Knowing Each Other’s Heart

If there were any one thing I regret as a blogger, it is that by the time I sit down to convey what happens during our couples counseling sessions, I’m just too emotionally drained to do a decent job. I think it is valuable to record them here, both for myself and for those who may not have the resources available to see a counselor themselves, so I muddle through, but I never feel I’m doing them justice. I’m sorry if these posts aren’t very insightful or well written, but I do think it’s important to put them out there, despite their shortcomings.

Last week our appointment mainly dealt with the fallout of our missed month of TTC. We also got some homework to do for this week’s appointment (usually we don’t go every week but this month’s schedule was weird). The homework mainly had to do with our reasons for having another child. We were both supposed to list our fears and reasons for wanting another baby.

Mi.Vida went first, relaying his fears. Interestingly (to me) Mi.Vida’s biggest fears center around TTC. He’s worried it’s going to be difficult for me again and that–as he’s already stretched so thin–he won’t have enough support to give me when I’m floundering. He also worries that prescribed sex will make him resentful. He fears the whole ordeal will be as brutal and heart wrenching as it was the first time. I don’t blame him for his concerns. They are all very valid and understandable, especially given what we went through the first time. I wasn’t surprised to hear his fears but it was still powerful to acknowledge them. I hope I can remember them as we move forward and do whatever I can to make this a positive experience for him.

My fears were more based in the challenges of TTC, possible loss, pregnancy and infancy all while managing a toddler. Basically I’m worried about how I’ll navigate all the difficulties of trying to conceive, dealing with a loss (if we have one), the exhaustion, nausea and discomfort of a pregnancy and then the sleep deprivation and hormonal swings (not to mention breastfeeding struggles) of the newborn months, all with an energetic toddler in tow. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage it all, especially not while I’m working full time. It just seems like too much. And after watching our relationship crumble under the weight of one child, I’m terrified of what two will do to us. I worry for Mi.Vida’s happiness and my own sanity.

Next we presented the reasons why we do want to have another child. Mi.Vida’s were all expressed with heartfelt sincerity and I appreciated them very much. He mentioned how much he loves being a father, how he appreciates the challenges of parenthood even if they sometimes feel overwhelming; while he misses the lazy carefree existence of life without kids he also values all he accomplishes as a father. He says he loves the connection he has with Isa and looks forward to nurturing a similarly fulfilling relationship with another child. He also says, for all its nuanced complexities, that parenthood has brought us closer together and he wants to build our family knowing that we, as a couple, will grow too.

I have to admit, every single one of Mi.Vida’s reasons for having another child surprised me and not just because they were so thoughtful and well articulated. I didn’t realize how much he valued fatherhood and its challenges. I didn’t realize how much joy he took in his relationship with our daughter. I didn’t know much he really, truly loved his new role as dad. And I definitely didn’t recognize his belief that we have become stronger through all of this. Hearing his reasons was a eyeopening indeed.

In the wake of Mi.Vida’s reasons for wanting another child, mine felt incredible pragmatic. I want Isa to have a sibling, and I hope they will be close as my sister and I were. I want to have another child, experience the connection I have Isa with someone else. I want to know what it’s like to love someone else like I love her, to have that bond with two people instead of just one. I want to experience pregnancy and child birth again (well, really just those precious hours after childbirth would be fine). I also hope to learn more about myself by parenting another child; the lessons Isa teaches me are more relevant and profound than any others I’ve ever learned. I also want to see who we, together, can bring into the world. I know we are so lucky to be able to have biological children–a mixture of the two of us–and I want to meet another person that is borne of our love and commitment to each other, almost more so since it’s become so hard won.

Sharing our pro and con lists for having another child was a powerful exercise. I think for the first time we really understand where the other person is coming from. I hope that knowing each other’s hearts will help us moving forward, that we will be able to show each other more empathy and compassion, that we will be able to give each other more support. I also hope it will aid us having more faith in ourselves as a couple, in believing we can do this, despite the struggles we’ll surely face.

Coming to Terms

TGIF. Seriously.

First off, thank you everyone who left words of encouragement yesterday. I can’t tell you how much it meant to know that others understood how upset I was. I know that in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big a deal. I know that people have had to wait infinitely longer to try, and then get pregnant. I know this. I don’t think missing this month would have been so hard if I hadn’t put myself through so much to get ready. These past two weeks have been so hard, and I endured it all so I could give it a try this month and then we missed it and it was all for nothing. That was a hard pill to swallow.

There are other reasons missing this month bothered me and I’ve been trying to parse them out in my head. I think the number one reason it upset me so much is that I like to be in control. I like to plan for every possible contingency and when I intend to do something, it generally gets done. I sensed that Tuesday was the day and I even bought the extra Pre-Seed just in case, even though I knew there was a chance it might arrive later that afternoon (as it did). And then I got home and events out of my control–our fight and Mi.Vida feeling sick–ruined my plans. And I HATE that. There is already so much about TTC that is out of my control, fumbling the stuff that is in my control drives me batty.

My reaction to this has also inspired me to look more closely at how I feel about TTC as a whole. The truth is, I’m not in an incredibly hurry to get pregnant. In fact, if we had gotten pregnant this month, and the pregnancy stuck, the due date would have been difficult to manage. Of course I assume we won’t get pregnant on the first (or second or third tries), or that the first won’t stick, so we’re starting early.

And the truth is, this is almost certainly my last chance at being pregnant. Despite my burning desire for a third child (more on the insanity of that soon to come), it’s not financially possible. So this is it. And there is a part of me that is sad for that, to know this is it. And I want to savor it. I’m the kind of person that enjoy the build up to the vacation almost as much as the actual vacation. So I’m not in a huge hurry to be pregnant. I’m really not. So why am I freaking out?

I think the thing is, I’m not scrambling to get pregnant but I am scrambling to be done trying. Unfortunately the two are mutually exclusive. I can’t just decide to get pregnant and do it. If I could, all would be fairy queefs and unicorn farts. But I can’t. And the truth is, I hate TTC. I loathe it. And while I don’t need to get pregnant immediately, I don’t want to be trying for a long time.

I’ve been trying to determine what about TTC is so horrible for me and I think I’ve figured it out. Every cycle that we don’t get pregnant I feel like we’ve failed. I mean, we have failed, right? We’ve failed to get pregnant. We set out to do something and it didn’t get done. And while I know that it’s not the same as failing at other things in life–because I don’t have control over the luck involved in actually getting pregnnat–it feels the same to me. I don’t like failing and TTC is chalk full of it.

Also, there is an irrational part of me that feels like every time we don’t get pregnant, it means the next time we have less chance of getting pregnant. I know that isn’t true, not really. I know that it’s like rolling a die and at school I roll die all the time. I use a six-sided die to dismiss my sixth graders because sixth graders are obsessed with “fair” and nothing is less biased than the roll of a die. And there are times I roll that die and roll that die and can’t hit either of the last two rows left to dismiss. And every time I think, maybe 4 and 6 will be the numbers I need to get pregnant and I just won’t roll them for the longest time. So I get it, in my head, but in my heart every negative test means that something might be wrong, that I have even less of a chance that it will happen the next time, that my opportunities are running out.

So yeah, I’ve been grappling with all that these past 24 hours and it’s been enlightening, to say the least. I’m trying to move past this busted month because really, what else can I do? My options are to wallow or move on. I guess the latter is the more productive choice, thought it can be a hard one for me to accept.

There is one thing making me feel better, and I wrote about it here, at my new blog. It has to do with faith, which I didn’t think I had for the longest time, but now I realize I do. And it brings peace. And for that I’m thankful.

 

The End of “The Only Ones”

Sometimes, just when you think you have life all figured out, it throws you a curve ball.

This weekend we went to a friends’ child’s third birthday party. We rarely see them and were happy to have a few moments to catch up. These are actually Mi.Vida’s friends so he spent a lot of time talking with the father while I chased Isa around, trying to keep her cute spring dress and pink shoes in tact.

After we left Mi.Vida told me that they were pregnant. This surprised me because I remember last year the mom saying that because she was just starting a new job they would have to wait for a few years before adding to their family. Their kids would probably be four or five years apart but there wasn’t much she could do because as a lawyer, she had to be available in those first years with her new firm.

As I did the math I realized the timing actually did work out, as their son just turned three so by the time their next child was born it would be almost a four year gap. I thought, wow, they probably got pregnant on the first try, just like last time. Literally as I was forming this though, Mi.Vida added that they’d been trying for a year and a half and had suffered a loss during that time.

I was caught so off guard by that. I was just so surprised. They got pregnant the very first month of trying the first time, I know this because they complained a few times about it, as they had been told it would take longer and weren’t feeling quite ready since it happened so fast. The fact that the second time around they struggled so long and hard shocked me. As I let it sink I realized that they must have been trying when she made that comment to me, the one about having to wait because of her job. I wondered why she said that then. Maybe because her kid was two and she had been fielding questions about when they would have another. Did she want to head me off at the pass? Assure herself that at least this family wouldn’t be asking her when they might have another kid? (I hadn’t by the way, she had just offered the information).

It was so strange to process this new information, to move this family from one category in my mind to another. Now, they are no longer one of the families that has it so easy. Now they are one of the families who has suffered for to have the children they want. I have to admit, it changes the way I think of them.

I also have to admit, after it all sunk in, I started feeling the fear. We’re so close to trying again–when my period shows up this week it will officially be our first CD1 of TTC#2–and I’m starting to feel anxious and worried, overwhelmed by what could go wrong. Hearing a story like this is hard for me right now. I know it’s not about me. I know their story has nothing to do with my own. But a reminder like this, of what can happen, of what DOES happen even to people who have it easy the first time, well it’s just a difficult reminder.

Mi.Vida was frustrated. The way he saw it, I could never be happy. If people have it easy I feel frustrated and envious. If the have it hard I feel scared and anxious. Basically there is no TTC story that doesn’t effect me negatively.

Of course, he doesn’t want the alternative. He doesn’t want, and would never expect, me to celebrate in the face of others’ struggle. Just because someone’s easy experience makes me feel frustrated or upset doesn’t mean the inverse is true; I am not gleeful upon hearing my friends’ troubling news. In fact I felt incredible grief for what they endured.

I will admit though, as I grieved for them I also breathed a sharp sigh of relief. I felt relief that I am not the only one who has struggled, that we are not the lone couple that argued over when to start to start trying, that suffered a loss and not being able to get pregnant. We’re not the only couple of our friends who didn’t enjoy the perfect family building experience. There is something about not being the only ones that brings me relief. And I feel horrible feeling that way. It’s not that I want anyone else to suffer, it’s not that I want people I know and love to have to go through this, but knowing I’m not the only one of our friends who has walked this path, it just brings me a strange sense of solace. I hope that doesn’t make me an awful person, but I understand if it does.

Later Mi.Vida was telling me about a comedian he loves who was interviewed on a podcast he enjoys. Evidently he and his wife also had troubling conceiving their second and eventually adopted. I have to admit, two stories of secondary infertility a week before we start trying again has me spooked. I’m decidedly less sure of the choices we made to wait, to get ready for our second attempt with diet changes and acupuncture. I wonder if I’ve made a huge mistake. I wonder if I’ll regret the path we chose.

Of course there is nothing to do to change it. We waited and now all we can do is suffer the consequences–whatever they may or may not be.

 

Mourning the amalgamation

Today I experienced my first baby-#2 pregnancy announcement  since we have (kind of) agreed on our tentative plan. I had assumed that baby-#2 stuff was bugging me before because I didn’t know when I could have that myself and that therefore when I did know, it would stop bugging me. Turns out I was wrong.

As I digested the announcement, I tried to pay close attention to how I was feeling. In successive, and sometimes overlapping, waves I recognized joy (for the person), anger, frustration, incredulity and eventually grief washing over me. In the past I would have chastised myself for these emotions: who am I to feel anger or grief over the joy of others, especially when I haven’t actually been denied that experience myself? Normally I would berate myself for my selfishness and force myself to move past the unacceptable emotions.

Today I did neither of those things. My new focus is on being honest with myself, on listening to what my body, mind and heart are trying to tell me, and on be accepting of whatever that might be. Today I brought that mindset to my reaction.

Instead of judging myself harshly for my feelings I was honest about them, and then I became curious. Why was I feeling all of these things? Why does learning of others’ success in building their families still conjure a negative reaction in me? Why does it prompt me to grieve over my own situation when I am more sure now than I’ve been in months that I’ll probably have that some day too?

What I came to understand from my soul searching is that my sadness about building my family is not just about when and how it happens. While I do lament the fact that our children will not be as close in age as I’d once hoped and I will forever mourn the chance to try to conceive without crushing anxiety, there is something else I’m grieving, something that was just as dear to my heart as either of those dreams.

The greif I felt today when I read that pregnancy announcement was inspired by the lose of another dream, one that is so basic I hardly realized I’d had to let it go. It was my dream of the contented, conflict free partnership forging tirelessly ahead, united in their desire to bring life into the world once again.

Of course I know that no relationship is always happy nor can they be entirely devoid of conflict. But I did hope to have a partner who wanted to build his family in the same way I always had. I did dream of approaching the idea of a second child with equal measures of excitement and expectation. I never imagined that building my family would require struggle and loss followed by strife and conflict and finally dictated by negotiation and compromise. I never dreamed my partner and I would approach having another baby with as much fear and trepidation as enthusiasm or joy. I always assumed we’d be so blissfully happy with the first child that having another would be seen as nothing but a blessing.

For us, in our lives, having another baby is a financial and emotional uncertainty. We’re not sure we can make it work, in any sense of the word. Not only do the fiscal responsibilities threaten to overwhelm us, but the emotional obligations do as well. I never expected it would be this hard. I never thought we’d struggle with it all this much.

When I see other families celebrating a pregnancy that will result in children less than two or three years apart I feel jealousy. I’m envious that they can make it work financially, that the woman can probably stay at home or makes enough to afford child care. I’m jealous that their relationship is strong enough to withstand the turbulence of two young children, that they have such confidence in their own foundation so as to entrust it with such an incredible and precious weight. I’m incredulous that their addition didn’t require negotiation or anger or anxiety or resentment. I’m apprehensive that they are strong enough to face the uncertain future with the grace, determination and resolve they are projecting.

It’s true that Mi.Vida and I are on the way to a decision, one we’ll both agree on. But it won’t be what either of us wants, not really. It won’t be born organically of our mutual desire to have another child. Our plan will have been painstakingly crafted over months of turmoil and ambivalence. It will be agreed upon because there is no other choice but to agree upon it. It won’t be in any way organic or natural; instead it will be an amalgamation of our wants and needs, welded together in an attempt to create the impossible union of our divergent dreams. While it will be mutually accepted it will never be celebrated by either of us, separately or together.

In the end I’ll probably get the family I’ve always wanted, at least some version of it. In the end I’ll probably have everything I need to be happy. Mi.Vida would argue that it’s the result that matters, not the circumstances under which that result was achieved. For him, I’m sure that’s the case and I accept that. But for me, it’s more complicated and there will be a part of me that is forever saddened that my family was forced into existence rather than born of two people’s unquestioned love for each other and their pure and unadulterated desire to build a family.

Constant reminders

When I wrote that email to Mi.Vida I believed every word of it. I felt that way, I truly did. I still feel that way. I still believe it’s my turn to concede. I still feel it’s my turn to compromise, for the good of our relationship. The only thing that has changed is I’m realizing now how hard it’s all going to be.

The truth is this is going to be very, very hard.

Deciding we aren’t going to have a baby anytime in the foreseeable future affects us both so differently. Basically, it doesn’t affect Mi.Vida at all. Well that’s not true. It relieves stress for him. He feels less pressure financially and that is a good thing. But as far as the every day living of his life? There really isn’t anything that has changed for him.

My experience is fundamentally different. Every single day of my life I’m reminded of what we’re not doing. Every single day of my life I’m prompted to recall what we have no plans to do anytime soon.

First there is my reader. Currently I’m following almost ten pregnant women in my reader. Every single day I’m bombarded with the fact that other people are pregnant. Other people’s pregnancy are announced via bump shots, ultrasound photos, daily aversion lists, I’m-this-many-weeks-tickers and everything else that pregnant women blog about. And I’m fine with that. I don’t begrudge any of these women their pregnancies or the ways they choose to talk about them on the blogs. I did all of that. I will probably do it again. I harbor no ill will towards them and I never will. My point is not that I’m annoyed by all this emphasis on pregnancy, I’m just pointing out that I’m exposed to it. And of course I could stop following these women – in a selfish* attempt to save myself the frustration – but I don’t want to. I want to be there for them. I want to support them, now in their time of triumph, just as I did during their struggles. At the same time, being exposed to the pregnancies of people I care about on a daily basis, when I’m trying to accept that I won’t be pregnant anytime soon? Not so easy.

Even if I did stop reading the pregnancy blogs that I currently follow, I’d still have to see the women sporting swollen bellies as they guide their toddlers up the slide steps at the park. Where there are toddlers there are pregnant mothers or mothers with newly minted little ones in Moby wraps** and if I want to get out of my shoe-boxe sized apartment with my daughter I’m going to see them. Everywhere. Mi.Vida just isn’t exposed to that, and even if he were, it wouldn’t hit him in the same way.

And finally, and maybe most importantly, there is my body. My body is a constant reminder of the fact that we’re not trying and don’t plan to try anytime soon. Every month my body complete’s its menstrual cycle. Every month I wipe increasing amounts of CM for the first two weeks (I have CM now, you guys! Of course I have CM now that we’re not trying). I’m also temping to avoid so I’m keenly aware of when I ovulate. Finally, at the end of the month I’m bombarded by the cramps and generally ickiness of AF, only for it to end and the whole thing to start all over again. So even if I were somehow able to avoid all the outside reminders of other people building their families, I can never evade my own bodies reminders of where I am in my own cycle. Especially not when I’ve learned to be so keyed into the signs from months and months of TTC.

And of course there are the supplements. I started them only weeks before this new development and I can’t seem to bring myself to stop. I guess stopping them means I’m admitting that we’re really not trying in the new year. If I stop taking my supplements I have no hope left to hang out to. I know it’s a moot point (actually it’s a waste of money) but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it yet. I will though, eventually. I just need for all of this to sink in more. I just need to get to that place of acceptance. Because right now, I don’t have it in me to dash that hope. I’d rather it flicker out slowly, I’d rather allow the molten wax of reality to swallow it up than to risk burning my fingers by snuffing it out myself.

In the meantime, where does this leave me? What can I focus on to get me through this increasingly difficult time? I’m trying to be thankful for what I have. I’m attempting to be more present and attentive with my daughter. I’m endeavoring to enjoy one-on-one time with my partner. I’m admiring the strength and beauty of my body at yoga. I’m revisiting the fact that I don’t have to figure out how to work child care for two next school year. I’m blogging. I’m copy editing. I’m visiting with friends. I’m trying to be aware of all the good in my life. I’m trying to look past what I lack to see what I have. I’m trying.

I really am.

*I only say selfish here because I already have a baby that arrived in my life via a healthy pregnancy that I carried. For that reason I feel that avoiding pregnancy blogs is selfish. I would NEVER suggest that avoiding pregnancy blogs while in the throes of IF or loss is selfish. I did it all the time and I considered it self-preservation. I do think it’s different when you’re on the other side, even if the blogger is having their second child, as some of people I follow are (those sting more to me, for obvious reasons).

** I just want to say, for the record, that seeing this doesn’t hurt like it used to. I’m still feeling much better about glimpsing women with, or expecting, baby number two, but it’s still a difficult reminder of where we are in our own family building plans to see it so frequently.