Monday, March 31, 2014

there's no walk-through for this

I've been thinking about putting pen to paper on this post for several months. No matter how many times I write it in my head, I haven't been able to bring myself to actually type up the post. I'm always hesitant to put my heart on display when it comes to writing blog posts. The therapy it provides my anxious mind to sort it all out on paper, however, usually ends up far outweighing how naked it can leave me feeling. Not to mention, there's really nothing that gets my goat worse than Facebook over-posters... the use of Facebook to share your day's events (unless something spectacular/ludicrous happened), look for sympathy, or broadcast the personal (or, as it turns out, excessive pregnancy - and to a lesser extent baby - picture posting) makes a little piece of me die inside for that person.

I worry that my blogging is no different, but the wifey was quick to comfort me with the fact that anyone who has to read this has chosen to do so by clicking here from Facebook (or Pinterest, Google, etc.). People who are interested or curious can choose to dig in, and those who aren't get to skip right on by the link, never having to look at any picture or read a single thing I am feeling, thinking, or processing. So, that said, I'm going to take a giant leap of faith here and write a post that terrifies me to publish. But, this is my outlet, this is how I process. Deeply personal and emotional or not, this is who I am right now (so take it or leave it, bitches).

I knew that falling in love with my wife was going to mean a more challenging life. I don't think I anticipated, or could have anticipated, in how many different ways that would be true, but I knew the headline. I'm certain I knew what I was signing up for because it's precisely why I spent the first twenty-two years of my life avoiding it. Twenty-two years of blatantly ignoring a massive and awesome piece of who I am.

There's a lot of things about being gay that make life different. The entire world revolves around heteronormativity. Up until the last few years (and even still today, for the most part), you don't see many lesbians on television, in movies, on the news, in magazines, etc. (yes, I know, there's Ellen, of course there's Ellen). When opening up my favorite magazines I find countless articles on "how to have a romantic date night with your man" and "the best cities for single ladies to live in" (which used the ratio of men to women as its basis) but need to go online to order a subscription to "Curve" if I want to have access to the closest thing to mainstream lesbian culture - if such a things exists. While I am extraordinarily privileged to be a white person in this country, I don't see myself reflected when I turn on the TV, watch a movie, pick up a magazine, or often even listening to most of my friends, family, and colleagues idle chatter and gossip.

But that's the tamest part of it all.

When I'm in certain parts of the country, I don't feel safe holding my wife's hand walking down the street. I don't just feel uncomfortable because of funny looks and averted eyes - I actually have to wonder as I look at people if someone is going to lose their shit (verbally or, less likely but still crosses my mind, physically) on us because of who we are, who we love. We couldn't pick up and move just anywhere in the country and expect to live the same as we do and be welcomed as we are in Denver - that's just not a "luxury" we get have.

When I'm at the store - any kind of store - the clerks assume my wife is my sister, aunt, mother, friend - anything but my wife. If I'm not too annoyed or tired to bother, I'll correct them. Which is a little ridiculous considering that growing up, when I went anywhere with my brother every waitress, clerk, and person walking down the street assumed we were together without question (a whole different level of disturbing, but extremely illustrative of my point). People who make assumptions and then are ignorantly bold enough to act on them are exhausting. Just plain exhausting.

I fill out very little paperwork or surveys that ask me questions that make sense, where I can explain exactly who I am and who I'm in love with. Just today I was looking into "love languages" (don't ask) and once I told the survey I was married and female it went on to ask me 30 questions that all talked about "my husband" and how I feel about all the heteronormative things he does and doesn't do. Needless to say, I have no idea what my love language is, nor will I likely ever again make the effort to find out. Just by taking silly Buzzfeed quizzes I get be reminded of the fact that according to mainstream culture in this country I'm not "normal." Even in a quiz like "What's your ideal color?" (again, don't ask - I'm probably making that quiz up) I have to pretend I'm straight and use my imagination to figure out what my answer would be to several questions. It seems a little trivial, but it adds up - it gets old.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, however, compares with trying to have a family. While lesbian and gay parents are just as incredible as straight parents (sometimes, more so, I tend to think), God did not make it easy on us. Biologically, its complicated. It's also expensive. It's not "just like straight people but with the help of a doctor." My child can't have the biological make-up of both me and my wife.

This isn't what I was referencing, however, at the beginning of this post. It's not taboo to talk about being gay, having kids, or feeling like an unwelcome misfit in society. It is taboo to talk about infertility and miscarriages, it turns out, however. And, as a result, few people in the world, outside of those affected, have a fucking clue about how to talk about it and support you through it all. It's heartbreaking to witness and extraordinarily painful to be on the receiving end of these people.

Starting last May, my schedule has been dictated by my monthly cycle and my doctor (she's a lovely woman). With the diagnostic testing we had to do as a result of needing to have some assistance in trying to have a child, I was reacquainted with my PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I rarely, if ever, ovulate on my own. That's  a pretty critical part of making a baby, straight or gay. So, enter "infertility," stage right. As if already being two women who, by definition, were not physically able to make a baby on our own, wasn't enough - let's add infertility into the mix. Sounds like a party, right?

By October I am pretty confident I had already lost my sanity. My life was already revolving around doctor appointments and trips to the pharmacy. On a single day I can have three different alarms on my phone to remind me to take three different hormones - one of which I am lucky enough to have the pleasure of injecting into my own stomach with a nice sharp needle. If my previous blog posts haven't made this crystal clear - there is already a whole lot of crazy happening up in here... adding hormones to the mess is like putting butter on a stick of fried butter at the Minnesota State Fair. Unnecessary, and quite honestly, a little cruel.

Life had to go on. In September I missed a team retreat due to doctors appointments. In October I had to change flights several times in order to get to a doctor appointment and travel down to Birmingham for work. In November I waited until the last minute to schedule a site visit with a colleague because of the uncertainty around when I would need to be at the doctor, have tests done, and take certain medicines. I was able to be there the whole week. That month, the hormones and biological magic did their thing, and I got a positive - I was pregnant.

The day I arrived home from that trip was when I discovered I was pregnant (something that my dear teammate had already called the week before when I continued to tell her weird things I was noticing like my earring causing me inexplicable pain after a couple hours of wear). Yet, what should have been the happiest moment of our lives turned into nothing but a nightmare. The phrases "everything happens for a reason" and "if it's meant be" become cruel and insensitive punishment to someone going through infertility and miscarriage. From the very day we found out and got the positive, I knew something was wrong. As much as I wanted to celebrate and let the six trillion pounds of weight disappear off of my shoulders, I couldn't. Sure enough, within a few weeks the doctors determined it was an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy - something that there is no solution to other than induce a miscarriage (and, in many cases, have surgery to remove the entire tube...), otherwise it can kill you when the tube ruptures. Fallopian tubes, shockingly, are not made to carry babies. At just seven short weeks, in early December, I took methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, to induce the miscarriage. It was 100% certain that we weren't ever going to get to hold our little snowflake in our arms, even for a moment.

I spent the month of December in a daze. Pregnancy hormones were coursing through my body, but nurturing nothing. A situation that I couldn't control somehow managed to go even more out of my control - I didn't even think it was possible. I had another work trip, with my entire team, that started three days after I took the injection. Having already missed our previous retreat in September, I didn't feel like I could not show up or show up late. So, I did the only thing I could think of that would allow me to show up in Chicago, I shared what was going on with my teammates. I didn't know the right way to do it, I had never been on the receiving end of this kind of news except when I was in elementary school and experienced this heartache through the eyes of my own mother. I knew it wasn't something people talked about at work, but I also knew that I couldn't spend a week away from my wife with people who didn't know what was going on - I needed love like never before. It seemed a little crazy to me that people can celebrate the dickens out of people being pregnant and having babies and not be able to support someone and mourn the loss of a never-to-be-born little munchkin.

I was right, my team was incredible. My mom also came and spent the week with me - had it not been for that I quite literally may have not made it through the week. I also found out something pretty surprising in all this. I wasn't alone. Even though I felt more alone than I had ever in my whole life, there were actually people all around me that had gone through the very thing I was experiencing. They don't talk about it. Had I not put it all out there, I would have never known that two or three people that I deeply care about had at some point, some more recently than others, also gone through losing a baby. It's taboo to talk about it. People don't know how to respond - but people expect me, on the other hand, to not be bitter or envious of a seemingly never-ending stream of pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and baby celebrations. I try.

How do I feel about battling infertility after just under a year (fiddlesticks in comparison to how long many more women have struggled)? It's difficult. It tests me daily. It's exhausting. It's time-consuming. Its harder than anything I have ever tried to do in my entire life, and to top it all off, I have zero control over it. Dr. Brown and my nurse chart the course of my life each month. I've never wondered if I'm strong enough to do something up until these last nine months. Some days I don't even know who I am or whose life I'm living in the shadow of, anymore. I cry, constantly, and have become downright ugly when it comes to someone announcing that they are pregnant (although I can say with nothing but the utmost sincerity and heartfelt love that I wish them nothing but the absolute best, as no one, no one, should ever have to experience losing the potential for what their lives could mean and become).

The worst part of it, when the dust settles, is how distant I feel from my own life. While I am luckily surrounded by some absolutely incredible friends, colleagues, and family, it's not easy for them - I'm a total nut job (who cries, a lot). It's also not easy for me to constantly forgive the few choice people who somehow are always saying the wrong thing (which, if you are curious, is definitely - without a doubt, way worse than someone saying nothing at all... unless the trade-off means your pain is ignored or not even acknowledged). I don't want to be around them, because it's too painful. I miss them. I miss "life as usual" - although I'm not even sure I even know what that means anymore.

Moral of the story? Ask questions, be curious, be open, ready and willing to talk about it - no matter here's one good one) about what to say and not say if you want to take the time to better understand. The single worse thing that can happen (in my experience) is feeling like what happened or is happening to you isn't a big deal or isn't important enough to address or even mention.
how uncomfortable or clueless you are about what someone is going through when it comes to miscarriage and infertility. No matter how uncomfortable you are, the person on the other end is dealing with a whole lot more grief and confusion - they'll be forgiving. There are lots of helpful articles online (start at resolve.org). Or, short on time? Just say, "I'm sorry."

I know that one blog entry isn't going to change the world. However, I do hope that if you read this and it doesn't resonate with your own experience, you are at least a little more aware of a silent and often ignored pain that I can guarantee at least one woman in your life has likely felt. I don't want to keep this subject taboo - there's lots of little angels who deserve the same kind of love and acknowledgment as those being lovingly held in their parents arms.

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