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Opening The Door On…Infertility & Depression

Opening The Door On - Infertility and DepressionThe following is an anonymous submission for The Egg’s 2015 National Infertility Awareness Week Blog Project, #BehindClosedDoors.  This brave and powerful entry is one that will resonate with many, and one that I had to share.  THANK YOU to the Eggshell who sent it in, because she could be saving someone’s life with it.

If you are experiencing dark thoughts and need someone to talk to, please seek help. GoodTherapy.org offers a great search tool that will allow you to find help near you that specializes in the cares and concerns of those afflicted by infertility.   Remember “You Are Not Alone”.

Regina


A month or so ago I actually tried to take my own life.  I wasn’t strong enough to explain it here or anywhere else.  I did write it out though, and I’m posting it now.  My journey will never give anyone hope because…well I’m not pregnant and I never will be.  But maybe my journey will save someone else from letting themselves lapse into a despair that seems insurmountable.  Anyway, I don’t remember the exact date or time, but below is what I wrote about it.

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The Adoption Option: My Visit To The Cradle

Recently, I was invited to visit The Cradle’s “Gale and Ardythe Sayers Center for African American adoption”, on behalf of The Egg.  I had a really great time not only learning about the history of this great resource, but also just having a good “you get it” convo with Nijole (pronounced ni-lay), the organization’s Director of Resource and Community Development.

Cradle 1On a chilly Sunday afternoon, I met with my sorority sisters for lunch in Evanston and then headed over just in time to meet with Nijole at The Cradle’s headquarters.  She and her son Harrison, a proud “Cradle Baby”, met me with huge smiles, open arms, and an adorable puppet, in the parking lot.  Stopping in to take off our winter coats, one of the first things I saw was a Chicago Bears jersey of former player Gale Sayers, for whom the African American adoption center is named for.  IMAG4096

Throughout the main floor were walls and walls of photographs of children who’ve been placed through The Cradle.  There are photos just about everywhere, that make it very clear just how many lives have been changed here.  Along a south wall, was a photo of a woman with a warm smirk, and an adorable hat.  Nijole introduced her as Florence Walrath, founder of The Cradle. IMAG4098

The Cradle, was founded by Evanston, Illinois resident Florence Walrath in 1923.  Having a sister who’d experienced infertility, Florence’s chance encounter with a doctor who knew of a young woman who was pregnant with no hope, led to Florence uniting the two women. That one match led to 91 years of building families!

I was inspired by the story of Florence Walrath.  At the time she began her mission to find families for children, adoption was highly stigmatized.  Because of the stigma, it was also a very quiet and secretive endeavor.  One can imagine how much harder it had to be to face infertility during those days, and how heightened the guilt, shame and embarrassment must have been.  To provide this service for so many families, was a true mission.

Not only did she work to unite families, but eventually also to bring some dignity to the process, for all involved.  Her work in The Cradle also helped to address the high infant mortality rates that were of the time period.  I’d encourage anyone to learn more about this amazing woman!

Continuing our tour, I visited The Cradle Museum, a room with original images and materials from the organization’s history.

I also visited the “Living room”, where the staff says their goodbyes to new families going home.  Photo albums in The Cradle "Living Room".Last on the main floor, I visited the room where many birth-parents have their introduction meetings with potential adoptive parents.  IMAG4094

While standing in this room, a lot of thoughts flooded my head, and Nijole actually blessed me with the story of how she and her husband felt on the day they met their son’s birthmother in this very space.  What a hard conversation.  What a hard decision.

The more we talked, the more I felt that it is special people who are called to adoption. People who can accept the move past their original wants and desires, to accept that the primary goal is now to provide family for a child, and not to fill a void.  The mourning process, for those of us who have dealt with infertility, and the act of letting go of the things you thought would be, is heart-wrenching.  But also beautiful.

I applaud The Cradle for offering support and encouragement to those people.

IMAG4099Last on the tour, was a trip to visit the nursery.  The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with a 24 hour nursery to house infants who are in need of temporary care. Volunteers come in to provide contact and love for the infants, while nursing staff is also on hand.  Detailed notes are taken while infants are in their care, to monitor eating habits, personalities, and any other information that their parents may need when they head home.

 

Returning to Nijole’s office, we talked a bit more about what the Sayer’s Center program means for African American adoption.  At half the cost, the Sayer’s program seeks to make adoption more accessible, in the hopes of removing a barrier that could be behind the lack of potential African American adoptive parents.

More than anything, our conversation at its heart, was still just one of the warm and comfortable ones I’ve come to expect when speaking to someone else who has dealt with infertility.  Our wants are similar.  We both want to make people aware.  Aware of the resources available to them, and aware of how to empower themselves with the knowledge to change the conversation around family building. No one’s journey has to be identical to anyone else’s, but rather it’s the right of each of us to find the path that best suits us.

While adoption isn’t at the forefront of my husband and I’s journey right now, I have to admit to feeling sincerely grateful that there were other individuals like me, who were willing to be my support if it did become our next step.

The Cradle is not the only adoption agency.  Their way of doing things is not the only way. Their program is, I’m sure, not solely unique. And adoption is not the path for everyone. However, I thought it was important to share this experience, and tell someone who needs to hear it, that adoption is a viable option for some of us, and it is not as out of reach as one may think.

Thank you Nijole for the tour, and for just being a warm fellow advocate in this fight.

 

On Target…and other self-torture.

On TargetTarget and I have a somewhat friendly competition we’re in.

So, I love Target.  I don’t know what it is about that place, but when I see those red shopping carts, and that welcoming bullseye, I think the cares of the world fall off my shoulders and I start to envision a better apartment to place new housewares I don’t really need, and a smaller figure to fit their cute new apparel, and more photos to go in more frames, and whatever else is on the sales paper they have for that day.  It’s calmer than Wally World, and less expensive that Kohls, and it’s big enough to distract me from real life for at least an hour and a half on a good day.

But there’s a darker side to Target.  And it’s name is the baby aisle.

Now, I’m not often one who hates visiting baby departments.  I don’t often willingly wander into them, but I’m also not one who avoids them like the plague.  We’re basically on an “if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you” basis.  That said, Target’s baby aisles and I, we have what you might call “a history”.

When my husband and I first started talking about expanding our family, but my sister got pregnant instead, LOL, Target is where I took her to buy her first baby item.

When we were hoping to adopt, and had Little Girl with us, Target is where I finally found her first Easter dress.  They were the only store with a dress small enough. It’s hanging in my hall closet. 

It was also Target where I first went shopping alone with 4 month old Little Girl, and she promptly cursed me out in wails that made other shoppers give me “what is she doing to that infant” glares, and accusatory snarls.

Target is my go-to place for baby shower gift-cards, cute baby gifts, and even if I’m in the store for something completely different, Target is also the store that will have you accidentally wander into maternity clothes or diapers.

So for me, Target has the potential to also be a pretty sensitive shopping spot.  But I love the place!  So I work hard at challenging myself to not allow those sad bits to creep in. Every visit, I encourage myself to not look away from the cute onesies that are just hanging around the housewares for some reason, or to not ignore the Leapfrog Puppy that I know I purchased for Little Girl when I see it prominently displayed in the Toy department’s outward facing aisle.  

But I think Target is on to me.  Because now, when I’m fully clothed in my big girl panties, Target has taken to the habit of saying “I see you, and I raise you”.  

Take yesterday for instance:

I’m in good spirits, and I don’t at all shy away from the uber-adorable Valentine’s Day onesie display.  In fact, I walk right up to the display and take a look!  The “Daddy’s Little Princess” one with the ruffled bottom leggings makes me smile, and I wander away unscathed.  Then, Target goes, “I see you.  And I raise you.” and blam, right there in the center aisle is a FULL NURSERY DISPLAY.  Not a little crib headboard with a price, like they usually have, but a full nursery, on a platform, decked to the nines, with a “Wouldn’t you like to be here” feel like a Jamaica tourist ad.  

I’m not fazed by Target’s crafty wit, however.  I comment to the hubby on how cool I think the color layout of the nursery is.  I’m awful fond of the slate and yellow combo these days.  We chuckle and keep it moving.

I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself when I hit the registers.  I mean, really Target, you’ve done worse on far more stressful days than this.  I’m cool, calm and collected…

and then Target says,

“I see you.  And I raise you.” 

At the register beside us, I hear the cashier say, “Oh my!  You’re going to need our guest assistance to help you to your car!”  I look over. Two car seats.  She’s not just buying baby items.  She’s not just buying a car seat.  She’s buying TWO.  “So!” Says the cashier, “Two seats! Is it safe to assume, TWINS!? YAY! Oh my!”

Two car seats.

Two.

I gather up my little bags of socks and body wash, and whatever other bs I just spent a box of diapers worth on, and I get the heck out of there.

Well played, Target.  Well played.

 

Thanks Target.  I’ll order some more feels from Acme, and try this again another day, m’kay?

The Loneliness of Grief

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. During last month’s #MoonshineMeetup, a conference call for the Broken Brown Egg’s Shellshocked Support Group, one participant said something so profound that it really made me stop.  She said, “If someone’s child passes away, they are expected to mourn, and they are allowed to think about it.  Because my child was never “born”, does that mean I should act as though it never happened?  Why don’t I get to think about them?”. 

It was a heartbreaking thought, because it made me really stop and think about how lonely grief really is.  I started to really think about how many women and men we encounter every day who we never suspect to be in mourning.  They are right in the middle of their pain, and we look right through it.

Infertility in and of itself, is an ongoing bereavement.  With every month gone by, you are constantly grieving over your vision for your life, your hope, or your plan for your future. Every single day is a readjustment period.  Every reset and restart is like signing yourself up for the same pain all over again.

And the hardest thing about grieving, the absolute worst thing, is that it feels as though everyone wants you to forget. They will say that it’s because they want you to feel better, but you feel as though what they really want, is for you to not bring them down.  They don’t want to look at your sadness anymore because it is an uncomfortable inconvenience.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” ― Vicki Harrison

To our credit, most of us do a pretty good job of keeping our sadness to ourselves.  But it crushes you.  Your heart feels like it’s beating out of your chest, and your body does what feels like a double-step.  You think to call or message someone, or just scream “Help Me!!”, but then that overwhelming feeling of loneliness sets in.

You’re not actually alone, but it feels that way.

Because everyone else is over it.  And you just know that when you start laying out your issues, their facial expressions will say, “are you still talking about this?”, or “umm,…isn’t there someone else more qualified to listen to you about this?”.  Everyone else seems to have moved on.  Everyone else can act as though nothing ever happened.

But something did happen.

And it is happening.

And it hurts.

It feels as if everyone wants you to “just” let it go.

And you’re left thinking, “But why do I have to forget?

And, “Why don’t THEY remember?”

You get furious at their impatience.  At their painful indifference.  At the way they treat you as though you want to stay there.  That you want to feel this way.  That you want to be unhappy.

We spend a million hours every week with all types of people.  Laughing, talking, hanging out, working our jobs.  Mundane things.  And most of the time, nobody realizes who is actually broken inside.  I mean, if you can do your job adequately, and you provide enough of a “you” for it not to be so obvious that you aren’t firing on all cylinders, not one person is going to touch your shoulder like in the movies and say, “Really, are you okay?”.

“Grief never ends… But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith… It is the price of love.”
— Unknown

Wherever you are in your process, it was on my heart to share this simple truth: Grief is lonely, and it often outlasts sympathy, but it is necessary.  Allow yourself to grieve. No matter how you come out of this, or when you reach the ever-elusive “other side” of it, know that it is your right, to remember and reflect and regroup.

Whether it is a child who never took a breath, or one who took far too few.  If it were a dream that never came to light, or a loved one who is no longer with you,…you have the absolute right to remember that it/they mattered.  The condition of your heart, is important.  What it feels like to YOU, is valid.  And what you’re going through, is real.

Take all the time, and love, that you need.  You have my empathy.

Fertility For Colored Girls “Hats, Heels, and Hankies Tea”: Amazing, elegant, and inspiring.

There are few experiences during this infertility thing where you feel empowered.  The moments are few and far between, and you will find that when you get them, you will begin to savor them and never want them to end.  The Fertility For Colored Girls‘ 2nd Annual “Hats, Heels, and Hankies Tea”, was one of those experiences. (more…)

Grey Matter

I Matter copy
I did not sleep last night.  I will admit that aside from taking an ill-timed nap, my anxiety got the better of me.
I did pray, however. And the most poignant message that came to me in that time of meditation was this: “I MATTER.”

I worry a lot. I worry about time. I worry about the world. I worry about my health. I worry about my words. I worry about people. I worry about my dog. I worry. I am a worrier.
My mother compared my niece to me this weekend as she recounted their day together.

“She’s very much like Regina,” she said. “there were a few clouds in the sky and she was convinced that it was going to storm, and wanted to stay inside.”

We all laughed. I actually didn’t think much of it. But it nagged me sometime later when I started to realize, that I am passing along this feeling of panic.
Out of all the things I worry about, do you want to know what I worry about most?

Most of all, I worry about whether to ask God for things. Along these years of battle with my own body, there have been many casualties. Slow, silent deaths. One of which, being my hope at many times. Or more honestly, my faith.
I am deeply ashamed to admit that, but hey, I talk about everything else in this space, so why not share that?

When I really started to break down why I wasn’t really praying over any of this very much anymore, I guess what I felt it came down to was, I don’t feel worth protecting, or saving, or listening to, sometimes. In the midst of great accomplishments, professionally I was just named Young Adult Librarian of the Year in my state, and socially, I was just reappointed to a very cool position in my organization, I still feel relatively incomplete in many aspects. And that nagging little feeling of “you don’t really deserve that”, combined with the fact that this STUPID STUPID STUPID infertility thing won’t just die, makes me forget how blessed I really am sometimes.

It’s hard to dictate why people want to have children. I guess that’s why most of us get pissed off when you ask. No matter the answer, as a person struggling with infertility, you’re always going to feel like your answer isn’t cutting it, and is in fact the most selfish one that can be imagined.

Whatever your personal reasons are, I would wager that on the basic human level, there is also an innate desire to leave your mark on the world. To have been here. To know that when you are no more, there is a living, breathing legacy that you have created.

In my silent, overnight meditation, I recognized that for me, it is important that I remember that I matter.
Not only to my family and friends, or even to the organizations and agencies with whom I belong.

But that I matter to God
That He cares for me.
And for my life.
And that no matter how utterly devastated I feel, or how many “no”‘s or “not yet”‘s, I receive, that I am HERE. I am important. I was here.

Whether or not I am ever a mother, in the traditional sense.  Or if I am always going to be battling PCOS.  Or if I forever keep all my hangups, and screw-ups, and whatevers.

I, in all my whatever,…matter.

I will be honest.
I planned to sit on this one.
I make it a point not to debate religion or spirit on this blog, because it is too important to too many, to be left in the hands of keyboards and hotheads when humans inevitably disagree. And infertility-lore is already permeated with misunderstandings, misspeaks, and downright wrongness spewed in the name of it. We’ve all had or heard the “you just need to pray”, or “your faith isn’t strong enough” commentary at some point I’m sure in regards to our medical conditions.

But I think a lot of people feel the way that I do. Once one too many of our prayers seem unheard, or when a new catastrophe seems to fall out of nowhere and all at once, on top of our already shaky faith; that it’s somehow because they don’t matter. That you, out of all your friends, is the LONE person battling childlessness, because it’s you. That it’s because of something you did or said, or didn’t appreciate, that you are now one of the 7.3 million facing this or some other ailment.

I stayed up all night,…just to tell you that if nobody else tells you for the rest of your life,..

I’M telling you;

YOU MATTER.

Take of this post what you will, but it was on my heart to share it.

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