One of the things I love most about the ALI blogging community is how much I have learned from everyone. I have learned from the advice of the trailblazers who started their journey before me and had the courage to blog about it, I have learned from the encouragement and support of those going through it with me, and I have learned from the people who are following in my own footsteps who now reach out to me for support. We can learn a lot from one another, and with that knowledge, I am SO excited to be doing a tandem post today with Cristy of Searching for Our Silver Lining. After a recent post of hers, we started an email discussion and decided to throw our thoughts into the ring about the crucial difference between Infertility Amnesia and Healing. Here is my contribution to the discussion – please check out Cristy’s blog for her thoughts on this important distinction!
Posts of substance.
I think they are easier to come by when your life – your world – is full of turmoil and pain. At least for me, it has been easier to sit down and write deeply about the times that have made me cry in life than the times that have made me rejoice. I don’t know if it is because as children we are taught that gloating is bad and we shouldn’t rub it in, or if it’s simply because I often feel the need to work through my painful times with words and journaling but during the joyful times I tend to just revel in the moment. For whatever reason, I have to make a conscious effort to chronicle the good times as well as the bad, and slowly by surely, that is becoming easier.
As anyone who has experienced the ALI (Adoption/Loss/Infertility) journey can attest to, it is a supremely difficult road to go down, and often, it just plain sucks. You spend days, weeks, months, and years second guessing every decision and (not) planning events just in case. Should I have tried that supplement? Can we plan that vacation? Should I focus on my career? Can I have that beer? Should I have insisted on a specialist sooner? Can I take that hot yoga class? Should I have started the adoption process sooner? Is it okay to just take a break? Should I have taken a step back and focused on my marriage?
The “What Ifs” of the situation lend itself to creating women who are chronically self-obsessed and worried about everything. Take it from me.
However, there is hope – there is a light at the end of that blasted tunnel. Resolution and healing come in many forms, and everyone’s journey will be different. For me, I still identify as an infertile, but the last two years of pregnancy and then parenting have allowed that focus to slowly shift as who I am has changed and evolved. As someone who is now parenting after infertility, I can honestly say that I no longer think every day about the sad part of our journey. I feel happy and content. That doesn’t mean that infertility isn’t always a part of me. Knowing that I am in my first full cycle post-pregnancy has thrown me for a loop, and I am already struggling with finding the balance of how obsessed to be about it all. We want another child, yet we know there is a good chance we can’t afford to have another child via ART treatments or Adoption, so what is the good in obsessing? I feel a little helpless, but overall, I am happy. SO happy. The ALI journey is a hard path to be on, and I am so thankful that I’m no longer in the middle of it.
When we found out that we were expecting, the initial feelings of shock, fear, excitement, and disbelief were all quick to rise to the surface. Although I spent much of those first weeks of pregnancy being afraid of loss and afraid of things being too good to be true, I also spent a good portion of that time trying very hard to be mindful of the moment and to try to surround this little being inside of me with joy and love instead of fear. The mind is a powerful thing. Because it had been a long time dream of mine to take those weekly belly progression pictures, I immediately started taking taking them at week 4. Granted I was too superstitious to start posting weekly bump updates for the first couple of months, but something about the act of taking those pictures and then eventually posting the updates made both the pregnancy and the baby seem more real, and it felt like every week I got to post another update was another week that I was healing a little bit more and getting a little more of my spark back.
Something else that really helped me to heal and to reclaim my faith in myself and my body was allowing myself to dream and prepare for my ideal birth experience. It makes me so sad when pregnant IFers say “I just want a healthy baby” when asked about their birth plans – as if they no longer deserve the right or have the confidence to hope for an experience that entails more than that. I don’t come from a journey of loss, so I’m sure that affects my feelings on this, but it just makes me sad that many people from an ALI background seem to feel that they are not allowed to have the hopes and dreams that your average pregnant woman takes for granted. It sends the message that we should have to give up any of those hopes for a particular type of birthing experience just because many of us had to give up the dream of getting pregnant in bed with our partner with no drugs involved. The fact that I allowed myself to dream about and prepare for my ideal birth experience went SO FAR towards healing my old IF wounds. I know that no birth goes exactly according to plan, but I can tell you that having a husband and a care team around me that supported my wishes 100% while my baby was being born into this world – that was a powerful and healing moment for me. I truly believe that all women deserve to have nothing but love and respect surrounding them as their child enters their life for the first time – be it through adoption, vaginal birth, or a Cesarean.
So who am I?
- I am an IFer who proudly posted belly pictures and ultrasound photos on my main page throughout my pregnancy – because it was always my dream to do that and because it was okay for me to rejoice about that blessing.
- I am a mother who is parenting through the journey of infertility and loss, yet I don’t begin every baby related post with a disclaimer, because if you know me, you know that I am at heart a grateful parent who is still praying for her friends in the trenches, and I trust that you know that my feelings aren’t hurt if you need to “click away” that day.
- I am someone who tries to be considerate of my friends who are still in the midst of TTC, but I am also a mother who doesn’t hesitate to post about the trying times of parenthood – because that wouldn’t be real.
Does this mean I have “Infertility Amnesia?” Or does it mean that I am healing?
This thought first occurred to me when I read a fantastic post by Arch Mama entitled Never Going Back Again. In it, she discusses the fact that so many ALIers do themselves a serious injustice by resisting healing. I read that post with tears in my eyes and a light bulb going off in my mind, because WHOA, that’s what I’ve been feeling, and sometimes it’s even what I’ve been feeling guilty about.
I am in a place where I can (usually) be happy for people who conceive on their first month of trying. I am in a place where I can laugh at something my daughter did without immediately mourning the fact that she might never have a sibling to experience it with. Do I still struggle with our infertility issues? Sure. Do I still have moments when I cry at the “unfairness” of it all? Of course. I often wish I could just plan our next child and be blissfully unaware of the issues that so many of us…1 in 8 of us…will face in our lifetimes.
At the end of the day though, that’s not me. I am no longer in that place. Every day of my daughter’s life I heal a little more, and I am sad a little less. I am passionate about helping others through the ALI journey, and not a week goes by that someone in real life or through the internet contacts me for advice and information about Infertility. It is something I enjoy doing, and I am thankful that all of my pain and resultant research can be helpful to others. I love the work I do for PAIL and that I can use my history and experience to help other through the ALI journey – be it during the TTC years, the pregnancy years, or beyond.
However, I know that I won’t always be this involved with the ALI community, and I honestly don’t think it would be healthy for me to stay here forever. Just because I won’t always be this involved though doesn’t mean I’ll have forgotten or that I have Infertility Amnesia. Right now, at this point in my life, it feels right to be so involved, and I am grateful to have been welcomed into a community of women who understand that the ALI journey doesn’t just end once you get that positive pregnancy test or have that baby in your arms. This is a community of women (and a few men!) who are as diverse as one would expect. Some have residual fear that lasts throughout pregnancy and beyond – some are ready to post that belly picture at 4 weeks and try to just live in the moment and be happy – and most are somewhere in between. What we need to remind ourselves is that any and all of those reactions to pregnancy and parenting after adoption, loss, and infertility are normal and okay. With the support of each other, we are all ultimately moving towards a place of healing and peace, and that is such a good thing.
For me, the band aid has been ripped off, and Stella was the breath of fresh air that helped me to heal.