I’m excited to be back to blogging and getting back to normal, whatever that is.
If you follow me on Instagram or have followed this blog for a time, you know its been kinda quiet around here. Like, ghost town quiet. Not just for a week or a month. Maybe Mama was silent for a good eight months.
Eight. Whole. Months.
In an online space, eight months of silence is a long time when trying to send a message and build a following. I missed opportunities to share my thoughts and experiences, make connections with people, and grow my presence.
I’m flipping the script to add yet another layer to this story of mine: My fight with depression. This is part of family building journey as much as Lupron, ultrasounds, and HSGs
Last year, in March and April (part of February too because of priming), we did our first IVF cycle. For my circumstances (low egg count, one ovary, high FHS/low AMH, ), I did pretty well in terms of output.
All in all, from one ovary, they got 8 follicles, 4 eggs, and they were able to create two embryos. I felt good about that, because I had already done better than expected.
Every day, my nurse would call to give me an embryo update. The embryos were dividing, and growing on schedule. Until they weren’t. On Day 4 the report was they were growing, but not as quickly, which was not necessarily a bad thing. The next morning’s call, they had stopped growing completely.
I didn’t really know what to feel. I was sad, but more so I was caught off guard. I knew that anything could happen at anytime, but things were going so well, I “forgot” to be worried that they wouldn’t make it.
My doctor called later in the evening to go over everything in more detail. I sat in my car, in the dark, with my teal “baby journal”, where I keep all my notes, listening and writing down all the important points and take-aways from our conversation. All the while, fighting back tears, trying to seem cool, strong, and unbothered.
This whole time, no one saw me break, and I was proud of that. But on this call, I could barely keep it in. I told myself to suck it up, and I focused on the clinical and scientific aspect of what was happening, and not on my disappointment, fear, and anger.
After a few minutes in the car by myself to process, I went in the house. When I went in, I told my husband the news. I broke down, but only a little. I didn’t want him to see me upset either. I knew my being upset would make him upset.
So I kept it together.
And I kept on “keeping it together”. Acknowledging that we failed but not really dealing with it. I kept on pushing, going about my every day tasks, only crying now and then when no one was around.
For those that knew I was going through this journey, I wanted to seem brave and strong. I wanted them to see how determined you have to be to even go through the infertility thing. I wanted to be a billboard for all of the women who have done this, once, 5, 10, 20 times. I didn’t want people to have pity on me.
For those who had no idea, I wanted it to remain that way. I never wanted to give off any hint that I had chaos going on behind me.
But being “strong” and unaffected was a front.
Those feelings of guilt, anger, doubt, and disappointment, were slowly creeping up on me. My veneer of cool was starting to crack. I could feel it.
Children under 5 gave me anxiety. Literally. I could not be around small children without getting upset.
I felt like I was just floating through life. It felt like I was existing in life as one of those floating perspective shots Spike Lee’s famous for.
I found a lot of things to distract me from my thoughts. I went out for dinner, happy hour, or day parties almost anytime someone asked. I started crafting, which was great to calm my anxiety, but it was mainly a distraction. When I felt anxious or sad, or something I couldn’t quite pin down: I ate.
I had random waves of sadness and cried.
I bought a lot of clothes, shoes, and things I didn’t really need.
Some days, I didn’t want to see or talk to any humans. I barely wanted to get up out of bed.
One day, I looked around and I realized the literal state of mess I was living in. Our bedroom (well, my side mostly) was a mess. Dining room: clutter. I felt embarrassed. How could I let it get like this? I spent the whole weekend cleaning the apartment. I realized this was an outward representation of the state of my inner self. This was not me. But I kept on pushing. I’m fine. I’m good. I’m OK.
More and more, my conversations with my husband centered around babies, or lack of babies, or our(my) infertility. The majority of those conversations ended with me crying.
Finally, one day, my husband looked at me very lovingly and said ‘Maybe you should see somebody’
I wasn’t offended. He didn’t say it to be malicious. He could see me struggling.
I started thinking about those past 6 months. I knew I wasn’t myself. I was probably depressed.
“Maybe you’re right.” I had a therapist I had seen about a year before for a few sessions. I decided I’d reach out to her.
I procrastinated for another 3 months.
I didn’t want to admit I was depressed. That my cycle failing upset me. I never thought the death of two, four and a half day old embryos would make me feel so much loss. Then I got upset with myself for being sad and depressed: “Women have lost actual babies. Miscarriages. Still births. Why are you so upset?!”
But then I realized: I was not just grieving the death of embryos, but of a dream. A tiny piece of hope stopped growing in that lab that day. It was OK to not be OK. It was OK to grieve. It was OK to admit I was depressed and needed help. To be 100 transparent, I have dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, but never at this level.
In January 2018, I started seeing a therapist, which was difficult at first. Three months later, therapy is poppin’ and I’m in a much better space, and feeling more like myself. Which is a wonderful thing.
I’m sharing this because just like there are women suffering infertility in silence, there are women pushing through depression in silence.
Its OK to seek help. You can pray and go to therapy. God won’t be mad at you.
You’re not less of a woman.
As Black women, we feel we have to always be strong, always be stoic and carry the world on our shoulders. Be long suffering and always wear that Superwoman cape. Who told us that? Being sad or depressed does not make you weak. It makes you human. With all that’s going on in the world, on top of what you may be feeling in regards to your fertility journey and other family or personal stresses and feeling like you may be at a breaking point.
- Practice Self-Care
- Know when you need to take a break from treatments. Time is not always on our side depending on your fertility journey, but don’t let your doctor push you into a new cycle if you’re not ready.
- Allow yourself to grieve any failed cycle or loss
- Connect with someone not your spouse/partner: a friend, another TTC sister, a support group.
- See a therapist if you feel it is necessary.
7.6% of all Americans report being depressed at some point. About 4% of women and minorities all report having experienced depressive mood, as compared to about 3% of white men.
As always, links and resources below.
Especially check out Therapy for Black Girls!
What is Depression?
Infertility and Depression
Black Women and Depression