Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stages of Grief

It’s been awhile since I wrote in my blog, so I will reward you faithful readers with something very personal.

I have mentioned previously my journey to become a mother continues to be a difficult one. Infertility is a difficult diagnosis to say the least, and worse, doctors tend to be very grim and immediately jump to severe western medicine style intervention. The diagnosis can be scary, though it is not life threatening (for most) it is life altering to say the least. For this reason, I think I have been going through the five stages of grief as described by Kuber-Ross in their 1969 book Death and Dying. My close friends and family can tell you that I have been all over the place when it comes to dealing with this issue. I am happy to report that after almost 3 years of suffering, I think I have finally reached the acceptance stage.

For any who don’t know the Kuber-Ross model of grief, I’ll explain it. When someone is dying or loosing a loved one, they tend to enter different distinct stages to deal with the grief. It has long been thought that this model can also be applied to a loss of any kind, hence my ability to use it to describe my fertility journey.

Stage One: Denial

This is possibly the easiest to pinpoint for me. The majority of couples conceive a child within the first six months of trying, and the rest do in the next six months. The medical definition of infertility is actively trying to conceive for over a year without success. Yet, when we hit that mark, we did not begin to seek answers, we just kept at it. It was over a year and half before we sought answers because we were afraid of what we’d find. Once we finally did, we got our answer. Ironically, I see now that denying the problem did us no good whatsoever, but it was how we were coping at the time.

Stage Two: Anger

To this day, I will have small outbursts of anger over the injustice of it all. But during this stage, it was constant. I looked at those around me who accidentally fell pregnant, or achieved it easily, and find ways that they were somehow less worthy than I was. Usually financially, but sometimes knowledge, age, or even morals would be the subject of my injustice rants. This is the stage where avoidance begins. I began avoiding anyone who was pregnant or who had children. It was my angry opinion that no one on the planet properly appreciated the children they had, and I was being punished by having to be near them. I regret this stage more than any since it had lasting affects on many relationships because very few of them have any clue what it’s like to go through this.

Stage Three: Bargaining

For me, bargaining came in the form of adoption. Not only would I be willing to raise someone else’s child, as time went on, my preferences went out the window and I would be willing to do anything to become a mom. My husband prevented this from taking over our plans, which I am thankful for now, but wasn’t happy about at the time. Ironically, as we pursued the adoption route, we realized that it’s not much of an option for us either (for disability and religious reasons). So just as those often bargaining for more life, my pleas were futile, and only served to depress me more.

Stage Four: Depression

I have spent more time in this stage off and on than any other. But through the last year it has gotten pretty bad. I question my worth as a person, and especially as a woman. Avoidance continues in this stage because I may burst into tears at the sight or mention of a baby. Older kids bothered me less in this stage, not sure why that is. I quit wanting to do anything and preferred to spend the day feeling sorry for myself and obsessing over what I don’t have. I had Weltschmerz - It means the depression that arises from comparing the world as it is to a hypothetical, idealized world (quoting Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, lol) a recipe for depression every time.

Stage Five: Acceptance

It is this stage where I find myself now. An important realization happened to me recently, and it led my path to this final and lasting level. We moved recently, and I have found that I am able to be much happier in the new house. I first attributed this to the obvious reasons (yay, new house, it’s bigger and freakin awesome:P ). I also dreaded the time I spent finishing up removing things from the old place, again I attributed it to the fact that doing that kind of stuff sucks and seems never ending.

Here’s what led to the revelation. I was going through a pile of papers, really dull work, when I unfolded a piece of paper and immediately burst into tears. What horrible thing could be on that paper, you ask? Nothing incredible, it was a printout of a wallpaper border that was dated August of 2008. As I sat there weeping softly, my brain suddenly reeled. Why did I have no control over this reaction, and why did I react so intensely to a piece of paper? Then I realized, that this piece of paper was what it was all about.

My grieving process has not been about the loss of being a mother (I remain confident it will happen for me someday), nor is it the loss of my fertility, it’s the way I felt when I printed out this paper and showed it to all my friends in family that I will never have again. It’s feeling like being a parent is something I can choose to do whenever I want, and feeling in charge of my own destiny that I lost. It’s feeling like planning life and making responsible decisions will always pay off that I lost. This paper signified the time when I thought we had decided to start our family. I rushed to paint a room in order to get it done before I got pregnant (LMAO, I think I made it). I had rearranged, and planned and planned how to make room for a baby in that house, never once thinking that I would be moved out of the house before a baby would come. Each time I go back there, I am reminded of all these plans, all the ideas, and all of the hope, that just isn’t possible anymore. A loss of innocence so to speak.

But in my beautiful new house, I have always been infertile, and thus have no painful memories to trigger me. It’s a change, and that can sometimes help, but for me it’s all about the lack of being reminded constantly that dreams didn’t come true. Anyway, all of these realizations led me to eventually find acceptance, and life is much better here, let me tell you. Here’s a few differences:

- I now celebrate when I hear someone got pregnant. No really, I am so happy for a dear friend that just told me in confidence. She and her husband will never have to know the pain that Captain and I do, and I am so thankful for that. It’s funny how we infertile people tend to wish our problem on others. If I had cervical cancer, would I wish others to have it? Of course not. Well hoping for others to not get pregnant could be the same as wishing infertility on them. There will always be some situations that are hard (like being a great aunt before being a mom), but I can get past them this way and truly be happy for the people involved. An important step.

- I will be a mom, no doubt in my mind. I will likely be an older mom, but that’s okay. There are advantages and disadvantages to having kids at any age. Younger mom’s have a lot going for them, but I have wisdom and money in my corner, lol.

- I cannot change the past, but I have the power to change my present and future, so that’s all that matters.

- There is no ideal family, nor is there a picture perfect way to begin one. Many women have told me they wish they were older when they started having kids. Others have shared that they feel they really appreciate their children because it was not easy to get them. Other moms say they had a time in their life that their child was the only thing that got them through, or for others a child was the catalyst to help them grow up. I will focus on nurturing my relationship with my husband, after all, we are a family right now, even if many deny/overlook that. (It’s really fun to sit and watch “family pictures” of our extended family and only be asked to be in the one that included everyone while each other had individuals taken with spouses and kids.)

So there you have it. I’m hoping that this story will someday soon have a happy ending, but at least right now it’s not a sad one.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coffee Time Revelations

My niece stopped by for coffee today, something Capt and I always enjoy, as she's an intelligent and insightful young woman. My favorite part of our chats is that I always come away thinking about things.

This time, among the many ideas thrown around, we realized that she and I had both come to a similar revelation as of late. She verified my forming theory that people are highly unobservant when it comes to the details of others. That last 5 lbs that seems so necessary to lose would go largely unnoticed by those whose opinions matter the most. Not because they don't care enough to pay attention, but because they care about you for who you are, not what you way. Those on the extreme ends of the spectrum (supper-skinny and morbidly obese) may get some attention to the matter, but the rest of us fall in the middle and would all blend together.

She informed me that she quit wearing makeup for an entire term and her own boyfriend never said a word (keeping in mind that she has lovely skin to begin with). I talked to Capt. and he had no idea that I have three different levels of makeup that I use depending on the occasion, to him it all looks the same.

It seems so easy to get caught up in our own flaws, a problem I think all women (and men too) must face. I find myself scrubbing, exfoliating and covering every little blemish, but to what end? If people don't even notice, that means I'm doing it for myself.

How freeing is this revelation?!?! Not only does it free me from extra work on my appearance (though I think again the extremes of really made up and totally slob are still noticed) but it also allows me to stop expecting others to notice any of these things. Instead of waiting for someone to comment on my hair cut and possibly being disappointed, I can just say, "Just got my hair cut, what do ya think?" This makes life easier on everyone!!

Again with the lower of expectations and an increasing of happiness, seems to be a common theme for my revelations. :D Gotta love coffee time!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Ruining Fantasies

I started reading a new book by Dr. Joy Browne called, "The Nine Fantasies that will Ruin your life (and the eight realities that will save you). The format of the book is to present the fantasy, say a few words about the origins and variations, then explain why it is ruining your life. Dr. Browne has a radio show apparently (I wasn't aware) and she includes several "call in" questions as examples, though they seem rather exact to be real. I haven't completed the book yet, but one of the fantasies really rang true for me.

FANTASY: Everybody's Perfect...Except me.

I've always known that I have a confidence issue, as well as being a perfectionist. I was not aware, however, just how much that affects everyday life. I have worked for years on my impossibly high expectations for both others and myself, and I can really see the results of those efforts now.

She explained that to be alive is to change, and perfection doesn't allow change. So even if perfection is momentarily achieved, it is always fleeting. This is why striving for perfection is a horrible and unachievable burden. She gives an example about a woman who corrects her friend when she mispronounces a word. Dr. Browne asks, why did you need to correct her? Did you understand what she meant? (Obviously, yes, if you knew the word she meant) The lady answered that she was trying to save her friend from embarrassment. But when you think about it, there was no embarrassment until you corrected her, and showed everyone that not only did she pronounce the word wrong, but you knew the correct pronunciation.

Dr. Browne discusses the origins of the fantasy, blaming much of the problem on Hollywood and advertising. As if it wasn't bad enough that we are constantly shown images of perfection (from impossibly beautiful bodies to professionally cleaned or even fabricated houses), those shows are broken up with advertising constantly pointing out that your life could never possibly be complete until you have their product or buy their service. Hollywood also tends to draw a clear line between the good guy and the bad guy, leaving little room for the complexity that is human nature.

One important revelation from this fantasy came from the idea that as a perfectionist, much of your time is spent hiding the fact that you're not perfect. This has explained some of the behavior that I have struggled to rid myself of, not to mention understand in other people. This causes the intense need to be right, because being wrong is imperfect and thus not acceptable.

I have to admit, since reading this section, I have had a calmness I haven't known for a few weeks (not surprising since I've been moving during that time, but still). It's almost like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm not perfect, and that's okay. It is okay that others know that I am not perfect. It is okay for others not to be perfect, and I can accept that too.

So that's my new mantra: I'm not perfect, and that's okay!! :D