My Journey

What knocked me out – and ultimately woke me up.

I think it’s important to include my journey so you can understand where I’m coming from.  I also see it as a great opportunity to own my story and practice vulnerability…things that I have discovered are necessary for living wholeheartedly; although not always easy to follow..  as I found out when trying to write my first blog post (Going All In). So here it is, but be warned, this is not a quick read.

The last few years have been the most challenging, painful times in my life so far. Not that I hadn’t known struggle before this; admittedly I spent much of my teen and young adult years struggling with panic disorder and depression.  But for now, back to recent past..

I had just turned 28 (April 2014) and found myself facing the much anticipated phone call from the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) clinic, and the dreaded words “I’m sorry, it’s negative” coming from the apologetic nurse on the other end of the line. This was the fourth time hearing these words and facing this failure in less than a year’s time- a year filled with infertility treatments after already struggling through 3 years before this of repeated failures and trying everything imaginable on our own (including acupuncture, clomid, every diet, supplement, and trick in the book). Our first IVF had given us hope; a positive pregnancy test that filled us with relief and elation, unfortunately it was quickly taken away from us and replaced with unspeakable grief. The repeated failures after this drained us even more. We gave it everything we had; emotionally, physically, and financially.

I was 24 when we started trying to conceive. We had planned everything out rationally; paid off student debt, saved an appropriate amount of money, had gone on a romantic trip, and had finally ‘earned’ the right to start a family. From researching online I figured it would take us max 3-4 months to conceive; and although I scoff at the naivety and ignorance now, I must admit it was a reasonable assumption at the time.

My whole life my dreams revolved around having a family. I have been yearning to be a mother from the time I pretended with dolls at the age of three. It was always something I took for granted; an assumed future that was purely a given. I would seek out every opportunity to take care of babies and children; from the time I was a young child, throughout my adolescence, and into my adulthood. Even my career choice has been strongly influenced by my passion to influence the lives of children and to set up a life that is agreeable to raising a family. I didn’t just enjoy taking care of children, it was part of my identity. I was always told by others that I was great with kids, and that I would make a fantastic mother some day. I held this belief close to my heart and wore it with pride. As my mother used to tell me; “You are meant to be a mother, it has to happen”.

But two weeks after turning 28 I found myself sitting in the specialist’s office, hearing the words I never truly imagined I’d ever hear. A reality that seemed so foreign to me that I could almost imagine every other possible life scenario before it. I was informed that based on the results from our 4 IVF trials it seemed that the quality of my eggs are not good enough to produce a baby. Despite normal hormone levels and normal results on all of our tests, the quality of my eggs for some unknown reason were lacking. It was recommended that we stop treatment and accept that we will most likely never have a child.

memorial-for-unborn-children

And if you are like most people I have come across you will be now be saying to the page in front of you, “Why not adopt?/donor egg?/foster?/Why not _(insert your own society led perceived easy answer to this issue)_?”. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of why we as a couple couldn’t pursue these other options of parenting, but I can assure you they were discussed and researched at length, and in the end it was simply not feasible for us in our current reality. There are plenty of assumptions that are made about all of these options, ones that most people (including myself) are naive and ignorant of before they are actually involved in their processes. They are not simple answers or quick fixes to “I can’t have children”. And contrary to popular belief, they aren’t available to everyone- even if the desire to pursue them is there.

So there I was, falling off the peak of where I should have been. Watching all my friends enjoy the view from the mountaintop as I plummet into the unknown, scrambling to find a way to survive this.

— Excerpt from my book: “Falling Off the Peak.. and Living to Tell About It. Surviving Infertility in Your Twenties.”

All those years I had been waiting for my life to begin, and then I come to find out that it never will. I know how it sounds, but this is where I was. I had only ever really lived for the future, which of course (as I realize now) wasn’t living at all. But this is what my life was. And it crumbled in front of me.

At the same time that I was trying to swallow my new childless fate, my mother of 58 was diagnosed with dementia. I wasn’t only losing my dream of motherhood, I was also losing my mother.  

Dementia is a life changer. It robs you of the people you love, forcing you to watch your loved one disappear in front of you. And it’s one of those things that I imagined if it was to happen to our family, I’d be older and somehow more prepared for it… though I’m sure you can never truly be prepared for such a thing. The role reversal has been difficult to accept emotionally, and tricky to navigate. My mother doesn’t seem to have insight into the disease; she thinks she is fine and is quick to get upset or angry if you imply differently. On one hand it means she isn’t depressed over her diagnosis, but on the other hand it makes it very difficult to assess her needs and requires a lot of creativity to put in the help she needs without her realizing what you’re doing.

dementia-stages-stages-of-vascular-dementia

This year alone she has stopped cooking, driving, has a very difficult time communicating and relaying information (language difficulties), her memory difficulties have increased, and her walking (and awareness of surroundings) has become troubling. She used to be a professional writer, and now she can barely sign her name. Watching her struggle with things she used to do with ease, while trying to maintain a nonchalant attitude and provide assistance in a “it’s no big deal” way, has been some of the best acting I’ve ever done. It’s been hard, to say the least.

I spent a few months struggling to get out of bed, and struggling even harder to do whatever I had to to avoid truly accepting this as my life. I didn’t want my reality and believe me, I didn’t go down without a fight. When I finally surrendered, I had to get busy picking up pieces – or more accurately- building pieces from scratch.

Under instruction from my Psychologist, I had to get rid of everything that I was holding onto for the life I longed for (but didn’t have); i.e. the parenting binder I created, the Pinterest boards about babies and kids, the clothes, and so on. I literally threw out (or in some cases donate) my denial.

It took a lot of strength to hit that button..
A gift of inspiration from my hubby after 2.5 years of infertility
A gift of inspiration from my hubby after 2.5 years of infertility

 

Without my Psychologist’s help I may never have been able to get out of the “victim to my circumstances” hole I was hiding in, and move to taking ownership over my life and future happiness. Among many things, she helped me realize how much I really didn’t know myself, and opened my eyes to how much self work I had to do.

IMG_0350I worked my way through books about moving on after infertility, tried different ways to find small amounts of happiness and peace, focused on self-care, and processing emotions. I discovered/rediscovered that I had a real passion for being out in nature, writing, and dancing.

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Since then I have continued my journey of transformation with guidance from my Psychiatrist (I will never be able to thank my friend enough for this recommendation), the ACT program, ISTDP, as well as many books and other inspirations (see Inspirations page if interested).

My recent circumstances not only highlighted the importance of living while you can, but through this process I have been enlightened to what “living” actually means.

Living my values has become my focus- and the difference it has made in my life is astounding. The importance of TRIBE and AUTHENTICITY, in particular, has made such a difference to me I can’t believe I went so long without.

I’m still a work in progress, and it’s not like life is any easier now, but I feel much more alive than I ever have – and that’s not just something worth celebrating- it’s something worth living for.

11 thoughts on “My Journey”

  1. Reading this reminded me of how tightly we sometimes hold on to our stories, even the good ones. That’s something I’ve always struggled with, holding loosely the stories I feel define who I am, so I can see the other pieces of myself. Thank you for sharing your journey. 🙂

    1. Jenny, You bring up a great point of needing to hold stories loosely; if I had the insight and willingness to do so about the story “My purpose is to be a mother” then it would have helped me not lose who I was, along with the dream. I agree that it’s difficult to loosen our grip on stories we feel define us. However, as you pointed out, the beauty in letting go is that you find other pieces of yourself that have been overshadowed. And I bet those other pieces of you will make it worth the effort.

  2. I am sitting here in awe of you… so proud of you, that you have taken the steps to start a blog. I think this is the first ‘blog’ I have ever read… and only because I ‘think the world of you’… that I had to read it… We were all in different places in our lives when taking the course at NSCC, where I first met you. I gravitated toward both you and L… probably, the motherly instinct in me. I have always felt a closeness and love for both of you… we had a great bunch of girls in the class (only 10 of us), but was so thankful I had you two in it!
    Sounds like you have an amazing psychiatrist who is guiding you (mentoring you!) in a positive direction!! I think by writing this blog, it is not only helping you to heal and grow, but allowing those that care about you, to know you on another level. None of us know what our futures hold… but what is so important is to live each day fully… and allowing ourselves to experience the things that we love.
    Wishing you every happiness in life… please keep in touch. Looking forward to reading more… and praying for you… and your mom… just wish that I lived closer so I could be there for you… and so thankful that your great husband is by your side! Take good care my friend! xoxo

    1. Laurie, You have always been so supportive and I am so thankful for your support and touched by your kind words. You are a great friend. Thanks for venturing into the blog world for me 🙂
      Wish you all the best!

  3. It takes a great amount courage to look at yourself with complete honesty and see with clarity where you’ve been, where you are, and what may be; to do this publicly is astronomical. It doesn’t surprise me in the least as I know your capable of greatness no matter what you set out to do…success is taking the journey not reaching the destination. The tears I shed today are not for your loss but for all you gained. Your Mom and Dad (in-law) could not be more proud of our sweet girl.

    1. Wow.. I’m struggling to find words.. I’m so touched by your love and support. I’m so thankful to have you in my life, and beyond lucky to be your daughter in law. It means the world to me to have your support, I love you both so much.

  4. Although our struggles are different, I feel a authentic connection to your message. It’s time I, too, discover the real me… come face to face with my own vulnerabilities! Thank you for this…your fire inspires me 😉

    1. Tara, I’m so happy you felt a connection to the message, and that you are pursuing your own self discovery. Thank you so much for reading, and here’s to your amazing journey! Remember, having the courage to start is half the battle 🙂

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