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LESSONS LEARNED: Survival tales
a blog by Maya Moskin, February 21, 2014
December 2013 officially marked three years of living on what I call IF Island. Imagine Hawaii sans the sunshine, surfers, and smiles. IF Island is not a place anyone would choose to inhabit, but after no luck conceiving the old fashioned way, and no luck conceiving with the help of doctors and donors and dollars (oh my!), here we are.
My husband Noah and I met over 14 years ago. For the first decade of our relationship we practiced not getting pregnant. When I turned 30, we felt it was time to start trying. And try we did. At 31 I was diagnosed with Diminished Ovarian Reserve. Though I was considerably young in the infertility world, my ovaries were not. They were pushing fifty. So we moved quickly into the world of A.R.T. where I had two IUI’s, one IVF with my own eggs, and one IVF with my sister’s donated eggs. Now we also have Diminished Cash Reserve, and I have yet to be pregnant.
Over the past three years, we’ve gained an extensive education in the art, science, and miracle it is to be born. Noah and I feel as though we have PhD’s in human reproduction and all the emotional and psychological trauma that accompanies not being able to reproduce the way typical humans do. Though millions of couples struggle with infertility, you just can’t imagine being one of them, until you are. Infertility is a life altering juggernaut that can overwhelm the mental, emotional, physical, financial and relational aspects of ones life. Everything is impacted. Life feels on hold. Relationships can suffer. Add a ridiculous amount of hormones to the mix and you’ve got yourself a one way ticket to Crazy-ville.
My mission over these past three years has not only been trying to solve the puzzle of how we are going to create our family, but it has also been to find ways to stay sane and grounded. What doesn’t kill us does in fact make us stronger, and sometimes it even makes us better. Though there are few things that are consistent in the world of infertility, here are five things I’ve learned to be true:
1) I will be a mother (some how, some way). Noah and I have had to redefine our idea of what makes a family, and how that family can be made. We’ve had to come to terms with the possibility of not having a biological child and we’ve had to let go of any past resentments and future expectations. It hasn’t been easy, but with a combination of acceptance and flexibility we’ve been able to adjust our goal post. We know that babies exist, and that we can get one. Love is what ties a family together, not a shared predisposition to flat feet or curly hair.
2) I don’t have to pretend I’m okay. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. And what I’ve learned is that one of the most important things I can do is take care of myself and my husband. Sometimes that means avoiding a baby shower. Sometimes that means treating myself to a massage and a decadent slice of cake. Sometimes that means crying it out. But always remembering to do so without self-judgment or criticism.
3) Sometimes I have to make the best worst choice and move on. There are so many question marks and so many “what-ifs” on IF Island. There is so much disappointment and heartache, but on top of all of it, there can’t be regret. We have spent over three years and nearly $40K on invasive and expensive procedures that have not resulted in a baby. On our first IVF cycle, the doctor aspirated three good quality eggs, all of which fertilized beautifully, and then fell apart in the dish. Some times things fall apart. We had nothing to transfer and we were devastated, but I don’t regret that we tried, it’s all part of our process.
4) Even though I’m told parts of my body are dysfunctional, my body is still an incredible thing! Going through various A.R.T. procedures created an abusive relationship between me and my body. So much so that there were times I actually felt that we were two separate things. My body wasn’t working for me. I was frustrated. I injected massive amounts of medication into my body and it still wasn’t working the way I wanted. All I had to show for my efforts were 10 extra pounds. When I started to shift my focus onto all that my body was doing for me, I started appreciating myself more and taking the time to feel grateful that I could feel cozy fleece socks against my cold toes, or taste the sweetness of a summer peach. I began to practice being more mindful of all the positive experiences my body allowed me to have, and I carry that with me every day. I started practicing yoga religiously and began to cultivate patience and flexibility on and off the mat.
5) Nothing stays the same. It just doesn’t. One day I’ll be watching my child throw a full blown tantrum and I’ll remember the dark infertility years. It will be part of my past, but the lessons learned will be forever part of my present.
As a veteran in the world of infertility, I have truly learned a lot. I’ve learned about patience and determination. About how to hold two opposite feelings—like disappointment and hope—at the same time. I’ve learned how to grieve the loss of something that never was but could have been. I’ve learned about my body and my thought process, my relationship and the way I make decisions. I’ve learned that it’s a freakin’ miracle anyone is ever born, and with that, I’ve learned how to have gratitude for all that I do have.
In this blog, I’m going to share my Lessons Learned. I write as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a psychotherapist, a yoga teacher, an infertility survivor, and an eventual mother. I hope that last one comes soon.