Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letting Go

I’m struggling with this concept of “letting go” these days. Honestly, when I think about it, I have to admit that I don’t even know what it means. What does it really mean to “let go”? Does it mean forgetting? Does it mean no more pain or tears? Does it mean you stop talking about it? If I don’t know what it means to let go, how am I supposed to do it?

This topic came to mind during a recent appointment. I recently started acupuncture treatments as a method for treating infertility. As we reviewed my health history, the acupuncturist noted that I’d filled out on my form that I don’t sleep well, and she asked about it. I told her that since my daughter died, I can fall asleep easily, but I wake up multiple times during the night – usually every couple of hours. She told me that she had a meditation technique for me to try to aid in my sleeping. She asked that as I lay down to fall asleep, I should imagine a rope connected to my body, with the other end of the rope connected to my daughter. And then I should imagine the rope getting longer and longer, with my daughter getting further and further away. I knew what she was going for – it was her way of telling me to let go. So I put on my fake smile (I’m exceptionally good at a fake smile) and lied to her that I’d try it. 

I can’t imagine a way that this meditation technique would help me sleep. I really think it would create new problems in that I now wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. But I understood what was behind it – I have to let go in order to solve my sleeping problem. Here’s the problem – letting go like this solves nothing for me. I never want to let go of my daughter, and I never will. I continue to learn every day how to live without her. I don’t live in denial that she’s gone, but she is and will always be my daughter, and whether she’s here or not, I’ll love her until my last breath and beyond. It’s simply not possible to let that go.

Shortly after Vivienne died, someone told me about some Mexican belief system (I have no idea if it’s true or not, but the story of how it was told to me is). There is apparently this belief that the tears of the grieving act as a weight on the person who was lost. When we stop crying, it allows them to move on. The story was told to me as a means to be OK with not crying for Vivienne every day – that it was a good thing in that I was allowing her to move on.

I have to say that I hate this belief. If you think you have mother’s guilt with your living children, imagine feeling that the grief and tears that you can’t control are keeping your child from moving on to what comes after this life. Not only do you feel a pain stronger than I can describe, but you also get to feel guilty for carrying that pain because you aren’t letting your child go and move on. Just imagine how that feels.

I don’t necessarily believe that it’s true – that I’m somehow holding Vivienne back. But it is something that I wonder about, and I guess I’d have to say that I worry about too. I would never want to hold Vivienne back, and to think that my grief and missing her would hurt her in any way. . .well, it’s just a thought that is too painful for me to even process.

So what does it mean to let go? I’ll never stop loving her or missing her. I will always talk about her, and there will always be days that I cry over losing her. For the rest of my life, I will do things to honor her memory by helping other people. If eliminating any of those are necessary for “letting go” than I have to say that it’s never going to happen. It's just not possible.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Did I Get Here?

I’m trying really hard these days to focus my attention forward. It’s not always easy, but I try to focus less on what this latest surgery means for me overall and focus more on what it means for me moving forward. Yes, it takes away my ability to get pregnant on my own, but it also opens up the option for a successful IVF. And that is where I try to keep my focus.

But there are days where that’s easier said than done. And there really is no telling what will be the trigger for those emotions to pop up. Today was one I wasn’t expecting.

I’ve been wearing dresses all week to work. I have 3 incisions from last Friday’s surgery (one in my belly button, and one on each side a few inches out and a little below my belly button). These incisions are still pretty painful, making sweatpants and dresses (really anything that doesn’t put pressure on my incisions) as my only clothing options. I’m not usually a dress wearer, so I understand this probably seems weird to people who don’t read this blog.

I’ve seen the suspicious looks on my dress attire, and I’m sure that I’ve caused some discussion. It wasn’t bothering me too much until today. As I was running off to a presentation, a friend (who I obviously haven’t caught up with in a while) stopped me to ask me if I was pregnant. I get the suspicion – I’m wearing a dress, I’m still bloated from my surgery, and I’m not able to work out (generally because of countless treatments, but right now because until yesterday rising from a seated position and vice versa was still incredibly painful).

I know she didn’t mean anything cruel or mean in the question – she was simply hopeful that all of our treatments and pain were somehow paying off.  No matter the intention, it was still a question that felt like a punch in the gut. I already don’t feel great about my shape these days, so basically being told that I looked pregnant wasn’t an uplifting thought for my self-esteem. And I also had to respond “no” to a question that I desperately want to answer “yes.”

As I told a coworker what happened, she tried (in vain) to get me to see the positive in the situation. Again, well meaning, but difficult for me to do. So she said “maybe you are pregnant and don’t know it!” I had to respond that it was physically impossible for that to happen – no amount of miracle can make my tubes grow back.

As I drove home and thought about my day, I was struck by the question “how did I get here?” How did my life come to this in 2 short years? Knowing that I’ll never be “pregnant and not know it” and where a well meaning question can stop me in my tracks? The series of unusual events and rare diagnoses that have led me to this point is pretty mind-numbing when you stop and think about it.

And so, I’m trying to look forward, but there are still days when I have to stop and wonder. How did my life become this?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Door Closes

On Friday, I had another surgery. We are hoping it’s the last one before a successful pregnancy, but time will tell I guess. I have to admit, I have some mixed feelings on this surgery. While I am mostly relieved that it’s done, and the doctor did as I asked, there is a small part of me that feels sad about it and sees it as another loss.

This surgery was to remove my fallopian tubes. I was pretty clear going into this surgery that they needed to go. After 2 ectopic pregnancies, hydrosalpinx that caused no transfer in IVF #2, and inconclusive tests on them, I wanted them gone. They’ve been nothing but problems for me, and now that we’ve moved on to IVF, they are an unnecessary organ. So, as I would with an appendix, I said just get rid of the problem. And the doctor did.

I am mostly relieved that they are gone. They were getting in the way of expanding our family, and now they can’t anymore. There is no more risk of another ectopic pregnancy, so I never have to have that scare again. And I won’t have to worry about them causing problems as we move onto a frozen embryo transfer.

But I have to admit that I also feel a little sadness about it. The removal of the tubes means I’ll never get pregnant on my own. Pregnancy will never be a “surprise” or “we didn’t expect it” miracle for us. It will always require some pretty significant medical intervention. It will always be very planned, very clinical, and always have a doctor present. And there is a sadness that comes with that.

I know that must sound strange, since we’ve already moved on to IVF. I accepted long ago that medical intervention was necessary for us to expand our family. I moved onto fertility treatments without hesitation. But, there’s always been that thought in the back of my head that maybe it will just happen on its own. That thought is impossible now, and letting go of it feels like yet another loss.

And so we close the door on ever getting pregnant on our own or having an unexpected pregnancy. It’s a necessary step in order to move on to the ways that can expand our family and give us the greatest chance of success. But it is a door closing nonetheless, and that brings some degree of sadness. 

I don’t plan to focus on this closed door for long, since I know there is a window opening that needs my attention. But, a door has still closed, which must be acknowledged and grieved. And then, we move on.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hope is Still Alive

I started writing this post a few days ago, with a different title. The original title was “Enough is Never Enough” since that was how I was feeling at the time. But a few days later, and some new news, and I can say that I’ve shifted my viewpoint. Hope is still alive.

I was hoping that it would be a couple of months until I wrote about IVF #2 in this blog. That came from the hope that it would be successful, and we’d be waiting to announce a pregnancy here in a couple of months. But, that wasn’t how IVF #2 went, and instead we waited to find out what it all meant.

We made it further in IVF #2 than IVF #1, but still not to the finish line. This time, we made it through egg retrieval, which is a huge hurdle. That part of IVF #2 went well this time. My body listened to the medications (too well, actually, as I was at risk for hyperstimulation), and held on through retrieval. They were able to get 14 eggs, which is a great number. 12 of them were considered mature, and 7 fertilized and made it to the freezer on day 3. So now, we have 7 little embryos waiting for us in a freezer at our doctor’s office – a surreal thought for both of us.

But, that is as far as we were able to go this cycle. The 7 little embryos had to go to the freezer because a transfer was not possible. My lining still wasn’t getting thick enough, and there was some concern over fluid in my uterus and my tubes. We had to cancel transfer and do another test to determine whether we would ever be able to transfer these embryos into my uterus, or whether we needed to move on to surrogacy.

It was yet another make-or-break test for us. The build up to that test was incredibly stressful and weighed heavily on both of us. This test would tell us whether I’d be able to carry another child or if I needed to close that door and move on to other options. I’ve been told by a few friends that it’s time for me to move on to those other options. I’m sure on the outside looking in, it’s easy to say that it’s time for us to move on. It’s hard for me to explain how difficult it is to close the door on ever carrying another child. I believe in my heart that carrying a child and bringing them into the world successfully is a necessary part in my healing and ability to find peace with my body. I know that’s hard for others to understand, but please know that I know it’s the right thing for me. I will not let that go until I have done absolutely everything I can do to make it happen. Only when the doctors tell me it’s no longer an option will I move on.

And so the make-or-break test was Friday. This test would tell us whether my lining had permanent damage and we would have to close the door on carrying a child, or whether we were still in the game. The good news that kept hope alive for us, is that there does not appear to be damage to my lining. So we can now move on to some other options to thicken my lining to make a comfy home for one of those 7 embryos.

The other thing this test looked at was my fallopian tubes to determine if there was a blockage or issue that was causing the fluid to build up (a condition known as hydrosalpinx). This part of the test was inconclusive, and so we go on to another procedure this week to get a better look at the tubes and potentially remove at least one of them. It sounds more drastic than it is. Given where we are in this process, my tubes have become an unnecessary appendage, like an appendix. I’d actually prefer that they take them out, since they’ve been nothing but problems.

And so, off we go to another procedure, and then onto a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) with one of our frozen embryos. A few days ago, all I could see was yet another rare diagnosis, more tests and procedures, and a potential end to our dream of me carrying a child, and that felt like enough is never enough. But today, I can see another procedure, and then a chance to try again. And so while IVF #2 didn’t get us all the way there, hope is still alive.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Challenge - Weeks 3 and 4

I can’t believe that the 30 days have passed, and I’ve wrapped up my 30 days, 30 acts of kindness challenge. It really has given me a moment to smile each day, knowing that I’ve done something to help or that has affected someone else in a positive way. I fell behind on my weekly postings, but here are the final weeks of my challenge.

Day 17 – donated $1 to Harvest for Hunger at the grocery store. It happens all of the time – they ask me if I’ll add a dollar or so to my order to help a charity. I normally say no, not because I don’t feel charitable, but because I feel like I don’t have the time, and I’m in a hurry. On this day, I said yes and learned that I should say yes every time.

Day 18 – brought home Gordon’s favorite meal as a surprise. I was home on this day, since our offices were closed for President’s Day, and Gordon had to work. One of his most favorite meals is from a pizza place on the west side. We don’t go there often because we live on the east side. But on this day, I trekked across town and had his favorite meal waiting for him when he got home, which he loved.

Day 19 - clicked the button on to donate food. These are incredibly easy, painless, and no cost ways to share a little kindness. You click on a link, and people get something they need. I need to remember to do this more often.

Day 20 – voted for the founder of The Sweet Pea Project to receive an award. Many of you have probably never heard of The Sweet Pea Project, but I know I’ll never forget their act of kindness to my family. The night that Vivienne died, we received a memory box from the hospital, which had been donated by the Sweet Pea Project. It contained a book on loss, a certificate that included her weight and length, photos taken by the nurses, and a baby hat and blanket. That hat and blanket are the only things I have that my daughter will ever wear. I will cherish them forever. I’ll give back to this organization every chance I get.

Day 21 – gave a free mammogram on Again, easy, painless, and no cost, but could save someone’s life.

Day 22 – gave to a classroom project on There are so many projects on there of things really needed by teachers, many of whom work in high poverty schools with very little resources. I gave a little to a local project for a teacher I don’t know, but hopefully it will help them get the classroom computer they need.

Day 23 – donated food to the church food drive. They collect for a food pantry in an incredibly low income area in Cleveland. We donated food and cleaning supplies, which I know will brighten someone’s day.

Day 24 – told someone to keep the change. I bought a couple of mugs at a fundraiser at church and told them to keep the change for their programs. “Keep the change” probably doesn’t work at a lot of places, but it does at church!

Day 25 – made a donation to a charity for a friend. She put out a request to help a charity that was important to her, and I did.

Day 26 – sent a gift to a friend. It was for a special bittersweet moment, and I wanted to do something special.

Day 27 – let a car make a left hand turn. Everyone else was inching forward, trying to get where they needed to go, and blocking this person from making their turn. I stopped and let them go.

Day 28 – wrote a heartfelt note to a friend. I’m trying to do better at this. We all have friends who we think are doing amazing things and really making a contribution to the world, but we never tell them that. On this day, I chose to tell a friend how impressed I was by her efforts and how amazing I think she is.

Day 29 – answered vocabulary questions to donate rice. Only took me a few minutes (they start out easy, but they get much harder!) to answer a series of vocabulary questions, and I donated 2,000 grains of rice to the World Food Programme.

Day 30 – sent flowers to a friend. I decided to end the challenge as I began it. I sent flowers to a friend who has been incredibly supportive of me over the past year and a half – always listening and never telling me what I should be doing. I always tell her how much I appreciate it. And on the final day of the challenge, I wanted to do something to show her how much I appreciate it.

And so that wraps up this 30 day challenge. I’ve been really touched to receive your messages about acts of kindness that you’re doing in your neighborhood. Paying for someone’s groceries, giving gifts and kind notes to neighbors, strangers, and friends, and just generally trying to be a kinder person to the people around you. It’s helped me to find some purpose in the last 30 days, which is an act of kindness that you’ve all done for me. Maybe we’ll do another 30 day challenge again down the road.