If You’re Happy And You Know It…Or If You’re Not And Don’t Know Why?
I’m so happy to be here.
I’m going to start by saying that, even though the next thing I say will undoubtedly make someone believe that I’m contradicting it.
And that is, that for the past 24 weeks, I’ve had multiple battles of emotion where I found myself thinking:
“I’m supposed to be happier than this. Aren’t I?”
I know that it sounds like the most ungrateful and irresponsible thing I could possibly say, when finally reaching the position that I’ve been trying to reach for so many years. And I really struggled with writing it down at all, but I felt that it was important to stop hiding behind the pressure of being pregnant after infertility and be honest.
For the past few months, I have fought extremely hard with anxiety and fear. Pregnancy already comes with its own hormonal and emotional changes. I’ve read a lot of articles and we’ve all seen the commercials and movie scenes that show pregnant women crying over commercials and even happy songs. I was okay with that, and somewhat expected it, because I know it comes with the territory. Being pregnant after infertility, however, I believe comes with an added level of stress and trauma that weighs heavily on the heart and affects not only how I view myself as a pregnant woman, but how I feel about everything. These weren’t just pregnancy hormones, this was finding myself so scared and anxious all the time, that it started to feel paralyzing.
For the beginning of this new journey, I was in survival mode. Every day was another day of questions and worry, brought on because through all the years that I’ve been in the world of infertility, I’ve seen the elated highs of announcements, and also the devastating news when something has gone wrong.
I found myself wanting to be excited, but internally, painfully sad. Because I wanted this so very badly, and felt like “I’m no better than any of the amazing people who’ve gotten to this point and then had to say goodbye to their little one far too soon”, what makes me different? Feeling as though I didn’t deserve to be on the other side, I’d be praying for the best, while always emotionally preparing myself for the worst.
Before appointments, I would talk myself through what to do if there was no heartbeat this week. I’d plan out what to say to my office, or how I’ll tell the select few who already knew. I wanted to prepare myself to be strong, at what would be the most devastating moment of my life.
And I was doing so, because in a way, I’d lived through it before.
When we were planning to adopt, I’d never felt so close to being a parent. There was an actual, human baby that was being given to us. Even then, we were careful to only tell a select few, just as we have now. We were cautiously optimistic. To get all the way to the hospital, and to holding her, and to hearing this birth mother say out of her own mouth, “Oh, she’ll be just fine with you all”, I made the mistake of letting my guard down. Of getting excited. Of getting attached.
So when two days later it was all snatched away, I believe a part of me just wilted. Such an abrupt ending to such a slow and steady hope. I couldn’t go to work, and I couldn’t leave my room. I couldn’t be the same ignorant person I’d been before having it happen, and I couldn’t figure out who the informed person was going ot be on the other side of it.
And I NEVER want to be there again. Because I almost didn’t come out.
So while I knew full well the risks involved in IVF, and although I decided to do it anyway, I’ve been cautious and tentative every step of the way. My own doctor said I had a pleasant smile, but that it was clear that underneath it she could tell I was petrified and sad.
At times where I should have been bouncing off the walls with excitement and joy, I’d look at the ultrasound monitor and usually say out loud, “Thank God, there’s something still there!” And the nurses and the doctors always look at me like, “Of course, silly!” And then I just start the countdown to the next appointment, when I’ll probably be just as terrified.
My patient and caring husband has been dragged along in my issues as I kept us from announcing until a whopping 20 weeks, though I’d designed an announcement somewhere around week 8. I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head that if we were to once again get people’s hopes up, including our own, and then have to turn around and let everyone down again, I didn’t think I could handle it.
While listening to a podcast that I love, “The Friend Zone” I heard this statement:”Most of us are spending so much time fearing the loss of something, that we can’t even enjoy it.” [pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]”Most of us are spending so much time fearing the loss of something, that we can’t even enjoy it.” [/pullquote] WOW. What a word. That’s exactly it.
I have felt extremely isolated in my anxiety out of guilt and shame. Guilt for feeling as though I should NEVER find myself anything but elated when so many of my friends are still fighting to get to this side. Ashamed that I was “allowing” the anxiety and worry to rob me of the experience I’d waited for, or that my emotional state would be harmful to this little life, which then made me feel even worse. Also, I worried that to tell these feelings would be offensive or hurtful to those who have followed me, or prayed for us, or who are at times seemingly more happy for us than I’ve been able to be for myself.
But, being in my head all of the time is the true culprit here. I can’t just put my head down and barrel through this like I once believed. I have to speak, because that’s my therapy. I decided to share these feelings because I’ve prided this blog, and really all of BBE on being honest. On saying those things that others may be thinking but may not feel they have the right or even the platform to say. This is no different.
Pregnancy depression and anxiety is a REAL thing. It actually affects about 6% of all pregnant women and is sometimes more common in women who have experienced infertility. After the emotional highs and lows of infertility, we’re so used to safeguarding ourselves from the worst, that we can sometimes have a hard time adjusting. Feelings of isolation and not fitting into the “naturally” pregnant world, or belonging in our infertility circles anymore can become overwhelming.
If you’re like me, and fighting off sadness, I want you to know you’re not alone. Your feelings are valid, no matter how off-putting they may be. They don’t take away from how amazing of a parent you’re going to be, or how wonderful of a parent you already are. Wherever you are on this journey, I’m rooting for you, and I’m praying for all of us!
I am so very grateful to God that I’m here now. That I’ve seen the heartbeat and heard it with my own ears. That something we’ve waited for so long, is finally within our own reach, just a few months away! Sometimes I’m so excited I could literally run down the street like a crazy person, because June can’t get here fast enough.
The feelings I’ve talked about here today, don’t take away from that. They don’t make me second guess my choice to take the crazy IVF ride, or to even be a parent at all. They remind me that I’m human, and that this whole thing is so much bigger than babies. That our emotional and psychological well-being is intimately tied to our ability to grow our families in the way that we choose.
And here’s a small treat, and the Christmas Gift my husband and I bought for ourselves the day after Christmas. We went to a commercial ultrasound facility for a gender check, AND they added the heartbeat to a stuffed animal for us. THANK YOU for sticking with us.
The Dark, Dirty Secret of Prenatal Depression – Thanks KEIKO!!
And as always, you can always talk to ME.
Regina Townsend is the primary author and founder of TheBrokenBrownEgg. A librarian and writer, Regina’s mission is to make people aware and active about the unique concerns of reproductive health in the minority community.