Fighting infertility: Blessings in the struggle

There’s not a lot I’ve been able to do this past week. I’ve been dozing in and out most days, at the whim of painkillers, heat packs, and Netflix. All three of those *equally* a Godsend. But between naps and monitored walks around my apartment I’ve had lots of time to think about everything that brought me here. And I mean everything. I wanted to write a blog about perseverance or faith. Something inspiring that would reach out to all those women–and even men–who have faced infertility and who needs someone to write them a love letter of encouragement. I’ve been wanting to write something beautiful that would detail my journey thus far and how I made it here at least. But the words wouldn’t come. They won’t come because that isn’t altogether the true story.

I wrote this blog post here one year ago. You’ll notice it reads “Part 1” and weeks and months went by and there was never a part two. It stopped right there at the exam table and I left all of you there with me in that too-white exam room, holding your breath as I froze in time and never got my shoes on to face the reality.

cliff

I left everyone at the diagnosis of endometriosis and failed to tell the story that unfolded even when I was too rigid–too uptight–to write it down. You see, I’ve read a lot about infertility. But I’ve yet to read the bold truth of it all–the ugly, gray, horrible day to day of dealing with it. Feeling it. Dreading it. Even when no one else does.

It took this last surgery to wake me up and remind me that people need to know that side of it all so all of us–all of us who face the trials of temporary or permanent infertility–can somehow latch hands and understand what’s within the circle that only we see. I’m reminded that people won’t survive simply reading about enduring to the end, sucking in the tears with faith, or looking ahead with hope. You survive when someone bleeds with you and shows you you’re not alone. You survive when you face the ugliness and you share the night, regardless of how vulnerable or naked you become. Your eyes must adjust to the darkness before you can take a step forward and find the light.

stars

My diagnosis, like I said, was a year ago. But I had secretly known something was wrong for longer than that. My last blog about it explains it better. But the diagnosis was the point where “trying for a baby” became a nightmare. It’s the kind of thing we don’t talk about when we say to others with a smile, “We’ve been trying to start a family. We’re excited for when that day comes”. My husband and I rehearsed our lines. We prepared for gatherings. We knew what to say in almost every situation and how to not cry when someone with good intentions would pry. We had the script for being out in the world.

But at home–when no one is around to see–there is no script.

When you’re a woman struggling with infertility, you can never brace yourself enough for the blood that comes each month. The blood that reminds you–again–that there is something wrong. That once again, there’s no baby.

negative test

There’s no rehearsed lines when the pain is so bad that you find yourself in the hospital for a fourth time tied up to IV’s and answering “No, it’s just my endometriosis” when a nurse asks you if you might be pregnant.
And no one ever tells you about the fights–the terrible, deadly fights that break out between you and your spouse when the heartache becomes too much and the weight of it all decays passion or even friendship.

You rarely read about those things. That’s because it makes us humans uncomfortable, even if we’re honest with ourselves and realize that yes, we understand because we’ve been there too.

But lying here today–I’m surprised I haven’t drifted off quite yet–I want you to know the most important part of it all. And that is that it’s a gift.

Strange, I know. And probably not something you’d expect after I threw the curtain off of the journey and exposed the ugliness. But it’s something that this past year of struggling has taught me. I’ve been prodded with needles more times than I can count and I’ve spent paychecks on tests and consultations, hospital stays, and at last–this surgery. And all along I was hiding the misery of it all thinking it was misfortune. That for some random reason OUR lives were the ones chosen to deal with something bigger than our understanding. I was selfish in my thinking, I realize, but that’s how it feels at the time.

But my life–your life–is just as great a gift as the life of one who struggles differently. The gift of struggle has allowed me to never take a single breath for granted. It’s allowed me to feel the unparalleled joy and renewed optimism of hearing my masked surgeon FINALLY say four days ago, “We’ve got it all, Kayla. There’s nothing stopping you from having children now that I can see.”

20141009_111708

The gift of struggle has chiseled my arms, my body, my mind, my heart–into a mother that I will be in due time. Just as the gift of struggle has formed athletes, writers, farmers, doctors, and people who refuse to quit along the way. The journey is never glamorous. It’s not Hollywood. It’s not anything easy to tell. But it’s a gift all the same.

It doesn’t become anything until we tell it like it is to help others who walk the same path and who wonder if anyone else out there gets it. Infertility, I’m here to say, hurts so much deeper than the wounds it took to heal me of it. It corrodes marriages and jobs and the fragile minds of those who feel broken. It blinds us of our faith and tells us that we’ll never be normal. It makes us cold and sometimes it stops us in our tracks. And for those who will never be healed from it, it can altogether steal life from you if you don’t adjust your eyes to the dark and keep walking anyway.

xavier and me

I’m only 24. I’m only going on three years of hearing the word no and seeing the negative tests on the counter. But I stand with those who have had to adjust to the dark. The journey is not just about feeling the hope and the faith and the inspiring messages of courage. It’s about feeling the anger, the frustrations, the inadequacy and marching forward anyway without any source of light. That is the true gift. That’s what makes us human.

That is what will make us mothers. Mothers of our own children–or mothers of those who find themselves in the dark beside us.

And I’m here to remind you that both are needed.

 

Advertisements

To the mom who ‘has it harder’ than me: I’d like you to think again

To the mom who has it “harder than me”,

I have a confession.

As a blogger, I hate open letters.

I try to steer clear. But here I am writing one. I just can’t help it.

I feel that writing this to you is mainly for me anyway. Or for anyone who may—down the road—decide that what you taught me today is something valuable for them as well. It’s worth being talked about, don’t you think?

I met you last night, as I was ready to head home for the day. You and your husband weren’t too much older than I am and I was willing to stay an extra hour or so and help you out with what you needed.

During that extra hour we talked about the chubby-cheeked kids on your cell phone screen and we chatted about your husband’s job, which takes him away a lot. I listened to you tell me how you juggle it all and I complimented you for your strength.

You asked me if I had children and then—“well, are you going to?”

I hesitated sharing, but I told you no, and it might be a while before I do.

You didn’t pry.

I appreciated that.

We could easily be friends if I was on the other side of the counter.

money

But then today happened. You called me, pretty upset, because of a mistake that happened that I had no control over. I tried to resolve it and even felt bad that you had to drive a half hour to the nearest location to get things in order. Really I felt bad. And you had a reason to be frustrated. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter because we’re all warranted to get frustrated from time to time. It’s what you said after all of that.

“I know you don’t have kids, but not all of us get the easy life,” you said into the phone. “You wouldn’t understand how it is to be a busy mother. You wouldn’t get it, would you?”

When you first said that I think I said something about my manager taking care of it later. I think I hung up. I think I choked a little as I remained professional all the way to the bathroom. And that’s when I cried into the bathroom sink.

Why, you might ask?

Because you’re right.

I DON’T know what it’s like to juggle two kids. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn every which way by little hands and sticky faces. I don’t know what it’s like to have everything you have.

But I wish I did.

What you don’t know about me is my struggle with infertility.

tiny feet

What you don’t know about me is the fact that last night when you showed me that picture of your children a pain struck my heart and I absolutely loved hearing your stories about how you can’t get them to sleep in their own beds.

What you don’t know is there are battles unseen that I combat every day that you have been freely given.

What you don’t know, my friend, is that you happened to choose the very battle I wrestle with and tried to use it for …what? A discount? Justice? Some kind of “I’m right and you’re wrong” speech?

What you don’t know is that you taught me a lesson.

I went from crying in a bathroom sink to sitting down and examining the way I speak to people. I’ve been writing a list of all the things I’m blessed with that some might lack and all the things I might say that are insensitive to that fact. You made me think about me.

One of my favorite quotes is from Plato. Even thousands of years ago he seemed to just get it. “Be kind,” he said. “For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

stuggle

I’m deciding to be thankful for you today.

I’m thankful that I was able to sit back and examine the unkind thoughts I had toward you when you said those things—that I was able to realize you might be fighting a battle too.

Maybe you woke up in pain. Maybe a loved one is fighting cancer. Maybe you were up at two in the morning with a sick baby. Either way, there’s a battle I don’t know about. Just like my battle.

I’m thankful that the words that hurt me are now words that encourage me to look at my blessings—my great job, my writing, my fantastic family, my entourage of friends and mentors who teach me how to simply be better—and to remember that those things aren’t promised to everyone. The battlefield has all kinds of weapons…all kinds of dips and valleys and shadows that spatter over our lives and strengthen us in some capacity to fight in the war.

soliders

For you, it’s the sleepless nights and the messy minivan. For me, it’s the quiet nights and the spotless car that wouldn’t mind some Cheetos on the floor if it meant an extra set of little hands.

I needed to write this more than you needed to read it, really. So thank you.

Good luck in your battles, friend.

Because we’re actually in it together.