What Infertility Did to Me

When these words were shared as part of the #MoreThan1in8 project I knew I needed more from Meaghan over at My Beautiful Crazy.

The motherhood dream hasn’t happened (and may not), but it isn’t the only one I’ve got; isn’t the one that makes me more valuable, more useful or more ME.

Today I am happy to share with you one of her a posts I think embodies rising Ever Upward.

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It…

hurt me.

scared me.

threatened me.

scarred me.

broke my heart.

tore at my spirit.

uncovered my limits.

forced me to dig deep.

helped me understand.

guided me to find strength.

restored my compassion.

showed my courage.

inspired grace.

encouraged joy.

It made me…more ME.

I’m coming to believe the healed scars from our struggles become the most beautiful, interesting parts of our spirit. Some of the things we brave, endure and survive are awful and they make us feel awful (understandably so), but we can twist it…if we want to. We can allow them to make us better, more useful and freer than we have ever been.

 
Meaghan
Meaghan
 

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I will be accepting submissions for the #MoreThan1in8 project through this weekend. Please share your story, show your face and end the silence of infertility.

When we speak, we thrive.

Stepping Out From Behind the Computer Screen

There is nothing quite like getting the message from a reader thanking me for my work and my story. When that story includes how they were finally able to break their silence and tell their story to friends and family because of my words, it honestly helps me to solidify my purpose even more. I shine my light so bright because I know even the slightest flicker of yours will help you heal, survive and eventually thrive.

Today we have my friend Sondra's story as part of my #MoreThan1in8 project! She writes about going from not sharing her story and writing a blog completely anonymously to now sharing it with the world and therefore being able to helping others even more. We have become friends through the last couple of years and I only hope and pray we get to meet in person one day. Thank you so much Sondra for contributing to #MoreThan1in8 and sharing your family with us! Make sure to go check her out at her blog A Calm Persistence.

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Why was I suffering in silence? Why was I so afraid? Why did I hold so much shame over something that is completely beyond my control? Why did I feel like I had to do this alone?

I can answer all of those questions - I wasn’t ready to share my story and part of me truly believed I was alone in this. It took a long time, a lot of processing, and one terribly brave first step to realize I was one of many.

Last April, I decided to take a courageous step during National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and share my battle. It started with a simple (or not so simple) Facebook post.

Just months prior, I had boycotted Facebook completely, it was just too triggering. I’m sure most of you reading this can understand that.  Then, there I was during NIAW back on Facebook after another canceled cycle, hitting publish on one of the most personal posts I had ever written on social media. I’ll never forget the way my heart pounded out of my chest waiting for ‘likes’ or replies to reassure me that I had made the right decision.

 
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I had been blogging anonymously for over a year, completely anonymous.  Everything about my journey was a secret. My blog readers didn’t have a name or a face to put with my story, nor did anyone in my life know how immensely I was struggling.

I silently found support online hiding behind the screen, but at the time that was enough. I never in a million years thought I would ever share my story publicly. It was my secret life, the struggle only my husband and I understood, and keeping it my own felt secure.

Only, it wasn’t really secure at all. I was falling apart, piece-by-piece, miscarriage by miscarriage.

How do you tell people that you’ve had four miscarriages? That the 4th one was under a Reproductive Endocrinologist’s care and even he couldn’t help you?  How do you tell people that you are completely breaking? That even getting out of bed is a struggle because you miss your babies so much? How do you explain the grief that comes along with losing one child? And, how do you explain the grief that comes with losing 4 in a row?

I didn’t know how to tell others. I was the 1% that had three or more miscarriages. How could anyone in my life even understand recurrent pregnancy loss?

I was 1 in 100.  

Why did I even decide to open up about my struggle?

I guess I got to a point where I had wondered how much longer I would be in the trenches. I got to that breaking point and I was tired of lying, so incredibly exhausted both physically and mentally.  I didn’t want to live this ‘secret life’ anymore.

I always said that if someone would just tell me when I’d have a baby in my arms, I could hang on… I could even be strong and happy while waiting.  I knew I could wait for 2 years, 5 years, or even 10, just as long as I just knew the ‘when’. But that’s part of the struggle with infertility, you don’t know ‘when’ and you really don’t know ‘if’ it will ever happen.  Last April, I had decided if I did have to wait another 3, 5, 10 years or even if I’d never be a mother to a living child, I couldn’t keep living this double life.

 
Sondra
Sondra
 

My ‘when’ ended up being only a year later. I sit here holding my rainbow baby girl in my arms now.  She was born on St. Patrick’s Day only a few short weeks ago.

When I shared that brave post last year, I had no idea that only a few months later I would become pregnant for the 5th time and that time, against all odds, would give me my daughter.

And so, a year ago, during NIAW, I shared our journey on Facebook. I didn’t post details, but I did share. I now know that post had so much importance in my own life. It lead to me openly sharing my blog, taking away the anonymity, and being available to  support others.

I took that first step and when the comments and likes started flooding my Facebook feed and I got notification after notification, I started to realize I wasn’t alone. And there is so much value in knowing you’re not alone.

No matter what step you choose, even if you never decide to share your story the way I have, it’s important to know you’re not alone.

I am one in eight.

Petite Post: Loving Well and Fully in Honor of Them

I have found a special love, and talent for those in the battle of secondary infertility and those in the midst of pregnancy after loss. The other day I had an aha with a client coping with pregnancy after loss. One of the biggest misconceptions of the trying to conceive, infertility and loss community is that a healthy pregnancy is our cure all. I see some of the hardest struggle during this time, which if you think about it, is not that surprising. We've already had the worst case scenario happen, we already know that not everything always turns out. A healthy pregnancy, although amazing and happy, is also filled with anxiety, worry and, if we aren't careful, all consuming fear.

What I am especially seeing in my office is the difficulty for mom to allow herself to attach and fully love the growing baby in her belly,

Because what if it isn't okay? What if I lose it?

To which I say,

Your children before this, although you may have never had the blessing to meet them, made you the mother you are today. You love this baby well because of them. You love this baby fully in honor of the ones who made you a mother to begin with.

The complicated gray of afraid and brave all at once my fellow warriors, loving well and loving fully is what our children deserve, it is also what we deserve.

 
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Don't Talk About the Baby

Please share and support (if you can, every $5 helps) the film Don't Talk About the Baby, our all or nothing campaign is ending soon.

 
 

Guest Post: The Gift of Infertility

In celebration of and to help build momentum for the April 7th bookstore launch of Ever Upward, I will be posting a guest post each week. These guest posts are written by my dear friends and biggest supporters of my work. I am so excited to introduce you all to their stories, their voices and their work in the coming weeks. This week I am beyond grateful to share a piece by Sophia's Story. In the truest sense of the words, I have found a true fellow warrior in Sophia's Story. Her courage to share her love and loss of Sophia and to keep the love and spirit alive is a message at the heart of Ever Upward. We must talk about our children, our losses; our loves. And, we ask you, our loved ones, to also talk and speak of our angels. Through our spoken words we can continue to heal and choose how we are forever changed by them. We not only educate but we can heal together and rise ever upward.

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The Gift of Infertility

Holding my tiny baby, born at twenty weeks, my heart melted with love for her despite her imminent death lurking from the depths of my worst nightmares. Her red skin fragile under the cotton blanket, I was too afraid to move her, to hurt her, to let her go. Gingerly passing her back and forth with my husband, careful to support her apple-sized head and to keep her warmly swaddled in the blue and pink polka-dots, we spent nearly ninety beautiful minutes with Sophia before she was gone. Despite being left with nothing but a silver heart full of ashes, her presence lingers each day in my thoughts, my actions, my words. She dances in my mind, reminding me of who I am and where I have been.

We were assured by doctors that Sophia’s genetic condition, while largely unknown, was a fluke. Others encouraged us to try again. We did—twice. We lost babies—twice. After the second loss, I thought oh no, not again! After the third, I wanted to kill the Universe, however one goes about doing that.

We were begrudgingly catapulted into the “recurrent pregnancy loss” club. Unbeknownst to me in a previously carefree life, this also meant we joined the ranks of infertility. We were like other couples wanting children who struggled; nonetheless, we were different. We could get pregnant. It was sustaining a pregnancy that felt momentous, impossible, unattainable.

With each loss, waves of grief ebbed and flowed. Some days I felt “normal”. Most days I felt alone. Many days I sobbed. Rare days I laughed as though sadness were nothing but a despondent affliction. Through the pain, tears, and desperate clinging to my husband--who was the only one who understood me now--I wrote. I shared. I connected with men and women whose lives, completely unknown to me, had inexplicably bumped into mine through our shared loss experiences. Having no fear, other than the world losing Sophia’s memory, I relayed her entire life, putting in details that I should have found too private to impart.

The bonds I have made with strangers are as tight as connections with people I have known for years. The power of empathy, heightened by the abysmal depth of my grief, opened my senses to feeling what others feel, sensing what others sense, and connecting to the community in unfathomable ways. People, in their own time and their own way, feel safe to share their stories with me. People trust me. And, hopefully, people find a sense of comfort from me.

Recently, on my last day of a volunteer job, I sat back-to-back with a coworker. We worked silently at our computers, until she made a fleeting comment about my blog. She and I had rarely spoken over the course of nine months, sharing pleasant greetings and cordial smiles. On this day we sat together, alone, in a small furniture-stuffed office. Word passed throughout the staff of my story; others who knew of her strife shared my writings in an earnest effort to ease her grief. Behind her occasional hellos, soft smiles, and fleeting eyes, her life’s journey was a mystery to me.

 
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Somewhere in her soul, she sensed a rare chance to reach out and expose what she had so carefully hidden away, revealing a miscarriage after going through infertility treatments. My cheeks released their tension, the friendly grin fading into a grimace of concern.  My condolences ended with: “it is a lonely journey, but you are never alone.” She replied, “You’re right, I do feel so lonely.” A pause allowed for her face to soften. “But I never thought how I am not actually alone.” For my words she shed a tear, wiped it quickly away, and hugged me.

Four years ago, holding our little baby wrapped so tenderly in polka-dots, I never dreamed of what Sophia’s short life would afford me. I never dreamed I would break out of my introverted shell and reveal profoundly personal parts of my journey with whoever will listen. I never dreamed I would find an inconceivable pride for helping humanity in a way that only survivors can. Sophia is our loss, but more importantly she is my inspiration to live compassionately, to empathize, and to reach out to as many people as possible. Sophia is the greatest gift of my life.

Guest Blog: Surviving & Living After Infertility by My Perfect Breakdown

The friendships I have found and nourished over the last year and a half of blogging have literally changed my life and also been a huge part of my recovery. I have reached out to several friends in hopes they would be willing to write guest posts for me these next three months while I build momentum up for the bookstore release of Ever Upward on April 7th. Here is the first from my dear friend over at My Perfect Breakdown. Our stories nothing alike and yet very much the same. I feel lucky and so grateful to have her in my life as she challenges me, helps me grow and learn and frankly just loves and supports me. As I hope I do for her also. The universe was on our side back in October when we both happened to be in NYC at the same time and I was able to meet her and Mr. MPB for a drink. Thirty minutes of my life that I will forever cherish. Please enjoy and make sure to check out her incredible journey that she shares on her blog.

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One thing I’ve learned from the infertility blogging community is that regardless of your specific infertility journey, it is all consuming and willcompletely and utterly suck!

Once part of this exclusive and horrible club, our lives completely change and everything we do is impacted.  And, I assume always will be.  Our lives become consumed by:

our attempts,

our scheduled procreation sex,

our two weeks waits,

our new language spoken almost entirely in acronyms (TWW, FRER, AF, CD, PIO, etc.),

our failures,

our hopes,

our breakdowns,

our dreams,

our soul crushing losses,

our medical appointments and procedures that take over our calendars.

Very quickly our lives shift from that of our relatively carefree lives we had innocently grown accustomed to, and become that a of stranger walking around in our bodies while we are held captive and forced to watch and experience the trauma of never seeing two pink lines, or waiting for miscarriages to occur, or watching our babies slowly die.

Slowly we start to become estranged to our friends, our family and most importantly ourselves.  Usually we still resemble ourselves from the outside (even when the infertility treatments cause us to gain very much unwanted weight).  Yet, if you peel back the layers, we and some of our closest friends, know that we are no longer the same person.  We walk around faking it.  We spend countless hours hiding our hurt.  We avoid potential triggers to the very best of our ability.  We cringe at the sight of a pregnancy announcement. We find ourselves crying in the bathroom at family events or while driving to a meeting.  Simply, we hurt.  We make decisions which will forever alter our lives and those of our children.  The hurt runs deep and it touches into the deepest part of our soul.

We all dream of the elusive take-home baby.  We all know the happy ending stories, where after years of struggles, losses, and financial hardships, the stars align and it finally works.  We dream and we hope that one day our stars will align.

But, not all of us will get that miracle rainbow baby.  For some of us, one day, we realize that we are reaching our tipping point.  Suddenly we want to stand up and scream:

ENOUGH!  Emotionally, physically and/or financially, a person can only take so much.  And I have reached my enough!  I have reached the end of my rope.  I either step off the crazy train and start focusing on my physical and mental health recovery, or I risk losing myself completely on a ride that has spun completely out of control.

So, what happens when we step off the train?  What do we do when we reach our enough?  How do we move from the assumed family to something completely different and unknown and often scary?  How do we start to reclaim our lives and begin to live again?  How do we hold onto our lost dreams and our lost children?  How do we let go of the hurt that is seared into our souls?  How do we move on to lead a meaningful life when our little ones are forever missing?

Some of us decide that our family will be childfree, yet childfull (i.e. Justine and Chad).  Some of us decide to pursue our family through adoption (i.e. Mr. MPB and I).  Yet, as strange as it may sound, I don’t believe the actual route we choose to create our chosen family is the important part of moving on and learning to live again after the hurt of infertility and the scars of lost babies.

The important pieces of moving on in a healthy way comes from our work to recover and reclaim our lives.  This means, we choose to focus on our recovery and to put in the effort required to learn to live in a very different way than our preconceived ideas ever imagined. We have to choose to work daily to survive and even triumph with what life has offered us.

So, how do I do it?

I work to heal the gaping holes left seared into my soul from saying good bye to our babies.  I grieve, I cry, I mourn, I remember, and sometimes I even laugh.

I nurture my marriage through open communication, love, honesty, and even simple things like dating and laughing together.

I am putting effort back into my physical health, as soon as I was medically able.  I am running and cycling again after being forced to the sidelines for over 2 years.

I started socializing again.  Once we began openly sharing our experience and losses, we were no longer afraid to see our friends who have been supportive.

I live freely now – I no longer worry about what cycle day I am on, or what potential damage I could do to myself or my potential children by having a sip of alcohol or drinking non-FDA approved tea or having medium rare steak because I like it.

I remove negativity from my life whenever I need to.  I try to recognize negativity early and eradicate it from my life.  This has meant the end of “friendships” that were more toxic to us then good.  This has also resulted in me resigning from my full time professional employment.

I work very hard to focus my energy on the things I can change, and to let go of the things I cannot.  (And this one takes a lot of effort for my classic type-a personality).

I work to recognize, accept and move beyond the extreme emotions that I have experienced in the last few years.  Anger that I never knew existed within me.  Deep and intense frustrations.  Sorrow that touched me deeper than I ever thought possible.

I search for happiness.  Every single day I am determined to acknowledge at least one happy moment, regardless of how bad my day is.

I hope that tomorrow will be a good day.  There have been times where I wanted to break up with hope, but instead, I keep returning to it.  I need hope to guide my way.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  Rather, quite the opposite, at times it is very hard!  I have bad days.  Sometimes I take 1 step forward and follow it up with 2 steps backwards.  But by continually making an effort to live happily, I am confident that I will survive and I will thrive.

 
 

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