Monday, January 21, 2013

Into the fog

In December, a fog settled in.

It doesn't want to leave.

When I look back to last month, it feels a little surreal. Like I wasn't really present for it -- even though I know I was. And I know certain days felt hard. But certain days were good, too. Even still, depression was with me no matter what my circumstance was each day. It has become a constant friend.

My sister and her family came for a few weeks, and I had quite a bit of time with them. And really, that was last month's only saving grace. The only light shining through the fog, helping me stay on course.

As the new year approached, I was dreading it. Sure, it's a new start. But I remember having hope that 2012 would HAVE to be better than 2011. And now I looked to 2013 realizing I am even more broken than before.

Grief has compounded so I don't even know what I'm grieving anymore -- or who I'm grieving for. I just know that I'm broken. I cry almost every day. And nights are especially hard.

January has felt somewhat better than December. But only by a smidge.

I honestly thought I'd be doing better by now. I THINK my anti-depressants are helping. But I also think they are causing more anxiety, just as they did last time I was on them.

I feel like I'm juggling 20 balls in the air -- with a broken arm and a patch on one eye. I feel emotionally handicapped and unable to function normally.

I don't mean to be a Debbie-downer. I don't mean to say that my life is horrible and you should feel sorry for me. I just seriously don't know how to function right now.

I am trying to make some changes that hopefully will help. First, of course, is starting the anti-depressants. I'm just finishing my first month -- so I know that it still might take a while to fully feel the effects.

I've decided to take a break from Facebook for a while. I think I'm addicted to checking it, and I'm on it far too much. It's become a crutch. I told Ryan today I think it's like the woman's version of video games. Gaming fulfills a need in a guy to conquer -- Facebook "fills" a woman's need to connect and feel important.

I put "fills" in quotes because I don't really think my life is all that much better now that I have Facebook. I don't feel "fulfilled" after time on Facebook. I would certainly argue that having it available 24/7 on my phone has actually made life less enjoyable. I feel a compulsive need to check it. I check it while I'm with other people. I check it while eating breakfast with Maddy. I check it while watching movies with Ryan.

I remember my life before my smartphone, and I actually remember being more present with people. How much better it would be for me to focus on talking with Maddy during breakfast than browsing my newsfeed and reading about what everyone else is having for breakfast and doing with THEIR kids.

Recently, I thought -- man, I'm glad my mom never had a phone in her hands all the time. I'm glad when I was a kid I didn't have to compete with a device.

Maddy should never have to compete with a device.

Not that FB has been ALL bad. Or that I regret everything about it. But I do regret how dependent I am on it. I want to reclaim my life pre-smart phone.

In addition to a phone/FB fast, Ryan and I have decided to go church shopping.

No, there hasn't been some scandal to spawn this change. I just need a change. I need to be fed. I need to connect and belong. And I need to have some say over where I want to do that.

As a family, we had been contemplating this change for several months, half-committed to looking, and half-committed to staying because staying is always easier. Really, the last thing keeping me tied to our church was singing on the worship team. I loved being a part of the worship team. Singing with them is the only thing that ever made me feel like I belonged.

In December I was asked to step down from the worship team because I was not faithfully attending the services. At the time, it hurt. But now I see that maybe it was God's way of severing that last little tie binding me to a church that maybe isn't the best fit.

So -- for the first time in a LONG time, I don't have a church to call "home." That makes me both sad, and a little excited.

It seems to me that the more I experience life, the less I realize things are either ALL bad or ALL good. Usually there's just enough of the good in the bad to make you wonder if it's really bad. And there's usually just enough bad in something good to make you wonder if it's good enough.

I digress.

In addition to the other changes, I've been reading some good books. I'm reading "Love & Logic," which I'm enjoying. It's important to me that I raise an emotionally healthy child. I think I'll try the "emotionally intelligent child" book after I finish this one. Although Madelyn has gotten much easier  to parent as she's gotten older -- she is still definitely a high-needs, high-attention child with insomniac tendencies, a strong will and a short fuse.

As sweet as she is, she's still a tough cookie to parent.

I also read "To Heaven and Back" which I would recommend. It's about a surgeon's near-death experience. I used to not put much stock in near-death experiences -- but after reading "Heaven is for Real" and learning about my own grandma's experience when she died last year and was revived, I'm much more of a believer. I have found much comfort in knowing that death in itself is not something to be feared. The author has also experienced the loss of a child. So I could relate.

I'm seeing my therapist more. For a while I felt like we were just going in circles -- we'd talk through everything that happened the previous week -- which was needed -- but I felt like I wasn't making any headway on tackling my bigger issues like anxiety, depression and low-self-confidence.

We've come up with a game-plan to manage our time together better. I'm hoping I'll make some more headway soon. She's a really amazing person, and I'm so very thankful to have her to talk with every week.

One last thing that's been helpful. We had the chance to watch a precious little baby last weekend. It was so amazing. I told Ryan it was the happiest I can remember being in the last year. He told me that it was the most stressful (ha ha!). 

I will say I slept HORRIBLY that weekend. Not because of her -- she was a great sleeper. It was me, worrying that she'd stop breathing, or something would happen to her while I slept. So only got between 3-4 hours of interrupted sleep a night while she was with us.

Even still, having her was the best.

I know that saying I NEED to nurture a baby doesn't always compute with people, or even with myself. I remind myself that all my basic human needs are met -- and that I have Maddy to nurture.

But sometimes you don't always know you need something until it's been satiated.

You know that feeling when you've been starving all day, you sit down to a feast of deliciousness, and that hunger is finally satiated with absolute contentment? That's how I felt rocking and singing a baby to sleep. Totally filled up and at peace.

We might be able to watch this baby again in a few weeks, and I simply can't wait. It's one of the few things I feel like I have to look forward to.

Ryan and I have to decide this month if we are going to try for our own baby, or if we are going to wait for foster care. I know it's in God's hands whether we conceive or not. But if we are going to have a placement soon, I don't want to complicate that by being pregnant already or by going through another loss.

Sometimes it feels like neither decision is the right one.

So -- if you're  of the praying sort, please pray for God's wisdom for us. Pray that I can navigate the fog, and for Ryan's patience as I try to get through it. (He, by the way, has been very good to me through this.)  Pray that God either fills this need in me or takes it away. Pray that God would protect me from another loss, because I don't know how I could handle it. Or just pray for us in whatever way God leads.

Love to you all. And sorry for the uber-long post. Brevity isn't a strength of mine. :)


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Making peace

Pregnant with Maddy.
Is it even possible to look back at a picture of yourself and be jealous?
It must be. Because that's how I feel sometimes. I'd give anything to be her again.
She had no idea how good she had it.

I'm not sure what to make of my pregnancy history these days.

Before this season in life (aka loss and possible fertility issues), I had a very difficult pregnancy. At the time, I thought it was the worst pregnancy you could ask for.

Morning sickness for 9 months, a miscarriage scare, threatened premature labor, bed rest, preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, heart rate issues for baby, emergency c-section, symptoms of ptsd, postpartum depression + horrible acid reflux in baby = one stressed out momma.

Then 2012 happened.

I realize now that my pregnancy history really could have been worse. Much worse. I could have left my first pregnancy with empty arms. Or I could have not had the experience at all.

I could have not been a mother.

I could have been a mother by definition only -- but be denied the very act of mothering my child.

Every memory in the last four years could have simply never been. Just like that.

Just. Like. That.

Before Olivia, I looked at my pregnancy with Madelyn and felt mostly fear. What if I had died? What if she had died?

Now I feel mostly shame.

I hadn't wanted to be pregnant. Not yet. When the test came back positive, I cried like a baby, and blubbered some incoherent nonsense to Ryan. "We're going to have a boy, I know it. He'll grow up, and when he's a teen, he'll get a girl pregnant, and then we'll have a teenage pregnancy on our hands. What in the world will we do then?!?"

Yes. Those were my real (oh-so-rational) words.

(Any wonder why I don't think it's a good idea to make life or death decisions when pregnancy hormones are ridiculously raging?)

I didn't understand why God chose me for this baby. Or more specifically, why God chose THIS baby for me at THIS particular time. When so many women were infertile -- when more than anything they wanted a baby -- why "bless" me with a pregnancy when it really wasn't wanted?

I don't relay my initial reaction to you with pride. Instead, I'm ashamed of how I felt.

I'm ashamed at the time I spent complaining instead of thanking God for His miracle. I hate that it all felt wrong because of the timing -- never stopping to appreciate that Madelyn might have been my ONLY time to have a baby. I saw mostly the negative -- and very little of the good.

And the shame shadows many more memories. All my complaints, all my ignorant comments. All along knowing other people had miscarriages -- other people struggled with infertility. But I always acted in denial that said people could actually be my friends, my clients, or my coworkers.

I guess I assumed that if someone struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss, then I would know about it. Maybe I thought they'd announce it in the weekly staff meeting just as one announces a healthy pregnancy. Maybe I thought they'd wear t-shirts that said "I'm infertile. Be sensitive." Maybe I just thought I'd have a sixth sense and just KNOW when I was around someone who struggled with pregnancy.

But they didn't announce. They didn't wear the t-shirt. And my sixth sense was nonsense.

The truth was, these people were an invisible people.

And until my loss, I never knew how many invisible people there truly were.

At my Arbonne parties, I was occasionally asked if I had tried our supplements.  Before I became aware of these invisible people, I would quip, "Oh, I'm just awful at taking pills. That's why I have a baby!"

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Usually people would laugh. Or at least smile. But now I wonder... How many of those laughs were simply out of courtesy? How many women smiled on the outside, inwardly holding in tears, raging anger, or the saddest sort of jealousy for me? How many of them excused themselves to the bathroom for some solitude? How many others fought the urge to flee the "in-your-faceness" of my fertility?

How many women stared at my belly as I complained about nausea, acne, sciatic pain, bed rest, contractions, awful medicine and so on . . . willing their bodies to trade places with mine just to have their very own child?

My most shameful memory happened at Christmas. A few girls and I got together to celebrate. I knew very well that the hostess who had organized the party had been trying for a few years for a baby. Well, in my most brilliant moment (absolute sarcasm there), I figured we should talk about pregnancy since having a baby was clearly on this girls' mind.

Poor thing. I can only imagine how she must felt as we regaled our pregnancy histories and horror stories, all while she just sat there taking it all in.

I wonder now if she felt like a hostage in her own house. Sitting there silent while I imagine holding in a assault of emotions that batter her soul. And yet in her politeness and friendship, she said nothing.

If I had been in her shoes, I don't know if I would have been as gracious as she was.

I have never asked how she endured the evening. I did, however, apologize once I was on the other side of (in)fertility and ask for her forgiveness. She was very gracious to grant it.

As a Christian, I know shame is not to be a part of my life. Repentance for wrongdoing -- absolutely. But God does not call us to shame.

Nor does He call me to look back on all of my memories of my pregnancy wondering if, why, how and who, beating myself up for every hurt -- real or imagined.

I wish I could take every insensitive word or action away . . .  but I can't. I  wish I could have understood others' pain without personally experiencing it . . . but I couldn't. I want others to understand the deep sadness I feel, but they don't. Not unless they have walked through infertility or loss. And I would never wish that on them.

I cannot be bitter at others for not getting it -- because I didn't get it. Neither should I make myself relive every moment of past insensitivity and pour condemnation on myself. God had intended my pregnancy to be one of His greatest gifts to me. And I must see it as such.

The only real solution, I've decided, is to offer and receive GRACE.

Offering grace to others always. Offering grace to the old me who at times was a letdown to the new me. Offering grace to this new me as I walk on a journey I never would have chosen, toward a destination I can't yet see.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. 
He Giveth More Grace
by Annie J. Flint
Lord, of grace in me, please giveth, and giveth and giveth again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Secondary infertility

A few nights ago, Maddy tells me she wants to get rid of our house.

"Why Maddy? Don't you like living here?" I ask.

"Mommy, I want to live in a different house. One that has kids in it -- you know -- friends? Who live there all the time? I want to get rid of this house, and live in a house that has friends."

Poor girl. She thinks it's the house.

You know that part of you that dies inside when you see a need in your child you can't meet? That crappy, helpless feeling when your little one is sick, and you can't make their hurt go away? Their best friend has moved, grandma has died, or a pet is suddenly gone?

And you just can't fix it?

I wonder if this is how an acquaintance of mine feels (on a much bigger scale) when her young children long for their father -- a dad who loved them dearly but unexpectedly passed away. I wonder if it's how women in Africa feel when their child is sick or starving and they can do nothing but watch as their child dies.

Now, I know Maddy's not dying. And you could argue that she doesn't "need" siblings. But it sucks to see a such a strong desire in her and feel completely helpless to do anything about it.

The night after the "house conversation," a friend of Maddy's was over. She was 3, and wanted to know why Maddy had 2 beds in her room. "Well, one is my bed," she answers, "and one is Olivia's."

Of course. After all, doesn't everyone have a sister in heaven and an empty crib in their home?

I read a blog the other day on secondary infertility, and it so resonated with me. Did you know more couples deal with secondary infertility than those who have primary infertility?

[Quick rundown: Primary infertility = inability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term. Secondary infertility = inability to get pregnant OR carry a baby to term AFTER having at least one live child.]

Am I infertile?

That's the question I keep coming back to. It seems to me -- and maybe this is just me -- that grief in pregnancy loss is complicated by the inability to get pregnant again.

If we ever get pregnant again, I don't think I will feel free to post on Facebook as some of my dear friends do about their pregnancy. Which is fine for them. But I don't think it will feel fine for ME.

I won't be posting about nausea -- because I remember how eager I was to be nauseous with my last pregnancies just so I could feel like my body was doing something RIGHT. I don't think I'll post on things that I buy for the baby. I won't be posting weekly updates. I'm sure I will eventually post SOMETHING for my friends and family who live far away. But it just won't be something I'll do a lot.

It's not that I won't be happy or joyful or want to celebrate. I just think I'll be a hermit about it. I think that as often as I'm pretty open about loss, I'll be pretty private about pregnancy.

I think part of it is because even as I don't know that I'm infertile, I certainly feel that way.

At this point, I would say I'm not just struggling with the loss of 2 children. I'm struggling with the loss of my hopes and dreams for my family. The loss of trust and confidence in my body to ever procreate again.

It feels like my body is only capable of producing false hope and chronic disappointment.

And because I know what that feels like, I would just want to protect some of my friends who might be in that place of hurt.

Then again -- maybe I'll still be blogging about it. I guess I'll just have to cross that bridge if we come to it.

JUST in case we are dealing with secondary infertility, I set up an appointment with my OB this month. I actually never had a follow-up appointment after our miscarriage in August. I don't think I really wanted to know what she would say. I think now that we are a few months out, I'm ready to hear it. (Whatever IT is.)

I know my hormones are out of balance. My skin has yet to clear up from my pregnancy with Olivia. (Super lame-o.) So -- what to do about it? She prescribed progesterone a while back, but I'm not sure when to start it in my cycle. I'm wondering if I'm going to have to go on birth control for a while to get things they way they should be.

I wonder if my losses are more than a fluke. I'm wondering still if my last miscarriage could have been ectopic. I need to touch base with her on my anti-depressants as they've been making me nauseous. And I want to know when (or if) we'll start any kind of testing.

Tonight Maddy and I prayed together as usual. But tonight I didn't ask God for a baby. (I didn't even ask Maddy if she wanted to ask God for a baby, which I occasionally do. I guess I secretly hope God would at least answer a prayer from a 4-year-old if He won't answer mine.)

Instead, tonight I just asked for patience as I wait.

That's really been on my heart these last few days as the new year approached. Giving up disappointment in this last year. Acknowledging that God has a plan. And trying to just accept that God has chosen not to give us a baby -- or a promotion -- or a foster child -- for whatever His reason.

So -- here's to 2013. I'm thankful this year has forever tucked away 2012. And before me is a year of scary unknowns. A year with potential in so many ways, for good and for bad. A year that I'm going to just have to take a day at a time -- because I think that's just about all I can do.

Maybe in 2013 we won't have to get rid of our house. Maybe -- just maybe -- Maddy will have some forever friends here to stay.