#Start Asking: When Sadness Lingers

Every morning I wake to a reality I despise. Every morning I hope for when it’s different.

My days are a string of painful hope. I hope for spit-up on my shirt, poop in my hair, and sleepless nights tending to the screams from the nursery. I hope for the day my child shouts “I hate you!” and slams a door in my face. I know, that sounds straight-up crazy. I’m promise, it’s not (but then again, don’t have me tested!). It’s simply that I’m infertile. Waiting for motherhood is painful.

One in eight couples face the painfully hopeful reality of infertility. Infertility is complicated andconfusing. It’s more than an unfortunate circumstance or an ambiguous winding road though; it’s a disease. I love how clearly this infographic (scroll to bottom of the webpage) from Fertility Centers of Illinois shows some of the lesser known facts about infertility. All of us on this road constantly hope for that fat-cheeked squishy blob, spelled B-A-B-Y, to someday fill the space we already have for them in our hearts. That hope is knit so tightly through the pain that often it’s indistinguishable.

This week I set out to write an awe-inspiring post for the National Infertility Awareness Week Bloggers Unite Challenge. I hit a brick wall with that post. Most of it is now in the trash. I realized that it was better to write about a topic that resonates with my current phase of experience. This thing I need to say is not glamorous or remarkable in the way I hoped my post would be. But it’s honest.

There is another disease that often complicates the struggle of infertility. It’s called depression. The theme of the 2016 NIAW is #StartAsking. See that hand right there in the middle of that picture? It’s mine. I’m infertile. I’m depressed. I need to start asking for more support. I struggled with depression for many years before I was diagnosed with infertility issues. I will likely struggle with it long after I hold my sweet child on that someday I hope awaits us. For me, depression was pre-existing to infertility. But it can come on during, after, or without infertility as the niaw-cover-image-6complication it is in my case. Depression is a serious medical condition and it’s never alright to ignore the symptoms. Infertility is full of sadness and grief. This is normal to an extent and it’s important to know the difference and take action if you identify a concerning pattern of sadness that doesn’t go away. It’s always best to get evaluated if you feel you may have depression and to start asking for help from people you trust.

In my experience, the infertility struggle heightens depression symptoms, so I have to keep myself well aware of when the sadness lingers. This past winter was especially difficult for me and the fogginess has yet to lift. I’ve been bogged down for a long stretch now. I could easily blame the slow-going midwestern spring, and I’m sure that is a factor. It is far from the only thing I need to monitor and factor into my emotional locution. While I use medication to treat the depression and have been in talk-therapy since I was a teenager, the reality of infertility has added a new dimension to depression for me. I’m still training myself how to manage this added element. It as if there is a monster who hides in a dark closet waiting, with his giant straw, to slurp the joy from anything that might fill my cup. 

I’d love for those of you who find your cup emptied by this same giant-straw-wielding monster (be it depression or infertility or the dreadful combination of the two) to comment and tell me you need support too. It will take a Brave Soul to speak up about this. But us Brave Souls have to stick together, don’t we?

There are two equally important sides to the equation of support. There is the place where you seek support and the place where you give it. The beautiful thing about the answer to this equation is you: your ability to be on both sides of the equation is limited only by your willingness to raise your hand. It’s not a simple equation to solve because support needs for each person’s unique situation tend to shift through the unpredictable waves in the sea of life. There are no equal signs or correct answers in the equation of support. Addressing the issue of developing and participating in healthy support systems that can adapt to the continually changing needs we have when we deal with both infertility and depression is so very vital. (Healthy support systems are necessary even if it is one or the other.) No matter which side of the equation you are on, I’ve learned there is always something you can to do to make someone’s next day with infertility a little brighter. It’s tempting to isolate and go inward when dealing with such heavy things. That temptation is as strong as it is dangerous. I’ve been reconciling with my own version of this temptation for the last few months. As I’ve opened up a new phase of my struggle with the Faith & Family Building series on the blog, I’ve found support I didn’t know was out there. So far, it’s been well worth the risk!

startasking-for-support

Seeking Support

Waiting until your eyes adjust to the dark usually the only way you can manage to find the light switch. Infertility is full of emotions and questions. Whether you have just begun your journey or you are on your way to adjusting to the dark, there are many different stages of the struggle to flip the switch. We who so desperately need the light switched on are often overwhelmed by the big decisions, treatment plans, and financial considerations that come with infertility. Some of us go at it all “alone” too long. I know I have. I’ve kept a pretty tight upper lip and a brave face. Honestly though, because we’re constantly asking people to help us fund our dream, most days it feels like I do nothing but ask for support. I hold out my hat every day begging for a baby. This tattered hat has seen better days. I’m starting to learn that asking for more help is really the only way to keep going.

Giving Support 

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know someone who lives with or is affected by the painful hope infertility causes. Have you asked how you can support them? It’s not the easiest conversation to start. Supporting friends or family members dealing with infertility is daunting because there is still so much the average population doesn’t know/understand about infertility. Spend some time poking around at resolve.org. This organization has changed the conversation around infertility. The linked page is a good spot to find a little direction for your conversations with family & friends facing tough family building !decisions. If you’re already comfortable enough on your own – then simply go and start asking how you can offer support. The answer will different for every couple; different paths to parenthood certainly have different support needs. I can assure you, is something you can offer to help that person you know feel less alone. It doesn’t need to be a big thing. Simply a “thinking of you” card timed during a cycle of IVF or a quick “hoping with you” text for a family waiting for their little one means more than you might ever imagine.

 

700 Days

Bit by bit our gestational surrogacy journey is taking shape. I’m constantly living in new states of awe-maze-met with the blessings we are experiencing on this bizarre and beautiful path to parenthood. There have been bumps in the road as well. The bumps have provided opportunity for us to reevaluate, reeducate, and renew our decision along the way. I’m learning the balance of it, finding a rhythm to how it will continue this path of tiny little trails or big daunting roads that we must to walk to the end so we can see the next step. It takes a lot of energy emotionally. I wish there was a “skip” button so we could move it along to the end. At the same moment though, I want to cherish every step because once walked, they are paths we may never travel again. The waiting it so difficult as there are still so many unknowns. We are learning so much about this world of Assisted Reproductive Technology and Third Party Reproduction and when I think about how much I knew when we were launched into this world, I’m amazed at my ability to take it all in and be where I am with it today. Merely stating that I’ve learned a lot doesn’t do justice to the knowledge I’ve gained roughly in 700 days.

Seven hundred days!! My estimate is rough but  at this point two years (730 days) ago we were still in the beginning of finding out our unique fertility challenges and hoping beyond hope that I would be able to carry our baby myself or at least that I would have DNA to contribute to it’s being. It simultaneously feels like that was a lifetime ago and yesterday. We know so much more now than we did 700 days ago, yet in some ways we have some much left to learn. I stop. I wonder. Where will we find ourselves 700 days from now?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot on the fact that this journey may not go as quickly as we’d initially hoped. We have a very sizable financial goal to meet and while we are doing well with the fund-gathering efforts we’ve put forth thus far, the money bit is simply slow going. I often find myself wishing that an extraordinarily wealthy benefactor would drop down out of the sky and give us exactly what we need so we could get started tomorrow. Truthfully, in a deep down hoping place which has developed on this journey and has learned and works hard not to place any expectations or limitations on the dream, I believe that could eventually happen. We have come across such brilliant generosity financially to date. When I sit with that generosity, it overcomes me and sometimes I get giddy, sometimes weepy, and sometimes even completely mushy. Reality check: an extraordinarily wealthy benefactor will probably not be the way we will reach our goal. Our fund-gathering efforts have been so purpose-FULL and wonder-FULL that my heart can hardly contain the excitement I have for our next phase of fund-gathering plans!!!

Seven hundred days ago, I didn’t even have a vision in place for Team Dream Baby. I didn’t even know I’d need that vision yet. Here we are though, and today, as that vision changes and develops with each step of our journey, I must admit my heart gets so overfilled when I think about all the Brave Souls who have joined our journey thus far. My gratefulness is already unending and I cannot begin to imagine how much space I will need in my heart for all of it as we go forward. Reality check: my heart cannot actually burst from an overflow of gratefulness.

To all the Brave Souls who are already here: To all the Brave Souls who will join us soon:

Please know, each of you who plays a part on Team Dream Baby is uniquely cherished as the realization of our dream takes shape. We very literally could not be here without you and we are both endlessly grateful for your support and love!!!!

I want to take a brief moment before we officially launch our next planned event to welcome my wonderful new friend Brooke to Team Dream Baby in the most official way I’ve got. Here on the blog! (That makes it super official, right? RIGHT!) So, without further ado, Brave Souls, will you welcome Brooke with me? She’s our new Fabulous Fund Finding Coordinator (f3c) and based on our first few meetings and plans so far, I’m beyond excited about the energy and passion she brings to the Team.

Brooke and her husband Joe (whom I haven’t actually even met yet) were merely friends of friends a few months ago. They have an energetic four year old son, who was miraculously conceived after their own struggle with infertility. Brooke learned about our Team Dream Baby story slowly over the summer as I was often around the group of people who hung out in our mutual friend’s neighborhood.  She started reading the blog and instantly knew she wanted to be a part of our team. It’s amazing all of the ways she’s encouraged and changed our story in such a short time. She’s now working along side me to put a bunch of our plans into action. Her generosity seems to know no limits. Thanks Brooke, for all you’ve done so far. You’re pretty awe-mazing to me!! Here’s to the next 700 days!!