Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage…right? Well, not quite, at least not in this life that is a soap opera. I got the love and marriage part perfect…although maybe a little later than I would have liked in my thirties. From there the story takes a number of extraordinary twists that I never saw coming – infertility, specialists, tests and treatments, the news we can’t get pregnant on our own, my parents separation, my father’s admission of being gay, the pursuit for adoption…with our family story seemingly climaxing with the newest twist of a possible pregnancy through the embryo donation of a friend of a friend.

Seriously, does all of that even seem possible for one person to go through in a couple of years? And aside from love and marriage piece, can you believe that most of the heavy stuff has taken place in the last 1-2 years. Don’t even get me started on the drama I have experienced professionally with a crumbling industry and economy….that’s a whole other saga.

Now, I am not one to wallow in my hardships…I get up most mornings with a smile on my face and a positive outlook. But my husband and I are often in awe about life. All of these twists and turns don’t even feel real…it feels like someone else’s story (but it most certainly isn’t…you can’t make this sh$t up!). When I do take a minute or two to look back it feels more like a way to keep track of everything and then pat myself on the back, smile and say “WAY TO GO!”

Coming through all this I learned a few key lessons:

1) Keep moving forward…put one foot in front of the other day after day and you will get through it. I have had days where I have been a little stuck, a little down or on the verge of tears, but in order to survive and thrive it really was about moving forward even if it hurt. The next day got a bit easier and then the one after that a little easier than the last too. Always find that way to move forward.

2) Find Outlets – for me it was my husband, my close friends, this blog (thank god I started this blog!) and of course, therapists. There is ZERO shame in going to someone for a little help. Professionals help us navigate the most trying of times and they don’t judge. I even learned through the adoption home study process that it was more of a positive than a negative to seek professional help because it showed you knew how to manage difficult situations in your life. I would be naïve to think that I will only deal with one or two difficult situations in the span of a lifetime. We all need all the help we can get!

3) Everyone is Dealing with Something – as much as we may think we are alone or the only one struggling. I truly believe that every human being on this planet is walking around dealing with something. Not everyone may share their struggles with you, but they are there. Despite what Facebook or Instagram might show…everyone has rocks in the baggage they are carrying around.

Now, I could get stuck if I continue to look backward. But, as my self-help book “The Power of Now” explains the freedom is in the present moment. We are not our past and we are not our perceived future…we are who we are right now. And right now, I am on a business trip sipping a nice glass of wine in a fancy hotel lounge in a beautiful city and the truth is – life is good.

Strange

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Fear of Failure…

The other day when I wrote this, I had a lump in my throat and tears just about at the surface. These feelings are super raw and uncomfortable. I know they are not the best thoughts to have, they don’t represent the best in me…but I feel I need to acknowledge that they are there and share them. I don’t want to ignore them. I feel like I ignored them the last time we did a treatment. As you read this…please bear with me, this post is a little darker than most I do, but I don’t want to think about rosier topics just yet either…I feel like I need to sit with these feelings, no matter how ugly they are, so that I can move past them.

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I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of getting excited and being blindly hopeful and then failing. If things don’t work with the upcoming transfer, I am afraid of the hurt on the other side. I want to protect myself and remember that the odds are slim for success and that I have failed before. Despite all this fear, I am still willing to risk the pain and grief, because I know that there is hope and it might work.

As much as I want to protect myself, I also desperately want to protect those who are on this ride with me. I am afraid another failure will hurt others.

There is my husband…when I am in pain, he is in pain. Sometimes he knows what to do, but other times I can see he is lost. I hate it when he feels lost. As much as I want to protect him, I know I can’t…this is as much his journey as it is mine. He signed up for this with me, he is there for every step…so deep down I sort of feel less concern for him because he is a part of me and this is his story too.

With my mother, I desperately want to protect her from more pain, but I also want to give her hope. I know it pains her to watch me struggle with infertility the way she did 30 years ago. When I talk to her about it, I can see that the pain of infertility rears its ugly head… and it’s not just through me but others in her life too (co-workers, friends). There is also the pain I know she carries with regard to her separation from my father late last year. There is a lot of confusion, vulnerability and feelings of embarrassment when your partner leaves after 40 years of marriage and tells everyone their gay. She is a strong woman, but she doesn’t deserve to go through any of this. She deals with everything like a true warrior, but I know every day she is working through so much angst and confusion already. I am excited that I can give her the hope of a grandchild and a happier future. On the flip side, I hate the idea of her getting excited and then experiencing the crash on the other side with me. Like my husband, I know that when I am in pain, my mom is in pain too.

I also want to protect the couple who are giving us their embryos. It might seem strange, but we know the couple who is donating their embryos to us. We were introduced through mutual friends and are now in the process of building a relationship with them. They see their frozen embryos as a child for us already. They have beautiful twin daughters from an IVF treatment six years ago. For some reason I tell myself that they have forgotten how much it hurts to fail…even though I know they did before their daughters came along. I am afraid that I will be the one that fails them and reminds them of the pain. I fear that my ugly thoughts will stand in the way of implantation – self sabotage. How can I do that to them? I know that our pain, will be their pain.

I also want to protect my friends. Some of my supportive circle has walked with me through all my pain for almost four years. I hate that I think everyone feels sorry for me. I love that everyone gets excited and hopeful at the thought that our baby dreams might come true. But how can I possibly let them all down again? It is so embarrassing every time. It was so easy for them…they planned and executed. They all have several little ones running around now and I am still at square one. It feels like everyone else in the class graduated, but I can’t pass kindergarten *sigh*.

Then there is the rest of our family…my dad and brother and my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my father-in-law and his wife. They are a little more removed, mainly by distance…but I know they hold their breath and hope when we tell them we are trying again, especially with it being something new. I hate that they see us struggle. I know they feel our hurt too.

The reality is that I don’t want anyone to see me struggle – physically or emotionally. And this thought isn’t just with infertility…it is with everything in my life, all my life. It hurts my ego to be flailing around and feeling like a spectacle on display. I am competitive and failing is losing. But then there is this other thought that popped into my head the other day…I think my ego feeds off people’s sympathy in some sick narcissistic way. My infertility story sometimes gets all the attention and empathy of others and I think my ego likes the attention. My life was pretty ordinary, now it isn’t…I get to go to special doctors, try different treatments than most, and I get to take special drugs. It’s crazy….I don’t want to experience any of it, but on the other hand my ego is like some sick psychopathic killer that thrives off of failure. Maybe my biggest problem isn’t my fear of failure…but my ego…perhaps it’s standing in my way to motherhood?

Fear

“You’re so lucky!”

This is a bit of a rant from a few weekends ago. You see, I found myself dumbfounded as a couple of fertile friends-of-friends told me and my husband how lucky we were to not have children. Seriously?

I had to bite my tongue. I desperately wanted to lash out in that moment…but I couldn’t. 2378464240399864090ron44aycI wrestled with whether I should make some snide sarcastic comment. The words even sat on the tip of my tongue ready to be flung…but I held it in and let the pit in my stomach grow instead.

I am pretty open with our journey with friends…so no one in my immediate circle would be so foolish as to say something like this. But, on Saturday I was reminded that there are lots of people out there who just don’t think; infertility is a foreign concept.

Saturday was supposed to be this super fun night out with a larger group of people taking in a pro-sports event. The evening included dinner before and drinks after. It was the type of event/outing I would have been all over five years ago before I was married. Needless to say, I was excited to go out and enjoy a few drinks on the town. It has been three years since I was able to say yes to something like this where I wasn’t in the middle of drugs or treatment plans. My spirits were up and my guard was down.

For the most part the night was fun, but there was this foolish/awkward moment towards the end of dinner when we were mingling with a few couples we had just met. As expected, the question of kids came up, “Do you have any kids?” and I replied with my well-rehearsed response “No, not at this point.” One of the two ladies said, “What, no kids? Oh my god…you are sooo lucky!” I awkwardly half smiled, while the wheels in my head went into overdrive.

Based on the expression on my face I expected the commentary to stop (I am sure the words “F*#k OFF!” were tattooed on my forehead), instead the second woman didn’t miss a beat and jumped in too, “No really, you have no idea how envious we are of you guys right now.”  From there they both proceeded to reminisce about the days of sleeping in and no kid commitments. The icing on the cake was that one of them even had her new baby sleeping in the car seat beside her.

As they chatted all I could think was, is this really happening? Do they have any idea what they are saying? My rational-self stepped in at this point and reassured me to calm down (they just don’t realize). In the moment I attempted to stay present, but my irrational-self started thinking of all the sarcastic come backs I could puke on to the table:

“Yes, our fertility doctor would think we were lucky too…or rather I should say his bank account is.”

“Yes, it’s so much fun going through 3 IUI’s and 2 IVF’s and taking clomid. Good times!”

“Yes, 37 consecutive failed attempts is a real blast….sleeping in so much better!”

Endless dark comments sat on the tip of my tongue…but in the end my rational-self  responded and said, “Oh, you have no idea” as I looked at my husband. He gave me an all knowing reassuring smile that immediately grounded me and gave my heart a warm hug.  Thankfully from there the subject changed as we had to leave for the game.

As we walked to the stadium, I could feel the pit in the my stomach and a bit of the shine of the night wearing off. Dammit! The monkey on my back was now coming to the game too. I didn’t do it intentionally, but I avoided those two girls for the rest of the night. I sat beside my best friend and told her what had happened. She was empathetic and decided the cure was another beer, which I agreed. I stuck with her for the rest of the night and picked my spirits up by sharing the news about our Embryo Donation opportunity.

The next day as I nursed my hang-over I questioned if I should have said something. I feel like people need to be educated, but I also know that I did the right thing by doing nothing in that particular moment.  It was foolish of both of them and I need to pick my battles and surroundings. I don’t want to be a ‘debbie downer’ or morph myself into a person others need to tip toe around.

There’s no doubt, they were being extremely foolish. If I had responded to them, I would have made them feel even more foolish and made the moment heavier for everyone in the conversation. I am no martyr, but understanding the impact of my words is more important to my spirit than an awkward moment.

I know in my heart that if the circumstances were different…a casual coffee or a more intimate setting…I would have politely corrected and educated them so that they would have realized, they were the lucky ones.

 

2016: A Year to Learn to Let Go

I am a “Type A “personality. For the majority of my life, I thrived on control. Control of my education, career, and life successes. I choose everything that happened for me. If something was a stretch, I simply worked harder to get it and I always did. Infertility was the first thing I ever dealt with where I truly found myself out of control. No amount of work, money or energy was able to change the situation. And trust me, I/we tried everything.

As we first stepped into the journey of adoption, a book was handed to me by a fellow waiting adoptive parent – “Adopting after Infertility” by Patricia Johnston. It was written in the 90’s and was a little dated, but for the most part it talked about what to expect when pursuing adoption – a solid read. At the beginning, the author spends a portion of the book talking about coming to terms with the losses of infertility before moving forward with adoption. The author even suggests doing a little exercise to gauge where you are today to help determine if adoption is the right choice for you. It was a simple exercise of the heart that helped me to identify what mattered.

Johnston explains that to embrace adoption, a couple needs to move on from infertility by reflecting on a series of losses: a loss of genetic continuity, a loss of a physical pregnancy, a loss of emotional pregnancy, a loss of becoming a parent, and a loss of control. In her exercise she asks the reader to identify, in order of importance, the losses that most impact your life. Depending on your answers, it can lead you to help determine if adoption is a good choice for you.

I was surprised as I reflected on the list of losses and I honestly put them in order of most important. In my world, the loss of never becoming a parent was number one. Number five was genetic continuity. Number three and four were the losses of experiencing pregnancy. What shocked me was what fell as my number two selection – the loss of control. Of course I wanted to be pregnant and have genetic continuity with my husband…but I come from an adoptive family and I know first-hand that genetics and pregnancy are not necessary to having a family. My light bulb moment came about as I realized that what really pissed me off after potentially losing the opportunity to be a parent was that I couldn’t control the situation. In reflection, the loss of experiencing pregnancy and genetic continuity was minor in my heart. Talk about a moment that provided a deeper level of understanding for myself that clearly pointed the way for us and the choice of adoption.

As the rest of 2015 unfolded – on top of infertility – I dealt with a myriad of uncontrollable factors in my life. My flourishing career in Marketing and Communications was hitting a mid-life crisis due to a contracting economy and industry. I had to accept a 20% wage rollback, a suspension of pension contributions and had to say goodbye (AKA layoff) my little team of two. If that wasn’t enough, I am now dealing with the disintegration of my parent’s 40 year marriage and my father’s announcement that he is gay. Yep, you read that right…just call me Kim Kardashian.

So, as I step into 2016 and I think of what I want the next year to be. I have decided that this next year needs to be a further exercise in learning to let go and be fine with what happens. I realize that so much of what I want right now is out of my control. There are steps I can take to help guide my future…but in the end life is this crazy ride and I do not have control of the steering wheel. I can choose to laugh, cry or scream as the ride continues…but what comes next isn’t necessarily something that I can predict. I can lean into or against the turns and most importantly, I can hope. I might feel like I am in control sometimes, but ultimately I need to let the outcomes unfold as the universe means for them to unfold.

letting-go-is-hard

I know that in the next year there will be lots of surprises and that I can handle anything that lies beyond the next curve. My objective in 2016 is to learn to let go and enjoy the ride. I have faith that I will get everything I desire in my life…I just won’t necessarily know the timeline or the path I am going to take and that’s alright because I know in the end everything will be alright.

Mum’s the word…

Or rather, why has this blog been so quiet lately? To be honest, it started as just a little break until we did our adoption seminar and then it turned into an all-out hiatus. Here is a little recap of the last few months:sbTherapy

October

I consider October the month of pulling myself back together. We worked through our grief of the failed 2nd IVF and the news of our poor egg quality. As hard as it was to hear that our IVF treatment journey was at an end, I did get a lot of peace in knowing what the problem was for us and that we didn’t continue to fall into an “unexplained” category. To help rebuild our spirit, we looked ahead to the adoption seminar and pulled together all the bits and pieces of the adoption application with the goal to be ready to submit the week after the seminar.

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I wish I was Naive!

This past weekend we attended a wedding….and like any engaged couple, in their mid-thirties, this couple was excited to start their lives together and hopefully their family. Just marriedNow, if you are or have been married, you know that every wedding throws you back to your own and for a minute you too share in that naïve newlywed feeling again.

[Now as a precursor to the rest of this post, please keep in mind that I am several days into IVF injections…so I am a particularly jacked up hormonal mess of a woman with a small litter of follicles growing in my super-sized ovaries.]  

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IVF #2: Full Circle…

Does anyone else ever question how they ended up on this journey? It’s a complicated, layered and loaded question I have asked myself many times. I have spent countless moments wondering “what” has brought me down this path.

Because I live in the “unexplained” infertility world…I don’t have a clue as to what is at the root of our struggle. The funny thing this morning though, as I took my first spritz of Suprefact (nasal spray) to suppress my reproductive system to prepare for IVF#2…I wondered if I had come full circle to the root of the problem. nasal_spray_bottle

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Lessons from Food Poisoning

The last weekend in June was set to be one of those ultimate summer weekends with good friends, good weather and good times. Instead I was sidelined to the couch with a nasty bout of food poisoning that still has me struggling to find my regular self.

Now, I have a love for sushi….wait, stop, correction…I [had] a love for sushi. For my husband sushi is low on his list of go-to’s…so it is an ultimate treat when he willingly suggests a trip to my favourite restaurant. It’s my regular haunt…everything tasted fine; in hindsight eerily we were the only 2 people in the place and the temperature was extraordinarily warm. But then our city was in the middle of a heat wave so everything was a little extra warm those days.

Food Poisoning

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Vacationing with Elephants

So my husband and I are travelling; a week’s worth of visiting his family and friends on the other side of the country from our day to day. Everyone is happy to see us and is setting aside their regular day to day routines to fit in a visit, dinner or a golf game. On top of it all, the weather is hot and humid and perfect for making us feel like we shouldn’t be doing anything other than sitting with a cold beer on a patio or a golf cart. Summer is officially here!

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