Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The space between

The cursor has been blinking back at me all morning. Despite the mountain of work I have to do, the words fail to flow and efforts to chip away at the walls seem quickly to be undone.

It doesn't help that my body is tired, causing my brain to feel foggy and heavy. Filled to the brim with no way to drain. And yet, drain it must. Drain in order to be filled again, with ideas and plans modified so as to continue striving for an ever-moving end goal.

Next week I begin my last round of lectures. For the most part, the slides are done and I have an idea of what I want to talk about (one lecture slide needs to be finished and the paper read). But I'm struggling to get the motivation to do this last round of polishing. Of getting my act together enough to make sure I bring my "A" game to lecture. Part of it is normal: polishing too far in advance means I'm overcooked when its time to present. But the other part is that after these lectures, my obligations are technically over, leaving me free to put my energy into building these new opportunities and pushing for changed.

Easier said than done given that nothing is solidified and pushing on things seems not to have had much of an effect.

This space between is mentally trying. The remembering that what I'm leaving behind, though it has served me well, no longer fits. Even though there's still this primal drive to go back to what would be comfortable. To climb back into the nest instead of braving the fall.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How infertility kills

Like many, I have folders on my computer filled with photos. There's wedding photos that have been digitized, hiking/camping/rock climbing photos from youthful adventures, photos from trips and vacations and family photos, including separate folders specified for the Beats and Jaxson & Daisy.

But there's also a folder I rarely look at; one that contains photos of myself during my time in the trenches. This folder is much thinner than the others, reflecting a period were I avoided the camera at all costs. The photos that are there are an emotional trigger as the version of me looking back is zombie-like: The forced smiles, the glassy eyes, the visible pain. It's clear something is very wrong.

A common theme that echos through society is that infertility, unlike other diseases (cancer being the go-to one for many making this argument) doesn't kill. When looking for support, many who are infertility-naive will immediately point out this "fact" that the infertile should be counting their blessings as they aren't dying and hence should really shut-up. But there are two things that aren't considered by the people making this STFU argument. First is most aren't actively dying and usually have no direct experience with death outside of the pending fear they have on the topic. But the second, which is far more potent, is that there are many forms of death with grief and trauma being a very formidable one.

BnB and Mali had separate posts talking about moving on from infertility as a form of survival, with BnB having a similar observation about self photographs following her infertility diagnosis. The death that comes from a life planned and hoped with expanding one's family for isn't something that can simply be covered up but is instead physically manifested. And hence the conclusion that infertility doesn't kill is actually dead wrong.

The memory of my time in the trenches, where I felt completely detached from the world and was instead living in a gray-toned, muted Elseworlds is still painful. There were moments were I wondered how long I could go on living that way. Hence why Mali's call for choosing to survive, stepping outside the comfort zone to find a way is so important and it's was a choice I remember making even when our path to resolution wasn't clear.

But part of this focus on survivorship that Mali and BnB make a wonderful case for is also changing the conversation about what infertility is. That it actually is death, killing dreams, hopes and promises for a chapter of our lives. That infertility and RPL actually do kill. And that telling an infertile to "get over it" is just as terrible as saying this to a cancer patient.

Because death comes in many forms. All of them terrible and live changing for the survivors.

Monday, October 16, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: For worse, for better

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

The phone number popped into my head unexpectedly; one that I hadn't thought about in 15 years. A quick internet search confirmed what I suspected: it belonged to a guy (nicknamed "Mr. Wonderful") I had been casually seeing prior to Grey. That lead me down a rabbit hole I hadn't allowed myself to think about for years, ultimately ending with me finding his Facebook page where there was a photo of Mr. Wonderful with two small children. 

Years ago, a woman on a TTC forum I belong to posted a long rant about finding out her ex was getting married. Despite the fact she had a loving husband, a beautiful son and was unexpectedly pregnant with her second (no fertility issues what so ever), she lamented the news that this ex was building a life without her. I remember seeing red upon reading her post, positively angry that someone who had easily achieved the life I was breaking myself over was seemingly pining over an alternative.

As my time in the trenches went on, I would begin tormenting myself with thinking about Grey leaving me, building a life we both desperately wanted with someone else. I had many an ugly cry with those images of him with two small children, thinking of the woman who would help him complete this happy family.

But despite how hard I pushed him away, Grey stayed. Granted we had some help from David and Dee, but the reality is he also made a choice to not give up on the family we already had

Basic Protestant Wedding vows contain a well-known verse of "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health," and yet when asked about the moments of love most people will focus on the for better parts: the happy memories or the richness of life. But what we fail to grasp is that it's the worse parts of life, the hard moments, that truly test love and solidity of relationships. With infertility you get that in spades: the scary RE appointments, the shots in the ass, the tears following someone else's pregnancy announcement, the dark ultrasound rooms where the tech can't find a heartbeat, the negative tests, the pain and even the moments where you wonder if you'll ever find your way out of the darkness. It's in those for worse moments that love is tested and were many find themselves abandoned by those they thought loved them. But there's also the ones that continue to stand beside us, being our rocks, grieving with us, helping us crawl our way out of the darkness and back into the light.

Looking at that photo of Mr. Wonderful with his children, I literally felt the same passing feelings I would feel for a stranger. My he have a happy life. But when I opened up a photo gallery of Grey, containing all the photos we have together through our time together, particularly from our time in the trenches, my heart soared. Because despite the darkness, the hard, the uncertainty and the pain, this is someone who chose to fight with me, to stand by me at all costs. 

For worse, for better. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Love and light

It started in the most innocent of manners. The Beats asked to see the box I keep on top of my dresser, filled with memories from their time in NICU and from before. Their bracelets, the smallest blood-pressure cuffs one can imagine, onies marked size "P" which barely fit She-Beat's doll and the pictures of them from the ultrasound scans.

It was as we were looking through the pictures we came the ones of them as embryos. Of the Beats from Jan 2, 2013, but also of the first one: The one of them all together.

Today is October 15th: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. Part of October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Tonight at 7 pm is the Wave of Light. There was a time in the ALI community where this night would be filled with posts, remember those precious children we lost too soon. Today it seems quiet. Or maybe it's just quiet in my corner.

Still, today I've been remembering. Allowing myself to feel that sadness that once consumed my every waking minute. And tonight Grey and I will once again light candles in remembrance of our precious 7 we didn't get to hold. In remembrance of those babies our friends lost too soon.

Sending love out to this community tonight. May you all feel wrapped in love and light

Friday, October 13, 2017

Golden Afternoon

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill
By little armed are plied,
While little hands make vain pretense
Our wanderings to guide.

~Excerpt from "All In The Golden Afternoon" by Lewis Carol

Thursday, October 12, 2017


About 4 months ago, I left my keys at work. I realized what I had done after I arrived at the Beats's daycare to pick them up. In a panic, I quickly realized that the only option I had was to take the Beats with me on the bus, commuting back onto campus to go retrieve them. The whole time hoping my coworker was still in the office so I wouldn't have to track down security.

It was a mess of a situation. The bus ride was abnormally long due to traffic, the walk across campus was compounded by rain and He-Beat, in the excitement of the situation, failed to tell me he had to pee resulting in him having an accident and I didn't have a change of clothes. By the time we all got home (thankfully Grey modified his commute to meet up with me on campus so we could brave the packed bus back together), it was very late, we were all soaked to the bone and I was sorely in need of some wine.

But apparently that opinion of misery wasn't shared. Since the key incident, both Beats have announced "we need to go get Momma's keys!!" on almost a weekly basis. Between the bus ride, the new people, new place and meeting up with Grey in a way they normally don't, the whole situation was a grand adventure that must be repeated.

I've been thinking about moments like tis more and more given recent conversations I've been having with people in all aspects of my life. Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague and dear friend who is in the lecturing circuit and frustrated by the lack of opportunity available to her (despite her amazing evaluations and skill set). She asked how I was doing and proceeded to tell me she was impressed how calmly I was handling my transition. Later I got feedback from a student about how put together and on top of things I seemed. The final bit was two separate emails from advisors on a project I'm trying to get off the ground. They both read through a concept paper I had put together and were apparently very impressed by this first draft, wanting to talk about edits and next steps all while commenting that I really seemed to have a clear direction forward.

It's odd to think that for those not privy to my head space, things can look downright rosy and exciting at the moment. Sure there's planning with me spending far more time in front of a computer than I care for combined with uncertainty about the future, but there's also new things happening that weren't even a consideration a couple of months ago. It's just a matter of which filter you choose to look through when assessing all of this.

All of this got me thinking all the more about we, as humans, see people in our daily lives; the images we project, whether consciously or unconsciously, for the world to take in. It still amazes me that people can a comfortable living off of this projection, using social media as a medium for promoting their own brand. The power that's there is really impressive, but what we tend to forget is that these perceptions are always through a filter of some degree. And there's the additional level of what we as individuals bring into the experience that can impact that filter.

Though logically all of this makes sense, what has been a bit of a shock is thinking about how those outside looking in would see me in the world. That though I have an imagine of who I am and how I fit into the grand scheme of things, others likely have a different perspective. I've been getting a taste of this with some recent experiences with the Beats. From swimming lessons, where other parents have commented about how fearless they both are about getting in the water (all while I'm watching, concerned they are overly wild), to a comment yesterday at the park where as the Beats were wrestling with one another on the ground while giggling uncontrollably and someone commented that it must be nice that they liked one another and wanted to play together, pointing to her children where one clearly didn't want the other around.

But I've also thought about it with this space and what I write her, with the filter being applied no matter what I say or do. How the things I see as hard or wonderful or even life-changing others see differently. How that can be isolating when there's this lack of understanding, but also freeing too. Because sometimes the answers we seek come from viewing the problem differently, but other times it's a matter of trusting your gut, following the road forward that makes the most sense to you. Even if it doesn't to everyone else.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The "I'll never"s

Bargaining is something you do a lot of when you're facing trauma. It's part of the grieving process, with our minds trying to find a way out of the situation we are facing and its a normal, healthy survival strategy in order to avoid pain. Like many, I did a lot of bargaining while in the infertility trenches. From modifying my diet and incorporating "healthy" lifestyle changes to promising to reform all aspects of my life, I made a lot of statements and promises about how life would be one day when I was no longer in the trenches.

One of the most profound things I did was make promises about the type of parent I would be. Part of this came from the bargaining, but the other part was also from a deep-seated fear I had about not being worthy due to how I was raised. It's a hard thing to explain to those who have good relationships with their parents, but given the trauma that came from my childhood (and how I behaved as part of it), I also was coming from a place where I didn't want to revisit that trauma on any child. Hence I promised to be a model parent, as if somehow proving my worth to even be given the opportunity.

There's a problem with such bargaining, though. We see these models of how things should be, but fail to grasp or understand that bottling it all up to be picture perfect can actually be just as damaging. For me, this has been particularly difficult both due to me being a people pleaser but also due to me not knowing how to manage angry in a healthy manner.

All of this got tested yesterday. After a emotionally trying morning with She-Beat's assessment (she did awesome; me: not-so-much) followed by a hard drop-off at daycare, the Beats were both wired. The effort to burn off some of this energy quickly went south at the playground and quiet time at home ended even faster when I discovered they both had scaled by dresser, using the air conditioning unit next to the window to aid in this endeavor.

But the straw that broke this camel's back was finding them both in the bathroom later, covered head-to-toe in a Shea Butter ointment I use on dry skin, having emptied the entire container  and clogging the bathroom sink in their exploration and attempt to clean-up.

It is safe to say it's the maddest I've ever been at both of them.

Through deep breathing, I somehow managed to strip them both and got them into the tub to be scrubbed and degreased. But I wasn't the kindest I could have been in that moment and 10 minutes later, Grey would come home to find both Beats in their room with both of them looking pretty upset having been sent to bed without having had dinner and me in the bathroom, swearing under my breath as I declogged the sink.

I didn't sleep well last night after the episode, even though Grey made sure both kids got dinner and were made aware that their misbehavior wasn't okay, but we loved them just the same. A big part of it was the guilt I faced as I could literally see the 2012 Cristy, with all the "I'll never"s that I swore up and down not to do staring me in the face.

Because here's the thing about infertility and the side effect of all the platitudes people feel inclined to give: you start believe there's a reason that you cannot get pregnant or carry a child to term. The "it wasn't meant to be" translates into "because you would be an awful parent." So in an attempt to overcome it, to prove it all wrong, you bargain in a way that those gifted with fertility fail to grasp.

I know what you're going to say. The questions like "why are you beating yourself up?" or statements of "you're being unreasonable." Truly, my logical brain gets it. But that's the thing about "I'll never"s. The aftermath of infertility or any other trauma, with those platitudes always seeping through.
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