I had a tough day yesterday. It overwhelmed me and I got angry and frustrated. The disappointment came when we learned in an email from our fertility center that they have cancelled our third round of IVF. They said we are going to have to delay it for at least two to four months, due to complications from an estrogen imbalance they have found that I have.
In some ways, I am not surprised my body is imbalanced with all of the drugs I have had to put into it over the last few years. I will need to be on progesterone and a birth control for several months to rebalance things. (I cannot tell you how hard it is to have to go on birth control in the middle of trying to conceive – having to swallow pills that stop the very thing we want most.)
I had been preparing for our next round of IVF. I re-read all of my fertility books and two files worth of fertility notes. I re-stocked our cupboards with foods and supplements that help, all of the weird and wonderful things – acai berries, goji berries, beet juice, queen bee pollen, maca powder. Like almost every month, I counted forward in my head nine months to see when we would give birth to the baby we conceived this month. An August baby – visions of sunny walks pushing our newborn in a pram. Now, we will need to wait until at least February or March to try again, bringing me closer to another birthday without being a mum. Birthdays can be hard when going through this.
Yesterday I cried so much my eyes became filled with feathery red vessels and I gave myself a headache from all of the tears. This is all so confusing and disappointing. My husband, Jeff, is great. He came home from work and held me in a big bear hug. We know it is going to be ok. It is just another hurdle in our path, another wave to ride up and down, a few more months in the grand scheme of things. I went to bed sad but trying to appreciate the little things. We had our Christmas lights installed along the eaves of our roof yesterday and we added three trees strung with small golden bulbs this year too. They looked so beautiful twinkling like little stars in the inky blackness outside. That made me smile.
Today is a new day and I woke up with gratitude on my mind. When I feel struggle, pain, sadness, or disappointment in my life – as we all invariably do at certain points – I have discovered some things that help me out. Physically, I find that fresh air and exercise are some of the best remedies. Stepping outside to feel the warm sun on my face or brisk wind on my cheek. Getting my heart-rate up, the blood pumping around my body and endorphins rushing. These things naturally improve my frame of mind.
I find consciously working on my mental state helps too. One way to do this is to look for gratitude and things to be thankful for each day. Starting by getting out of bed and saying “I am so grateful for this new day.” Then noticing and feeling thankful for the little things that make us smile throughout the day- my soft robe, my warm drink, the birds chirping outside, a flower opening its petals, the person helping to pack my bags at the grocery store or letting me out at a junction – things in nature and human interactions. Being conscious of life’s small pleasures makes us feel good.
I jumped out of bed and was thankful for all the opportunities this new day holds. I enjoyed a great breakfast of eggs, muffins, and avocado with my husband. The sun was shining. I threw on my new blue down skirt and went outside. I instantly felt better – the outdoors, nature, God. I put on a backpack and decided to walk the 5.5 miles that would take me there and back to the grocery store, to pick up my Thanksgiving meal ingredients. An errand, exercise, and some vitamin D – all covered. A storm was due in this afternoon, but right now the sun was shining and the outdoors beckoning.
I smiled as I walked along – at the sun, at the view, at the tall grasses golden in the sun’s rays; I ran my hands through them. I stood tall, I breathed, and I gave thanks. I am so fortunate for so many things. This is going to be ok. I strode on. I came across shards of a broken brown bottle on the path and smiled as I swept it away with my foot, piece by piece, so as not to cause anyone a flat bike tire – a good deed. I strode on. I laughed as a truck went by and honked its horn and two guys waved (my new skirt)! I smiled as I saw my friends at the grocery store. I smiled as I passed fellow walkers and bikers. I smiled as I marveled at the icy white crystallized layer on the partly frozen river, the water lapping underneath as it moved forwards on its journey, determined. I felt the sun on my skin, smiled, and strode on.
The way back was harder. I was starting to question my decision to walk so many miles and carry 14lbs of groceries on my back. The pumpkin seemed to be getting heavier and heavier with each step. My leg muscles were feeling the strain. I wondered whether a bus was coming past soon or a kindly neighbor might stop and offer me a ride home. However, I had my mind set on this journey and I was going to see it through. I can do it.
I thought of a recent book I read, Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’ and her journey to hike the Pacific Crest trail. I thought about how hard it would be to hike all of those miles. Then I thought of the strenuous 4-day, 60-mile hike I did as a teenager with friends in the Welsh mountains, as part of our Gold Duke of Edinburgh award. I thought of it hailing sideways on us, of us toppling about with our huge backpacks carrying all of our supplies and camping gear, of us sliding on wet rocks, as our hands and feet tried to grip their mossy surface. At times during that epic hike, I had wanted to quit, but I did not. I did not stop then and I would not stop now.
I thought of seeing an acquaintance, Jim Harris, on the news last evening, of how he is making a recovery from a ski accident last year that paralyzed him from the waist down, of how he is learning to walk again, one foot in front of the other, of his perseverance and determination. I placed one foot in front of the other and thought of him. I thought of that tough year I had teaching in an inner-city school in London, of the stress and strain, of the late nights planning in the dark of my classroom, my only company the sounds of the cleaner’s vacuum. Of getting home and needing to continue working, of waking up and doing it all over again, of it making me poorly and run down, and how it nearly broke me. I persevered. I overcame. I showed resilience. I thought of how, in hindsight, these struggles were preparing me for this fertility journey.
I thought of a poem I was read by a friend earlier this year, ‘Learning How to Float’ in The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo. It describes someone learning how to swim and struggling in the water, arms and legs frantically straining and flapping. It teaches us that struggling is exhausting and when we stop struggling, we float. It is a beautiful poem, read it here. I picture myself on this fertility journey struggling amidst it all – all the yearning, trying, appointments, procedures, injections, information. The energy and effort it all takes. I see myself flapping and fighting in the deep end of the pool. Then I realize I do not need to struggle. I breathe. I need to let my inner strength and peace, and the love and support of my family, friends, and God, support and uphold me. The poem shares “The essence of trust is believing you will be held up if you let go.” I need to stop struggling. I picture myself calm and afloat in the water. The poem seems applicable to so many of our human struggles.
As I walked on, I adjusted the weight in my backpack, stretched my shoulders back, and took a deep breath. I realized my thoughts had moved on from overcoming my short hike and heavy load, to thoughts of how I overcame the bigger hurdles in my life thus far. And how being thankful for the little things – our Christmas lights, a walk, a blue skirt – had helped me be thankful for the big things. To be thankful for my health, being able to exercise, the place I live, the beauty that surrounds me, of not having a stressful job, and having the freedom and flexibility to volunteer and help our community, to write, and photograph, while also doing the things I need to do on our fertility journey.
I thought of the quote from my last post about the arrow, and realized it is just being pulled back a little further, before propelling me forward into new, great things. I realized when things are getting us down we need to stop struggling, we need to relax, calm, and trust. We need to be thankful for the little things, let them make us smile, put one foot in from of the other, and carry on.