Real Talk: I’m Not OK. Infertility and Depression

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.

So, why?

DEPRESSION

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

credit to owner

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 paused.

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.

Don’t.

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

Infertility Warrior Badge 2018 final

I Skipped My First Baby Shower…And I Don’t Feel Guilty

In the infertility world, we talk a lot about doing what’s best for you to make it through this crazy journey. This was the first time I truly did what was best for me no matter how anyone else felt about it.

I skipped a friend’s baby shower. I never thought I would be one of those. But I was, and I don’t feel bad about it.

March was our first IVF. The ultimate result was a fail. Our embryos didn’t make it to blastocyst (stopped growing on day five), and I was caught off guard and a little depressed. OK, a lot depressed, but that’s a story for another post.

Up until this point, I would say I was pretty positive

Insert our friends and their pregnancy.

This is a couple we have done a lot of things with: date nights, birthday parties, game nights, Cookouts, Weddings, Critiquing other friends’ girlfriends/boyfriends. We even got engaged within a few weeks of each other and married in the same year.

We did a lot together…except get pregnant. Of course they have no idea about our struggle. When I first heard the news about the pregnancy, I had that mixed feeling many of us know all too well of happiness and despair. Excitement and panic. Joy and pain. (no sunshine or rain)

Once we got the announcement around the holidays, I started stressing about the shower. I knew it was coming because we saw one of the grandmas-to-be at another event, and she told me the date they had in mind for the shower.

I went back and forth in my mind about going, months before it even happened. Eventually, the invite came, and it got real. It was a co-ed shower, so both hubby and I were invited. He was an emphatic “Yes”. I was still undecided. I felt bad, but I had to pop his bubble a bit and ask him if he was prepared for questions about us having a baby. We had just found out about or failed IVF cycle a few weeks before and were still processing. I know men handle this differently, but they do have feelings. I didn’t want him to be caught off guard when someone asks, and he was triggered. I had to remind him it’s a little different now, and that he may feel some type of way when someone says, “You two are next!” I’ve become an expert. He’s still a rookie in these types of interactions.

He said he’d be fine. The real question was if I was going to go.

“Put me down as ‘yes’ for now, but I’m not sure.”

The weeks passed, and finally we’re at the week of the shower. I was still on the fence. We needed a gift, so of course I volunteered to stop at Target after work to pick up some items off the registry.

I always like to give books as part of a baby’s gift. I like books, and I want to create little readers. Plus, reading is great bonding time with parents and kids. I went into the book section, looking for some of my favorites; The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham, but I’m always looking for new books.

That’s when I found Wish. I vaguely remembered someone on Instagram mentioning the book. I opened it and started to read…and started to cry in the Target. In the children’s book aisle.

The plot:

As an elephant couple embark on a life together, thoughts of children are far away-at first. But as the desire for a child grows, so do unexpected challenges. And it’s only after thwarted plans and bitter disappointment that their deepest wish miraculously comes true.

So, there I am, reading this sweet book, and tears running down my face. That decided it: I. Wasn’t. Ready. Cute onesies, bibs and blankets are one thing, but an amazing children’s book about how Mommy and Daddy had to suffer and fight to have you: Waterworks.

I knew If I couldn’t read that book and keep it together in a Target, the chances of me making it through a shower were slim.

I went home, wrapped the gifts, and told my husband I wasn’t going.

“What do you want me to say?”

I didn’t have to think long because I did have an out. I had a meeting, then a little fellowship afterwards. They didn’t know that I could leave or skip it all together if I wanted. Perfect! “I have chapter meeting, and it’s an important one. I won’t be done in time to ride down with you.” (They live about a two hour away since our move)

Hubby went, and by all reports and pictures posted to Facebook, the shower was great.

As for me, I did what I wanted that day, and I felt not one drop of guilt. I’d rather have people slightly disappointed that I wasn’t there, than for me to be uncomfortable, on edge, wrestling my emotions, and recycling one of my canned responses to when we’ll have kids or why I ‘m not pregnant.

At some point, you have to choose you. Sometimes that looks like selfishness, being disengaged, or a party pooper to others.

But if they only knew the real story…….

If you’re interested in purchasing Wish by Matthew Cordell, for you or a friend, you can do so here.

November: Adoption Awareness Month

adoption

As we walk, sometimes crawl, though this infertility journey, we have to keep our minds and hearts open.

Of course, there is nothing like carrying your own baby, but as we all know, sometimes that’s not possible. That doesn’t mean you don’t get to have a family.

Maybe you use a donor egg.
Maybe you use donor sperm.
Maybe you use a surrogate.
Maybe you adopt. And maybe, you adopt an older child.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. And while all adoptions are special, the focus of this month is on kids currently in foster care. Many of those are older, have siblings, or may have a disability.

Family is who and what you make it. We all want a new, snuggly baby to complete or family. But this month, while you think about family building, think about adopting from foster care, and consider older kids.

It may not be as easy a road, but no less rewarding.

 

 

There’s No Place Like Home (And Endless Questions) for the Hoilidays

This week kicks off the American Holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve.

Plenty of food, parties, shopping sprees, drinks, and time with family and friends. Time with family and friends usually means people want a life update: How’s School? How’s Work? Did you get the job you interviewed for? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids?

 

When the family asks you about babies
When the family asks you about babies (or getting a husband…or BOTH)

Its those last two that have always just irked the hell out of me. When you’re single, or even if you’re in a relationship, you get tired of people asking the same damn question (that frankly isn’t any of their business).  “Don’t worry about when I’m getting married. You’ll know when you get the invite” is what you want to say , but usually don’t. Shout out to all the women who do say that to their families. You’re my shero. I know I’m married now, but the memory of that annoying question and feeling of being put on the spot is all too real. After all, I didn’t get married until October of 2015 at 36. There were many a holiday where I was asked about a boyfriend/marriage every five minutes.

Its the same with children. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, dating or married, you get tired of people asking about your plan for procreation. “When you get the baby shower invite, you’ll know”

It becomes even more painful when people don’t even know what they’re asking. They have no idea that by asking you about having babies they are picking at a wound you are trying desperately to let heal, because you can’t have babies. Or you can’t have them without a lot of assistance from medical technology and a lot of cash. So you smile awkwardly, or change the subject, or  quickly stuff some more sweet potato pie in your mouth so you don’t have to answer.

 

It can be rough, but here’s a great piece from the Huffington Post by K.K. Goldberg about her experience and making it though. As always, you’re not alone.

The Silent Hell of Infertility During Holidays

 

Keep you head up this Thanksgiving, and keep your glass of wine handy.

 

 

 

November’s Not Just for Turkey.

 

National-Adoption-Month (1)

We’re halfway through November (how did that happen?!) and I can’t let this month go by without acknowledging that its National Adoption Awareness Month!

I was not aware that there was such a thing, until this year, so now I have to enlighten everyone else.

The focus for this year’s month is adopting older youth from foster care with the theme: “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family.”

 

I always thought adoption was a wonderful thing, and considered it even before I was aware of my infertility. I always thought I might have a child or two, then adopt another. In all honesty, adoption may be the road we decide to take for parenthood. We’re really having some heart felt and real conversations about parenting, the IVF process and all that comes with it, and what we think we can handle financially, physically, and emotionally.

I feel like adoption is really a special kind of love, because you actively choose to love someone that you don’t have to. To decide to bring a child into your home and into your family, and love them is a noble thing.

I have known several people and have a close friend who was adopted, and one friend who is the mother of an adopted child. All of them are awesome people. If they never told me that they were adopted, I would have never known. The love, respect and bond is just as strong as any biological family.

 

Take November to learn more about adoption and explore adoption as an option for family building.

 

Learn more about National Adoption Month below:

National Adoption Month 2015

National Adoption Month 2015 Initiative

Adoption FAQ