Microblog Monday: Stress

August 15, 2016

Hello Old Friends. I’m back, if only briefly.

Apparently motherhood agrees with me. Or rather, unburdening stress agrees with me.

Recently I’ve been told I look younger(!), thinner (the scale disagrees but I’ll take it), and generally happier and calmer. All this despite a major move, Right Guy being out of work and our little family currently shacking up with MIL and BIL. There is so much uncertainty in our lives right now people are amazed at how well I *appear* to be handling it.

The surprise seems to come mostly from non-IF friends – even from those close to me who know the whole story. They know how much we’ve been through and how long we’ve been waiting for 2 to become 3. Yet somehow they still expected motherhood to turn me into a chronic complainer. Yes, there are trying moments. But the level of stress required to care for this tiny human is far, far less than the level of stress I was under for the SIX YEARS (and 3 surgeries) I spent trying to acquire said tiny human.

So…major move, unemployment with a new baby and living with in-laws is apparently NOTHING compared to the prolonged stress of infertility and the adoption process. This is not all that surprising to me. But how do we make others understand what infertility does to you?

In honor of Easter I thought the blog could use some resurrecting. So, welcome back. This is the Zombie version of Fox In The Henhouse. 😉 I always said I didn’t want to write an adoption blog. So I didn’t. I’m unsure whether I will continue to blog in this space – or at all. But today I’ve got something to say. And I’m hungry. #brainz #nom

zombie fox

image links to source

I’ve been “parenting” now for a hot minute. We have a daughter now – or almost. It’s not quite legal yet. But I’ve been hanging out with this kid for a few months now and I definitely consider her my kid. I use “parenting” with quotation marks because there’s not a lot of advanced thinking needed to care for a new baby. Hungry? Feed her. Wet/Poopy? Change the diaper. Crying? Hold, bounce, offer binky, sing. There’s not much more to it than that right now. At this point she is training US, not the other way around.

Given that, I feel a little weird chiming in about PAIL (Parenting After Infertility and/or Loss). Also, the wee kit came quite early and we’re not really allowed to take her out much. So I have yet to experience the torrent of inevitable questions and comments from those assuming I birthed her. But they have already happened on our few outings.

On hearing that she was born 14 weeks early (and that’s she doing great)…”But how are YOU doing?”

Me, I’m fine. I didn’t birth her. I am not recovering physically. Or emotionally. I am not suffering any guilt for my body failing me by giving birth early (not that you should, I just hear that lots of Moms do). In fact, if anything, it makes me feel a bit better that I didn’t birth her because surely my body would’ve wreaked far worse havoc on her. I think I’ve proven that. More than once.

This made our time in the NICU quite different as well. Despite having spent a good 6 weeks in the NICU with her I don’t identify with most NICU parents either. By the time I met her, she was known as the Rockstar of the NICU and mostly out of danger. So I didn’t experience the fear (much) or guilt that most NICU Moms seem to experience. So this whole preemie/NICU Mom bonding experience isn’t gonna work well for me. And that’s fine. But the topic is gonna come up. A lot. So my parenting experience will continue to be different from most of the other mothers at the playground. [Someone suggested that infertility would not color your parenting experience long term.]

But that’s not what I’m here to write about.

So what am I here to write about? [Just get to the point, Fox.] A topic of much discussion on the Twitters lately. Does the pain of infertility go away once you become a parent?

Again, I’ve been “parenting” for a hot minute so if I were you, I’d take anything I say with a big fat grain of salt. Preferably gourmet sea salt if you’ve got it. [Seriously, can someone bring me dinner?]

The answer to this question may lie in your personal experience. This is not about the Pain Olympics (i.e who had it worse) but the fact is, the more you’ve been through on your quest to acquire a tiny human, the deeper your scars may be, and the harder they may be to overcome. Or maybe you are just resilient as hell (good for you!).

If you are in that camp of feeling super-awesome-great-I’m-completely-over-my-infertility then I applaud you. Really. No sarcasm, I mean that sincerely. But please don’t look down on others or dismiss their feelings because their experience is different. Please don’t assume that your experience is the same, or even similar, as everyone else’s.

This may not be the best analogy but I think it works. If you served in the armed forces but never saw combat, would you expect to feel the same as those who were in combat because you both served? Sure, you’re both vets and worthy of the title and respect that comes with it. But only one of you likely has PTSD. A lot of us in the infertility community have experienced at least some level of PTSD. And that makes things a little more complicated. Not better or worse, just more…complex. It makes it more likely that we will carry this scar with us longer. Or forever. And that is totally OK. And if you don’t feel like the Infertile label works for you anymore that’s great. But please don’t continue being a voice of the infertility community if you no longer identify as such.

For my part…I do feel better. I had my first birthday in a looong time recently where I DIDN’T feel absolutely shitty. I felt pretty damn spectacular holding my wee one. That’s what parenthood does for infertility – it takes away that horrible pang of Will I EVER be a parent? But that’s all it does for many of us. I still have the emotional scars. I still have the physical scars from 3 surgeries. I’m still missing a few organs. [Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing them, Bob.] I still live with a chronic illness. Parenthood can’t take away any of that. I still wonder what our bio kid would’ve looked like. Adoption doesn’t make that go away either. No matter how adorable my kid is (she is super adorable and I couldn’t love her more).

In the future, we will be faced with whether or not to go through all this all over again if we want another child. Because infertility robbed us of the choice to just have however many kids we want. Again, parenthood doesn’t solve that. Having one child (or several at once) may, or may not, make your family feel complete. If it doesn’t, you may choose to not go through it all again for more kids even if you desperately want them. And that’s one more loss to grieve. Or maybe you are fortunate enough – both emotionally and financially – to do it again. That also comes with a few pitfalls and trapdoors and potential heartache. Being a parent doesn’t prevent any of that.

I guess, in short, I view this all as a process. I personally don’t think it ends. Certainly it won’t for me. It is a grieving process – it may get better over time (and generally does) but it will also suck monumentally at random moments along the way. Usually when you least expect it. That’s how it works for my grief over losing Pops.

So yeah, my kid makes me feel awesome. Even when she’s screaming her damn head off. Well, I feel horrible for her when she does that but I feel awesome that I’m the one who gets to try and soothe her. I also feel awesome when I get to listen to Right Guy sing to her to calm her down, like he’s doing right now. But she doesn’t heal my scars. She definitely doesn’t grow me new organs. And she doesn’t make my health magically better.

So yeah, it gets better. But it still also sucks. Humans are complicated like that.

Conflicting Emotions

Every year I write a post for National Infertility Awareness Week. Here are posts from the past: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

Whew. I’ve been at this a good long while.

Somewhere along the way Resolve started adding themes for bloggers to write about. This year it is You Are Not Alone.

Let’s say that again: YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

But I know you feel alone. Even if you know you’re not.

And instead of me trying to articulate why we all feel alone despite knowing that we are not, I am going to turn you over to some other bloggers who have already expressed it.

Jay, aka The Two Week Wait, sums it up nicely here: You Are Not Alone…Even Thought It Sometimes Feels That Way.

As does Angela, aka Rad Kitten, in her post: You Are Not Alone.

And Jess over at It’s Just A Box of Rain in her post: My life raft #NIAW.

And then there’s Jen who wrote: NIAW: You Are Not Alone. Then Why Am I So Lonely?

And one last one, a blog I just discovered because of NIAW, titled waiting for baby bird wrote this post that totally made me cry: You Are Not Alone: Flying Together with Broken Wings.

See the theme yet?

There are two.

One is simply to let others know that YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE. To all those suffering in silence that if you can find the courage to talk about it and find your tribe it will get a little easier.

But the other theme I see in all these posts is a bit darker. For those of us who do talk about it. For those of us who have already found our tribe. For those of us who intellectually know that we are not alone.

We still feel alone.

Every story is unique. Every path has its own debris to clear that is not exactly like the debris on someone else’s path. And every path finds its own end. Some end with a pot of gold. Others a rainbow. And some paths…just keep going.

You are not alone. But it’s OK that you feel that way.

You Need A New Doctor

March 13, 2015

So my friend Jen over at Jennifer Rutner: Infertility and Reproductive Rights Advocate has launched a new tumblr called You Need A New Doctor.

I’m not anti-doctor – I mean, I live with one – but I’ve definitely seen a few that were, um, not so stellar physicians. As George Carlin used to say, “By process of elimination, somewhere in the world is the world’s worst doctor… And someone has an appointment to see him tomorrow.”

I really hope it’s not you.

But if it was, head on over to http://youneedanewdoctor.tumblr.com/ and tell us ALL about it.

Where do I fit?

January 22, 2015

Sometimes I really struggle with my infertile identity. Not to mention integrating that identity within the rest of me. (Yes, I have a whole other life, I swear.) You might be surprised to hear that I struggle to find my place because there are so many places I can go since I’ve been around the Infertility Block many times. But here’s why:

In the land of ALL THINGS INFERTILITY (ie. General Infertility, Disease Specific Infertility, Loss of Babies & Organs) I most closely identify with other women who have had ectopic pregnancies. And yet, I often don’t fit well with them for two reasons: 1. I had a rare non-tubal ectopic pregnancy and 2. I identify more closely with abortion than miscarriage in the treatment of my two ectopic pregnancies. The latter is generally not a popular opinion so I’m unable to express it often.

The next group I most closely identify with is the hysterectomy crowd. Again, I don’t fit so well there either. Why not? Because apparently a large part of the hysterectomy experience is grieving the loss of your uterus or wrapping your mind around the fact that it was “ripped out” of you. Well…I do grieve the loss but I lost it long before it was removed. And I happily evicted it because it kept trying to kill me. See also: it wasn’t my first (or 2nd, or 3rd, or…) surgery or even my most emotional one. I’m down so many organs at this point it’s difficult to mourn the physical absence of something that never served me (appendix, fallopian tubes, uterus…). So…strike two.

I’m childless. But I intend to adopt.

I attempted surrogacy. But it failed.

I intend to adopt. But haven’t yet.

I have endometriosis. But I’ve always felt like I got off light as there are so many women with way worse symptoms than I ever had.

I’m not actively pursuing any route to parenthood at this moment.

I’m not…anything. I’m just wandering the cafeteria looking for my peeps. A bunch of them are waving me over but when I go sit with them I often end up feeling even more alone as I realize that my experience was not really their experience. I know everyone’s experience is unique but I still crave the “Me too.” And I’m lucky to have so many people saying, “Come sit by me.”

And yet, sometimes the only place I feel comfortable is alone.

mean girl alone

Maybe the real problem is that I refuse to wear pink on Wednesdays. I hate pink.

But also hate being whiny. Conundrum.

(Never Say) Never Give Up

January 9, 2015

Never give up.

This is a phrase commonly used when a person is struggling in life or fighting an illness.

Once again, this is a post that came about because of a specific event but is actually a recurring theme in the infertility world. So while the specific event led to me actually writing this post, this post is not solely about that event or an attack on that person who most recently said that phrase. There’s been enough fighting on Twitter about this already I don’t care to encourage more of it. Which is why I thought perhaps more than 140 characters were warranted on the topic. Also, please note that this post has been sitting in drafts for MONTHS. I was only reminded that it was still sitting there because of a recent post on the very same topic.

Never give up.

If you have not attained your goals this phrase is perceived as a rallying cry to spur and cheer you on. It’s meant to help you get to where you want to be. Sometimes that’s a good thing. We all need our own personal cheerleaders sometimes to help us get through trying times.

However, if you have achieved those goals, you often become the one doing the rallying and cheering, “You can do it!”

I believe this all stems from our parents teaching us that anything is possible if you just try hard enough. That hard work is always rewarded. No pain, no gain. Insert more cliches.

But guess what? None of those things is true.

Maybe *you* never gave up and things worked out for you. That’s great. If never give up is your own personal mantra I’m good with that. Keep saying it to yourself as long as it helps you.

But all too often it is the rallying cry said to others. And it’s not fair to tell someone else that s/he should never give up. Because the moral of the story is that the ending is NOT always happy. And that’s OK. That’s life. That’s real.

It’s one thing to be at the finish line telling someone who is winded and whose legs ache to never give up, she can do it, just 100 more feet and she can stop running and finish the 5k. It’s quite another to say that to a person who is asthmatic with bleeding feet and an irregular heartbeat.

But the toll of infertility and specific diagnoses are not tattooed on people’s foreheads. The spread and extent of an individual’s cancer is not usually obvious from the outside. There are countless diseases and struggles in life that are not visible just by looking at a person. So you can’t know who needs to hear never give up and who needs to hear it’s OK to stop.

Just like there are countless cliches like if at first you don’t succeed, try try again there are also quite a few of the beating a dead horse variety.

Add to that the fact that you are sitting on the other side of the finish line – A PLACE OF PRIVILEGE – saying never give up. Even if you only intended that phrase to apply to your own struggle there’s an inherent implication that it applies to everyone with issues similar to yours. You only get to utter that phrase because it worked for you (privilege). It could just as easily have been you on the wrong side of that finish line.

To illustrate my point…if you had survived cancer, would you say never give up to a person who had decided to stop treatments for his cancer? Pops did far more chemo than he should have because of this mantra. He suffered more than he should have because stopping chemo was perceived as giving up and you’re not supposed to ever give up fighting cancer. Right?

Wrong. Each person gets to decide what is right for himself in any given situation. Preferably without all the bullshit cliches compelling him to choose one option over another.

But I digress. The point is this: the phrase never give up comes from a place of privilege. People who take issue with the phrase are just asking you to check your privilege. That’s all. Acknowledge it. Acknowledge that this mantra is not for everyone instead of perpetuating the myth that it’s never OK to stop.

I feel similarly about Hope as I’ve previously written.

How Does the Fox Feel?

January 7, 2015

I’ve been having a rough time of late. I had thought it was just the New Year and its endless onslaught of articles and proclamations about this year will be better and if you just do X, Y & Z – or STOP doing X, Y & Z – then you will be happier.

Well, we’re a week out and I’m thinking it’s more than that.

I’ve been reliving my ectopic #1 hell. More or less in real time (Sep – Feb). September and October weren’t any worse than other years but it kicked into high gear in November.

I believe this is largely for two reasons:

    1. TimeHop. Yes, I know I should just delete this horrible app that is a constant reminder of the loss and grief I was suffering 4 years ago. At least once a week I get the reminder that I was going for betas All.The.Goddamn.Time. You know why that is? Because at this time 4 years ago I as going for weekly betas. At this time 4 years ago my betas were all <50. And yet I still had to go for them and STILL ended up needing more methotrexate. It was a super dark time and I could barely function. Beta didn’t reach <5 until February. So I’ve got a few more weeks of this. At this point I feel I need to see this through to February. And THEN I will delete or mute TimeHop.  But, while TimeHop is a punk ass bitch for reminding me, I don’t really need the reminder to relive it all – it happens all the time, just usually it’s more compacted and less drawn out over time. The fact is I’m just not over it. Or past it. Or even through it. I still feel broken. And occasionally, like now, fragile. That’s pronounced frah-gee-lay by the way. It’s Italian. Look it up.

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  1. The contest I judged. I think this one may be more to blame than TimeHop, honestly. I’m still processing the emotional fallout from it (I haven’t even talked to my therapist about it yet since the drama of Xmas came first and I had to cancel on her just to judge the contest in the first place). When I agreed to judge the Sher I Believe contest I knew that there was going to be someone there making a documentary and I’d need to consent (or not) to being filmed. What I *didn’t* expect was that we’d all go around and tell our respective stories in front of that camera. I seriously doubt I’ll make the cut in the final documentary since the focus of the documentary is the 2013 contest. This is just some follow up footage, the majority of which will probably not be used. I write freely here in this space about my experiences. But you can’t see me while I type. So being filmed was…new/odd/interesting/more difficult/uncomfortable? As I said wrote, I’m still processing all of this so I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it. I just know that there were several elements of judging that contest that were difficult and one of them was telling my story on camera. Although… funny story…while telling my story (I went last) I felt like it was getting too long and I somehow completely skipped over my hysterectomy and endometriosis excision and jumped straight from surrogacy (which I only glossed over) to adoption. …Aaand this is why I need to blog more. Just typing out that sentence made me realize WHY I forgot to mention the surgery. In all candidness, I did truly forget in the moment. But I think it was because the looks on the faces surrounding me were too sad. I think I wanted to spare them all the sad. I have to live it. You don’t. Seeing people react with sadness to my words made me want to stop saying them. I write here to help me process. Not for sympathy or pity. Also, I do not like being the center or focus of attention. I know everyone thinks bloggers are narcissistic assholes but really, I can’t stand it. However, here on this blog, just like you can’t see me writing, or crying as I type, I can’t see your face while you’re reading. If I could…I’d probably just shut up. I mean…why do you think I always insert a joke when things get serious? When I do tell it in person, I usually require that everyone have a drink in hand. Preferably two. And yes, buy me one too, please. Or two. It’s a double fisted drink kind of story. So yeah, telling it, in person, on camera and without drinks…? Well…that’s why I brought chocolate.

So add on top of these two triggers that Xmas was a bit stressful and drama-llama-full, New Years proclamations irk me to no end and our adoption paperwork is STILL on hold and the Fox is just a bit – OK a lot – out of sorts.

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