Thursday, August 29, 2013

airing things out and opening up - the truth about my infertility

As I mentioned in my last post, it came to my attention that I had unintentionally hurt the feelings of some very important people. While I have cleared things up with the person who was most prominently and unintentionally on the receiving end of things, I want to take a minute to open up about my struggle with infertility and clear up any misconceptions.

I think it's important that I make it clear that I make zero excuses for my thoughts, feelings and reactions.  I do not take back any of the things I have said, nor do I regret anything I have said or done because it is simply a product of the emotions that I felt and my personal experiences - I just feel bad that the things I said and how I reacted during such a difficult time were taken the wrong way or seen as an attack on someone I really care about.  Like I said, I want to air things out and really open up about my struggle with infertility.

I grew up with two very Catholic parents. My mom worked for the Archdiocese of Washington and ran the St. John Vianney House where priests from all over the world stayed when they visited the Archdiocese.  It was also a place where local priests held dinner meetings catered by my mother and journal groups met.  I got my community service hours by helping my mom with the catered dinners, cleaning the Vianney house and setting up the chapel for prayer.  While growing up, it was not an uncommon occurrence in my house for a priest to be coming over for dinner. Needless to say, I had the teachings of the church shoved down my throat. [Mom, I mean that in the nicest way possible.] When my older sister got her driver's license, we stole the readings book from the church [yea yea, I know, thou shalt not steal] because we would go to Starbucks instead of church, of course.  Before we would go to Starbucks, one of us would run in and see which priest was saying mass, then we would go get coffee and read the passages for that day and come up with a legitimate homily concept so that when we got home, we would pass whatever oral exam my mother would give us to make sure we had actually gone to church.  Like I said, seriously Catholic... not to mention, seriously afraid of our mother and her Catholic guilt trips. 

That being said, my parents, especially my father, had one request of us: do not get pregnant before you are married.  He made it abundantly clear that it was not something that would be tolerated in his house.  He said countless times that if you come home pregnant, you are no longer his responsibility because if a guy is man enough to get you pregnant, then he is man enough to support you and the child.  My mother preached about how sinful it was and how horrible it was. My sisters and I just rolled our eyes and kept it moving.  Some parents push higher education as the end all be all, my parents pushed marriage before children. I never realized just how much it would hurt them if it happened.  Given what I have said about my parents, you can only imagine how they reacted when my younger sister, an unemployed, pot head, college drop out, told my parents she was not only pregnant, but she was unsure who the father of the child actually was. This was something that devastated my family and from which we have yet to really recover.  [On the upside - I always try to look for the silver lining - it was because of my younger sister that my mom ok'd me not having a full Catholic wedding ceremony.  She was so happy that I was getting married before I was pregnant that a full Catholic mass was no longer the most important thing in the world.]

I say all that to move on to something seemingly unrelated, but I promise - it will all tie in together at the end. The timing of everything over the last year and a half or so has been brutal and my actions, unbeknownst to me, hurt people I never meant to hurt.  When Brandon's cousin Brittany announced her pregnancy, I was excited.  Because of the field I work in, I know the cost of prenatal vitamins and how quickly they add up, so I sent her some immediately.  I wanted her to know that we supported her and we were excited for her and Shane.  I mean, let's be honest, it definitely took some of the baby pressure off of me! At that point in time, Brandon and I had stopped taking birth control pills and were just letting life happen. Not trying but not preventing - we didn't want the pressure from either side of the family, so, my opinion at that time was that Brittany being pregnant bought us some more time of pressure free not preventing.

Brandon's family's reaction to the announcement was a complete 180 from the reaction my family had to my sister's pregnancy. It was so refreshing. It was soon after we found out about Brittany being pregnant that I miscarried.  I always tell Brandon how jealous I am that he grew up so close in age with his cousins - my cousin to which I am closest in age is still almost 10 years older than me - and I was so excited at the idea of raising babies so close in age. In the week between finding out I was pregnant and the miscarry, I must have had 100 day dreams about baby shopping, joint baby showers, and little joint family vacations down the shore to see Pop.  It wasn't until I miscarried that I developed baby fever.  I had no idea how much I wanted a baby and to be a mother. It's kind of like that saying "you don't know what you have until it's gone" - I didn't know how much I wanted a baby and to start my own family until it was taken away from me. I was told by my younger sister that my miscarriage was God's way of saying that maybe I just wasn't meant to be a mother - she's a real gem isn't she.  As I opened up about in a previous post, the recovery from that was brutal.  

How I handled myself in the coming year was to be standoffish because I didn't know what else to do.  I was so scared of crying all the time whenever I saw anyone pregnant, especially people I was close to like Brittany, that I shut down.  I knew I could talk to Brittany about anything - she had gotten engaged and was planning a wedding, something I love doing - but I couldn't open my mouth to talk to her without wanting to cry. At Brandon's grandfather's birthday party last summer, I sat in the bathroom and cried for half an hour because I was so upset that I wasn't pregnant with Brittany.  I was angry and jealous and so consumed with wanting a baby that I struggled to keep it together. And, like I said, it wasn't just Brittany. It was every pregnant person and I work in a field where I have to see a lot of newly pregnant people and I have to tell people they are pregnant.  I will be the first to admit that it's hard to be happy for someone who has what you want.  I had a co-worker who didn't want to tell me she was pregnant, because she knew I was struggling to get pregnant and she didn't want to hurt my feelings. Last summer I was invited to five baby showers over the course of three months. In the fall, after our first negative treatment cycle I found out that my younger sister had gotten pregnant again.  Her first child wasn't even a year old and here she was - pregnant again. She would have two under two by two different guys before she was even 25 years old and here I was a 26 year old homeowner, married to an incredible man and unable to get pregnant.  I felt like every single person in the world was getting pregnant. Everyone but me. It was a terrible feeling and completely irrational and I couldn't even control my feelings.  That was the scary part - I knew how insane and irrational I was and I was not able to control it.  

When Brittany had Bella, I was so happy for Shane and Brittany and I was so excited to meet Isabella.  I really thought I had gotten it together since the incident at the beach house just 6 months prior.  I mean, Brandon and I were going through fertility treatment and things made more sense.  We had a plan and we were going to get pregnant - I just knew it.  It was shortly after our third cycle was cancelled because my body did not respond to the medication and I had ovarian cysts that we got the call that the family was getting together to meet baby Bella.  I thought this would be a good distraction.  Brandon's family is so much fun and so supportive and I was so excited to see everyone. Turns out - I was not ready for what was about to happen.  

Before I continue, I want to say that Brandon's mom is an incredible woman - she is very compassionate and supportive and always has the best of intentions and a good heart. When we got to Aunt Patti and Uncle Jerry's house, Lori was in all of her glory.  She had her family together and she was holding a brand new little baby.  Without even thinking about how certifiably insane I was at the time, Lori made some comments about being ready to be a grandmother, about patiently waiting for us to get pregnant, how Brittany was a great mom and that would be me soon, and about how Brandon was going to be an incredible dad - he was a natural holding the baby.  Again, I found myself in the bathroom crying. Brandon and I should have had our baby there too.  We should have been introducing our little ones for the first time. Needless to say, I was a disaster.  I was so scared of ruining the visit, that again I did the only thing I felt comfortable doing - I stayed away and was standoffish. It's hard to be so happy for someone while being so sad for yourself. 

Thankfully just a couple months later, we had a very successful round of IVF at Shady Grove Fertility and Brandon and I got pregnant in February.  I know that the struggle I went through has only made me a stronger person and I know that my marriage has been tested by this as well and we are only stronger as a couple because of it.  I wish it was possible that no one would have to go through what we did... well, I mean, that's not completely true because then I wouldn't have a job - but you know what I mean. The thing is, my parents pushed the "traditional" family building down my throat because that was what was most important to them and I really took it to heart.  I am very close with my parents and I wouldn't want to do something to disappoint them, especially after seeing how hurt they were by my sister's actions.  I mean, let's not get it twisted - Brandon and I lived together for two years before we got married and I wore ivory on my wedding day for a reason (and let's just say it wasn't because it made me look more tan than the bright white did), but I was just really careful because of my parents views.  

While "traditional" family building was so important to me, for now obvious reasons, it's not the only way things happen.  I have friends and family that are living proof of that.  Life happens and sometimes, it's funny how things happen and how much we learn about ourselves because of the twists and turns life throws our way.  I mean, in the end, I didn't even build my family the "traditional" way with the stamp of approval of the Catholic church. I might have done things the way my parents wanted and gotten married before I got pregnant, but it's thanks to the fertility treatment that's frowned upon by the Catholic church that I have a bun in the oven and I have two in the freezer for when we're ready to bake again. :)