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Thinking of you

15 Oct

Today I’m thinking of all of you who lost your little ones too soon.  Even as I’m approaching my daughter’s birth, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the 4 that came before her. I feel so fortunate to be in this position after so much heartache and tears…I hope each and every one of you out there still trying for your own miracle has a chance to feel what I am right now, and that somehow, my story can give you hope to keep going.

Sending all of you and your little ones love.

Courtney

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Five pregnancies, two and half years, & two hundred posts.

27 Apr

flowers and shadows

Tomorrow I’ll be 14 weeks.  14 weeks.  It seems surreal.  It’s hard for me to believe that I’m not still stuck in the first trimester, as I was for two and a half years.  Last week I entered my very first second trimester in five pregnancies.

I’ve had my genetic pre-screening done and everything looked fantastic…the baby is even measuring a few days ahead (which is definitely a first for me).  The tests all came back negative, with the downs chance basically non-existant.  Who would’ve thought we could make a genetic superstar?  I’ve had many chances to take a peak at the little one waving and kicking up a storm – my last one just yesterday – and it never gets old.  I thank this little baby every single night for growing stronger every day, for beating the odds to still be here today.  I put my hand on my belly and even though I can’t feel him or her just yet, I feel life.  I realize that makes me sound crazy, but every time I start to worry, I press my fingers to where he or she is and I feel butterflies.  After all my heartache, it’s the best thing in the world.  Forget genetic superstar…this baby is a superstar plain and simple.

I feel like I’ve let many of you down by not being able to come to this space.  Something happened before this pregnancy – a shift in my thoughts that revealed I was ready to step away from the everyday interactions in this world.  My sanity needed me to step away.  I honestly believe it has helped me navigate this pregnancy as well as I have.

This world has been my safe-haven, my strength, my release, my support….I can never forget that.  For four devastating pregnancies, all of you have been there for me.  Some of you strangers, some of you now friends for life, others family and friends in this with me in the real world as well.  I will never be able to thank you enough.  This space has given me so much over the years and I’m proud of the woman this world has helped me become.  She’s a badass in my eyes — in fact, you’re all badasses to me.  We navigate these murky waters with nothing but fractions of hope and the unwavering support of others in the trenches…with our hearts pulling on us and the rest of the world telling us we’re crazy.  But we come here and we’re not crazy.  We pee on a thousand and one sticks and end up finding someone else who peed on a thousand and two.  Because of this world I found inside this little screen, I dove into a fifth pregnancy with no proof it would be any different than the other four.  I gave myself one more chance at this, and knew that if it didn’t work out, I’d be okay.

I’ve learned that here: I’ll be okay.

I will never turn my back on this world.  It’s who I have become and who I will always be.  But because of  how much I care for the other women here and how much I can feel myself in their shoes, this space and this world is different for me right now.  If I find myself visiting the stories so similar to mine, with pain so incredibly raw and familiar, I can no longer separate this pregnancy from the others.  And it needs to remain different for me in order to make it to the other side. For two and half years, I was not myself.  I was pulled under by grief and anxiety and I’m ready to be lighter and present.  I experienced a hell I never thought I would have to live through…and for now and hopefully forever, I feel like I’m coming out of the cloud.

But my thoughts are still with all of you, rooting for you from the sidelines.  I’ll always be there, even if you can’t see me.  I’m the one screaming the loudest, telling you you can do it even when you think you can’t.  Telling you how I understand how painful it is, but you’ll be able to make it through.  I can promise you that.

There’s still not proof this pregnancy will be different, but in my gut, it feels like it is.  If I look past the fear that creeps in here and there, my heart tells me this one is different.  Even if the worst happens, I have a confidence I never had the previous four times: that I will make it through to the other side somehow.  Because of what you all have given me.

Four losses, one currently thriving pregnancy, two and a half years, & 200 posts.

Insane.

flowers and shadows

Love,
Courtney

P.S.  Even though I may not come to this space very often, or sadly visit yours even less…please email me at any time, I’m still here.  bodegablissblog {at} gmail {dot} com

Where I’ve been.

20 Mar

Alright everyone, this is going to be a long one so you might want to get comfortable.  Maybe even grab yourself some water.  I’ll wait.

Are you back?

Okay, let’s get on with it, shall we?  It may not be my best piece of writing, but there’s a lot to cover, so here we go…

A little over two months ago, my boss handed me some sample job descriptions for a position he wanted to hire for and asked that I put one together to post.  As I’m reading over the samples, I quickly realize all of the parts of my job that I love, will soon be taken from me and given to a new person.  I went home pissed and hurt.  How did he not think of me first?  Had I not succeeded at the majority of these responsibilities, and more?  Tim thankfully took me out for a drink to help me get some perspective.  Yes, I had a right to be mad.  But at the same time, I needed to fight for it.  I went home and wrote out all the reasons why I felt like I should have the position, listing all of the accomplishments I’ve had over the last three years to further my point.  I was determined to make my case for the new position.

The next day my boss asked me if I had had the chance to look over the samples and I said that yes, I had looked over them and that I wanted the job.  He was taken aback – that possibility hadn’t even occurred to him.  I outlined my points and he said he would think about it.  A week or so later, he told me to put together the job description…for me to fill it.  I was excited and scared and proud of myself for fighting for the position.  Unfortunately, what quickly came with the promotion was the fact that I would be doing two jobs for over a month before we could hire someone to take over the duties I would no longer be doing.    What followed were weeks of late nights and days filled with not even a minute to breathe, and all of a sudden, I found myself with a job that kept me up at night worrying about the things I had to do.  I was afraid I would fail and be out of a job as a result.

In the middle of all of this, Tim and I attended an information session on California’s foster care program.  An hour or so into the meeting, we knew it wasn’t for us.  For reasons I don’t feel like getting into right now because this post will be long enough, it just didn’t sound like something we would have the energy to do.  Nor did we think it would be fair to his daughter/my step-daughter.  At the end of the session, we met with a social worker who ran the Foster-to-Adopt program for the county.  She explained the process and as she was speaking, it was as if a light turned on…it sounded like something that could really work for us.  I knew it was on the table as an option when Tim started asking questions.  And just like that, our world opened up and there was a back-up plan.

I felt like that piece of the puzzle – the lack of a back-up plan – was the final weight pressing down on my heavy shoulders.  I walked out that door and the weight was gone.  Finally.  For years now I was burdened with the very real reality that I may never be a mother.  In the past, adoption had never been on the table for us (due to the cost), so in my mind, my only option was to succeed at a pregnancy.  With my history, that felt like a longshot.  If I couldn’t make the next one work, I’d be facing a future without a child ever calling me “Mom.”  It was a future I was scared to death of facing.  And all of a sudden, that future changed.

But back to work….As I became more and more busy at work, I found I had no time to read blogs or write on my own.  Additionally, when I would get home from work, I had no desire to turn on the computer after staring at one all day.  As a result, radio silence quickly occurred on this here blog.  But what I didn’t expect was how free I felt.  I, of course, missed those that I had followed for years/months, wondering what was going on in their worlds.  Except as my positivity in this whole loss mess continued to climb, I began to think that maybe it was good for me to step back from this world.  When I’m in it, I’m in it.  I read the words of those struggling to get pregnant, those losing another chance, even those fighting against their fears while being pregnant, and I feel all of them as if they’re mine.  I’m inside their (your!) head and I can’t get out.  After being forced to step out of the world for a month, I felt alive again.  I felt like maybe, just maybe, I can do this.  And if I can’t?  I’ll be okay.  After this realization, I found myself fearful of stepping back in.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I was ovulating.  So in addition to being insanely busy at work, we were getting busy at home.  (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)  I was temping and doing all the things I needed to do, including taking progesterone on the chance I did get pregnant.  Tim and I had one really amazing weekend alone (we usually have my step-daughter on the weekends), and I was feeling so good.  Confident in not just our future, but in myself and my ability to fight for what I want at work, something I had never done before.  We celebrated my promotion, the day that we met and the anniversary of our first date.  February has always been a heavy month for us, and this fortunately was proving to be one of the happier (albeit stressful) ones.

You still there?  Because it’s about to get good.  So wake up!

The week of February 13th was insane.  We had a huge announcement as an organization coming up on the 16th, and I was spearheading it in my new position. To say I was stressed would be a bit of an understatement.  I felt like my ability to prove myself in this position was about to be tested and I couldn’t fail.  The day of the 15th, I arrived to work at 8 a.m. and stayed until 11:30 p.m.  When I got home, I continued to make a few minor tweaks to the website from bed.  I was exhausted.  And at this point, I knew I was 11 dpo and that the next morning (the 16th) I’d be 12 dpo.  I had decided I wouldn’t test until all of this was over, I knew that whatever the result was, it would distract me from the work I had to get done.  I had planned on waiting until Friday to test when I was 13 dpo, but when I woke up on Thursday, I had to know.

It was positive.

Instead of the normal waves of fear that come rushing with those two lines, I felt nothing but joy.  I didn’t feel like this time would be it, I had no instincts what so ever, but what I did know was I wanted to feel joy.  So I did.  For the fifth time in two and a half years, I was pregnant.  But this time I was happy.

I get to my office and find out that all of my hard work paid off, we had made it onto the cover of our local city’s newspaper (above the fold even!).  I couldn’t stop shaking.  That was certainly too much excitement for one hour.  The day flew by and I couldn’t believe how insane it all was.  The next few weeks were filled with telling my closest friends and family that are in the loop with my history, that we’re going to do this again.  Asking them to please send us all their good thoughts and prayers.

Shortly after I got the positive, Mo found out she was going to lose her sweet Nadav.  I was beyond devastated and knew that that was not the time to announce my pregnancy in the blogosphere. I felt so helpless and have so much love for this woman, I couldn’t believe it was happening.  In fact, I think I was in a bit of denial for quite some time.  As a testament to what an incredible and caring person she is, since she knew about the pregnancy she told me I needed to take care of myself, that the last thing I needed to do was take her pain on.  I promised her I would try my hardest.  And despite an extreme sadness that up until that point I had never felt for another human being, I didn’t take it on.  For the first time ever, I was able to separate her pain from my situation.  I strongly believe that it was because I had been out of the blog world for over a month that I had the ability to separate myself.  As much as I love this community and have grown from being here, this is the part that I have always struggled with.  This is the part that is unhealthy, but unavoidable.

Then of course a few weeks later there was that whole debacle (you know the one I’m taking about).  I did briefly come back to read about it…but instead of inspiring me to write, it sort of confirmed my reasoning for taking a step back.  This is an incredible community.  I can’t stress that enough.  The combined strength of the women here could move mountains.  I’m proud of being a part of this, and know that I have gained so much as a result…but as I’ve found myself headed out of it for quite some time (as a result of knowing my journey’s end is near, in whatever form it comes in), I have questioned whether the benefits outweigh the negatives.  And witnessing the battle between the infertiles as a silent witness, I had an even harder time wanting to come back.  I’m still on the fence about what my participation will be here on out.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what feels right.

(And now you’re probably wishing I had just stayed away if I was going to write a novel like this…but bear with me, I’m almost done.  Aren’t you glad you got that water now?)

Before I got pregnant, I told myself that the next time I was going to take it day-by-day.  Since this is the last time I’m going to do this, I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed it.  The baby deserved that at the very least.  Due to the control I tried to have over my last one that still failed, I finally knew that no matter what the fate of the pregnancy would be, that I had no place in that outcome.  Letting go of that control is exhilarating.  In addition to this, because of the amazing piece that Jjiraffe wrote about me in her Faces of ALI series, I had a newfound compassion for myself and for what I have gone through, so I knew that all that was left for me and the baby was to be in the moment.  I am so proud to say, that for the most part, I have succeeded at this.  I have faced this pregnancy as a new pregnancy, one with it’s own chances of making it, with it’s own particular fate.  Every night when I go to bed, I tell my baby that I’m thankful he or she is here, that no matter what happens, I love him and want him so badly.  I thank it for growing and for trying.  And the next morning, I do it all over again: I face the day.

I told myself I’d wait until after I reached the fateful 7 weeks 5 days that the past ones have gone downhill or ended to get an ultrasound.  There was no point in me seeing the heartbeat when it hasn’t meant anything in the past.  Plus it felt good to not be filled with the anxiety of my doctor’s office on a weekly basis.

Yesterday I finally went.  At 8 weeks 2 days, it was measuring right on target and with a heartbeat.  It’s already further than any of it’s siblings.  And I can’t stop smiling.

Except, I can’t look beyond today…and today I’m 8 weeks, 3 days pregnant.

Today, I am pregnant.

(You may go now.  For those of you left, thanks for sticking it out.  Hope your legs haven’t fallen asleep…or your eyelids for that matter.  Thanks so much for reading!  And for those of you that said you missed me, you still miss me now?)

A final update.

22 Feb

I am sure most of you are aware by now, but just in case, I wanted to put an update here as well…Mo and her husband said goodbye to their beautiful Nadav and induced labor.  I apologize for the late update, it was difficult for me to believe this was real.  I wanted it all to be just a nightmare.

If you have not already done so, please head over to Mo’s recent post, “Nadav,” and leave your love and your support.

I have felt such a lack of words through all of this, in a perpetual state of shock.  There have been some absolutely beautiful posts throughout all of this, proof that our collective hearts could move mountains.

Nadav, Mo and Shmerson, you are so very loved.

Stay tuned for more information on a project we are doing and how you can help.

Two incredible women who advocate on our behalf.

8 Feb

Jjiraffe just posted her second installment of her Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility series.  This time she shares the story of Sarah, from A Child To Call Me Mama — who after battling Stage IV endometriosis and the loss of her right ovary and tube, as well as years of heartache, finally ends up with a happy ending.  Please go and read this story.  Jjiraffe is trying to get over 1,000 visits to this piece in hopes that the real story behind adoption, loss and infertility can be heard.  Even if you’re not a direct part of this community – even more so! – please take the time to read it:

http://jjiraffe.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/faces-of-adoptionlossinfertility-sarah-in-three-acts/

And after you’ve done that, if you haven’t yet read the first installment of the series (featuring yours truly), you can do so here.  With this piece, a whole shift in my way of thinking changed.  She gave me something I had been trying to achieve ever since my first devastating loss.  I only hope her most recent piece has a similar effect on Sarah, because that’s what sharing these stories from her amazing series can do — they can heal hearts.  They have the power to make those women going through this in the dark feel less alone.  They can make those that have no experience in loss or infertility, finally understand what it’s like.  Women who have gone through something like this can finally get the compassion they need.

So what are you waiting for?  Go read it.

And now for another woman who is making a difference in our little corner of the universe: Keiko Zoll of Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed and Words Empowered.  A little while ago I entered a contest she was having as a way to promote her new launch of Words Empowered.  I won the “Follow Your Passion Prize Pack” and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  This morning Tim calls me from the post office asking if I can meet him at our gate because he has something I might want.  And this was what I discovered inside the package:

What a nice surprise to get today!  I am so excited to delve into these books and fill the pages of the journal (the photo above).  Keiko is an incredible advocate for the people in the ALI community.  She is a force to be reckoned with….who, coincidentally, is just who you want on your side when you’re battling this hell that is ALI.  And next month she will be launching The Infertility Voice, what looks to be an online resource center for infertility.  I’d go ahead and bookmark that right now, because knowing Keiko, it’s going to be incredible.

Case in point – this is the note she inscribed to me in one of the books:


” Live w/ abandon.
Live fearlessly.
Live w/ joy & honor.
Live like it matters.”

– Keiko Zoll

Doesn’t she sound like someone you want to follow?  I feel so honored to “know” both of these women, Jjiraffe and Keiko, one in real life and one from this community of ours.  They are the women giving us a voice when we have trouble finding our own.  They are the ones giving us the energy to fight and make our stories heard.  They are the ones that we want leading us through this place we never wanted to be.  We’re so lucky to have them.

Thank you, Jjiraffe and Keiko, for everything you’ve done and for everything I know you will continue to do.  You rock.

Just pretend.

30 Jan

Sometimes, I just need to give myself permission to step out of this world for a little while.  After two years of it, it can be quite overwhelming.  When I step away, I try to pretend it never existed.  For a few days – a week – I pretend like my life is normal.  That I’ve never experienced a gut-wrenching loss, never mind four.  I try to pretend that the negatives on the pregnancy tests don’t bother me, that they’re what I want.  That I’m a thousand times joyful for everyone else who has a baby, and don’t care that I haven’t had one yet.  That the last two years have been spent blissfully with my incredible husband, that not a sad tear has been shed.  That come February 11th, the only anniversary it will be is the day after I met my husband, not one where my heart was ripped out of my body with the passing of my baby.

That I’ve never buried a tiny little being, in it’s once-hopeful sac, under an old oak tree in a field nestled between hills.

Sometimes, I want to pretend that my life went as planned.  That it didn’t take a detour down the dark and twisty road of pregnancy loss, that I’ve been on the sun-filled road all along.

And the thing is, sometimes it works.  It works for a few days – a week – and I wake up happy for once.  But the reality always creeps back.  That relentless longing for a child never seems to disappear, no matter how much I pretend it was never there.  I start to miss the people in this little virtual world of mine, the people that I am invested whole-heartedly in their lives and their cycles and their collective uteri.  I can’t turn my back on it now.  I can’t pretend it away.  It’s who I am, it’s who I’ll always be.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say: I can’t wait to be the fuck out of it.

An unintentional gift.

4 Jan

If you haven’t already, please head over to Jjiraffe’s post to read “The Devastation of Pregnancy: A Profile of Courtney…,” where she describes my history with pregnancy loss in order to profile what it really means to live with infertility.  If you’re not familiar with Jjiraffe and her fantastic and inspirational blog, for months she has been tackling the New York Times’ inaccurate coverage of what it means to be infertile.  She is a brilliant writer.  I’ve been trying to figure out why they’re not busting down her virtual door and begging her to write these profiles for them.  Oh wait…that’s because she’s not interested in highlighting the 1% of infertiles who can afford unlimited IVF treatments just because they thought it would be cute to have another baby well into their forties.  Right.  So please, if you haven’t yet read her piece, please do so now.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read this before she posted it, and as I read each beautifully crafted word, tears fell in a steady stream down my cheeks.  For the first time in two years, I was getting to view my story from the outside looking in. As I read about this woman and her devastating pain from each of her four losses, I was profoundly sad for her.  I cried for her and what she had gone through.  I was awed by her resilience.   I wanted to reach out to her and wrap my arms around her, to tell her how very sorry I am for her losses.   Not once did I get angry at her for “allowing” those babies to die.

Ever since that fateful day in February of 2010 when I lost my second pregnancy, I have blamed my body for being inadequate, for not doing what it’s supposed to do.  That blame, of course, was heightened when I went on to lose a third and a fourth.  I refused to be kind to the body that stopped my babies’ hearts.  Through what feels like hundreds of sessions, my therapist has been urging me to be kind to myself, to nurture my body and support it like I do for so many other women going through this.  But despite our work, I’ve been unable to find the compassion for myself and for what I’ve experienced. I can’t get past the fact I feel like I’m to blame, that my body failed me.

When I read Jjiraffe’s post, the compassion I’ve been seeking for myself and my unimaginable loss, came flooding in.  Although the post was meant to highlight the inadequacies in the NYTimes’ coverage, it did so much more for me.  It was a gift.  After reading her words, I want to take care of that woman and her grief.  I want to nurture her and love her, not berate her and blame her.  The woman in her story doesn’t deserve that.

Jjiraffe, I will never be able to properly thank you for the gift you gave to me with this post.  The woman inside of me that has had to deal with my lack of compassion for two years straight, thanks you.  I’m wrapping my arms around you, too.

Now, if you still haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?  Go now.