Hey friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted and that is because…school started. I am an elementary school art teacher, and this is my second year of teaching art to about 600 1st–5th graders. New teachers were hired at our school this year since we’re in a growing area of town, and sadly my art room had to be given to a regular classroom teacher. Over the summer I had to move everything from my old classroom into a trailer/portable classroom (a small building outside the main school building). So that was a major project that I kinda put off until August and then school started and so I’ve been pretty busy ever since!
I’ve got a bunch of posts I’ve been working on that are close to being ready to post, but until I have those finished, I thought I’d stop in and let you know that recently my sweet friend Emily interviewed me on her blog, Petunia Pickle Bummer. Emily is the first blog-friend-turned-real-life-friend that I met shortly after starting my blog. She is the coolest! So friendly, genuine, and always focusing on the positive. In the interview, Emily asked me some really thought-provoking questions about my experiences so far with infertility, like what lessons I’ve learned and what I do to try to stay happy through the sorrow of infertility. Click here to check out the interview, and take a look at Emily’s other posts while you’re at it. Her blog posts are always so inspiring to me.
Update: Emily’s website seems to be having some problems which means at the moment the interview can’t be read on her blog. So I’m going to post her questions and my answers here for anyone who wants to read it until her site is fixed.
Ambivalence means to be in a state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone. In what ways have you felt ambivalent as you’ve gone through infertility? Has it been a coping mechanism for you?
I think I’ve felt ambivalent at times regarding treatment. Sometimes, I feel all gung-ho and ready to jump right in and do whatever it takes to get pregnant. Pills, shots, ultrasounds? No problem! IVF? Let’s go for it! And other times, I guess the unfairness of infertility stops me in my tracks and my attitude turns the other direction. I see all the women who get pregnant without even trying and glide along like it’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world. And so I stubbornly start to wonder why? Why should it take so much extra effort and time and money for us to conceive when it’s so effortless, quick, and free for other people? Can’t God just give us a miracle this month? It’s difficult to accept that maybe it’s not God’s will for us to conceive naturally, and I’m still struggling to accept that. But at the same time I am grateful that there are advanced medical procedures out there that could help us conceive, options that weren’t available to infertile couples just a few decades ago. Part of me cries, “But we shouldn’t have to go to those lengths to conceive!” while another, maybe more reasonable part of me whispers, “If we do conceive by going to those lengths, it will be so worth it.”
What do you day dream about when you think about your family? Can you picture your future children? Has it ever felt real?
We all know what it means to be baby-hungry, right? Well, I have to admit that as much as I long for a baby of my own to cuddle and breastfeed and comfort and bathe and rock to sleep, in some ways I think I’m more preschooler-hungry than baby-hungry! Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher so I’m around older children more often than babies, but when I imagine myself with my future children, most of the scenarios I daydream about are reading my little boy books before he takes a nap, or baking cookies with my little girl, going camping as a family, or taking walks around the neighborhood with a little buddy holding my hand. You see, my baby hunger isn’t the same as an 18-year-old girl who exclaims she’s baby-hungry while holding a neighbor’s infant. Because I’m willing to bet that her comment is light-hearted and joking–she doesn’t really want to wake up every two hours at night to feed a baby, change dirty diapers around the clock, and have the full-time responsibility of being someone’s mom. She just thinks babies are cute and enjoys holding them. Me, I want it all. I want to be a mother in the blissful times and the stressful times. I want to be someone’s mom for their entire life and I want to make memories with them. Every once in a long while, I’ll dream about my child. (For some reason when this happens, I always dream about a boy and my husband always dreams about a girl!) And on the few occasions when that has happened, it felt so, so real. It was hard to wake up and come back to reality with no little boy completing my heart, but it was a beautiful taste of what I believe is yet to come and the happiness I felt in the dreams gave me the sense that all the heartache will be worth it one day.
When was the moment you realized “infertility” applied to you? What did that feel like?
It was around a year after we’d started trying to conceive, a year full of whacked-out irregular periods. We had just begun going to a fertility specialist who had recommended starting Femara (to stimulate follicle production) paired with Ovidrel (the HCG shot to trigger ovulation). I was picking up my first Ovidrel shot from the pharmacy and pretty nervous about using it for the first time so I opened up the instructions on the bench outside the pharmacy to read through before leaving. The instructions were long and confusing so I walked back inside and asked the pharmacist to clarify some things. He flipped through the instructions and came to the section called, “Infertile Women Stimulating Ovulation” or something like that. He read me the instructions in that section, I nodded and said thanks, but inside I was in shock. I had never grouped myself in the “Infertile Women” category before. I knew we were having trouble conceiving but I’d been telling myself we’d get it worked out in no time, so I hadn’t really considered myself “infertile” even though at that point I certainly fit the criteria. It felt cold, flat and final, like an unpleasant label had been slapped across my face without warning.
What’s your take-away you are gaining from this experience? What life lessons do you feel like you’ve gained that are uniquely yours?
Oh boy. I’m definitely still in the process of learning life lessons here and I don’t feel like I know it all. I can definitely say though that I’ve learned that pregnancy and children are such a gift and should never be taken for granted. I know that because of my experiences with infertility, I will cherish my children and intentionally parent them and appreciate them just the way they are because I will be so grateful that they’ve joined our family, because I know what it’s like to miss them before meeting them and to feel so keenly their absence while waiting for them. I’m not saying that I’ll be a better mother than all the fertile mothers, I’m just saying that I know I’ll be a better, more thoughtful, grateful mother because I’ve experienced infertility than I may have been if I’d become pregnant the first month we started trying. Another lesson I’m still struggling to learn is that no matter how much we plan and feel we’re in control of our lives, we’re not. We have agency to make choices that directly affect our lives, but ultimately, we are here on earth because of God, because He gave us the very air we breathe. Life is fragile and precious and wonderful and hard, it can change or be taken away in an instant. What gives me a whole lot of comfort, especially with infertility, is the knowledge that our life on earth is not the end of our existence. I know that there is life after death and that our family relationships continue on after this life, and I also know that all that is unfair about this life will one day be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever lost hope?
I don’t think that I’ve ever completely and fully lost hope, but I have had dark days where I feel like I’m in the very pit of despair (Princess Bride, anyone?) Sometimes I have days when I feel like my reproductive system is not just one part of my life that’s dysfunctional, I feel like infertility is permeating and crippling every other part of my life too. It’s changed the way I view myself, it affects my work, my relationships, the way I think about my future, everything. So I definitely have times when all of that gets to me, and to be totally honest, if I didn’t have my faith and a supportive husband, and if I hadn’t opened up about my infertility to empathetic infertile women, I can imagine that maybe I would have lost hope. What keeps me from losing hope is pouring out my heart in prayer to God, communicating how I feel to my husband, and realizing that I’m not alone through talking to other infertile women or reading their words of encouragement and empathy.
What keeps your head above water? What thoughts make you happy?
Mainly what keeps my head above water is my faith that someday, my battle with infertility will end and I will be a mother. But it’s hard to be happy and positive when all I can think about is what I lack. I was talking to my mom recently, and she asked me, “Is there anything in your life that makes you completely happy, anything that doesn’t make you sad at the same time because it’s connected to infertility?” I thought about it and realized there was something: watercolor painting (something I enjoyed especially in high school but rarely have time for anymore). I told her, and she wisely said, “Then you need to make time for it. You need to have something in your life that makes you happy and doesn’t stress you out.” And she was right as always! I’ve been able to take some time for relaxing with my watercolors here and there and it really does my soul good. Infertility may still be in the back of my mind, but painting is a hobby that is fulfilling for me and makes me happy in spite of infertility. I really think all of us women going through infertility need to find an escape like that, or infertility will consume our thoughts and every part of our life. Whatever it is, you need to find something that makes you happy and do it for yourself, for your own well-being. I’ve been surprised at how good it feels as I try to take some time for myself and rediscover my love for watercolor painting! It’s helped me realize that God wants me to have happy moments now, and not dwell in misery 24/7 because the one thing I want most hasn’t happened yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to choose happiness through infertility rather than putting off my happiness until it ends, but I know that with God’s help, it is possible!