A Week in the Life of an Infertility Survivor Pt 1

Hi All –

Wanted to remind those of you in the IF community about Justine’s #MoreThan1in8 project over at Ever Upward.  She’s asking for our photographs and stories of surviving and thriving that she’ll compile, in some surprise way I hear, for National Infertility Awareness Week.  Which is next week already!

I submitted mine a little over a week ago.  I wrote whatever came to mind (shocking, I know) and focused more on the survival aspect as I myself have barely entered the thriving part.  I sense I’ve got a ways to go before that takes hold.

Like Justine I do believe we have power and voice in numbers, and that it is past time for us to be seen.  So if you are in the place of being ready, have your submissions in by this Friday the 22nd.

My writing this week comes in a few parts, so buckle your belts and off we go……

 

The Pause

Musings of an Easter Scrooge

“Cover your left nostril with your right hand ring finger.  Inhale to the count of five through your right nostril.  Pause for one.  Cover your right nostril with your thumb, release your ring finger from your left.  Exhale through your left side to the count of five.  Pause for one.  Inhale through your left side to the count of five……”

I’ll never forget the first time I was instructed to pause between the inhales and exhales of my alternate nostril breathing.  The suspension, for me, was unquestionably luxurious.  I thought I had been introduced to a utopia of sorts, where neutrality and all else that is coalesced, emerging as the perfect cocktail.

In my current life, I’ve been having a decent stretch lately.  I have regained some of my ability to see into the future, at least a few months into it anyway.  What an oddity to have my future vision yield something besides dull blobs of blankness.  I’m slightly busy again, busy for the first time in six years with something other than baby making, surviving and grieving.  And more importantly, it seems I’m actually ready to be.

Truth be told my previous lack of business is something I’m proud of.  How easy – and mindless – it would have been to flit and scurry around in the days, months and even years after the loss of our children, stuffing the void with anything in our path, pissing away my time with the pursuit of empty distraction, the aversion of feeling and a rightful place in the neighborhood of make believe.  But I didn’t want to, why I don’t know.  All I can say is that I felt driven, called even, to stumble around in my void, marinate in my pain and identify, examine and tend to each and every last one of my wounds.   A bereft parent’s final battle cry, and perhaps my most resonant one, claiming my story in the face of the robbery of my children.  This gauntlet became, in an odd way, my passion.

So it seemed completely normal to me, as Easter approached, that I had no plans and that in my world it was “Sunday”, the time during which I was going to get ready for my road trip the following day to Maryland to hang with my family and tend to my nephew during his school break.  Most holidays have lost their meaning for me in recent years, as I wrote about in my satirical post winter holiday piece, I Like Mondays. And you know me dear readers, I’d much rather stew in a lack of meaning than force some that doesn’t actually exist.

It all felt completely normal, that is, until the week’s end when Easter was brought up in practically every conversation that I had.  “What are you doing for Easter?” and “What are your Easter plans?” people nicely and innocently asked me time and time again.  And I’d answer honestly most of the time: “Nothing.  Easter isn’t important to me.  I’ll be getting ready to drive down to Maryland to visit my nephew.”  This unfortunately seemed to make people sad, or they didn’t know what to do with it, perhaps not realizing that once you’ve lost your children, a lack o’ Easter really isn’t so boat rocking.

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And then, in some cases there was this: “Well are you visiting your nephew FOR Easter??”

Me: “Uh, no.  He’s on break from school.  I’m visiting him because I love him.”

There’s this strange phenomenon in suburbia-ville where people are always asking you what you’re doing things “for”.  Are you seeing them “for” Christmas?  Is it “for” Memorial Day?  I just don’t get it.  If you have a connection to a person or a place or an activity, you engage.  Screw the day.  It’s the fact that it could all be gone tomorrow that really matters.

And let’s be honest, infertility and childlessness aside, I don’t come to Easter with a lot of points in my favor.  In my childhood my Mom and younger brother would bound out of bed at 3:00 am or some ghastly hour, bringing their bright eyes and bushy tails to Easter sunrise service.  Yippee.

“Don’t you want to see the sun rise?”

Me: “Hell no.”

“But it would be fun if you came….”

Wee hours of the morning and fun are not married in my world.  They just aren’t.

In my younger adult years I would often work on Easter in the restaurant business.  And let me tell you, the crowd was not exactly stellar.  It was always a somber, depressing lot clearly unseasoned in eating out, and in tipping, quite apparently, spending time with family members it was rather obvious they didn’t want to be with.  Which is typically a great reason to drink, sadly something the Easter crowd has yet to discover.  I spent my Easter shifts silently pondering from under which rock these people had crawled out.

But I’ve digressed.

Now I’m married to the restaurant business, so my husband isn’t home and I don’t really have family nearby.  And we all know, those of us who try to skip out on holidays, that as much as you want it to be a “Sunday”, it isn’t really.  Holidays in and of themselves exacerbate grief.  People’s reactions to what I was doing served as painful reminders of what I wasn’t doing, and that, although I’m adjusting, this isn’t the life I chose, and it is a seriously altered one from the mainstream.  A few years ago it was as if most of my body was in the life I thought I was going to have, time it seems has whittled that down to just a limb or two.  But the scenery of what should have been – the baskets, the games, the food, the easy and thoughtless socialization – was present in every nook and cranny of my being.

And so I arrived on the day of Easter sad, inexplicably angry, surprisingly triggered, consumed with a waterfall of questions and strangely – and sublimely – content.  A typical internal cacophony for someone healing from trauma and grieving an untimely life altering loss.  And in true trauma and loss survivor style, I simultaneously entertained it all.

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The sadness, no surprise there.  The rage, well, I still don’t know exactly what provoked it but I am sure it’s a natural by – product of that which we don’t chose in life.  And if I’ve learned anything from what I’ve been through it’s that emotions don’t need to be logical or directly traceable in order to be valid.

“Hello rage,” I said.  “I see you.  I acknowledge you.  Anything you’d like for me to know?”  Snore.  I’ve shaken hands with my rage so many times throughout my crisis it’s almost boring at this point.

Oh, and the endless cascade of questions with mostly no answers…..

Holidays are not where my life takes place.  Where does my life take place?  What is meaningful to me?  What matters to me?  What do I want for my future holidays?  Can I be ok if I experience no flicker for holidays ever again? (The answer to this is yes, I can live with that).  Do I lean too much on my introversion?  Why does conformity always fail motivate me?

I also dealt with the intense desire, a much talked about one in our community, to do something big and change the world.  (My common sense tries to tell me that after walking away from four years of baby making without a baby, the last thing I need is another exercise in futility).  I have no idea where this came from or why it showed up so persistently on this day, so I let it sing out loud with the rest of my shit chorus.

And the contentment?  It dawned on me that for as trying as it was, I was immersed in what I needed that day.  Although a detachment from holidays comes with a facet of uprooted sadness, not being tethered to such things is also oddly liberating.  I don’t need to be around people for fear of not being around people, or just because I need for my life to look a certain way.  I need to see how my life looks and feels now, today.  Given the high velocity changes of the past few years, I don’t always know where my life is and what I need is time to contemplate that.  The truth is, breaking bread with a group of people, especially people with children, on this fine holiday, though much less upsetting than it used to be, would not make me feel better.  In fact, it would likely make me feel worse.  It would not feel like my life, at least not this year.  My sweet ambiguous colorful shattered life.

A close friend of mine whose life was also blown apart by untimely life altering traumatic loss once said that you have to find and then pick up all of your pieces, some of which you’ll keep and some of which you’ll throw out, before you can walk forward.  This is what I need, especially on holidays for some reason, and being in what you need breeds a contentment of sorts.  I’ve always said there will be no replacement for my children.  But stuff will inevitably go into the space that was taken up by treatments and grieving.  Not necessarily compensatory stuff, but stuff just the same.  And common sense tells me you can’t intelligently invite anything into a void you haven’t summoned the courage to first move around in.

A few days later, it hit me.  I’m pausing.  In real life, pauses may not be the peace filled respite they are in alternate nostril breathing, but they have a peculiar dynamism just the same.

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“You pause because you care” I told myself.

I realize I’ve paused on numerous levels over the past few years – professionally, socially, spiritually and philosophically.  Though I may be less than dazzled by this transformation I didn’t ask for resulting from this loss I did nothing to invite, I do care about it.  Infertility, and especially subsequent childlessness when it results, takes all that you perceived, believed and thought you knew and throws it into a psychotic spin cycle.  I’m learning it takes quite some time to find your footing, and I care that as I do the path I’m walking is very very real.

Much happens in the pause.  It is often not a place of comfort, but why wouldn’t there be much restlessness in stillness?  It is where you feel.  It is where you search for, and let go of, meaning.  It is where you observe, question and wonder.  It is where you gain a sense of where and how you are.  It is where deeper living begins.

Rush/Prime Mover//Basic elemental instinct to survive/Stirs the higher passions, thrill to be alive/Alternating currents in a tidewater surge/Rational resistance to an unwise urge/Anything can happen/From the point of conception to the moment of truth/From the point of surrender to the burden of proof/From the point of ignition to the final drive/The point of a journey is not to arrive/Anything can happen//Basic temperamental filters on our eyes/Alter our perceptions, lenses polarized/Alternating currents force a show of hands/Rational responses force a change of plans/Anything can happen/From a point on a compass to magnetic north/The point of a needle moving back and forth/From the point of entry until the candles burn/The point of departure is not to return/Anything can happen//I set the wheels in motion, turn up all the machines/Activate the programs and run behind the scenes/I set the clouds in motion, turn up light and sound/Activate the window, watch the world go round/Anything can happen/The point of a journey/The point of surrender

8 thoughts on “A Week in the Life of an Infertility Survivor Pt 1

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing and reminding your readers of my #MoreThan1in8 project!!!! I can feel our power growing but still need quite a bit of participation to pull off what I have in mind. Your participation and your support in it mean so much, as a fellow warrior but especially as an IF blogger. Thank YOU!

    As a Christian I obviously love Easter, but those damn “complete” family pictures of everyone in their pastel church outfits in front of the flowering trees about did me in this year…

    Thank you again! Justine

    • You’re very welcome, Justine. There’s not a one of us that can change the conversation alone, so I’m glad to do my small part. I’m looking forward to the final product:-)

      The scene you describe does sound triggering, even, or maybe especially, in the midst of a holiday in which you find meaning. I did not foresee being triggered this year, I just didn’t. Alas….

  2. I am so excited to see what Justine has up her sleeve for #MoreThan1in8! After much mulling about it, I sent in my story (as you know I’m not super public about this part of my life) and I’m also planning to put it on my Facebook page (which makes me want to puke just thinking about it….but it’s time).

    Easter kind of hit me hard this year too. For me it was everyone who gave up Facebook for Lent’s glorious return on Easter morning with their perfectly dressed families all headed off to church.

    • Yay – you sent in your story!! I’m all in on your FB plans – let me know how I can support you on that. Perhaps there’s a way I can assume many different identities and like your post 40 trillion times or something. Feeling like you want to puke over such a situation is normal, but I know me telling you this is likely not helpful.

      Sorry for the Easter FB assault you experienced. I sometimes tell people that FB is known in infertile circles as “the firey depths of hell” for good reason. And then they look at me all confused….shocking.

  3. Sublime post Sarah, thanks yet again. So many poignant, deep, soulful, real experiences & observances perfectly articulated & sublimely channelling so much of my own experience with being robbed of my babies & motherhood, the aftermath & gradual transition now just a few years after we gave up our 10+ years of TTC. I too deliberately ‘macerated’ & still do on the odd day/few hours etc…reading this is the first time I see that fully & totally positively for what it is for me too….the honouring…. many thanks & best love from me in Australia xxx

    • Desiree, thanks so much. This was a hard subject to write about, but I needed to because it has affected so much of my daily life for awhile now. I think it’s easy to assume less of ourselves when we’re standing still, or not excited, when in fact it takes a lot to pull back and survey (and experience) the damage. It means a lot to me that this piece reflected back to you some of your own experience.

  4. I guess the question “what are you doing for Easter?” is simply a conversation starter (at least it is here), because so many people can only travel on long weekends. We get four days off here – Fri-Mon inclusive – and lots of people travel, go on hikes etc before the winter sets in. It’s not really seen as family time.

    I actually find a detachment from holidays (as you North Americans say) to be quite liberating. Even before we had children, we have travelled on Christmas Day, or found ourselves somewhere exotic, and loved that. I also love not doing anything on Easter, which here often coincides with school holidays/vacation. And this year, because we won’t need to travel south to see my mother, I’m thinking quietly about some overseas options for Christmas.

    I also took a pause, for a couple of years. It was necessary, and enabled me ultimately to reorient myself with life and values and myself. You’re right – it’s not like relaxing on a beach, it can be quite hard work. Still, I’m glad you’re doing this.

    • It helps to hear that someone else took a pause too. And that’s exactly it – I need to re-orient with pretty much everything. It’s all different now.

      Interested to hear where you’ll end up for Christmas:-) And I agree, the question “What are you doing for Easter?” is completely appropriate and harmless in and of itself. It was the responses to what I was doing that got me.

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