MicroblogMondays: No Longer Jealous

Three years ago, I wrote this very complicated story of how my brother’s ex-girlfriend got back into my life.  With our history, I was worried that my professional time with her would be very unpleasant.  Everything turned out to be fine and she is a delightful human being professionally.  I am talking about her now because today’s blog post has something to do with her ex-husband.  He was my brother’s best friend when she cheated on my brother by being with him.  (My brother is still friends with the both of them.  Bless his heart.) . Their 10-year-marriage did not result in any children.  She remarried and gave birth to her daughter at 42.  He was single for quite a few years.  Last month, he got married again at the age of 48.  His new wife can’t be more than 30 years old.  This is why I wasn’t too surprised when I saw a pregnancy announcement on FB from his wife yesterday.  She included pictures of the two of them, the Valentine’s gifts that he lavished on her (such as flowers and an expensive purse), and an ultrasound photo with words on it that said “It’s a girl!”.  My first thought was, good for them that his older sperm didn’t stop her from getting pregnant.  Then my second thought was, most 30 year olds would be quite fertile so getting pregnant easily wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.  Next I was thinking, maybe they struggled to get pregnant for quite some time and decided to get married once they finally got pregnant?  You can’t make assumptions about people’s story by just looking at one FB post.  Subsequently, I laughed at myself for my internal dialogue with myself and then realized that I did not have a single ounce of jealousy in me about this pregnancy announcement.  The ultrasound photo did not bother me.  Thinking back in the last year and a half, I remember how I have been feeling less and less jealous or envious of expectant moms, pregnancy bumps, ultrasound photos, or pregnancy announcements.  Random pregnant ladies and little newborns don’t have an effect on me anymore.  I feel genuinely happy for expectant parents regardless of how easy or hard it was for them to get pregnant.  I really love this change in me, and it shows me that my life with my twins has made it possible for me to focus on them rather than focusing on others.  They are more than enough for me and I don’t need to feel envious of those who can make babies easily or can carry their own babies in their bellies.  I do know that not everyone feels this way even after their infertility has been resolved.  This is just a little interesting observation about myself.   I welcome this change as it has come about naturally and was not forced.  I didn’t have to work at feeing a certain way.  It doesn’t mean that I have forgotten my past.  It is just that my emotions don’t have to stay there while my life is moving forward.  I know some people who struggled to have babies still have these intense feelings about others’ pregnancies even after they have had their babies.  Different people can feel so differently.  It is good to know that it is possible to eventually lose the feeling of envy and jealousy.  And it seems like I have somehow reached this point.

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Not Happily Ever After

You may wonder how an intended mother may feel once she is expecting via gestational surrogacy.  The answer is, it changes all the time, and you don’t know when and how frequently your feelings may change.

The other night Bob and I were chatting in bed about how we’d turn 15 weeks the next day.  Suddenly, this sadness overcame me.  It just hit me like a ton of bricks without warning.  I lay there and started tearing up.  What went through my mind was how Annie will start feeling the babies’ movements in a few weeks and I will feel nothing inside of me.  That loss on that particular day at that particular moment was so unbearable.  My babies are growing in another person’s body, and I am 100% grateful for that.  However, this same fact also reminded of my missing out on this experience and it was very difficult to bear.  I knew all of this going in, and I knew that these feelings are going to surface once in a while.  I do think that it is important to acknowledge them and cry when I need to cry.

These complicated feelings made the next day even more difficult.  A close friend of mine who had been banking day 5 and then day 3 embryos for the last two years (because of diminished ovarian reserve) just received her positive beta after failing her first transfer a month ago.  She started banking after she turned 40 and she had been quite adamant about not using donor eggs.  I totally respect what she’s been doing and support her in her endeavor.  It has not been easy for her and I want her to be successful.  At the same time, I didn’t know how I’d feel if/when she eventually gets her BFP.  I found out on Wednesday that her BFP has hit me hard.  I was super jealous of two things: 1) she does not have to consider the need of donor eggs, and 2) she gets to experience a pregnancy.  I know that this jealousy and these thoughts are not rational.  As a close friend, I *should* be very excited for her.  But I was just super super jealous.  There is no rhyme or reason.  Like I said, I would not have known how I’d feel about a particular person’s pregnancy until it happens.  There have been many times I am immediately very happy for someone and do not feel an ounce of jealously.  Unfortunately this time my primary feeling has been jealousy rather than anything else.  I felt a little bad for not being able to fully celebrate with my friend, but I was told by another co-sister on this journey (and she’s a therapist herself) that I don’t have to feel bad.  I am not going to analyze myself too much, but I believe this stems from both my need to use donor eggs and my necessity to use a gestational carrier.  I knew that I was still sorting through my feelings about not being able to carry, but I was surprised by my feelings regarding donor eggs.  I thought I have completely worked through those emotions, but I guess the grief for foregoing my own eggs lingers for longer than I thought.  I knew and still know that I was completely done with my own eggs at the time we moved forward to donor eggs and am very grateful for having the twins using this method, but it’s still tough when someone else achieves what I can’t.

Today was tough for me.  My friend was of course still super excited and sent me two pee stick photos.  It was hard for me to see pee sticks without prior warning.  Pee sticks, bump photos, and ultrasound photos still serve as such a trigger for me.  She also mentioned about other pregnancy related things that were too much for me at this point.   After a few moments, she asked me if it was okay for her to show me these photos.  I was silent for a little while then decided to tell her that I was okay with them because as a good friend, I don’t want to dampen her joy.  However, my friend A. wanted to make sure that I don’t get ambushed by this friend in the future so it might be wise to establish some boundaries.  I decided to be honest with my friend so I made this suggestion: “I support you and love you and am very happy for you for getting to this point.  Just for me, you may need to be a bit less specific about your pregnancy symptoms and things in the future.  I’m not saying that you are overdoing anything right now because you are not, but this is to protect myself because I don’t get to experience what you will experience.  I don’t know how I’d react.”  My friend took it very well and thanked me for being open with her.  I wish I could be there for her 100% but as of now, I am not quite there yet.

So it goes to tell you that even when we are 15 weeks into this pregnancy, we don’t live happily ever after.  We still have all sorts of feelings to process.  And sadness and jealousy hit whenever they want to.  We’ll have to be honest with ourselves and handle these feelings as they come.  Hopefully, like what A. said, that by the time the twins come, I will be so busy mothering that this stuff will have less opportunity to fill the space in my head.

MicroblogMondays: Unexpected Trigger

Microblog_Mondays

I was at my nephew’s graduation.  Watching all the 8th graders walk into the hall and listening to that familiar “Pomp and Circumstance Graduation Walking March”, I started to tear up a little.  I was surprised by my emotions.  For sure I am proud of my nephew, who received a few awards including one that was given to one boy and one girl who were elected by their 8th grade classmates for being the nicest and most helpful throughout the year.  But I suspect that my emotions were much more complicated than the pride I had for my 14-year-old nephew.  Next to me was this couple, who looked full of joy and pride for their son.  One of the segments of the evening was for the graduates to walk to their parents and hand them flowers and a thank you card.  Being next to that couple, I could see the large-sized hand-made thank you card that read more like a letter.  Their son practically wrote them a love letter.  The mom was wiping her tears while taking in all the little words that filled the whole card.  Watching her, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of loss.  Do I ever get to experience this joy of seeing my own child become a successful young man?  The earliest that could happen would be when I am in my mid-50s.  That feels really far away from now.  I mourn the loss of what could’ve been, where life could’ve taken me on a different path.  What if I met Bob earlier?  Married earlier?  Had no problems conceiving?  Then being at my child’s 8th grade graduation would not feel so far-fetched at this moment.  A sense of loss, unfairness, envy, jealousy, fear, etc.  These are feelings that I would usually have when I see a pregnant lady or a mom with young babies.  I never would have expected myself to experience them at a middle school graduation.  I was very surprised.  I did actually shed a few tears there.  It goes to tell you that triggers are everywhere and sometimes happen at unexpected times and in unexpected places.

Name It, Own It, and Move On

I thought I didn’t have to go back to my therapist.  Well I guess I didn’t HAVE to.  But the first thing that came to my mind after my cyst incident was to tell my therapist about my thoughts and feelings around it.  As much as I thought that I was done talking to her (because I can take care of myself, right??), my reaction told me otherwise.  I emailed her and got an appointment this past Wednesday.

Right before I went, I still thought that I would just talk about my disappointment surrounding the canceled cycle, then I would run out of things to say.  What a naive thought.  Well, I basically talked the rest of the session without a gap.  I did have a lot to say.

I thought it was very productive.  We talked about quite a few things.  She was empathetic about the cancelation because I had been so ready for it since the momentum for the new cycles had been built for quite some time.  Ever since I started seeing her, I began to give more thoughts to my feelings.  I feel like giving them a name.  (Not a real person’s name like Ursula for the cyst.)  I used to feel some vague unpleasant feelings and I might not have pinpointed what they were.  When the cyst was discovered, the word “disappointed” kept popping in my head.  I wasn’t frustrated per se.  Just disappointed.  My therapist commented on how good it is for me to name my feeling, own it, and move on.

I went on to talk about my feelings for pregnant ladies and new moms.  This all stemmed from my friend Anna who is about to give birth.  While I waited to feel ready for a new cycle, Anna’s belly grew bigger and bigger.  She is finally due and the baby is going to come at any moment.  I shared with my therapist about how I found out about Anna’s pregnancy, how I sometimes feel guilty for being jealous of those pregnant friends who had tried as long as we have if not even longer, how I feel that I should not be jealous, and how I feel I should work towards feeling happy for them.  I feel a sense of losing the camaraderie between myself and these friends, the sense of someone fighting a battle with you side by side, and the sense of being left behind.

My therapist’s point on this is that, I am only human.  It’s natural to have envy or jealousy.  It’s natural to feel being left behind.  It’s very much okay to have these feelings.  The more important thing is how we deal with our feelings.  It’s much better to acknowledge our feelings, own them, and move on, than to avoid those feelings or get stuck on them.  It’s normal to be jealous of those who have crossed to the other side, even if they have struggled like we do.  However, if I say that I feel guilty for being jealous and I should be happy for them, then I am putting judgment on myself.  There is no should’ves, would’ves, or could’ves.  And don’t focus on the what-ifs.  We cannot change the past or predict the future.  These thoughts are not useful.  Instead, we strive to live in the presence and experience our current situation, thoughts, and feelings.  That’s a lot healthier than regretting the past or being fearful of the future.  And it’s a lot healthier to name the feeling and move on.

My therapists said that people who experience fertility challenges are often hard on themselves.  I myself included.  If a friend came to me and told me her feelings, I’d most likely comfort her and let her know that it’s okay to feel a certain way because we’re just human beings.  However, we don’t say that to ourselves because we’re often hard on ourselves.  So she said, be kind to myself and sometimes talk to myself like I’d talk to my own friends.

What if I get stuck on a feeling and can’t move on?  She said, if I get stuck with a feeling after acknowledging it, I should get up and move around.  Our frontal cortex is great but it’s difficult for human beings to shut off our feelings.  When we do something different, such as moving around, walking outside, or changing our posture, we help change our feelings and we won’t feel as stuck.

Finally, I told her about the flowers that were sent to work by my husband, how I was pleasantly surprised by them because of our prior fight and talk about saving up every single penny for IVF.  Bob has an extreme focus on saving up money for IVF and more importantly, donor egg cycles.  He sometimes views spending money on something else as deviating from our goal.  However, I feel that we should sometimes stop and smell the roses.  I feel that we should not focus every single moment on IVF but to live life.  This has been a source of tension even when I am actually not a big spender.  My therapist said that money is the number cause of fights for couples who struggle with infertility.  She pointed out that as a partner who is not doing the physical part of IVF, such as the injections, the retrieval, or the transfer, he would want some control in this process.  One thing that a partner feels like he has control over is the money aspect.  It’s very common.  She told me to put myself in his shoes and think about what he’s going through. Then I’ll have more empathy and will be able to step back from a fight if I take his perspective.  The fact that Bob surprised me with flowers on his own shortly after our big fight shows that he is very open to this dialogue of coming to a mutual ground with our finances.  He is trying and he did it out of his heart.

I had never thought about the control part and I found it very true.  It sheds some new light on Bob’s thoughts and feelings and I am very appreciated of this new insight.  However, my therapist said that she agrees with me that living life is very important too.  So Bob and I should sit down and talk about how we want to spend a little bit of money on date nights or entertainment so that we don’t feel that we’re dragged down financially, emotionally, and mentally by this process.  During a fight, she suggested that I (we) can get up and move around.  That should help us be unstuck and feel less angry.  She said I could tell him that the therapist said it’s okay to live life.  She senses that we have a very strong bond and are really on the same page trying to work towards our goal.  We could bring Bob into the therapy session as a guest to talk for a couple of sessions about our feelings surrounding finances, IVF, and infertility.  We could also pursue couples counseling with another therapist that my current therapist highly recommends.

I walked out of the session more empowered.  Talking to her really helps to straighten out my thoughts and feelings.  Bob is still trying to decide if he wants to come to a session with me.  It’d be interesting to see how the dynamics change.

As for our current cycle, today is cycle day twelve.  I went for my acupuncture appointment on Tuesday and Maya abdominal massage appointment yesterday.  I am also doing self care massages at home and taking herbs to try to clear up the cyst.  We’ll see if Ursula is as agreeable as my first two cysts.  Bob and I are trying naturally as usual.  We continue to hope for the best that we’ll find ourselves pregnant in a couple of weeks and we’ll get the refund from UCSF for the mini cycle that we have paid for already.  Let’s hope, pray, and believe together?

No Rhyme or Reason

How I feel about pregnant ladies and newborn babies has been very weird, and random.

Today, I was on duty being on the greeting team at church.  Every few minutes, a big belly or a car seat with a tiny infant would come in.  I would have a big smile on my face, hand a bulletin to the woman, and say Hi to the baby.  This would repeat over and over again for the duration of my duty.  One of my teammates commented, “Wow there are so many pregnant women and newborn babies at our church! We will soon need more room in our nursery!” To which, another teammate said, “That’s a great thing!  Right?”

So how do I feel?  It depends on who it is.  Sometimes, my feelings have no rhyme or reason.  I didn’t mind certain newborns.  I actually went to seek them out.  My heart didn’t skip a beat and I didn’t feel repulsed by them.  And then, there are certain women that I am friends with.  I want to avoid them like a plague.  One of them was the friend who announced her pregnancy on Christmas morning.  She was flaunting her big belly in this adorable dress and all I could do was to say hi.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask her how her pregnancy was going, how she was doing, etc.  Then her husband approached me about 15 minutes later, gave me a friendly hug, and asked me how Bob and I were doing.  I could not tell him our painful experience a few weeks ago.  I just gave him the generic “we are good”, which we are.  But there is so much more to it and I could not share.  At the service right before sermon, this couple appeared on screen on a pre-recorded video, talking about their “storm” in their life with the birth of their second child as he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder.  In the video, she talked about the joy that was robbed of her, that her child may never attend prom or get married, yet Jesus came through and gave them hope.  Now that they’re expecting their third, she feels redeemed.  Because of her experience with her second child, she has no expectation of how this pregnancy would turn out.  I found myself tearing up for her experience as it must have been very painful for her to have a special needs child who was very difficult to take care of early on.  But at the same time, I couldn’t help but think that I still want what she has, that she has a chance yet again to be redeemed, and am jealous of it enough that I don’t really want to talk to her.  

And then I had the privilege to hold a 2.5  month old baby today during a meeting.  His mother has had difficulty conceiving.  Instead of doing A.R.T., she and her husband opted for adoption. After one adoption heartache over a year ago (with the Russia adoption ban preventing them from reuniting with their son), they were matched with this birth mom about two weeks before the baby was born.  It is a beautiful story.  I see so much love from this couple for their baby it makes me want to squeeze them tight and join in this love.  The baby is getting cuter and cuter every week I see him.  Last week I sat next to his mom during service hoping to hold him and he fell asleep.  So today at a meeting I got to hold him while his mother was hosting the meeting.  This is the most snuggly snugbug ever.  He hung out for a little with his eyes wide open.  With his strong legs and feet, he was able to stand up for a little.  After not even fussing for a little, I rocked him to sleep standing up.  Whenever I sat down, he opened his eyes again, which forced me to stand up.  Eventually, he was deep asleep and I could sit down comfortably with him lying on me.  After the meeting, a friend came by and said, You look good with him on you.  And I said, I hope one day we’re blessed to have one for our own.  I loved loved loved loved loved holding him.  His smell was so yummy.  His cheeks were perfect and it felt so nice to rub his tummy.  His little hands were so perfect.  He was just perfect.  I am so happy for my friends for this gift of life and I really hope that one day I get to experience it as well.  

I don’t know if I accept her newborn because she struggled with conceiving and the baby was adopted.  There are three other expectant mothers at church who have been known to have struggled for years before they finally conceived.  But I still can’t stand around them.  One of them is even my own close friend Anna.  She was the one who shared with me about being pregnant at 6 weeks.  She’s currently in her second trimester.  I haven’t really seen her for a while so I haven’t seen her with her belly yet.  A few weeks ago, I only saw her husband but didn’t see her.  I wrote her an email asking how she was doing.  She wrote me back a week later saying that things were well and they started sharing their news with others.  She said the ultrasound scans had been going well and she would bring the ultrasound photo that Sunday if she remembered.  My first thought was… I don’t want to see any ultrasound photo… But I didn’t write her to tell her that.  I didn’t see her that following Sunday.  So when we had our loss, I wrote her an email detailing it, and wrote the following to her:

“In light of what happened to us, I may not feel like or look like the friend that I should be for your pregnancy.  I am very happy for you, but I may sometimes not look that way.  I just want to give you a heads up.  My prayers are that I can go pass my feelings at times and be a very supportive friend.  I am working towards that.”

That was end of February, ten days ago.  I have yet to hear from her acknowledging that she has read my email about my pregnancy and my loss, or responding to what I had to say about her pregnancy.  I really want to try NOT to feel disappointed.  But I am.  I choose to be honest with her about my feelings, but I feel that my honesty and my email got lost in the deep sea.  I searched for her today at church but didn’t spot her or her husband.  I am not going to write her another message.  I will see if and how she responds.  But is it crazy that I am disappointed?  Should I be?  I don’t know…

Another girl had her baby shower yesterday.  I didn’t attend.  I saw her from afar and I didn’t go up to her or say anything to her.  She tried for years for a baby and was shocked to find herself pregnant right before they signed paperwork for an adoption agency.  She has one of those myths or miracles happening to her in her life: once you decide to proceed with IVF/adoption, you get pregnant.  I am not necessarily jealous of her, but I just don’t want to stand next to her, hug her, or do anything with her.  She is someone who struggled and finally got pregnant.  But I still can’t.

Yet there is another woman who recently gave birth to her third.  I was very surprised by her pregnancy because she already has two older children (probably in 3rd grade and kindergarten), and she is in her 40s.  For some unknown reason, I was very jealous of her pregnancy.  Later I learned that she struggled for a long time before conceiving this one. But that didn’t help with how I felt about her.  I didn’t attend her baby shower either.  Good thing I didn’t.  I saw a Facebook photo of all the pregnant ladies who attended that shower.  I just don’t think I could handle seeing all these ladies standing together for a photo.  I also saw a newborn photo shoot on Facebook with her and her new son, which I quickly clicked it away as I didn’t want to see it.

And then there is my friend Alice who gave birth to her third child on the day I got my first beta.  It’s so interesting to me, as I still have not felt any jealous towards her.  She also struggled for her number one and number three and she is also in her 40s.  But I feel very happy for her.  I loved the photo that she sent out when she announced the birth.  I also love the professional photo that was posted on Facebook from her newborn photo shoot.  That baby looked so adorable and looked so at peace.  I went back to look at that photo over and over again.  And I also texted Alice and told her that I would love to come visit and hold the baby whenever they’re ready for a visitor.  Her text said, “I am off until May 1st and welcome visitors like you anytime!”  

I got together with my maid-of-honor for a dinner.  She is single and dating so she’s not thinking about kids anytime soon.  However, her friends are all married and starting to have kids.  It has been very tough for her.  Last August, she celebrated her birthday with me and another friend of hers.  This other friend is known to be beautiful and generous.  She recently got married and wanted to try for a baby very soon.  I casually asked my maid-of-honor about this beautiful friend.  Of course she is pregnant and is due in June.  Although she had an early pregnancy loss before quickly getting pregnant again with the current baby, I found myself not having any sympathy for her loss mostly because it was so very easy for her to get pregnant and keep the pregnancy again.  Isn’t it mean for me to think and feel that way?  But I couldn’t help myself.

So I don’t know… I am sorting through my own feelings.  I am doing better and better each day with the healing part.  I still get sad at times and still mourn the loss of Clay and Eli, but I think it’s normal.  But somehow, this experience of pregnancy and loss set me back a little with my uneasy feeling and jealousy with others who are pregnant or just gave birth, sometimes regardless of their own prior struggles or losses.  I know that God is a God of healing.  I need His grace and mercy daily.  I also need Him to help me get better again with these feelings so that I can continue to have peace and be able to celebrate with others’ happiness again.  This is the journey.  There are three steps forward, then there is one step back.  As long as I am moving forward, I am okay.  I would rather acknowledge my own feelings and work through them again than being in denial about them.  Work in progress.  As long as God is helping me, I am going to be fine.  

Jealousy

I am not usually jealous of others for having what I don’t have.  Somehow infertility has turned me into a very different person.  When we began to try for a baby, my heart often skipped a beat whenever someone announced their pregnancy.  It could be a very close friend, an acquaintance, or a friend’s friend who announced her news on Facebook.  My reactions could range from wanting to cry, to feeling this tugging on my heart, to wanting to hide at home and not see anyone.  It would hurt the most when my close friends were expecting, especially when they conceived without even “trying” or it happened quickly.  The first twelve months of our TTC journey were somehow the toughest.  These pregnancy announcements coupling with BFNs or AF’s arrival could send me into a semi-depression.  From reading blogs and talking with fellow TTCers, these feelings seem to be very common.  I would think that I wouldn’t be jealous of those who found success after trying for a long time, but I was.  I didn’t like the person that I had turned into, but I couldn’t help myself feeling this way.  I had been praying for God to help me to remove the jealous feeling and to at least feel neutral if I couldn’t feel happy for someone.

Something in me has been changing in the last few months.  It begins to hurt a little less when I see pregnant ladies.  I can be in their presence again.  Ultrasound photos and pregnancy belly photos don’t bother me as much, although I still hide them on Facebook.  A very good friend of mine whose sister adopted a child after years of fertility treatment wrote me an email sharing her third pregnancy with me.  Because of her sister, she knew exactly how to best share her news with me.  It only took me a mere five minutes to mourn my own loss of natural conception.  I began to feel happy and excited for her.  What a welcomed change!  I really don’t want to become that person who is always bitter about others’ very happy news.  And I don’t wish this journey upon anyone, close friends or strangers.  I also began to feel instantly happy for those who found success in getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy after their long struggles.  I celebrate with my Facebook secret group friends who show that highly coveted BFP.  I want to know how they are doing and am truly happy to see their belly photos online.  Yesterday I was very very excited for a fellow TTCer who is also diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve with crappy AMH.  She got to the egg retrieval phase of her first IVF and got 14 eggs!  For someone suffering from DOR and often gets about 6 or 7 resting follicles each cycle, this is like a wild dream coming true.  Today’s news is that out of 14 eggs, 9 fertilized!  I really can’t begin to tell you how happy I am for her.  And I LOVE being in this place to be happy for someone else’s good news in their journey!  I am praying that all 9 of the fertilized eggs will get to the day 5 blastocyst stage.  And I am very hopeful that she’s get pregnant this cycle!

I am not saying that I have come to that happy point where I will be happy for anyone who gets pregnant.  But this is a very good starting point for me.  Like what my friend J said, “Don’t bear yourself up for needing to mourn or not wanting to be happy for them. You have/and continue to struggle with an unknown future for your family and that is rough.”  I am grateful for wise friends who have gone through this journey.  I hope that I will continue to move to that place where I am focused on my own fertility and won’t get affected by other people’s business.  Definitely can’t do it without God’s help.

Today, I am thankful for:

  • Being happy for friends’ happy news
  • Facebook’s chat so I can connect with friends instantly to discuss things
  • my husband for being such a silly character and comic relief
  • the weekend!!