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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Beautiful Mess of Motherhood

Hi, friends. I did something else that is scary and uncomfortable for me... I videotaped myself reading my piece that I wrote for the Listen To Your Mother audition, as encouraged by my friend Lori Lavender Luz, because she said even though I didn't make it into the show this year it would be "fun" to see me, and I took that as a sort of bet against my own fears. It's horribly awkward for me, but I just pretended I was sitting on your couch, reading this to you guys face to face, and that made it a little easier. You make it feel like a somewhat safe thing to put myself out there this way in all my mismatched-pupil, animated-face-making, voluptuous glory.

In the interest of "do things that scare you," here it is, my face and voice reading the piece that I wrote. Below is the text of the piece. I am very proud of it, and also proud that I can read it without crying. The tape sort of ran out at the end (I still say tape although all this is digital), but all you missed was me awkwardly pointing out my friend the raven who appeared to be sitting on my shoulder throughout the thing. Ha. Also my thank you for listening to me got a bit cut off. THANK YOU. I know logically there are worse things than seeing yourself read something highly personal on video and sharing it with whoever sees it on the interwebs...but today it is terrifying. And sort of necessary. In the interest of bravery.

Wow, that is not the still of my face I would have chosen to begin with, but such is life when you are technically challenged. I own this video, as much as you can own anything on the web. (c) Jess of www.mypathtomommyhood.blogspot.com


A Beautiful Mess of Motherhood by Jess*

I was watching TV with my husband, Bryce, when I saw a commercial that I will be avoiding for as long as it runs. It featured various women gleefully holding up ClearBlueEasy pregnancy tests and embarking on a new amazing journey into motherhood. Actually, I can’t tell you exactly what was in the commercial because as soon as I saw the first scene I covered my face and la la la’d through the sappy music and the squeals of joy until Bryce said it was safe to come out.

It’s been years since I’ve peed on a stick, but I know some things about ClearBlueEasy. I know that the digital test threshold for HCG, the “pregnancy hormone,” is 25 because I called them the very last time I was pregnant, in 2012, so that I could use it to determine when I was no longer pregnant. I had miscarried after my sixth IVF embryo transfer, but I could still produce the word PREGNANT on the screen. In a sick sort of way I wanted to see it, over and over, because even though it wasn’t true, not really, I didn’t know if I’d ever see that word in connection with my body again.

The only other pregnancy I achieved ended in the operating room with the removal of my right tube and the wayward babyling who was trapped within it. I peed on sticks like mad that pregnancy, too, because while I hoped against hope, deep down I knew it wasn’t going to last.

It turned out to be wise, taking picture after picture of pregnant pee-sticks, because I never got pregnant again – that was all I had of the experience.

By the end of our insane 13 cycles of IVF over 5 ½ years, fueled by the hope of those two brief pregnancies, I couldn’t even complete three of the planned embryo transfers as my uterus had decided to call uncle and refuse to make a lining anymore thanks to scarring from too many surgeries. In the beginning, I peed on a stick before the blood test, but quit because a sympathetic nurse saying “I’m sorry” and scheduling the “rehash-and-new-plan” appointment is a hell of a lot kinder than a sad and lonely single line on a stick, or worse, the words NOT PREGNANT blaring from a digital screen. I learned to pee on a stick only when I knew I was already pregnant, however briefly.

That’s not entirely true. I peed on a stick one last time at the end of the last completed cycle, and the result was the worst – a faint second line (I couldn’t take any more words) that didn’t register on the official blood test. Maybe it was a stick error, maybe it was an embryo that started to implant and then…didn’t. Either way, it was not a satisfying end.

While I would have loved to have gotten pregnant and stayed that way, that is not how motherhood will come to me. It was so hard to let go of the hope of pregnancy, especially after using donor eggs and then donor sperm and having those fail. It seemed like the quintessential mother story – you pee on the stick, you call your OB, you go to joyful scan after joyful scan as you nest and prepare for the bundle that comes after a reasonable 40 weeks, give or take. Although I know that’s not how it works out for so, SO many women, hanging on to the dream of that story started costing me motherhood:  pregnancy was just not going to happen and we were literally flushing our money, our hopes, and our stamina down the toilet.

I wish that I had realized sooner that parenthood was far more important than a gestational period glorified on social media with Bump Watches, maternity shoots, and cute clothes to show off the belly you’d rub beatifically without even thinking about it. Because now we are 19 months into our wait for domestic adoption, and it is just so hard to be in a place of perpetual waiting, perpetual hope, and perpetual disappointment…so far. I am tired from beating my head against a wall throughout the IVF part of our journey, and now that we are seven years into our quest to have a family it feels like it’s possible we enjoy torture. There is no calendar for the calls. There is no pee stick to let me know I have made it to the next step. We have had a span of 10 months go by without a call at all to cling to, and then received a call where the baby was born the day before and, if chosen, we would need to be able to go to the hospital within 24 hours and take placement. We’d go from not-parents to parents in a dizzying span of time. I felt intense hope for impending motherhood, a feeling of MAYBE NOW THIS PART OF OUR LIFE CAN BEGIN, only to have those hopes dashed in a kind but short phone conversation notifying us that someone else got the “yes.”

We endure this hope and despair and picking my broken self up from the floor to do it all over again because I have this overwhelming desire to be a mother. I can’t have the typical pee-stick commercial experience, or anything even remotely resembling it. My motherhood is dependent on someone else reading the words PREGNANT but feeling hopeless for so many possible reasons, all of them heartbreaking. Neither of us are going to have that joyful moment with this milestone. Hopefully, I will get to become a mother, to feel the joy of parenthood, but it will be because another woman has to make an incredibly difficult decision. My joy; her tragedy.

My experience with motherhood will be different, because it will be shared with my child’s birthmother. We hope to know her, to have her be a part of our lives, but even if she isn’t physically there, her presence will be a constant. There will be complexity for both of us as we navigate this multilayered family tree. We will be on opposite sides of this fertility mess – me, unable to bear a child despite desperately wanting to, her, able to bear a child but at a time where she desperately wishes she wasn’t. 

It will be a beautiful mess of motherhood, one that isn’t pictured in pregnancy test commercials, but I am ready for it to begin. 


* All rights reserved by Jess of www.mypathtomommyhood.blogspot.com

16 comments:

  1. This is aMAYZing! I love hearing and seeing you read your words and tell your story. I'm so glad you shared this with us.

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    1. I'm so glad you love it! ;) I posted it and then immediately was like REGRET REGRET REGRET, FEAR FEAR FEAR, and I made some real weird animal noises that sounded like a cross between GAAAGH and a gurgle, but I thank you so much for pushing me and being that voice of encouragement on so many fronts! <3

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  2. So it appears that the end of the video came out fine after all -- raven and rambly thank you and everything. I am proud that I did not have Bryce help me with the tech aspect of this at all, even though it sucked up a good hour to try to figure out the intricacies of posting a video that you do not want public on you tube without this context... :)

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  3. This is a beautiful piece Jess. And look at you, getting stronger and braver...just a couple posts ago you were writing about how scary that was to do the audition, and here you have made and shared a video of the reading!!! You did amazing, btw! Thank you SO much for sharing this with us, this part of yourself. I hope you are incredibly proud of yourself. So much strength you have to teach MysteryBaby.

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    1. Thank you so much! I am going all in on this New Year's intention of mine. Be brave is my new mantra (the reverse of that is Fuck Fear, ha ha ha ha). Thank you for your kind words. Just the preparing and writing and rewriting and obsessing and practicing reading and taping myself was totally worth the audition, even though I was disappointed not to make it to the show it gives me more chutzpah to try again next year (and hopefully be more confident in the process). Thank you for your encouragement and pride! Things like this are a great reminder to come back to when I feel anything but strong and hopeful. :)

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  4. Bravura. Way to "come out". Thank you so much for sharing the visual / audio enhancement of your wonderful words.

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    1. Thank you so much! I love that, "coming out." :)

      I am glad you enjoyed, it's fun to feel like I'm sort of meeting you guys in a more personal way, even though the words on this space are highly, highly personal. :) Thanks for your support and love!

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  5. Good for you. I haven't watched the video yet but enjoyed reading your words. I haven't seen the particular commercial you mention but often see the one where the woman is telling her sister she is exactly two weeks pregnant because the clearblue test told her so. I snicker at it now because it's been on r otation for so long. Basically this woman has been two weeks pregnant for years. Which would be pure hell! It is always liberating to tell your own story and speak the truths that your particular experiences have taught you.

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    1. Thank you so much! That commercial is running in heavy rotation on Hulu. I actually saw a fair amount of it while Bryce was on his business trip, while I was zoned out and then was like NO! NONONO! But it was just what I imagined. This big montage of people sharing the stick with friends, with husbands in creative ways, with siblings, it pretty much covered any triggery situation you can think of. Wow, two weeks pregnant for years...that WOULD suck. :) It sure was liberating to tell this story in this way. I do have all those truths to show for everything we've experienced thus far, and that's not a terrible thing. Oh, the video... so painful for me to watch. I sort of wish I'd kept some of the bloopery ones, but it's a minor miracle I did it all in one shot with only one minor "um, uh" towards the beginning where I lost my place. And I left out one four-word line. But that's me being nitpicky to myself. Thanks for your kind words and for reading/watching some time in the future!

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  6. Oh this commercial. I have continuously muted this commercial playing INCESSANTLY on Hulu for a number of weeks now and can absolutely relate to its effect. Our daughter Evelyn died in August (conceived on our final IVF cycle after 8 yrs of battling infertility) and this commercial does absolutely nothing good for us. I have been *this close* to calling Hulu headquarters and giving them a piece of my mind but, you know, haven't. You expressed your emotions and the myriad details of your journey so beautifully in that video, you should be so very proud of yourself. Not only for what you said and how you said it, but for putting yourself out there -- it's so so hard. My husband and I are just dipping our toes into the adoption waters -- we are already overwhelmed with the process and all it entails but are trying to hold on to hope that it will be what brings us a living child, a sibling for our precious Evie. Thank you for sharing and I so fervently hope that your wait comes to an end soon, Jess.

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  7. Wow I just listened to that on my phone at work now that everyone has left the office (I have no sound card on my old PC despite working in an IT dept!). That's the most eloquent spoken story I've heard in a long time, it brought tears to my eyes. I knew you had had a long and arduous journey but hearing it from your mouth is the most poignant thing ever. Everyone should hear your story, from the people who conceive at the drop of a hat and barely acknowledge that infertility exists to the idiots that say "just adopt" all the time. Beautiful. You come across really well. you must do something with this Jess, you have a gift with words. It's both fab and strange to see a fellow blogger speak, I feel like I've met you!
    Different Shores

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  8. Also, just PS after reading comments above, I hope you're not still REGRET REGRET REGRET, FEAR FEAR FEAR - this truly is wonderful, courageous and amazing.

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  9. One beautiful thing of cutting the cable is not seeing triggers like this one. Which is why I love this post because it illustrates a complexity so many people will face with this life transition (it rarely is as easy as the commercials would like everyone to believe). It is beautiful and messy all at once.

    And I love see you. Bravo lady.

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  10. Great work! It always brings another layer to a written piece when the author reads it. You get to hear their emphasis, pause and feeling behind the words.

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  11. Nice work lady! How could they NOT pick you??

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  12. Oh Jess, I've only just seen this! How fabulous to see you, to hear you. (You're much braver than I.) And such a well-written and well-read piece. Brava!!

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