Tuesday, February 5, 2013

You Gave Me A Mountain

"This time, Lord, You gave me a mountain, a mountain you know I might never climb. It isn't just a hill any longer -- You gave me a mountain this time."  - "You Gave Me A Mountain," lyrics by Marty Robbins, sung by Elvis Presley

"There is sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy and fragility, out of whose depths emerges strength." - Rashini

I have had a lot of reproductive disappointments lately. It feels unbearable to write about them, but when I realized I haven't posted anything in almost a month, I knew why: this is what is going on, and I'm not in the mood to talk about it. Yet, this topic feels like a blockage, and until I write about it, I can't write about anything else. This sucks unlike anything else I've ever been through. I don't want to make it sound like I've been on death marches, sex trafficked, or anything else truly horrific, but for a privileged white girl, I have had my share of genuine tragedy and heartbreak, and infertility (IF) exceeds it all. Perhaps it's because IF touches on such deep, personal longing: religiously and culturally, most people have been inculcated with a deep desire to have children. Hell, if you are from a Judeo-Christian background, it's the first frigging commandment. If I were inclined, I could write a separate post about what IF has done to my spirituality and relationship with God. It aint pretty. Add to that the intense biological drive to propagate, and you have a potent mix for being really fucked up if things aren't working in the reproduction department.

When I had my miscarriages, I was shocked at the insensitivity of other infertile women who said, "Well, at least you can get pregnant.  I haven't been able to do that." I still stand by the insensitivity of expressing that comment to someone who has lost three babies, but from where I sit now, I agree. For unknown reasons, I have gone from the camp of the super-fertile to the "...and to think, I wasted all that birth control!" camp. When you can get pregnant, there is still hope that this pregnancy will turn out ok. Now, I understand the frustration of getting yet another period when you don't want one. This is worse.

That leads me to another point: I have had to eat some real humble pie. My IF journey has led me to feelings and behaviors that I thought I was above, and I find myself experiencing many of the things I judged other infertile women for. For example, I used to think it was strange when someone told me she couldn't be at synagogue with all the kids. Now, I totally get it. Not wanting to be around pregnant women? Check! Not wanting to be around babies? Double check! Feeling like a playground or Facebook is an emotional minefield (especially around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade)? Check! I actually hid a new parent's Facebook feed recently because all she posts about is her new baby (kudos and thanks to my other friends who are new parents who do a great job balancing info about parenthood with other things! I love you!) In a strange way, I feel like the Universe is giving me a dose of all the things I used to be judgmental of. I assure you, I'm not anymore. I have also learned that the IF drugs, with the intense bloating they cause, make you look pregnant, so I shouldn't assume anyone is.

Maintaining perspective on this problem of IF is not for the faint of heart. It is easy to let it consume you. One of the common ways to try to balance the pain is to look at what is going right in my life, which, thank God, is a lot! Most importantly, I get to wake up every day next to my best friend and partner, whom I'm still madly in love with. I think marriages like ours are rare. My life is full of blessings! Yet, I have to be careful with this tack, because I also use it as a way to negate my feelings of intense sadness. Yes, life is beautiful, but it still feels for both of us like our family is incomplete. For these reasons, it feels like this method of focusing on the positive isn't an authentic or truly useful way in and of itself for me to work through this problem.

I did have some relief this morning when I did a guided tonglen practice led by my meditation teacher, Tara Brach. This is a powerful practice that helps us connect with the suffering of ourselves and others in a meaningful, compassionate way. I found it very calming to view IF as a wave held in the greater awareness of my life as an ocean. To paraphrase Tara, when you're aware you're the ocean, you're not as afraid of the waves. I also like the tonglen practice because an integral part of it is focusing on the suffering of others, and in doing so, it feels like offering a prayer on their behalf.

Ok. I have been sitting on this post for a week, and can't think of anything else I'm willing to commit to the Internet, so here it is for now.