Friday, January 12, 2018

Grieving My Dog & Questioning Fertility Clinics

I haven't logged on lately because I have been grieving the loss of my dog. I know it can be hard for some people to hear about pet loss so I put this post's subject in the title. I talk about my dog in the first part and infertility in the last two parts, if you want to skip the beginning.

*****

Like everyone's dog is, my dog was the best. I loved her and we had the greatest time together. So when it came to the end of her life, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. It was peaceful. It was dignified. It was the right time. I have a lot of comfort knowing she is no longer sick and in pain. Yet, despite all these things, it still sucks and I am sad. I really miss her.

She actually lived over four times longer than the prognosis she was given. We had time to prepare mentally and emotionally, and we had time to spoil her and make the most of every day together. Still... She is now gone and her absence is glaringly obvious. I'm still in my old habits of going to pick up her water bowl at night or checking the couch to see if she's there.

I would like to write a tribute to her, but I think it will take some time for me to write something worthy of her. For now, I'll just tell you a little bit about her.

I had wanted a dog for years but couldn't afford to care for one, so I waited. Then my husband and I started dating. Almost immediately, I informed him of my dog dream/plan. He was doubtful; unlike my dog-loving family, it's not what he was raised with. Well, we got married and just a year and a half later, we got a dog! Hahahaha. I knew I would "win." ;) And my husband was very quickly wrapped around her little finger/paw. He loved that dog and cared for her in ways I could have never predicted.

We got her before we tried to have kids, so she was with me every day of the traumatic ordeal that was my experience with infertility. And she was really with me. Her fur absorbed so many of my tears. She would always do something goofy and make me laugh. And on the days where I had zero energy and motivation, she would just sit with me for hours. God, I loved that dog.

She filled my empty arms.

Yet, although I am sad, I am also truly comforted and at peace. Her health had been declining quickly over the last several weeks, and she was extremely uncomfortable in her last couple of days. It was time. Her spirit was strong, but her body was worn out. We used an at-home service so she could be where she was most comfortable. A doctor and two assistants came to our house. They were wonderful, total strangers that were a part of a very intimate moment of our lives. My husband took the day off work, and we were both with her the entire time.

I've never had my own dog before, so this was my first time with everything. I wasn't sure how/if I was going to be able to handle it, but I was determined. She was with me through everything; I wasn't going to leave her when she needed me most. And like I said earlier, it was very peaceful and dignified. From the beginning of her life to the end, we were blessed with so many caring and talented professionals: vets, vet techs, trainers, the place where we boarded her when we went out of town. Everyone who met her loved her, and she loved everyone she met.

So I am very, very thankful.

*****

Here is the part where infertility comes in.
(Because infertility has a weird way of making itself a part of so many life experiences...)

The at-home service that I used gave me a folder as they left. I looked inside and it was full of information about grief and resources for support. My first thought, which I yelled out loud, was WHERE WAS MY FOLDER ABOUT GRIEF FROM MY FERTILITY CLINIC??

Seriously. Wtf. A lot of IUIs do not result in pregnancy. Most rounds of IVF do not result in pregnancy. Basically, a whole lot of fucking people do not leave the fertility clinic with the hoped for result. And we are just left out in the world--hurting, confused, and unsupported. We are left to fend for ourselves, to process on our own what we just experienced, and to figure out how to live again since, even though infertility can definitely kill your spirit, it is not actually fatal.

I want to start campaigning for After Care programs at fertility clinics. I think it's completely messed up that this isn't standard procedure. I am keeping this idea in the back of my head for after I move. There are fertility clinics where I am going, and I am seriously considering visiting them and pitching my idea. (If anyone else reading likes this idea too and does anything like it in their area of the world, I would love to hear about your process and the responses you get.)

I had the rare positive experience with my fertility clinic, but even they didn't have an After Care program. There was just the final appointment where the doctor and I talked about why the last round hadn't resulted in pregnancy. She was honest that my odds were slim and asked if I was interested in exploring other options (egg donor, embryo adoption, and adoption). I told her no, that I was exhausted, and that I couldn't do it anymore but I'd come back to her if I ever felt differently because I really did trust her. She said she was sorry that I didn't get pregnant, and I told her I always appreciated her honesty and her bedside manner. She complimented me on my clarity and strength. And that was it. Nothing else. No more appointments. No follow-up phone call. No folder full of resources and information about grief.

Really, fertility industry, an After Care folder is hardly difficult or expensive to put together.

Just a few of the things included in the folder given to me after my dog passed away:

  • a handout that describes what normal grief looks and feels like (physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually)
  • a handout with five suggestions for your daily routine that help you "bring yourself back" after grief (their words, not mine)
  • a handout describing different professionals that can help with grief after losing a pet (psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, clergy members, hotlines, and website forums)
  • a list of local and online pet loss support groups
    AND
  • a whole dang booklet called Your Guide to Pet Loss that includes topics like Common Feelings After Pet Loss, Factors That Can Complicate Grief, and Taking Care of You.

I am in shock. This seems like a no-brainer. Why is there no After Care offered at fertility clinics??

*****

In closing, I will share the "ten inalienable rights after the death of a special companion animal" written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt in his book When Your Pet Dies: A guide to mourning, remembering, and healing that were printed in the guide booklet given to me. I think you will find these ten rights quite applicable to recovering from infertility. 


  1. You have the right to grieve.
  2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
  3. You have the right to feel a variety of emotions.
  4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
  5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts."
  6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
  7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
  8. You have the right to search for meaning.
  9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
  10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

💜 💜 💜  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Initial New Year Thoughts

Hello and Happy and Healthy New Year! Let's jump back into the blog. I don't want to reflect on last year too much; it was pretty much just school anyway. Some concerts, a couple of trips when on break, a lot of good meals and quality time spent with my husband. Well damn, even though 2017 was pretty rough on a global scale, 2017 was an improvement in my life. 

And now we're five days into 2018 and here are my current thoughts:

  • I do not regret skipping the family holiday celebration for the 2nd year in a row.

    I am thankful that my sisters and my aunt and uncle traveled to where I live so I got to see them. So, I didn't see everyone all together and I didn't see any of my cousins, but I did get to celebrate with family this year. I really appreciate it. Part of the reason I skipped was due to infertility. I felt like I needed another year, one more year to be more into my new life before I'm around my cousins' adorable kids again. Mostly, I skipped because I was exhausted from school and had no energy to travel. I hope to make the family celebration next year, but I have no regrets missing the last two years because it is what I needed while I was in my initial years of healing and accepting that I wouldn't be having children in this lifetime. (Just throwing that out there for anyone who might want to do the holidays differently next year)


  • I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions, but this year I am going to take care of my physical health!

    I have worked so hard on my mental and emotional health for the last two years, and I'm proud of my work. Now it is time to focus on a different aspect of my health: my physical body. While TTC, I was in pretty good shape. I ate healthy, walked regularly, and took a million vitamins and supplements. But after I quit TTC, I just needed a break. From everything. I definitely stopped taking all those vitamins and supplements. I also stopped eating healthy. In fact, I made the conscious decision to just eat whatever I wanted, so that's what I've done for the last 2 years. And, let me tell you, it has been delicious. I also have no regrets there. However, the fact of the matter is, that between all those fertility drugs and then my extended period of conscious unhealthy eating led to weight gain and muscle loss. (Again, no regrets- it's all part of the process for me.) So now I want to eat better and exercise regularly. I'm motivated by vanity a little bit, but mostly I'm motivated by function. I am going to be transferring patients soon, and I need to get stronger. So, in addition to finishing up school, I'm also going to make taking care of my physical health a priority this year.


  • I love breaks!!!

    I will miss them after I graduate from school and re-enter the world of employment. I love the opportunity to rest up, run errands when it's not crowded, and meet up with friends I haven't seen all semester. I saw two friends last week and will see two friends this week. I met them all at different parts in my life and I really value these women, who range in age from 36 to 64. I am very grateful for good conversations and laughter.


  • Speaking of laughter, one of my friends said the funniest thing.

    She is a former co-worker and we've been friends for, wow, 15 years now. (Time freakin' flies.) She's in her early 50s and her boys are in their early 20s. They are both good kids but having a difficult time adjusting to the next stage of their lives, so my friend is still heavily supporting them and parenting them as much as you can parent young men in their early 20s. Overall, she and I have very interesting conversations about having children. She loves her kids and she was (and still is) an awesome mom while they were growing up- lots of activities and sports and friends and pool parties. But she is So Thankful to be, as she calls it, "on the backside of parenting."

    One of our mutual friends had a baby a year and a half ago and I asked my friend if she had seen her. My friend said she hadn't, not since she went to her house to meet the baby. My friend continued, "I don't expect to see her. Her life just completely changed. Whenever I find out one of my friends is having a baby I'm like, 'See you in ten years!' "

    Ha!!! I thought that was so funny. My friend isn't infertile and saying she's not going to see her friend with a baby. My friend is a mom and saying she's not going to see her friend with a baby... for ten years! I mean, it's pretty much true. I've just never heard a fertile person say it. I laughed pretty hard.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lower Your Expectations

For my last post of 2017, I'd like to share some advice from my former counselor. When I was in the middle of infertility and treatments, it was gently, yet firmly, suggested to me by both my husband and my best friend to start seeing someone. They both thought I needed additional support. And if the two people I love and trust more than anything nicely suggested the same thing to me, I thought I better listen.

After my first counselor was a TERRIBLE fit (actually I would say she was a terrible counselor, but hey, maybe her style works for someone out there), I got lucky with the second counselor I tried. Very, very lucky. She was a much older woman with children and grandchildren who had never experienced infertility herself or knew anyone who had dealt with it, but she still totally got it. I learned so much from her in the year and a half I saw her. Honestly, I might still be seeing her if she hadn't retired. She was incredible. I told her, "I came for help with infertility but I stayed for the boundary education." Seriously, where was this woman my whole life? I definitely needed her help.

So. Anyway. One of the most important things she told me was to lower my expectations.

What.

I thought I was supposed to have high expectations for the people around me. I mean, if you have high expectations, people will rise to meet them, right? Nope, not necessarily.

While I was raw from infertility, I constantly got my feelings hurt. I was consistently disappointed and sad at what I perceived to be a lack of support from friends and family. When she advised me to lower my expectations, I was really surprised. I had never heard that before.

Then again... It was just another concept that infertility had turned on its head.

Have high expectations! Never give up! Everything happens for a reason!

What a bunch of bullshit we've been fed our whole lives.

So I want to share that ever since I have lowered my expectations, I have been much happier. People don't disappoint me as much because I don't have unrealistic expectations for them. I'm easier on others and I'm easier on myself. I'm not wasting as much time and energy getting my feelings hurt. Instead, I have been using my energy to grieve and move forward. It's true that there's been an almost 100% turnover of people in my life, but that's okay. That's how life goes and how relationships evolve, especially when you're walking a different path than the majority.

I don't know if that advice is helpful or not, but I wanted to share in case it is. If you found yourself angry, sad, and/or disappointed with people a lot during 2017, try taking a different approach. Try lowering your expectations. At the very least, it will free up a lot more of your energy.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Plot Twist: I Don't Like To Travel

I am one week post-final exams and I am just barely starting to feel human again. It's so weird how exhaustion affects me as I've gotten older. Now it can make me feel hungover when I haven't even had a beer. Dizzy, nauseous, unclear thinking, everything is harder than it should be. Weird.

So here I am, sitting in my PJs, feeling thankful for this time to recuperate.

*****

One of the most common things people say when they learn I don't have kids is, "Oh, you get to travel!" And this statement annoys the crap out of me. First of all, are they paying? Because as far as I know traveling costs money. Even bare bones traveling, you still gotta eat and sleep somewhere. Secondly, just because I don't have kids doesn't mean I don't have a schedule I have to keep. I have two weeks of vacation just like everyone else. Well, at least I will when I get a job after I graduate. But even for now, I have classes to go to and assignments to complete. My life is not a free for all.

But here's the thing. Here's my unpopular opinion. I don't like to travel. Hahaha, joke's on them!

I know that's not the cool thing to say. Most everyone likes to travel. You go to new places, you see and experience new things. And I've been lucky enough to be able to do some traveling throughout my life. I've been to several beaches, ski resorts, music festivals, and big cities. I even went to Europe once.

But I don't really like to travel. I don't like driving long distances or being in airplanes. Packing stresses me out. My body doesn't like eating different food. However, I make myself travel or else I would never see anything or go anywhere. I can be such a homebody haha.

I think part of it is that whole not liking the spaces in between that I wrote about several posts ago. I like being home. I like being at wherever the vacation destination is. The actual traveling part? Not so much.

I don't like to travel, but I also don't want to live here where I live anymore. I mentioned it before, I forget which post, but where I currently live is a great place to raise kids. Lots of resources, lots of activities, lots of community. But I don't feel like there's a lot for ME to do here.

So. What to do, what to do...

Can't have kids.
Don't like to travel.
Don't want to live where I planned on living for the rest of my life.

And that's why I'm moving.
This way I won't have to travel to be somewhere where I want to be.
I'll already be there because I'll live there.

I mentioned my upcoming move in my last post. It will be here so soon. I'm nervous and excited. I've been working toward it for a long time. Oh god the last six years have sucked so bad. That is such an understatement. I am so tired, but I am so close to the end. Or the next beginning.





Sunday, December 17, 2017

Another Semester in the Books

I did it. I finished another semester. I was crawling to the finish line, but I did it.

If you've read anything I've written about school, you know that I don't like it. But I'd like to say that I have grown to greatly appreciate it, separate from how it has given me something to do and work toward while working through the grief of losing my children. I have grown to appreciate school for what I'm learning and the madness of the program. Still don't love the professors, but I have learned a lot from them! I think that's more important. I don't have to like them as long as I am learning from them. Haha how mature of me.

This time last year I had just finished my first semester and it was the hardest thing that I had ever done in my life, school-wise. I was depleted and discouraged and looking at another year of straight school: spring, summer, and fall semesters of 2017. I knew it was gonna be tough. I knew I didn't have a lot in me. I knew that the previous four years of my life had already killed me. But there I was, still standing. So I just kept moving, one thing at a time.

And I did it. I did the spring semester. I did the summer semester. And I did the fall semester.
And I am exhausted. :)

I'll take a few days to rest and recuperate. Then I'm going to tackle the last of the storage unit, once and for all. I'm still keeping a lot, but I want to get it all as organized and compact as possible.

Because if life goes as planned...
(Yeah, I'm never going to be able to say that again with a straight face. Plans, ha!)

I will be moving next summer.

Wow.

A plan, over three years in the making. Set in motion exactly one week after my last IVF didn't result in pregnancy. I got the phone call, went numb, gave myself a week to cry (or rather, not cry, as I had run out of tears by that point) and stare at the wall. Then, on the 7th day, I decided we were moving. About a month after that I decided I was going back to school for a new career.

I'm really glad I didn't know what I was getting myself into. The prerequisite courses, the application process, getting the house ready to sell, looking for a rental, moving, putting the house on the market, selling it, starting school- registering, buying books, orientation, classes, studying, quizzes, tests, and projects. Yeah, I'm really glad I didn't know what I was getting myself into hahaha.

I just did everything one step at a time and didn't think about it all at once. And here I am. I can honestly say it has been worth it. Not infertility. My hard work. All of my hard work with myself and my marriage and redirecting my life and going back to school and, the biggest of them all, grieving and feeling everything that comes with grief. The hard work has been worth it and for that I am extremely grateful.

I'm glad I finished this semester and I'm glad I get a little break.

Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for encouraging and relating with me. Thank you to the other blog writers. Our blogs are the only place where I can talk freely about my life and have people understand. There is so much I don't have to explain to you, and I just really appreciate it. Thank you.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Awkward Hello

My husband and I ran into an old friend of his today. I recognized him first, pointed him out, and said that we should go say hello. So we did. They became friends in college when they worked at the same place and always stayed in touch. He's a great guy- really fun and friendly, and I love his wife.

But we hadn't seen them in almost a year, not since they shared their pregnancy news with us. We were happy for them and congratulated them. They knew we tried for years and stopped trying. The road to pregnancy was not at all easy for them either.

I don't know if they had any expectations for us, but my husband and I just kind of stepped out of the picture. We live an hour apart. They have a million friends and lots of family, and I knew our lives were going in different directions. I was invited to the baby shower but declined. If I had kids or was going to have kids, I would've loved to have continued cultivating this friendship. But I don't and I'm not so I just did what was best for me.

Anyway, I haven't talked to my husband about it, but I thought it was a little awkward. But it was nice. I'm glad we ran into him. After we saw each other and said our hellos and we were just standing there I said, "So, do you have any pics?" My husband's friend immediately beamed and said, "Do I have any pics? Hahaha." He got out his phone and scrolled through about 20 pictures of their new baby wearing adorable holiday outfits. (I didn't want to admit that I didn't know the kid's name, but you can get away with saying "How cute" and "What a perfect baby" without the new parent catching on.)

The friend was with two of his friends that we'd met before, all three of them fathers to little ones. Like I said, it was a little awkward. But everyone kept the casual conversation going for about ten minutes. As we parted ways, I asked him to tell his wife hello for me which he assured me he would.

I don't know... It was brief. It was unexpected. It was good to see him. But it was a little awkward.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Don't Count on IVF or Adoption

That's what I would tell myself if I could go back in time. I wouldn't change anything. I would still make all the same choices and stay on the same timeline and everything. But at least I'd know. At least I'd have a heads up that IVF and adoption don't always work out. Silly me, I thought everyone who wanted kids could have them, one way or another.

Five failed fertility treatments and one bankrupt adoption agency later...

I know differently.

I always wanted kids. But I always wanted kids later. I watched both my sisters get married young and have kids. They were happy thankfully, but I remember always thinking: I want my own apartment first.

So I don't have any regrets. I don't wish things had gone differently. I am actually extremely thankful. With the support of my family I got to go to college. Once I graduated and got a job, I got my own apartment. It was everything I had hoped and more. It was in a great location and it was back when I feel like things were more affordable and my friends and I had a lot of fun.

I don't regret any parties. I don't regret any late nights. I don't regret drinking beer, living off a diet of french fries and pizza, having boyfriends, going to smoky clubs, and eating greasy food and cake at two in the morning. It was fun. And it was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to work hard at my job, volunteer somewhere, and have fun with my friends.

I worked with kids and I wanted kids, just not yet. I hadn't begun dating my husband yet. It just wasn't time. And that was fine with me. I've been known to worry about almost anything, so yes I worried about infertility way before it ever even needed to be on my radar screen. But I always thought, ok, worst case scenario and I face my worst nightmare, there's always adoption and IVF.

I thought they were guaranteed.

I didn't know if I ever wanted to try medical assistance, but I knew I didn't need to birth a child for me to love him or her unconditionally. I know how much I cared about the kids I worked with and they didn't live with me. I didn't read to them or take them to baseball practice. I didn't hold their hand when they were sick. They weren't my kids. But I knew any child that was ever placed in my home would be my child.

Except, of course, that never happened.

These are not the kinds of things I want to talk about when people probe further after they've asked me if I have kids. "Have you thought about IVF?" "Have you thought about adoption?"

No, I haven't. What's that?

(I really want to try that answer out sometime. If you do, please let me know how it goes. I would love to hear.)

No, I wouldn't change anything about my life. Not the bad times or the hard times or the boring times or the making mistakes times or the really really tough lesson times. I'm thankful for how it has unfolded, for the choices I've made and mostly for good luck.

I just wish I knew that IVF fails 70% of the time. That a lot of women have done a lot of treatments and have never gotten pregnant. That it's not easy or affordable. And that it's not this fool proof solution that I thought it was.

And adoption. I didn't realize... So many things... Adoption has changed over the years. Overall, I think there are more people wanting to adopt than there are newborns available for adoption. Also, I've had a lot of different jobs over the years and the time I worked for a foster care agency really informed me of the complexities of foster care and adoption. Plus, the agency provided me with great training about working with trauma-informed children. That was and still is my most favorite job I've ever had, but it wasn't easy. And I got to go home to a quiet, stable home every day to recharge for the next day.

So, in one of those hypothetical "If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?" situations, I would tell myself: don't count on IVF or adoption.

I would encourage myself to live my life just the same. Work hard, be nice, have fun, volunteer. Make all of the same mistakes and choices. All is and will be well.

Just Don't Count On IVF Or Adoption.