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.


Anonymous said...

Sarah, Thank you for posting this. I hope you understand that I am posting my comments as anonymous, as I am still not ready to come out of the "infertility closet".

I hope that I was never one of the people who said "At least you were able to get pregnant", although I will admit that I was jealous during your last pregnancy. I wanted it to be successful, yet at the same time I couldn't stand to be around you. Friends would ask "Isn't it so great that Sarah is pregnant!" and I could only respond "yay" and change the topic.

I like your comment about birth control. I can't imagine that I will ever need to take birth control again. In fact I have completely lost track of my cycle too. I have to remember when I last went to the Mikvah and count back to figure out when to expect my period next. There was actually once or twice when I forgot if I was a niddah or not. It's strange after years of taking the pill, or monitoring cycles and physical signs, or keeping to a schedule of injections, to suddenly have none of it.

Anonymous said...

The whole process is agonizing from start to finish. I know there are lots of others who face this, starting with the patriarchs and matriarchs, but it feels very, very lonely.

I know what you mean about finding some (positive!) things hard to be around- I have a similar reaction, like a dieter looking at the dessert table, and that's not a comfortable place to be. I don't really have much of an answer: just a collection of things that can get me through today- keeping busy helps, but you're completely right about the overwhelming nature of this process.

If you're the ocean, maybe it won't feel like drowning?

Kathianne said...

The Universe led me to your post today. I was looking through my email folders and in the "happy" one was a 2010 email from you. You told me how much you like my podcast interview with Kimberly Wilson and you even wrote a blog post about it (Happy Weight.) Anyway, I linked through to your current post (this one.) And I can totally relate. I blogged about my infertility struggles on my blog and I'm now writing a book about it. It sucks. Really sucks. I know firsthand. I went through an ectopic pregnancy, unsuccessful IVF, and eventually we adopted (which is also not for the faint of heart.) Now I have the most beautiful and spunky 2 year old daughter. I can tell you this: if you want to be a mama, you will be a mama. Somehow, someway, your baby will find you. It may not happen as you have always dreamed, but it will happen. And one day, like me, you may look back and know that it all happened just as it was meant to. Until then, Hang in there, dear.

Sarah said...

Kathianne! So nice to hear from you! I'm sorry you had such a tough journey to motherhood, but am thrilled you have a spunky 2 year-old.

Thanks for the encouragement. No, adoption is NOT for the faint of heart. I am completely open to it in principle, but the more I've learned about the process, the more it has led me to want to pursue biological childbearing first. It is so discouraging how the adoption landscape has changed over the last 5-10 years. It is always heartening, however, to hear positive adoption success stories, and I'd love to talk to you about this. Please stay in touch! All the best to you.

Stef said...

Good for you for recognizing the block that was occurring, and for being willing to face it. Your honesty is commendable; IF is a tough, tough road. My hope for you is that you are able to accept whatever it is that you receive. While of course a baby would be a fantastic joy, if that turns out to not be your path, I hope you are able to still find peace. Big hugs to you, my friend.