A Weird Conundrum

So, something I am noticing that I am struggling with: I am starting to get on with my life. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am getting over not being able to get pregnant – that remains a nice little black cloud in my psyche, but I am starting to see it more as a distant storm instead of an ever present shadow. As I am able to actually focus on the good things in my life, I have a weird sensation like i’m cheating on my unconceived, unborn child. Like somehow being able to build other positive things in my life is doing a disservice to the dream of having a biological child. I think it’s associated with the general grief experience, but it’s an interesting aspect. It’s like somehow if I can move on, if I can build a positive and fulfilling life without having imprinted my DNA on the next generation, I never really wanted it that badly.

I know that’s a load of crap. If I woke up tomorrow, or next week, or next year, and took a pregnancy test and it were positive, I…. I don’t have the words to express how happy I would be. I have dreams where it happens, and the disappointment I feel on waking and finding out it isn’t real is almost heartbreaking.

So as I actually feel like I am building a different life, and a good one… I find the feeling of being unfaithful to my original plan very interesting.

I think my Husband and I will take a very serious look at adoption sometime in the next three years. I think we will look at children who are in the foster system, not infants… and I think we will be parents. We will have a child, or children, and we will parent together. But in the meantime, I need to not feel guilty for trying to build a good life without my dream baby.

-Me

Apparently it’s time for a change?

Soooooooo, its been an eventful few weeks – on top of quitting my job last week, I got a call that my surgery date is much, much sooner than I expected. Initially they called me Monday to tell me that it would be June 27th. I rearranged my entire schedule around that with less than 6 hours notice, and tried to come to terms with the idea of being slightly incapacitated starting a new job.

Then on Tuesday I got a call from the bookings people that they had neglected to check the surgeons availability, and that the 27th wasn’t actually an option. So instead it’s been postponed to July 25th. Six weeks seems like a reasonable amount of time to prepare…

I will still need to take some time off quite early in my new job, but I will at least have a month to settle in.

In some ways having a breast reduction is another step in my acceptance of not being fertile. I had been waiting to see about the surgery until I had children, since breast feeding is apparently more difficult post surgery. Choosing to do so now is again admitting that it isn’t going to happen. I waffle back and forth between weird last minute hope and being accepting of the reality.

The limbo is waning. It won’t go away, it won’t be gone, and I will grieve on some level… but I am starting to concretely move on.

-Me

All of the things, and yet still the same.

You never know exactly when the next wave will hit. The moment that you are reminded, yet again, that you won’t ever hear a munchkin call out for Mum and be calling for you.

In other news, I quit my job on Friday. I’ve been frustrated by working for an internationally publicly traded company whose focus is the bottom line… For three and a half years. However much I love WHAT I do, the company for which I do it has been nothing short of disappointing. There is a significant amount of lip service paid to the value of teamwork, collaboration, supporting their employees, yadayadayada, but the reality differs. I have been repeatedly informed that I am not worth paying more than the minimum, and that I am replaceable. So it is slightly satisfying to see the look of panic on my managers face when he now has to try to replace me. I do have another job to go to. I’ll be working for the municipality where I live, and it will be much more community focused, which I think will be a good fit for me. What is terrifying is the fact that I will be taking a huge risk in terms of hours – this new job is based entirely on my ability to build and maintain a client base. And I think I can – I have done so before. But it is venturing out into unknown territory without a safety net, and I am unsettled.

I will also have significantly more free time than I am used to, and that is also unsettling. I am used to being so busy I don’t have time to think, and that is at least in part by design – if I’m busy, I can’t focus on the things that upset me, because there is no time. Now I will have time. my first impulse is to try to fill it – with anything: work, school, choir auditions, exercise, etc. I know I need time to slow down and regroup, and that it will be good, but my crocodile brain doesn’t want to give anything the opportunity to catch up.

Since quitting I have felt lighter than I have in a very long time. I know I made the right decision, I know that this will be the best in the long run, and the more time since I sent in my resignation the more sure I am that it was a good idea. I feel alive in a way I have not for a few years.

I need to believe in myself and my own professional abilities, I need to remember that I can, and have, in fact done this before. But the self doubt creeps in, and its insidious tendrils wrap around my heart and drag…

It will be ok. I will make this work. And worse case scenario, I can always find another job….

And in the meantime, I will continue to avoid thinking about that voice that will never call for me in the night.

-Me.

In Reference to Mental Health

I think, through my adolescence and 20s, I had seen my bouts of anxiety and depression as a passing phase. I saw the flux as the result of hormone shifts and the stressors of school, work, relationships, whatever. I remember vividly my sister in law, who also deals with depression, telling me that she thought I was depressed, and brushing it off. I was 24. I think I had bought into a significant portion of the societal bias against mental illness, a stigma that continues to cause me to be very careful of who I discuss my mental health with, and under what parameters.

I’m not proud of bowing to social norms. I don’t lie about my mental health, but I definitely hide it under a shroud of bravado and easy smiles. I will answer direct questions honestly, but I learned a long time ago that when you seem like your life is an open book, no one bothers to flip the page. I have spent years carefully constructing a facade, one that is just quirky and odd enough that most people assume that I can’t possibly be hiding anything, because wouldn’t the foul mouth, dirty sense of humour and tendency to do a happy dance randomly in public be the obvious things to hide? It’s not that those things are lies. They are just emphatically not the whole truth.

Interestingly, within the safety of that shroud I have learned to watch other people and their behaviours more carefully. Because I am painfully aware of my own disguise, I am more inclined to see through those that other people use. From a professional perspective, it’s extremely valuable: I am adept at seeing past the walls and learning about people – and I find their whole self interesting, which leads to better therapeutic relationships and I think ultimately better care.

As my 30s are well and truly underway, I am more aware of the reality that comes with dealing with depression, at least for me: It isn’t transient, or a passing phase. That doesn’t mean it won’t pass, and it doesn’t mean I can’t work on it, build up my coping skills, and improve my outlook. In fact, even as I sit and write, I’ve been pretty stable for the better part of a month despite significant upheaval in my professional life. I feel like a whole person most of the hours of the day. I recognize that I have a tendency to over-extend my resources, and I work to make sure that I allow for that, and the recovery time that needs to follow. So I work on balance, and self care, and try to practice what I preach.

But I am starting to realize that it is important for me to own my mental health. Because it is mine. It’s not going away, it will be ever changing, and sometimes hard… But sometimes it will be glorious, and I will get to experience true and utter joy – and that is worth everything, every single time. I have chosen thus far not to seek medication. The talk therapy has been effective, and all my understanding of the medications are that they dull your senses at both ends of the spectrum: no huge lows, but also no highs, and I live for those (none external chemically induced) highs.

I am blessed with a strong cohort of very good friends, who have been available to me in ways I could never have imagined, even when I didn’t know how to ask. I am lucky to have married a man who has weathered my storms with grace, and been willing to work on our relationship even when I was ready to give up. I have strong biological family bonds, and stronger logical family bonds, and I treasure them.

But on mental health: Its mine, good, bad, or otherwise. I am happy that this most recent depressive episode seems to be passing. With each successive experience I am more certain that there will, eventually, be a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I will mourn my ability to conceive for the rest of my life. I am starting to accept that, and the daily hurt is slowly ebbing away. There are sharp pangs, and there is a very good chance that I will never attend another baby shower as long as I live. And I will let myself grieve that loss as often and as deeply as I need to, because that too is mine. Mine to decide how much it hurts, mine to determine what the appropriate response is, and mine to share only if and when I choose. I don’t know if I will ever parent in any conventional sense, or if any doctor will ever be able to tell me definitively why my body doesn’t seem capable of conception. And it’s not ok. But it is something I can acknowledge and build into my life foundation, not use to tear myself down.

Someday I want to share my story and struggle with mental health with the people I care about, and maybe beyond. Partially because I think there are too few stories about the people who don’t conceive (how many times has my saying I can’t get pregnant been met with “i’m sure you will!” or “I know a woman who said that and then…”), but mostly because I would like to face my fear of sharing these little secrets I’ve been so carefully hiding for so long. But for now, this is Me.

-Me.

Growth?

I’m starting to feel like myself again. And by myself I mean I am feeeling better, less depressed. I hesitate over that phrasing – alienating the depression, acting as if it is not a part of me, pushing away – it feels off. I suppose what I mean is that I feel closer to being the version of me I am comfortable living with. I think there is also an element of recognizing that although the depressed, nasty, brutal though processes were *gasp* “coming from inside the house!” So to speak, they felt like there was a monster speaking through me.

I think I find it difficult to reconcile between acknowledging that I was that monster, and wanting to push as far as I can away from it/me. Because ultimately I can’t runaway from myself. That monster is going to have to be maintained and cared for, so that it doesn’t decide it needs to try to be in control again.

But those thoughts aside, I am feeling better. Despite the upheaval in my professional life, and just passing the fourth year since we started trying to conceive, I am starting to feel real joy and hope, and I don’t feel guilty about it. One of the surest signs that I feel better is hat I don’t feel like I need to hide my depression from everyone around me. I am hardly broadcasting it (I don’t really broadcast anything…) but I don’t deny or hide it. Rather than naming it giving it power, it seems to instead strip away the layers of fear, hurt, pain, sorrow, and self doubt.

I recognize that, having been through some type of cycle of depression several times, I seem to be susceptible to the state. I know that it is possible that it will come up again in the future when the going gets tough. But each time I come out the other side, my faith that there is a way through is strengthened, and I recognize the value of hope. Two years ago I had “Hope” tattooed behind my left ear. Although I have never regretted the ink, the meaning behind it has shifted over time, and at the worst it felt like that permanent reminder was mocking me. Now, it serves he purpose it was intended for from he start, and reminds me that, whether I see it or not, hope is always there, and there is something worth hoping for.

-Me

Happy New Year!

My blog name is suddenly antiquated…

But really, for me, 2016 was the year of infertility – not because its where it started, but because it’s where it ended for me.

This last year has been a very… It’s been a hard year. I have spiralled in and out of some level of depressive symptoms since adolescence, but admitting that I can’t procreate has brought out a whole new level of self loathing I was not in any way prepared for. I am lucky in that I have not failed at many things I have tried to accomplish in my life – I can quite literally count the things I feel I utterly failed at on one hand (my grade 9 royal conservatory piano exam (I fell apart playing the raindrop prelude and couldn’t pull it back – I failed by 2%, I got 58% when I needed 60% to pass…), the 1 high retrieval when working at a zip line (seriously, what freak of nature can pull themselves back up a 150 meter zip line? Not this girl… Seriously, those freaks of nature are kinda awesome… but I digress) I didn’t get into physio school (3.64/4 not a good enough GPA – 3.81 was the minimum I would have needed. FML) aaaaaaand getting pregnant – 3.5 years of unprotected sex and counting). Don’t get me wrong, there have been things I didn’t do well at. I only count my first race in a single scull at an international regatta not a fail because I didn’t tip the boat – I still came in last place, I’m just happy I stayed upright. For me I only feel like I failed when I don’t meet a basic level of function or achievement/reasonable expectation. I don’t think that it was an unreasonable expectation to have achieved any of my major failings: The piano exam I was prepared for, I knew, and know, that piece of music well, and even recognizing that I messed up, I still could have brought it back. The 1 high retrieval -well, that was a full body muscle failure, I was exhausted, but still, I think I could have done better. The GPA – i’m smart, I just like to multitask a lot, and i’m terrible with details… you know, those basic details like studying for exams thoroughly…..

Pregnancy, or the lack thereof, has been a whole other thing. I think it’s a basic mammalian expectation to be able to procreate. So not being privy to that arena has been a failure on a very basic and disturbing level. I have several friends who feel no drive to procreate, and they feel no such failure. But I think that that lack of sensation comes because they made a choice – one that I did not. I did not choose this for myself, and neither did my Husband. We planned a life with children, our own, our genetic weirdos, and despite our efforts, that has not been possible. I don’t think he resents me – he’s made it quite clear that our relationship matters more than our hypothetical children, and I hope he continues to feel that way. We have had open discussions on adoption, and I think that that will ultimately be the direction we go for. At least we will try. I’d like to adopt a child, or siblings, out of the foster care system. I have no drive to look after an infant.

But on failure: I think that’s the hardest part. It is for me. I don’t know if that is the same sensation that other women who are confronting infertility face – I suspect if I had a concrete answer as to WHY we can’t conceive I would have an easier time of it. But there isn’t an answer except that we can’t, and at this point we statistically won’t.  I don’t handle failure well. Years have passed since most of what I mentioned above, and they still bother me. In true character, I haven’t handled this one well. Well, I don’t think I have. I’ve been a withdrawn, shrivelled, miserable version of myself. And apparently my self flagellantism knows no bounds. I recognize that I have been grieving, and will probably continue to need to grieve. I am trying very hard to hide my grief from everyone who cares about me, because I don’t want them to know how much it is still bothering me. I think there is the outside perception that this is something to get over – something that will pass. And I let people think that. The very few people I have confided in, I allow to think that it is a passing thing, and i’m over it. They don’t need to know that each fresh menstrual cycle is a fresh indication of failure, or how hard it is for me to congratulate my friends on their progeny. Sorrow is hard – it’s hard to experience, but somehow it’s doubly hard to inflict on the people who care. I think my Husband is aware – he’s around me enough that he sees through my public persona and sees me hide and regroup. I think one or two of my closest friends have a whisper of an idea that I may not be as upbeat as I profess, but they respect me too much to push the issue. Because the funny thing about grief is that it has an expressed shelf life. Then those around you want it to be over with, and it’s time to move on. Public expression becomes insufferable, and you have to internalize to not put out those around you. So instead I push it down, and away, and make up stories to myself about how I’m ok with this, how I have grown in ways that I never would have had I had children, and how I can be so much more than I would have been professionally, personally, athletically, academically. All of which is true, to some extent – I would not be who I am now without the experiences wrought by this one small quirk of my physiology. And much of what and who I am I value. But the very honest truth is I would still go back and trade it all just to get pregnant. But thats a secret I can’t tell, and a grief I can’t share.

So this last year has been hard, because I’ve had to be honest with myself on a level I haven’t been able to be, and probably won’t be, with anyone else.

2017 is starting bright – we have possession of the town house we bought, we started painting it today. It has two bedrooms, one will be a shared office, one will be ours – no room for a hypothetical child, we are letting that space go, at least physically. 2017 holds promise professionally, academically, and athletically. I plan to continue racing a rowing scull, I think I can push my fitness to a new level I have never gotten to before, and that excites me. I have five courses left to finish my masters, and I am building and running a falls prevention program for adults in my community who are at high risk of injury. My husband and I work well as a team, and I think that having our new home to work on will be good for us.

So let 2017 be bright

-Me

Decisions, decisions…

imageThe view from the top.

I am continuing to mentally wrestle with the options at my disposal. I’m not particularly good at just letting things sit, I tend to need to work out what I want to do as soon as I have information and options. Yesterday I took myself and my dog for a three hour hike up a mountain to try to work out what I think about the new option.

I find that hard exercise helps to clear my head. It is amazing the moments of clarity that come when your heart feels like it is beating outside of your body, your legs feel like jelly, and sweat is pouring into your eyes. Its hard to lie to yourself when you’ve worn through every physical barrier and resource and all that is left to keep you going is between your ears. It’s why I love rowing, it’s why I love looking up at the top of a mountain and deciding to find out what the view is like from the top.

What I realized is this: I have known, since I was 19, that I not only want children, but I want my husband to be the person I parent with. I want to see what our genetics look like, and who a little mix of us develops into. The last few months since we stopped trying to get pregnant have sent me into the worst depressive spiral I can remember. Getting through that and finding ways to feel good inside of myself, even for a few hours at a time, has been awful. And I’m not really out of it – those feelings of lack of self worth, grief, and that dark cloud that feels like it is always over my shoulder, they’re all still there. So I worry that this new foray into trying to have a baby will only prolong the process of dealing with infertility, or make it worse. But I feel like if there is an option that doesn’t make my stomach clench to think about, if there is an avenue available to us… I need to try. Because although I am quite badly afraid of what will happen if/when this doesn’t work, and of the potential to find a deeper, darker place inside of myself than those I already know, I am also painfully aware of the fact that I would regret not trying more. I don’t know when I will start trying – with the decision made to do so, chances are it will be sooner rather than later.

Beyond what I’ve already said on the subject, I don’t know why I feel as strongly negative about taking clomid or moving towards IVF – both options mack my stomach clench and I can’t ignore a literal gut feeling that is that strong. But this Creighton Model seems less invasive, more gentle, and more like something I can get on board with.

I have the word “Hope” tattooed behind my right ear. I got it a year and a half ago, as a permanent reminder of something that I need to hold onto. I have not had much of it in the last few months, and had started to consider it a liability, not an asset. I’m still ambivalent about it… I believe that you need hope to move forward, to continue, to build and live and try for things. In some ways, it was removing hope that resulted in my depression. In rekindling my hope, I run the risk of having it removed for a second time, and I think that could be devastating. But somehow I know that I have to try, I have to know if this can be a thing in our lives… and I so badly want to meet that little mix of my Husband and I.

So for now… Hope.

-Me