Here is a link to a blog I wrote in 2016 for Fertility Matters Canada: http://fertilitymatters.ca/2016/08/08/dont-get-happy-ending/
I have so much more to share and write, so more soon, I hope!
Here is a link to a blog I wrote in 2016 for Fertility Matters Canada: http://fertilitymatters.ca/2016/08/08/dont-get-happy-ending/
I have so much more to share and write, so more soon, I hope!
A few months ago, after I posted something about infertility on Facebook, a friend came to me because she wanted to know how to support family members who had just found out that they would not be able to conceive children. The fact that she reached out to me to ask this question shows how naturally strong her instincts were on this, but we talked for quite some time, and ever since then, I have been meaning to write a post about this.
The holidays can be a very tough time of year for people grieving the loss of their fertility. A year ago, the front page of our local news magazine looked like this:
It’s hard to go anywhere at this time of year and not be overwhelmed by images of happy families preparing for the holidays, and Facebook is loaded with posts about children. And then there are the family gatherings where if there isn’t a new baby to coo over, there are other children who take centre stage (as they should – I don’t want to take that away from any children, and I, too, love to coo over babies).
I tell people to skip Christmas their first year of grieving and go to Mexico, but most of us struggle to be that selfish at this time of year, so we suck it up and do the best we can (but if anyone wants to send us to Mexico…) This doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the holidays, it just means that it is perfectly valid for us to lower our expectations of how much we will enjoy the holidays. It is very likely there will be some tough moments mixed in with all the fun and celebration. Christmas time is almost as hard as Mother’s Day for us infertiles.
So, all that being said, this seems like a good time to talk about how to support someone going through this. Of course, my experience is not universal, and everyone responds differently to this journey, but there are a few things that seem true for many of us.
A couple of years ago, I touched on things not to say in this post, and I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed lots of chocolate and wine in response (it was not my goal, but it was a nice benefit).
Let’s start with how to respond to the news. Because we’ve moved to a new town and have started making new friends here, I have found that there is this weird kind of uncertainty zone where the topic of us not being able to have kids hasn’t come up, but I know it will, and I’m not sure how they will respond. When it finally does come out, the best response is a simple: “I’m sorry.” Express sympathy as you would if the person has just told you a loved one has died.
In fact, this is a good rule to always follow – if you wouldn’t say it to someone who has lost a loved one or who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, then don’t say it to someone experiencing the grief of infertility. Someone recently responded to our situation with the phrase, “well, everything happens for a reason”, and although I know that person truly meant well and is a kind loving person, this is a comforting phrase for the person saying it, not the person hearing it. I do not believe that my infertility happened for a reason. I believe it is an absolutely shitty situation that I have to live with, and trying to make me feel better about it sounds like you are trying to minimize my grief.
If you are open to letting that person talk about their grief, that is wonderful. You can follow your sympathy with an open-ended question like, “how are you handling that?” Avoid giving advice or telling stories about other people you know who struggled and ultimately succeeded or who are super happy with their decision to adopt. This is the time to listen and get to know this person’s experience. It’s an amazing opportunity to get to know the person better and to show you care, just by listening.
The next step is to understand that people going through this journey may need to avoid certain trigger situations. Last year, I had to say no to a family gathering because I just didn’t have the energy to deal with more than two kids at a time. I have sent my regrets to children’s birthday parties and baby showers, not because I don’t want to be there showing love for my friends and their beautiful kids, but because I don’t want to be the one holding back tears in the corner. It is important to extend invitations so that the person doesn’t feel excluded, just be open to understanding if they need to decline.
Don’t be surprised if a couple coming to terms with infertility suddenly feels a need to make some major life changes. When the infertility journey becomes final, and the couple is no longer trying to conceive by any means, a kind of identity crisis settles in. Most of us spent much of our adult lives setting up so that we could welcome children. We bought a house that we could expand in, with a room that we pictured as a nursery. We borrowed a friend’s car seat when we were test driving new cars so we could pick a good family vehicle. When it became clear that that room was never going to be a nursery, walking by it every day just reminded us of our loss. We still struggle with the car situation, and if someone wants to trade their fun car for a family vehicle… let’s talk.
Many couples choose to move. I have even heard of couples selling their houses and going traveling for months or years. When we find we are permanently excluded from the parents’ club, there is a desire to find a way to at least try and enjoy the “freedom” that comes from being childfree. This does not mean that the couple is OK with their inability to conceive. It means they are trying their best to move on. Believe me, the grief travels with them. Some people will want to share about this grief more than others, and that is OK, too.
Part of this move may be about searching for a community of people where we don’t feel like outsiders. Do you know how hard it is to find people to hang out with when all your friends and peers have children and you don’t? A couple of weeks ago, I was excited to go to a party with new people, and somehow, I hadn’t put together that since it was starting at 5 p.m., and the people were in our age bracket, that there would be as many children as adults there. I felt a bit blindsided, and it was no one’s fault. They had no way of knowing that this could be a difficult situation for me, and really, I was grateful for the invitation.
You may think you know what your loved ones need to do to move on in this situation. You may think that if they would just adopt, they would be able to give that love to a child in need, and it would be wonderful for everyone. You might even be right, but it is not your place to say. Adoption is not a substitute for fertility. Adoption is a wonderful option for every person who has the ability and space in their life to love a child in need, and it is not reserved for the infertile. So, before you ask the question, “Why don’t you adopt?” make sure you can answer that question yourself (and even then, really, just don’t ask it).
Your friend or family member may choose to pursue adoption, and that is wonderful. The pain of their infertility will not suddenly disappear. We will always feel the loss of the experience of conceiving a child and giving birth to that unique combination of our genes. We will never get to bond with a child in utero and experience every aspect of the miracle of pregnancy. We will never get to see whether our kids get John’s blue eyes or my curly hair.
Many couples will choose to live childfree rather than pursue adoption because they have considered deeply what adoption would mean for them and they recognize that it is not what they want to do. This is a perfectly valid choice and a difficult one to make and share. There is the fear of judgment from people who do not understand that adoption is not like going to the kennel and rescuing an animal instead of going directly to a breeder. Pursuing adoption means putting your life through a scrutiny that no other parents have to endure. Anyone can get fertility treatments without having to explain their parenting philosophy, take training, or have their house examined, and the decisions you have to make when applying to adopt can be absolutely heartbreaking.
One of the trickier situations to deal with is over how to tell your infertile loved one your own wonderful news of pregnancy. How we like to receive this news varies widely from person to person, with some preferring a more personal phone call, and some preferring an email so they have time to prepare a response. Intent is the key – if you tell us with compassion in mind, we will feel it. We will be happy for you, so please do not try to diminish your own happiness because then we will feel guilty on top of sad.
The feeling of being an outsider is a huge aspect of this journey, so making an extra effort to spend time with your grieving loved one is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Plan activities both with and without your children and be willing to do something different in order to support your friend or family member. We are so often expected to be the flexible ones because we don’t have children’s schedules to fit our activities around, that if you can make an effort to join us, it will be a great gift.
Finally, recognize that this experience may change your loved one in ways you can’t predict or understand. Be willing to get to know this new person without judgment. Grief is extremely powerful, and studies show that depression rates in women dealing with infertility are similar to depression rates in women after a cancer diagnosis – here is an article that discusses this. Since I have never had cancer, I cannot comment on how that would affect me, and I certainly don’t want to compare my situation to someone who is dealing with cancer. All I can tell you is that the grief of infertility hit me much harder than I ever would have expected. When we first started trying to conceive, we genuinely thought we would be OK if it didn’t happen, that we could just adopt. I had no idea how much coming to terms with the loss of my ability to reproduce would have me questioning my identity and what I should do with my life. I have long considered myself to be an optimistic positive person, able to find the humour in any situation, but the grief brought on by infertility took me to a darker place than I ever thought I could go.
One of the best things a support person can do is recognize the pain of this situation and encourage the person to get help. Support groups are an amazing place to meet people who truly understand the experience, and although it can be hard to find a counsellor who specializes in this type of grief, they are out there. Antidepressants can be extremely helpful, but many people are afraid to pursue this route out of fear of the stigma of mental illness. Sometimes, all a person in this situation needs is someone to say it’s OK to need some help and a gentle push in that direction.
We are extremely fortunate and grateful for the support we have received from family and friends, and I share this post in hopes of helping other people get this kind of care. With that support (and some medication), I ammuch better equipped to deal with the holidays this year. I know that it will not be easy, and I know I will meet people who do not understand, but having the support of people who do and people who try makes all the difference.
Thank-you for caring.
I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve wanted to. I even wrote a long one, but it had too much in it, and I couldn’t get the message across that I wanted, so I ditched it. There are so many things I want to share that I don’t know where to begin.
It hasn’t been an easy year. It’s been an amazing one in many ways, but it’s also been really tough. My heartbreak seemed to consume me, and a few months ago, I could barely get out of bed. I wanted so desperately to grow and take control and find a purpose, but I just couldn’t care enough about anything.
When my niece was young, she cheerfully declined to do something with the phrase, “No, I just can’t want to”, and it was so cute that I never forgot it. Now, that phrase has a much more serious feeling because it defines depression for me. We had so many wonderful possible futures to consider, and I couldn’t get excited about any of them. I wasn’t sleeping well, but I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I just couldn’t want to do anything, even though I wanted to want to. I kept doing stuff, and even enjoying activities with people, but I honestly felt broken inside, and I started to wonder if I could just be put away somewhere where I wouldn’t have to make any decisions, and where I wouldn’t be a burden on anyone I love. I just wanted something to fix me.
Finally, I went to the doctor to talk about antidepressants. My doctor in Calgary had recommended I try them the previous year, but my mind couldn’t piece together how a drug to deal with chemicals in the brain could help with the pain in my heart. I was also really afraid to add drug side effects to my life because I couldn’t imagine having to deal with anything else.
That might sound like a funny thing to say, considering that we sold our house, moved across the country with no set destination, and bought a house in a new town, but I thrive on change. Change distracts me.
My doctor agreed right away to prescribe antidepressants. The adjustment was hard. I started on a half dose because of my fear of side effects, and there were two days where the only place I felt safe was on the couch with television to distract me from my own thoughts. This happened again when I went to a full dose, but other than some sleep trouble, those are the only side effects I have experienced.
I guess I am feeling better. It’s not a dramatic change – I don’t suddenly feel like the sun is shining, but slowly, it seems that I have become more able to talk about big decisions and to make plans more than a week in advance. I don’t cry all the time anymore, and I can face trigger situations without feeling the walls close in. I still feel very sad about our infertility, but I can feel the sadness without feeling like I’m dying inside.
I am also able to focus on how grateful I am for the wonderful parts of my life. I can’t even express how grateful I am to have the most amazing, supportive, loving husband in the world, and I wouldn’t give him up for anything – not even a baby. We have a beautiful house (sure, it needs a lot of work, but I am still amazed that this is our house), in a nice community, and we have lots of loving support from family and friends.
Perhaps the biggest change is in my confidence. Depression sucked the confidence right out of me. My comfort zone shrank and could only be pushed in certain directions. It didn’t make sense, but that’s depression for you. I could push myself by taking a part in a play, perhaps because that was something I have always wanted to do, but I couldn’t push myself to consider applying to the school board because the idea of teaching, as much as I love it, just seemed too intimidating. Now, I am able to picture myself as a teacher again, and I can remember that I am a good teacher and that I can learn what I need to learn in order to teach what I need to teach. Things that seemed really impossible seem possible again, and that is huge.
It was important for me to share this because I want other people to know that it is OK to need help when you are feeling bad. I think part of the reason I was reluctant to start medication, even though I knew many people who benefitted from it, was that part of me felt I needed to hold onto that pain or I wouldn’t be true to myself, and I didn’t want to minimize my grief. As it turns out, the pain is not gone. The grief is still very much present, and I don’t feel like I am a different person. I just feel less broken somehow, and that is a good thing.
I know that there are a lot of people out there who are suffering in silence, and on the other side, there are people who believe that we need to just ‘get over it’ and move on with our lives. The truth is, I don’t want to ‘get over’ my pain. I just want to be able to live with it and still enjoy life. That loss, that pain, is part of my life journey, and it is part of who I am. I can’t pretend that it never happened, that I never wanted children anyway, or that ‘everything happens for a reason’. I can find reasons to laugh every day and be grateful for how lucky I am to be who I am when I am with the people I am with, and I can take the next step in my journey with the love of my life.
I am OK. And I will be OK. It just might not be as easy as it used to be.
I have kind of hit a bit of a dark place again. I’m not sure why or how exactly, but perhaps spending a whole summer helping parents and grandparents choose cute shoes for the little ones in their lives, and then feeling left out of the back-to-school excitement are contributing factors.
Somehow, I have returned to that place of easy tears, where I just want to cry all the time.
The first time I really noticed was last week when a family came into the store with an adorable 5-month-old baby. I have a slightly masochistic side that means I feel compelled to get a closer look and try to connect with every baby I see (this also happens with dogs). The proud grandfather was happily pushing the stroller around and was so pleased to tell me what a good baby she was as he made sounds and faces to make her laugh. I see proud grandmothers all the time, but there was something about it being the grandfather that was especially affecting. All of a sudden, I had to walk away because I could feel the tears in my eyes, and I wasn’t sure I could keep them in. I’m not sure which thoughts hit me first – that it was unfair that we would never get to coo at our own child, that it was unfair that we would never get to see our parents coo at our child, or that it was unfair that we would never get to be the grandparents cooing.
I feel so disappointed in myself because I was starting to believe that I was doing better. Maybe I was. I have lots of other things to focus on and be grateful for (there’s that gratitude problem again), and yet, here I am struggling to make it through a day without crying. It takes a lot of effort not to let my coworkers see my pain, and then I come home, and poor John is the person who has to deal with a broken Cindy. Then, I feel guilty about making his life harder, and I dive into a downward spiral of negative emotions.
At first I tried, in the spirit of authenticity, to share my difficulties with my coworkers, but one day, after I shared that seeing families day after day was hard, my coworker, who is a proud grandma, said something along the lines of, “we need to figure out a way for you to be OK about this kids thing”, like it was a problem that needed a solution. I realized that she was feeling inconvenienced by my grief, and I decided it was better for work life for me to just try and keep it inside.
My younger coworker (much younger), went with the, “why don’t you just adopt” approach. I tried to explain it, I really did. I explained that adoption is much harder than most people think (see this post), and she countered with a story about a friend or relative who seemingly had a great time adopting. I explained that I didn’t think I could bear the ups and downs and uncertainty of the adoption process, and I could see that she didn’t understand.
John and I are experiencing a kind of culture-shock here. The stereotypical protestant work ethic is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the people who have lived here their whole lives. They value work and the ability to work hard very highly. When we ask them what they would do if they had time and financial freedom, they say, “well, I would have to keep working”, as if working determines a person’s value. It is the first thing they say. People take pride in forcing themselves to work when sick or injured, and they look down on people who do not want to work as hard as they do. This attitude is evident in all generations here – people much older than us and much younger than us give the same answer. This glorification of work-ethic is kind of problematic for us as we value other aspects of our lives more highly than work, and we are actively striving to build a lifestyle where work is optional.
This work-ethic spills over into other areas – if you want something badly enough, then surely you will do anything in your power to get it, and not give up until you have it. So we, in giving up on our dream to be parents, must seem weak to people who believe that hard work is the answer. To be honest, sometimes we think the same. Were we not willing to make enough sacrifices to become parents? Should we have tried harder, invested more of ourselves, given up on any other dreams and put all our energy into trying again and again? We know people who experienced success by trying over and over again despite loss after loss. We also know people who didn’t experience success through trying over and over again despite loss after loss. There are no guarantees.
My problem these days is that I have such a hard time suppressing my emotions (they have a tendency to leak out in unexpected ways), and conversely, I have a hard time expressing them. I give John a hard time about finding someone to talk to, but when I am feeling down, I don’t call anyone. I don’t want to talk about my feelings and tell anyone I care about that I am struggling. I want people to come to me when they want to talk about their feelings, but I don’t want them to see me cry. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I realize that this has always been true. As much as I have always loved delving into other people’s feelings, I have always kept mine quiet. I don’t know why. I logically know that I need to open up to people in order to make meaningful connections, but I simultaneously fear that these same people will judge me or use my feelings against me in some way.
My work-around to this problem is this blog. I can write my feelings, and the people who care about me can read my words and know a bit more about what is going on with me. The downside is that I have substituted blog interaction for real life interaction, and it isn’t quite the same. I actually feel disappointed when someone I care about hasn’t read my blog, even though I don’t really expect everyone to read it. I know people have their reasons for not reading it (I have a friend who has written a bestseller, and I haven’t read any of her books because all of her writing is about grieving moms). I also feel disappointed when people reveal that they don’t know me as well as I think they should because part of me believes that I am an open book – after all, I blog about my feelings.
Still, I feel better after writing. It organizes the mess in my brain a bit, and sometimes, a little virtual connection is better than no connection at all. Plus, it takes some of the pressure off of John.
I have written about feeling changed by grief before, and I still don’t know what that means for me. The image above seems true, even though I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to be more sensitive, more emotional, more vulnerable. I am certain I was enough of all these things before.
Who I want to be and who I am are very different people right now, and I’m not sure how to reconcile the two.
A friend posted this anecdote on facebook:
“I was preparing to speak at an I Can Do It conference and I decided to bring an orange on stage with me as a prop for my lecture. I opened a conversation with a bright young fellow of about twelve who was sitting in the front row.
“If I were to squeeze this orange as hard as I could, what would come out?” I asked him.
He looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, “Juice, of course.”
“Do you think apple juice could come out of it?”
“No!” he laughed.
“What about grapefruit juice?”
“What would come out of it?”
“Orange juice, of course.”
“Why? Why when you squeeze an orange does orange juice come out?”
He may have been getting a little exasperated with me at this point.
“Well, it’s an orange and that’s what’s inside.”
I nodded. “Let’s assume that this orange isn’t an orange, but it’s you. And someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, says something you don’t like, offends you. And out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, fear. Why? The answer, as our young friend has told us, is because that’s what’s inside.”
It’s one of the great lessons of life. What comes out when life squeezes you? When someone hurts or offends you? If anger, pain and fear come out of you, it’s because that’s what’s inside. It doesn’t matter who does the squeezing—your mother, your brother, your children, your boss, the government. If someone says something about you that you don’t like, what comes out of you is what’s inside. And what’s inside is up to you, it’s your choice.
When someone puts the pressure on you and out of you comes anything other than love, it’s because that’s what you’ve allowed to be inside. Once you take away all those negative things you don’t want in your life and replace them with love, you’ll find yourself living a highly functioning life.
Thanks, my young friend, and here’s an orange for you!” ~Wayne Dyer
It spoke to me a lot because lately, when life squeezes me, bitterness comes out, and I’m not happy about that. I want to give more; I want to love more.
I also want to run away and not have to strive for anything. I want an easy life where things fall into place and nothing feels hard and complicated. Of course, I don’t know anyone who has that, so I have no idea why I would think I deserve it, or that it is possible in any way. This kind of thinking leads me into a darker place – contemplating the meaning of life does not take me to good places in my psyche.
I know I will be OK. Logically, I just have no other choice. I do not choose to go through life feeling crappy, so I will keep focusing on the good things, and I will do what I can to minimize the moments of crapitude. I will keep taking small steps to align who I am with who I want to be, and I will live with hope that I will one day feel completely at peace with who I am and how I interact with the world.
In the meantime, I will try not to mentally beat myself up for needing to cry sometimes, even if it happens at inopportune times. I will remind myself that grief is a process and that I don’t need everyone to understand in order for me to get through it. I will keep moving forward because there really isn’t any other place for me to go.
This past year has been an intense journey of self-discovery – a journey that feels barely started. This is both amazing and terrifying. How can I know so little about myself when I am already 39? I’m almost middle-aged! The last ten years have been so full of changes and new ideas – what am I going to learn in the next ten that will profoundly change me and my perception of the world? Since my early twenties, when I believed I had everything figured out, I have become acutely aware, perhaps too much so, that I don’t know very much about anything.
I think this is part of why I continue to resist inspiration in my life. Because I have become so aware of the limits of my own perception and knowledge, I fear believing in anything. There has always been a part of me that wished to feel divinely inspired, but my inability to believe in the divine has kind of gotten in the way of that. Funny how that works. So, I have noncommittally looked for inspiration in other places. And I have moments of feeling inspired all the time, from nature, from animals, and even from my fellow human beings. Actually, I truly feel inspired by people all the time, but if I am perfectly honest with myself, I only allow myself a kind of reserved inspiration.
There is a young woman in our company who I, and many others, find inspiring. When I first saw her, I viewed her with a skeptical eye, and I was reluctant to admire her. How could a woman so young have so much to teach me? I have at least 12 years of life experience over her. Yet, there she is, living the life that I wish I had known was possible 20 years ago. Not only is she living an amazing life, but she is doing it in a mindful and heartfelt way that is really admirable. Can you believe it? How audacious of her to figure out what I didn’t. How dare she?
I guess there is a part of me that always wants to take the hard way. If I don’t figure it out for myself, then it feels like cheating, and it doesn’t count. This is a game I play with myself all the time. If I can’t find the coconut milk in the grocery store and have to ask, I’ve lost. It’s true that I enjoy puzzles, and I enjoy that rush that comes from finding the answer. Sometimes though, I waste so much time being lost, that I end up feeling annoyed with myself for not having taken the easy way. I’m working on it. I ask much earlier in the journey now.
I have a sense that this also ties into my desire for control somehow. If I allow myself to be inspired by someone else, then I am allowing that person to have impact on what I do and how I see things. Surely, that cannot be acceptable. I am the sailor of this ship, and only I will decide where and when it will go, right? If I break that down, though, it clearly makes no sense. My decisions are impacted by others all the time, and in the end, whether I feel inspired or not, I have the ultimate control over what I do, so choosing to be inspired is just another way of exerting that control. And yet, even with all that logic, there is still that resistance.
So what, you might ask. What’s wrong with going through life with a “healthy” dose of skepticism?
Well, here’s the real problem: at the same time as going through life with a reluctance to be inspired, there has always been a part of me that desired to be inspiring.
Aye, there’s the rub. You can’t be inspiring without being inspired.
I noticed the same thing once about the connection between being interesting and being interested. I have a friend who I used to jokingly describe as belligerent. He got a kick out of getting a rise out of people, and yet, we all liked spending time with him, and his social circle just seemed to keep expanding. I couldn’t figure out how he could be both belligerent and charming, so I started to really pay attention to how he interacted with people, including me. I realized that his greatest trick, if I wanted to call it that, wasn’t that his joking was so shocking and funny, but that he was genuinely interested in other people. His desire to learn other people’s stories, and his willingness to ask a million questions to get it out of them, actually made him more interesting. I can have a whole conversation with him and not learn anything that is going on in his life because it is so hard to get a question in edgewise (you can probably guess at his profession). This is probably no surprise to you, but it seems that people feel more drawn to people who find them interesting than to people who find themselves interesting.
I think it is the same with inspiration. Part of what makes this shining young woman so inspiring is that she is so openly inspired.
So, it’s true. I cannot openly give if I am not willing to openly receive.
There is a risk, of course. I could choose to open myself up and feel deeply inspired by this woman, and then later learn that she secretly tortures kittens. Of course, that is highly unlikely, but you get the point. Sometimes, we are so afraid of betrayal that we fear to trust.
Unfortunately, that fear to trust is the ultimate betrayal to my own self because it sends me the message that I can’t handle a change of perception, that I am too weak to recover from a changed view.
It’s like this cartoon (which I love):
What if I allow myself to be inspired, change my life for the better, and then… well, anything. The first part of the sentence says it all. What if the vehicle I use to make my life better turns out to be a lemon? My life will still be better, and I don’t have to hold on to that lemon until it rots. I can let it go any time I choose and find another vehicle.
So, this year, and perhaps for many more to come, I am committed to opening myself up to feeling inspired and allowing myself to act on that inspiration.
Because, you know, #ifnotnowwhen.
Yup. I just ended a blog on a hashtag. I am super fly.
Last week, I blogged about how the feeling of disappointment is a trigger for my infertility grief. Well, I’m pretty sure grief might also be a trigger for grief.
Last week, we found out that our dog, Bobo, has cancer. We don’t know what kind, yet, but based on the speed and the location of growth (his face), the vet is not optimistic. Hence, this week is characterized by my heavy heart.
Poor Bobes had to go under anaesthetic on Friday so they could take a biopsy, and being the sensitive dog he is, he worked himself up into quite a state on Saturday. We had to get anti-nausea and diarrhea drugs for him. He’s pretty much back to his normal self now, but he is a lot slower than he was even last week. This does not seem like a good sign.
We are very sad. He is an older dog at 11 years, but he seemed in pretty good shape, and we thought we had a couple more years with him to look forward to. Now, we are not sure how much time we have. He’s done so well with adapting to our life changes, and I really believe that he has helped me get through the last couple of years a lot. There were definitely days when I only got out of bed because I knew I needed to take him for a walk, and just the act of taking him for a walk would help me get fresh air and a fresh perspective on the day. Plus, it doesn’t matter if I leave the house for 5 minutes or 5 hours, he is always so excited to see me when I get home, and I’m always excited to see him. It’s a lovely thing to have every day.
Perhaps this is the thing I will learn from him – how valuable it is to show the people you love how happy you are to see them every time you see them.
This week, we are going to try and focus on enjoying our time together and trying not to overthink what the vet might say when the results come back from the pathologist. We can only focus on what is in our control, and try and be grateful for the time we have had and the time we have left.
John and I are in a funny place in our infertility journey. We know that the chances of my getting pregnant are less than 1%, and we are not really able to consider adoption at this point, both from a financial and an emotional standpoint. What this means is that we are working to accept the reality of a ‘childfree’ life, but we haven’t ruled out adoption later down the road.
Although we are very rational people and able to be grateful for all the amazing people and circumstances in our lives, we are still sensitive to emotional triggers, and while we are used to coming across them every day, every now and then something jumps up and catches us by surprise.
I realized last week that the biggest trigger for me, the one that is hardest for me to just breathe through, is the feeling of disappointment.
Last week, John and I auditioned for a play in a neighbouring community. I went with few expectations, since I have never had a speaking role in a play before, but I had a great time reading, and against my better judgment, I let myself hope that this could happen. I began to imagine how much fun it would be to be part of the cast and learn all the lines and perform on stage. I got excited about the possibility. As you have probably figured out, I did not get a part (John did, of course). Logically, I told myself that it didn’t matter – I can audition for future plays, and I can find something else exciting to do over the next few months. My emotional response was a lot more excessive. I couldn’t control it, and after managing to hold it in for about 24 hours, I finally lost it.
At first, I couldn’t understand why I was so upset. ‘It’s just a small play,’ I kept telling myself. ‘It’s not a big deal.’ Then, I realized that it wasn’t the play that was getting to me, it was the feeling of disappointment. It brought back to the surface all those months and months of disappointment and the pure powerlessness of it all.
I was explaining this to my infertility support group over the weekend, and every one of them understood immediately. One of the ladies articulated exactly what I didn’t want to be thinking but was, “You mean I can’t have a baby, and I can’t have this, either? It’s so unfair!”
Sometimes, because we have experienced this big loss, we start to believe that the universe owes us something in return – that there must be some kind of consolation prize. There is no consolation prize.
There are a lot of things I have learned from this journey. I understand grief and pain in a way that I didn’t before, and I know that will help me better relate to people. I have more patience and understanding for people going through tough times, and I know better than to judge people as I can never know everything about their struggle. I would happily trade all that understanding to be part of the mom club.
It came out at the audition that one of the women there has three young children and is already in rehearsals for another play in the community. When I knew I didn’t get a part, I started to feel unreasonably angry that she might have gotten a part. I admit to feeling a little judgmental towards her being willing to be away from her children five nights a week instead of being happy with three, but mostly, I just felt slighted by the universe. Of course, I don’t know anything about her story. I don’t even know for sure whether or not she got a part. It was just interesting to see where my mind went and how I felt thinking these things. I’m not proud of feeling that way, and I know that comparing my life to others’ is not productive or helpful, but sometimes, it just sucks to be on the outside.
So, I’m at a bit of a loss on what to do with this. Obviously, I can’t go through life without experiencing disappointment. That’s just the way it is. I also don’t want to give up on feeling hopeful, and yet, the ecstasy of hope makes the despair of disappointment that much more intense. I am an optimist, and I believe that if I go through life expecting the worst, then that is what I am more likely to get. I watched “The Secret”. I get it. I also understand its limitations. I feel bothered that no one ever talks about the limitations of the law of attraction. Yes, it is powerful, but it is not limitless.
I listened to a motivational speech yesterday, and the speaker was wonderful. She had a lot of meaningful, insightful things to say, but she lost me when she spoke of being able to get anything you want in life. I know all too well that that just isn’t true. I’m not only speaking of my own loss here – there are millions of people stuck in bodies with very real limitations. No amount of positive thinking is going to change that. I do believe that anyone can do amazing things, and that we all have the ability to do a great deal more than we may think possible, and I believe in encouraging people to step outside their comfort zones and go for their dreams.
I also believe in speaking the truth, and the truth is that sometimes, we just don’t get what we deserve.
So, given that I cannot control everything that happens in my life, how can I minimize my emotional response to the feeling of disappointment? How can I show that monster who’s boss? Right now, all I can do is let it knock me down, take some time to feel bad, and then get up and start something else, but I kind of feel like a bit of a punching bag when that happens, and I do not enjoy feeling weak. I guess I can take comfort in the knowledge that I am always stronger when I get back up.