A Very Belated Thanksgiving

Since Christmas preparations are in full swing and we're staring down the big day, it is only fitting that I take a step back and offer up my very belated thoughts on a thanksgiving in spite of infertility.

Thanksgiving is a difficult time of the year. My mother passed away ten years ago on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. On the day before Thanksgiving, her Oncologist told us it would probably be her last with us. So, that entire day, we knew our hours with her were numbered. We knew our family would never be whole in the same way. As such, it has been extremely difficult for me to feel truly thankful when Turkey Day rolls around each year.  Couple that with the devastating loss we suffered when Jeremy's father was ripped from our lives by a man whose motivation no one understands, and it's hard to see what we should feel thankful for.

Fast forward to my struggle with infertility. In short, infertility makes feeling grateful even more difficult for me.  I know the green eyed monster resides within me some days and my inability to give thanks comes from this. I know the bitterness I feel is sometimes nothing more than jealousy for something I might never have. Nonetheless, the emotions I feel are real, and as I have discovered on this long journey, they deserve to be acknowledged and experienced. Just because the emotions aren't pretty doesn't mean they don't need to be shared. I don't think one can be truly thankful unless you experience the gut-wrenching lows at the bottom of life's journey.

Maybe it's my need to give my husband joy at the holidays, maybe it was the Thanksgiving visit from my sister and nieces, maybe it is the contagious joy of teaching 12 year olds at Christmas... or perhaps it was the increased dose of antidepressants, but for whatever reason, I truly feel thankful for the gifts in my life this year.  Some women might tell you they are thankful for their infertility. You're not going to hear that here. But, I am grateful for the perspective I have gained for all of life's experiences-- good, bad and in between.

Thanksgiving for an Infertile

1. I am thankful for a supportive family who always has my back.

When I started the journey through infertility, I wasn't sure what to say and who to tell. It feels so taboo, to admit that you are trying to have a baby and nothing is working. In a world where Kim Kardashian can appear nude on the cover of a "mainstream" magazine, it is still seen as TMI when someone talks about their infertility diagnosis.

However, my family has been nothing but supportive. I know there are many times when my dad and my mother in law aren't sure what to say. They don't have any words that can comfort us and they don't know if it really will be better. But, I know they are always in my corner, no matter what. My aunts, uncles and cousins are in a similar boat. They don't know what to say, because there isn't much they can say, but they always offer up their love, support and prayers, which is more than enough.

My sister gets the hardest job. She has to be my venting post, the person who hears what is going through my mind, unedited. She's always there, offering a listening ear or backup if we need to get something done.  She readily admits that she has no idea what it is like to face the prospect of never being a mother, but she understands the depth of my fear and sadness when it comes to facing a life of never being a mother.

2. I am thankful for Jeremy, my amazing husband who has been there through it all... and says he would do it again.

When I married Jeremy, I knew I chose a good man. I didn't realize I chose a man with the patience of a saint. He truly has been there every single step of the way. Sometimes, he doesn't know how to comfort me because he is lost in his own sadness. Sometimes he just holds me while I cry, my tears soaking his shirt and symbolizing the fear and sadness both of us face when we talk about our future.

When I started down the road of infertility, I often thought he should leave me. In fact, I have told him that many times. I know he will be a remarkable father, and that he wants that more than anything. I believed that he should find a woman who could make him a father, one who didn't fail month after month. But, that's not going to happen. Here's here for the long haul, embodying the words "for better or for worse" at the depth of his core.

3. I am thankful for a job I truly love.

I spent more than 2 years working in an office every day instead of a classroom full of students.

I will never do that again.

I love being surrounded by young people who need my support and guidance. Maybe I'll never be a mother, but I am a teacher in the deepest part of my soul. There is nothing better than helping a student understand something new. There is nothing more rewarding than posing a difficult question and seeing a student masterfully figure out how to solve the problem. I am so fulfilled when I see students become the adults I knew they could be, finding their own passions and making the world a better place little by little.

There is no other job that would make my heart happy every single day. For finding my place in education, I am eternally thankful.

4. I am thankful for modern science.

100 years ago, I would simply be "one of those women" who couldn't have kids. Because of the advances in modern science, I have a fighting chance to be a mother.

Modern science allows us to know more about our bodies and the world around us. Medicine is advancing more, seemingly every day, showing us how to combat diseases and conditions that were death sentences in the not-too-distant past. Modern science created the antidepressants that have helped me cope with the stress and anxiety that are part of my daily life.

5. I am thankful for the unconditional love a a dog.

Nine years ago, I went to a pet adoption event and saw the sweetest little face in a cage. He was an adult Pekingese that no one wanted to even look at because there were cute lab puppies in the cage next door. I don't even remember anything about those puppies because my heart knew it found the fur baby Jeremy and I needed. When the man gave him to me, he snuggled me as I connected the leash and promptly peed on the floor. It was love at first sight.

Fred was a hard sell in the beginning--he had a rough life before us and still has a few setbacks because of it. But, ten years later, he's still our fur baby, one of the things in this world I value most. He snuggles me when I am crying and keeps my feet (or sometimes my head) warm each night. He's there when I arrive home each day after work and he is always grateful to see me.

His love has been a saving grace some days. He never asks for much, aside from a little time in the yard and his favorite treats. But, even without the Filet Mignion treats, I am pretty sure he could gladly give me all the love in the world, just because I am his person.

6. I am thankful for living in an area with multiple fertility specialists.

As long time readers of my blog know, Dr. M was a total dud. Looking back, there were many signs that I should have left that clinic long before I did. But, no one wants to think their doctor isn't looking out for your best interest.

I live in a place that has access to multiple university medical centers and private practice reproductive endocrinology centers. There are many, many choices for me to make when I am looking for a doctor. I know some women who face the choice of driving hours for access to any reproductive specialists more knowledgable than generalists.

I am grateful for the plethora of options available to me because it has led me to Dr. D, my new RE who has the bedside manner I need and the guarded optimism I so desire. He is also realistic and sees me as a whole person, not just patient number XXXXX. I told someone the other day that I know all I need to know about a doctor from what I am called when I walk in for the third or fourth appointment. If they call me Ms. Wilson, they aren't even trying to know who I am. If they call me Rebecca, they are attempting to look like they know who I am, but they have no clue. If they call me Becky, then and only then, do I know they are taking time time to really understand who I am as a person and a patient, not just to bolster their success rates with my stats.

Dr. D may or may not help us become parents. But, he told us he will help us resolve our infertility, for better or for worse, because we deserve to life our life without the giant question mark of infertility looming over our heads.

7. I am thankful for the Internet and a group of women I have never met and will probably never meet.

Infertility is isolating for many people. Some folks in your "real life" just don't know what to do with you. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or simply don't know how to relate to the pain and anxiety that infertility brings.

Enter the ladies in my life who have gotten me through so much.

Some people might call us bitter. Some might call us jaded. I think we are the most "real" group of women you will ever meet. We understand that not all stories have happy endings. Too many of these ladies have suffered miscarriages, infant loss and the inability to get pregnant. We're all very different-- no two of us have the exact same career, live in the same place or enjoy the same things. But, we have bonded through the shared experience of understanding that pregnancy and motherhood are not things that all women who want to get to experience. We understand, better than most, how unfair and difficult to comprehend the world can truly be.  We don't try to tell each other that everything happens for a reason or that everything will work out in the end, because we all know those are empty words that are often untrue. Instead, we offer our love, our shoulders, our shared tears and our hope when someone else is out of hope or scared to hope. We share their joy when things do work out after the long, hard struggles these women have faced. We are a group of friends who might not know each other if we passed on the street, but we know we are there for each other, no matter what.

8. I am thankful for Dr. S.

Infertility is scary. There are so many technical terms, tests and charts that are fairly incomprehensible to those of us who lack medical credentials. Enter Dr. S.

No matter how crazy I have become in all of this, he has been willing to help us figure out what is the best next step and to translate the medical jargon into real human language. He is a second set of ears to help us make reasonable decisions. He has scoured the area high and low to find the resources I have needed to face this battle.

When I entered his office more than two years ago, I was pretty sure I was in for a lecture and dismissive noises about continuing to try on our own to get pregnant. I thank God that I did not cancel my appointment that day. No matter how our infertility story ends, I am glad Dr. S has guided me and my husband through these crazy, difficult chapters behind us. I am confident he will be there to help with the chapters still to come.

9. I am thankful for chocolate.

Sometimes, nothing makes it better. Sometimes my heart just hurts more than it ever should.

Some people might turn to illicit drugs or alcohol. I have found that a good piece of chocolate can heal the soul in a fundamental way.  I am grateful for this small indulgence that shows me there are small pleasures in my everyday life.

10. I am thankful for finding a outlet for my anger and sadness.

When I was a little girl, and even a a teenager, I loved to write. There was a part of me that never felt complete unless I could get my feelings out on paper. As adult responsibilities grew, I tucked that part of me away and left it for another time.

When I began to deal with the realities of infertility, my husband encouraged me to start writing again. I have always been very guarded about sharing my writing, as it always felt like I was exposing a piece of my soul for all to see. But, with his support, I began this blog.

I know I am not Hemingway or Austen, but I do have something to say, and it seems, there are at least a few people who want to hear about it. So, I continue to write. For now, this little blog is enough, pushing me to think about and experience the range of emotions that come along with this experience. If I inadvertently help someone else in the meanwhile, that is just icing on the cake.


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