Friday, July 15, 2016

The Loss of Hope

We thought we were being cautiously optimistic about the adoption happening, but that didn't mean we didn't have our hearts opened to the idea of welcoming you and your birth mother and birth father into our family. We wanted you more than you will ever know. We prayed for another child fervently for years before you were conceived, and we thought you and your biological parents were going to be our unexpected answer to those prayers.

But it didn't work out that way.

And now I grieve.

Most of the minutes and most of the hours of most of the days, I am fine. I am almost able to function at a decent level. But I have those awful minutes, hours, and days where unexpected grief overwhelms me. Often, that grief is accompanied by so many tears and such shallow breaths as I sob that I can only beg for distractions to tear me out of the all-consuming pain.

We learned about you almost immediately after your birth mother did. It was almost like finding out I was pregnant again, except without the worries of miscarriage, blood clots, hospital stays, morning sickness, and my possible death that I knew would be my frequent companions were you to be in my own womb. Only this time, I had no control. None. To pretend otherwise would have been foolish. And yet, I wanted to believe you would end up in my arms, so I allowed myself to believe.

As your due date drew nearer, I realized I needed to start preparing. While out with my daughter and her friend, I purchased the first onesie and first bib I bought specifically for you, designed and created by a local small business owner. I naively talked with these strangers at the booth about the adoption, allowing myself to get excited and caught up in the moment. Preparing for your arrival. Proving that I was worthy of you.

Then the facade started to crumble, and the bricks from that facade were used to build walls around my heart as I cried and began to worry in earnest, realizing that the doubts that had started creeping into my mind some time before were not unfounded red flags. Events confirmed the signs popping up indicated this was not likely meant to be.

But still, I had some hope left. Hope. The word hope, the idea of hope, and now the name Hope that had been picked for you by both your birth father and by me in what seemed to be kismet now seemed like a cruel joke. My hope was slipping away. Hope that your birth parents would do the right thing by you. Hope that placing you with me and my family were the right thing for you.

All preparations for your possible arrival ceased to protect our hearts from more damage, as though doing that would matter. We decided not to get the nursery ready. We figured that we could do that after you were in our home. We planned on picking bottles and formula and diapers and clothes on the way home from the hospital, when you were safe in our arms. I could not bear the burden of breaking down the walls around my heart again for fear my heart would be pummeled further and I wouldn't recover from the pain and loss of you, especially seeing the reminders of what could have been around us in our home. You were mine, but you were not. And yet, you had my heart.

However, I know now that the reminders are still there. Some visible, and some not.

This room, mostly unused these days, was going to be transformed into your nursery.

This flower lamp was going to hang on your wall, casting a soft glow in the room.

This was going to be your crib, followed by your toddler bed when you were big enough for one.

This is the chair where your new family members were going to take turns holding you and lovingly feeding, burping, and rocking you at all hours of the day and night.

This would have been a bib that was sure to get much use from you, and a onesie I was looking forward to you growing into.

My fractured heart is working on healing from the loss of you. I will never forget you, and I will never stop praying for your safety and well-being. I am trying so hard to hold on to my last shreds of hope, even as I let you go.

Today is one of those days that the grief has hit me like a freight train. Sunday was a hard day, and I cried with my head hung low while I played the piano in a room full of children, smiles, and laughter. No one saw the pain on my face or in my heart. No one comforted me. I even tried to call your birth mother. She didn't answer. I wasn't expecting her to, and I don't know what I would have said if she did.

Monday was a better day, full of family time at lunch and the movies and work. Better days, I have learned, don't mean you are over the worst of it. The rest of the week has been a struggle, with hours of grieving storming into my heart and mind unabashedly, making it difficult for me to concentrate on what I was doing or should have been doing, making it difficult for me to care.

How am I supposed to focus on work or anything else with a gaping, seeping, tearing hole in my heart? How long will I endure these unexpected and unwelcome acquaintances of mine, sorrow and pain? How is it that I am still in denial, as though some miracle will still bring you to me, when it is clear to everyone else that is not in the cards? How long will it be before I can truly move forward with my life?

I find myself thinking it will be better once you are born, but I know that I will still be so wrapped up in concern for your safety and well-being that you will continue to occupy my thoughts then, possibly more than you are now. I fear you are going to be used, as my family and I have been; mistreated, as we have been; harmed, as we have been; and broken, as we now are.

God knows you and loves you. I do too. I can't imagine loving you more than I do right now. And I suppose that is why this is so hard. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Adoption, foster care, or pregnancy through reproductive assistance?

The size of my family and my physical, emotional, and financial ability to impact that has been weighing on my mind, and more so on my heart, for some time.

I have taken various actions to address each of these to see what impact I might be able to make on them, and I have weighed my options. I've been poked with needles. I have met with reproductive endocrinologists and perinatologists. I've counted calories, fasted and prayed, researched, discussed, consumed massive amounts of chocolate to help with the stress of it all, pondered, and fretted.

I wanted to be sure that whatever conclusion I came to would be something I could live with for the rest of my life. I took into consideration the impact my decision would have on the other two people in my immediate family. Joe had already informed me that he would support whatever decision I made. This burden is ultimately on my shoulders, which is stressful enough. And at the same time, I did not feel completely alone, as I had Joe's support.

I finally feel like I have enough information to make a decision that I won't later regret.

And now the time has come to announce that I am still not pregnant. Instead of worrying about trying to force that issue and deal with the risks involved in another pregnancy, we have decided to move forward with the adoption process. We are a bit nervous about the whole process and are cautiously optimistic that this will allow our family to grow. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Accepting Influence

When I was studying in my master's program, I was introduced to Dr. John Gottman. He is a researcher and clinical psychologist who studies the science behind relationships and has written some excellent books on the subject. I find the work he has done to be fascinating, and it makes sense. I've used his ideas in counseling couples and in my own relationships.

One aspect of healthy relationships he teaches about he calls accepting influence. This idea resonates with me on a personal level, as it points to a big part of what I look for in my relationships.

As my husband wrote about in his most-recent blog post on compliments, sometimes when people interact with you, they are complimenting you. One of the biggest compliments someone can pay me is demonstrating that they have accepted my influence. After all, I want to be an influence for good in the lives of those around me. I want people to have a desire to and work toward a positive change because of me. If someone sees a way I act, hears a message I share, or otherwise learns of something I have done and then decides that because of it, they are going to act a certain way, I have influenced them .Ideally, I would like it to be an uplifting influence I have on others, as I don't need the guilt associated with bringing someone down to my level in areas where I lack.

Example: An old friend of mine frequently came to me for advice about how to deal with an issue in her romantic relationships. Honestly, it was the same issue that kept coming up in that relationship over and over again in different situations. Based on the information I had, which I realize is biased from only getting one person's perspective, and I said as much to her, I gave advice on what seemed like a good way to come to a resolution for that issue. She never took that advice. If she further contemplated the advice before deciding how to best move forward, she decided not to take it. But when she kept coming to me with the same issue repeating itself, asking for my advice, I questioned what the point was of doing so if she was never going to use it. Did she really just want to vent and try to figure things out on her own? Or was she really willing to accept my suggestion and eventually act on it? She insisted she wanted advice, but I was not providing her the advice she wanted to hear, so she discarded it. And eventually, that hurt and angered me. Did she think that I had such little to offer? Did she not realize that this was a repeated rejection of me?

I know it might seem like somewhat of a stretch, and some might think it isn't something I should take personally. But my education and training is in marriage and family therapy. I was approached as not only a friend but as somewhat of an expert in the field. I was given the impression on multiple occasions that she wanted my help. She wanted my time, my attention, and my thoughts. She wanted to connect with me by sharing personal details of her life. But she also wanted my help-- my influence. And yet, she never accepted it.

Do we accept the influence of people around us and allow it to work within us, giving us the opportunity for personal growth and development? Sometimes, I admit, I am better at this than others. Do I rise to become what I see as a better person because of my association with a particular person? Or do I expect them to change to meet my personal ego and comfort?

In my relationships, I honestly aim to both influence others and be influenced by them, both in positive, rather than negative, ways. I know I'm not exactly an expert in any particular area. I have experience, however, and that experience may give me knowledge and insight that a friend or family member is lacking due to their lack of experience. It is flattering when someone acknowledges that they have acted differently, positively, because of something they learned from me. But more important in my relationships is the ability to have mutually beneficial exchanges of ideas and experiences to then help each other grow. Just like I'm flattered someone has learned something from me that they take with them going forward, I like learning from people around me; I enjoy surrounding myself with people who inspire a positive change in me.

Have I helped my associates grow in positive ways as they have interacted with me? Have any of them chosen to do something differently than they otherwise may have because of something I said or did? Am I influencing others for good?

I had a conversation a while back with a friend of mine. I let him know that I noticed in his interactions with me that he really didn't seem to care to hear my opinions, and it hurt. I felt overlooked, ignored, and discarded as a person by the way interactions had gone with him. He hadn't realized that he had been doing this until then, but my bringing it to his attention helped him to understand my feelings, and his interactions with me started to change. I realized that I subconsciously became more receptive to his influence once he opened to mine. Our relationship moved from an acquaintance to a friendship.

I had another friend talk about signing up to volunteer in  her son's classroom and said she thought of me as she signed up to do so. I was confused, as I don't have any kids whose classroom I volunteer in, so I asked her about it. She told me that she thought of me and how willing I was to volunteer to help others around me and felt like she should do the same. She accepted my influence-- influence I wasn't even aware I was giving! What a complement that was to me and to what she saw as my character!

When we accept influence of those around us, it may be done subtly, possibly even imperceptibly. Maybe we use language they use. Maybe we try out a television show, book, or band that was recommended to us. Maybe we add a little task to our routine that we learned they do. Maybe we research a topic to learn more about their viewpoint. These little acts acknowledge that we think that person is important enough to pay attention to. That person contributes something that has worth. Everyone has worth.

Today, I accepted my husband's influence by writing about this topic, which I had been thinking about for some time and had been meaning to write about. I'm about to accept a friend's influence by making sure I have a water bottle filled with water to drink from as I work so that I get enough water in for the day. I'm also about to accept another friend's influence by having a healthier breakfast option than what I might otherwise choose. But I have decided that I am going to try identify consciously some people who are influencing me for the good as I go about my day, and then properly thank them for doing so. For in these kinds of connections, relationships can truly grow and thrive.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

State of the Union address

We had good intentions to get out Christmas cards, but that never happened. And then I had good intentions to get out some cards for New Years, and then Valentine's Day . . . and here we are.

We didn't do our regular ugly sweater Christmas picture this year. We did, however, win tickets to the zoo, and we got this little gem while we were there.

I'm still trying to find a work-life balance. Some days and weeks it is better than others. At times, I want to run away from it all. But for the most part, I'm really enjoying being back at work.

My writing has been pretty much non-existent for quite some time. I write a sentence or two in a little diary/journal each night before bed, and I write status updates on Facebook, but that's about it.

Things are going pretty well for us right now. I really don't have anything to complain about. We are finally able to start getting some things taken care of around the house that we have been putting off. We finally painted our bedroom, got curtains, got new hardware for our bathroom cupboards, and even got the disgusting foil wallpaper from the 60s off the wall in the bathroom area.

Our renter moved out and got married. It's a bit weird and yet nice to have the place back to just us. It hasn't been that way for close to 3 years. That extra income from him was nice, but it wasn't needed, especially since I'm moving up with my new job/career.

I appreciate people being in my life still who have chosen to do so. I leave the door open and let people go in and out of their own choosing. I must admit that I have closed the door on a few people, but a knock to show they really want to be there is basically all it takes for me to open the door again for them. I'm more cautious when I open the door again, but I know that I've made mistakes myself and am willing to give people the same grace I hope others would be willing to give me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Perspective- what a difference time makes

Last year at this time, we were hopeful that Joe would get a new job after about 6 months of unemployment. Then we found out in an extremely unprofessional manner that he didn't get the job. The whole situation was quite a blow to our little family. And then he lost his unemployment benefits. There was some hope because of a refinance we were able to secure for our home, but we still questioned how we were going to make it through financially.

But we did. Last Christmas was full of generous people choosing to selflessly share their abundance with our family. It was humbling, touching, and amazing. In fact, it was the best Christmas I ever remember having. Still, our trials weren't over.

And, of course, even though I found a job and Joe later found a job, we have had trials this year as well. Having your identity stolen is not something I would wish on anyone (except maybe the person who stole mine, although I suspect her identity is not much worth stealing).

I remember when Joe lost his job and we had to exercise a lot of faith. We figured we'd exercised sufficient faith and were ready for our trial to be over. What a joke that was! Trying to tell God you've learned your lesson is much like trying to hold back the ocean.

We are feeling much more stable as a family this year. We got to spend so much time together last year and for part of this year that the very limited time we had together as a family once we both got jobs seemed grossly inadequate. I missed my husband. And yet, we did what we had to do to provide for our family, hoping that there would be an end to opposite schedules and a chance to have more time together to connect. While our schedules are still not ideal, we are finding that we finally do have more time together, and we are grateful for it.

Joy is surprising and amusing us every day. She is learning so much that I think if I was away from her for a week, I might go into shock at how different she'd be upon my return than she was when I left.

Sometimes I think about how much she is changing and wonder how much I am changing. Am I growing and developing in ways that I am unrecognizable to those who only knew me in the past? I am pretty sure that in many ways that answer is yes. And that's a good thing. While that growth was often squeezed forcefully out of me as I was thrust into challenging situations, I am able to look back and see the good that came from bad situations. I am able to ponder and reflect on things from a different angle that I would not consider before.

When I look at old photos of myself, I suspect that the past-me would not recognize the current-me or even begin to comprehend how she could get to this point. But I guess that's what you get when you grow as you live your life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Secondary infertility and PCOS

These are topics that have been on my mind a lot lately for various reasons. But I realized that some well-meaning folks may not know a lot about one or both of these topics, so I figured I would do a quick post as a sort of PSA for anyone who might stumble across my blog.

Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive once you have had a child before. This difficulty can come for many reasons. But just because someone has been able to get pregnant before does not mean that person will have an easy time getting pregnant again.

I learned during my own struggles that my mother had difficulty conceiving her first child, just like I did. She got pregnant after using Clomid, just like I did. And then, as far as I know, she didn't have any difficulty conceiving the rest of the clan.

I, on the other hand, have a 3-year-old daughter and occasional conversations with well-meaning folks who ask when we're going to have another child. Please, please, please reconsider before asking people this question. It really isn't anyone's business but the family's whether or not they will be adding to it. Sure, you're curious and you want to know the information, but it can hurt. After all, I've had one child, so I therefore should be able to have more, right? Forget the fact that it took several years to get pregnant and get past the first few weeks of pregnancy. Forget the fact that I had to be put on Progesterone after finally getting pregnant to keep from miscarrying again. Forget the fact that I ended up in the hospital at 9 weeks pregnant, closer to death than I realized, due to a blood clot that had broken off from my legs and traveled to my lungs, filling both with clots and making it impossible for my body to get enough oxygen. Forget the hospital stay and surgery and tests. Forget the fact that my entire pregnancy was full of injecting myself in the stomach two-- and eventually three-- times a day with blood thinner so I wouldn't die, as well as a ridiculous number of blood draws to test the blood thinner level in my blood and run tests. Forget my high number of doctor's visits due to my high risk pregnancy. Forget the 9 months of nausea and vomiting in addition to all that other fun stuff. Forget my terrible delivery experience after my terrible pregnancy experience to top things all off. Forget the late-onset postpartum depression I suffered and everything that came with that long-lasting nightmare. Forget whether or not I WANT to possibly go through any or all of that again. 

Forget all of that. Just know that the reason I'm not pregnant right now has nothing to do with not wanting another child. 

I am currently suffering from secondary infertility. 

Phew. Just saying that-- just putting that out there-- is scary and freeing and heartbreaking. It is the first time I have worded like that, even to myself, despite the fact I knew that was what was going on.

Just like before I was able to conceive Joy, I celebrate pregnancies and births with happiness for my friends. But just like before, they are each reminders of my body's current failures. Just like before, I answer well-meaning friends and acquaintances politely when they ask when/if we're going to have another child. But just like before, those questions stab me in the gut. 

My secondary infertility is a side effect of my PCOS. My PCOS was also a contributing factor to my infertility before. So, yes, in theory, if I can get it under control somehow, I may no longer be infertile. One of the best ways to treat PCOS is through weight loss. When you have PCOS, losing weight is extremely difficult. Gaining weight can happen very easily, though. When you have PCOS, your hormones are out of whack. When your hormones are out of whack, your body does not work as a well-functioning machine. 

Don't get me wrong. I am truly grateful for my family the way it is now. My daughter is what I call my miracle child. Being born after a loss, she is also my rainbow baby. I'm not sure if my family is complete now or not, but time will tell.

Be kind to people around you. We are all fighting our own battles. Some are more visible than others, but those that can't be seen aren't any less battles than those that can. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

So I guess I should write something...

I haven't updated my blog in forever. In part because I don't like to hear myself whine and in part because it's a lot easier to just write something in my private journal or on Facebook. But I know not everyone is on Facebook and that no one is able to read my private journal. So I finally decided during these moments of quiet to write something (Joy is sleeping and Joe is getting the oil changed in my car and picking up a few groceries).

"Well, what the heck is going on with you these days?" you might ask. A lot and a whole lot of nothing at the same time, likely.

Joe and I are knee deep in the job hunt game. Interview-wise, he is currently having more luck than I am. Random-job wise, he is also having more luck. I did help a friend clean out her fridge and she paid me 20 bucks for the hour-and-a-half it took me. I kept thinking how much I should probably do that with our own fridge. I also have another friend who introduced me to one of her co-workers who was looking for a cat sitter. I have watched said cats on a few different occasions now. The pay is pretty good. Other than that, I'm still delivering papers and selling Origami Owl ( if you're interested). But none of those things are long-term solutions. They were plans to help put a little extra money toward bills and savings and vacations back when Joe had a job. Now that he doesn't have a job, the money is being put toward bills, but there are many more bills than there is money to put toward it since his unemployment has now officially run out.

Yes, that leads me to the bulk of what has been on my mind since finding out the news. But to give a little background first. With the downturn of the economy, people and the government learned that 6 months of unemployment just wasn't enough for many people to help cover bills until they were back on their feet. Emergency funding was approved with an expiration date that extended the unemployment benefits. I'm not sure what the absolute longest is that someone could be on it, but when I was unemployed not-by-choice before getting pregnant, I was on it for a year before they took it away. And believe me, I was still looking for lots of jobs during that year! Most of my interviews were with staffing agencies to get me signed up with them. And most of them I never heard from after that. But I digress. When the expiration date for the emergency funding came, Congress approved an extension of benefits, as the economy was still in the crapper. This happened more than once since the funding was initially approved. And it just happened again. In the past, so I've heard, Congress has let the program expire before renewing it or changing it or whatever they did. I mean, why not? It's not like they have to worry how they're going to pay the bills and where they're going to sleep at night. And, so I've heard, those who lost the benefits were able to get back-pay of benefits. But I'm sure that time between was tough for them. I know it's tough for us.

And, of course, we don't KNOW that we will be eligible for any more unemployment. What gets me the most is that Joe spoke with someone in early or mid December to verify how long he would have unemployment benefits. He did this because we were starting to consider our "options." These options aren't exactly good for our financial health or my stress levels, but we wondered if we had reached the point where we should walk away from our house and move in with family until we could get back on our feet. You see, we are upside-down in our house by about 50K right now, so selling it isn't exactly an option. During the time Joe has been unemployed, our bills have exceeded the money we have had coming in by approximately $1000 a month. But we had savings and figured that if the money coming in and going out stayed consistent, we could last for about a year unemployed. So when Joe called the unemployment office and was told he'd have benefits for a year, we were relieved. Only that wasn't the case.

We are at a crossroads. We could borrow against our retirement savings because of this emergency, buying ourselves another couple months to live before being in terrible shape still and then being without options. Or we can move. Of course, Joe could also get a job, or I could get a job, or we both could get a job, and then we could stay here. But we only have so long before we cannot afford the bills anymore if that doesn't happen. And even if I get a job (which several people have been so kind as to send me job leads, but most are for jobs paying less than $13 an hour), unless it is by itself enough to pay the bills (spoiler alert: it won't be unless it pays approximately $5 an hour more than the most I've ever made at a job before), we would still be in this predicament. Joe can make enough, even if he takes a pay cut, to pay the bills and allow me to continue to be a stay at home mom. Washington state has one of the highest childcare costs in the nation to go along with its high cost of living. So there's that fun factor to take into account.

And here we are. Currently, we're playing a bit of a waiting game while still looking for jobs. We're waiting on Congress. We're waiting on this company Joe interviewed with before Christmas to let him know where he stands. We're waiting to hear back from other companies we've spent countless hours applying for jobs with. And while we wait, if time runs out, we need to start selling our belongings, packing, and walk away from the house.

But, in the meantime, we have received a lot of blessings at Christmastime. Family, friends, and strangers have shown us support in different ways. We are so grateful for and appreciative of that! We hope this next year is kinder to us, even though we aren't off to a good start yet!