Tag Archives: infertility

Motherhood

Patsy Cline Quote

Mother’s Day will never not be emotional for me.  I am continuously torn between celebrating the wonderful women in my life who made me who I am today – not just Mom, but both my grandmas and Joyce, my childhood neighbor, babysitter, and essentially adopted grandmother – and struggling with my own path to motherhood.  All those women helped shape me morally, spiritually, and intellectually.

Mom, of course, continues to do so.  I still crave her advice.  I am so grateful for her friendship; her example, not only as a mother, but as a teacher, business woman, Christian; and her unconditional love.  All of it.  Somewhere along the path to adulthood, she also became my best friend.

Russells 1983 (2)

Mom, Dad, and I ~ 1983

In the past, I dreaded Mother’s Day.  Working retail in my 20s, strangers wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” broke my heart and left me feeling empty.  They all meant well.  That’s the problem:  One never knows who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy, strained relationships, loss, etc.  For the longest time, I felt the same way at church on Mother’s Day, until I no longer did.  A simple acknowledgement that some struggle with a whole variety of issues relating to motherhood made all the difference.  Watching others grieve and acknowledge the loss of their own mothers made me realize that I am far from alone.

If I am completely honest with myself, recent events have made me question whether I do want to adopt, my only path to motherhood.  In fact, it is part of the reason why I have been so silent here lately.  Fortunately, my parents support me no matter what I decide, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to my grandmas and Joyce right now.  I could use their advice and wisdom now more than ever.  All three would have something to say – all different – and force me to think of something I had overlooked.

Grandma Reid and Me (2)

Grandma Reid and I ~ 1985

If I do decide not to adopt, the hardest part will be having to change my perception of myself.  I do not remember just how young I was at the time, but the first thing I remember wanting out of life is to be a mother.  Fortunately, that is the beautiful thing about all of this.  If I decide not to adopt, in many ways, I am still a mother.  I have a great relationship with my nephews and niece.  Spending time with my niece the other evening, she randomly told me that she wanted to come spend the night at my house.  It didn’t work out that evening, but a sleepover is in the works once school is out.  I want to be that aunt.  My niblings are finally reaching the ages where I can be that aunt.

As a teacher, I influence children every day.  I truly care for all my students, even if I am just their substitute teacher for a day or two.  It doesn’t matter.  So many students do not have much support at home.  As a teacher, I can put my maternal instincts to good use.  I can be the teacher that cheers them on at school.  I know for a fact that I have already made a difference.  I just need to step it up as I truly start my teaching career.

I may yet decide to adopt, but I need to give myself time and space to make that decision.  I finally concluded that it isn’t the end of the world if I do not.  When and if I do decide to adopt, I can say with certainty that I have thought of all possibilities and outcomes.  If it is meant to be, I know that my son or daughter is out there waiting for me.

Mom and Me (2)

Mom and I ~ 1981

The Clash

Girl

I’ve been meaning to write a post about infertility since this past fall – September, in fact.  On a perfect September Monday evening the stars aligned, and I had the greatest time catching up with an old friend over dinner.  This particular friend and I are almost exactly the same age, and frankly, we are old enough to have been through some serious garbage.  Even though she is married and has a wonderful young daughter, she still knows exactly what it is like to struggle with infertility. Over dinner, the conversation naturally turned to foster care, adoption, and infertility.  I will never forget what she made me realize that evening.

First, know that I’ve known that there is virtually no way I’ll ever become pregnant since I was 10 years old.  I am not going to be one of those women who adopts and then miraculously wakes up pregnant one day. In fact, that is another topic I will discuss shortly.  What I failed to realize, and what my friend made clear so eloquently, is that having a biological child doesn’t automatically “heal” infertility or change everything.  It made me realize just how many women I know who don’t quite have the families they envisioned. My friend’s daughter is an only child, and that was not the plan. Another good friend has two beautiful little girls and wanted a third child.  I could go on.

I once read that no one ever quite gets over infertility.  It is a process – and there is no end. One day he or she may be fine, and the next, it all comes flooding back.  In fact, you can read my response and the original article here.  So true.  So very true.

Somewhere along the line, I think society makes this expectation that infertility is somehow “fixed” once a person adopts or becomes a foster parent.  “You can always adopt.” I am not exactly sure where that comes from, but it is completely inaccurate. Women who struggle with infertility and have a biological child (or even children) don’t even register.  Yet, they struggle just as much as the rest of us for whom biological children won’t happen.

There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t wonder where I went wrong or what I could have done differently.  Maybe if I had been more clear with my ex, he would have been more open to adoption – or I would have moved on much earlier.  For the record, I told him before we ever really dated (we were friends first), so none of it should have ever come as a surprise.  Maybe if I had done x, y, or z, i would have adopted by now. Frankly, I need to stop beating myself up. But I also need to acknowledge that not a day goes by that these thoughts run through my head.  They are at the heart of what keeps me going and keeps me fighting for the family that I want so badly.

Unfortunately, our society and even some well-meaning people do not help.  I am tired of being told that “it will happen” one day when he or she knows nothing about my medical history. Nosey, but usually well-meaning, people seem to ask the most intimate of questions. As I have said before, not being asked when I will get married and/or have kids is one of the absolute best things about being single.  I am tired and frustrated by assumptions that seem to be everywhere. All of us need to be more careful. Unless we know the details, we have no idea what a person is truly going through at the moment.

And then there is religion.  For years, my cynical nature made me skeptical of anything having to do with organized religion.  By the way, I am completely comfortable separating organized religion from my personal belief in God and Jesus Christ.  I am not angry with God; I know He has a plan. I am angry with how insensitively we treat anyone in the church who isn’t a part of a traditional family unit.  My views toward organized religion may have changed somewhat, but the church can and should do better. It doesn’t have to be related to infertility, although that is what I will discuss here.

Again, well-meaning Christians may tell those struggling with infertility that he or she is praying or that “miracles happen all the time.”  Both are absolutely well-intentioned; however, what if she doesn’t get her miracle? What about cases of infertility that cannot be remedied by current medical science?  What about the woman who is alone and plans to adopt on her own? What about the woman who is still struggling after she and her husband do have their miracle baby? What about men who struggle with infertility?  I could go on. Instead, we just need to try not to jump to conclusions. Yet, it is so easy to do.

I finally decided to discuss infertility yet again thanks to a jaw-dropping blog post that discusses the clash between infertility and foster care.  With the exception of the author’s discussion of her daughter Lil Red, I could have written this article, especially regarding pregnancy.  I expect that once I do adopt, I will feel much the same way she does towards her daughter.  Her post touched me in a way that I can’t fully explain. You can read it here.  I am so glad that I live in a time where women can truly express how they feel towards topics such as infertility, loss, pregnancy, etc.  I can’t imagine not being able to express all of this.

I am not other.  I am not sick.  I am definitely not less-than.

Waiting for Baby Bird – Infertility and Foster Care:  The Clash of Both Worlds

A Different Perspective:  Is This Why We Don’t Talk About Infertility?

Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde:  The Lessons of Infertility

Made

Best Laid Plans – Family

Life

I’ve put off writing about my personal life for many reasons, but the main one is the simple fact that I must come to terms with my reality versus what I’ve wanted my entire life.  It is not easy, and sooner or later, choices must be made.

I never expected to be single and childless nearing 40.  Anyone telling me that I should be happy to be so thoroughly unattached doesn’t know me at all.  It never should have been this hard.

As a child, after I learned about Turner Syndrome and infertility, any conversation about infertility included phrases like “don’t worry, the technology will catch up to you” – my well-meaning mother referring to IVF – or some vague mention of adoption.

I’ve long known that adoption was what I wanted for myself.  I couldn’t imagine putting myself through round after round of IVF only to have it not work.  Physically, I might have been OK, but emotionally, I don’t know how I could knowingly do that to myself time and time again.

In a sense, Mom was right.  IVF is more accessible and successful than ever.  It still doesn’t change the fact that failure is the most common outcome.  It doesn’t change the fact that I would need donor eggs.  Most important of all, it doesn’t change the fact that there are so many children who need love and a home – now.

Then why am I so hesitant when it comes to adoption?  That is a trickier question.  I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that I will be doing this alone.  Somehow, I never thought I’d end up being single.  Even though I barely dated in high school, I thought I’d meet the right man in college.  In fact, I counted on it.

Oh, I could write a book on how I met all the wrong boys at Michigan State and across the world – or I should say, a handful of well-intentioned boys who never saw me as anything but a little sister.  One actually said that to my face.  I intentionally use the term boys here; I have yet to date a man.

Why am I always good enough for friendship and that’s it?  During my time at MSU, I lost a lot of weight, and the resulting male attention still leaves me unspeakably angry.  I was still the same smart, well-intentioned girl who can be fun and funny once you get to know her.  Only my weight changed.  One day I wasn’t worth knowing; the next, I didn’t know what to do.  While I wasn’t exactly drowning in male attention, I noticed.  It became all too clear.

Why should I have to change some arbitrary characteristic to be happy?  That is an awful message to send to anyone – but as a society, we do it all day, every day.

I suppose I should worry about myself and pursue parenthood on my own.  That is exactly what I intend to do.  Yet, there is such a huge piece of my life missing.  I never wanted it to be this way.  Hopefully, I’ll be pleasantly surprised and finally meet the right man.  Unfortunately, that takes an incredible leap of faith living in Arenac County.

What it comes down to is that I am tired.  I am tired of being rejected before someone gets to truly know me.  I am tired of being lied to repeatedly.  I am tired of being alone.  I am tired of watching everyone else find their person, knowing that it probably won’t happen for me.

Above all, I am tired of feeling not enough.  I am enough.  It is time I started acting like it.

The biggest obstacle I face, aside from all that comes with foster care and/or adoption (by the way, anyone who thinks it is easy knows nothing about either), is trust.  Being on the receiving end of lying and cheating will do that to a person, particularly when that is your only experience in a relationship.

How can I bring myself to ever trust again?  Yet, I must.  I refuse to let one bad relationship, no matter how long or awful, have the last word on love.

By the way, if you are concerned about me after reading this, don’t be.  I will be fine no matter what happens.  I am just incredibly frustrated and see no easy fix.  People may question why I share something so intensely personal.  It is for this simple reason:  I do not want anyone in a similar situation to feel alone.  He or she is not alone.

boots

Book Review: “The Stage is on Fire” by Katie Steedly

The Stage is on Fire Book Cover

It isn’t often that a book comes along and grabs you by the jugular.  Katie Steedly’s The Stage is on Fire did just that.  At the same time, I’ve struggled to write this review in the weeks since I finished the book.  I related to and adored the first two-thirds of the book.  The last third left me angry and upset, which I will get to later.  While I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend the book, there are certain people I feel need to read the book, namely girls and women with Turner Syndrome.  Actually, I would recommend it to anyone struggling to find their place in the world.  That said, it is not for everyone.

Let me start with what’s working.  Almost immediately, Katie’s voice struck me as authentic and powerful.  She writes spirituality well, and never gives up on her quest to find her place in the world and create her own definition of home.  In the book, Katie details several moves across the country, her experiences in academia – good and bad, and her experience participating in the study of women and girls with Turner Syndrome at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC.  Turner Syndrome aside, I couldn’t help but relate to Katie throughout the book.

I am still in awe when I think of just how much Katie and I have in common.  We both taught at some point.  We are both writers.  Both of us have moved across country to pursue new opportunities and a new life.  In addition, both of us struggled with the idea of home and family at various times.  I could go on and on.  In the end, this is why I felt so disappointed in the ending.  It seemed to unnecessarily divide people.

There are several things that stood out and continue to stand out in the book.

  1. Her first teaching experience did not end well – hence the title of the book. Oh, I can relate.  In Katie’s case, she took the opportunity to further her education, eventually landing at the University of Texas in Austin.  She did what everyone needs to do when facing failure:  Get back up and try again.  She does this many, many times throughout the book, always seeking something more.
  2. She captures the journey to find our place in the world, peace, and meaning in life beautifully. I may not agree with her completely when it comes to religion, but I can fully relate to her need to explore what religion and spirituality mean to her.
  3. It took incredible courage for her to participate in the National Institute of Health study. It is much more intense and in depth than I ever dreamed.  Her description of what she felt emotionally while having an ultrasound knowing she will likely never experience pregnancy will stay with me.  I only wish I had written it.  Even though I experienced many of those same emotions as a child when I had an ultrasound, I wasn’t mature enough to fully express them at the time.  Now, as an adult, the fact that those feelings have been so beautifully put into words is a true gift.
  4. Did I mention courage? During her time in Austin, Katie decided to walk/jog a marathon.  A marathon.  Prior to this, there is not much mention of any athletics in the book on her part.  She is much more interested in drama, writing, and education.  Yet, she did it.  She accomplished the goal she set for herself, even if it was out of her element.

Oh, and dating.  It is worth mentioning.  Katie is far more adventurous in the dating  world than I will ever be.  At the time, she had yet to meet the right man.  I get the impression that that may have changed.  Her determination to not give up on love is inspirational – and something I desperately needed to read.

There is so much more in the book, but I will leave it for readers to discover.  It is important to note that the book is written as a series of essays.  I believe they are largely in chronological order.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much.  Katie clearly grows throughout the entire book, as does her definition of home.  It may seem to be a small point, but I wish the formatting of the Kindle edition included a full title page between essays.  Instead, they include small titles similar to chapter titles at the very top of the page.  In fact, in writing this review, I had to check my Kindle version to see if each essay included a title at all. Each essay stands alone so beautifully, it is a shame that this feature of the book isn’t more prominently displayed.

Now to discuss what isn’t working.  Frankly, I didn’t enjoy the last third of the book at all.  I almost put it down.  It became far too political for my tastes.  It is one thing to pick up a book on politics, knowing what you are about to read, it is quite another to dive in head first after reading a seemingly different book in the beginning.  I get why she wrote about politics.  It became an important part of her life at that point in time.  I don’t believe it was handled very well.  I left feeling as though she couldn’t even begin to understand anyone who didn’t agree with her politically, which is truly unfortunate.  No one has a monopoly on political truth.  No one.  I wish it had been handled with more care and less judgement.  I get the feeling that Katie would be the last person to think of herself as judgmental, but that is how the political aspect of the book comes across, whether that was her intention or not.

Politics aside, I am happy I read the book.  I am grateful that Katie can connect emotionally with people through her writing.  Her writing is just beginning to teach me how to express what I thought impossible.  For that, I am truly grateful.  I love the fact that I can annotate and highlight my Kindle version of The Stage is on Fire.  I will be coming back to it as I continue to write.  You can find her website and blog here.

travel lost

Summer

Rifle River – Omer, Michigan

As the last few days have brought with them the first signs of the fall to come, I can’t say that I am sorry.  I am eager for this summer to be over.  I can practically hear my grandmother yelling at me from the grave not to wish my life away, but I can’t help it.  Nothing about this summer – or this year – has been easy.  Somewhere along the way, I mistakenly believed that I would have some of the major pieces of my life in place by my mid-thirties.  I don’t.  I am still trying to find my place in the world.

If anything good did come out of this summer, it is the fact that I finally got a resolution to something I let go unresolved for way too long.  In the process of finally telling this man how I’ve felt about him (for years), I realized why it never worked with any of the men in my life.  None – and I mean none – have been the right one.  I finally came to the realization that I somehow managed to reach this age without ever having truly experienced true love.  It is the awful, unvarnished truth – and it doesn’t erase the ten years I wasted in a doomed, loveless relationship.

As rough as most of this summer has been (most of which I haven’t even addressed here), the last few weeks included some fun.  Two of the highlights involve a good friend.  She moved downstate this winter, and we haven’t really had a chance to catch up since.  We finally met up for dinner and caught up on months’ worth of news.  As this friend experienced infertility as well, the topic naturally came up during a discussion about my decision to become a foster parent.  The resulting conversation made me realize all over again that having a child in your arms doesn’t make infertility issues go away.  In fact, the entire thing is worth its own blogpost.

Then there is the river.  Everything seems to be put in perspective when you are on the river tubing, at least for a while.  This same friend and I spent an afternoon/early evening tubing and continuing our catching up from the previous week.  For one of the first times all summer, I felt that things will work out eventually.

Now for the picture …  This picture brought back so many wonderful childhood memories that I had to share.  It is simply my niece and nephew playing at the landing by the river.  I spent hours at that exact location as a child making moats, pretending that river was an ocean, letting the minnows nibble my toes.  The week my brother and his family spent camping at the campground brought back so many long-forgotten childhood memories.  I can’t wait to create similar memories with my own family.

Body and Other Four Letter Words Revisited

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Body 2

Body and Other Four Letter Words

Due to a variety of circumstances over the last few weeks, this subject continues to be in my thoughts.  It is so disturbing to me how it is permissible in our society to treat others so differently based on something so arbitrary as height and weight.  Why is this acceptable?  I am so sick and tired of people not realizing that there are many complicated factors that play into eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and obesity.  There isn’t a quick fix.  Food can be an addiction just as powerful as drugs, sex, alcohol, or gambling.  Bullying just makes things infinitely worse.

I’ve discussed it before, but I was relentlessly bullied about my weight and height early in elementary school – grades K-3 – particularly in gym class and at recess.  At age 5, classmates commented daily on how short, fat, and ugly I was.  The funny thing is that while I may have been a stocky child, I was not fat at the time.  At some point, I started to believe them.  How was I ever supposed to feel good about my body?

Later in elementary school, I learned that I would never have children naturally.  I refuse to say children of my own.  When I do adopt, my child (or children) will most certainly be mine.  At age 10, it devastated me.  To make matters worse, one boy in my class found out about my diagnosis of Turner Syndrome and what it meant.  He proceeded to call me a deeply disturbing name as a result, making it clear to me that he knew what I perceived at the time to be private.

It changed me.  I vividly remember balling as soon as I came home, refusing for a time to even tell my parents what had happened it upset me so badly.  Today, looking back at what he called me, it is almost funny – at least from an adult perspective.  After that incident, I owned the fact that I had Turner Syndrome.  While I didn’t go around telling everyone, I did explain when asked what it meant.  I didn’t hide from it anymore, even though I had only recently learned of the diagnosis myself.  Unfortunately, it reinforced the shame I felt towards my body.

As an adult, I find it difficult to deal with my body image issues while dealing with the emotions that come with infertility as well.  I can’t deny it:  I don’t know when I will ever be at peace with my body when, in my mind, it has fundamentally failed me in what should be a basic function.  Somehow, I will have to come to terms with it.  I just don’t know how.

In the meantime, I am done.  I am done trying to please anyone other than myself.  I continue to refuse to play the games society demands of women young and old.  There are way too many young girls today who feel as if they are not enough, that their worth is determined by their weight (and/or height).  That is why I am sharing something so deeply personal.  I want anyone struggling with body image to know that he or she is not alone.  Weight and diet are not as simple as we make them out to be.

It breaks my heart to see my Facebook feed full of beautiful women struggling with body image and eating disorders and mothers at a loss on how to help their child rebuild self-esteem through bullying.  I see it daily.  Frankly, this topic scares me the most about parenthood.Body 1

There Are No Words

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This fall, a certain set of circumstances made me begin to doubt myself in a way I never knew was possible.  As I have stated so many times here, the very first thing I ever remember wanting out of life is a family of my own.  For me, that means adoption.  I have questioned whether I will be able to do it on my own for quite some time, but this fall was different.  It was personal in a way I never imagined, and I began to doubt whether I truly want to be a mother at all.

It became a slippery slope, and I began to question everything in my life.  What do I really want?  I shouldn’t still be asking these questions at 36 (now 37).  I have failed so many times on so many levels that I began to wonder what is so fundamentally wrong with me.  After a while, I let go of certain dreams.  I would love to meet the right man, get married, and adopt.  After all this time, I am beginning to doubt that it will ever happen.

Over these last few trying weeks, I realized that I can’t give up on my dream of having a family.  I am supposed to be a mother.  Giving up on that dream, even briefly, left me absolutely devastated.  I will eventually be exactly where I need to be.  Until then, I will keep trying.  That is all I can do at this point.

Even as I write this, I wonder why I am sharing something so intensely personal.  As always, it comes down to this:  I know that I am not the only one struggling with these decisions.  If someone else can benefit by realizing that he or she is not alone, it will be more than worth it.

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