Infertile AF Immersion Experience

2 months ago today, I embarked on a trip whose impact I struggle to put into words. I traveled to Phoenix, AZ a state and city I had never visited before. This in itself was not daunting, I have traveled alone many times before. I am good at getting around a new city. However, I was going to have several hours to kill before being able to check into the most amazing rental house. Time is my enemy. It allows me to think of all the horrible things that can go wrong. But I decided to set myself some tasks. So I found a massage therapist and received an amazing massage with cupping. This took up 90 minutes of my several hours. I spent the rest of my time at Starbucks. I did manage to drag my luggage into an art store and purchased a journal to record all of my thoughts and observations from the weekend. During my time at Starbucks, my anxiety skyrocketed. I was able to worry about meeting 9 women who I only knew through social media. My biggest concern was whether I was truly infertile. We haven’t even done IVF before we stopped. Would the others judge me for not having taken that step? On top of that I was just nervous in general. I struggle with new people because I don’t enjoy small talk. It makes me awkward and far too frequently I overshare and get too personal. Would they think I was annoying and avoid me the rest of the trip? When Tia sent the text message and said that we were welcome to come to the house, I hopped an Uber and tried to banish the feelings and focused on feeling confident. This did nothing to slow my outrageous heart rate, sweaty palms, and near tears. Then I walked into the house. Lindsay, Danielle, and Tia wrapped me in a hug and helped me get settled in. And I did overshare in the first 5 minutes of meeting all 3 but Danielle assured me that she did the same thing and we bonded over the fact. The first night we created name signs like we would at camp. We showcased who we are and had to choose a word to define what we wanted to get out of the weekend. My word was ‘Purpose’. I am in the middle of an identity crisis. I don’t know how to be me without striving to become a mother. I was worried that I have no other purpose in life, that I have nothing else to offer or achieve. Then we set our intentions with some guided meditation and shared our stories of infertility and loss. The second day we had the opportunity to spend 1 on 1 time with Tia and Lindsay, the Infertile AF founders. Tia challenged me to come up with a goal and work on small steps towards it. Lindsay challenged me to find alternative ways to mother. The rest of the day I spent with the rest of the women. I shared some of my darkest fears and deepest pain. I have not felt as accepted and seen in a group as I did in those few days. Our third day, we headed to Sedona. We did some sightseeing and hiked a short trail that ended on a rock that was pretty high to the bottom. I am incredibly afraid of heights but I stood up and felt the wind whip around me and felt so free. Lindsay pushed me to scoot down and sit on the edge and take in the valley and surrounding mountains. Tears sprang to my eyes as we sat silently. I vowed to do hard things and work towards healing my heart. Our last morning was so bittersweet. I didn’t want to leave. I am always anxious to get home. But not this time. I didn’t want to leave my AZ babes! I made more steps forward with those kick ass women in 3 days than I had in the last 3 years. Since I have been home, I have continued my work. I have been practicing gratitude, which was always a struggle. I took a Photoshop course, to get back into my photography. I confronted my boss when a difficult work situation arose. I climbed a mountain for a second time in Arizona and wasn’t scared of the height at all. I am taking an online yoga class and am working on my health again. I am trying to look at the holidays in a more positive manner. I know I still have many more steps forward to make but I feel more at peace with who I am and the life I am living. Lindsay, Tia, Carrie, Lacey, Loren, Courtney, Jill, Tiffany, and Danielle I love you and I am so thankful for you embracing me and my weirdness and pain!

Trauma

The human body is incredibly fragile. Even impact with another human can cause trauma, in the form of broken limbs, strained ligaments, deep bruises. We can survive major traumas like car accidents but our bodies are never the same. And our fellow humans don’t expect us to be the same. The same can’t be said for mental or emotional trauma. We are diagnosed with disorders and depressions, being labeled as broken. But in reality we have suffered trauma and should be expected to go through therapy and rehabilitation. As a mother who has lost her child, I will never be the same. I have suffered a trauma. I have been in therapy. I have sought different outlets for my grief. But I should never be made to feel as though there is something wrong with me for feeling the way I do after this loss. The same can be said for our infertility. This is a trauma. I have been unable to have a second baby, even with medical assistance. I have lost part of myself and entered a realm I never imagined. But I am expected to be the same as I used to be. I will never regain that innocent, naive woman. But I can heal. I can go to therapy. I can find a group of supportive people who help to lift me up. I can attend summits and immersion experiences and learn to be the new me. I will always struggle with pieces of this trauma, but so would any one with a shattered leg or damaged organs. Our expectations of others should not be for them to cover up and be happy and move on. We should allow them space to heal and live their new version of life.

Changes

I thought when Kyle said that we were moving to Indiana, I would be elated. And at first, I was. However, all of the changes that have come from the move have been very difficult and have caused me a lot more stress than I could have predicted. I have mentioned before how difficult new situations are for me dealing with my grief and our treatments. The move has brought that about in so many ways.

We no longer have a “home.” We are living in a transitional location. And it is small. We no longer have our own space. Poor Kyle can’t even shower without me barging in to use the bathroom.

I have lost my one consistent adult companion, Moises. Making the decision to end his suffering was one of the most difficult I have ever made. He has been by my side since I was 21. I catch myself wondering where he is when I am in the apartment. When dropping food in the kitchen, I think he will get it and then I realize he won’t. We had him cremated and he is now in a small box that I keep next to Lincoln.

I started a new job. I love my office and my position. But this means new people and deciding how much/when/if to tell our story. It took me almost a year in my last position to talk about Lincoln. It was nice to not be pitied or have awkward conversations. I could just be Heather, not loss mom Heather, not infertile Heather.

Additionally this new job, has brought a lot of firsts. First time working downtown, which means parking is more difficult, travel can be stressful, I walk to and from work a lot in the rain. I am not looking forward to winter.

We are still on a break from treatment. This has its own issues, as I feel there is a time bomb ticking inside my body. Right now though, we have only agreed to meet with a new doctor to push for more testing. I am hoping to find an answer. After that we will see.

One of the most difficult things is missing Ohio. I miss the family we created there. I miss walking to Heather’s and spending an evening on her deck or gathering around the fire at Sam and Blaine’s. I miss Chad and Diana’s humor at work. I miss our home, the first one Kyle and I created together.

Most of these things seem small, but add them up and it is a lot to handle. My anxiety is through the roof and I had a mild panic attack this week. I was able to run through some grounding exercises to help bring me down. But that sense of agitation and apprehension is my ever present companion again. I keep waiting for one of the balls to drop.

Packing and Lincoln’s Day

We packed away Lincoln’s things this past weekend. It was the hardest room for me to tackle. I loved this room, the colorful prints on the wall, the theme of our favorite books. Everything was clean and fresh. The clothes in the drawers even had a hint of baby laundry soap after all this time. I remembered that weekend 2 years ago, when I threw my new clothes with the wash with his, thinking I would smell like his clothes and it would lend to us bonding. And how I cried about that a few days after he was born. I smelled like a baby, but he wasn’t there. I found the breast pads that I wore for almost 4 weeks because I had nowhere else for the milk to go. I remember standing in the bathroom crying as the shower warmed up and the milk leaked down my body. In reality it only took about an hour to put all his clothes and toys in tubs to be saved for another baby. Not very long, like his not very long life. This room, in this house will always be his room. Someone else may live here but I will always picture the quiet grey walls and beautiful dark wood crib. Lincoln never slept here but it will still be his. Part of me is relieved. We will move into a new house and hopefully create a room for another little person. These things that I packed up can just become baby things we have. He turns 2 today. He would no longer be my baby and these things would be set aside with the hope of a sibling either way. I am sure his personality would be larger than his head, and that is saying something. My grief has softer edges than it used to but it still knocks me off my feet from time to time. Especially on milestone days like today. What would he look like? Would he have taken after me or Kyle? Would he be smart and silly? I still think about that day and even though he came into this world without a sound, he made a huge impact on it. I want this day to always be a special day. So I am off to enjoy the nice weather at one of the Metro Parks. Happy birthday beautiful boy!