The Fork in Road Has Egg on It

Two weeks before my forty-(garble) birthday, Hubs and I had dinner with another couple, visiting relatives from out of town. The discussion led to family, which unavoidably veered into the subject of my BIL and his wife’s pregnancy and that crashed head-on into, “When are the two of you going to have kids of your own?”  I quietly explained our situation and mentioned our pregnancy losses.  I tried to make light of it to avoid bringing the party down.  “Old eggs,” I lamely joked.

A look of confusion crossed the face of one of our dinner companions. “You’re not old,” she replied, “You are my age, right?”  (She is in her mid-30s, so bless her.)  When I told her my age, she said, “Well, you certainly don’t look like it.”   While the thank-you was the first thing that sprang from my lips, my mind mused, “If I were your age, I’d have younger eggs.”

Last week, I found myself bristling at the onslaught of “29 again?” jokes that each birthday inevitably brings.  Every time I heard one, there was a groan deep down inside of me saying, “I wish. Twenty-nine year-old eggs would work.” 

What’s with all the egg on the brain?   Two months ago, I got the news that egg donation is the recommend course of action for me if I want to have baby. It is an option I cannot afford.  (Chalk that one down next to adoption.) 

 Every month I find myself standing at the same fork in the road.  My choices:

  • Persistence  –  Pray that there is a good egg left in there
  • Acceptance – Move on and try to find fulfillment elsewhere

Each month I’ve chosen persistence, but at the same time contemplated preparing myself for the alternative.  Like someone who is trying to quit a bad habit, I keep telling myself, “Just one more. This is the last month.  If nothing happens, we’ll stop.”  Then, I run into the same fork and am forced to make the same choice. 

However this month, my fevered, egg-obsessed mind has been searching for signs.  I am sad to say I’ve found them in the form of statistics. At my age, I have a 1-3% chance of concieving naturally. Around same odds as winning the lottery, and I imagine about the same odds of finding anything that I’m looking for in my purse on the first try. (Among those who beat the odds, one in 33 will have a fetus with a chormosomal disorder  and one in 49 will have a child with Downs syndrome.)  It’s sobering.  It’s sad.  I’m standing here – feeling bereft and broken, contemplating fairness and faith.

I always told myself that the final true road was yet to be determined; that it would either take an act of nature or an act of will, but deep, deep down I held a glimmer of hope that my persistence would be rewarded. That hopefulness has got me feeling a little foolish now.  [Insert the “egg on your face” pun here.]

Would I like a miracle to happen?  Who wouldn’t?  It is likely to?  They don’t call them miracles for nothing.  I think it’s time to head down the other path.  The road ahead is long and difficult, and the destination is not quite as concrete as the other road.  For now I’ll rest here and spend a little time with my dream.  It’s  an old friend, so I won’t rush our goodbyes.

I probably should also take this opportunity to clean out my purse.

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Haunted by Heartbreak

Have you ever visited a placed that was claimed to be haunted? Very often it is said that deceased entities will haunt places that are the source of their personal pain and suffering.  Places where traumatic, often violent, acts occurred such as prisons or old gun-slinging towns are said to be extremely haunted.  For whatever reasons, spirits are bound to these places – unable to move ahead and doomed to repeat their fates again and again.

I’m not quite sure if I believe in ghosts per se.  But I think there is something to that particular theory of haunting, because I think haunting can reside in people.  It’s not necessarily a matter of being haunted by a spirit, but by our memories.  I have a few that haunt me.  And when they do, they are vivid and visceral.

One specter is from two years ago today.  The day it was confirmed that Baby M’s heart had stopped beating.  I went to the doctor alone. Hubs was out of town for work.  I had started bleeding the night before.  I was at the doctor’s office before the doors were unlocked.  Even thinking about it brings back the rush of anxiety.  I remember the lighting inside examination room, the crinkle of paper underneath me, the unsettling quiet demeanor of the usually talkative ultrasound technician as she searched in vain for the little flicker of white light that would reassure me that everything was okay, and the sound – the ungodly guttural cry – I made when she told me she could not find it.  The room echoed with it.  It was the sound of my heart breaking.

I’m haunted by this not just on the anniversary of M’s fly-away date, but it also will revisit at the most random times: while watching a commercial that shows a mom cuddling with her toddler, listening to a pregnant woman who is standing in line front me at the coffee shop babble on about her pregnancy while ordering her decaf, or even just driving to work.  The memory shakes me.

I don’t ever want to forget, but I’m hoping that over time the memory will lose its power and the heartbreak will move on.  That it won’t hurt as much or feel as real.  But for now, my heart remains haunted.

Thankful Thursday

I’ve got a lot of thoughts brewing for prospective posts that need a bit of refinement, so I’ll take an opportunity to walk down the sunny side of the street and count a couple of blessings.  (Maybe this will become a regular thing, who knows?)

Blessing Number 1:  After many years of a self-imposed laryngitis of the soul, I’m finally getting my voice back.

Writing here and guest blogging on LWOB has been an incredibly freeing exercise. I’ve realized that when I process everything internally it ultimately skews my perception in such a way that I misread the signs of life and end up taking a wrong turn into Crazy Town. Getting things out of my head and onto paper puts some distance between me and the inner-ramblings of my mind, so I can course correct.

As one of those people who needs to time to get their thoughts together,  I have great admiration for people who can say what’s on their mind, at the proper time, and are able to do so with tact and grace. I want that presence of mind, so exploring my wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings here is helping me better articulate them in my daily life. (So, yay me!)

I am also truly touched by the responses I’ve received here and at LWOB.  Thank you for your supportive and encouraging words.  Many of you have helped me when I needed it most, so it is even more humbling to hear that something I have written has spoken to your experience or helped you in some way.  It leaves me thanking God for the courage and inspiration to share.  It’s a comfort not to feel so alone, which leads me to the next blessing.

Blessing Number 2: I’ve found wonderful communities of support both online and offline .

My upbringing was Christian, so I am trained to believe there are reasons for where we are in our lives (although I have been struggling with the validity of that belief lately). 

The one time I can undoubtedly say I was in the right place at the right time was after I lost my first husband.  When he died, I was 36 years-old. I worked at an organization where four other widowed women were among my co-workers.  Of the four, three of them had lost their husbands in their 30’s.

This was an incredible gift for me.  It was a very powerful reminder that I was not the only person to have this experience. Without their presence, I could have very easily curled up into a ball of self-pity and isolated myself from the world, thinking that nobody could possibly understand what I was going through.  Instead, the mere fact of these women –who were living, breathing proof that I wasn’t unique –left me without any excuses to needlessly hold on to the “why me’s?”  They also served as examples that this storm could be weathered.  It helped me realize that I would, eventually, move on.

Since then life has brought a more struggles, all of which have been very isolating in their own way:  stepmotherhood, pregnancy loss, and childlessness not by choice are all clubs that no one dreams of joining.  They also are not issues anyone outside the ranks of their membership wants to discuss.  Who wants to hear a women talk about the ambiguity she feels towards her husband’s children, the agony of never even getting to hold a baby she desperately wanted, or the suffering that comes with a dream unfulfilled?  It’s all very depressing stuff.

Honestly, I find that people who have never been through any of these situations are much more receptive to hearing about my first husband’s death. For whatever reason, it is easier for them to relate to that struggle over the others.  Since I am remarried, I think that maybe they feel that it is a success story.  Of course, they fail to see that the “happily-ever-after” has been bumpy and any discussion of our challenges are usually met with avoidence (miscarriage is a depressing subject), platitudes (being a stepmother is simple, just be nice and the kids will like you), or problem solving (have you considered adoption, IVF, etc?).  Is it any wonder that I’m having a hard time finding peace?

I think it goes without saying that it is difficult for women in these situations to find a place in their immediate circles where they can voice their pain and feel understood.  We live in foreign lands that are hard to comprehend unless you have been there.

I feel extremely lucky that there are communities out there that allow women discuss their struggles openly without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. There are bloggers, writers, and groups in all the arenas in which I struggle (and arena is the perfect word, because there are days when I feel like a gladiator when facing down my grief).  These resources have been a tremendous help.  I’ve shared links to many on this site. 

While we all have different paths, we share the same fundamental pain that brings us together.  And, while I may not be in the same place as the others, I choose to learn from everyone. I may not hear the lessons the first time (or the second or third time), but at some point they speak to me.  Each one gets me closer to a place of healing and reminds me I am not alone.  And for that, I am extremely grateful.

If you wish to share any resources not listed here that help you, please feel free to leave them in the comments section of the post.  

Wishing you love & peace!

A Bang and a Whimper

The threshold to my forty-(garble) birthday began with both a bang and whimper. I decided that since I’ve been putting a lot of things on hold in my life over the baby/non-baby issue, it was time to do something that I’ve never done before. I asked to go to a firing range. 

Not Bad for Newbie

Let me say upfront, I am not a gun person. I never had any exposure to them. Our household growing up was gun free – unless you count a nail gun a firearm. This was completely new to me, but the men in Hub’s family are all very responsible gun owners. Hubs is a former Marine, FIL is an army man and grew up hunting in rural Michigan, and my BIL is deputy and a hunter. I was in extremely good hands.

 Although I tried to act confident as Hubs, FIL, BIL, Skid and I walked into the doors of the range, I felt my body jolt when I heard a shot fired for the first time. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “This might be more difficult than I imagined.” It didn’t help that the rest of the family – my mom, dad, MIL, and BIL’s pregnant wife – were watching at the window. The pressure was on.

 It was decided beforehand that I would work with my FIL.  He impressed me with his methodical and patient teaching style. Everything was structured and unrushed. I don’t think I could have had a better teacher if John Wayne himself had been my instructor. As the lesson progressed, he had me feeling more and more comfortable.

 I guess you could say that this little experiment was a good way to channel the anger I’ve been feeling lately, but this wasn’t a place for anger. Guns should not be fired in anger, of this I’m sure. Instead, I think this was an exercise in being in the present moment.  In order to fire the gun accurately and safely, I had to be alert and focused. There was no room for the daily chatter that occupies my mind. I didn’t have the luxury to put attention on my sadness. 

This exercise also required me to overcome any fear and intimidation I may have had about handling a firearm. As my FIL told me, “You have to take command of the gun. You need to control it.”  To do that required confidence, purposeful movement, and  a clear mind.

I hadn’t counted on these little side benefits, but I did revel in them. I felt like this was one of the best things I could have done for myself. I felt better than I had in awhile… then the whimper came. 

When we all had stepped outside of the range and were getting ready to leave, my BIL handed me a birthday card then turned to hubs and handed him a small stack of thin, shiny, 4×6 white papers. My heart froze. Even though BIL had handed them to Hubs upside-down I knew in an instant they were ultrasounds. I fought the urge to run. As Hubs took them into his hand, I turned my body away slightly to avoid catching any further sight of them.

Hubs handled the small talk, but when BIL turned and asked me if I wanted to see them, I had a decision to make.  I could face that fear down and look at them, or I could avoid, avoid, avoid!  The fear won out, and I shook my head to say no. Very quickly, Hubs walked his brother away to talk about other things. Then my mom swooped in with a question designed to get me away from the rest of the family and asked if I was okay once we were in private. (I wasn’t, but I was grateful to have my own personal tag team looking after me.)

I love my BIL dearly and I’m happy for him, but this was hard to take because I had been looking at an ultrasound the day before. One dated 4/20/10. It showed Baby M, our perfect little peanut. It was something that had given Hubs and I great comfort. We’d lost Baby A one year before, and the memory of that loss hovered over the new pregnancy. We were determined to be optimistic, but were forever cautious. That ultrasound gave us reassurance. We had just four more weeks to go until we reached the viable mark, but things were looking good. Then, on April 26th, just two days after my birthday, I began to bleed. A visit to the OB/GYN the next day confirmed Baby M’s heart had stopped beating and I was miscarrying.

It goes without saying that losing two pregnancies in the same month of your birth forever intertwines what should be a day of celebration with memories of heartbreak and pain.  I don’t expect everyone to remember the where’s and when’s of our losses, so I can’t fault BIL for the bad timing.  I can blame the bad timing for my reaction. At least, that’s the story I’ll tell myself.

The truth is I’m not sure if I would have reacted any differently at any other time. I do know that these situations and my reactions to them result in me being very hard on myself. I know that it is okay to protect myself, but I also feel like an awful and immature person afterwards.  I know BIL understands, but at the same time I feel like I should be bigger than this. I wonder if there will be a time that I won’t feel pain and freeze in the face of someone else’s joy.

The fundamental problem is that there is no happy medium to my behavior. I feel if I open my heart, I’ll leak all over the floor. But if I protect myself, it closes me off and makes me appear cold. I haven’t quite learned to command and control my emotional response in a loving way, but I’m open to suggestions if anyone has them.

Still Small Voices Are Usually Right

Today, I had to rise and shine at an ungodly hour to get myself down to the hospital breast cancer center for a lovely, early-morning diagnostic mammogram. Just the way every woman wants to start her day, eh?  (Rest assured, all I have are a few benign-looking cysts – this post, thankfully, is not about that.)

There, within the tastefully-appointed inner sanctum of the “no men allowed” waiting room, I sat in anticipation of my tests. The cotton examination cape that I’d be given to wear draped softly around me. It felt like a bed sheet. The image of being back in bed relaxed me temporarily enough for a small, quiet voice inside me to say, “You’re angry.”

I sat up a little straighter in an effort to shake it off. I didn’t feel angry. In fact, I felt incredibly calm given the circumstances.

Later, when the radiologist had determined that what they found on the mammogram justified an ultrasound, I found myself on my side on an examination table watching blobs on a screen. This, of course, brought back memories of the handful of ultrasounds I had during my second pregnancy, and the joy Hubs and I felt seeing that small flickering light.  That flicker indicated a strong heartbeat.  That flicker gave us a false sense of security that the pregnancy would go well and everything would be o.k. This morning’s ultrasound also brought back the pain I felt the day that light was no longer present.  As I pushed back the memory and willed myself into an equally unpleasant present, the voice returned, “You’re angry.”

“Fine,” I thought, “I’ll concede, but at the moment there are other fish to fry.” The appointment continued, doctors were consulted and everyone was all smiles. “Nothing to worry about,” they said. “But come back in six months, so we can keep an eye on you.” So, you know, I have that to look forward to.

After being squished, mushed, poked, prodded, and gelled, I was back in my car and headed to work.  Grateful for the positive news, but still not feeling quite relieved.  The voice came back to remind me of unfinished business, “You’re angry.”

Now I was really annoyed, especially because the little voice was right. I am angry. I’m angry I did not get the life I imagined, the motherhood I crave.  I’m angry because the closest relationship I’ll ever have to motherhood is one that is so totally lopsided at the moment that it hurts me almost daily. I’m angry at others who get to have what they want easily. I’m angry because there are others like me who struggle and don’t get their happy endings.  What is so wrong with wanting to be a mother?  Why should it be denied to anyone? Nothing is clear. Nothing makes sense.  So yes, little voice, I am angry, but what do you suggest I do about it?

“Allow yourself to be angry,” the voice replied.

I don’t think I ever considered that before. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever felt entitled to be. Whenever I would begin to get angry, there was always someone there to remind me that others were hurting too, that it wasn’t quite the time or place, or that it was being directed at the wrong person or thing. Maybe it is time to be angry.

The question is “How?” Obviously I can’t walk around pissed off at the World and lashing out at everyone in it.  There’s got to be a constructive way to get it out, to channel it.

Maybe if I listen closely enough, my inner voice will offer more insight. Hopefully, it’ll happen before six months from now.

It’s A Joni Mitchell Kind of Day

There are days when my heart feels heavy, and days when my heart feels light.  Then there are days like today, when my heart battles it out in the in-between.  It remains buoyant despite an undertow of sadness that tugs on it relentlessly.  I can feel it fighting against the current.  It’s time for Joni: her voice sweet and high; her words sad, but full of hope.  She lifts, she lightens, and she evokes a tear.  For all this, I thank her.  God bless Joni Mitchell.

Riding It Out

When I was growing up I LOVED amusement park rides. You know the ones that Krusty the Klown from The Simpsons would deem an “upsy, downsy, spinsy roundsy, teen-operated thrill ride”?  Yeah those.  I loved ’em.  I especially took great pride in being able to ride these crazy death contraptions consecutive times in a row. When the rest of girls were getting off the ride, I hung in with the boys.  I was tough. I was fearless. I could handle it.  Boo-yah!

Cut to me at age 21: sitting on a rock at the edge of the carnival parking lot gasping for clean air in order to stave off nausea… all after one ride on the Spider. What happened?  My tolerance for the turbulent motion of those rides seemed to dissipate with age.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  Boo. Yeah.

Now at forty-(garble) going on forty-(garble-even-louder), I’m still riding the ride called trying to conceive (or TTC in weblog speak).  It is quite possibly to most insane ride ever.  If you don’t believe me, here’s a list of fun facts to consider:

  • With the number of ovulation and pregnancy tests under my belt, I’ve become incredibly adept at peeing on sticks, so much so that I’m considering listing it as a skill on my resume.
  • I no longer think of time in terms of months, but instead in terms cycles
  • If you want to get a drink or sushi with me, you need contact me one month in advance, so I can schedule it at the appropriate time.
  • I would have never thought it, but after detailing out a month-to-month… I mean cycle-to-cycle view of my life, it appears my tolerance for crazy is pretty damn high.

My “Cycle-to-Cycle” Life

7 days into my cycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take pre-natal vitamins and pray like mad!

  • Stop any alcohol consumption
  • Taper down caffeine consumption to ½ cup per day (only if necessary – who am I kidding?)
  • Put the more challenging cardio workouts into my routine
  • Begin using ovulation strips 
During the “window of ovulation”
  • Stop caffeine entirely
  • Um… “it” obviously
Week one of two-week wait
  • Maintain exercise schedule
  • Try to keep my mind on other things
  • Cut out soft cheeses, shellfish, deli meats, sushi and other fun stuff from my diet
Week two of two-week wait
  • Modify exercise schedule to lighter cardio, ideally  machines that allow me to monitor heart rate
  • Over-analyze every twinge, cramp, tenderness, headache, etc.
3 days before period is due
  • Start thinking that every twinge, cramp, tenderness, headache means what I want it to mean, and simultaneously freak out and get excited
  • Resist the urge to run out and buy pregnancy test OR resist the urge to use the second test that was in the first test kit that I broke down and bought last cycle
First day of my period
  • Open a bottle of wine
  • Cry 

Honestly, what kind of life is this?  Am I insane?  I know eventually this ride is going to come to an end some way, somehow.  But I’m starting the question the way I’m limiting myself.  In the last six months, I know of four different opportunties I’ve shied away from because I wasn’t sure if I’d be pregnant or at least into the two-week wait at the time of the event. Yet on the flip side, I still yearn for motherhood so badly that I am clinging blindly to faith.  How long will my tolerance hold out?

So my newest challenge is figuring out how I’ll ride the rest of this out.  I want my decisions to be whole-hearted and fearless, yet wise and balanced. I can’t put everything on hold for something that may never be, but I want to do what’s possible (within the realm of reason and our resources) to create the conditions in which, by some miracle, it could happen. I need to get this resolved, because that last thing I want is to find myself once again gasping for air wondering what the hell happened.

My life should be more, “Weee!” and less, “Stop this thing. I want to get off!”

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