What was felt and not said

Mel just published a truly moving post on her blog. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do.

It really hit a nerve with me, what she wrote, and inspired me to finally tackle something that I had before been too scared to say. The waters were too murky, the depths unknown; I couldn’t see where I was standing, wasn’t sure what I would encounter if I took a step. Writing about it felt like a futile exercise, one that would only stir up more pain, anguish, confusion and shame.

I read Mel’s post. I let my own words spew forth on the page. I didn’t pause to ponder if I should press publish there, in that space but then a strange thought crept into my head. Should I post it on my own page? My first response was an all encompassing, gut wrenching assertion of, no, you must not. And that is what I knew that I had to.

My miscarriage is still the most painful loss I have endured. Experiencing that loss, compounded by the absence of validation, was the most harrowing struggle I’ve ever undertaken. I was fortunate enough to get pregnant, and have a healthy child, quickly after my ectopic. With distance, and a live child between us, I felt cushioned from the devastation but I still wanted to fight for those who remained in the trenches, whose wounds were still fresh. I wrote Miscarriages are Real Losses and, for the first time, knew I had made a difference.

Because of that, because of who I once was, I’ve never written what I’m about to post here, though I have felt it. I think you’ll quickly understand why.

My comment on Mel’s post:

Wow. I can’t quite put into words what this post meant for me. The confusing swell of emotions it inspired that din inside of me, a storm I must endure until it fades into a quiet calm.

I was thinking the other day of my miscarriage, marveling at how it didn’t hurt so much any more. The reality is, sometimes I think about it and it hardly hurts at all. Sometimes I don’t feel it, the area is numb to the touch, like the place where a dog bit me once and even though it was one of the most heinous wounds I ever had, it never caused me pain because the dog had dug out the nerve with my flesh. That is what looking back on my miscarriage is like. I know it was a heinous wound and that it should hurt but it just doesn’t, not anymore.

It doesn’t hurt so much because of my daughter.

My first pregnancy was due in March and my daughter was born in June. My daughter would not exist if that pregnancy had thrived. And the thought of not knowing, as you said, my particular little girl, is something I just can’t fathom.

It’s not just my daughter though. The first March after she was born it still hurt to touch that loss, to speak of it, to return to it. It wasn’t as raw as the March I was pregnant but it was tender all the same. I suppose it’s time healing a wound. But it’s also the fact that part of the wound was in the wanting, not in what was lost. And I have now what I was wanting, it might be slightly different than what was lost but it’s also very much the same.

I think it’s also in that I didn’t have to want for very long after what I lost. The short months between my loss and my pregnancy helped it to heal faster and leave less of a scar. I wondered before but I’m sure of that now.

When I think about trying again and the fear of another miscarriage seizes me, it doesn’t seem so paralyzing. It’s not that I wouldn’t be devastated, because it would be, it’s just that I know I can survive it now. Not because I have survived it before, but because the wanting of it is no longer a raw and savage thing whose undying power sends me reeling. The strength of that wanting has been tamed, by my daughter, by my years here, by a new expectation that I will probably be able to have another child and by a knowledge, based on prior experience, that if I do have another child, the wound will heal and scar and some day stop hurting so much, will as you say, “reframe it.”

After my ectopic I took to devouring miscarriage and loss books. Every book validated my feelings of devastation but they also spoke of those for whom early losses were not all that painful. I remember wondering, incredulous, how a woman could not feel as I did, that her entire being were bleeding out of her. Such a distinct memory of being sure that I would never, NEVER feel that way about my own loss. It would never be something small and inconsequential, a comma signaling a brief pause in one sentence of my life.

And it’s not that I feel that way now, but I feel closer to it, and even the movement in that direction feels traitorous, to what I lost, to who I was before, to what I have written. I still haven’t reconciled those feelings.

I also wonder if it makes me cold.

Time Warp Tuesday: Fear and the Publish Button

I am a very candid person. I’ve always come on strong and I learned a long time ago that I’m no good at toning it down. I speak my mind and I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Generally my attitude is, if you don’t like me, that’s fine. Sometimes I don’t even like myself very much so I get it.  (I also wish I knew when to just shut the fuck up. I really do.)

My blog is probably the only place in the world where I’m even more honest that I am normally. I tackle issues here that I would rarely, if ever, bring up in the real world. I avoid about these topics with most people not because I’m embarrassed about them, or worried about what others will think, but because I’ve found, through experience, that most people don’t want to talk about them with me. No matter how passionate you are about something, if people around you don’t want to engage you in that conversation, it’s a very hard conversation to have. So I just keep that part of my life to myself until I get home and can write about it on my blog.

A blog is an amazing thing because it is by you and for you. At least my blog is like that (as are the blogs that I read). I created this space with a singularly selfish goal in mind, to work through my own shit. And even though I’ve picked up a few readers along the way, in the end this blog remains a place for me – to reflect, to process, to make sense of things. If other people stumble across it and find it useful or – be still my heart – well written and entertaining, all the better. It’s very rewarding to know that my writing is interesting to other people. But in the end, I write for me.

Of course sometimes writing for me involves writing to connect with people. So there are times when I think very carefully about what I’m going to write. This blog is as much a window into myself as it is a portal to other intelligent, like-minded women. While I try to remain ever faithful to myself I do sometimes worry about offending those who read me. Most of the time this preoccupation only inspires me to look longer and harder at what I think or how I feel; worry about how my opinion might come across actually makes me investigate that belief further and in the end I usually feel even more secure in my point of view. In the end, I would never not post something just because it’s controversial but I might not post something if the chance of it hurting someone is greater than the chance of it helping someone, even if that someone is me.

I have written my fair share of controversial posts and while I’ve regretted the way I’ve presented some of my topics (ahem, thought on being a SAHM post, I’m looking at you) I’ve never regretted putting my feelings out there. In fact, every time I’ve felt I’ve made a mistake in the way I posed an opinion I’ve learned more about myself, and my beliefs, than I ever have when posting something I might deem as “safe”.

In my 2+ years of publishing this blog there has really only been one post I was fearful of publishing. This post sat in the back of mind, unwritten, for months before I finally had the courage to get it down. I always knew I would write it but wasn’t sure how or when. Looking back I realize I was probably as scared to put my thoughts down on paper as I was to press publish. The whole topic had caused me incredible grief and I was somewhat loathe to revisit it. In the end it was the difficulty of the topic, and the lengths I went to make sense of it for myself, that drove me to I write the piece. I did so as a final step for myself, to see my thoughts on the subject written in black and white and to help others who might find themselves in my position, trying to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable beliefs.

The resulting post was called Why I’m Still Pro Choice and worked through how I rectified my belief that my ectopic pregnancy was a real loss with my belief that women should maintain their reproductive right to an abortion. This possible conflict in thinking had always caused me anxiety but I was never forced to deal with it until a close friend chose to terminate her own pregnancy. Her decision forced me to come to terms with my own beliefs and with the help of some wonderfully supportive friends in the blogging world I finally came to a place of piece on the subject.

I was nervous to publish that post. I was scared that by doing so I would somehow be undermining the losses of so many of my friends who read my blog. There are few things I fight for on my blog as passionately as the validation of pregnancy loss and the thought that I might be negating that with my post was terrifying. In the end though, I knew that I had to press publish. The whole ordeal had caused me so much grief and I so would have appreciated reading someone else’s thoughts on the matter when I was struggling with it myself. I put it out there because I felt it was an important topic, especially in our community, and it deserved to be broached.

In the end I was pleasantly surprised by the comments of my fellow bloggers. Shockingly not one person posted an anti-abortion/pro-life tirade on that post. Every single response (and I got more on that post than perhaps any other) was thoughtful and courageous. By putting my experience out there I was able to hear how others handled it as well. I was finally getting the perspective I so longed for in the throes of my own emotional struggle. It was a very rewarding experience.

I never realized until writing thing post that my most nerve-wracking publishing experience turned out to be the most rewarding. I’ll have to remember that next time my pointer is hovering above the publish button.

Time Warp Tuesday: My Favorite Post

When Kathy over at Four of a Kind introduced this week’s Time Warp Tuesday theme (all time favorite post – in honor of Mel’s 2011 Creme de la Creme) I immediately knew which post I’d be reflecting on. There really is no doubt in my mind which post I am most proud of, and there are many reasons why I want to revisit it.

Many of you probably read my favorite post. It got the most page views of any piece I’ve ever written. It also inspired the most comments. Even today, over five months since I posted it, I still get comments on that post. People still link to it. It is the post that touched more people than any other post I’ve ever written. It’s my NIAW Bust a Myth piece.

National Infertility Awareness Week’s Bust a Myth I wrote a piece called Miscarriages are Real Losses. Even before I published the post I was very proud of it. I wrote it as a both a declaration that miscarriages are real losses and should be validated as such and as a revisiting of my own ectopic pregnancy. I spent a lot of time combing the three journals I filled in the months after my loss, selecting excerpts that I felt supported my points. The final product ended up being quite powerful and seemed to strike a cord with others who suffered similar losses.

Two years ago I started writing to find my own voice and use it to reach out to others. I feel this post achieves both those goals more successfully than any other post. The comments alone make this post my absolute favorite. No post I’ve written has reached more people and been received more positively.

Looking back on this post, I still believe very strongly in its message: that miscarriages are real and significant losses. I’m certain I will continue to walk through life sharing my story and supporting others who’ve experienced similar heartbreak. While I know that my lone voice can never shatter the taboo surrounding miscarriages, I hope that sharing my story might educate at least a few people who will take a newfound understanding with them into the world, validating the grief of their sister, friend or colleague. Maybe, just maybe, the ripple effect of my small pebble can touch enough people to make a true difference. If my experience makes even one woman feel less alone in her grief, it is worth sharing.

When I first started this blog, and even when I wrote my NIAW piece, I felt an urge, a need, to share the story of my loss. Putting it out there was a necessary part of my healing, for better or worse. Now, almost 2.5 years later, I am no longer compelled to share my story with everyone. I no longer feel it has a place in every conversation I have about family planning, pregnancy, or my life. I guess that is part of healing and moving past that painful time. I guess that is part of moving forward. It’s also a part of distance and perspective and, most importantly, the good fortune I’ve enjoyed since my ectopic; I know my daughter’s presence in my life has helped heal the wounds of my miscarriage more than time or perspective ever could.

My miscarriage post will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is it a call for others to recognize and validate the grief of those who lose pregnancies, but it’s also, and perhaps more importantly, a record of my own heartbreak. Looking back on that loss, after the healing affects of time and a successful pregnancy, it’s hard for even me to remember how much I suffered. Of course I will always be cognizant of how difficult it was, but that recognition is different from the raw and aching sentiments recorded in the weeks and months after it happened. Looking back on my loss through the dulling, mottled lens of time I can’t bring the grief into focus; this post provides a snapshot of the anguish I felt, preserving it forever.

I believe that caliber of heartbreak deserves to be honored for what it really was, not how might be remembered. I believe that kind of loss needs to be appreciated for how devastating it can be. That is why I wrote that post and that is why I revisit it today.

Confessions of an Infertile Impostor

PROLOGUE: If you didn’t get a chance to read last Thursday’s post you might want to now. If you don’t have much time (it’s long!) start about half way down, right above the indented dictionary definitions. It turns out that this post is kind of a sequel to that post. 

A while ago I exchanged a few tweets with Keiko of Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed. I forget what inspired the conversation but I do remember asking her if she thought her diagnosis of POF, years before she intended to start trying for a family (instead of while she was in the throes of TTC), had significantly shaped her relationship with her infertility.

During our Twitter conversation Keiko and I talked about what it was like to know that you would suffer from infertility before you started to build your family. We both experienced this to some degree and responded very differently. Perhaps that is because of our diagnoses, perhaps because of who we are as people, perhaps because of our circumstances. Probably it was a mixture of all of those and more. There are all manner of reasons why her diagnosis and mine led us on different paths. Today I’m only going to talk about what my experience was like, since I sure as hell can’t do any justice to hers. If your curious what she has to say on the matter, you can check it out on her post today!

The truth is, I was never diagnosed with infertility before I started trying. What happened was, in my late teens I stopped menstruating. I’m not talking long cycles, I’m talking no cycles – years and years of not having my period. Sometimes the OB I was seeing would decide it needed to be “treated” (with three months of birth control pills), other times I was assured it wasn’t a big deal. I was told, however, that if I did want to get pregnant, I would need to see a doctor to begin menstruating again because as it stood, I would not be able to conceive on my own.

Now this is where last week’s post comes in. While I was never told I was infertile, I was told I couldn’t get pregnant without medical help, which is one part of the complicated definition of infertility. For this reason, among others, I assumed I’d struggle significantly to get pregnant and began to consider myself infertile.

The “among other” reason was my mother. My mom’s story, as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, was a tragic one. She also experienced amenorrhea for most of her teens and twenties and, not surprisingly, struggled to get pregnant. She finally had me after two years of trying. Two years later she had my sister S, who died in the NICU after two months of fighting for her life. My mom and dad were in California looking for a house when it happened. My sister died and our mother was half a content away. And after that? She lost three sons, all still born at six months. My mom was getting her tubes tied, a desperate attempt to avoid more loss, when she found out she was pregnant with my other sister M. We are almost seven years apart.

This all happened first, watching my mother lose babies, me losing siblings. I already knew, before I ever had troubles myself, that pregnancy was wrought with loss and sadness, that it was a miracle but a fragile one. That there were no guarantees.

No guarantees. That was it really. There were never, ever any guarantees. No guarantees that I would ever get pregnant, that I would birth a live child, that a live child would continue living. Guarantees were for the land of the fertile. Guarantees were not for me.

And yet I was not infertile. I had never struggled to get pregnant because I wasn’t trying to get pregnant yet. Still my past and my present led me down a different path than my fellow not-infertiles journeyed. From my path I eyed pregnant women and complete families with suspicion and envy. I responded with understanding and empathy when I heard of a lost pregnancy. I worried every single day that I wouldn’t find someone in time to build my family. I assumed having children would be a long, arduous, harrowing journey and if I didn’t start soon enough, I might never get there.

When I finally met my first boyfriend I was 26 and already panicking that it was too late. Once we were formally “dating” I immediately started in on having kids. I could not dick around with this guy if he didn’t want a family! Turns out he hadn’t planned on having one. Cue the constant conversations, crises and fights. My infertility-assumption shaped our relationship in ways I probably don’t see, even to this day. We were in counseling about having kids after dating for less than three years. It was constantly a part of the conversation – a shadowed that darkened so much of our lives.

When we finally neared our TTC date I started acupuncture. I had read many “overcoming infertility” books and had decided that since Western treatments were reactive (and I wouldn’t be eligible for them at first anyway), I would pursue Eastern treatments in an attempt to be proactive.

Along with the acupuncture I took Chinese herbs and followed a strict traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diet, excluding grains and limiting dairy. Meanwhile I abstained completely from alcohol. I did all this in hopes of staving off my impending amenorrhea and infertility.

Most women start trying to conceive with nervous excitement. They take their last BCP and wonder what will happen. They have sex, excited for the possible consequences they had once taken such great pains to avoid but now were ready to embrace. I never felt like that. I never had that naive, “this is going to happen” attitude. We never just had sex, hoping for the best. Instead I was temping and charting from my first CD1. We were scheduling baby making sex on a shared Google calendar from the get go. We never had those carefree months. We never had a “well maybe it will happen next time” BFN. Every month was excruciating. Every month BFN made clear what I already knew, that this just wasn’t going to happen for us.

After six months of trying we found out we were pregnant. Despite my mother’s story I was happy, blissfully so. I knew something bad could happen but I was just so relieved to see that second line. For two weeks, life was wonderful.

Then pain, bleeding, 12 hours in the ED, an MVA, an ectopic pregnancy, shots of methotrexate and a warning that I could still lose my tube or possibly die. Not only had I lost my pregnancy but I’d done so in a way I didn’t even realize was possible. My future as an infertile seemed to be the writing on the wall.

What followed was months of healing and waiting and wondering what would be next. When we started again I felt I had lost all hope. It had been so long since we had started trying. I felt despondent. I launched my blog. I joined this community. I immediately felt a sense of acceptance and purpose. I instantly felt like I belonged.

We got pregnant a couple months later. That time it stuck and nine months later we brought home a healthy baby. In the days after her birth I felt a weight lift. I felt I had escaped a horrible fate, a fate I had come to expect. I considered myself incredibly lucky and intensely grateful.

The weight didn’t dissipate completely though. My fears of recurring amenorrhea and pregnancy loss have come creeping back as we start thinking about having another baby. My past, my mother’s past, will haunt me with their awful possibility for as long as I hope to have children. In fact, it will always be a part of who I am, it will always color my gratitude for my family and my good fortune.

My assumption of infertility had other, unforeseen consequences. Now, having had a child, I’m left straddling two worlds. On the one hand I never took up residence in the world of the fertiles; I never lived their naive and innocent life in which people have babies whenever they want to. And yet, I was never diagnosed as infertile. When I physically couldn’t get pregnant I wasn’t trying to and when I wanted to get pregnant I took measures to increase my chances of that happening. I will never know if the TCM and acupuncture did the trick. Or if it was simply the years of BCP. Maybe my body just figured out how to menstruate. In the end though, I was able to conceive a child and I did birth a healthy baby.

So where do I belong? I’m not infertile, though we share similar experiences (spending many thousands of dollars on treatments, making continual sacrifices to have a child, feeling hopeless and alone) and  I empathize with this community in the way I think other infertiles do. I’m not fertile because of my history, my struggle and my loss. It’s a strange place to be because I can’t claim membership in either community. I feel like an impostor in both places, but the place where I feel like I’m pretending is with the fertiles. Here, in the IF community, I feel that I belong. But I respect other women and their struggles too much to compare them with my own and so I tred lightly, I flash my loss card and I hope nobody will call me out.

I don’t call myself infertile even though in my heart, it’s a part of who I was, who I am and who I always will be.

Anniversary of a Loss

July 4th is cause for celebration in this country. We celebrate our nation’s birthday and the freedoms we hold so dear. But for me this weekend will always be the anniversary of different sort as July 2nd was the day I lost my first pregnancy. 

As I thought of what to write about that day, this year, I returned to the post I wrote 365 days before. I liked that post. It speaks to me even though a year has passed. It remains relevant in all aspects. And since most people who read me now (at least who comment now) didn’t read me then, and it didn’t even get any comments when it was posted, I thought I could put it up again. So here it is, in it’s entirety. The only thing I changed was the number of the anniversary.

Yesterday was the 2 year anniversary of our ectopic – the day we spent 12 hours in the ED bleeding, getting blood taken, having hope, having hope crushed, getting ultrasounds, MVA’s and finally methotrexate shots to dissolve the child that threatened to damage me irrevocably. Today marks the two year anniversary of the saddest day of my life. Today I hope to watch fireworks with my partner and daughter down by the water. Two years ago I spent the 4th curled on my couch having cramps and bleeding as I thought of my baby dying inside of me.

I want to say “what a difference two years make,” but honestly, even with the blessing of my daughter in my life (which I will never, EVER take for granted), yesterday and today are still painful. I’m not denying that they would not be more painful if I didn’t have my daughter, or worse, if I were still trying. I’m not saying that her presence doesn’t dull the pain, but that is all it does, dull it. Isa’s presence, in and of itself, does not heal the pain of the loss of my first child. Knowing she was inside of me didn’t heal the pain when my first EED came and went and it doesn’t heal it now. The baby I lost on July 3rd of 2009 was a different child and I will always be sad for his or her loss, no matter how many healthy, live children I may have.

Today I am thinking a lot about all the people I know who have also suffered losses, most of them still hoping desperately to some day have a healthy child. There has been a lot of heart wrenching news shared on people’s blogs recently and every time I look at Isa I wonder why I get to be so lucky. It makes me angry that I get to have a healthy baby and others who have suffered so much more than me are still unsure of if or when they will have their own. I had a relatively easy go of all of this. Sure my ectopic was a horrific experience and the anxiety I had over getting pregnant due to amenhorrea and other past reproductive issues made the year we were trying very stressful, but all in all, my struggle was so much less than so many others. It’s hard not to wonder who is keeping score.

The easy time other people have also make me wonder. I remember when two goods friends announced their pregnancy, after only two times doing the dirty without protection (the guy’s comment was, “I guess I didn’t need to be worried about my potency” and “I thought this was supposed to be hard” – to which I responded it is for a lot of people, it took us months and months of perfectly timed sex and we still lost of our first pregnancy). Our other friends who got pregnant immediately after they threw out BCP and my cousin, who also got pregnant before really starting to “try” and had her baby last year. It’s hard not to feel jealous of their experiences and again wonder why they have it so incredibly easy while others have it so incredibly hard.

Mi.Vida says I can’t think that way because it will drive me crazy. Perhaps he’s right, but it’s hard not to see these things in terms of “fair” and “unfair”. I try to remember all I read about loss and suffering in Buddhism. There is no rhyme or reason to suffering, it just is. The only thing that can change suffering is the outlook of the person suffering. There is no wrong or right, fair or unfair, there only is. That is such a hard reality to acknowledge but I do my best to accept it every day.

I hope everyone has a good 4th of July and that you can find something to celebrate today, even if it’s simply the freedom we enjoy here in this country. Please know that just because some of us didn’t have as hard a time as others, we wonder why it’s so unfair just as fervently as others. And to all of you who have suffered loss, be it of a pregnancy (or many), a child, or the years of pain lost to IF, my heart goes out to you now and always.

Freebie Fridays: Big Book Giveaway

I’m sad to post this so late (it’s barely Friday anymore!) but it’s the best I can do…

For my first official freebie Friday I want to announce the Big Book Giveaway! Next Friday I will be giving away one of my favorite books from my journey into motherhood. During each phase of my journey (TTC, pregnancy loss, pregnancy and motherhood) I’ve found one book that really spoke to me, that really helped me get through. Whoever wins the Big Book Giveaway can choose the book that she wants, be it for this phase in her life, or the next.

The four books are (drum roll please…..)

TTC

The Way of the Fertile Soul: Ten Ancient Chinese Secrets to Tap into a Woman’s Creative Potential by Dr. Randine Lewis

This was one of the first books I bought as I started to explore alternative paths through TTC. While this book is written to help women preserve and enhance fertility, it’s also about fostering creativity and cultivating passion in your life. I really felt like this book spoke to me and helped me see how my overall health and happiness could affect my chances at conception. It was a message that governed a lot decisions I made while trying to conceive.

Pregnancy Loss

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

This book touched me, during a time when I my heart felt unreachable . A friend gave me this book in the aftermath of my ectopic; each chapter helped me to accept the suffering in my life and learn to have faith in the peace of the present moment. I can’t explain how this book brought me such comfort, but I’ve given it to others in times of loss and they’ve all agreed it was invaluable. This book helped me pick up the pieces and gave me the courage to move forward.

Pregnancy

The Pregnant Woman’s Companion: Nine Strategies That Work to Keep Your Peace of Mind Through Pregnancy and Into Parenthood by Christine D’Amico

There are so many books written about pregnancy for pregnant woman, and I read most of them, but this was by far the most essencial. Unlike most books, which chronicle the physical changes of both mother and child, the Pregnant Woman’s Companion offers a guidebook for the emotional and social changes of pregnancy. This book helped me navigate the challenges of altered friendships, road bumps in my relationship and panic about my ability to maneuver through the immense transition into motherhood. It also helped me honor of the grief of my ectopic pregnancy while celebrating the joy of my second. The nine strategies really allowed me to enjoy my pregnancy more, and for that I’ve forever grateful.

Motherhood

Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller

This is an essential book for all new mothers who feel overwhelmed in their new role (and I would bet that ALL new mothers apply). Momma Zen is a wonderfully honest look at the challenges of being a mother, and the opportunity motherhood affords those who are willing to experience it without judgment. This book taught me that my daughter can be my greatest teacher, if only I  don the role of student. Momma Zen doesn’t sugar coat motherhood but it has transformed many everyday “mom” moments into something altogether sweeter.

If you would like to participate in the Big Book Giveaway, all you have to do is comment on my blog! Any day this week (until, and including, next Friday) leave a comment telling me about a book that has helped you at any time in your life. If you’d like to enter more than once, leave a second or third comment (each on a different day, please) sharing more books that have made a difference in your life. You don’t have to write much, a simple sentence or two will do. On Friday, at 9pm Pacific, I will announce the winner (chosen at random) of the Big Book Giveaway. That person will get to choose which of the four books above they would like to receive and that book will be in the mail immediately.

I look forward to hearing about the special books in your lives and sharing a special book from mine!

Hoping to Inspiring Hope

I know a lot of women who are still struggling in the IF world have a hard time reading “success story” blogs. I hope though, that they will read this post. And I hope it will bring them hope.

I still cannot believe I am a mother. All my life I believed that this was my eventual destination (though when I was trying I wasn’t so sure about the “eventual” part). Now I’ve arrived and I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I used to love watching movies and reading books about pregnancy and birth. I wondered what my experiences would be like, how they would shape me. Now I watch or read them and I’ve experienced it. I can actually compare my own experience with what I’m seeing or reading. I don’t even know how to process that. Wondering what it would be like was a huge part of who I was. Now I know what it’s like and I feel like I can’t quite shift into the person that makes me.

I am so, so, so lucky. So fortunate. So blessed (I am not religious but I feel like that word is appropriate here, even for me). I continue reading TTC, IF and pregnancy loss blogs and I want what I have for those people still struggling even more than I did when I was terrified I wouldn’t have it myself. I want to do something with my life that helps ensure those people will have what I have. I feel like I can’t step away from this community because it means so much to me. This journey meant SO MUCH TO ME. It defined me in so many ways. It continues to define me. Pregnancy and now motherhood is not something that runs concurrently with the rest of my life, it IS my life. I feel complete. I feel like I have arrived. I feel like I am finally the person I was meant to be.

When I was trying to get pregnant – and especially after my ectopic when I was paralyzed by the fear that I would keep having ectopics and eventually lose my tubes, and my chances of having a baby – my friends who did not yearn for all of this would ask me why I felt such desperation. I had a hard time articulating what it would mean to me if I could not have children. I sometimes said that I didn’t feel like life would be worth living, I didn’t see the point. That is still true, but there is more. I realize now that I wouldn’t have been a whole person without being a parent. I didn’t have to be a biological parent to fill this part of me, but I had to be someone’s mother just to be me – to really and truly be me. Otherwise I would have lived my life as just a shadow of who I was.

I am a woman who has really grown into herself. Even in high school and later college, as I battled intense depression and self-loathing, I knew, deep down, that things would get better. I knew that every year I was growing into myself in positive, constructive ways. Just as I always had many older friends (and when I say older I mean my parents’ age), I knew I’d be happier when I too was in that stage of my life. I suppose I always assumed that part of it was that I’d also be a mother at that time, but I wonder if I realized then that the mother identity was really what I needed to be whole. Whether or not I knew it then, I’m sure of it now.

Pregnancy was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world. And seeing parts of myself – my eyes, my nose – in my daughter, seeing my features mixing perfectly with my partner’s, it brings me immense joy. When I wonder how she will be like me, I feel proud to have brought her into the world. At the same time, I know that her biological link to me is only secondary to her just being here, to her being my daughter. I could love another child as much as I love her. In fact, the biological connection can be frightening: will she inherit my penchant for depression? My anxiety? My ADHD? When I wonder what parts of my personality I will see in her I generally attribute the possibility of recognizing them to nurture and not nature. I look forward to seeing how she is “like” me in that way and I hope I can be the kind of person I would want her to be. But I worry about passing on, genetically, my faults and my weaknesses. The biological tie is important to be sure, but it’s not paramount.

I’m suppose I’m writing this because I want to explain how important being a mother is, and to let people still struggling to fill that role know that it’s worth their efforts. But I also want them to know that, while not having a biological child (if that is where their journey takes them) is surely a loss to face, I don’t believe it has to be a devastating one. That is not true, I think it would be devastating – and not being able to experience pregnancy would truly be something to mourn. I totally understand all the lengths that people go to to experience pregnancy and/or bring a biological child into the world. But that is one experience and it is relatively short. Being a mother, that is the part that fills the void you might be feeling – that is the part that makes you whole – and I truly believe that no matter how you get there, it will define you in the way you want it to. You will feel like you have arrived at yourself.

I hope I don’t sound preachy. I hope no one thinks that I take for granted what I have and I’m saying others should be okay settling for something else. That is not it at all. I ache to give my “friends” in the IF community the experience of pregnancy and the birth of their biological child. I want that for them more than anything I could ever want for myself. But I also want them to know that it can be okay even if they don’t have that. They can still be complete, happy and whole. There will be scars to be sure, and there will be emptiness in the places where those experiences should have been, but I think you could still be whole even with that emptiness, I really truly do.

I hope this post brings something positive to people. I also hope I don’t sound daft or disingenuous or pompous. I’m not trying to rub anything in anyone’s face. I’m truly only trying to give hope. If I just can’t understand what it’s like to face the possibility of not having biological children (though I think I can because I truly believed that was a possibility in the aftermath of my ectopic) I am sorry to assume that I can. And I am sorry if I’ve overstepped my bounds or said something I shouldn’t have. That was not my intention. And I’m sorry if it seems like the pain I’m feeling about the continual losses my IF friends face is driving me to say things to make them think it’s going to be okay, to make me think it’s going to be okay for them. Maybe that is what is going on here, and if it is, and I’m out of line, I apologize. The point was to instill hope and if I did that for just one person, then it was worth it.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I’m finally done with my second to last grad school class. One down, one more to go!