Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Everything Is Not As It Appears

Not even going to pretend this qualifies as a micropost, but it's what came today. 

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to go to a local college to see a free presentation by Margaret Atwood. She is one of my all-time favorites -- Lady Oracle and Cat's Eye were the first books I reread obsessively, and of course I loved The Handmaid's Tale, which was selected as the Freshman Reads book at this college. Her more recent speculative fiction made me so happy, too -- I love the Maddaddam Trilogy and was sad when it was over, when that particular world became a memory. And I loved the short story collection, Stone Mattress, that brought me back into the world of The Robber Bride, another favorite. There is nothing this woman cannot write.

One of the things I'd forgotten until the speaking engagement was how much I love Margaret Atwood's poetry...one in particular. The president of the college recited it --

               you fit into me
               like a hook into an eye
               a fish hook
               an open eye

Perfect, right? Something seems at first so lovely and domestic, like the closure on a dress fitting everything together just so. On the surface? "you fit into me" sounds like such a romantic notion. Then it turns horribly violent, the most graphic of penetration images...something that was probably lurking all along.

This is how I feel right now.

I feel like my outside appears to be okay, to be calm, to be...STRONG.

But.

I feel like an egg, that once had a smooth surface and now has been thrown against a wall over and over again until it is completely shattered, and then someone has gone about collecting all the tiny pieces (some of which are still clinging to membrane) and superglued them together, so that I am a semblance of the egg I once was but if you look closely, the cracks are there and whatever of my insides that survived the thwacks has been scooped up and shoved back in, but scrambled a bit and forever altered.

Usually I am good at keeping my cracks together. I am good at playing the Human-Like Substance game, where people ask you "How are you?" and you answer something reasonable like "Good, how are you?" or "Fine" or "Okay, okay," and you don't answer honestly or let the shine in your eyes show where the grief leaks out. You don't answer how you REALLY feel, all empty and hurting and wondering how many years will be enough, because that would be off-putting.

There have been multiple things that have come up in the past month or so that have widened my cracks, that have made it so that my messy insides start becoming visible through that smooth exterior. I try to smooth my cracks out, but my glue is deteriorating.

I don't have any new grief to report. I don't have a situation where we've lost something tangible. It's just cumulative. It's years and years of losses with no resolutions. It's seeing all these rainbow baby maternity shoots and cute t-shirts on social media with captions like, "I just wanted everyone to know that there is so much light at the end of that dark tunnel," and knowing that that particular light doesn't actually come for us all. That I don't get to have the experience I lost in its entirety, and that the parenting that Bryce and I will hopefully get the chance to engage in will have so many more layers of complexity than any of our friends who were able to eventually conceive will ever have to even think about. That in the meantime we have to make our own light, and maybe not put that pressure on the Mystery Baby that is coming to us, we hope, to be the baby that makes up for all the pain and loss we've suffered. That's simply not fair or healthy.

I think on these things as I am presented with situations that made me feel the loss of my embryos  all over again (even as I still believe it was a beautiful gain to release them to the other couple), that make me feel the loss of my dad's proximity and my lost ability to hop on a plane and go see him on somewhat of a whim, the grandparents I haven't seen in a long time who are going through tough times (also a travel conundrum), the many questions about adoption that Bryce and I seemingly never stop discussing, the double edged sword of wanting to connect and yet feeling disconnected from the process, the fears about going a long time without a match and the reality that we can't keep going down this road indefinitely, so where do you draw a line for your own sanity? I am holding so much in my little shattered egg. And also attempting at the same time to be functional, to teach my 8th graders without seeping grief and sadness over into lessons on word choice. It's a hard balance. I either make it through without letting my flaking glue show, or I look sad when I think no one's watching and then have a guidance counselor stop me in the hall to tell me she hopes I'm okay, "Because something about you yesterday was just not okay."

I am grateful when people see the cracks I try so hard to hide. I am grateful when people realize that I have compounded loss just reverberating in my empty arms, in my empty nursery that's officially one year old, in the way that Bryce and I have to relearn how to communicate with each other without using words like "embryos" or "adoption" so that we don't lose sight of our special connection that has got us through everything so far, of who we are just the two of us because THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW. We've been given the advice to live our lives but still remain connected to the process, and I don't really know how to do that. How do you prepare for a baby that's not here and may not materialize for yet another year, while living footloose and fancy free, hopping on planes and not worrying about whittling your adoption nest egg that you're so fortunate to have? How EXACTLY do you do that?

And how do I go through my work day like a reasonably Human-Like Substance? How do I continue to paste a wide smile on my face when people ask me if anything is going on with adoption, now that our summer blind profile near-miss is too far in the past to be a comfort to anyone?

I want the questions. The worst thing is when the questions stop, when we are feeling like things are hard and we're not as hopeful as we once were when we picked out crib sheets...and neither is anyone else. I keep saying, "Adoption is an interesting process. We have to be patient. It could be tomorrow, it could be next year. We just don't know. But thank you for asking!" But the asking dwindles. The weight of those placed embryos that are formerly ours, whose fate is so amorphous -- when will they be transferred? Will they work? How will I deal with the news that they did, or that they didn't? They lie out there, in the ether, in this other clinic two thirds of the way across the country, and they represent a hope we've transferred elsewhere, but also a promise, lost to us. In addition to this, I don't even get to escape my infertility and my body's betrayal, years after it's been in play, due to the gynecological issues I'm suffering. The possibilities of more procedures to figure out what my body's doing now, the trauma associated with going in for tests that never brought me resolution in baby form. It's hard, so hard.

It's been a challenging few weeks. I am struggling. I'm struggling and it's not always apparent that I AM struggling, so people don't always ask "how are you doing with all this?" and that can hurt. Bryce said, "That's the problem with being 'strong' -- it's good to be able to handle these things, but then people think you don't need to talk about it, or you've got it all handled." He's right. And it sucks.

I am a smooth and shiny egg, under close inspection riddled with cracks and wounds.
I have a fish hook firmly lodged in my open eye.

I'm not even pretending to call this a #Microblog, but if you'd like to read more, actual #Microblog Mondays entries, please go here and enjoy! 

25 comments:

  1. I'm the same way...I am really good about keeping everything together in the outside, even while it is killing me in the inside. People can't tell, so people don't ask. Although I know it's not for you, what helps me when I am feeling my lowest is to pray. So I will cry my heart out and pray to my God and put things in his hands. Maybe something like quiet mediation could help you? Like releasing everything out into the universe?? Sometimes we need to try and let some of it go in order to feel better, to be able to function. I KNOW its hard. OF COURSE you aren't the same person. I'm not the same person I was before my dad died, before I miscarried my babies, before I almost lost my marriage to it all.
    Is there any way that while you are still waiting, you could put a small portion of your money aside, money you could replace once a match came through, so that if you wanted to be spontaneous to hop in a plane to visit family you could?
    Praying so hard for you. Big hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much for all the prayers and hugs, and for knowing that prayers aren't my thing. I did go for a good long walk in the woods by myself today (and tried real hard not to think about clowns) and that seemed to have a meditative effect once I stopped feeling an incredible urge to cry. That would be unsettling, no? Crying woman hiking alone through the woods? I feel like for the traveling involving plane tickets, it's more than just the money. We tried to go out to California in March, and that was right when we got a profile call that we had to wait to see if we were chosen and then we weren't...too late to book the trip. I feel a little burnt on that one and so feel like driving-only trips until this is settled...but that's a great idea, to try to make a flex fund for travel. I feel like what I really want to do is escape somewhere super relaxing and have a second honeymoon kind of thing where adoption and infertility talk is basically not allowed... but then that sounds sort of selfish. I'm sorry you have this affliction of seeming okay but being all busted up on the inside, it's a real lonely way to be.

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  2. I don't really have anything helpful to say, just virtual hugs, because I feel broken and glued back together too. I also just know no matter how much those scars heal, they will still be scars. I will carry them forever. Nothing, not even a baby, even if I get to carry it to term myself will completely erase all the pain and loss and unfairness of it all.

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    1. Thank you for the hugs. It feels so cumulative, the cracks, and like soon there won't be enough shell to hold it all together. I'm sorry for your scars, too. It's true, this sort of thing sticks forever. Sending you a hug back!

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  3. So sorry this is a hard time. You are wise to recognize that just because there isn't a NEW crisis, you can still be struggling to maintain the status quo. It makes sense. And the conflict of needing to maintain a calm composure in your workplace when success means that you might not get the support you need, and even a minor failure means you question your professional performance. So hard! My only advice is locate at least one place / person at work where you can take the mask off. At my last job I know I could cry and shake in front of my co teacher (with no students present) and that made a big difference though it only once got to that point. (Don't think I have an equivalent at new job so not sure what I'd do if dealing with similar intense stress.)

    Margaret Atwood's hook and eye poem always gave me the shivers. There are some crappy situations you can escape, and some where there is no way out but through. It's an awful feeling that one has been hooked and is being pulled inevitably toward a crisis. But now you've named it, so you can start figuring out how to deal with it. One way or another, you will be free again.

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    1. Thank you...you are so right, that dichotomy of needing to seem professional and put together and shoving all this stuff down deep. I actually have a person at school, who I usually can't talk to about this stuff until after school, and I spent an hour in my car with her just letting it all hang out Friday afternoon. She made me feel better and is an amazing friend, but she also said "I had no idea how much you were holding these past few weeks...I don't know how you function so normally with so much going on." I'm so sorry you don't have a person at school anymore, but I hope you find one (or don't have the occasion to need that touch person). I have only once in our years of crap burst into tears in front of students, and that was in our last cycle where things weren't going well and I knew we were going to pull the plug...and it was just too much. I should have taken a day, but you know -- more work for sub plans than to just suffer through, and feeling guilty if your students don't have you. Isn't that the best poem? And yeah, no way out but through. I just wish I had an inkling of the space between now and through. Thank you so much for your comment and thoughts.

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  4. As a fellow Atwoodian, I wrap you in a hug.

    This is the thing; if a single traumatic event had happened, you would be moving through it and time would have helped. But you are in the trauma... always. Like years of trauma. It makes complete sense that you are a cracked shell, oozing its contents. There is no space to process, no ability to really step back and get some time and space from the situation. And because of that, you need to be kind to yourself. And sometimes ooze when you need to ooze.

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    1. Oh, thank you. That's pretty much it. You so got it. I am so hoping for some space, to one day be able to look back and have the cracks be barely visible. Some day.

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  5. There are moments where I wish I knew the magically words to say to help alleviate some of the grief and pain you are experiencing. I'm not even going to try to pretend that I know them. What I will say is that I hear you and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry because you deserve nothing less than light, happiness and the baby you so desire. You and Bryce have been through the wringer with all of this and it is truly beyond difficult. I'm sorry that your glue feels like it's deteriorating and that the cracks are widening. I am continually thinking of you and sending so much love your way. And though it sounds clique, am here to help in any way I can.

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    1. Thank you so much. It's a tough place to be in. I feel better today, but it is sucky to feel like I'm slowly (not so slowly?) coming apart at the seams. I feel like something's got to give. Thank you for your support!

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  6. "ooze when you need to ooze" - wise words.

    My heart goes out to you. Thank goodness for a workmate with whom you may lower the mask.

    Take gentle care.

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    1. Thank you so much. So much wisdom in these comments. I will do my best to take care... harder than it seems it should be sometimes though. Thank you!

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  7. Beautiful writing as always Jess, and such an emotional dilemma - when and where do you draw the line? Yes it is a weird place to be when the questions stop and people don't intuit anything. The limbo is really hard and I hope some concrete good stuff starts to happen soon; look after yourself (take that second honeymoon maybe = not selfish...)

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    1. Thank you so much, on many counts. It is so hard, and I am so sick of having to be the one to draw the line. Not line-drawing time yet, but I feel like it starts weighing after a while. Limbo really does stink. I hope for concrete good stuff too. I think we're going to Vermont for Christmas this year, so that should be a good second honeymoon thing...sort of selfish and decadent and nurturing all at once to take a big family holiday and escape to the mountains to be just us. Just our little family of two. Thanks for your thoughts!

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    2. Ooh Vermont for Christmas sounds lovely - be sure to post up some pics

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  8. Sounds like you are in the dark-night-of-the-soul part of The Wait. And what Mel said sounds like such an apt description.

    Regardless, you are not alone, and it's OK to crack -- maybe even it's part of the process. We are here with you, holding you and loving you and allowing you all the space you need.

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    1. I am, totally. It's a very, very dark night over here. Lots going on, some of which is hopeful and some feels anything but. And yes, love Mel's oozing! :) Even though that sound totally repulsive. Thank you so much. I appreciate the holding and the loving and the allowing so much. Mwah.

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  9. It's so hard when the future is still so unknown, isn't it? This part stood out for me, "How do you prepare for a baby that's not here and may not materialize for yet another year, while living footloose and fancy free, hopping on planes and not worrying about whittling your adoption nest egg that you're so fortunate to have?" I have a post drafted about how hard it is living in infertility limbo. Impossible to really live in now with so much unknowns. I'm sorry you are going through a hard time, it's difficult staying strong and then not getting as much support as you need. So many people are so busy these days with their own lives that I get the impression they don't really want an honest answer to "how are you?"

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    1. Yes. Yes -- that's the whole thing, is living in uncertainty. And then realizing that living in uncertainty is your new normal, and you don't like it much, but you don't have much choice if you want to keep pursuing parenthood and have the opportunity to do so. And you're so right. Rarely does anyone want a true answer to "how are you." I have comfort in knowing that this community actually does... :) THanks for your thoughts, and I hope for an end to limbo for you, too.

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  10. Sending lots of hugs. I'm so sorry you're in this place. The limbo part is horrible, at times as much as any of the tragic moments because there's no movement, just waiting. It's also hard to be in the stage where people don't ask any more but the support is almost *more* necessary than at the beginning. Holding you in my thoughts.

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    1. Thank you so much. Living in limbo for so long is just so hard on a body. I hope that it doesn't last much longer...but I know that it very well could last quite a while longer. I guess I need to figure out how to live with that and the fact that while I don't think actual support is waning, the vocalization of it seems to be. It's hard when you're asked for updates and you just don't have any... so maybe people get tired of asking without change and figure I'll share when there's something new. Maybe...

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  11. Sending (((hugs))). I understand about living in limbo and the cumulative effect of grief, and you describe it so very well. I've often compared it to water wearing away a stone -- drip, drip, drip. A few little drips don't hurt that much, but after awhile, you really start to feel worn down. :( I hope the ambiguity ends soon for you.

    Re: Margaret Atwood -- at the risk of having my Canadian citizenship revoked ;) I will admit I have never read much of her stuff. The only thing I've read is "The Handmaid's Tale" when Mel did it as an online infertility-related book tour, and I did enjoy it (if "enjoy" is the right word for a book tht actually scared the crap out of me, lol). But of course I know who she is. I actually saw her once, almost 30 years ago now, strolling through the concourse of an office tower next door to where I worked. She was instantly recognizable, and she wore a long black cape -- very dramatic and famous-author-like. ;) Did you know her daughter's name is also Jess? :)

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    1. Oh, thank you. Yes. Water wearing away a stone is so very accurate. It's never too late to read some Margaret Atwood! :) But if she's not your bag, even if you ARE Canadian, that's okay too. Ha. She is definitely a recognizable figure, and I can see her in her cape. What a great mental picture! I did NOT know her daughter's name is Jess! That's awesome. Kismet, that. Feeling a little less pit of despair today, so that's good. Thanks for the hugs.

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  12. I'm sorry you feel the pressure of feeling like you have to be so strong, and maybe with it that visible support may be slipping away. Wish we were closer so we could go out for some coffee or tea and just share space together.

    I like what you said about focusing on the two of you because that is what you have right now. It is so easy to get lost in all of this infertility, embryo and adoption stuff. It can be really hard not to lose sight of each other and living your life.

    Sounds like you could really use sometime with your Dad and grandparents. You have mentioned it before in your blog, maybe the universe is telling you to plan a visit. There are flight sales going on right now. The first weekend in December is always reasonable because so few travel after Thanksgiving weekend and it is the lull before people travel for Christmas. Could you take a personal day? Schedule a routine dental or medical appointment first thing that morning to take a sick day?

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  13. I can't even begin to express how my heart aches after reading this - not just for the pain you're going through, but because it resonates so strongly for me, with the grief I had after my father's Alzheimer's diagnosis (and death six years later). You present your anguish in such a heartrendingly beautiful way. Sending truckloads of positive vibes and hugs to you and Bryce.

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