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.”
“Most of us are spending so much time fearing the loss of something, that we can’t even enjoy it.”
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.
And as always, you can always talk to ME.
This morning, I shared my feelings on infertility and depression. I gave the option for any of my followers who may not wish to share on their personal pages, or who didn’t have their own blogs to share with me and that I would post on their behalf. I’m SO proud of these individuals who answered the call. THANK YOU.
IF often left me feeling empty, hopeless and depressed. Sometimes I felt numb as if I had nothing left to give. I was in mourning and didn’t realize it. It helps to talk to someone who understands and/or can empathize with you whether they are a professional or not. There is light where there is knowledge & understanding. -Tasha L.
I Need Not Suffer Alone
There came a time in my process of infertility where it began to win. I was depressed beyond words. I was in a dark place and unable to see the light. Very shortly after arriving to the dark place I sought therapy as infertility is a disease and they’re is an emotional aspect that needs to be treated. After spending almost a year in therapy I found out a lot about myself and infertility. 1. No longer would I walk in shame. 2. I did nothing wrong. 3. I need not suffer alone.
I called a counseling center this week.
As many times as I’ve told myself to call, or to look into it, or to move forward with it, this time I wouldn’t let myself back out. I need someone to talk to. Someone who isn’t my friend, or my mom, or my spouse. They’ve heard all my gripes before, and they can apply a temporary salve, but they can’t help me “do my work”, as Iyanla would say. They can’t help me unfold and unwrap all the things I’ve bound inside of myself.
The last time I got the courage up to call a therapist, was about a year ago. I had browsed and studied GoodTherapy.org for about a month before finally deciding on someone with a pleasant enough face, and a close enough location. When I finally got her on the phone, she said that she’d recently moved to Atlanta, and that she had a therapist she trusted back here, who I could call.
I decided that was a sign that I didn’t need a therapist. I mean obviously, if I’d done all that research, and the lady wasn’t even here anymore…
So I went back to business as usual.
And just what is business as usual for me?
Well, I work a lot.
I don’t think you understand.
From the minute I open my eyes in the morning, I immediately find a project to complete. I start in on whatever I can get done before leaving for work, and then once I’m there, I boot up whatever I was working on the day before, plus a few extra things I’ve just thought up, and then I’m mentally booked until around 3pm, when we start getting kids in the library, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s when it’s time for programs and meetings.
By the time I make it home, I try to continue whatever items I didn’t finish at work. If there’s nothing left to really do, I throw myself into a video game, Netflix binge, or Pinterest session(yes, session. My pinning is the stuff of legend. LOL).
I usually do these things until I’m too tired to stay awake. Most nights, I get about four hours of actual sleep because I have a hard time closing my eyes and shutting my brain off at the end of the day. After practically wringing it out like a rag all day, my mind rattles with everything from world peace, to job and sorority tasks, to what kind of schools I want my future children to attend.
And it does not stop or pause.
And when I wake up from that four hours, I start it all over again.
Because if I stop, for one second, I will completely fall apart.
The million tasks I do every day, are my coping mechanism. They distract me from the things that frighten me, and frustrate me, and utterly devastate me. I use them to invent things for myself to hope for, because I’ve lost all ability to do so without them. If I don’t have an event planned for next Saturday at 2pm, I’m not confident that there will be a Saturday.
Half of my day, every day, is looking at other people and wondering how they are so calm. I wonder how they are able to get up and go to work, or meetings, and smile, and have ideas, and just not seem to worry as much as I know that I do. My fears and anxiety levels get so high, that I can barely complete simple tasks.
February of 2013 was hard for me. I was severely depressed. Frustrated with not only my body, but this world in general. Then there was a short glimmer of hope as we planned to adopt, but then that went very sour, very quickly. And while having that little girl in my home for the following six months was special, and healing in many ways, it was also a horribly devastating experience. One that I suppressed into myself.
I am a person who suppresses my own grief. This is a symptom of depression.
I did not allow myself to grieve. I did not have time or interest in it. I just went back to work. With all my disappointment, and all my fear, and a double portion of my anxieties tucked into my tote bag.
I was, and still am, disappointed that for all my positive thinking, things still failed. I am constantly fearful that things may never work. I worry that I’ll continue to plan and hope and have the door closed on me year after year. I am always anxious that I will run out of time.
A year later, February is grueling in my heart. I’m uncomfortable, and sad, and just all around off of my game right now. Most days, I’m literally petrified. I’m tired of it. And more importantly, I’m tired of living in the dark about it.
Infertility is a quiet force within the African American community, and so is depression and mental wellness. Culturally, we are conditioned to internalize, suppress, and work through our feelings on our own. We are taught to keep “inside business, inside”, and to never let others know what we’re going through. Those things we know require outside help, are usually directed to our spiritual leaders, and not to medical healers.
I had a hard time writing this post.
Because I hate to be soooo depressing. Ugh. I HATE IT.
I really don’t like talking about the sadness, and the fear, and the emotional voids that have come into my life. I especially hate that I feel as though I’ve allowed them to. I am angry at myself for not being strong enough to not feel this way, and that too, is something those of us who suppress, do.
Instead of reaching out for help, I tell myself:
“You should pray more.”
“You’re being weak.”
“You just need to write it out or talk it out.”
“If you have time to sit here and mope, you aren’t working enough.”
And once I’ve done such a great job of thinking myself out of moving forward,…the feelings pass for a short while. Then, like I know they will, they always come right back.
Infertility, is bigger than babies. I tell people this all the time, and I doubt they really hear me. It is SO much bigger than bellies and bumps.
Infertility is trauma. Every part of this journey has its own scars and sounds, and memories that for many of us will never ever go away. They haunt us, and hurt us, and cause us to drastically change from whoever we were or at the very least thought we were.
Infertility hurts so far beyond the baby. It’s about my marriage, my friendships and my ability to picture a future. It’s about my body, and whether everything I’ve been told about personal power is true. Source
Because we want to be parents, and because we want to be the type of parents we always dreamed we’d be, we suppress the parts of us that are sad, or angry, or frightened. We wrap those feelings up, and we pack them away, so that we can plant a smile on our faces and keep going. But you cannot build a strong new house on a bad foundation.
I’m trying to walk into 2014 with more hope and faith than I had last year. I want nothing in my way. So I am going to do my best to rebuild my foundation.
Are you suffering from depression? Are you suppressing the emotional toll that infertility has taken on your life? You do not have to fight alone. You do not have to be alone. Here are a few resources that will help make sure you aren’t.
Coping With Infertility and Depression
GoodTherapy.Org Fertility Resource List
Resolve: Mental Health Resources
Infertility and Depression 101
#DayOfLight Info and Resources
- The #DayOfLight Campaign is the brainchild of blogger Brandi of MamaKnowsItAll
- Visit my good friend Natasha’s blog for the post that inspired me to participate here.
Would you like to participate?
- If you are a blogger, write a blog post sharing your personal experience of depression and/or share resources to help others. Add the #DayOfLight hashtag in your post title. (If you don’t have a blog, but want to speak about infertility and depression, please send your thoughts to The Egg and I will post them anonymously for you.)
- Watch the #DayOfLight Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5th at 11 AM EST. Tweet and ask questions. (http://bit.ly/1ilifbP)
- Participate in the #DayOfLight twitter chat on Wednesday, February 5th at 9 PM EST (follow@PushingLovely, @NotoriousSpinks, and @BrandiJeter for more information)
- Turn your social media avatars black and white on Wednesday, February 5th so we can visually represent all of those affected by depression.
- Share inspiring tweets, posts, and photos on social media to encourage those who are suffering with depression to let them know that they are not alone. Use the hashtag #DayOfLight.