Trying to Conceive When You Already Have

Yesterday I had my first TTC-related panic attack. At least the first one in a while. It came out of nowhere, I don’t remember even thinking about TTC before it happened but suddenly I was drenched in a cold sweat, absolutely sure that our attempts to have another baby would be fraught with struggle and loss. I felt sure I wouldn’t buckle under the weight of whatever was in store.

When I relayed all this to Mi.Vida later that night, during our 10 minute check in, he held me close and assured me that we’d be okay, that we are strong, that we can get through anything.

And besides, we have Isa, as if that were that.

It’s true. We do have Isa. And while I can tell having her means something different for him than it does for me, I wonder how she will change things this time around. What will it be like to try to conceive when I already have. Will it be easier? Harder? Less nerve wracking? More difficult to manage? The truth is I’m not sure, at this point, on the eve of our TTC start date, I can only guess.

In some ways I reckon it will be a better, more positive experience. I want that very much and am going to put a huge amount of effort into assuring that I handle things more positively. Our first attempt at TTC was wrought with anxiety and conflict; it exacted a considerable amount of damage on our relationship, damage we’re just now repairing. Much of the negativity surrounding our first TTC experience originated with me and I intend to do everything I can to approach this situation differently.

I can already feel that some things are different. There is no longer that wild, untamed dread roiling inside me, I am no longer paralyzed by the fear that I will never be a mother. That fear, harbored my entire life, grew exponentially in the years leading up to our attempt at TTC until it became an uncontrollable force, frantic and furious, unyielding, wrecking devastation on my mental health and my relationship. There are few things I’m more ashamed of than the ways in which I let that fear overtake me. I was wholly consumed and what was left of me was only a shell of who I really was, of the woman my partner loved.

That fear is gone and, as you can imagine, the effect is remarkable. Surely this experience will be better if only for that. With that wild, uncontainable beast at bay, I have faith I can manage my trepidation and dominate my doubt.

Yes, being a mother will help my cause greatly, as I assume will the actual act of mothering. My previous months TTC were exacerbated by my irascible impatience. I had been ready to start mothering for years and any further delay was more than I could bare. Now I have a daughter on which to dote and I hope that her presence will serve as a distraction, taming my once irrepressible impatience.

I also must admit that having my daughter has taught me that motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorn flatulence. And while I can’t accurately fathom how challenging caring for two children will be, I’m aware of the fact that it will be exponentially harder than I’m expecting it to be. Reminding myself of the ordeals we are sure to face with two children will probably do as much to temper my impatience as my daughter will be.

Yes, I believe for me, this experience will be different from the first. The fact that I was able to handle pushing our TTC date back by six months without totally losing my mind (as I would have done the first time around) is a testament to how things have changed. With my desperation subjugated and my impatience muted, I hope to weather the storm of TTC with considerably more style and grace. In fact, I hope not to look on it as inclement weather at all.

Of course, not all the pressure is gone. While I am unequivocally a mother, I don’t consider my family complete. I want very much to have two children and I’ll admit there is an age gap I consider desirable. Even if I succeed in evicting these qualifiers from my mind, I will see them all around me. Almost every child that Isa teeters up to at the playground will have a waddling mother in tow. I will be reading of other bloggers completing their families in much the way I hope mine will be completed. Despite my best efforts comparisons will be made, months will be counted, and panic will begin to creep in.

Honestly, the months of timed sex and BBT charts stacking themselves up indefinitely isn’t want sets my teeth on edge – the thing that sends me reeling is contemplating another loss. Because the truth is, losing another pregnancy is something I’m not sure I can handle, at least not with any measure of competency. And if I’m thrown by pregnancy loss into the immeasurable depths of despair, it’s not just my partner that suffers, buy my daughter as well. The idea that I might not be able, or willing, to care for my daughter during a time, or multiple times, of loss, is truly terrifying. And when the fear of TTC comes over me, it’s the fear of loss that is able to sink it’s teeth in and not let go.

Uncertainty is something I strive (and fail) to accept in my life. The first time we were TTC the uncertainty of the outcome overwhelmed me. My entire identity was at stake and not knowing what would happen took me to the brink and I thought many times of just stepping over the edge. Trying to have a second child I feel faced with less uncertainty, but uncertainty all the same. I’m no longer unsure I’ll ever be a mother. I am not as distrustful of my body’s ability to carry and birth a child. But I’m still not sure I will have the second child my heart so desperately craves. The shape and size of my family is yet to be determined. And of course the path I will journey to reach that family is completely unknown. My trepidation is understandable, especially considering the journey of my mother, and those of other women in this community, that I look to as guides. I just have to keep reminding myself that my story has not been written and if I spend my time filling the blank pages with tragedies that haven’t happened, I’m only setting myself up for unnecessary suffering. Life’s filled wth enough hardship already, there is no need to conjure misfortune when it hasn’t happened yet.

So I will wait. And wonder. And hope. And keep taking my B6 vitamins.

Confessional Fridays: There is no cure-all

As you may have guessed my partner and I have been confronting some difficult financial realities of late. Our professional fulfillment and personal happiness are deeply entrenched in these financial uncertainties. Recently we have embarked on myriad troublesome and labyrinthine conversations and unlike in the past, we tend to walk away feeling more hopeless than when we began.

When were TTC and even the year before, when I was impatiently waiting for Mi.Vida to be “ready,” I was sure that once we had a baby everything would be different. I was convinced that this “different” meant better, infinitely so. I would feel whole. I would be “fully realized” (thank you for this Sarah) as the mother I was always meant to be.

When we suffered our loss I lingered in a very dark place. That summer was spent in great physical and emotional turmoil as my body contended with the havoc wreaked by methotrexate and my heart tried to grapple with a cavernous emptiness and complete absence of hope. There were times during those months when I thought we wouldn’t get through it, that even if I managed to survive our relationship wouldn’t.

Then I got pregnant and miraculously stayed that way. I thought that if my daughter were born healthy all would be right in the world. I would finally be fully realized and ultimately fulfilled. I would have arrived, happy and whole, at the doorstep of my life.

Well, she was born healthy and I was happy. In fact I was elated; my joy was immense and unencumbered. I had arrived at my life and it was wonderful. My daughter really was the cure-all I had assumed she would be.

Now, a year later, I realize it’s not that simple. While my daughter’s presence does bring me unbridled joy I recognize she’s not the cure-all I had once imagined. She did help me fully realize myself at the core of my being but her healing powers do not extend to all facets of my life. Her happy, healthy presence is not, in and of itself, enough to nurture my relationship. It can’t afford me, or my partner, professional fulfillment. She can’t deem obsolete the financial expectations or obligations that threatened to crush us. She cannot be the glue holding our lives, and our relationship, together.

Of course if she were sick or, God forbid no longer with us, I would feel differently. Of course then she would be the glue and her absence would cause everything to crumble. But she is not sick and we have no reason to believe she won’t be with us for a long time (and I refuse to live my life always assuming that she might suddenly be gone from it) and so I have to take stock in what I feel to be true in this time and place – that right now, we are not happy. Right now, her simple presence is not enough to make everything alright. That having had her, and being made the mother of a living child, did not infuse my life with simplistic perfection.

I don’t know if, for saying this, I should be demonized as the worst kind of mother or admonished for my naiveté. Are my readers thinking, of course she should be enough? If she were mine she’d be enough. Or are they shaking their heads with the hint of a smile on their lips wondering, how could she think a child would fix things? They sit atop relationship’s foundation, testing its stability. They don’t strengthen the infrastructure, making it more sound.

The truth is we thought it would be easier. We thought we could make it work. We didn’t anticipate these challenges. We didn’t foresee the financial realities. We failed to forecast the urgent current of our dreams or the devastating consequences of their apparent impossibility. We weren’t honest with ourselves about how much we would want and how little we’d be able to have. We miscalculated and now we’re paying dearly for it.

This didn’t happen because we had our daughter. This happened in spite of it. We thought, I thought, that once she was here all the rest of it would fall away. All the troublesome “other” would be rendered inconsequential by her mere existence. She was everything, any obstacle would whither in her awesome presence. But they don’t and they won’t and we’re left grasping for answers when none seem acceptable.

Does this paint me as ungrateful? It must. I don’t suppose my insistence that I’m not would convince you otherwise. I will however assure you that I’m not, in any way, ungrateful. Naive, possibly ignorant, but not ungrateful. My daughter is my heart beating outside of my body. She is the sunshine of my soul. I am only confessing that even in the presence of her sunshine there are shadows. Her light cannot render innocuous all hardship, though it’s attempts to do so are impressive.

We will get through this. I have faith in that. We will prevail but we may do so at great cost to ourselves and our relationship. While I think we will come out on the other side I don’t suspect we will do so unscathed or stronger. This journey will take its toll and I can only hope that the scarring is not so extensive as to deliver us unrecognizable to the next chapter of our lives.

Confessional Fridays: TTA (and kind of terrified)

Remember how I was asking, just yesterday, Where do I go from here? Well on the family building front that question has me very conflicted.

On Saturday I popped the last little white pill from the last row in my last birth control pack. I’ve decided to stop taking even the mini-pill as it gives me pretty noticeable Melasma, which I hate. The minute my skin gets any sun, I develop dark blotches on my upper lip and around my eyes. Its supposed to be caused by increased estrogen (which is why many pregnant women get it and it’s also called the “pregnancy mask”) so I don’t know why I get it even when I’m on the progesterone-only pill, but I do. It doesn’t matter how much sunscreen I wear every day (I slather on a daily 30 or 50 SPF daily!) I still get it. It looks like I have a mustache.

So I’m going off BCP even though we’re not TTC yet.

In fact, I can’t even “accidentally” get pregnant (ha – the idea of this is still so ridiculousl to me) because I’m on a medication for my ADD and there have been no studies on how it affects human pregnancies (though studies have shown adverse affects on animal fetuses, whatever that means). So yeah, getting pregnant in the next two months, while I’m still taking this medication would be bad. And after that, it would probably be detrimental to my relationship if I got pregnant accidentally.

So we’re going to chart my temps and use the barrier method. Basically we’re TTA. And that seems very strange to me.

A part of me is really worried about going off BCP so long before we start TTC. As someone with unexplained amenorrhea, the most prudent move is to start trying immediately after stopping BCP as that is when you are most likely to continue ovulating. In the past, when they gave me three months of BCP to “jumpstart” my system I’d ovulate (or at least menstruate) for about three to five months before I stopped. Then I would never start again until the next round of BCP the next year.

When I was TTC I started acupuncture and a TCM diet BEFORE I went off BCP. I was trying to ensure that those three to five months right after I stopped birth control were optimal for a possible pregnancy. I continued acupuncture and TCM herbs and diets until I got my second BFP, about 11 months after I started trying. Those 11 months were the longest I’d gotten my period in over a ten years.

Of course I don’t know if I was ovulating all that time because of the acupuncture or the 2.5 years of continual BCP or a mixture of both. Or if it was just dumb luck.

I’m scared to stop BCP now when we’re not TTC for another five months. What if, by the time we’re start tying, I’m not having my period anymore? What if I then have to go on BCP for three months to kick start it? What if everything goes back the way it was before when I never ovulated.

I guess I’ll only know if I do it. I guess it’s possible my nine months of pregnancy jump started my reproductive organs in a more complete and long lasting way. Maybe I will have my period like clockwork from now until I’m taken over by the “change” later in life. Who knows?

All I know is for the next 5 months I’m charting to avoid. I will be checking for EGCM to know when not to have sex. I’ll be waiting for my temps to rise to know when it’s safe to have sex without pregnancy as a consequence. It’s all so foreign, so backwards. I can’t really wrap my head around it.

Sometimes I wonder if it will be hard to TTA. Will I want t throw caution to the wind (after I’m off my meds in July) and just go for it? I’m not sure, but I doubt it. While having my first child was something I wanted immediately, having my second feels different.

It feels different not because I know what I’m getting into, but because I realize how thoroughly I DO NOT know what I’m getting into. Before I had Isa I knew, in that vague and abstract way you can know something you haven’t experienced, that having a baby was hard work but I had no idea how it would affect me and my partner and our relationship. I had no idea how difficult it would be.

The discrepancy between how hard I thought it might be and how hard it actually is has taught me a lot. It has taught me that I cannot know how hard having a second child will be, especially when the first is still a toddler. It has proven that there are challenges I can’t, and won’t, anticipate. More than anything I know that I can in no way prepare myself for the strain it might put on me, and more importantly on my relationship.

Of course, I also didn’t know how amazing it could be. Even in my wildest fantasies (and I indulged in plenty of them) I could never have conceived of the joy and fulfillment my daughter would bring. Before meeting Isa I didn’t know what it meant to love someone so intensely and completely. I adore spending time with Isa and I’m eager to meet my (possible) future child(ren), to learn who they are and how they see the world.

There are so many more variables now. The temperament of a (possible) second child. The way Isa will react to him or her. The way they will interact with each other. It’s impossible to know what the family dynamics will be.

And of course there are the possible struggles, the possible losses. What will those be like when I have a child to care for? Will having Isa make it easier or more difficult? It will surely be very different to face those things when the journey is no longer my own, but my daughter’s as well.

So yeah, the whole TTA to TTC thing is exceedingly difficult to navigate with myriad variables and infinite unknowns. All I can do is make choices and deal with the consequences of those choices, whatever they may be. In the meantime I just wait.

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!

If no news is good news, then what is this news?

I got some interesting news today. It should be super exciting news, but of course there is more to it than that, at least for me. I’m actually not sure how to respond to it. I’m hoping I can sort that out here.

The news is: My cousin is pregnant.

First of all let my say that I am really excited for my cousin. Very, very excited. And I only want the best for her in the next 9 months. That is absolutely the truth.

I also feel frustrated that it was so easy for her. And I feel like she is stealing my thunder, just a little bit at least. I will touch on both of these in this post.

My cousin is a year younger than me. She just got married this summer, weeks before my ectopic pregnancy. When I asked her this summer if they were planning on having kids anytime soon, she seemed totally uninterested. This was very relieving to me, because I was worried if they started right away, they’d beat me to it (at this point I didn’t realized I was pregnant yet and had been trying for six months). Anyway, maybe that is why she said she wasn’t going to try anytime soon. I’m not sure. The point is, I didn’t expect this news from her in the near future.

But today I did get this news from her. Evidently they haven’t been trying, but they weren’t not trying either. They didn’t think it would happen so quickly. You know how it goes for the fertile myrtles, they just think fleetingly about getting pregnant and then they are.

So if all goes well with my cousin’s pregnancy (she is only five weeks now), when I go to St. Louis to visit my extended family next Christmas two of us will have little babies. I’ve been SO excited to bring my baby to St. Louis next Christmas. I was going to be the first grandchild to have a great-grandchild. I was very, very excited about this. I’ll still be the first, but my cousin will be there too, with her new baby. So I kind of feel like she is stealing something that was mine and that was important to me. I know she would never do this on purpose. My cousin is the nicest person on earth. She doesn’t have a mean bone in my body. I feel guilty for feeling this way, but I do. I worked so hard to get where I am. I spent so much on Traditional Chinese Medicine and restricted my diet for months and spent 12 hours in the ER getting my uterus vacuumed out before getting shots of chemo to “resolve” my ectopic pregnancy. I suffered serious anxiety through my entire first trimester, and continue to struggle with it. And my cousin just goes off BC and immediately gets pregnant and now everyone in my extended family will meet her baby before they meet mine.

God I sound like a whiny, selfish brat. My goodness. I’m ashamed. But this blog is supposed to be an honest account, and I know people read from here hoping to make connections to their own experience. I don’t want to pretend like I have only happy feelings about this when I don’t.

I do have happy feelings though. I really do. Existing simultaneously with frustrated, slightly jealous part of me is the super happy to share this experience with someone side of me. The side of me that can’t wait to hang out without someone else who has a baby next Christmas. Someone who is thankful to have a pregnancy buddy to share the experience with. And that part of me is definitely stronger than the other part of me. At least most of the time it is.

When I found out about my cousin all I wanted to do was call Mi.Vida. I felt like he was the only person I could talk to about this. I feel very lucky and grateful that my partner is the person I know would understand my complicated reaction to this news. When I told him that he said, “Well, we’ve been through a lot together.” And we have. And I hate to sound cliché but all that we’ve been through, the months of disappointment and the heartache of our ectopic, has only made us stronger. I feel closer to him than I ever have. I’m not thankful for what we’ve gone through but I am thankful for where we are now.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I’m in my new luxury snuggie avoiding paper grading yet again. Oh, and I had curly fried for lunch. Doesn’t get much better than that!