Visited by my old self

The strangest thing happened at 4 a.m.: My old self came to visit me.

I woke up and began uncontrollably crying. It felt like the bad old days, when sobbing uncontrollably was nearly a daily (or nightly) occurrence. I went to DH immediately (he was sleeping in the living room due to snoring) and he held me. The dream I’d been having surfaced: It was my cats again, the ones I gave to my ex-husband to care for when we separated. “They were just little creatures. They couldn’t have understood. We were so attached to one another. They must have felt abandoned. I abandoned them!” Deep, deep sobs. And then I started talking about how I see people like my beloved Ma-Maw at the nursing center every day and I think: Ma-Maw is going to die soon, and I haven’t been with her; why am I here and not there with her? And I talked about how I have lived more or less away from my family (I’m in NY, they are in OH) for a decade, seeing them rarely, missing them sorely, but not keeping in touch as much as I should. “I’ve abandoned them, too!” I said at 4 a.m. “My parents have needed me, and I haven’t been there!” And then my mind spun to what is probably the blood-bulb core. “I need my mom! I want to be able to hug her and talk to her face-to-face. I’m scared about what we’re going to do [DE IVF] and I just want her to comfort me. I have no one here. We’re isolated out here on this island. I miss my family!”

Whew. Now I feel more or less fine, but I know that those thoughts and feelings are humming in my background these days. I keep thinking about being pregnant without my family and friends around, and spending the first year of my child’s life out here on this island without them, and I get a sad-and-alone feeling. But of course I am thinking way too far ahead. There is no baby yet (and who knows what will happen) and we might not have to stay out here that long, if DH finds a job back in the Midwest sooner.

Another thing happened recently that I think contributed to the 4 a.m. feelings. I read a blog post I loved entitled Why I hate nature shows. It reminded me so much of the way I felt when writing the post No escape a year ago (I can’t believe it was a year ago!). I realized that I really am not there anymore, in my heart or mind, that I have become, through very hard work, and through the hope of DE, free of that feeling that I cannot escape. I look at baby photos, now. I congratulate people. I join in conversations about children and parenting. I don’t feel personally punctured by the sight of pregnant women. I can watch pretty much anything, now, in terms of movies and television shows. But I had the thought while reading this woman’s blog post, and after rereading mine: I never want to forget that pain. I want to always be able to empathize genuinely with that experience. I want to honor it, and use it to help others. 

Maybe I had this thought because of what happened a couple of mornings ago. I was listening to an NPR program about a girl in Bangladesh who lost five of her family members, including her mother, when the factory they worked in collapsed. This girl also lost her limbs. I had a thought something along the lines of: Your suffering has been nothing compared to the suffering of this girl. But I stopped short and became angry with myself. Because comparing the pain of infertility to the pain of this little girl is like comparing apples and oranges, and it does not honor the IF experience. That is lazy thinking,  I thought. The kind of thinking of others’ that used to hurt you so. It’s like saying to an infertile woman: “Well, at least you don’t have cancer!” It is not a helpful perspective, and more than that, it is not valid.

So interesting, these changes I am going through. I want to write more, but I have to go to work.

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  1. I totally understand. And even getting pregnant does not make the old feelings go away. The good thing about doing DE is that you very likely will end up with a child, and with several frozen embryos. If I had gotten pregnant from regular IVF, I’m not sure I’d ever put myself through that again (not to mention I’d worry about getting older and not having success the next time). With my five frozen blasts, I don’t have to feel quite as bitter when I see my friends getting pregnant so easily one, two, or three times. The babies and baby photos do take on a less depressing and personally wounding tone now. It’s sort of liberating. But, I always want to honor the experience and those still in it. There will be no complaining loudly about pregnancy or making it a topic of conversation around those without kids. I’m still figuring out these complicated feelings. I think it’s ok to be unnerved by the changes.

    • We have a lot in common in the way we experience these things. I can only imagine how reassuring it is to have those five embryos awaiting, and one growing—but do feel I am getting a taste of it already, just knowing that I am going to embark on something with such a high success rate. Everything gets…calmer. But then you still have the feelings. And you have this fierce desire to honor, respect, consider those who are swimming in the thick of it.

  2. Holy crow, you and I have a lot in common, right down to the grandparents in OH (mine moved from Cincinnati area to KY but both sets of extended family originated in OH) and the left-behind cats with the ex-husband (we had four (!) and I took two and left two, and one had to go to my parents’ because he didn’t get along with my husband’s cat, something I discovered after an ill-advised attempt to separate the furious kitties that resulted in a nasty bite and heavy antibiotics, and the other passed away a year and a half ago from a mysterious brain-tumor-like illness). It is really, really hard not to be like “they have it worse” and beat yourself up for feeling low in this nasty process, but good for you for fighting it back. I hate when people say “it could always be worse.” Well, yeah. I guess I should be grateful I am not dying, but it could be a hell of a lot BETTER, too. I don’t think anyone would be like, “gee, I’d like to experience her life right now.” Sometimes you just want to hear, “I’m so sorry that you’re going through this” and not some pat response that makes other people feel less uncomfortable. Grrrr…. Glad you liked the post–sadly I’ve written four (!) about being bombarded with fertility and having infertility infiltrate books, TV, and movies. I agree that DE gives a certain sense of additional hope and higher chances of success, which makes all these thoughts and feelings complicated. Ah, infertility, you complicate EVERYTHING, right down to feelings when you do actually get pregnant. I hope you have a good support network to help you sift through all this–I would be lost, LOST without my fabulous therapist. I trust that she will also help me navigate all this when my DE FET knocks me up… :)

    • I cannot believe that about the cats! We had four cats, too! Three of them have passed away, now, and one is still alive, living with my ex-husband and his fiancee. I had a very, very special bond with them. We had them when we lived on sixty acres in the country in a log cabin. We didn’t know at the time that I would get into a great writing program with fellowship in Ann Arbor and that that would lead to an internship at a fancy magazine in NYC—and that our lives would so drastically change. While in NYC, after separating from my ex, I developed a horrible allergy to the cats (I still can’t believe it) and lived in a terrible dark apartment with no place for the cats to run around (it killed me) and my ex lived in a huge sunny artist co-op where they could at least get some exercise and sunlight. But they were unhappy without me. As each one has passed away, I’ve really just lost it. Also crazytown about the Ohio connection! Wow. I laughed at your comment–yeah, I guess I should be grateful I ain’t almost dead, right, I know. People! People. Well, I am following you on your trip, my dear, and hoping you get knocked up “right-quick” as my southern OH relatives would say.


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