fear and uncertainty that i hoped to never experience again.

i made an appointment with my regular doctor and told her what happened and she started doing tests.  she ordered labs and an ultra sound (this would be a good time to note that i was unaware of the different types of ultra sounds).   i went in the room and assumed that it would be the one that was “lift your shirt and put cold jelly on your belly.”  it wasn’t.  it was very uncomfortable – especially since i wasn’t expecting that kind and since i am a little modest to begin with.  if you want to know the details, google the different types of US to look at ovaries (hint – it is a little invasive).

this would be a good time to note that we weren’t “trying” to get pregnant, but we also weren’t “trying to not” get pregnant (i will admit i was very hopeful each month and would have been delighted).  after all the tests, my doctor asked a ton of questions and i told her this. she shifted her eyes down and i could tell she was buying time.  she said, “well alison, i don’t really know what to tell you.  it looks like something is wrong with your ovaries – they aren’t acting like they should.  it could be nothing but then again, i don’t know.”

she gave me 3 months worth of medicines to try and i took them.  nothing happened.  i went back and she told me that she didn’t think there was anything else she could do to help me so she set me up with a specialist.

 by this point in time we were given a shaky idea of what was wrong with my ovaries but nothing real solid.  we researched everything that we could to educate ourselves about our upcoming specialist appt.  we had no idea who we were seeing out of the group and didn’t know what was going to happen when we went, but i filled out 8 pages of new patient paperwork and we went to the appt.

we met our “specialist.” we will call him dr. w (for wildman).  when he walked into the exam room he looked like a cross between a sociopath and mad scientist with crazy hair  or someone who arrived each day at work via jumping out of a plane.  he walked in and i was tempted to walk out.  i thought it was a joke until he opened his mouth and something about his voice and his words calmed me.  it wasn’t that he was saying overly positive things – but that he was talking to me and answering the questions i had before i even asked them.  he was giving it to me straight and there wasn’t an ounce of sugar-coating anything.  he told us his initial thoughts and said that even though it looked like my doctor was doing a fine job he wanted to run his own test.  he told me i would have to come back and have my blood work done, but he wanted to go on and do an US.  he did it and this time at least i knew what to expect.  he made notes and told us (because he wanted to make sure exactly who’s infertility we were dealing with) when to come back for labs and said to follow-up afterwards.

a few days later i had to be at the office at 7am.  (i was instructed to drink as much water as i could because of all of the blood they would need).  when we got there we had to wait in line and my legs were crossed because i already had consumed almost 64 ounces of water.  i signed in and quickly learned that the lab was first come first served.  andy was called for his lab work and i was left sitting in a room wondering how much longer before i could pee.  after several people went, i was called.  i climbed into the vinyl chair and lowered the bar across my lap and rolled up my sleeves.  the lab tech came over and confirmed my name and date of birth.  she looked at my order and said “ok, let’s do this.”  i nodded.  she reached over and started pulling vials that she needed to fill.  she turned and asked if i had been drinking water this morning and i told her yes.  she smiled and said “good, because we have 16 vials to fill.”  i wanted to cry.  she sat down on a rolling stool and asked me which arm i wanted her to try first.  i looked at her and smiled and she laughed.  “you have hard veins don’t you?”  i nodded.  she laughed again and said, “well, here we go.”  in only the second time in my entire life, she stuck me once and got blood!  she filled the first vial and then the second and on and on until she had 16 vials full of bright red blood.  after i signed all of the labels i watched her put the stickers on all of my vials and went back into the waiting room and andy was waiting on me.

i went to work and kept my sleeves rolled down because a huge bruise was forming on my arm and i didn’t want to answer questions about it.  we went back to see dr. w a week later and went into his office (which i remember as being mostly organized, which seemed odd to me because of his hair).  even in our second meeting, it was like the first time we met him and made me think a little bit of jim carrey in ace ventura  when he drives with his head out the window – it made me smirk a little but then the reality of why were there came crashing down and the smirk faded away.  we sat in chairs and prepared ourselves for the results.

this is what we learned.  andy was perfect in every way.  all of his labs and test came back better than what dr. w could have hoped.

me on the other hand – it wasn’t good.  he stated that he thought the issue was with me and my ovaries.  he hesitated, but tossed out possibly pco.  he said he wanted to do one more test before we decided what to do.  he wanted me to have a hysterosalpingogram  (x-ray to see if my fallopian tubes were open).  he said once we had that answer, he would have a game plan for us (if it goes good, he tells us what he thinks we should do, and if it is bad, he gives us a few other options).

i showed up for that appointment at 8am and was humiliated.  the facility where i had to have this x-ray done is the same place people go for a million other tests, as well as radiation and other types of specialized treatments.  to look at the fallopian tubes, you have to go through the uterus.  when they called me back, the nurse escorted me to a door right next to 15 chairs in a waiting room (like a fitting room in a department store).  she reached in a built-in drawer in the closet, handed me a paper gown that opened in the back, told me to undress from the waist down and put the gown on then come on out to the waiting room (luckily she gave me a second gown to put on like a robe to cover my exposed back side).  i was mortified.  the waiting room wasn’t secluded at all.  there was a hallway (that might as well had been a highway full of people) right next to it.  i turned bright red, did what she said, took my plastic bag with over half of my clothes in it and found a seat.  it wasn’t long before i was joined by an elderly man wearing a similar gown and carrying a similar bag.  not long after he sat down, another woman sat down.  none of us would make eye contact.  it was humiliating to sit there and have all these people walk by staring.

they called my name and escorted me down the hall (i was so very grateful for the second gown at this point).  the nurse walked me into the room through a special door and pointed to another door. she told me to empty my bladder.  i did and she told me to sit down in the chair, and i did.  the room had a huge machine in the middle with computers all around.  there was another nurse standing behind a glass wall with more computers and more gadgets.  i didn’t see dr. w and i was a little nervous.  the nurse that had me sit down came over to talk to me.  she asked if i knew what was going to happen and i told her what i knew.  she verified that i was correct and added some details that i didn’t know.  she paused and asked if i had any questions and i did.  “i read online it hurts…is it going to hurt?”  she laughed and said “well, it will either be fine, with no pain or you will be in excruciating pain – that is what i see most.”  silently i am thinking “great, that wasn’t really reassuring.”  she leads me to the table and i climb up.  dr. w walks in.  there is something about his wild hair and sociopath killer look that is so familiar and surprisingly calming to me – i still haven’t figured that out yet.

he comes over where i am sitting on the table and takes both of my hands and asks if i am ready.  i nod.  he smiles and looks at the nurse and nods.  she comes over to him with a mask, x-ray padded vest-type-thing and x-ray thyroid guard.  the nurse is already in this get up.  i lay back and she drapes a padded vest over my chest and neck.  he walks me through the procedure: put your feet here.  this is going to be cold.  breathe. this is what i am doing now.  this is the dye i am about to inject. (about this time i notice that the nurse is right by my head and has been the entire time, but the other nurse, that was behind the glass, is now dressed like an alien with the rest of us and is helping dr. w).  the nurse asks if i am ok.  i barely nod.  dr. w asks if i am ok.  both the nurse and i nod. the nurse touches my arm as dr. w says “here it goes.  don’t forget to breathe, ok alison?”  i can actually feel the dye in me.  it is weird.  i hear the machine make noises and i see a flash of light above my head.  i try to look without moving and dr. w notices this.  he says, “go on, put your head back and look.”  i do and i see my uterus and fallopian tubes on the screen (at least that is what he tells me i am looking at).  he smiles, looks at me and says, “do you see that?  do you see mickey mouse?”  the nurse helping him takes a pointer and points out mickey’s face and ears.  i say yes.  he says “that is mickey and mickey is a good thing.  you have a happy uterus and fallopian tubes, meaning nothing is blocked.”  for the first time in the past 3 months since i was in the er, i was given good, positive news.  dr. w continues to walk me through the process and tells me when he is done.  he helps me to my feet and they send me through, back to the bathroom to finally get dressed. the nurse asks me if i am ok and if it hurt.  i tell her that, surprisingly, it didn’t, and that i am starting to cramp.  she tells me i should go home and take it easy.  i can’t because i have to go to work and act as if nothing is wrong or going on.

since everything was good, i talked to andy and told him the news.  i called shane (one of dr. w’s nurses) and told him to let dr. w know we want to proceed with the plan he laid out earlier since the x-ray was fine.  so i start some different medicines and in two months have my labs repeated (thank goodness they only took 3 vials of blood this time) and we go back to talk to dr. w in his office.  he tells us that my labs look better since i have been on the meds and he thinks we would be wonderful candidates for an IUI (intrauterine insemination).  we agree to go forward, he writes more prescriptions and tells us what to expect in the next month.  he gives us clear instructions, details and a smile.

in his smile i have a sense of hope.  hope in the form of dr. w.  hope in an IUI.  hope in andy, that his labs are perfect.  but the important thing is that, for the very first time in 5 months, i have hope.

the country: a beautiful thing

growing up we took a lot of family vacations.  i say a lot but i have no idea how many we really took because when you are younger things seem more often.  i know that we travelled all over and i am amazed at some of the places my parents have told me i have been but i don’t really remember.  some of the memories i have of those vacations are of me and will running through museums trying to get through them as quickly as we could so we could move on.  i remember waiting on my parents (who according to my younger self) were the slowest people in the world.  it was a race to get back to the hotel/camp ground to go swimming in the pool.  ah the joys of family vacations as a child.  when we loaded up for vacations as teenagers it was more of the same, but instead of running to the end, it was more avoid and hide from my parents (who according to my teenager self) were the most embarrassing humans alive.  it was a slow form of torture.  looking back i realize that it was actually (dare i say) fun.  now looking back it makes me a little sad.  not only because of the carefree vacations but because i missed out on a lot of things because i was too hurried to really look at the things in the museum or appreciate the sites.  i was too busy making fun of things that we had to do to really absorb it and the history.  as a teenager i was so annoyed that i wasn’t with my friends that i missed out on a lot of great experiences.  i might have been physically there and going through motions but i didn’t really “get” it – whatever “it” was.  this is true for our trip to washington dc, the nasa space center in fl, countless museums across the south, the cherokee reenactments etc. 

that rambling leads me to this:

i grew up in the city, yes i spent time in the country visiting family on some weekends and in the summer but let’s face it…i’m a city girl.  there are times i pretend that i am a country girl…like when we go feed the animals and i move a branch out of the tractor path and act like the world stood still until those tasks were accomplished.  i pretend that i know what i am doing when i grab the horse’s halter to put fly medicine on her face – but in reality i am thinking “please don’t pull me through the fence.”   i pretend that i trust pancake when i think he is really plotting against me (especially when he flattens his ears).  i pretend that pancake has come a great ways and it is all because i am a self-proclaimed donkey whisperer.  i pretend that if it wasn’t for me and andy, argyle would be so skittish around humans that he would be considered for the rodeo.  i pretend that when argyle goes to his new home (whenever that might be) that i won’t miss him because he is just a horse when i actually think that i love him and there is a great possibility that i will cry when i drive up and he isn’t standing in the field with his lanky legs running to the fence to greet us.  

i pretend that i have always enjoyed doing these things…but i haven’t.  i can remember when i was growing up and was “forced” to come to tn with my family.  it was a time when i was starting to really have a social life outside of neighbors and family friends but wasn’t old enough to stay at home so my parents did the responsible thing and took me with them.  i drug my feet the entire time.  i longed to be with my friends in the city and hated that i was missing all of the latest things.  i was worried that my best friends would replace me in the 72 hours that i was out of their sight.  i missed the beauty in feeding animals with my grandmother.  i missed the knowledge in riding around town with my grandfather making deliveries and picking up boxes.  i missed the freedom in running through a tobacco field looking for tobacco worms.  i missed the experience of riding on the tractor around the farm.  i missed the familiarity of walking through the barn yard with the cows.  i missed the understanding of why we picked and shelled beans and cut up apples.  i will take a moment to make it clear that i did all of those things and for the most part i plastered a smile on my face but it isn’t until now – years later – that i fully grasp what i was missing out on by not truly living in the moment.  i didn’t take advantage of the situations and now that we are living here there are things i wish i could do again and wish that andy could experience because they really were life changing things – if i had only let them be.  no one in my family grows tobacco anymore and when we pass a field i am reminded of running through the rows and looking for worms.  it makes me sad that andy may never see one and get to step on it.  we won’t be able to walk into a barn and smell the dried tobacco.  i missed out – i took for granted those experiences because i wanted to be somewhere else.

i have been thinking a lot about all of this in the past year and have come to the conclusion that if i would have moved to tn earlier in my life (or if i was born and raised here) i would not be as appreciative as i am today to be doing the things i am doing.  if i lived here when i was in high school i would have applied to college and moved far away because i wouldn’t have appreciated the experiences that this little town has to offer.  i would have been the first of my class to skip town and get on with my life.  i would fled and never looked back and honestly would have never realized what i was walking away from. 

it took moving to the country to realize how much i took for granted and still take for granted.  i feel like i am more aware now (as compared to when i was younger).  i see the outline of the mountains in the morning sun and notice the way the sun highlights the ridges.  i see the clouds casting shadows in the valleys.  i laugh when argyle leans into me to be rubbed like a big dog.  i practice tough love when i take the feed buckets away from jack and pancake.  i practice tolerance when the horses try to steal each others sweet feed.  i sit in awe listening to the creek at night in the cool mountain breeze.  i enjoy riding around the farm looking for baby cows and wild turkeys.  i do all of these things now with a true appreciation and it isn’t because i am a farmer or a country girl, but because i don’t want these experiences to pass me by again. 

living here in the country with a second chance: it’s a beautiful thing.