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Infertility Is…

As we have traveled (and travailed) through our journey (ha!) with infertility struggles, I’ve learned a lot from the infertility blogs that I’ve read, and from our family and friends. While I do have to put myself on hiatus from infertility blogs on a regular basis, I am so thankful that we have not been alone through this continuing nightmare.

I had a conversation recently with my mother about my blog, and why I choose to make such a private issue so public by putting it all online. Well, if one person finds the Lord, learns anything about their own infertility and what to expect, or is helped in any way whatsoever, then this has not been in vain. That may mean just helping someone who is not infertile to understand what the people around them are going through.

Or letting someone several years into this roller-coaster know that they are not alone, either.

As others have done for me, I will do for them. This post is in that vein….

Infertility Is…

Depressing. There is no end to the feelings of failure, shame, and envy. Every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or any other important holiday that passes without a baby in our lives is a kick in the teeth. Some days simply getting out of bed is too much effort. But we do it, so as to appear normal.

Frustrating. To not be able to do something so simple is incredibly frustrating. We cannot do what our bodies were designed to do, and everyone around us can.

…Humiliating. Everyone has seen parts of me that should be private. Everyone knows intimate details of our sex life and feels that discussing them is totally acceptable. Our pharmacist is nosy. Our doctor asks questions that make me blush, and I am not easily embarrassed. There is no modesty in infertility. Even at our very thoughtful clinic, I am stripped from the waist down and given a sheet roughly a half yard wide to “cover” up with. My bare butt faces the door.

…Learning to laugh. A man who loves you when Clomid makes you grouchy and when you have to prop your hips up afterward will love you through anything. If you can discuss cervical fluid and peeing on a stick, he’s a keeper. If we don’t laugh at the absurd, we will cry over everything.

Isolating. Even though over 10% of all couples in the US experience infertility, you may never meet or talk to another. None of your friends can fully understand, and your family may not try. When your infertility is all you can think about, they may not feel comfortable talking about it at all. Our infertility is never mentioned for the prayer requests at church. It is the elephant in the corner at every baby shower. In the waiting room of our fertility clinic, no patients make eye contact, ever. Infertility is not something you tell folks about unless you know you can trust them with your heart.

…A learning experience. Not many things give you the chance to learn to self-inject medications and learn words like hysterosalpingogram or ovarian drilling.

…Painful. Physical changes make my body hurt. Side effects cause aches, pains, and headaches. Injections and blood draws hurt, internal ultrasounds and hysterosalpingograms are very painful. Childbirth actually sounds like a cakewalk after some of this.

…Strengthening. If I can handle this, I can handle anything. So can my marriage, and my faith. Infertility is not for wussies.

…Taxing. “Trying” or “practicing” sounds fun, right? Try it for about two weeks and see how romantic you feel. Don’t forget to time it just right and to prop your hips up afterward.

…Disappointing. Every holiday without a baby, every month with a period, every new check up at the clinic because last month was a bust is a huge disappointment. Telling my husband we’ve failed again is miserable.

Scary. Words like premature ovarian failure, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, and intrauterine fetal demise are terrifying for anyone to hear, especially when it’s your ovaries, cervix, or baby.

…Hope. Hope is new again each month, thank God.

…Expensive. Having to give up on your dream to have a baby or having to plan your baby around your credit line is just sad. Especially when you’re paying good money for useless insurance.

…All-consuming. If you don’t learn to stop and find other outlets, infertility will eat you alive.

…Unfair. 14 year old junkies have babies they don’t want. People who lock their kids in closets get pregnant all the time. Why can’t I?

…Eye opening. Many men will leave you when they find out you can’t have babies. The extra-awesome one will stay, look you in the eye and say “That’s okay.”

…Finding a way to trust God and His timing even when I am on the floor, crying and broken.

Eight Tips For Battling Depression

We’ve all seen the commercials:

“Depression hurts.”

“Do you have trouble concentrating or making decisions? ___ [drug] can help.”

“Depression can make you feel like you have to wind yourself up to get through the day.”

“Depression can take so much out of you.”

I have to say that all of that is true. I hate to use the word depression (I think most people do), but things have been rough since my daughter died. I’ve scraped for words to express the isolation, pain, persistent sadness, discouragement, lethargy, roller coaster days, rage, sullenness, futility… but every time those words fall short.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned  a lot of things not to do, and a few things to try.

Most important is that a quick fix is a myth. So often I’ve woken up feeling OK, moved through the day’s activities relatively well, actually enjoyed some of the day’s moments, and thought to myself, “Hurray! I’m better!” Only I woke up the next day back in the swamp, feeling worse than before because I was wrong. I hadn’t actually left it behind.

Here are a few ways that have helped me, along with a few things I recommend avoiding.

If you are struggling with depression:

1. If you are a spiritual person, pray and tell God about how you feel and ask for help. Don’t shut God off just because you don’t feel God’s presence anymore. Feelings are fickle things, affected by lack of sleep, poor eating habits, hormones, illness, grief, and more.

I found that praying in the shower was a good place because

1) I could usually count on not being interrupted by my children, and

2) if I cried my heart out, the water washed my tears and snot away (I’m not a pretty cryer.)

2. Talk yourself through the day. I don’t mean talk out loud to yourself – that’s the fast-lane to crazytown. What I mean is this: if you catch yourself possibly over-reacting or taking the actions or words of another person personally, try to stop long enough to remind yourself that you are predisposed to assume the worst right now. Tell yourself, “I need to take my own emotional/mental/physical state into account when I’m reading other people and cut everyone, including this jerkwad, some slack.”

When I remind myself of this, I’m more likely to step back and wait to see if what I am jumping to conclusions and being paranoid (and usually I am). This helps preserve those relationships, and heaven knows we need as many healthy relationships as we can get.

3. Talk to someone about your struggle. Be selective. Keep your circle small, at least at first. Look for someone who is strong because they have struggled through some hard things themselves (not because he or she is a know-it-all). Find someone you can trust. Don’t talk to that girl who starts every story with, “Don’t tell anyone else, but so-and-so told me …” If they tell stories about other people, don’t give them any dirt on you. The right person will listen well, try to understand you, and give realistic counsel. They will be flexible but also persistent, drawing you out even when you withdraw or hide what’s inside.

4. Remain engaged with your family and friends. Make yourself go to birthday parties, cook-outs, ball games… whatever it is that you and your friends and family do together. Go even when every cell in your body wants to hole up in bed. We need people, and you have never experienced encouragement quite like spending time with people who care about you and who love to have fun.

I am so thankful for my husband and friends who have dragged me out of the house. No matter how many times it happens, I’m always surprised at how much better I feel when I go, even when it’s The Last Thing I want to do that day.

5. Give yourself time. This one has been hard for me. I want to be done with this depression. I want to move on, move forward, leave it behind, get better. I’m tired of dragging it around every day. But my counsellor keeps reminding me that there is no timetable on grieving. And if I try to stuff it all away and hide it, that actually makes the whole process longer. I need to feel those feelings and work through my grief, not run away from it.

6. Go see your doctor. Ask him or her to check for any physical problems and talk about how you are doing. It is very common for an illness or untreated condition to affect every part of you, including your energy level and outlook on life in general. They will collect some labs to look for things like low iron, an out-of-whack thyroid, or abnormally high white cell count (indicates that your body is fighting an infection somewhere). The doctor should be able to work with you to identify ways for you to improve your physical health, and present some options for improving your emotional and mental health.

7. Do your homework before trying supplements and/or prescription medications. Talk with your doctor about this. They will help you select the best things to try and often have non-prescription options as well. Taking a pill, whether it is an antidepressant or an herbal remedy, is not going to make you happy. These treatments are designed to give enough of a boost to do the hard work of recovery.

Be sure to ask your doctor and pharmacy about how various things interact.
Tell them everything you are taking, including herbals and home remedies, because some things are very dangerous when combined. And if you think you need to change something because it isn’t working, don’t just stop cold-turkey! Call your doctor or pharmacist to see if you need to wean yourself off or if it is safe to just stop.

The best advice I was given about trying meds? Try one thing at a time, and give it at least a month before changing anything. Otherwise you won’t know what helped and what didn’t.

8. Build in some cushion. During the worst of my depression, I realized that my weeks were so tightly-scheduled that I had no slack at all for bad days. You know the kind: it’s all you can do to get the kids fed, dressed, and to school, and when you finish that, you collapse. Forget work, laundry, paying bills, washing dishes, cleaning house, grocery shopping. I got radical, backing out of commitments, canceling activities, and taking a leave of absence from work to build in some slack. It gave me the time I needed to rest and recover.

I hope these tips are helpful. I offer them up as ideas picked up along my own struggle in hopes that they encourage you to keep going, keep trying, and most importantly, get help.

Poison Extraction AKA Leukemia Part III

Poison Extraction aka Leukemia Part 1

Poison Extraction aka Leukemia Part 2

Twenty years ago today, I was a little girl who had just been on her first major road trip.

My uncles, some family friends, my sister, and I had driven the 20+ hours from Phoenix to Houston. I had no idea what to expect. I was so conflicted because in my mind, Houston, Texas looked like a city from an old western movie. Yet I knew Mom was there at MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is the best cancer treatment center in the world. I had such a hard time picturing this big fancy hospital in the middle of a town made of wood buildings and dirt roads with horses.

Turns out Houston was a lot like Phoenix only GREEN. I’d never seen so many green plants and rainstorms in my young life. And MD Anderson was mind-numbingly huge and complex.

And my mother, well she was a pumpkin.

That was my first thought anyway. When she had left Phoenix she’d had SOME hair left. Now she was completely bald and the medicines they’d given her had made her swell up a fair bit and turn orange. Clearly, my mother was a pumpkin.

She was in an isolation room. I could see her through double-paned glass and talk to her via intercom. I couldn’t hug her or touch her. No one could. The doctors administered drugs to her through long plastic gloves built into the opposite wall and once a week a person in a bubble suit could come through the air lock to clean her room. Everything that came in had to be sterilized.

After 3 days of radiation treatments, where she received the same amount of radiation that you would have at Hiroshima when the bomb went off, Mom had no immune system left. The littlest bug could kill her in a few hours.

I remember watching the day of the transplant. We were all gathered around the window. Momma was SO so excited. She held the catheter line up for us to see as they pushed in 3 BIG fat syringes of bone marrow in through the tubes that came through the wall. She gave us a big cheesy grin and a thumbs up!

Afterwards, we went to check on my Uncle Mike (one of my mother’s younger brothers) who was her bone marrow donor. He had 6 little round needle holes in his butt. 3 of them on each cheek. He told Mom that now he can really say that she was a pain in the ass. (In fact until Mikey passed away 2 years ago, Momma would call him every year and thank him for saving her life. And every year he would say “I love ya sis. You’re welcome but you’re still a pain in the ass” )

That was 20 years ago.

I still bawl like a baby every time I really think about it. I have no words to express how amazingly grateful I am to God, to science, to the doctors and nurses and to my Mother for being a fighter and going to hell and back so that I could grow up with my Mommy. I would not be a live today if it wasn’t for her.

In so many ways, I owe who I am to my amazing mother. You couldn’t ask for a more loving, accepting, caring and compassionate person. Don’t get me wrong – she’ll kick your butt up between your ears if you really need it, but only because she loves you. I think she has done a SUPERB job of balancing being a mother and being a friend, and that’s not an easy line to walk.

For better or for worse, hers is the voice in my head. I found that out when I went to college. She’s the one I hear encouraging me, chastising me, reminding me and helping me.

She hasn’t always been perfect but I can say this: Whenever it has been pointed out to her that something she has said or done was not right or hurtful, she never, EVER did it again.

As a kid, shortly after the transplant, I presented a picture to her transplant physician, Dr. Anderson (who just happens to share a last name with the hospital). It said in big crayon letters “Thank you for saving my Mommy’s life”.

I want to say it again. Preferably through a mega phone from the top of a tall building, on the 6 o’clock news and on the front page of every paper in the world, but I’ll do it here:

Thank you to every one involved in making it happen. Thank so much for saving my Mommy.

Twenty years, baby. Here’s to 20 more and many, many more after that!

Post-Trauma…Is Traumatic

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects everyone differently.

This is her story:

I’ve been suffering, silently, for going on eight months…I guess. And, I’ve needed and wanted to write about it. But, I’ve been afraid. Mostly, I’ve been afraid of the emotions that come flooding back to me when I think, talk, or picture the experiences that led up to this day.

Actually, I don’t know when it started. But, I finally said something last week to Mr. B and my Momma.

This suffering stems from an accident, on July 19, that involved my 7-year-old son.

Bubs was in a golf cart accident with his grandfather. The 800-pound cart, fell on a 45-pound baby and drug him on concrete for quite a distance. Bubs was air-cared to the local Children’s Hospital. And I, well I was 39 weeks pregnant. And, I fell when I saw him. Literally.

I fell because my son, my first born, and my best friend was trapped. Under a machine. He was covered in blood from “road rash” and he was broken. everywhere. He suffered with a dislocated hip, broken femur, butterfly fractured femur, crush-fracture of his foot, dislocated toes, puncture wounds and road rash all over his body and a removed quadriceps muscle. When I stood from falling, there he was, screaming for help and frantically searching for his mommy. And my heart couldn’t take it. It was broken.

In that instant, I was changed. Forever. I can’t forget the pain of driving to the scene. The soul crushing fear that flooded through my body the way I imagine Hurricane Katrina taking over New Orleans – engulfing your body with no hope or relief in sight. The fear and pain took me to a place that had not existed prior to this accident. And now I can’t seem to find my way out of it.

I still remember the scene like it was a dream. There were people rushing all around me, ambulances screaming to the scene, a helicopter circling overhead, paramedics asking questions…about him…and about me, paramedics taking blood pressure, police officers begging me to go to the hospital. I was swarmed but still felt invisible. All I wanted to do was go back in time. Just 20 minutes earlier. To make this moment disappear. All I could think about was this “never happening” and how it “couldn’t be happening” to us.

I am ashamed to admit…but, I didn’t care about the baby inside of me in that moment. Because the boy who had my heart first was seriously hurt. More serious than I even knew or wanted to know in that moment. More serious than anyone was willing to “tell the pregnant mom.” It was hard for me to consider the unborn child. I “knew” right where she was and I “knew” she was okay. All I knew was I heard words like “internal bleeding”, “head trauma,” “internal damage” and “spinal cord injuries” being thrown around…regarding my baby. MY baby. It was as if I was having an out-of-body experience.

I still remember the paramedic who took me to the hospital. His attempts at consoling me, while my son flew overhead, were heroic. He was kind and gentle and was a true professional. There are no words that can describe these moments. No words created by man that can put your thoughts and fears on paper to describe the instant you think you may lose your child. It’s a pain like I’ve never known. A pain that was sharp and reckless and it had no concern for me or the perfect family I had built.

And now, it has been replaced with fear.

As I sat in the hospital waiting room, waiting for his six hour surgery to be complete, and cried. I cried for my unborn baby, who would be born into a world interrupted. I cried for me. Because I was afraid and exhausted and broken-hearted. But mostly, I cried for my baby boy. Because I didn’t know what the future held anymore. 10 hours prior, I knew. And now my world was crashing in around me. I couldn’t breath.

See, Bubs and I started on this journey alone. Mr. B was our answered prayer that came four years later. For four years it was just us…and nothing will ever match those four years for our small family. Nothing will ever match the bond we built. He is my best friend. My confidant. My companion.

I am suffering silently with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am struggling with constant fear and irrational thoughts. I become overwhelmed with illusions, memories and possibilities…which all hold me back from living. These fears consume everything I do. Everything I let my family do. And, they consume every thought I have. I catch myself living in a world of “what-ifs” rather than just living and loving life. (Loving the life that God so graciously spared last summer.)

And, even with Bubs upstairs sleeping in his bed. Even if we made it through 12 weeks in a wheel chair and two weeks in a walker and one week of God-fearin’, earth rattling pain and torture…I still can’t shake the memory.

I still live in fear of losing someone. And not just Bubs now… Mr. B, Bubette, my mom, dad, step-dad, cousins, aunts…it is growing. And, for that reason, I have decided to talk to someone who knows more about this than I do. A professional….which makes me feel like a nut job.

Because prior to July 19, I lived in a beautiful world where horrible things happen “to other people.” and now…well, I can’t help but think that those horrible things “could happen to me.”

…because they did.

And I can’t seem to find my old self again.

A Letter To My Younger Self: It Will Be Okay

I wish I could write like our favorite Aunt Becky, but I can’t. My words will be misspelled, my commas will be out of place, and there will definitely be run on sentences, but I swear like a trucker so somehow I think I will fit right in.

So back story: BAD shit happened to me when I was a kid.

You know, my dad was an alcoholic, show me on the doll where the bad man touched you, which I never told my parents. My sister got pregnant when she was 14 and eventually my Mom could no longer deal with it all so I had to pick up the slack. That kind of bad shit.

There were days when I didn’t know if I would make it. Days that I wasn’t able to deal. I would burn myself or punch a wall just to feel… something. I made it through bruised but not broken.

I just wish I could tell the young girl that dealt with all of that what I know now.

I’ve been talking to a young friend who is going through so much in her life right now. She reminds me so much of my younger self. She, like me, puts up a strong front, but just beneath the surface you can see the hurt and self-doubt. When asked we will both say we are “fine.”

Every time she says it to me, my heart cracks just a little. See I know that when she says, “I’m fine” what she really means is “This hurts like hell! My heart is breaking. Somebody please just take away the pain.” I just want to give her hug and tell her it will all be okay. I won’t, mind you, because that would make me seem weak or soft or whatever my fucked-up mind thinks.

Still, through talking to her, I’ve been thinking, what would I tell my younger self?

So I wrote myself a letter today. Maybe it will help her or some other young girl who needs to know it WILL BE OK.

Dear Tonya,

I know it’s hard right now, but experience brings knowledge, adversity brings strength. None of that makes a damn bit of difference when you’re hurting but faith, faith gives you hope. The hope that there is something greater out there brings a small amount of peace even in the darkest times.

When you find love, it calms. Love doesn’t hurt; it heals, it comforts, it expands. Love gives. It should not take away.

If life seems to be spiraling out of control, find solace in the small things. Family, friends, music, words. These are your armor against all that will stand against you.

Remember that the lessons learned from the mistakes we make and the paths we choose make us who we are. Never regret them. To do so would mean you doubt yourself. Nothing and no one should make you doubt your worth.

Though it’s sometimes easier to forgive others than yourself, YOU ARE ONLY HUMAN.

Be as kind and love yourself as much as you do those others.

Stand tall without being cocky and be proud of who you become.

I know I am.


PS. If none of that shit works there is always vodka.

In Which I Tell Satan To Go To Hell

What a difference a year can make.

July 19, 2009 will always be an important date in our families personal history book.  To most this day passes without a second glance, but to us, today will always be the day God saved our son.

The emotional roller coaster of this day has not even come full-circle, the accident happened at 7PM.  And yet, before 9AM I have felt joy, peace, fear, sadness, anxiety, hope, reassurance and love.

And, I’ve told Satan to go to Hell.

Because today, friends, is about celebrating life & all that it has to offer.

The fear and anxiety that Satan is calling me to feel will not overpower the joy and celebration of this day. There are many forts to build and pools to swim, trees to climb, and playgrounds to discover. We do not have time to waste on worry.

There is too much life to be lived.

Last night, as Bubs slept, I crept into his room and I knelt down beside his bed. There, I gently stroked his chest and legs & I prayed and cried and thanked the Lord.

I thanked Him for:

  • his strong frame that held the heavy weight of that 800 pound golf cart
  • his wherewithal to hold that beautiful head up as the cart drug him along the concrete earth
  • his tiny bones that may have bent and broke but held it all together, somehow
  • for the neighbors who rushed to help my family in those moments before the paramedics arrived
  • for the paramedics who worked swiftly and kindly with my little fragile son
  • for the pilot that drove the helicopter carefully and without haste
  • the doctor’s that worked through the night to repair his tattered, broken body
  • for the nurses that healed my family as much as they healed Bubs during his time in Children’s Hospital
  • for the gift of medicine, that allowed our sleepless son to rest, and be relieved of pain, long enough to heal his bones and build up his energy to fight again the next day.

And then I thanked him for our gift of friendship. My, how we’ve been blessed.  The old saying is true, you really don’t know who your friends are, until you need them. And Lord, when we needed friends, you showed us in overwhelming numbers. You gave us an emergency room full of love and prayer. You filled the waiting room for countless hours while we waited for the doctors to tell us the surgery was complete. You sent visitors and toys and prayers and hugs.

You sent tiny angels Lord, and we have seen Your face.

I will never forget the faces as I entered that emergency room.  Their concern and worry wrinkled over their knitted brows. Most of them looked like they had been praying for hours, deep in communication with their Lord. Some of their eyes fell as they saw me wheeled through the room – they didn’t want me to see them crying. They are a force to be reckoned with – those prayer warriors.

I will never forget looking around as they rushed me back to my son.  I have relived those moments 365 times since then… The faces of friends who came from far and away – I saw you all. The faces of people who love my little family & the little boy behind the wounds.

I am forever indebted to them.

And I am fine with that.

In my hour of need, Lord, you gave me friendship. I am honored to say that I learned to give from the best. I am honored to call them friends.

There were times when my heavy heart and tired pregnant body didn’t think it had any more fight in it – and in those times I remember the people I love carrying me.  I remember friends calling and emailing & praying. I remember physically feeling those prayers working.

I have seen the face of God.

I call them friends.

And, I believe in prayer. And, I am blessed because of it.

Today, I will celebrate. I will go to a pizzeria and order a movie. I will buy “grey ice cream” (Oreo) and I will top it with chocolate sauce. I will watch him blow out candles and I will play with his hair until he falls asleep.

Today I celebrate life.

And tell Satan to go to Hell.