What If

What if…

I can never be happy again?

Before the days of infertility, there were great days, excitement, opportunity, blue skies, and hope.

Today I am mired in a web of not-so-great days, anger, hopelessness, and jealousy.

It has been 6 months since I ended infertility treatment for good. That sounds a little freeing saying that. Because until recently, I didn’t know if I was REALLY done, or just standing at the crossroads biding my time. But I AM… it seems.

I am done.

Five years later, five miscarriages later, I wake up in the morning with the same thought, each and every day… just around the time I am staring into a mirror and putting on my makeup…

“Is this sadness ever going to leave me?”

I stare at the circles under my eyes that I never had before. I make peace with the fact that my face has aged ten years in five. I put down my mascara and walk into the third bedroom upstairs with an empty crib. The crib now better served as a storage space for junk. Just like my body.

Junk.

I navigate though the work day as my island of peace. A  place where I can work, and work, and work and completely avoid personal conversations. It’s all business. I can put on a good face almost as if I did not have a care in the world. That, is, until a pregnancy announcement from a co-worker sets me over the edge…

I attend school functions with my only son. My “only”. I listen to the Moms with half an ear because I am not interested in the conversations of fitting in manicures between carpooling their multitudes of children.  I don’t want to see the look of pity on their faces when I answer “that” question…  “do you have any more children?”

My son asks why he doesn’t have a brother or sister. On a regular basis. I try very hard to explain the truth that an (almost) seven year old would understand.

It kills me a little more each time I say it.

I wonder if I can ever get back to that place before I became one of the millions of women affected by infertility.

I wonder if any of us will truly recover from the disappointment that plagues us. Even the lucky few that conquer the beast are never really the same.

Never the same.

I WANT to be happy again. I want to lie down at the end of a great day with that fuzzy feeling that all is right with the world.  I still can build my family in other ways.  Or, I can choose not to.  The reality is infertility cannot be the sum and total of me, or my decisions.  It cannot define any of us.

I can choose how to move on from this.

I want to enjoy life. I want to use what I learned through my experience to help others.

The aftermath cannot dictate that the journey was pointless.
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Understand infertility: Visit Resolve.

National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is April 24th through May 1st: Take Charge.

Want to read about others “What if’s?”:  Connect @ Project IF.

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I feel…. fine?

Smile tho’ your heart is aching,
Smile even tho’ it’s breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky
You’ll get by,
If you smile
thro’ your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You’ll see the sun come shin-ing thro’ for you
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev-’ry trace of sadness,
Al -’tho a tear may be ever so near,
That’s the time,
You must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying,
You’ll find that life is still worth-while,

If you just smile
Music Composed by Charlie Chaplin, Recorded by Nat “King” Cole on Capital Records.
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I’ve been in a bit of a weird place lately. I think a lot has to do with the fact that my life is very different now than it has been for the last 5 years.

Last week, while sitting in the big comfy chair at my therapist’s office, she asked me a very simple question. “How are you feeling?”

You know, it’s crazy, but no one in real life asks me that question. And if they do, it’s more like “How are you?” like in the casual conversation kind of way. You know, when you are SUPPOSED to say, “Fine” or “Good”, but no one REALLY wants the truth, or wants to hear a 10 minute dissertation to the question…

My answer to her, “depends on the day…” and isn’t that really the truth for everyone?

The difference for me is I feel like my days are jammed with work, and schedules, and cooking, and homework with David, and chores, and a multitude of activities which serves other people, but not me.

I feel empty.

“Who else do you talk about your daily struggles with besides your husband?”

To which I replied, “well, lately…. no one really.”

And then the conversation flowed to that one topic that bugs the shit out of me. The fact that other people are living their lives, happy and engaged, and most of them… don’t have a clue what it’s like to be on the dark side.

I truly cannot bear the “Mommy” thing. The school parties, the events where the Moms gather around and complain about not having time to sleep or get their nails done. The ones that I. MUST. HAVE. totally FAKE conversations with. On the basketball court, in the neighborhood, family/friend events, parties, and the grocery store. It’s like the world is turning without me because I have no interest in the “chatter” between Moms.

For me, I exist between two worlds. One foot in the Mom world, and the other foot in the non-Mom world.

I don’t quite fit in either of them.

Mel wrote a great post yesterday about putting on “the smile”. The one that shields you from the bullets other people hurl at you that can break your heart. The one resource that we infertiles have to safeguard ourselves from making a scene crying in the grocery store when we meet an old friend who has been! pregnant! 4! times! by accident! omg!

The “smile” is something I carry with me every time I walk out of the door.  And lately, it’s been getting harder and harder to not show the crack in my smile.  And, it’s plain EXHAUSTING.

So where does that leave me? Well, according to therapist Anne, I need to make an effort to start having real-life interaction with like-minded individuals. Hey, not that you on-line buddies aren’t the bees knees! It’s just I really don’t have a that person IRL that I can commisserate and share these dark feelings with. Someone who has first-hand experience with infertility in the way I have. Where they did not succeed and stopped treatment. Or stopped and pursued adoption.  Anne thinks I should put out feelers for a support group in my area.

Because, you know, that’s a lot less desperate than standing in line at Starbucks with a shirt that reads… 

(Are YOU an infertile?  Have you failed where others always SUCCEED?  Are you a fertility clinic dropout?  Please have coffee with me and let’s DISCUSS!)

When I leave my session with Anne, I always feel good. And most of that is because she did walk almost the same path as I did. She defines infertility as a “life crisis” and draws parallels between infertility and going through any other serious illness. The difference? Infertilty is not terminal. Which in her opinion, makes it all the worse since you can never-ever-ever escape it. The outcomes are different, but it is something we will forever carry to our deaths.

Peachy, huh?
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Solitary

solitary: 1sol·i·tary
Pronunciation: \ˈsä-lə-ˌter-ē\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, solitarie, from Anglo-French, from Latin solitarius, from solitas aloneness, from solus alone
Date: 14th century


1 a : being, living, or going alone or without companions b : saddened by isolation

Last night I had a very weird dream. I don’t remember much about it in its entirety, but what I do remember is waking up and feeling like I solved a great mystery of life.

In this dream, somehow I ended up sitting at a round table with about 10 people whose faces I did not recognize. We were talking about fears. I didn’t feel scared, but rather… melancholy. Someone commented from the other side of the table that their worst fear is death.

My response was immediate, almost as if the words were just falling out of my mouth without my lips moving…

“I am less fearful of death, and most fearful of being alone.”

It was nano-seconds later that I woke up, with those words still hovering in my head as if I said them aloud in the waking world.

I thought about it in the shower and and it was perfectly clear that as much as I would not like it to be so, it is my primary motivation in life.

It is the reason for everything.

As independent as I’ve led my life, I’ve let that fear mow me over in recent years. But when I look back to the choices I’ve made thus far, it’s been the driving undercurrent all along

…how could I have not realized that?

This therapy adventure has certainly opened my mind in ways I had forgotten about, or didn’t have the key.

Specific to infertility, I am realizing that my want to complete my family has a lot to do with this one specific fear. The motivation has little to do with “kicking infertility’s ass” and more to do with surrounding myself with people I can count on. People that my son can count on that will still be here 30-40 years from now. Let’s face it, when I get old and if S. isn’t here, I do not want David to be alone. I don’t want him to have that burden.

I may be projecting my fear needlessly onto him, but it’s something I think about more often than I should. This is probably the only reason I haven’t truly given up. And if I am being honest with myself, I will never be able to move on until I feel comfortable that David has a sibling. Someone who can’t easily walk away, uninvesting themselves when it is convenient.

I envy those that can and have made the active decision to push family-building to the back burner and move on. I’ve wondered if it is possible for me.

My therapist says I can do that if I wish, but it will take time.
I definitely can envision a life without cycling. I am 99% sure that I do not ever want to walk into a fertility clinic again. 

I am 100% sure that there is a child waiting for me, if I put myself out there.

It is very surreal to me, to know that before I had David, I always had this invisible attraction to adoption. I didn’t even know my “fertilty” status at the time, but I had always envisioned something extraordinary for my family. Perhaps I should have listened to my heart many, many years ago.

We are in research mode. No timeline, no stress. We will walk wherever the paths leads.

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Disorderly

This past Monday was quite a day. I should have known it would be a fitting beginning to another step forward in the healing process. I woke up to the windows rattling, and rain pelting against the glass. It was the kind of day best served not opening your eyes at all, but rather a day where you pull the covers up over your head and sleep in.

I returned from driving David to the bus stop. Soaking wet… umbrellas aren’t very handy when 50 MPH winds are mocking you. After the garage door was closed, the wind whistled between the open gaps and made an eerie sound. I fully expected the house to lift into the air and be whisked to The Emerald City. Then, a brief roll of thunder- weird and unexpected on a January day in NJ. As I drove to meet Anne, (not her real name) my therapist, it was raining buckets.

Lovely.

It was a mostly one-sided conversation… her getting to know me. When she did speak, it was kind, and deliberate. After she got the big picture as to why I ended up in her office, she stopped and said… “I want you to know I do understand your feelings. I myself experienced primary infertility, and after 7 years of heartache I stopped treatment and I adopted my little girl a few years ago.”

Pin drop.

and then, a big sigh of relief swelled up in my body.

This is someone who understands, who “gets it” AND can help me.

I didn’t even wince writing out a check at the end of the session. Although it does feel a little weird to be PAYING to talk to someone, and even weirder trying to sum up my failures in 45 minutes.

Curiously, when she gave me my receipt on the way out I noticed it had a field for my insurance company (NOTE to self- figure out if I can get this covered) which had a hand-written note:

Diagnosis: Adjustment Disorder

For five years, I have been “unexplained” in the realm of infertility. Talk about an open-ended diagnosis. It mocks you. It provides no explanation other than the unexplained. I am my own mystery. We will sooner find truth to the existence of aliens in space before we ever find out what happened to me.

Forcing that part to the side and looking at that new text left me with a thought…

If I am having trouble adjusting to my new life, then that certainly means that there will be a time when I can make peace with it and not carry the label to my grave.

This part of my healing is temporary and doesn’t define me.

At the end of the day, I am okay with that.

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