IVF is a long journey for those seeking to start a family but who face adversity in accomplishing that goal. A lot of self-reflection goes on during that time, including questioning your motives and grief bargaining. When I say questioning your motives, I mean wondering if you’re doing the right thing at all. This world has some pretty large negatives against it. As for bargaining, I mean grieving and coming to terms with the idea that a family may not be in the cards. It’s stressful. You start to think something is wrong with you, wondering if maybe there is a god and you’re being punished. If that doesn’t enter your mind, you may resent yourself as being broken. It doesn’t matter that any of that is untrue (you are NOT broken). You believe it in the moment, because your body—YOU are standing in your way of your big wish, and there is no way to get around it. Everyday, that hill gets higher, and the trenches deeper.
In the end, somehow, you get past the battle. Whether you are successful in your fertility treatment (as I was), choose to adopt (as I think I might like to do), or chose to move away from the goal and onto other things (as I was prepared to do when my pregnancy was confirmed), you DO get past that battle.
I can’t tell you what I would have done if the pregnancy had failed. I only told myself that I needed to think of a way to gather more funds to support another run. I figured I had until I was 45 before I needed to have a serious chat with myself about redirecting my efforts. That discussion had already begun in the context of how unsustainable the costs were. How would I ever support the baby if I bankrupted myself trying to have her/him? That’s a real question many would be parents must face. It’s an unfair reality that deepens the self loathing. What if it’s just one more cycle that would do the trick? How can you ever know unless you try, again and again. How can you put a price on that? And, the guilt sets in.
The experience taught me a lot about my threshold for grief. It is deep. It is vast. It is a power. Thankfully, unlike many other times, I was not asked by my life’s path, to travel that road again. I was unsure I would reach the other side this time. So many things have never panned out. Defeat was going to consume me.
On the other side of that, I find myself nearing almost 7 months of motherhood. If you think your capacity for grief is deep, vast, and powerful, then your capacity for love is even greater. I worried that I would not love her, this child that I had struggled to have, dared to dream into existence. Wanting to have her was one thing. Loving her, I truly feared, would be contingent upon who she was. Never have I been more delighted to be so wrong. Children, in my experience, love to show us how mistaken we are in our tired out notions—because we get so long in the tooth about our thinking thoughts. The dust and must is swept away by their sunny smiles and electric squeals.
I’m a very shy person who doesn’t express love easily, unless that’s cuddling with a pet. I was a bit anxious that I wouldn’t be affectionate toward my little girl, and starve her of the needed care. Holding her at first was a bit awkward, because she seemed so fragile and everyone was watching. Knowing how to care for an infant is not as innate as some might lead you to believe. Strangely, though, it is far more innate than I realized.
When did I fall in love with her? My fear was so great that it took a few days to let my heart feel. I was home from the hospital despairing over my thoughts when I paused to take a long stare at her. She was nursing on my left breast and her eyes settled on my face in that sweetly confused manner of someone tossed naked into a brand new world with no context for anything and no way to communicate. My heart swelled in my chest. Yes, I guess that does happen.
The poor darling is hugged and kissed and told I love you endlessly. I’m still anxious that it’s not enough, though. Do I really love her, or am I just going through motions? Self doubt is huge for me right now, as I question everything and its impact on her over the long haul. Remember, you are responsible for forming a baby into a healthy adult. No pressure!
Through these emotions, I learned that my little broken heart was actually quite large and quite healthy still. The feeling of it was strong and muscular, like the anatomical version. All I could think was that I had been healed. But, when? That I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps it started when I got the picture of the embryo that had been placed in my uterus, my embryo. A slight strengthening when the home test showed a faint line. A leap forward at the confirmation of a pregnancy. Building and expanding at the sight of the tiny tadpole and her fluttering heart cells. Complete and utter recuperation at the sound of her first cry and the feel of her against my chest. Holding her finger, feeding her, changing her, looking at her, smelling her, her first tears, and listening to her breathe…and, oh, my lord those electric squeals!
To this day, and much to my concern, because I am such a conscious being, my heart continues to grow, strengthen and heal. If you asked me how it has been, my answer is HEALING. She is healing. Just her presence, no effort, no consuming on my part, just being in the moment. Healing.
I’ve learned that I have a greater purpose, and that is to be Katie’s mom. There is no greater honor, in my esteem. After all, I’m still stunned by the reality of her. Almost 7 months later and I wonder if it will truly dawn on me that I am a mother now. I have a daughter, and her name is Katherine.
I’ve learned the meaning of living in the moment: stopping everything and being there with her. Dogs are far too accommodating to our trussed up schedules than are children. They can prepare us for child-rearing, but they can’t always make us be in the moment like a baby can.
I’ve learned that priorities are super easy to shift when the other person matters to you. Getting this blog or my books done is no longer the center of my world. Certainly it is important to write, but attending the needs of my daughter are first. They are a joy. I’m not giving up a thing. Instead, I am gaining love in heaping cartloads that she drops at my feet every minute. I’m overflowing.
I’ve learned that I am as giving as I have always dreamed of being, and then some. Sometimes we doubt ourselves, and what we see ourselves putting out to the universe. Donating my time and money has been a part of my life, but not a huge part. I can be selfish, too. My priority was always about getting my house in order, and making sure the things I needed to do were actually done. Who else was going to? If my world is in disarray, I can’t be much helpt to anyone. Sure, I still have to be responsible, but Katie is the priority from now on. Giving her my time is not always possible, like when I have to make a meal for myself, or go clean up the yard from the dog. The absolutes are unambiguous. Despite my anxiety, the knots are smoothing out and we’re in a groove. I like that things are more clearly defined, instead of fuzzed out and all clamoring with the insistence that every thing must be attended that moment. Ha! Nope. I can put things down now. I have to!
I’ve learned that if I don’t get something done today, it will be there tomorrow or the next day. People are pretty okay with me taking a little more time to do things (I was the one that freaked out, before having a child, if it wasn’t done immediately anyway). I’m getting to be okay with letting things rest longer than usual. The world isn’t going to end.
There is so much that I learned.
I didn’t even mention that all the things I learned when I was a preteen/teenager helping my grandmother take care of my cousin were just right there still for my use. I’m blessed to be a bit of a natural caregiver. I hope that my friends would back that up. My own mother, assures me this is true by telling me how wonderful Katie looks and how amazed she is with her development. Absolutely, I don’t know it all, but I know that they need very little: love, food, your time, and warmth.
One other thing!
I learned that I have someone to show all the cool things in the world, including all that I’ve learned.
On the flip, one thing I have not learned is to let go of stuff. There’s a pile of outgrown clothing in the basement that is going to get out of control soon. You’re probably wondering, is it even worth keeping? There have been a few instances where the feat of cleaning the onesie that has been bombed out with poo is insurmountable at the moment and those have gone in the trash (pair of handed down pants too, that I really regret not taking the time with). But, for the most part, I have been able to save any article of clothing she’s had a blow out in with zero stains.
I’m sure you’re wondering what that secret is. Soap. Elbow grease. Warm and cold water.
A few years ago, I bought a three pack of Jergens mild bar soap for my bathroom. I figured if I was going to be just washing my hands with it, I so am not spending a lot. It just needs to be effective in getting my hands clean. So any old soap will do. I did consider that I have very dry hands from washing them a lot. Lotion alone isn’t fixing that. Jergens was a top quality product back when I was a kid. Imagine my pleasure at finding bar soap by them at the Dollar Tree Store. So I scooped those up. 3 bars for a buck!
It so happens, that years later, I used the bar of soap to wash one of Katie’s pooed-up onesies. (I learned to do this to save underwear from the dreaded period stains when I was a teen and feminine products were not so great about leaks.) Sure enough, a little effort and the Jergens got the stains out. I washed the onesie in her laundry to make sure it was extra clean (using Dreft), and not one sign of her accident was on it. So many onesies have been saved.
What you’ll need: Jergens Mild Soap-white bar, the bathroom sink (hopefully with some counter space), warm water, cold water, time and patience.
- Rinse all excess bits off with warm water. (Katie is breastfed, so her poo is seedy, and yellow or green.)
- Use the bar soap to scrub out the stain. Literally the bar. Use the corners. SCRUB. Hard. In the sink, on the counter portion, wherever you can get a solid press onto that stain.
- Squeeze the clothing together and wring it getting the soap thoroughly through. Rub it together. Get it all bubbly.
- Rinse with cold water.
- Repeat until the stain is gone (maybe a couple times).
It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes, depending on the size of the blow out. So, if there is a piece of clothing that you really love and are freaking out worried your baby will kill it with a poop bomb, this tip has you covered. Rest assured that cute dress or unique onesie is safe, even if it gets nailed.
Did you recently have a little one? Are you thinking back to when you did? Share the things you learned in the first few months with the other readers via the comments below. I’d love to hear your stories.
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