Monday, June 2, 2014

the first time I didn't cry

Getting the words out of my mouth in order to tell the story of my life right now is not easy. It has been difficult for many, many weeks, but the last four have been, without a doubt, the absolute toughest.

Most people knew I was having surgery, so of course, being kind, caring and thoughtful people, many people asked me how it went - emails, calls, and texts all asking how I was doing, how I was feeling, how everything went. The outcome of the surgery was so unexpected I didn't prepare anyone for the answer to that question being anything worse than maybe, "having a very painful recovery - body isn't healing quite like I'd hoped." But that was not the answer I was able to give anyone. It was false. I wasn't just in physical pain. Something had gone horribly wrong and no amount of rest and pain medication was going to help it go away.

Too many people feel forced to keep the subject of infertility and the pain and grief that comes along with the diagnosis to themselves... once I started putting my heart out on the table (or internet, I suppose) for everyone to see, hear, and experience, I got such a warm reception from so many people either going through something similar, with friends and family going through it, or just happy to be a support and empathize - ready and willing to listen to me yell, scream, or just cry. I'm finding my strength in sharing my story, in being open, and being vulnerable. I have no control over this. This is beyond my sphere of influence, my wisdom, my power. In surrendering my struggles, frustration, and quite frankly, utter devastation to anyone who is willing to listen, I am finding my voice. I hope it helps others find theirs. I'm acknowledging that I have no control over this situation and that it, quite frankly, sucks hard. There isn't a hippie vegan diet, work-out regimen, form of yoga, acupuncture, or anything else I can do to heal myself or mitigate this diagnosis. There isn't a 1%, 0.01% or even 0.00001% chance that I could naturally conceive a child, no matter what crazy fad I try.

I tried a lot of crazy things over the last year, ignorant to the fact that nothing was going to help. There was the eating of pineapple cores (eaten like corn on the cob, and once even pureed into a lovely sorbet), the banning of sweet potatoes for weeks at a time (which, if you know me, is a big deal), hokie pokie fertility yoga and meditation ("...there is a golden glow emanating from your uterus..." seriously lady), and many other things I can't even remember.

Why can't I remember, you ask? Probably because I would do them in the middle of the night during bouts of insomnia in which I spent hours pouring over online trying to conceive forums where people talk in acronyms ("DH and I BDed CD12 - I Oed CD13 hoping AF won't show up, TTC 3 years"), say things like "baby dust," agonize over symptoms like "my right kneecap is fluttering - am I pregnant?" and talk about bodily functions and fluids with a little more candor than most of world's population is comfortable with - including doctors and nurses. I think I once drank half a gallon of cranberry juice at 2:15am to try and make up for the all-consuming panic that had taken me over after realizing I had accidentally consumed caffeine earlier that night.

Before I move on, I should note, my right kneecap DID flutter.

But just because this is an uncomfortable topic, it doesn't mean I should be silent. It doesn't mean that I should only share my sadness with my wife, my mom, and BFF. When someone is grieving about the loss of someone or something, society supports them, loves them, and cares for them. Any infertility diagnosis means some kind of loss, especially one of this magnitude. And with my miscarriage (and now with this diagnosis of sterility), even though I never got to post pictures of a (only-cute-to-me-because-I'm-the-momma-and-that's-ok) son or daughter on facebook, it doesn't mean I didn't experience the death of a child - the loss of the life we had already begun picturing with our little snowflake. Still, infertility and miscarriage are not to be discussed or brought up unless behind closed doors, in private conversations. There is an army of women and their spouses grieving over the loss of a life - lives - that most of the world doesn't even count as valuable enough to allow open, loving, and supportive dialogue around.

My experience is not everyone's. There are millions of stories out there that are similar and yet so different, so full of emotion, and so unknown. Someone has to start talking.

love from the wifey on my first
work trip after the surgery
I didn't shy away from sharing the diagnosis and outcome of my surgery with those who asked how I was feeling. I was feeling awful - bursting with sadness, what would be the reason to lie? To keep this whole subject taboo? So I told people my diagnosis as if I was someone sharing a diagnosis of any other kind of disease. I managed to choke out, through waterfalls of tears, the fact that physically I was not doing great, but the emotional side of things is what is hurting the most. That over half my yearly salary stands between my wife and I's ability (or chance, rather) to have a family, raise a child, and have the life that I had imagined since I was old enough to remember.

Day after day I shared the news. Day after day I cried. But every time I openly shared my diagnosis, I definitely didn't feel worse. I felt empathy and love being sent my way. I got texts and messages, sometimes out of the blue from people I rarely see or spend time with, overflowing with care and support. I was able to answer questions that people had never been able to ask about someone going through something like this before. I started the conversation.

One day, about three weeks after my surgery, I was sharing what was happening with me with a close former teammate and after I got the whole thing out, I realized something shocking. I wasn't crying. I had managed to tell her my story, my update, my "news," without sobbing. My voice cracked, I wavered on the edge of tears, but I didn't cry. As sad and uncomfortable as tears can feel (to me and to others) - they heal. I was making progress. I was finding a way to cope through starting a conversation and sharing my story - one that is not nearly as rare we are lead to believe. I have cried telling my story since, and will continue to. The tears are far, far from over, but I'm figuring out how to find some semblance of strength and perseverance in the shadows of some ugly and challenging beasts.

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