Reflections on 2013

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ImageThis is edited from a post I made on a TFMR group the other day.

2013 has left me scarred, hurt in a way that I don’t think I can properly express here. In addition to the loss of my child, my husband and I have stopped fertility treatments, he was diagnosed with a serious neurological condition that has left him disabled, and our financial security is seriously compromised. He is probably going to lose his job now that his federal medical leave is up (even after his work has been promising him for months that he could work from home). I’m paranoid at work and am terrified that something horrible is going to happen. My marriage has been tested in ways that I had not thought possible. DH’s grandfather came from the UK to visit and promptly had a stroke (and we’ve been fighting with insurance companies and hospitals ever since). My meniscus tore again so badly that the insurance nurse advised me to take an ambulance to the ER, and I suspect I’ll be having knee surgery in the near future.

I don’t have the traditional hopeful New Year message: I have no hope of getting pregnant again. People whom I deem to have no right to reproduce continue to have children. I am not sure if I will ever go back to being an extrovert, or if my new-found introversion is permanent. I am still grieving. Anger and anxiety are still there, ready to pounce if I let them.

ImageBut, I find it easier to breathe. I can generally ignore pregnant women and babies these days. I find that I am less afraid these days, even with tragedy and uncertainty. I very rarely take anxiety pills these days. I am learning to forgive myself. I don’t feel persecuted anymore –  I can honestly say that I’ve had a pretty horrible and rotten 2013, but it’s not because I’m being singled out by the universe.

I don’t know if 2014 is going to be any better. I mean, I damn sure hope it’s better, but I’m not expecting miracles. This time last year, the only thing that I could cling to was that on December 27th, 2013, I’d be happy.

And here I am. Not happy. But I don’t think that happy is my goal anymore: my goal is to no longer be empty.

So here are my resolutions for 2014:

  • Laugh at least once a day.
  • Tell someone at least once a day that I appreciate/love them. Not in a general way, either. A meaningful way.
  • Drink one glass of water a day.
  • Be kinder to myself. I think I want to start and end each day with an affirmation. I’ve tried those in the past, but even if I fail again this time, what’s it going to hurt?
  • Give myself permission to avoid triggers.
  • Stop comparing myself to other people.
  • Actively play with my cats more.

I think this is a nice start for now.

So, for those of you struggling right now, either from the past or decisions yet to be made, I want to leave you with a wish. A wish from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world. 
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them. 
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation. 
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.
I know that I have it in me – it’s just sometimes, I need a little reminder.
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Pictures are from Allie Brosh’s post Depression Part 2. If you haven’t read it, it’s brilliant. You should also go buy her book.
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Pinterest

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Nothing ruins a good infertility pinner on Pinterest more than a pregnancy.

I feel like there needs to be a warning label.  Instead,  I suddenly get pins about maternity clothes, breastfeeding,  and prenatal exercises. It’s like she pinned every single possible pregnancy related pin in one day. And it’s not like she has one pregnancy board that I can unfollow. No,  she’s organized. As soon as I unfollow one board,  three more pop up. Nurseries! Baby carriers! Maternity pics! Pregnancy announcements! Birth announcements. It just kept coming.

So I unfollowed her.

I feel a little bad,  but she shifted focus. Her audience was infertiles, and now it’s not.

My plan was that if I were to ever get pregnant, I’d start a new blog focusing on pregnancy after infertility, grief,  and loss. New focus = new audience = new blog.

What about you? Would you keep your old blog or start afresh of you finally got that elusive sticky BFP? Or am I just too sensitive?

Letter to my Depression

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So, I asked my therapist for a copy of the conversation that I wrote to my anger. I’m planning on posting it here when I get it. (I have that – as soon as I hit submit on this, I’ll type that one up).

She’s asked me to write a letter to my depression for the next visit, so I think I’ll go ahead and type it here since it’s going to end up here eventually anyway.

V: Hey there. I was hoping that we could talk for a bit if you don’t mind.

D: …

V: You there?

D: I guess. Make it quick. I’m busy.

V: Well, I don’t know how else to put it, but I really need to ask you to leave. Our relationship is putting a strain on my life.

D: You’re breaking up with me?

V: Well, kind of. It’s just that I can’t keep you a secret any longer. My husband, my friends, my family, and even my co-workers are starting to notice. My whole life has changed since I got involved with you, and to be honest, it’s starting to scare me.

D: Whatever. You’ll be back. You’ve been with me too long for you to let this go.

V: No, really. It’s over. I’m going to get on medication and everything.

D: Medication won’t help, V. It may mask it, but the reason I’m here is because you feel that you deserve me, that you are a horrible person. That’s why you feel persecuted, because you think you are a horrible excuse of a human being who doesn’t deserve to get pregnant and have a baby, have a family.

V: That’s not true!

D: It’s not? Can you honestly tell me that you don’t regret having the abortion?

V: But it was to save her…

D: That’s what you tell yourself. You can’t stop telling yourself that because you just hope that one day you’ll believe it. You look for confirmation in the most ridiculous of places, but you know that there is a part of you that wonders if everything would have been okay.

V: Maybe it could have bee. Maybe the surgery would have fixed everything.

D: And maybe not.

V: Regardless, there will always be that ‘what if” rolling around in my head.

D: And that’s why I’m here! If you constantly focus on what would have been, what could have been, how can you focus on the present? How can you focus on your husband? Your friends? Your house? Your career? You just keep coming back for me.

V: But it’s not always like that. Sometimes I can smile.

D: And sometimes abusers give their battered wives roses, but does it change the situation? Face it, you are too damaged to ever leave me. What’s medication going to do when you hate yourself?

V: But I don’t!

D: Really? That’s the reason why looking at the negative comments on Cosmopolitan isn’t a big deal to you: the posters can’t possibly say anything worse to you than you’ve already told yourself. Face it. This isn’t the life that you wanted.

V: No, you’re right. This isn’t the life that I wanted. I didn’t want to be here. But I am. And even though I can’t really see the exit just yet, I know it’s there. You think that I’m going to keep coming back to you because I won’t be able to escape. But it’s not like that. I’m just stuck here right now because everything is still so raw and fresh.

D: C’mon.You really think that you can move on? That you should move on?

V: I have moved on. I may not be at the place that I think I should be, or the place that I want to be, but I’m not crying in a puddle in my closet with the door closed anymore. I may be stepping slower than other people, but the steps I do take are confident and sure.

D: You just saying that isn’t true. I know the truth – what you feel when when you think about how happy you were last year, what you think when you drive to work in the morning by yourself, and when you worry about the future. I know that you run away from problems, and that you can’t run away from this. This isn’t solved with a break up, or a relocation, or a job change. You can’t run away from yourself or your past.

V: You don’t think I know that? I don’t hide from it. I can’t hide from it.

D: So instead you relieve it every day?

V: That’s not fair. I don’t relieve it everyday. I remember everyday, but I’m not reliving it.

D: You say all the right things, but I still don’t think you believe them. You can try to leave me, and you may even get occasional relief, but don’t think for an instant that I’m not always in the corner, watching you.

V: Watch all you want. I’m done with this conversation. I believe you know where the door is, but I’ll escort you out, just to make sure that I lock the door once you leave. And don’t bother trying to use your key. I’m changing the locks. Don’t say anything more. I’m having the last word here. Leave.

Mental Health Day

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Dh has been doing really well, health-wise. I haven’t taken off any days since September – most of my time off was when he was in the ICU – I took one day off when he was going to the rehab hospital. I generally don’t take days off, but 2013 hasn’t been too kind. I took four days off in January, a few days off to see doctors, and then there the days that I took off for IUI. So my plan was not to take any days off of work for the rest of year.

And then today happened.

I teach at an alternative school for at-risk students who are always having babies. It’s one thing to have the pregnant girls in class (we talk about English, not babies!), but it’s another thing entirely for them to bring the babies up to campus. I can handle seeing a baby, but I don’t spend all my time cooing over them either. This isn’t anything new – I think there is a fine line between being supportive and condoning their behavior. I think that the baby worship that happens encourages teen pregnancies – especially because most of my students have planned babies. I think my infertile audience can appreciate the inner strength it takes for me to go to work each day.

At this point, I do want to make the disclaimer that I do have some really great teen parents in my classroom. That doesn’t bother me, especially when they came to our school as parents rather than getting pregnant while enrolled in our program. I currently have two teen parents (not parents together) who are great. That’s not who I am referring to. I’m referring to the students who are transient by choice, continue to do drugs when pregnant (or after the child is born), who abandon the baby, and who are just generally the type of people that CPS is called out to investigate. Those are the ones that stick in my mind and are the ones that triggered my mental health day.

One day each year, we invite our former students to come visit us. Most of the time, the students who are productive and doing something after school are in college taking finals or are working. Coming out to a high school at two in the afternoon doesn’t generally work for either of those schedules, so consequently, we usually only see the students who aren’t doing much. You know the ones.

Many of them are either parents or pregnant, and since it’s after school, they are allowed to bring the babies.

That is where I reach my boiling point. I was able to handle it for seven years, but I a refuse to put myself through that again this year, not after what all has happened in 2013. I don’t want to hold the babies. I don’t want to see mothers give their children Coke and pizza. I don’t want to judge the way that they hold the babies and let their necks flop over. I don’t want to sit and pretend like I’m happy for them that they are starting a family at 19 when they have no way to provide for the child. I could go on and on, but if you are a regular reader, I think you get the idea of what I’ve had to go through for seven years. Doing that while infertile and TTC was one thing – but to go and endure that THIS year? Unthinkable. Even my therapist thought taking today off was a good idea. So I did.

I don’t feel like it’s a giant waste of time because DH does have appointments that I am taking him to, the main one being his sleep study. So I don’t feel too guilty.

I know that there will some students who will be disappointed, but I’m not one of the cool teachers they come back to see. Besides, I don’t want to backtrack on all the progress I’ve made with my mental health over the past two months. I generally don’t like avoidance, but I think in this situation, it’s the best thing.

So, I’m spending today watching trashy tv and half-halfheartedly cleaning the house. I might even bring the Christmas tree down today! And I finally remembered the earworm I was singing yesterday: White Christmas!

I never thought that I’d be at this point with Christmas right around the corner and some major dates looming in the future. I thought that I had met acceptance a few months ago when I started the blog, but really, I feel like I’m finally starting to accept everything. The infertility, the termination, my husband’s illness, and even my future childfree future.

I’m going to have bad days, but I’m going to be okay. I’m able to laugh, make plans for my future, and enjoy the life that I do have instead of focusing on the life that I feel like I should have had.

Infertility Hope During the Holidays

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I’ve been following Still Standing, and a post today rubbed me the wrong way. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s are all triggers for me.

Thanksgiving, my entire family was here. For my parents, that’s a HUGE deal. Why? Because I was pregnant. Thanks, M., for making that happen. It wouldn’t have happened if not for you. 🙂

December 25th was the last happy day I can remember. I was blissfully pregnant, enjoying my belly and waiting to feel wiggles. I announced to our parents that we were having a GIRL! My husband and I gifted each other presents to prepare us to be the best parents possible. I made plans to hit up the after-Christmas specials to buy cute little outfits for my little girl’s first Christmas. I tear up just typing that.

December 26th. The bad news.

December 31st – January 1st. How could I possibly have a good year? I wanted to curb stomp each and every person who cursed me with happiness for 2013. Fuck you. Fuck your new year. My world was ending on January 2nd, and it was a long, painful death until January 4th. Needless to say, I’m a bit of a grinch this year.

The good news is that these holidays aren’t anything really special to me, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost too much. My family isn’t here, and my in-laws are pretty low key, so I don’t have to be around children, pregnant women, or have people ask me when I plan on having kids. I can get drunk and no one will judge me.

So I was really looking forward to reading a post on Skipping Christmas from Still Standing, a magazine for infertility and child loss.

I had high hopes for this article, because  was looking for something realistic, that I can relate to.
And I was digging it – until I got here:

Then I look at my daughter.

This is her 4th Christmas. Full of wonder and joy. She just now understands the concept of Santa and Jesus’ birthday. Her anticipation of Christmas beams out of her shining eyes when she talks about it, over and over. “When will we go to Nana and Papa’s? How many days? When is Santa coming? Will he be on the roof? Can I see him? Where is the snow?”

It’s a constant, gentle reminder to me that these holidays aren’t just about me and my grief. They’re also about me being a mother to the little girl I am blessed to raise. And to take away Christmas from her this year – I can’t do that. It won’t bring me any more joy or comfort to skip or downplay it.

What happened to my sons happened. They are gone and I will miss and long for them forever. Every holiday, every event, every milestone will hurt for the rest of my life in some small way.

But she’s there waiting for me to make it magic for her, despite the pain and sorrow.

So we won’t skip Christmas this year. Why should any of us have to deal with more sadness? Maybe one year we’ll change it up and it will be the best thing for us. Not this year though.

And once again, I get kicked in the teeth by surviving child hope. The idea that I have to go on for my child. But I don’t have a child. I have cats. I have a lone budgie. I have koi fish. I have an independent husband who is rather lukewarm about the holidays, to be be generous.

It’s not that I’m angry at her – that’s her motivation. But what about the rest of us? Those of us who still have empty hearts? Those of us who lived through more than our fair share of grief? (author’s note – by this, I don’t mean to say that my grief is MORE than hers – In my opinion, anyone who has faced infertility and/or baby loss has already gone through more than their fair of grief. I always say on here that grief is grief: It’s not a contest who has suffered the worst. I was just kind of sad that I felt alienated by a post that I thought that I thought I was going to relate to – and that’s MY issue, not the author’s. This totally sounds like I’m minimizing her loss that was not my intent at all. She was gracious enough not to call me on it in her comment below. I don’t think I would have shown that much restraint. 🙂 )

Do I pretend to happy for my husband? Do I live for him? That makes me feel icky inside. I live for myself. People who tell me that I have to have hope, or that my daughter wouldn’t want me to be sad means nothing to me. In fact, it actually makes me angry. Stop trying to my grief to make you feel better.

Today, when I was leaving the grocery store, I found myself humming a Christmas carol. I think it might have been Walking in a Winter Wonderland. And to be honest, I don’t know why I was happy. I just was. And I’m okay with that.

The grief is still there. So is the rage. The pain. The bad feelings.

But I’m not controlled by them anymore. I understand what I did and why. I understand that there are people out there who disagree with my decision. I understand that they are incapable of having empathy for my individual situation. And I’m okay with that.

Cosmo ran an article about my situation a few weeks ago. And there were some horribly nasty comments. My husband even started his Facebook page just to address them. I think it was his way of defending me, protecting me. And he came to the same conclusion that I did: those people will refuse to change their world view. And I’m okay with that, too.

So my early Christmas present to myself is peace. Peace for myself.

I Fail at Life

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I don’t think so, but some random user on Pinterest thinks I do.

I was trolling around in the Popular board when I stumbled across a SomeEcard (or some variant thereof) that said something along the lines of “The only thing worse than your crying baby is you screaming at it to be quiet.”

Some people defended the mother in that situation, but one person in particular made a pretty inflamatory comment about how she hated babies which incited a bit of an argument. One woman, however, responded with this: there’s no real point to life except for procreating, sorry you fail at being human

I know it wasn’t meant for me, but it hurt. I responded with something like “I love kids. Wish I could have them. But there is more life than being a brood mare. But thanks for telling me I fail at being a human being.”

I don’t really care if it was meant for me. It was a public comment. I write this blog knowing full-well that mothers with children and babies with spina bifida might read my blog. I know that someone with SB might read my blog. I generally write this so that I don’t offend people. I don’t think that all fetuses with SB should be aborted.  I don’t think that all infertile couples should go through fertility treatments (and neither do I think that all should accept a childfree life). My comments have been specifically about MY life, MY situation, and the decision that I made. I don’t know your situation. I don’t live it. So I try not to judge.

Maybe I’m reacting so badly because I have felt this in the past (and sometimes still do). I wonder how many people really and truly think this – that my life is pointless because I can’t have children. And then it makes me angry.

Does that mean she thinks the only thing women are good for is raising babies?

Even if I were able to get pregnant and have a healthy baby, I’d still find that comment disgusting. I’m tired of the idea that pregnant women are somehow worth more than I am. That they are honored and treated with kid gloves.

But me? I’m infertile. I’m a waste of oxygen because I can’t breed.

Comments like that irritate me. I wish I liked the pin so that I could find it again, but maybe it’s best that I don’t go back to it.