In the 20 years my husband and I have been together we have dealt with our fair share (or maybe more than our fair share) of challenges. For us it seems like nothing ever happens without a bump in the road. But at this point we are used to it and almost expect it. If something is going according to plan we hold our breath and watch for the bump.
We also always overcome our challenges. Always.
And we grow and learn from them. Always.
And I like to think we are better people who understand more, listen more and love deeper. Some of that may also just be from getting older.....
Sometimes it also seems like life just keeps throwing stuff at us to see just how much we can handle. Well, let me tell you, we can handle A LOT!!!
(Let me add a disclaimer here.....most of this is, of course, #firstworldproblems. I realize that, and am not complaining at all. We have an amazing life, for which I am exceptionally grateful.)
In the just the last five (plus-ish) years we have dealt with:
My husband's six orthopedic surgeries - one foot, one knee, one shoulder, three wrist. He mountain bikes.....
Our infertility and loss struggle - countless fertility treatments, three miscarriages and an ectopic rupture.....you know the story.
Keeping our severely food allergic son safe as he grows and spends more and more time at school, camp, extra-curricular activities, and with friends.
My parents divorced after 40 years.
D.E.M.A.N.D.I.N.G careers (that we do love, by the way!)
The devastating losses of our two beloved Siberian Huskies - six months apart.
Stress, anxiety, sleepless nights, busy schedules, the crazy of life.
I wouldn't change any of it. Even the infertility and loss journey. All of it has sculpted us into who we are as individuals and as a couple. Although there is some of it I wish hadn't happened......
With all of this I am at a point in my life where I am still trying to heal. Still learning and applying the lessons I have learned from all of this, especially our infertility and loss journey.
The biggest lesson I have learned and work to apply every single day, is to find the joy. There is always joy somewhere......always.
Accomplishments in life, work, home, no matter how small.
A quiet drive home after a long day at work.
Watching my now seven year old son run and play and smile.
Learning to let go a little bit.
And my current and most favorite joy......our new puppy. He is now 12 weeks old and FULL OF ENERGY.
He has brought true joy to our home.
It is hard to have a new puppy. Potty training, constant chewing on stuff, he wakes up when the sun comes up....every day! He has more energy than my husband and I combined. But I honestly don't see any of that because of the joy we all now have with him in our lives.
My son ADORES him. And he ADORES our son. He is the best snuggler and has, in the four weeks he has been part of our family, started to heal a hole in me that I wasn't sure was going to heal.
He is the perfect addition at the perfect time.
So always remember to take a minute and find the joy. Take a deep breath. Life is hard. It throws stuff at you that you may never see coming. But even in the hardest things, there is always a lesson, and always, buried somewhere......joy.
Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker's latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward that was released April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma. Yesterday Meaghan shared her story and Monday we will hear from Elena at Baby Ridley Bump. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We'd especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hashtags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward. ___ Definition: Secondary Infertility The inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications. I struggle with secondary infertility. I am a mom. I have the coolest, funniest, sweetest little boy. My husband and I didn't struggle to get pregnant with him. I was honestly a little freaked out by how quickly I got pregnant with him. Then, when it was time to try again and complete our little family, we were not prepared for what was to come. I became a mom to four babies I never got to hold. It is now almost five and a half years after we made the decision to try to have a second baby. We have battled, struggled, cried, mourned each loss, and have grown so much. And almost unbelievably, we are still standing. Writing has become my outlet. A place to set down my thoughts and feelings on those days when they are just too hard to carry any longer. Writing keeps me sane. It allows me to express all of those emotions rolling around in my brain and dragging me down. And gives me a place to come back to them if I need to. And writing this blog has helped keep me going. I am a survivor. A survivor of an infertility journey that could have killed me. And definitely changed me. The details and raw emotions are outlined in many of my previous posts, but the short version is - I suffered three miscarriages (12 weeks, 6 weeks, and 14 weeks) and survived a ruptured cornual ectopic (my uterus tore at 12 weeks) that has likely ended our journey. I have endured countless fertility treatments, endless numbers of doctor appointments, has more ultrasounds than I can count, filled so many prescriptions for fertility meds that the people at the pharmacy recognize me. I have been next to my husband and across from my doctor to hear heartbreaking news more times than anyone should have to. I told my doctor, as he came to see me in pre-op one morning, that I really really wanted to stop seeing him there. Five D&Cs, one emergency surgery for my ectopic rupture (and five day hospital stay), and surgery to remove a gigantic ovarian cyst will create that feeling. But we are likely going to meet there again. I have emotional and physical scars that are now a permanent part of who I am. But they do not define me. I refuse to let them. They have shaped me into a woman who is more aware of her emotions. A woman who loves more deeply. A woman who now understands that nothing is guaranteed in life. I struggle with how I feel when I see another Mom and her multiple children. How is she different than me? Why does she get to have more than one child and I don't? Clearly I am not good enough. Not good enough. I have to remind myself that I am good enough. I have battled and fought and clawed and eventually emerged from a darkenss I was not sure I would ever come out of. And I fight daily not to slip back down into that darkness. I have learned things about myself, my husband, my family, my friends, and my doctors that are some of the most important things I have learned in my life. I am strong. I am a fighter. My losses are part of who I am, but do not define me. I am a mother to five children. One who I get to hold tight every day and four who I never got to meet. I cry. Sometimes for no apparent reason. I get frustrated and angry. Why did this happen to us? I channel my emotions from this five year journey to help anyone and everyone I can. My journey through infertility and loss has given my a unique perspective. My hope is this blog and any other forum I am presented with to talk to other infertility and loss survivors will help at least one person. Because everyone who goes through this infertility and/or loss journey deserves to know....... You are not alone. You do not have to endure any of this by yourself. I am here and I will listen. I will stand with you and hold you up if you need me to. You are good enough.
Tonight I am sitting in an elementary school gym, watching my son's basketball practice. Two years ago tonight I was laying in a hospital bed, barely awake. It was a Sunday night, I had just come through three hours of emergency surgery and still wasn't quite sure what had happened.
Two years later, as I look back on that day I am so grateful for so many things. So many things that happened that day and so many things that have happened in the 731 days since. It has not been an easy ride, but I am absolutely in a better place than I was that day, and one year ago today.
On this day last year I was anxious, nervous, and created a bubble around myself. I was anxious to just get through the day. I was nervous about my emotions. And to protect myself I made sure I was going to be home (read - not at work) and every minute of the entire day was planned so there was no down time. No time to dwell or be sad. I wanted to power through and move on.
This year is so different. It wasn't until last week I realized we were almost to the two year anniversary of my surgery. And I was good with it. Just another day. And I will say I am extremely proud of myself for that. I am a worrier. I dwell on things. So to come up on the anniversary of the day that had such a big impact on my life and be ok with it is huge for me. And let me note, not a day goes by that I do not think about my surgery. I have a giant scar that I see every morning as I get dressed that makes it almost impossible to not remember.
So I don't want to dwell on the "what happened". I want to list the things I was grateful for that day and all of the things I am grateful for that have come from that day.
I have the most amazing husband. February is his busiest time of the year at work. My emergency surgery, five day hospital stay, and five week recovery happened right in the middle of that. He never waivered. He sat next to me and took care of me while still working and not sleeping. In the two years since he has supported me and loved me and held me up on my most challenging days. I am so lucky to have him by my side.
I have the best little boy. His smile is infectious. He loves his mama! And on my hardest days, even though he has no idea why the day is so hard, he can pull me right back to reality and cheer me up!
I have learned so much about myself. About my ability to recover. How strong I really am (even though I don't feel like it sometimes). That it is ok to have an "off" day as long as I do not let it take over my life.
I am grateful for my family and friends, without whom I would have had a much tougher time getting to where I am. Having amazing people to talk to makes such a difference.
I am grateful for Dr. D, every day. He is an amazing physician who was definitely on his game that day. He, along with Dr. W and the team at the hospital saved my life that day. Something I can never thank them enough for.
And while I would not want to go through what I have gone through again, I am grateful for the experience. It has helped shape me into the person I am. Made me a person who loves a little more, hugs a little tighter and forgives a little faster.
I was recently sitting in the waiting room of Dr.D's office waiting to get my final Lupron injection. I walked in actually kind of excited. It was my last injection and there was starting to be light at the end of my side-effect tunnel.
It was late in the day, but the waiting room was fairly full. There was a couple sitting right across from me having a conversation. I was mostly engrossed in reading work emails on my phone. Work has been CRAZY and I have officially turned into my father - reading and answering work emails on my phone at all times of the day. Anyway..... I was really trying not to listen to their conversation, but it caught my attention and I found myself listening. And then I was angry. The husband was telling his wife about someone he works with who was getting ready to go through additional rounds of infertility treatments after multiple failures. The wife, who is visibly pregnant, looked at him and said she just did not understand why people put themselves through infertility treatment. That if something wasn't meant to be it just wasn't meant to be and they shouldn't force it. She thought it was crazy they would put themselves through "that".
My reaction was immediate anger. My heart started beating fast and I was mad. I really wanted to talk to her. To explain to her my situation, what my husband and I have been through and why the desire to go through what her husband's co-worker was getting ready to go through is so strong. I wanted to give her my perspective. But my rational mind took over and I decided confronting her in the OBGYN's office waiting room was not a good move.
Then my emails were no longer interesting to me. All I could think about was what she said. My mind wandered to our journey and our story and then I started to battle my emotions.
Out of no where I was fighting tears. Just like that. No warning. Tears.
And it took everything I had to keep from crying. All of my energy. I had to pull it together. I was in the doctor's office waiting room by myself. The tears would have to wait.
I did keep it together and a few minutes later was called back for my injection. Less than 5 minutes later I was out of the door. Away from that waiting room and headed to where I could cry. I was also grateful I didn't run into Dr. D or his nurse as that definitely would have brought the tears I was fighting.
Something I saw recently said, "Do not confuse my bad days as a sign of weakness, those are actually the days I am fighting my hardest."
Triggers are a real thing. I generally try to avoid the things I know bother me. But it is impossible to avoid all triggers all of the time. Sometimes they literally come out of nowhere and completely change my mood. When I walked into the waiting room I was excited and happy. When I left, probably less than 20 minutes after I walked in, I was fighting major tears and could not get out of there fast enough. And despite my best efforts to pull it together, when I got home my husband knew something was wrong.
Perspective is also important. I strongly believe everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. However, I also strongly believe it is critical to understand that others have different opinions and perspectives. And maybe, it might be a better idea to just be a little more supportive and a little less critical.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Now you know the story to date. The story of our four pregnancy losses. The story of all we have been through in the last four years.
So where are we now?
In April of this year I was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. An endometrioma to be exact. No big deal. I would feel a ton better after it was removed and we would move on.
Surgery was scheduled for mid-June. In the time between the discovery of my cyst and my surgery date I, of course, ran through every scenario I could think of. The main scenario I feared was my ovary would have to be removed with the cyst. My left ovary. The only one that had a Fallopian tube. Any other scenario I played out in my head was not as scary or journey- changing as the one where my ovary had to come out too. So I tried not to think about it too much and waited for mid-June.
Then it was time and I was more nervous that I probably let on. Let's be honest, I was scared. I was terrified of waking up and my husband having to tell me my ovary was gone.
When I woke up from surgery, what he told me was almost worse. And not what I expected at all.
I have severe endometriosis. SEVERE.
It is everywhere. It is a mess. And they can't really clean it up.
My uterus is attached to my intestinal tract.
Dr. W did my surgery. He operated on me with Dr. D when my uterus ruptured a year before. He is an exceptionally skilled GYN surgeon. He cleaned up what he could. But he couldn't clean all of it up. And he couldn't detach my uterus from my intestines. That would take the assistance of a different surgeon and they didn't want to do that to me that day.
When I woke up I was told I will have to have a hysterectomy sooner than later. I was told there was no way we would be able to get pregnant on our own. I was told IVF is our only option. I was told the cyst was removed very easily and my ovary was still there. Well, at least that part was good news!
It took a while for me to digest all of this. Several days later I was still processing it all.
No one expected to find the severity of endometriosis that Dr. W found. And it changed a lot.
Two weeks later I started a six month course of Lupron. Lupron is a drug that basically has put me into a temporary monopausal state. It lowers the estrogen in my system so the endometriosis has nothing to feed off of and everything has a chance to rest and heal.
Lupron is no fun. When I started writing this post I was three injection in. I get an injection every four weeks. And I have the fantastic side effects that come along with it.
I have hot flashes (which are not that terrible, but definitely come out of no where and always at the most unexpected times).
I have night sweats (I am am amazing sleeper, I can sleep through anything - except feeling like a furnace and dripping in sweat at 2am. No fun.) Luckily this doesn't happen very often!
I have mood swings. Or more accurately I have no filter. Especially when I am mad or frustrated at someone or something. My husband takes the brunt of most of my lack of filter. I apologize to him daily for getting frustrated with him over things that he probably didn't even do. Poor guy.
And I am exhausted. I wake up 6 out of 7 mornings a week feeling like I haven't even slept. My body hurts I am so tired. Most days I get to work and feel overwhelmed my the day ahead of me and sometimes wonder how I am going to make it through the day. I always do. But I am always ready for bed at the end of it. I told my husband the other day I feel more tired that I ever did during the first trimester of any of my pregnancies. And let me tell you, my first trimesters were bad. I would fall asleep on the couch at 7:30 in the evening. Lupron makes me more tired than that.
I am toughing it out. It's only temporary. But I am looking forward to the week of Thanksgiving when I will get my last injection.
The comes the hard decision. IVF is our only option if we want to have another baby. The chances of us getting pregnant on our own is virtually zero. We have to decide if that is what we want to do. It's a hard decision.
"You should be grateful for the child you do have."
"Everything will work out the way it is supposed to."
Let me give a little advice. Don't say these things to someone dealing with pregnancy loss and/or infertility after having a successful pregnancy. EVER.
It's offensive. And rude.
Ok. Let me back down just a little bit and explain.
I am a rational, understanding person. I know you do not really know what to say. I know you have only the best intentions. But, those things are not the right things to say.
I am grateful every single day of my life for my son. He is amazing and perfect and sweet and I could not be more honored to be his Mom. And after going through what we have been through in the last four years I know exactly how lucky we are to have him. I will never take for granted the fact that I get to be his Mom. After all we have experienced, I will always hug him a little tighter.
However, for my ENTIRE life I have dreamed of a little family that was made up of me, my husband and our two kids. And as I get older, my dream of having two kids gets stronger while at the same time seems like it is being torn away.
Struggling to achieve that dream or worse, having to face the fact that I may never be able to achieve that dream, is heartbreaking.
It doesn't make me selfish. It doesn't make me greedy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have more than one child. It doesn't make me love my son any less.
So yes, I want to have two children. Yes, I already have one amazing one. Yes, I am absolutely grateful for him. Yes, I know how lucky I am to have him. No, I don't need you to tell me how grateful I should be. No, I don't need you to judge me for wanting to have another baby when I already have one. And no, I really don't care what you think.
And while I will not show you, your words are painful. They are a reminder of what I deal with every day. They can change my mood in an instant. And sometimes they can ruin my day. They may make me cry, later, for what my husband will see as tears for no apparent reason. But he knows why they come.
But I forgive you because I know you were not trying to hurt me. But only searching for a way to help.
So what should you say?
Ask me how I am.
Ask me about our experience. I will tell you my story if you ask. And for me, sharing my story helps.
Just be there. Some days are really hard and I just need someone to be there and distract me from all of this.