Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Remainders of Relics and Rituals

A little while ago, Christy wrote a blog that spoke to me, Signs and Symbols. It was about the many fertility talismans she had collected along the way, and how madeleines played into a moment of hope for embryos developing in the clinic outside the window and then fast forward to now, with her twins reaching for the very same freshly baked cookies, which resulted in tears. A hope manifested.

I don't think the madeleines were what brought the twins into creation, but it was more this idea of these things we cling to in our dark moments, rituals and relics that help us to see light at the end of this very long tunnel, no matter where that light ends.

I thought about all of my years of traditions and relics and representative trinkets, and how they are still sprinkled all around our house. I can't seem to get rid of them, and some I just don't WANT to get rid of. They don't hold magic, necessarily, as none of those traditions have brought us to our desire for a child, but they represent a different time and the superstitious person in me is afraid to let some go. It made me think on the purpose of these things, and how it changed over time...and whether or not they were truly helpful.

Some of our rituals were based in services -- acupuncture, yoga, Maya massage, wheat grass juicings. I am not saying that these things are not helpful to aid in fertility, but I know that they ultimately did not fix what was broken in me, and eventually became almost toxic. I couldn't sit in acupuncture anymore, trying to focus on growing my robust lining, because nothing was actually creating that lining by the end and all I ended up feeling was failure. You can only coax an organ so much and have it disregard your pleas for so long before it feels futile and like you are throwing money out the window. The Maya massage was interesting, but again way too focused on my uterus and my uterus just didn't get with the program. I did find that just plain massage was helpful and continues to be helpful today, as it has very little to do with encouraging reproductive functioning and everything to do with stress relief and tension liquidation. Yoga, too -- I love non-fertility yoga and have been delving back into my non-fertility-centered yoga and pilates blends in an effort to regain my body for me. Not for a fetus, not for a pregnancy, but just for my own health and strength. I loved the yoga part of fertility yoga, but watching what seemed like everyone else graduating to prenatal while I kept futilely making mudras inviting my baby to come hang out in my uterus for a while, opening my hips to receive what just didn't want to got to be too much. The wheatgrass was just plain nasty, although fresh squeezed with a slice of orange as a chaser was somewhat palatable. That one I stand by. My egg quality was always amazing with wheat grass, and while I am not a medical professional and can't back that up with anything but my own anecdotal results, if my issue was my eggs (it wasn't) then wheat grass all the way. But now it just tastes a little like defeat. It may be good for you in general, but it will always be associated with a time when I strived and strived to achieve something that just wasn't to be, not with my body.

Other rituals were things done about the house -- a hilarious turn with vaginal steaming that resulted in minor inner-thigh burns and a somewhat witchy smell to the house, an experiment with smudging that just made our neighbors think we were doobie-smokers (or possibly insane, or both), and the lighting of the red candles that could either be burnt out completely in one sitting or snuffed, NEVER BLOWN OUT. I have no idea why they can't be blown out, maybe cutting the life short in a violent way instead of a gentle oxygen deprivation? I have no clue. But, I bought a snuffer in Maine for this very purpose, that actually had a turtle on it, and turtles are fertility animals. Really, I think you can find support that any animal is a fertility animal, but turtles, along with frogs, are pretty well-known for their fertility associations. This strange ritual is a hard one to break. Not gonna lie, I lit some red tea lights while we were waiting to hear from our second expectant mother opportunity, telling myself it was just the color I happened to pick from the candle drawer but knowing deep down I was hoping for some kind of mojo.

Behold, the Fertility Snuffer. (I probably should come up with a better name than that.)
I went as far as to wear orange underwear to every transfer, because orange is the color of the Creation Chakra. If I didn't have any clean orange underwear it actually caused me a fair amount of anxiety. Originally I also followed advice to eat pineapple on IUI or transfer day, something about implantation and bromine (that never worked for me) and then a sticky bun on transfer or IUI day (for symbolic reasons only, no special compound there). I felt eventually like I was setting up too many must-dos for a day when I was supposed to rest and receive and instead I was finding myself the night before going, "Do we have pineapple? Are my orange undies clean? WHERE ARE THE GLUTEN FREE STICKY BUNS?!?"

And then there are the things that congregate around our house, that all represent a part of our journey:

A variety of things that were supposed to bring good luck. A mini Ganesh, a hope seashell, a blue star coin that also says "hope" on the back, an old carved wood elephant that was in the house I grew up in, a good luck elephant with a ladybug on it (two lucks for the price of one!) and a crucifix given to me by a coworker whose mother had it blessed by either a pope or a bishop for potency. A wonderful consortium of good luck items that sit on the windowsill above my mantel.
A cute little owl keychain that hangs from the lamp on Bryce's side of the bed, sent by a friend from college as a good luck charm, because I love me my owls (as evidenced by our nursery theme).
The angel that hangs from the lamp on my side of the bed, given to me by a coworker years ago. This one I like because it doesn't necessarily limit itself to pregnancy. The miracle to match my dream could come through adoption.
There's also this, a wonky little clay angel that may be from Guatemala (I don't remember, I lost the card) and was given to me by a friend who'd been through the infertility wringer and is now mom to two beautiful children through international adoption. 

Ah. This is an elephant teapot, I think from Thailand, that was the ultimate in good luck. It has the trunk up (good), a baby elephant on the lid (better) and is a teapot...a VESSEL (best). At least that's how I saw it. I actually brought this with me to multiple transfers, once with my host surrounding it and another time with a plate of pomegranate seeds in front of it. It is so easy to go down the road to crazytown when you think these things could make a difference. 

Now, this looks like a perfectly appropriate drawer of 0-3 month onesies, living in a nursery just waiting for Mystery Baby to arrive through adoption. But, the pink and blue elephant ones at the top (notice a theme?) and the jellyfish one were bought way before adoption, as yet another way to "manifest" a baby into our lives. If we bought onesies, and set them out on display during our two week wait, it would let the Universe know we were SERIOUS about inviting this soul into our keeping. Eventually, after showing our seriousness time after time and still being left with deflated empty onesies littering our bedroom and "guest room," I had Bryce hide them all until we could take them back out for a baby that will actually one day materialize, through a concrete process and not hoodoo. 

Then, there are the things that represent something more concrete, and by concrete I mean something that happened and yet was ephemeral. 

Clay star in front of handmade Tree of Life next to a completely unrelated sake set my dad brought back from Japan. 

The clay star came first. 

It was handmade for us by a good friend who is also an OB nurse, and who has made one of these stars for many women who have lost children at varying stages of development. This one represents our ectopic. It came with a letter that was amazingly touching and is in a safe place with many other letters of condolences, support, encouragement, but mostly condolences. It was to represent our little lost star (she thought it was a boy because they don't ask for directions), who maybe would be a guiding light for our future baby. That could still be, the guiding part, just through a different process. When we had our kitchen done and they were moving things around, Bryce was like, "YOU BE CAREFUL WITH THAT STAR! THAT STAR CANNOT BREAK!" It is a very, very important little formed piece of clay. 

The Tree of Life came from the same woman, for Christmas not this past year but the year before, as we were at a decision-making point trying to decide if we were going to keep banging our heads against our canceled cycles, or end our journey without using our frozens and move on to a more hopeful process of adoption. It could have been construed as life, like creating life, but it's also a healing symbol. The jade and the tree figure into it somehow. I like to think of it now as supporting new life, not necessarily life that I create, but life that we nurture. 

The most important representation is our little Buddha, my best Christmas present ever from Bryce. He was meant to go outside in the garden, but we are both strangely protective of him. He is like the little star, but for our miscarriage, our one uterine pregnancy that seemed so promising and then ended so abruptly. He is such a serene presence, a reminder of what almost was but also a promise of the parenthood we will have, some day. He, like the star and the tree of life, is not meant to bring luck but it meant to reflect on our past experiences that have brought us to this point. On our strength in the face of devastation. On our resolve to make this parenting thing work. On our continued fight despite admittedly very bad luck, one setback after another after another (and so on into infinity) to bring a very much desired child into our home. And no one has to know what he represents (although now all of you do). He's a beautiful piece of statuary, complete with an open book that you can interpret any way you'd like to. 

I love this guy so much.
In his natural habitat, our bedroom nook under a sculptural oak tree lamp and a reading chair.
On display, yet in a more private room than downstairs where he used to live. 
With the exception of the ones that represent an actual event, all of these items and rituals were things that I did to exert control over a process that I found I had ZERO actual control over. If I had been successful, maybe I would feel differently. Maybe I would think I had the answers. But I don't, and no one really does. Going back through old posts to link to about certain rituals actually made me a little sad, because I read through and was like, "oh man, you had so much HOPE, you worked so HARD, and it didn't end up meaning ANYTHING." You can read between the lines and see the desperation to find something to cling to that would help me achieve my goal. 

To be fair, these things didn't mean NOTHING. They gave me hope. They gave me something to focus on during trying times. But, just as a good-luck bowl of oranges placed on the kitchen table for New Year's will fester and sour if left there for months, they became almost toxic to me. These rituals and relics became reminders of how little control I had, and in darker moments, how much I had failed. 

The truth is, maybe some of these things are helpful. But some of these things encouraged me to cling tightly to a process that just wasn't working for us, to believe that if I just TRIED HARDER or DID MORE or BELIEVED MORE STRONGLY it would all work out. All of the things that were passed on to me from other fertility warriors were meant to be helpful, but when each thing failed after another it grew harder. There is so much loss in having the dream of motherhood for so many years and being met with empty arms every single time. It gets magnified when you think (erroneously) that somehow it's your fault, that you didn't do enough to manifest that into being. 

Making the decision to let go and move on to a process that has nothing to do with my body was difficult, in part because so many of these relics and rituals focused on the mantra DON'T GIVE UP. When people talk about their miracle babies and how that reminds them to never give up, it smarts a little. Because I didn't give up, I gave in to the realization that pregnancy just wasn't going to be my experience, it wasn't going to be our pathway to parenthood. I started a new pathway, one that doesn't give me the illusion of control. That doesn't have me analyzing everything I put in my mouth or on my bedside table. 

Realizing that I had no control, not really, that reproduction is truly a great mystery for as much as we know about how to overcome some things with science...that was the best and hardest thing to learn. 

I still cling a little. I mean, I did burn those red candles when we were waiting to see if we were chosen. But I blew them out. And that is NOT the reason we weren't ultimately chosen.

Whether we are chosen or not chosen will be dependent on nothing more than our book, our life together, and an interdependence between us and our future child's birth mother. No candles will change that. No smudging or steaming. And all the onesies we have are meant for a real, live baby -- along with our crib. When I spend time in there as we wait for updates on profile opportunities, it is not to "manifest a baby." It is to go in there, to meditate on where we are and how far we've come, and to close my eyes and picture the life that one day will be ours. 

These are actually recent additions to my collection, that live in my wallet. The owl charm was given to me by yet another coworker as just a worry stone kind of thing. No juju meant. The Buddha coin I bought at Christmastime to be a constant reminder that I need to let go of all illusion of control and live in the present lest I lose my mind.  


  1. I love how you have kept and displayed all of these treasures from over the years, even though they may be connected to painful memories. They tell your story, which you could one day share with mystery baby.
    I have a special religious medal that has a very significant meaning to me. In between uses, it sits in my jewelry box, and every so often I pull it out to remember.
    But the trinkets (for lack of a better word) reminds me of the box in my bedroom. It has been packed away for years because I had nowhere to display the stuff until now. But it is full of special items that I have held onto for many, many years. It will be a nice walk down memory lane once I have time to open it. Thank you for the reminder!
    Also thank you for sharing these special things. I especially love the tree of life, the owl keychain, and the crucifix.

    1. Thank you! Some of the display is procrastination, but a lot of it is that our story is sprinkled everywhere, so it's kind of appropriate to have the things sprinkled, too. Your box sounds intriguing, and those religious medals can be such powerful pieces, so personal. You are quite welcome, I love that you have favorites! :)

  2. You and I think a lot alike with this subject. The Madeleines certainly are not (nor where they ever) the magic charm that brought the Beats into our lives. But they are a very treasured symbol from that period in our lives. A reminder of all we've been through and what we are capable of.

    This post with all your symbols and talismans demonstrates this very well. The memories of the crazy rituals we put ourselves through (which now we can laugh at) or the moments that left us wondering how we would go forward (which we still remember with some heartache). All of this are milemarkers for the journey we are on. All of them are beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing your treasures. They are all beautiful (the clay star brought tears, your owl keychain made me smile and I'm hoping those onies are being well used soon).

    1. Thank you so much -- Your post really spoke to me and reminded me of all the things that linger from our infertility journey and that will stay long after adoption has created our family. I love the idea of them as milemarkers. Isn't that clay star something? There was some definite ugly cry the day I received that, and every once in a while it catches me even now. I had that accompanying card on my vision board (which is hidden somewhere) and finding it anew always brings me to tears. Isn't that owl keychain a funny guy? The onesies...I feel like I will have to do a load of tiny laundry again soon as they've been stagnant a while, but I so look forward to when they're all filled out with chubby baby. Or skinny baby...really, just baby. Thanks for your thoughts on a post that piggybacked right off of yours! :)

  3. I keep reading and coming back to this post, over and over. It resonates with me so much! I love the way you and Bryce have integrated your relics into your home and life. Your Buddha statue is beautiful and I love the juxtaposition of the clay star and the tree of life - memory, sadness, life and hope all mixed together. Thank you for sharing.