Posted in Infertility

I am still with you.

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We found out this week that our precious, prayed for baby is a girl. I think I had been secretly hoping it would be, even though I was pretty sure all signs pointed to boy for Baby Griggs 2.0: I’d never been this sick with Ella, never had so many physical symptoms, my food cravings have been all over the map compared to my consistent desire for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and green Tabasco hot sauce (not together, thankfully) with my last pregnancy.

But Ella June is a force of nature, and she’d decided this baby would be a girl. The universe, it seems, agreed – or agreed not to argue with her – and so, this January, Ella June should be getting a sister.

About a year and a half ago, I took a video of Ella playing with one of her baby dolls just before bedtime. She cradled the baby in her chubby arms and carefully fed it a bottle.

“Bubba for dis sista baby,” she cooed.

We’d already been trying for a second baby for going on eight months, and I was desperately trying not to panic about the total lack of results. If I watch this video, I can still feel the needle in my heart when I hear Ella’s tiny voice saying, “Sista baby.” It was a physical pain, truly, and even now remembering it can take my breath away.

This video was on my mind when I took to Facebook to share the good news that we’ll be adding another girl to the Griggs clan. I can’t believe how far we’ve come, how much we went through to get here, and how incredibly relieved I am to be where we are.

And yet the pain of how we got to this place is still with me.

I was talking to someone the other day who I know had a rough fertility journey. She mentioned she’s thinking of starting to try for a second. The first words out of my mouth were, “Aren’t you scared?”

Scared it will be difficult again. Scared there will be loss, and disappointment, and failed expectations. Scared there will be pain.

I feel it already. I’m so cautious about complaining this time, even when I’ve been dehydrated from bad morning sickness, or massively uncomfortable, or even just plain cranky. Complaining, even when I have something legitimate to complain about, seems ungrateful.

It’s partly because I asked, and hoped, and prayed for this. Sometimes the side effects suck, but the alternative is unthinkable.

It’s partly because I know this could be my last chance. I’ll turn 35 just after this baby is born. We were lucky to get pregnant this time – after a long delay, yes, but also immediately before we were due to start any serious intervention. I always wanted three children, but I don’t know if I can put myself through this again. I already feel the anxiety of trying for a third baby on our own, the dread of the procedures we might need if we don’t get pregnant independently. I am hopeful that anxiety will lessen as I put some distance and some joy between myself and the last two years of difficulty, that this pregnancy will help me forgive my body for what felt like a failure, that I’ll gain some measure of trust in myself again. But I also know that, for many reasons, this baby could be the last one I carry.

And it’s also partly because, even while I am sharing the good news, I am thinking about all of the women who have shared their fertility struggles with me in the months since we opened up about what we were going through.

I know what it’s like now, to be sitting on the other end of someone’s gender reveal Facebook post. To read yet another pregnancy announcement. To be invited to yet another baby shower. To click through yet another newborn/sibling photo collection.

Do I need to tell anyone how much that sucked? How hard it was, for so long? How guilty I felt about being overwhelmed by my own sadness and envy when all I wanted was to feel joy for these other families? I never quite resented hearing about others’ pregnancy pains and discomforts, but I do know I heard them differently than I used to.

When I was pregnant with Ella, I shared a lot about my symptoms, about the joys and frustrations of commuting by train in the summer with a belly OUT-TO-HERE, about my various stresses and cravings. One night, after I’d posted a particularly snarky message about someone having stolen my cab in a downpour, a woman I was only somewhat acquainted with posted a long message about how pregnancy is not a license to complain nonstop. That it’s a choice, and it’s a blessing, and it’s one a lot of people would like to be able to experience and can’t. This person didn’t tag me, but I realized she’d blocked me that evening, so it felt safe to assume I was at least a contributing factor in her outrage.

At the time, I was fairly outraged myself. I’d thought I was sharing what some people might find comical – the good, the bad, the ugly.

But I’ve walked in different shoes since we got so easily pregnant with Ella and had a like-clockwork pregnancy and delivery. I still do not feel as though I’m responsible for filtering out everything I am going through in case a distant connection on social media is having a difficult time. I do, however, feel like I have a responsibility to keep my perspective.

I’ve listened to so many other women’s stories – seriously, I cannot tell you how many people reached out, whether publicly or privately. There is a veritable army of women out there navigating varied, often heartbreaking, fertility journeys, quietly and frequently alone. Women who went through much worse than I did, women who stuck it out much longer than I had to, women who had the strength to rewrite their dreams to build their families. Women who still do not have, and some who will never have, the baby they were hoping for. Women for whom the next test result may be a finality, a dead end.

What I want these women to know is that, even as I share my own current experience, you are not forgotten in my happiness.

I am still with you. My heart still aches for what I went through, what you’re going through, what we have been through together. I still see you, waiting, and trying, and trying again. I am still thinking of you, and hoping and praying for you, that you get the outcome you want, that you somehow make peace with the outcome you get, that you know how humbled I am by your courage and your hope. And I am still so grateful for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your own highs and lows.

I am still with you, and I really do love you all.

 

 

 

Posted in Infertility, parenting

We Are Not In Charge

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Over the twenty-one months we tried and failed to get pregnant, I had a lot of opportunity to think about God’s timing.

After five months of trying and failing to get pregnant, I got to perform in a show that meant the world to me. The rehearsal and performance schedule was grueling on top of my day job and it would have been hard to keep up if I was also dealing with that first trimester exhaustion, but the experience was so creatively fulfilling that it kept me powered up for months. “OK,” I thought. “This must be why we don’t have a baby yet.” God was giving me this chance to realize a dream of mine, even if it meant postponing a dream I had for our family.

I was offered a job at a new school after nine months of trying and failing to get pregnant. It was a leap I couldn’t have made if we were pregnant already, and it was one I felt like I really needed to take. “OK,” I thought. “This must be why we don’t have a baby yet.” God was pushing me towards a learning opportunity that could help us build a better future for our family, even if it meant waiting longer for that family to grow.

We had been trying and failing to get pregnant for 17 months when some oral surgery I had been avoiding for a year suddenly became imperative. I’d procrastinated scheduling the procedure, sure every month that I would be pregnant and the surgery would have to be canceled anyway. “OK,” I thought. “This must be why we don’t have a baby yet.” God knew I needed to address this dental issue and had made space to make sure I took care of myself.

And now, almost a full two years after we started trying for a second child, I am finally, and with great joy, and with great relief, pregnant.

It happened during a month when I thought it was absolutely not possible. I never had a positive ovulation test, I thought we missed our window, I hadn’t been as careful about tracking as I thought I needed to be.

But lo and behold, a few weeks later I found myself dozing off at odd moments and shooting eye daggers at anyone who dared eat fish in my general vicinity. And here we are, almost 11 weeks in to a new adventure that I was starting to despair we would never get to go on.

I find myself wondering, though – why now?

Maybe God was waiting for me to surrender. The good news came less than 48 hours before our first appointment with an IVF specialist. I was truly done expecting that our family was going to grow without medical intervention.

Maybe God knew this was just the right time. If so, his ways continue to be pretty freaking mysterious, since we found out we were pregnant less than a week after buying a new house in a new town on total impulse. But maybe God knew growing a new life in the midst of this chaos was exactly what we needed to do.

Deep down, I suspect both of these explanations might be true, but they really serve to drive home a bigger lesson, the biggest lesson I have learned from parenting Ella, the only piece of advice I can ever offer expectant parents:

We Are Not In Charge.

I had a lot of expectations, heading into motherhood the first time around. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted to cloth diaper and make my own baby food. I pictured myself with my angelic offspring, zen-filled, doing Mommy & Me yoga in total bliss.

But Ella had other ideas.

She would not, or possibly could not, nurse. My supply never caught up from having to supplement right at the beginning, and soon enough we were loading up on Enfamil at $35 per tub.

The cloth diapers couldn’t handle the hard water at our apartment and consistently leaked where Ella’s tiny thighs didn’t fill the leg holes.

She refused to eat any purees I made myself, immediately recognizing the packaging as imposter.

And yoga class could truly not have been any less blissful, with Ella attempting to scale the fountain shrine during the 30 seconds it took me to roll out our mat. She spent the rest of the class shouting at people and repeatedly retrieving our coats. “Home,” she said, as in “We go there now.”

I’m not the mother I thought I was going to be. Ella is not the person I expected. And this journey to grow our family has not been what I hoped for.

But different isn’t better, or worse. It’s just different, and so much of my work as a mom has been to accept, understand, and cherish the ways our reality is different than what I anticipated. That knowledge is one of the greater gifts motherhood has given me.

I don’t know that God would have put us through the difficulty of the last two years of trying and failing to get pregnant just to remind me that I am not in charge.

But I do know that the reminder is appreciated, as we prepare for a new reality that will change our family forever and wait in anticipation to meet a brand new human, who will have ideas of his or her own about that reality.

We are not in charge, and that’s kind of beautiful.

 

Posted in Infertility, parenting

Sharing is Caring – and a little bit more

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With a three year old in the house, I spend a lot of time thinking about sharing. I guess when I went back to work after maternity leave, I assumed one of the benefits of having Ella in daycare full time from the very beginning was that she would be used to sharing with other kids by the time we gave her a sibling.

Imagine my surprise when all that socializing actually produced territoriality instead of generosity! Turns out spending most of her days with kids who are also learning boundaries has made my Junebug a bit fierce about what’s hers.

She loses her mind when one of the cats sits in her favorite spot on the couch. She hoards her toys and treats around younger cousins. And God help anyone who dares to use her special rainbow bath towel.

“Think about how your friend feels,” we tell her. “Sharing makes our friends happy.”

I’m slowly realizing that this is possibly the wrong way to approach it – that our sharing makes other people happy is really only half the story.

I’m a pretty private person, by nature, so it took a lot for me to start sharing my stories online. Then, last fall, I wrote something about my experience of 9/11 and, in a moment of uncharacteristic bravery, shared it.

The response blew me away – not so much the number of views, although that was pretty terrifying to watch, but really the number of people who thanked me for sharing what they’d never been able to, and the number of people who then were inspired to share their own story.

That one little post, written in a frenzy after more wine than usual and shared without much thought for the possible consequences, gave me enough confidence that this sharing idea was maybe a good one. So, when my husband and I reached an unspoken milestone in our effort to have a second child, I felt like maybe, just maybe, sharing that journey was a worthwhile endeavor.

Even though I am private, especially about body stuff. Even though it made me feel pretty squirmy inside to put this out in the world. Even though I wasn’t sure how I would feel about talking, in real life, to real people, about what we were going through.

You guys. The sharing. It is the best thing.

Not only because it lifted a burden I didn’t even really know I was carrying, and not only because people have been so kind in their feedback about my writing.

But because me sharing has made other people share, too. I have been completely humbled by the women who have read my sharing and reached out with their own – in the comments here and elsewhere, over e-mail, in private messages, over coffee.

Things get so heavy when we carry them on our own. Maybe more sharing is really the right idea.

So, I’m pleased as punch that a story I published over at Coffee + Crumbs last week is being shared today at For Every Mom. Welcome to anyone who clicked over from there. I’m so happy to share a little bit of my life with you.

Posted in Infertility

Welcome!

IMG_4669.JPGI have a story I’m proud of up over at Coffee + Crumbs today. Welcome to anyone who clicked over from there!

Truth is, I have mixed feelings about sharing this essay – Six Days Late, which I wrote about six months ago. I almost didn’t submit it anywhere, because I wasn’t ready to talk about this baby-making business yet. But I figured by the time it was published, I’d be pregnant and it wouldn’t bother me anymore.

I’m not, obviously, and although I’ve lost some of my squeamishness about sharing this struggle, I still have a hard time balancing where I am with where I thought I’d be.

More on this expectation vs. reality balance later, but in the meantime, thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

Posted in Infertility

A Hard Time

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Once, about a hundred years ago, Jon and I called off our wedding. There was a lot more to it than that, so it’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say, it was a hard time. 

But no one knew. A few months after we’d canceled the venue, photographer, DJ, and more that we’d been so excited about, someone at work asked how the plans were coming. I took a huge swallow of Diet Coke to keep myself from tearing up and casually mentioned that the wedding had been canceled. 

That coworker, an older woman who dealt with me more like a grandchild than a colleague, shook her head and said she couldn’t believe I hadn’t said anything and had been showing up to work with a smile on my face. 

At the time, this was a point of pride for me. I thought it meant I was a tough cookie, that I could just keep moving seamlessly even when I felt like my heart had been torn apart at the seams, the threads that used to hold me together waving around in the wind.

My mother had a heart attack over winter recess one year in college. No one knew. I was the girl whose depression support group called her “the cheerleader” until they found out at the last meeting that I had only recently quit cutting myself to stay alive. 

I’m not able to do this anymore – this smile while you bleed thing. And although I still sometimes feel like I am sacrificing pride, I am starting to see the value of owning up to having a hard time. 

I have been frustrated, over the last two years of trying to make a baby, at people’s insensitivity. But if I keep smiling and saying I’m all right and changing the subject, whose fault is that insensitivity? 

Maybe it’s time to let myself be a real mess, so we can all be on the same page. 

When you ask if we are planning to have another child. When you ask if Ella is my first or second, as though a second is a given.

When you jokingly warn me not to have another child. 

When you remind me to have patience and faith in God’s timing. 

When you gently suggest I not plan my immediate future around something that may be an impossibility.

When you try to help me visualize the baby that must be on its way any moment now.

When you tell me it will all work out how it is supposed to, when it is supposed to.

When you say these things, or – ideally – when you are thinking about saying these things but haven’t said them yet, what I need you to remember is that I am not seamless. That the stitches that used to hold me together have come loose and are flapping around in the wind and I am left wide open. 

Sometimes it is fine and I hear you and keep moving. Sometimes I am tired and don’t have the energy to fend off my own reaction. Sometimes you are the third person who has said this kind of thing today and I am out of patience. And sometimes you are the first person but I can already feel the other two in line behind you.

Do you know how many different people have said one of these things – in love, I know – to me in the very few weeks since I started telling people we want another baby? So. Many. People. I presume they all mean well, because they are people who love or at least like me. 

And I’m not exempt here. I’ve said some of these things to women I love and like. I’ve commented on other people’s family planning with little to no context about where they’re at or what their hopes were or how they got here.

Now I know: I am an asshole. I didn’t mean to be an asshole, and I know most people are not trying to be assholes. 

I would like to propose a deal:

If I can remember that you are not trying to be an asshole on purpose, maybe you could try to remember that I am having a very hard time. 

Even if I am smiling, even if it seems like I am managing well. 

I am having a very hard time.

Posted in Infertility

Patience

 

hands-woman-girl-silver“Patience is a virtue.” It’s something my dad used to tell us constantly when we were kids, to the point that as a teenager I decided I hated both patience AND virtues. As a sort-of grown up, I actually think of myself as a pretty patient person. Patience might be a virtue, but it’s also in short supply for me right now.

I really thought this month was the month.

I had an HSG scan, which, in the words of Janet, the compassionate and well-meaning tech who held my hand through the procedure, uses something like “a cocktail straw,” that takes about 45 minutes to insert via speculum, to inject a dye that “works like drain-o” to flush out your plumbing while a radiologist watches via X-ray to see if anything is clogged.

Apparently this procedure is fairly quick and painless for many women. It was neither of those things for me and had followed a pretty stressful morning (uncooperative toddler, a work emergency I wasn’t able to deal with because of this appointment, unusual traffic, and an incorrect location given to me by hospital staff, all of which made me run late) so by the time I had cleaned myself up and was heading out the door of the exam room to go home, I was in a pretty fragile state. Janet explained the law of attraction to me and suggested I try telling everyone I will have a baby in 2017. I wasn’t sure where to even start with an honest response to that so instead thanked her for holding my hand and left before losing it.

The one thing I kept repeating to myself while trying to hold it together was that this procedure often results in increased fertility in the first month or so after you have it. Between the HSG and some tweaks a urologist had recommended for Jon’s biology, I felt really good about our odds for getting pregnant in March. I even lost a few pounds, which, although I’m not very overweight, I thought might help.

But now it’s time, again, to come to terms with the fact that we are not pregnant.

I don’t know how people do this for years and years. We are approaching the two year mark and I could crawl out of my skin with heartbreak and impatience. And I am ever mindful that I am blessed to already have a healthy, perfect child, and that I haven’t even gotten to the really invasive, disruptive, uncomfortable stuff yet. I am in awe of couples who persevere.

While we figure out next steps, I am taking deep breaths. I am holding Ella close. I am thanking God for what I have and asking his forgiveness for my impatience. And I am trying to give myself the grace to slow down, to rest, and to grieve that there is just no baby this time.