Thursday, April 12, 2018

It's hard not being a mama


 Just after Christmas 2015, weeks after the above photo was taken, we found out we were expecting.

A week later I miscarried.

It is something I hope I never experience again and something I would never wish on anyone. I felt alone. I felt angry that the world just kept on moving along while I was grieving. I felt like I would never stop crying. I finally woke up one morning and realized that I would be okay, but the pain and fear don't just go away.

Longing to be a mama while surrounded by others who are expecting can be a dark place. Attending baby showers and torturing yourself with gender reveal videos on Facebook can foster a deep resentment and bitterness. Waiting is hard. Waiting in fear can be even harder. Waiting when you have had just a taste of the sweetness of motherhood only to have it violently stripped from you a week later is devastating.

I know more people who have experienced some version of this than those who haven't. And yet, miscarriages and infertility are something we don't talk a lot about. Instead, we continue to ask other women insensitive questions about when, how or why not. No matter how good the intentions are behind these questions, there are no words for the sting they hold to a woman longing for a child.

In an attempt to shed some light on something that is near to my heart and that so many women struggle with I have asked a sweet friend to share her perspective as she waits. There are not enough words in the world to communicate what it feels like to navigate this path, but I am thankful she was willing to share with us.
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A couple months ago I was wasting time, endlessly scrolling through Facebook when a blog post someone shared reached out and slapped me right in the face. It was titled "Saying Your Dog is Your Baby is an Insult to Parents". Reading this post broke me. I don't take most things on Facebook too seriously, but this post really got to me.

Now I obviously understand that comparing children and dogs is apples to oranges. But for me, my dogs are the only living creatures I have to "mother" since my husband and I have struggled to conceive our own children. My dogs became my family when I was in college and have seen me through my best and worst times. They were at our wedding, come on vacations with us, they are a part of my family. Through my currently infertile tears I typed straight from my emotion a response that I realize the author won't read or agree with, but in that moment, it made me feel a bit better. Shortly after, my lovely friend Katie reached out to me offering comfort and support, and she asked if I might offer a few words from my perspective to share on her blog. I didn't hesitate for a second. One thing I've learned while on this journey is that when I decide to talk about it, I generally come across women who have fought a similar fight. I almost always find comfort by talking about my infertility issues with others. So, here's my story: My husband and I have been happily married for almost five years. We always knew we wanted children, and he would have been happy to get pregnant right away. I was more hesitant to jump into parenthood quickly. I wasn't too far into my current position at a job that requires me to travel frequently. I wanted to dive into work, travel and have some "us time" with my new husband. Fast forward 3 years, and I am turning 30 and telling him I'm ready. I pretty much assumed that meant I would be pregnant the next month.

After a year or so of casually trying to conceive my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. In that moment, my entire world crashed down around me and my family. When the fog cleared, I suddenly was punched right in the gut with these cold hard realities: what if my mother is never able to meet my children? What if this is hereditary and there is something wrong with me? Why do things not seem quite right with my body? Less than a year later, we lost my Mother-in-Law to end stage Renal Failure. The guilt I felt from her never knowing her grandchildren was crippling. That set the wheels in motion to take charge of my health and dive into what was going on. Many doctors appointments, scans, blood tests, ultrasounds, biopsies and a hysteroscopy later, I was diagnosed with PCOS and Complex Endometrial Hyperplasia - which can eventually lead to endometrial cancer if not treated. I have completed my treatments for the Hyperplasia and am continuing my journey navigating PCOS, but in the meantime..I am still waiting to be a mama. When Katie approached me about what it's been like for me while waiting to be a mama for 3 years now, I started a list as thoughts randomly came through my head. Unfortunately I know there are women out there who can relate to many of these. Just know you are not alone in your struggle, and I encourage you to find someone to take the journey with you. 
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It's hard not being a mama and feverishly searching for your name on those dumb “women that will get pregnant in 2018” memes on Facebook—as if they really hold all of the world's answers.

It's hard not being a mama and wasting money on pregnancy tests. You know it’s not going to be positive, but you can’t help but hope anyway.

It's hard not being a mama and instead mentally Putting “Dog” in front of every cute “Wife. (Dog)Mom. Boss” printed t-shirt you see.

It's hard not being a mama and hearing “Ugh. Enjoy it while you can. Kids change EVERYTHING,” from someone with children. I know that I don’t know how kids will change my life, but I desperately WANT to know.

It's hard not being a mama and having WAY too much house for just my husband and I but holding out hope that it will feel less empty some day.

It's hard not being a mama and feeling the enormous guilt of losing a parent before making them a grandparent. I’m still dealing with this as we lost my husband’s mother this past year. He was her only child. I feel guilty every single day that I wasn’t able to give her that experience.

It's hard not being a mama and feeling guilty because I haven't made my husband a father. He’s SO ready and SO capable. My heart breaks a little bit every time I see the longing in his eyes when he sees a father and child together.

It's hard not being a mama when you are a 32 year old woman on Facebook. The algorithms give you baby blogs, parenting advice, diaper ads, etc. Hey Facebook, how about you stop assuming things about me? I might just want to see wine and dog collar ads, okay?

It's hard not being a mama when you are constantly hearing about teen pregnancies and unplanned pregnancies by people who can’t care for a baby...why is it so easy for them? You can’t help but wonder, ‘why not me?’

It's hard not being a mama and avoiding the baby section in Target. It’s all so cute, and it just hurts that I don’t have someone to put in all the cuteness. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. (My husband does this too, which breaks my heart).

It's hard not being a mama when you go to your infertility appointment, and the nurse practitioner is super pregnant. Seriously? 

It's hard not being a mama when someone asks "When are you guys finally going to try to have a baby?" and feeling a little guilty when you very bluntly reply "three years ago." I see their reaction change to “oh crap, I’m so sorry", and it was never my intention to make them feel bad, I swear. Sometimes I just get tired of the question. Most of the time I can grin and bear it—today just wasn’t that day, and I’m so sorry.

It's hard not being a mama, but I have hope. No matter the pokes, prods, negative tests, questions, tears, and guilty feelings there is always laughter, support, cherished conversations, common bonds with other women, love and HOPE behind it all.

This is only my story and no one else’s. Every person’s journey is all their own, wrapped up in their own circumstances and emotions. Every day is different: some better and some worse, but no matter what, every day is a blessing and a day full of hope if I choose to see it. Living this journey has made me feel alone, selfish, incapable, less of a woman, less of a wife, and some days worthless. But it has also made me more aware of my health and my body.  I’ve become more open about telling my story and, in turn, I've found out that I am not at all alone. There are so many of my cherished friends that have experienced a story similar to mine. Heck, I even found myself opening up to my accountant during my tax appointment and learning about her trouble conceiving 20 years ago. It has made me so acutely aware of my priorities and what’s important to me. I’ve learned that life isn’t perfect, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve learned that I am enough, I am strong, and whether or not I ever become a mother- those things will never change.

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If you are struggling with your own personal journey, there are probably a lot of resources for support and encouragement...but those aren't always easy to find or easy to jump into. If you are looking for a place like that, my friend Angela has created a Facebook group that is a safe place for women to grow stronger in a community of other women facing similar situations. This group is for you...

"...whether you are waiting on your first or your third, biological or through adoption. Everyone’s waiting looks different, but the journey can be hard no matter how it looks. Infertility, secondary infertility or waiting through the roller coaster of adoption can have you feeling so weary and alone. My hope is that this group brings daily encouragement to your wait. I want to share things that have been encouraging to me, along with a bit of my personal story."

If you would like to be added to the group, click here and request to join. If you know a friend struggling to conceive, one who has miscarried, is waiting on adoption, or any other version of this story, be there for her. Share this post with her, encourage her to find a group of women to support her, maybe help her find the courage to share her story. Remind her that she is not alone, and neither are you. 

-Katie


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