Posts Tagged ‘grief’

“An Update on Fostering” by Cindy

As many of you know, at the end of August last year, we got a super exciting phone call from the Children’s Aid Society – there was a newborn who needed to be placed with a family. Just a few weeks earlier, I had told our worker that having a newborn placed with us would be a dream come true, and there it was. The timing wasn’t perfect (when is it ever?), but we had some amazing support from John’s parents, so we said yes.

There wasn’t much they could tell us about him, so we didn’t know if he was likely to become available for adoption or not. We were classified as a Foster with a View family, meaning that our ultimate goal was to adopt. The idea of this classification is to place children who are more likely to become wards of the state, and thus available for adoption, with families who are interested in adopting; the hope is that this will provide more stability for the child in the long run.

We met him in the hospital, and he was so perfectly adorable. A tiny precious being – we could not believe that we were going to be entrusted with his care. Whatever people say about how invasive they found the home study, it seems so minor in comparison to the responsibility of caring for a live vulnerable child.

The little one came home on the same day I had a little surgery on my nose (deviated septum and some rhinoplasty to enlarge my nostrils a bit… cause you would have wondered if I didn’t tell you), and our fostering adventure began.

The learning curve, as it is for all new parents, was steep. Neither of us had ever experienced sleep deprivation to that degree before, and we had many laughs (and, yes, some tears). We took turns pretending to be more asleep than the other person, but we never let that baby cry for long. One night, I was holding him in bed and he made one of those adorable baby gurgles, and before I could do a thing, a sleeping John was leaping out of bed. He seemed to simultaneously register the empty crib, the baby in my arms, and the fact that he was still moving, and he said, as his legs took him around the end of the bed, “I don’t know why I am getting out of bed.” He was back asleep long before I stopped laughing.

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A sign of a rough day… many unfinished bottles and the nose sucker thing.

Over the months, we had a lot of support from a lot of people. This happy little guy met and giggled with our families at Thanksgiving and Christmas, he slept through rehearsals as I directed one play and John starred in another, and he enchanted the members of the curling club over the winter. We joked that his family would one day wonder why he seemed to have an interest in curling and musical theatre.

We tried to remember that he wasn’t ours, and in fact, there are lots of ways that we were reminded of that: forms that have to be filled out, permissions that have to be granted, innocent comments from strangers about how he looks like us or how great I looked for having such a young baby, and of course, access visits with his family. We were always Cindy and John, never Mommy and Daddy.

Still, there were moments when we hoped, just a little, that we might get to keep him.

Then, suddenly, after 6 months in our care, we learned that the court was ordering him back to his biological family. Even though we knew that was the goal of CAS all along, and that this was the most likely scenario, we were still crushed. We didn’t have any idea how to say goodbye to this little guy who had become the centre of our world. We focused on doing what we could to make things easier for him, and over the next 6 weeks of transition, we kept as positive as we could.

We are happy for his family. We know this is the right choice in this situation, and we are very proud to have been part of a case where the system worked. But our hearts are broken.

I wish it wasn’t true, but our struggle with infertility has made us particularly vulnerable to feelings of loss, and this experience has made us question what we are capable of doing as foster parents.

The Foster with a View program is a good idea in theory, but in practice, it is very hard on the foster parents who hope to adopt. We knew that going in, and we tried to keep perspective, but the thing about grief is that knowing that it is coming doesn’t stop it from coming. You still have to feel the feels. Dammit.

Going forward, we have decided we want to keep fostering, but we wish to remove the ‘intent to adopt’ from our profile. We have love and space to give, but we do not have enough reserves to go through many cycles of hope and loss. I know a Foster with a View family who has cared for nine kids, each time hoping to adopt, and each time losing the child. This does not mean that we may never adopt – it is possible that a child in our care could become available for adoption, and we could choose to go down that path, but we need our goal in this process to be clear to us – we are caregivers until the children can go home.

Of course, we have no regrets in this. We love this little guy – he gave us so much joy during the time he was with us, and the memories are precious. We will always be grateful for that experience and for the support of our families and friends during this process – all parents, biological or otherwise, need support, and we are fortunate to be connected to amazing people.

A few weeks after the little guy joined us, I posted this video talking about the joy of fostering. People asked me if they could send the video to friends who were considering fostering, and of course, I said yes (I only post things that can be shared, so share away), but I did ask people to be careful. There are times during my journey when I would not have thanked anyone for encouraging me to consider fostering or adoption, and there are a lot of reasons for that.

Fostering and adoption are not a replacement for fertility, and somehow, until you have actually dealt with infertility on a personal level, that is very difficult to understand. You may agree intellectually, but actually feeling the difference is where the reality lies. That being said, some people dive in and it works, so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from moving forward in this.  Most people know intuitively what they need, and over time, those needs may change, so I encourage patience and listening above all else.

I share our experience for three reasons: to let the people who care about us know what is going on, to maybe help prepare others who might be in the same situation or heading down the same path, and finally, to give some information to people who plan to support people like us. At least, I hope this is helpful.

We look forward to seeing what comes next, and in the meantime, we are catching up on sleep and all those home projects we forgot about when there was a baby to play with in the house.

I hope we get another call soon.

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Infertility and Friendship

Here is another article I wrote for Fertility Matters: Infertility and Friendship

Being a Good Partner

Here is a another article I wrote for Fertility Matters: Being a Good Partner When Your Heart is Breaking

“Heartbreak and Drugs” by Cindy

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.

“Still Grieving; Still Living” by Cindy

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.

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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.

I found a blog post at www.traceycleantis.com that explains my position better than I have, and I think I will start using Lisa Manterfield’s words: “we have maxed out our heartbreak cards”.

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.

Grief Changes UsI 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?”
“No!”
“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.

“A Heavy Heart” by Cindy

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.

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“The Disappointment Monster” by Cindy

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.

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