Fears and doubts

Today A Calm Persistence wrote a post where she talks about self-doubt, wondering if she is going to be a good mom, and if this might be why she doesn’t have a baby yet. This thought is something that’s been hiding out in the back of my mind for a long time. It’s not the kind of worry that pushes to the front and forces you to think about it often, but instead hides out where you don’t notice it, waiting to pop out at you when you’re not expecting it. It usually pops out at me when I’m already feeling insecure to begin with.

Really, there are so many things I’m unprepared for. What if I somehow manage to make it through infertility, just to find out that I’m a terrible mother? I feel like I can handle the baby years. Having a newborn sounds like a ton of work and unbelievably exhausting, but predictable. I know I’ll feel overwhelmed, and only get a few hours of sleep a night, and I’ll be excessively worried about whether I’m doing it all right. But these are all predicable struggles. It’ll be tough but do-able. What terrifies me is what comes after. Raising a child.

What if I can’t manage to discipline my kids and they run wild? What if I yell too much, or say no too much, or pass on my most terrible qualities? What if I’m too terrified of something bad happening to them that I can’t let them out of my sight? What if I’m too self-centered and can’t put my own needs behind theirs? What if there are social situations that trigger my anxiety and I fail them instead of fighting the anxiety and handling things head-on?

Some days I’m so worried about these things, and so sure that I’m not capable of it all, that I can convince myself that I’m not supposed to be a mom. That infertility is the universe’s way of saying that it isn’t meant to be. Some things just tend to work out for the best, and maybe it is actually for the best that I can’t have a baby, even though I can’t see right now. Isn’t my desire to have a child just a selfish instinct in the end? Maybe I should be thinking more of the best interests of my potential child rather than my selfish need to have a baby.

The rational part of me knows that this can’t all be true; so many people have kids and have no clue what they’re doing. They parent entirely by instinct (which may or may not be good instinct), with no intentionality or thought-process. I may have no experience yet, but I’ve spent so much time thinking about how I would parent. I’ve thought about what I would do in different types of situations, or how I would handle circumstances that come up. I’ve thought about how I would discipline them, how we would spend time together, even what foods they’d be allowed to eat or not eat. I’ve had 3 years to think about this since we started trying, but really, I’ve been thinking about these kinds of things ever since I started babysitting in middle school. I may end up being wrong about all of it, but just having put that much thought into parenting must give me some sort of head-start, right?

I know that these types of fears are normal for first time parents (or wanna-be parents in my case). But, infertility adds a particular kind of edge to the worries. We’ve spent massive amounts of time, money, and effort to end up with a child. If we finally get there and then fail, it seems like an extra special kind of failure. Not only did we fail our child, we also spent tons of time, money, and effort to have the opportunity to fail. Pretty pathetic. Plus, we have all this time to worry about the choices we’re going to make. When you decide to have a baby and get pregnant quickly, you only have so much time to freak out before it’s too late. We get endless amounts of time to worry about our potential abilities as parents before it ever becomes an issue.

At the moment, there isn’t much I can do about any of this; I’m not giving into the worries and giving up, but the thoughts will still be there hiding out and waiting for my low moments to pop back out.

 

 

 

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Resurfacing

It’s been a few days since my period ended, and I guess I’ve bounced back from the low point of the TWW. Although bouncing back is probably not the right metaphor. It’s more like I was pulled under, and now I’ve resurfaced. I really hate this pattern, and I so wish it didn’t have to be this way. Which has really gotten me thinking a lot over the last few days. This will probably be a pretty serious post, I have some stuff I need to get out of my head and onto ‘paper’. Sorry to drag any patient readers into my head, but I’m hoping if I write it all down I can possibly move past it a little. I guess we’ll see.

So, the hardest part of the past (almost) three years of infertility have been my lack of patience with how long this whole thing is taking. Every month that goes by, and really, every day, feels like a million years of waiting. I’ve described this as impatience, but the more I think about it, it has to be more than that. Impatience is when you can’t wait to go on vacation, or can’t hold off on eating desert until after dinner. This is definitely more than that. When I think about another month of not being pregnant, I feel lost and helpless. If I think of having to wait another year, I’m downright disgusted at the idea. So, I asked myself if I knew I would have a baby for certain at the end of five years, could I wait that long? The obvious answer is yes, because that’s the whole point here, right? But the idea of having to wait that long, even knowing it would work out in the end, is extremely uncomfortable to me.

The more I thought about this, the more I started to realize how ridiculous and irrational it is. There is every reason to think that I will have to wait a lot longer before I manage to have a baby. Maybe I could get pregnant this month, but even if I did, it would probably end in another miscarriage. Most likely I will have at least one more miscarriage, and so even if I do go on to have a normal pregnancy at some point, it will be a long time before I have the baby. If we decide to move on and adopt, it will definitely be at least a year and probably much longer. So, this whole process would just be so much more bearable if I could accept the fact that its going to be a long time and expect it. In other words, I would be much better off if I could start playing the long game. Thinking about things from the perspective that I will have a baby at some point, and a few months here or there shouldn’t matter as long as I get there in the end.

But honestly, even knowing how much easier things would be that way, and knowing it’s the rational approach, I hate the idea of it. It feels like giving in. It feels like, if I say I’m okay with it taking 5 years, it definitely will take that long. It feels extremely uncomfortable to me to think about days and weeks and months to come with no progress. This tells me that I have some weird stuff going on inside my head, and I need to try to sort it all out or I’m just asking for trouble each month.

So, as all of this has been rolling around in my head for the past few days, I’ve been trying to figure out why I have this irrational fear of waiting for a baby. I think somehow I’ve gotten to the point where I beleive that my value as a person is based on my ability to reproduce. This is surprising to me because it goes against everything I was raised to beleive, and it goes against everything I’ve done with my life up to this point. I was not raised to beleive that being a mom was the most important thing I could do. I was pushed to have an important career and do something valuable or impressive in the world. When I met my husband, I made it clear that I would always work and my career would have to be as important as his. In fact, up until a few years ago, I was probably too far to the opposite extreme, in the sense that I was determining my entire value as a person on my ability to be successful as an academic. This is something I had to work on pretty hard with a therapist, because I felt that I was failing at my job, and thus had no value. There’s much more to that story, but ultimately I think I moved past it to a large degree, and I’ve tried to get to a place where I can just be happy with doing a good job at a job that I enjoy, and not worry about being competitive or impressing people.

But, I think in the process I might have gone too far to the other side. After grad school I took a job that isn’t competitive and doesn’t make me a huge ball of anxiety. I’m a happier person and I’m glad I did it, but I’m struggling with feeling like what I’m doing isn’t impressive, and that people will think I’ve failed. Basically, my anxiety now is that people will think I’m a failure, and so I’ve tried to find something else to give me value instead.  And that something became having a baby. If I’m not going to be a high powered driven academic, then it would at least be justified if I had a bunch of kids and was an amazing mom. It would give me a purpose and a value that I apparently feel I’m missing. I think I was holding out, thinking that it was okay that I didn’t have an important, impressive job because soon I’d have kids and that would make it all worth it. But instead, I just ended up with neither.

Rationally, I think this is all ridiculous. No one, including me, should need to have an impressive career or kids to be valuable. I’m a good friend, I have a great husband and family, I do useful and fun things with my life. But for some reason none of that feels like enough.  I wish I knew how to change my attitude about this. I’m hoping that putting it all out there and shining the light on it will make me see how dumb I’m being. Honestly I think it’s so important that I get past this because having kids isn’t going to suddenly fix all my problems either. I need to be happy with myself and my life, or what kind of role model would I be for my kids? Hopefully I can start to rethink things a little, and if I’m lucky, maybe it will make it just a little easier to handle the (probably inevitable) wait that’s still to come.

Facebook and masochism

I’ve never been a particular fan of physical pain. I mean, who is really? So, why is it that when it comes to emotional suffering, I’m a glutton for punishment? Specifically I’m referring to the extra special pain that is facebook. Since joining the blog world, the impression I get is that people in the infertile ladies club are smart enough to avoid pregnancy-book (yes, I’ve renamed it). I however, seem to have absolutely no sense of self protection.

Before my miscarriages, and actually, up until #3 or 4, I rarely went on facebook. It just wasn’t my thing. It’s partially related to my social anxiety, when I see all these people having witty conversations and having so many friends, it’s a definite trigger for me. It was just easier to avoid it altogether. But in the last few months I’ve been on facebook every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. And I hate every minute of it, but I go right back for more.

Part of it is that I like to be prepared. Forewarned is forearmed, right? So I keep an eye out for anyone who’s a prime target for impregnation. That way the moment they announce, I’ll know it. I’ll know it before there’s any risk whatsoever of being surprised and caught off guard. I won’t have to risk the casual run-in at starbucks, or the mention from a mutual friend (and the subsequent covering of tears). This has happened to all of us, and I’d always rather find out in my own home, where I can scream, or cry, or run for the wine supply. But, then, why do I keep following these happy pregnant people in all their happy pregnant people glory long after anything good can come from it?

I have one friend in particular I’ve been following as she’s blogging about her idyllic pregnancy. She’s the wife of my husband’s closest friend from college, and after #4, we came out with it and told them about our issues. They knew we had been planning to try, and figured something was wrong since 2 years had passed. They were relatively compassionate, and we told them we might just end up adopting. My husband’s friend told us he really just couldn’t imagine adopting. He really wanted to have kids, but if they couldn’t be his own, it just wasn’t worth it. It was perfectly good for us though. Well that’s a great sentiment for people who probably can’t have kids of their own, thanks. They ended the conversation by telling us that they were planning to start trying any minute.

Five months later we were expecting a call from them any minute. Sure enough, they called to say they had gotten pregnant on try number three. They were only 8 weeks, but despite having heard everything we’d been through they still felt comfortable enough to tell everyone they knew. I mean, these people just have such a trust in their own perfect bodies that our problems were clearly a result of something substandard about us that could never touch them (yes, I know this is unfair, but it’s how it comes across). Since then, she’s been blogging about said perfect pregnancy. Yes, she’s had some morning sickness, but besides that the biggest problem she’s had is that she’s gained an amount of weight that is perfectly well within the recommended range. Man, life is rough.

So once a week I know she’ll be updating her blog with all the absolutely necessary information for everyone to know about her pregnancy (wedding ring on or off? Belly button in or out?), and back I go. I don’t ‘happen’ to see this, I go to facebook specifically to see it. I believe the word for this is masochism.

One of her blog posts recently was about the ‘wisdom’ she’s learned from pregnancy. I mean, what the f***?? You’ve managed to fertilize an egg and keep it implanted in your uterus for 6 months (granted it appears to be harder to accomplish that we would have thought), but wisdom??? Her wisdom, as it turns out, was to relax, trust your body and trust god. Apparently, the fact that it took her 3 months to get pregnant was shocking and upsetting to her. She was starting to get very frustrated and wonder why god was making it so hard for her. Then after 3 months, she decided to just relax and let god handle it. And low and behold, she got pregnant!!  Miracle of miracles, a young healthy fertile woman got pregnant in three months. She definitely discovered the magical solution, and now we can all learn from her awesome guidance.

Today she posted her maternity photos, looking absolutely perfect in her beautifully decorated nursery, and there I was eating it up. I have no idea what I get out of upsetting myself like this, but I’m sure I’ll be back for it next time too.

Wait, somebody might actually read this???

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So, I started writing this blog last night and woke up this morning to see that all of TWO people had already viewed it. A whole two people you say? Why would I be surprised by that? This might sound ridiculous, but I don’t think I really expected anyone to actually care enough to read it. So, even though this is supposed to be a blog about my disfunctional uterus, since I’m attempting to be honest here I might as well say that I also happen to have social anxiety. Part of which is a serious lack of belief that anyone will actually pay attention to or care what I have to say about anything. It’s also why I don’t plan to give my name or tell anyone I know about this blog. I’m explaining this now, both because it’s a pretty big part of my life, and because it will probably help to explain a lot of the weird and irrational ways that I have handled infertility.

I should say that I am pretty high functioning with my anxiety at this point in my life. I struggled for years and years having absolutely no idea that anything was unusual about my constant fear of rejection and humiliation. I originally went to therapy because I was having problems in my relationship with my husband (which were clearly my fault, not an issue that needed couples counseling). It only took one session before my therapist figured out that anxiety was the real problem. Oddly enough, I could use phrases like ‘I suck in social situations’, but it had never occurred to me that this could be social anxiety. In fact, when I told my husband about my therapy session, his reaction was “well of course, you have social anxiety”. As if he’d known all along and just assumed I knew because it was so obvious. I guess that’s what they call denial! It had gotten so bad that the only person I actually felt comfortable with was my husband, I religiously avoided making phone calls, and I spent days stewing with worry over social activities I couldn’t get out of.

Like others I’ve heard about, my anxiety doesn’t take the form of shyness. If you see me in public, you’d think I’m comfortable and even outgoing. But this is actually a facade that requires constant work and a massive amount of energy. In fact, one of my biggest fears is people figuring out that I have this problem, and that I’m uncomfortable around them. So I make any and all efforts to appear confident and natural when I talk to people. Very rarely is this the case, usually I’m over-thinking every single thing I say and worrying that you think I’m boring and a waste of your time.

Anyways, I spent a couple years in therapy, eventually tried medication, and both have helped enormously. I no longer feel like anxiety runs my whole life, and I have friends that I feel my interactions with are mostly real. The social anxiety is so deeply rooted and part of my identity though that it will probably always influence my thoughts and actions in weird ways. I still hate talking on the phone, I start shaking with nerves when I have to walk in to a party (even family get-together’s or at close friends houses), and I avoid going alone to places I’ve never been before.

All of this is to say, its a huge deal to put myself out there in the world, even anonymously. I’m fairly certain this will blow up in my face and I’ll be ‘outed’ on multiple accounts as an infertile social weirdo. But I promised to be honest and real (for once in my life),  and maybe this will reach someone feeling like their anxiety can’t ever improve (I’m proof it can) and have a positive effect.