Where Are Your Stories?

**Please join us in welcoming Stéphanie to Mama Might**

Where are you, you women longing to pour out your hearts, express your anger, your desperation, and your grief?  You women longing to bring forth a life, but to whom nature has been unkind.  You, who have been told by your doctor that you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, anxiety, or from some other gynecological issue.  You, who have been told by society that your problem isn’t real, and that it must be all in your head.  (After all, you just need to relax, right?)

After eight years of struggling with infertility, I am still searching for these women.  Thank God, some have chosen to reveal themselves to me.  It is thanks to them that I am able to understand my own struggles more fully.  It would seem, however, that most of us choose to remain hidden, cloaked in desperation and shame.   Unfortunately, many of us feel abnormal, misunderstood, and worst of all, alone.  Instead of shaking free from our prison of misery, we choose to stay closed off, wrapped in our grief, plagued by emptiness. It is rare to find someone willing to share their story of infertility with the world.  However, I believe that the world needs to see and hear us, and more importantly, that we need to see and hear each other so that our burden of isolation may be lifted. This is why I have chosen to put my experience into words; not only to lend my voice to those who need to be heard, but also to help those close to them more fully understand their struggle. This is my story.
I would describe my infertility as a state of exile.  My spirit searched obsessively, not only for a way to escape my despair, but also for a way to be included in the miracle of pregnancy.  During this time I began to question and lose faith in every detail and aspect of my being.  I was suspicious of the food I ate, the vitamins I swallowed, and the drugs I was prescribed.  Worst of all I began to distrust my own body which seemed to betray me month after month.  Why, it couldn’t even do something that should have been as natural as breathing!  In the same way that I lost faith in my body, I also began to lose respect for it.  I embarked on a journey of painful fertility treatments that came with a broad spectrum of horrible side-effects.
In addition to the physical toll of infertility, my exile also greatly affected my social life and my relationships with others. Since it was difficult to watch other women easily achieve my most elusive dream, it was painful to act normal around them and be sympathetic as they described their pregnancy woes.  Little did they know I would have given anything for leg cramps and heart-burn! Their beautiful, round bellies became demons that haunted me, whispering to me what a failure I was. I began to avoid places where pregnant women might be, or where families with multiple children were present.  As a result, it is not surprising to me that my infertility destroyed some friendships.  I lost friends by avoiding them during their pregnancies or, even worse, by poorly expressing the way I was feeling about their pregnancies.  It became a vicious cycle of heartbreak that began once I learned that yet another friend was expecting, and ended with the greater pain of eventually losing that friend altogether. I dearly miss those friends, every day.
Just like a lonely prisoner who dreams of being rescued, each of my monthly cycles would begin with a small glimmer of hope.  But as the cycle progressed, that small, bright bit of hope would gradually fade until the tiny spark was extinguished in a flood of disappointment.  “Making Love” became “Making a Baby”.  This beautiful act became a means to an end, and a source of deep anxiety.  Once the period of ovulation had passed, my anxiety would become nearly unbearable.  Sleep, my only reprieve from the stress, would vanish during those two weeks of hellish waiting.  When my cycle began again each month without fail, I would again be forced to accept that the dream of motherhood had evaded me once more, and I would feel like an imbecile for having the audacity to even hope that it might have been different this time. I would tell myself that enough was enough, and that I was through hoping, through trying.  But each time I told myself I had given up I would quickly forget my resolve to stop trying, roll up my sleeves, put my faith back in God, and  pick up the fight at the beginning of each new cycle.  Thanks be to God for the gift of this beautiful faith!  I believe with all my heart that one day a second child will come as a gift from my Lord, just as my first child was.
Despite the years of suffering and the loss of several pregnancies, my deepest happiness was the delivery of a little gift which miraculously arrived from the Lord five years ago.  My husband and I waited for this miracle for three long years.  And we have now been waiting for four years for a little brother or sister to join our sweet angel.  Only God knows when this second miracle will arrive, and I remind myself everyday to have patience.
I am deeply thankful for our first little blessing, and filled with sympathy for those who wait for one of their own.  With the help of God, and other women like you, I eventually made peace with my cross.  Beautiful round bellies and all the other wonderful gifts of pregnancy no longer haunt me.  All I can say to those of you who are waiting for your first, second, or third child is please don’t lose hope.  Know that you are not alone.  And above all, don’t be afraid to share your story so we can know, pray for, and support one another.

*This post has been translated from its original French by Amanda Winsor.*

stephanie

My name is Stephanie and I am a wife, a mom, a teacher and an owner of a (very small) tutoring/educational products business. I have three passions in life: my husband, my son and teaching. My life is filled with blessings and I do my very best to live it according to my faith.  Here is my post in its original French.
Ou sont passées toutes ces femmes qui voudrait raconter, crier leur rage, leur desespoir leur chagrin. Ces femmes qui veulent mettre quelqun au monde, mais qui ne sont pas choyées par la nature. Qui se font dire par les médecins qu’elles ont un problème d’hormones, d’anxiété ou d’autres problèmes gynécologiques. Qui se font dire par la société que leur problème ce n’est pas un vrai problème parce que ça se passe sûrement dans leur tête. Après tout, elle n’ont seulement qu’à relaxer!
Suite à 8 ans de bataille avec mes propres problèmes d’infertilité je cherche toujours la plupart de ces femmes. Dieu merci, certaines ce sont dévoilées et c’est grace à elles que je peux me comprendre un peu mieux. Il me semble que la plupart semblent rester cachées dans leur désespoir. Malheureusement, la plupart d’entre nous se sentent anormales, incomprises et seules. Au lieu de sortir de nos chaînes de misères nous restons emmitouflées dans nos couvertures qui empestent la faillite. Rares sont celles qui partagent leur combat avec le monde entier. Le monde a besoin de nous entendre, mais plus important encore, nous avons besoin de nous entendre pour que notre sentiment de solitude puisse au moins être effacé. J’ai choisi de penser sur papier pour aider à celles qui ont besoin d’entrendre et pour aider à leur proche à les comprendre. Voici ce qui se passe en moi:

Je décrirais mon infertilité comme un état d’exile. Un exile ou mon esprit obsède sur un moyen de s’en sortir ou plûtot d’y entrer….entrer dans le miracle de la grossesse. Mon être entier perd confiance et doute tout ce qui l’entoure: la nourriture que j’ingère, les suppléments que j’avale, les médicaments qu’on me donne et pire encore mon propre corps qui me déçoit cycle après cycle. Mon corps ne peut même pas accomplir un acte naturel comme l’est ma respiration, ma digestion ou mes battements de coeur. Comme la confiance est minimisée, j’ai l’impression que le respect que j’apporte à mon corps est conformément perdu et je m’embarque dans des traitements qui sont douloureux et qui viennent avec un baggage d’effets secondaires.
Mon exile attaque également ma vie sociale et mes relations. Parce que c’est très difficile de voir plusieurs femmes atteindre facilement mon plus grand rêve il est pénible pour moi de vivre impédueusement autour d’elles. De mon côté je prie pour les douleurs et les maux de coeurs. Les belles bedaines rondes deviennent des démons qui me hantent et qui murmurent à mon âme que je suis une faillite. J’essaie donc souvent d’éviter les endroits ou plusieurs femmes enceintes peuvent s’y retrouver ou plusieurs familles nombreuses sont présentes. Ce n’est donc pas surprenant que mon infertilité a détruite des amitiés. Ces amies ont été perdues car je les ai évitées pendant leur grossesse ou parce que je n’ai pas exprimer mes sentiments de façon appropriée lorsque je me sentais au bas-fond en leur compagnie. Je les manques beaucoup. C’est un cycle vicieux qui commence avec des pincements au coeur de voir ces amies enceintes et qui se termine par de plus grands pincements au coeur de les avoir perdues.
Tout comme une exilée qui voit un mirage, chaque cycle commence avec une lueur d’espoir. Au fur et à mesure que le cycle avance, l’atteinte du mirage devient de plus en plus obsédante. “Faire l’amour” devient “faire un bébé “. Le geste devient un outil et devient angoissant. Une fois l’ovulation complétée l’anxiété devient pratiquement insoutenable et je me touve à rêver à pouvoir dormir pendant ces deux semaines d’enfer pour ne pas avoir à faire face au stress qu’apporte l’attente. Finalement, au bout du cycle je realise que ce n’était encore qu’un mirage et je me sens idiote d’avoir espéré au rêve. Je m’y suis fait prendre encore une fois. Je me dis que c’est assez que je ne m’y ferai plus prendre… mais j’oublie rapidement, me remonte les manche, met ma foi en Dieu et je recommence mon manège le cycle suivant. Merci pour cette belle foi. Je sais qu’un jour ce deuxième enfant me viendra du Seigneur comme l’a été le premier.

Même avec ces années de souffrances et la perte de plusieurs grossesses. Mon plus grand bonheur est l’accomplissement d’un petit miracle que le Seigneur m’a envoyé 5 ans passés. Mon mari et moi avons attendu pratiquement 3 ans pour notre amour. Voila maintenant quatre ans que nous attendons pour un petit frère ou une petite soeur pour notre petit ange. Seul Dieu sait quand un deuxième miracle nous sera envoyé. Je l’entend me dire… patience. Je suis reconnaissante pour notre première bénédiction et je suis remplie de sympathie pour celle qui essaie d’atteindre leur première accouchement. Tout ce que je peux avouer à celles qui attendez pour votre premier, deuxième ou troisième enfant ne perdez pas espoir et souvenez-vous que nous ne sommes pas seules. Dévoilez-vous pour que nous puissions nous reconnaître et s’entraider.

Reflection on the First Year

Please join us in welcoming Chelsea to Mama Might!

Just over a year ago I left my job to begin my maternity leave.  Waiting for the arrival of my daughter was both exciting and torturous… I have always struggled with patience!  What made the whole experience even more amazing was that I would have a year off to spend time enjoying my new family of 3 (4 with the family pooch).  I had all kinds of plans and ideas about what I would accomplish while I was at home.  The gardens would be beautiful, the house spotless. I would have a chance to do all kinds of crafty projects and cook more nutritious, homemade meals.  I was going to get in shape.  I would indulge in terrible books and bad romantic comedies!

My daughter was born on her due date (punctual like her mama!).  It was the most incredible day of my life.  We felt blessed, happy, relieved and terrified all at once.  We were lucky enough to be working with a fantastic team of midwives so we were able to head home from the hospital a few hours after her birth.  We were all exhausted and despite the first-night-at-home anxiety, we got a much needed night of sleep.  As it turns out, it was really the only “peaceful” night in our house for the next six months.

Our perfect and beautiful daughter fit the textbook definition of colic.  She cried, and she cried, and she cried.  Before she was born we decided that we were not going to give our daughter a pacifier until after breastfeeding was well established.  By day two we were desperately trying to get her to take it, anything to soothe her and stop the crying and screaming.  We went into new parent problem-solving mode.  We had read so many pregnancy and baby books, surely we could figure this out.  We tried swaddling, rocking, shushing, breastfeeding, swinging, cuddling, massage, white noise and chiropractic.  We blamed it on milk supply and gas and acid reflux and  teething. I eliminated caffeine, dairy and chocolate from my diet in case that was the cause.  No matter what we tried we most certainly did not have the happiest baby on the block.  In fact, we spent most of last summer with the windows sealed shut so that neighbours wouldn’t be bothered.  Within a couple of weeks the daytime crying had decreased but evenings remained very difficult.  Without fail the crying would begin at 5pm and carry on until 11pm each day.  While the other new moms that I met had babies who were already sleeping through the night at 6 weeks, my daughter was waking up (at least) once every hour.  I gave up sleeping in bed and decided that camping on the couch was much less frustrating.  I came to accept that exhaustion was the new normal.  I had a more difficult time accepting that I could no longer drink coffee to try to balance myself out!  I remember thinking that my husband and I would never be able to eat dinner together again—who would hold the crying baby?

Thankfully, around 3-4 months things began to improve.  Slowly but surely the tears were replaced by happy baby giggles and gibberish.  We were even able to spend time together as a couple when she would go to bed.  It was still a long time before my daughter slept through the night but she began to wake less frequently.  With each and every milestone we were overwhelmed by a sense of pride.  It was incredible to watch as our daughter developed more and more personality each day.  We were in love from the moment we met her, now we were having fun too.

We recently celebrated our daughter’s first birthday.  My garden is overgrown with weeds, my house is rarely as clean as I would like and my craft room has been turned into a storage area.  I have tried out 5 new recipes (only because I committed to do so for my blog), and read exactly zero new books.  I am proud to say that I did accomplish my health and fitness goals!  I look back and I wonder how my husband and I managed to get through the first six months.  I have no doubt that it was the most difficult (and rewarding) thing that either of us have ever accomplished.  I am so grateful that our friends and family were there for us.  They provided us with words of encouragement, visits, the occasional dinner and oatmeal cookies!  My daughter is now a happy, confident, and determined toddler.  She is also a great sleeper, something that I never could have imagined a year ago!  If you have are the new parents of a “cry baby”, hold on.  I promise you that you are in for more fun than you can imagine!  Be patient, ask for help and give yourself a break from time to time.  Soon you too will be celebrating your child’s first birthday and as difficult as things may seem you will look back on these times and miss them.

ChelseaChelsea Bastien is the mom of a sweet, funny and adventurous toddler.  She is happily married and living in Ottawa, ON.  She is passionate about health and fitness and is currently pursuing a career as a personal trainer.  Follow her blog at www.labfitness.tumblr.com

Waking Up Cranky

Please join us in welcoming Kate to Mama Might!

This morning I woke up cranky…angry… disgruntled… just plain p*ssed.  The source: my 2 year old.  I loathe her.  Call it lack of sleep, pregnancy hormones, stress of balancing work and home life, nah! Just plain loathe everything that is two years old.  The incessant self-centering, nothing is ever enough or right or wrong, or just fine.  The battles – the tantrums – the strong will tug of war over everything little thing.  Now, while you gather yourself and pick your jaw up off the ground, let me explain.  Perhaps you have never had a two year old; perhaps you have never had MY two year old but nonetheless, let me enlighten you.  We are potty training: a necessary evil of life and overall, isn’t going as poorly as I sometimes make it out to seem. That being said, it is still a battle I wish I didn’t have to fight.  And when I say “we” I mostly mean “me” – having a 50 hour-work-week- husband and a 17 year old babysitter as your “potty training pitch hitters” is enough to make anyone want to pull her hair out. The “problem” with our two year old isn’t that she’s dreadful, isn’t that she’s “the middle child” isn’t that she doesn’t do everything I ask her to do, it’s that she’s just like me.

Yesterday, while assisting the doctor I work for with a patient, he and I shared the happenings of our time off. He shared luxurious and exciting stories about his trip to England and Ireland; I spent my days potty training.  (NB: He and his wife raised 5 children. I know he can relate to the frustrations of potty training and toddlers). I shared my woes, experience, comparison to her sister, tactics, trials etc.  And then he says: “it’s because she’s just like her mother.”  (*slight pause for mind blowing experience *) YEP! She’s stubborn. She’s driven, self-sufficient, independent, and just like me. (* insert good dose of humility here *).  I certainly can’t punch the guy that signs my paycheck in the teeth for enlightening me (although the consideration did cross my mind); I can’t pawn my 2yo off on anyone knowing what they’d be up against; I can’t give up and allow her to pee in her pants through her wedding day…

And then there was bedtime.

With Baby #3 just around the corner, hubby and I have recently started putting the girls to bed at the same time.  The girls have been sleeping in the same room for well over a year but with staggered bedtimes at 7:30 and 8:00pm.  It worked very well. Sometimes I ask myself why we stopped.  Sweet 2yo would curl up in one of our laps in the glider, grab a paci and her lovie, read two books, prayers and was sound asleep 20 minutes later. GLORIOUS! 4yo went to bed with some struggle after teeth, potty, a couple of books, prayers, typical procrastination, back scratching, but by 9pm, Mommy was usually relaxing on the sofa. Yea right – by 9pm, Mommy was folding laundry, cleaning up supper dishes, or packing lunches for the next day.  So, the new routine (sans paci mind you) with coinciding bedtimes has been sitting on the floor reading  1 or 2 books together, then in bed for communal prayers, followed by mommy or daddy sitting on the floor to “police staying in bed” for 15-20 minutes.  Last night was daddy’s turn. At 9:15pm 2yo was still awake, asking for mommy.  I hear hubby call my name from the foot of the stairs to our bedroom.  He states “every time I get up to leave the room, (not-so-sweet) 2yo who is sound asleep sits straight up asking for you or for ‘daddy to sit on the floor awhile.” Ok, whatever. He gave it a good shot.  I assume the position and take my turn on the floor of the girl’s room.  Both nicely in bed and sleeping, 15 minutes later I head to bed myself. Everything is fine. Well, until midnight (everything exciting happens after midnight, right ladies!). Thump, thump, thump resounds from the baby monitor; fat toddler feet carry 2yo to the base of our stairs.  I meet her at the bottom and quietly state “its nigh-night time baby. Let’s rock 5 minutes.” So we do. And she’s asleep. And I lay her down. And she’s awake.  “Nigh-night baby.  Mommy will sit with you a few minutes. Lay down.” So I do. I assume the position on the floor (difficult for a 32 weeks pregnant self to get down let alone up).  10 minutes later, sleeping 2yo, mommy awkwardly pulls herself to a standing position and quietly attempts to leave the room. 2yo sits straight with glaring eyes (like something from the Exorcism) declares “Mommy you sit.” Well, mommy has sat, and Mommy has rocked and Mommy must be up in 5 hours to go to work tomorrow. “No baby. Mommy has sat and rocked.  It’s time for nigh-night.  Stay in your bed.  Mommy’s going to bed too. Nigh-night” and I attempt to leave.  She whimpers. I return, reiterate the above, leave but this time make it as far as the living room where she follows me to the hallway.  I guide her by the hand back to bed, tell her night, cover her up, tell her to stay in bed, make it to the hallway myself before blood curdling screams initiate.  Quick thoughts begin racing through my head– what would Super Nanny do? 4yo will be awake any second.  Am I willing to deal with two children at midnight? Let her cry a minute my gut insists. So I do, and yes 4yo is awake, but THANKFULLY stays in bed, simply covers her ears, and goes along for the ride.  I return, put 2yo back to bed, tell her nigh-night, kiss her forehead, pry white-knuckled- fingers from my body, and walk away. I sit in living room, waiting. Piercing cries now reach the ears of hubby the floor above; I hear creaks from the spring of our mattress as he rolls over to turn off the baby monitor. She continues; I wait. 2yo gets out of bed but does not cross the threshold of her room now yelling “I potty mommy, I potty.” My immediate thought – SHIT. Of course you have to go. Why wouldn’t you?  What do I do now? Not allow her to go just to keep her in bed thus discouraging the whole potty training fiasco and little headway I have made!?! Yet, I let her go and start the whole bedtime ordeal over from the beginning? AHHHHHH! Ok, 2yo. I’ll call your bluff. “Let’s go,” I moan.  She sits and sits and sits and sniffles and sniffles and sniffles and nothing.  “Go potty baby.”  She dribbles a pee most likely knowing ‘mommy will flip her lid if I don’t produce at least one drop of urine.’” Bum wiped, clean diaper on, back to bed. Repeat all above except now insert “I want Daddy” in midst of her wailing, agonizing screams.  Of course you want daddy! He will provide a refreshing element to the whole drama.  “No honey. Daddy gone nigh-night too.  Its nigh-night time. Stay in bed” and I return to my chair in the living room to find hubby sitting on the sofa cock-eyed. He says, “What’s going on? 4yo must be awake. This can’t be fair to her.” OH NO YOU DIDN’T.  I close my eyes and breathe focusing myself on the task at hand rather than dismembering my husband limb from limb.  I calmly tell him to return to bed.  He insists no, also knowing mommy would likely flip her lid if he did return (there really is no right answer here).  12 more times I patiently get up, place her in bed, tell her to stay and walk away, channeling that same energy that prevented me from dismembering my husband to not clubbing my child.  At 12:55am, hubby says “I’ll give you 5 more minutes of ‘your way’ before I step in.”  I firmly offer him to sleep on the floor of the girl’s room – choice words exempted –  boldly insisting that this fit was like any other 2yo tantrums and I was not about to let her win. I have far too much invested at this point.  I bark one strong “good night” and return to my seat. Then, as quickly as it began, it stopped.  I hold my breath. Is this it? Is it over? Is she asleep or at least settled? Did I win? I exhaleAt 1:20am I return to bed in complete and utter fear.  I move the video camera baby monitor right next to my head on the night stand next to me, rolling with adrenaline, unable to sleep, staring at the 2yo.  Is she really asleep? Yes-but whimpers occasionally with her breaths, my heart silently breaks.  At 2am I return to her bedroom.  She is asleep, head down at the foot of her bed with covers thrown about. I lift her to her pillow, gentle brush the side of her face and place the sign of the cross on her forehead. She’s beautiful.  My eyes well up.  I hate myself.

At 6:30am the alarm goes off. Hubby hits it and rolls over. We are both awake but don’t dare discuss the previous evening’s happenings.  I am mad, tired, emotional, p*ssed.  At 6:45am 2yo clambers out of bed, walks the hall and climbs the stairs to our room as she does every morning.  She proceeds to her father’s side of the bed, he picks her up and places her between us.   She squirms to me cheek to cheek. I gush. “Good morning baby” I whisper.  She smiles at me, looks me in the eye, I see no grudge. “I want ma cock-ca-lat milk (chocolate) and watch ma show now.” I breathe a sigh of relief.  She doesn’t hate me.

mommy_showerKate is a 40 hour-week medical assistant to an orthopedic surgeon, a 20 hour-week youth minister to a rowdy group of middle schoolers and 24/7 mom of 2 girls (ages 2 and 4) with a baby boy on the way. She was born and raised in Nova Scotia on salt cod, mussels, turnip and potatoes but now eats spiral hams, biscuits and white gravy (when forced) compliments of her Southern mother-in-law.  She is married to a wonderful, calm husband of 6 years who has graciously stuck around long enough to avoid deportation, mostly out of fear that she’ll “leave the kids and run.”  When not wiping bums, wrapping boo boos and passing out stickers (both at work and at home) she enjoys Twix bars, yoga, and Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat.” She clings to the rosary if for nothing else than sharing with another mom who doesn’t judge her.