Friday, March 12, 2010

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Lightness

{Photo taken in Northern Italy, about a mile from our house.}


I'm still overwhelmed by the amazing--and I mean amazing--response to my last post.

After I posted it, Jason whisked me off to dinner. Out of the house, away from the computer, so I couldn't sit here and obsessively check for comments. Talking about other things, eating spicy Thai food and drinking amazing wine, so that I was too distracted and enjoying myself too much to wonder if anyone was commenting, what they were saying.

I shouldn't have worried. :)

(But the dinner was nice.) :)

The most amazing thing to me is how everyone keeps telling me how strong I was/am to write it down, put it out there. And the whole reason I wrote it is because I felt so weak that I couldn't go on anymore carrying the burden alone! So that was a very real gift that I received, the chance to see myself through other peoples' eyes for a moment. Very real and very unexpected and so very, very needed. Thank you.

The second most amazing thing is all the personal e-mails I've received. Women who have gone through this. Who are going though this. Who never told anyone how long it took them to get their baby, and how painful and expensive it was. Who swore me to secrecy because people still don't know. Who thanked me for putting what is in their heads and in their hearts into words.

Wow. Amazing.

I feel incredibly honored that people have shared with me, and I'm overwhelmed by people who've thanked me. I want to say, "You're thanking me? No no no, you have that backwards, I'm thanking you!"

I've been so overwhelmed, actually, that I'm still processing it all; I haven't responded to everyone's e-mails, I haven't called everyone back. I will try.

But it's hard to want to sit in front of the computer or talk on the phone, because finally, finally, finally... I actually feel like getting up off the couch. And doing stuff. Cleaning. Tackling my To Do list. Running errands, which I did all morning with Jason.

Today I actually, out of the blue, thought of a new jewelry design.

After three months of barely touching my workstation, this is a major victory; I'd actually even considered closing my Etsy shop altogether.

I feel lighter. I feel free-er. :) I feel like a normal person again, a person approximating myself.

And you all gave--are giving!--me this. Lightness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Setting It Down

When we first started this journey, our secret was a tiny pebble of Hope; I loved carrying it around, knowing it was always there, full of possibility and potential.

Every month, the pebble grew. It was still Hope, but it was gradually coated in layers of Disappointment. Sadness. What-ifs. Frustration.

And then, Loss. With Loss came Sorrow and Fear, and the tiny pebble of Hope was further buried, deep inside a boulder.

And still, I carried it alone, hiding it from almost everyone we know, everyone we love. [Jason carried it, too, but not nearly as much as I did, and in different ways.]

I'm not good at asking for help; I'm not good at showing what I perceive to be faults.

And, frankly, I didn't want to deal with other people's questions and advice. It's just like one of my favorite prints from StoryPeople:

"Most people she never tells about the tightrope because she doesn't want to listen to their helpful comments from the ground."

I have friends who have carried this burden before me and I thought I was learning from their mistakes, avoiding the problems they complained of, by keeping our secret and carrying this burden alone. I didn't want to hear the "helpful" comments from the people on the ground, people who hadn't walked this same tightrope and carried this same burden but were all too willing to tell me how to do it.

But every month our burden continued to grow, bigger and heavier, with new layers of Hurt. Heartache. Guilt. Dejection. Impatience. Sorrow. Shame. Despair. Confusion. And yes, even Jealousy, and Envy, and Bitterness, though I fought those most of all.

And lately, it feels like too much to bear alone. I'm sad, and I'm tired of pretending that I'm not (or making up ridiculous excuses for my sadness). I'm tired of lying about why I can't or won't or don't want to do something, just so we can keep this burden to ourselves. I'm walking around doubled over under this weight, and all I can see is the ground in front of me. I'm missing the sunshine, and the rainbows, and my friends' smiling faces.

So, the time has come: I'm setting this burden down.

I know that by setting it down it won't go away; it will still be here. But my hope is that setting it down will cause little cracks to develop; our friends and family will come and lay their eyes upon our burden, and their Kindness and Love and Compassion and Understanding will seep into the cracks and expand, like ice breaking up asphalt, like tree roots breaking up a sidewalk. My hope is that together we'll be able to break this boulder into pieces and let that tiny pebble of Hope see the light of day again.

Some people will walk away; they don't need or want any more troubles in their lives, or they won't know how to handle it. A few people will even scurry off, uncomfortable, and avoid us. But some of our friends and family will bend down and pick up a piece, and they will help us carry our burden. Some already have.

And now, moving from metaphor to actual words, I'm stuck, caught, with a lump in my throat, crying and afraid.

{Deep breath...}

For as long as I can remember, since early in my childhood, I've wanted to be a mother. And like most women, I assumed that when we decided it was time to start our family, my pregnancy would just happen, like it does for millions of women every month. (And until then, I took great care to make sure that it didn't. :))

And then we decided it was time.

But it didn't just happen.

For months

and months

and months,

it didn't happen.

Until finally, last June, it did! And we rejoiced, and eagerly awaited the day we could "safely" announce our joy to the world.

But then... in late July, with Jason 3000 miles away and mostly out of cell phone range... well, it un-happened.

Today, March 10th, 2010, would have been my due date.

The doctors told us it was a good sign that I had gotten pregnant, and we hung onto Hope and the stories I'd heard about women who got pregnant again soon after a miscarriage.

But it still didn't happen.

And we still didn't want to tell anyone. Every month was a new chance, full of Hope. We decided that when it did happen we'd tell our story, revealing our journey to show how long we'd waited and how happy and grateful we were. But every month was a new chance, too, for renewed Heartache.

In January, my body started showing the exact same early signs that it had last June when I was pregnant. I was hopeful and cautious and excited and nervous, waiting to see if it was really happening this time. And then I started bleeding and cramping, and having the exact same signs I had last July. And I grieved all over again.

I had some tests run, and there were confusing results. So I grieved this loss just as I did the previous loss, but I had an added side of confusion and doubt throw in for good measure.

And since this mysterious loss, I've suffered more. The burden has felt heavier. I've felt sadder. That pebble of Hope feels far, far away.

And while I'm--of course!--joyful for my friends who are announcing their pregnancies and births, a voice inside my head taunts, "Not you not you not you not you still not you." Lately, this chant has become a drum-beat, seemingly always present; in the past ten days alone I've received word of two new pregnancies and four new babies, with three more babies expected any day. And with every announcement, I text Jason, "Life's not fair," so he knows to skip the "How was your day?" when he comes home and just hug me instead.

When I realized today, this day that could have been so very different, was approaching, I talked to Jason and we decided:

This burden is too heavy to carry on my own, so I'm setting it down.

To answer some of the questions I'm sure people will have:

Yes, we've started the infertility testing and process. Our insurance requires a certain number of months without achieving pregnancy before we're declared "infertile"; because of the pregnancy and miscarriage last July, the clock got reset. We're not waiting for it this time, even if it means paying for testing and etc ourselves (and there are certain things insurance wouldn't pay for anyway). Tests have been done and are scheduled to be done and we're doing what we need to be doing.

No, this is not going to turn into Infertility Blog. Jason and I are still fairly private people; we won't be talking about it a lot to most people. I most likely will not be sharing a lot on here. I'm not too sure yet; I'm still getting used to the idea of people knowing. But I can't imagine that I will ever feel compelled to share Jason's sperm count or the status of my Fallopian tubes on this blog. It's nothing against anyone who does that, at all... it's just that, like I said, Jason and I are pretty private about personal stuff. If & when I do talk about it, there is a 99% chance that it will be about my feelings about the process.

No, I'm not telling how long we've been trying. Whenever someone asks how long and they get an answer, I feel that it helps them to file that person away in their mind, somewhere between, "Oh, that's not long, she shouldn't be worried yet," and "Oh, it's probably hopeless, then." I don't want to be filed away. As my friend Andrea said, "All that matters is that you want this and haven't been able to achieve it, and that is devastating."

Yes, I know that things will work out the way they're supposed to. I know that one way or another I will be a mother if I'm meant to be (and I believe I am).

No, our marriage has not suffered one tiny bit through this process. Jason has been amazing and I feel that we are stronger than we've ever, ever been. We are partners and a team and best friends. I feel incredibly lucky to be married to him, and he says the same thing about me... although I find it hard to believe on the days he comes home to a weepy wife and a disaster of a house. :)

Yes, it's hard sometimes. Even while I'm happy for them, friends announcing pregnancies and births can be hard. So can going to Target and walking past the baby aisle, watching TV, watching a movie with a pregnancy or miscarriage (I bawled in Up), going grocery shopping and seeing a very pregnant woman or a new baby, hearing a song on the radio... pretty much any little thing can be hard. But sometimes it's not, sometimes I stroll through Target hoping for some sweet deals on clearance items in the paper goods section, without a passing glance at strollers and onesies. Sometimes I laugh at birth control ads and how worried I used to be if I was a couple hours late taking a pill, ha! Sometimes I'll see a tiny terror in the grocery store and think, "Maybe it's not such a bad thing I'm not dealing with that quite yet." Sometimes I'll stay in bed reading until noon, or take a three-hour long bath, just because that is a luxury I'm still afforded (even if it costs a lot). And hearing that a friend is pregnant or had a healthy baby, after a struggle to get pregnant, fills me with hope. So yes, sometimes it's really hard, and sometimes it's not. I'm pretty good at looking on the bright side (even if I would trade it in in a second).

Yes, you can help. Pray for us if you pray. Think of us. Send me cards and presents. I'm kidding about that last one (mostly). :) Let me know you're thinking about me. Give me the benefit of the doubt when I forget to get back to you about something, or I'm moody, or I don't want to do something, or when I have one or three too many glasses of wine. Hug me and tell me that you love me.

Because I know that some people won't know how to handle this or what to do, I've talked to a few friends who have struggled with infertility and put together a list of Please Do's and Don'ts as a guide.

Please do continue to talk to me about normal, everyday stuff. Please don't think that because I'm dealing with this I don't want to hear about how your boss is a jerk or you got stuck in traffic or whatever. Distraction is good. :) I'm still your friend and I still want to know what's going on in your life.

Please do ask me how I'm doing; even if I don't feel like talking about it it will mean a lot to me that you asked and were willing to listen. (And please don't ask if you're not willing to listen.)

Please do be honest with me. Saying, "I don't know what to say, but I'm sorry you're going through this," is fine. Perfect, even. I don't expect you to know what to say.

Please don't ask questions like, "Any news?" or "So, are you pregnant yet?" Trust me, if/when I'm pregnant and it's safe to share the news, I will shout it from the rooftops! Don't ask me, I'll tell you.

Please don't tell me to relax. I guarantee you that while this process is, can be, has been stressful, I'm also relaxed a lot of the time; I'm taking good care of myself (even at the expense of my business, housework, etc). I'm thrilled for you that you were able to get pregnant after having a couple of cocktails on vacation, or having a massage; that doesn't mean I can. Trust me.

Please don't give me "helpful comments from the ground." Meaning: if you haven't walked this tightrope, please don't give me advice. Everyone knows someone who "had trouble" getting pregnant, and the miracle diet/magic elixir/sexual position/herbal supplement/etc that helped them to get pregnant. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I'm 98% sure that I don't want to hear it. [If you've truly walked in my shoes and have suggestions, that's different.]

Please don't say, "Just call me Fertile Myrtle!" or "He can just look at me from across the room and knock me up!" That's an amazing blessing for you, but you might as well just punch me in the gut when you say it, because that's what it feels like to hear someone take their fertility so much for granted. Please do be aware of the impact that what you're saying can have on other people; just because you don't know someone's trying doesn't mean they aren't.

Please don't feel guilty for anything you might have said to me in the past. Please do be mindful in the future (around me and others).

Please don't be afraid to tell me if you're pregnant (or just gave birth). I have infertile friends whose friends would come to them tearfully, apologetically, to announce that they were pregnant. Pregnancy is a miracle and a blessing, and I'm your friend; you shouldn't be afraid to tell me about your joy. But please do appreciate the blessing you've been given and know how lucky you are, especially if it happened without a struggle. And please do understand if all I can manage is, "I'm so happy for you," before my eyes fill with tears and my throat clenches up. I am happy for you, truly. It's just hard.

Please do invite me to your baby shower (or Christening, or child's birthday party, etc) if you would normally invite me; I would love to know you were thinking of me and would hate to find out about it and feel excluded. But please don't be upset if I decline to come, and please don't try to cajole me into attending.

Please do remember that I'm still me; I still love to read and make art and eat carbs and take photos, and I still dislike licorice, inconsiderate people, sports on TV, and "angry" music. I still prefer smaller gatherings and intimate conversations to large parties and being the center of attention. My favorite chocolate is still dark with chili peppers and cinnamon, and if given the choice between a bowl of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy or a piece of almost any dessert, I'd still choose the mashed potatoes every time. I still love organizing and I still hate cleaning. I still long to be graceful and I still run into the foot-board and door frames all the freakin' time. I'm still me. I'm just me who wants to have a baby and hasn't yet, and that's changed me in some ways, yes. Infertility is a part of me; it's not all of me.

Please do give us whatever love, support, compassion, understanding, and sensitivity you can, now and throughout this process.

I set my burden down. Here it is.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Project 365, Weeks 9 & 10

As always, click on the photos to see them larger and read the journaling.

Thanks for looking!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Favorite {Photo} Friday--Cheese Makes Everything Better

It's been a rough week. Tonight I got to go hang out with some girlfriends and eat ridiculous amounts of fancy cheese and drink some wine, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Thanks, ladies, for helping me process some things, and for listening, and for being my friends. :)