adoption · grief · Infertility

Drained

Today I went to the coffee shop, determined that I was going to write. It’s been hard going recently. Since graduating, I feel as if my brain has been squeezed. But really its my heart that’s been drained dry. I poured everything into writing at residency, and had the community to support that there. Now at home, it crumbles. I still have my friends sending support from far away, but it’s definitely not the same. I need to be around someone physically!

The past few weeks, I don’t think I’ve really realized how much I’ve slipped. I have always referred to my self-harm as an addiction (10 years clean!), but I think depression can be in a way, too. Not exactly in the same way. I don’t actively try to be depressed, but it is something that I don’t realize is that bad until I’m so far in it I’m almost drowning. You would think that by this time I would know that, as much as I love fall, it’s a hard season for me. While reveling in the cool weather and cozy sweaters, I can smell winter on that crisp breeze, and know the darkness that accompanies it. With everything that has happened this year, I know this will be an especially hard winter.

I say that I know this, but I knew it in an abstract way. Something future-me would have to deal with. Well, now I’m future me, just now realizing how far deep in I already am.

Today I sat down at the coffee shop with my mocha and my sweater, and I actually manged to put pen to paper (or ipen to ipaper, anyway). Nothing for my novel came out, however. I was not happy to realize it was all nonfiction. My piece about Octavia that I read for open mic at residency got a lot of positive feedback, so of course I quickly turned away from it. (Seriously, why do I always immediately drop anything I get praised for? A question for my therapist, perhaps!) I’ve been putting off going back to it, giving it some halfhearted attempts before saying it was too hard and putting it away. There was no escaping it today, though!

Thoughts and memories flowed out, things I didn’t realize I have frantically been trying to repress. I wrote about my last few moments with Octavia, and my guilt that I didn’t want more time. That I wanted to get away as fast as possible; I couldn’t handle how much it hurt. I wrote about all the questions I play on repeat in my head. What did I do? Was it because I struggled to put her onesie on in the hospital while her birth mother watched? Did I send too many pictures? Did I seem like I didn’t know what I was doing when we met for the visit? I didn’t want to sound rude, I didn’t want to make a misstep, I didn’t want to be insensitive, but did all that come across as stand-offish? Everyone assures me that’s not it, and I keep telling myself that I know that. Logically. But do I? Or am I just saying that? Because I honestly believe that if I had loved Octavia harder, she’d still be with us. The social worker told us that visits usually make the birth mother feel more sure about her choice because she can see how the adoptive parents are taking care of the baby. But after our visit, Octavia’s birth mother changed her mind and I don’t know how I’m not supposed to analyze that over and over again. I got nervous when we were around her, you know, like how you do when someone is watching you with their baby. I didn’t want to do something wrong, and so I looked like I didn’t know what I was doing. I doubt that reassured her that her baby was being well taken care of. I didn’t want to rub my joy in her face when she was hurting so much, and part of me is convinced that that meant she didn’t see how much I loved Octavia.

Again, logically, I say I know it has nothing to do with me. She was in enormous pain and needed her child back. Nothing could have changed that. It’s what was right for them both. But goddamn it hurts so much and I need to put the blame somewhere and I won’t put it on her. I just turn inwards, so it can join all the other feelings of self-hatred.

That’s the gist of what I wrote today, anyway. As I was finishing writing it, a friend texted to ask how I was doing. I told her I was trying not to cry in the coffee shop, and she told me to tell her everything I was feeling. And there came all the tears and words. (So fun in a public place, especially one I go to often.)

In that state, vulnerable and hurting, she helped me see things for the way they were. I told her I didn’t know if it was good to be writing about it all, or if I was just re-traumatizing myself. Then she asked if I feel these things all the time or just when I’m writing.

And that’s when I had to stop and think critically. See, I have a secret. Well, it’s not a secret exactly. I make jokes about it, and no one really thinks twice.

The truth is, I don’t sleep. I haven’t slept in weeks. Most nights, I’m still awake when Atto gets up for work at 6am. Almost a month ago, I mentioned to my therapist that I had started staying up late, and that’s a big sign of depression for me. 1-4am are my dark hours, when I’m at my lowest and most raw, when I’m most likely to tailspin out of control. She told me to keep track of when I go to bed. I did for a while, and then I stopped, because I was talking to a friend in California at night, and I didn’t feel sad. I was just staying up for my friend! Totally innocent! –insert eye roll–

Yeah, a lot of times I did talk to a friend, but I stayed up even when she wasn’t around. Yet my alarm bells weren’t going off, because somehow I am always surprised by my depression.

Lying there at night in bed, my thoughts go to the same place they go when I’m writing. They play that loop of asking why, that loop of guilt and blaming myself and wondering about Octavia, imagining what she looks like, what she’s doing… my heart breaking over and over.

So my solution is to eliminate that completely. No lying in bed, no thinking about her. Not a perfect system, especially around 1-4, but I watch something or play a mindless game so I don’t have to think. Eventually, when I close my eyes, I just pass out. If I managed to stumble up to bed, I collapse, but a lot of times I just crash on the couch.

Telling that to my friend made me realize that it’s become an actual problem. It’s not a funny little quirk I have, or something I do just to talk to a friend. It’s a form of repression. This also makes me have less daytime hours. Short days of exhaustion, then long, mindless nights. I ignore how bad my teeth grinding has gotten and the constant jaw ache. I make excuses for why I don’t talk about this with people I love. Why I’m not asking for help. “They’ve heard it all before,” I think to myself. “What’s left to say?”

It’s 1:30am as I write this. A song that makes me weep came on Spotify. When it ended, I went back to listen to it again. Because it’s the witching hour, and there’s nothing quite like the sweet ache of poking at a sore heart.

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Baby · Donor · Infertility

The Arrival

I don’t remember anyone ever talking to me about co-existing conflicting emotions until I started the adoption process. I’m sure if I’d thought about it, it’d be obvious, but it didn’t really click until I did one of the required classes. The class talked about how adopted children often have feelings that seem at odds with each other. They can love their adoptive family, while still grieving that they’re not with their birth family.  I think sometimes in our culture we’re encouraged to sort our feelings into easily check-able boxes. Happy. Sad. It’s harder to talk about the complexities, and it feels somehow uncomfortable. It took taking that class for me to realize that it’s a perfectly normal thing.

Today I’m trying to sit with that feeling. Not berate myself for not feeling what I think I should be feeling. I want to just be purely joyful. Because a really exciting thing happened today. But wrapped up in it are a lot of other feelings, too.

Today, the donor sperm that we ordered arrived at the fertility clinic. Ordering it at all brought its own set of feelings, but now, knowing it’s here… I’m overwhelmed.

Let me back up.

After Octavia left, we were put on the “inactive” list at our agency (by choice). It basically just means our profile was not shown to potential birth parents. We were in no way ready to consider another match. We sat on the inactive list a while, but near the end of August I scheduled an appointment at the fertility clinic. It was terrifying to go back in there. The last time we were there, they told us Atto could be dying. It was several long, long months until we were officially told that his brain tumors were benign, but “natural” conception would still be out of our reach. It was a traumatic time, to say the least.

Now, two years later, stepping into that building together again with our hearts so heavy with loss, was bittersweet. It was a sign of new beginnings. A step forward. But the history hung around us like sticky cobwebs.

Our story made the nurses tear up, which is sweet, but also reminded us just how fucked up our lives have been over the last few years. They were very positive and enthusiastic, eager to help us finally have a child.

And so two days ago I ordered the donor sperm. (Maybe I will write a separate post on choosing a donor and the weirdness that is ordering something like that online, and then the awkwardness of talking about it.) You are unable to continue working with the adoption agency if you are undergoing fertility treatments, which made this a rather decisive choice. I started to draft my letter to the agency. I told them we were quitting, and how the pain of our experience was just too much for us. I think even if donor sperm weren’t an option, we still would have ended up leaving. Even thinking about trying again leaves me struggling for breath. Sometimes you just know your limits, and this is mine. My heart cannot handle trying to adopt again, at least not right now. I full on wept while writing to them, and it made me realize just how much I’m still hurting. How much I still miss her. I know it will never go away, but I think with other things happening in my life, it was easier to ignore that deep, soul-sucking wound. Writing to them felt so final. Like I was closing the door on Octavia. Betraying her somehow. It still feels that way. That I had been so committed to adoption and now I’m a traitor and abandoning it. Everyone at the agency was very sweet and supportive. It’s a small agency, only three amazing women, so we knew them well. They each wrote a long email back about how they understand and wish us well and are here if there’s anything we need. It felt so strange to go to their website and see that our picture is gone. It’s officially over and I am constantly second-guessing and have so much doubt and fear.

But today I got the call that the donor sperm had arrived. And for once I let myself just be excited. Just feel the joy of possibility. The next step is to call when I get a positive ovulation test. That’s it. That’s all. It’s almost alarming how little paperwork we had to do. Used to filling out pages upon pages upon pages for adoption, I’ve felt kind of uneasy about how simple this has been. But I let myself be excited today. Excited and still guilty, but I tried not to squash the excitement. I tried to sit with that uncomfortable feeling of conflicting emotions.

In just a few weeks we’re starting. Really starting. And I’m terrified it won’t work. Terrified our three years from hell will turn into four, five, six… losing money we don’t have, chasing a need so deep it feels like all that I consist of.

But I’m hopeful too. I’m excited. I got paint swatches for the nursery. I visited the Carter’s website for the first time since June. Small, small steps.

Baby steps, you might say.

adoption · Baby

Octavia Louise

I thought I would start a new blog about failed adoptions, since I had abandoned this one anyway, but somehow it feels more appropriate to continue it here.

On June 6, 2018, the mother we had been matched with gave birth to her baby. I don’t know that I can really go into extreme detail right now, but I will say that our baby girl, who we named Octavia, came home with us and was with us for three weeks. And then she went home to her birth mother.

The last few months have been… excruciating. I don’t know how else to put it. I think sometimes that I’m pretty good at ignoring my own emotions, and as time passed and we got further from the initial heartbreak, I have been thinking I’m doing pretty okay. I can talk about her without crying, I’ve started to go into the nursery and organize it. I’ve planned out a new mural for the wall.

But whenever I write about her, and write about how much losing her has hurt, my grief is suffocating. I weep and my heart aches, and I feel so lost. A month after she left, I had to go finish my MFA program, staying in Ohio for the 2 week residency. There were a lot of things about being there that were hard. I had been planning on taking Octavia with me to school. I had just bought a graduation dress for her to wear to the ceremony. I was away from my husband and my home. But the support I got from people at residency was so amazing. I am forever grateful to my friends and professors that helped me through that. I was able to write about Octavia in a really healing way while I was there, and it’s a feeling I’ve been trying to recapture but just can’t seem to. It’s just painful now, and I’m not sure in a way that’s helpful. I’m hoping the renewal of writing on this blog will inspire me.

I also really hope I’m able to go more into how my perceptions about adoption changed since the last time I wrote, and how I believe there needs to be much more compassion towards birth parents, but right now, I need to focus on grieving.

Today was an especially hard day. We officially told our adoption agency that we are quitting the program, and will no longer be pursuing adoption. There are a lot of feelings tied up with that. Guilt. Lots and lots of guilt. Sadness. A little bit of hope for new directions. Did I mention the guilt? It’s confusing and rough, and I don’t know anyone who has experienced a failed match and then decided to give up on adoption. There’s not really anyone to talk to about it and it feels uncomfortable and sad and lonely.

I guess that’s my super cheerful post for the day. Here’s to better days, gentle readers.

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Uncategorized

It’s Not “So Great”

My own ideas of adoption had changed so much over the last year. Even since I started this blog, since I last wrote in it, even! The more you learn, the more your ideas change and evolve, which is only natural, I think. But something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is this idea that adoption is really, so great. When I’ve told people I’m in the adoption process I hear so often “Aww, that’s awesome! Adoption is so great!” And this is not a post to say it’s not great, but… It’s more complicated than that. Just read this quote from Rachel Garlinghouse’s new book that I think is perfect.

“Adoption: it’s a big, beautiful, bittersweet mess.”

I guess I kind of held the idea that it was “so great” too for a long time. Then I started the process and likeeee… whoa. People don’t really think about everything that goes into it. Adoption is loss. Like from the very beginning, that’s how it starts. A mother places her child and that is a huge loss for the both of them. And if you’re like my husband and me, you came to adoption through infertility, which is another loss that really can’t be explained. A baby isn’t magically placed in your arms and you celebrate and move on with your life as if the child is biologically yours. It’s something that will be with them and you and their birth mother forever. A hurt. Another woman’s loss is my gain, and there needs to be more recognition of the complicated feelings for everyone involved with that.

Here are just a few things that I will miss out on:

A positive pregnancy test
Announcing my pregnancy to friends and family (and all the associated congratulations)
Funny pregnancy shirts
Ultrasound pictures
Maternity pictures
Feeling a baby move inside me
Talking to a growing baby
Hearing “she looks just like you!”

Some of those are things that sounds kind of stupid. But they’re things that are commonplace for someone expecting a baby. Things expected in the process of becoming a mom. But consider this:

I can count on one hand the amount of times someone has wished me congratulations.

 It’s just not something people think about, and I’m not mad at anyone (okay, maybe on a really hard day). Not having those experiences can be really hard. And this is just talking about my point of view. I’m just one point of the triangle. Adoption is hard. I’ve heard people say “it’s not for the faint of heart”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve doubted if I’d be able to do this. It’s not easy. It’s not just a substitute for having biological kids. It’s hard as fuck. And it’s so, so great.

adoption

Happy Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day, and I wanted to make a post for the dads so often forgotten today.

Happy Father’s Day to all those longing to be dads.
Who have been waiting for years to finally be dads.
Who are infertile, or struggle with their fertility.
Who have partners undergoing fertility treatments.
Who have lost a child.
Happy Father’s Day to those who get no recognition of their pain and longing on this day, who are expected not to have it, who are told to shove it down. To man up.
To those with the most caring, tender souls, that hold their partners tight as they cry together.
To those waiting for the call from the state or their adoption agency, hoping and waiting and praying.
You are strong, you are beautiful, you are valid. You are no less a man. You are no less a father. You are wonderful. You are loved.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

adoption · Infertility

Hey Mama, It’s Okay to Step Away

Why do I love to torture myself? Is it just inherent in everyone to seek out something painful? Like pressing on that sore tooth, or poking that bruise? It hurts! Why do we do it? Sometimes I tell myself I’m doing it for my own good. I’m exposing myself to things that hurt so that I can get used to them. Make them not hurt so much. My own personal exposure therapy.

I thought, hey, I’ve accepted our infertility, I’m excited about adoption, and that’s that. Well, like I said last time, it’s a journey. Going through my Facebook feed and I’m constantly submerged in the lives of my friends who have children, or by pictures from pages I follow all about motherhood. “Plus Size Mommy”, “Madison Moms Blog”,  “Offbeat Home”, and I mean, I could really go on and on. Every single pin on my Pinterest board is about babies or nursing or morning sickness remedies.

And it’s just too much. I love my friends, I do, I really, really do. And I’m so happy for them and their families, but I have to know when to step back, and I have to allow myself to step back. To say, “No, actually, I can’t look at your maternity pictures. I’m sure they’re beautiful, but I just can’t today.” I’m constantly wanting to please people and being afraid I’ll make them angry, or disappoint them, and so it makes it that much harder to feel like I need space from a friend. It’s hard to admit that you need to sort of shelter yourself away from things sometimes.

I’m learning to be gentle with myself. I know that seeing perfect pregnant bellies is hard for me. I know it makes me tear up nearly every time. I know that hospital pictures are hard for me. Families gathered around with balloons and flowers and all smiles, parents in the middle looking so tired but glowing with happiness. Pictures of baby showers. I know these things are triggers of a sort. They can send me down the path of depression spurred by longing. Dreaming of what could have been, dreaming of what it’s like to feel a baby growing inside me, dreaming of what the baby would look like…etc, etc…

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live
~Dumbledore

God, how perfect is that quote for my life? I mean, it’s absolutely spot on. I can just get lost in the photos. Another pitfall of social media. Looking at everyone else’s lives and asking “why not us?” It’s painful. I think it’s natural for people to compare themselves to others. Not necessarily healthy, but probably natural. But constantly looking at those sunny, perfect maternity shots with the hazy filter, it’s not good for you, love.

It’s okay to step away. It’s okay to remove yourself, to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to take some space. Yes, I will be happy for them. I will continue to be happy for them. But I have to protect myself, too. I am tender right now. I am healing. And I deserve to give myself some time.

adoption · Infertility

It’s a Journey

It started because I was looking into baby proofing for home studies. You’re baby proofing your home WELL before the baby will be there. If you have stairs, like us, that means you have to get gates (not easily movable tension mounted ones because apparently you can’t have those at the top of stairs and they have a bar at the bottom anyway which isn’t safe) and you have to wall mount your gates, and then have them in place for years and years. It’s just… Oof. So all this lead me into a familiar spiral.

I truly thought I was okay with the infertility stuff. I was glad it didn’t bother me as much as it bothered other people. We didn’t spend years and years trying treatments and being devastated, we moved right on to adoption. There was some grieving, but I really felt good that it didn’t hit us (or at least me) all that hard. Well FUCK. The adoption process is definitely drawing all those feelings out. Why do we have to go through this when biological parents don’t? No one has to assess them and see that they’re fit. They don’t spend years in limbo, crossing their fingers that someone will choose them and then have to be worried that the adoption will fall through even after they take a baby home. They don’t have to spend all this money just to be parents.

So, okay, I accept that I have to work harder to get a child. That’s just the truth I’m living. So my bond with that child should be wonderful and immediate and never be questioned, right? Yeah, except pregnant people (#NotAllPregnantPeople) can get up on this fucking soapbox about the bond created during pregnancy and how I’ll never know what that feels like and how only a true mother can feel that.

So because a baby doesn’t grow inside of me, I can never feel for them the way their “true” mother does. I’ve seen a number of  “Well, no offence, but you really can’t understand the bond!”

That’s when the pain of not having biological kids hits. When I’m told that I won’t ever experience the bond. That because I won’t grow the life myself, I’m somehow “less than”. I fully acknowledge that adoption is not the same as having a biological child and that bonds are created during pregnancy. What I take offence at is the idea that pregnancy is the be all end all of motherhood. That can I never be as good a mother or as close to my child because I’ve never given birth.

And that’s when I realize that infertility is a journey. It’s not a ride that ends and you just get off. It’s always going to be with us. Even if we accept it as much as we can, it will always be a part of our story. Brushing off other people’s thoughts and ideas is rough, especially when it’s something you’re vulnerable about, but in the end, you need to be at peace with yourself and just let the haters hate. Live your fuckin’ truth, friends.

I need to accept that my life took me down an unexpected road. And this road will be long, and have super sharp turns that will be scary and difficult, but overall, who’s to say which path is the best? I will have a little love that I will adore with my entire being. Their start in life will be difficult, but if there’s one thing that people have said about me over the years, it’s that I’m resilient, and if this baby gets anything from me, it will be that. I will be there every step with them, helping them draw out their own strength.

Sorry for that cliched metaphor about roads less traveled. And doubly sorry about literally quoting the poem here, but it is so appropriate that I just can’t NOT do it.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost