How to have compassion for yourself
Feeling like I failed as a woman. This is how I found myself after years of trying to have kids. I married at 28 and like many young women had a plan. I planned out my life before even living it. Being married for 3-5 years during which time we would enjoy our time as a couple and travel. After that we would get pregnant and have our only child. We knew we wanted one but neither of us talked in detail about our plans for a kid and didn’t bring it up a lot. Of course family and friends as soon as we got married started asking about kids. When, how many, are you trying? Constant inquisition which every young couple is familiar with. And so it went, married life on my plan and next thing I was in my mid 30’s. Oddly enough I was never one to really, really want kids. I kind of just knew I would have some, or that I was supposed to have some. Isn’t that what you are meant to do when you are a woman? You are when you grew up in eastern Europe and in my family.
My mom didn’t push. She was a divorced career woman my whole life so I didn’t grow up in a traditional family with mom and dad. It was mom, moms parents and I from the time I was about 6. My dad was re-married and my grandparents on fathers side were weekend family. Growing up in Europe, family stays close and usually together, multi generational. Mom and I lived in an apartment building on the 3rd floor, and my grandparents in a flat one floor below. Every day my mom and grandpa went to work, I went off to school and my grandma was a stay at home mom/grandma. Lunch break at school, I ran home to a fresh lunch prepared by grandma. After school she welcomed me with snacks and I spent my afternoons sitting in the kitchen, doing homework while she cooked. Anything I wanted she would make, and never complained. My love for cooking and food comes from her as well.
My grandparents were married for over 50 years, and my grandmother was an old school traditional housewife. In her young years she worked as a seamstress, but as I was growing up she mainly sewed for family. She grocery shopped daily at open air market, visited the bakery for bread every morning, packed me up for school and started her day of cooking, cleaning, sewing, ironing, washing… She thought me a lot of great things about keeping a good home, but I realized that my identity as a woman is in large part tied to being that ideal of a wife. The way my grandma was is how I began my married life, and it worked, until I hit the fertility speed bump. Or should we say, until life gave me lemons.
My cousin mentioned a fertility study she was about to begin and asked if I would consider doing it as well. Doctors across the country were testing a new fertility drug and all study patients would get full IVF treatment course with new drug or placebo for basically free. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and I think most people would. I got pregnant, yay I though. Disappointment of it not being viable after 10 weeks hit me hard. Moving on, couple months passed and I found myself pregnant again, naturally this time. I visited my fertility Dr and we monitored weekly. Excitement was soon replaced by sadness after 12 weeks. Fetus was not viable.
I battled fibroids for years, underwent 3 surgeries before fertility to get rid of fibroids so I could get pregnant, and after all that it didn’t stick. I started feeling sad, mad, indifferent and completely bad about myself. Would my husband leave me, I could get pregnant but not keep it and the fibroids after all that came back. Hormone full, deal with that lady. Yep, emotional wreck on my husbands hands, but no matter how much he comforted me, I did not believe him. He was a man so he didn’t get it. He was my husband, of course he would tell me he is ok with this and he loves me. I did not believe it.
My cousin, the one that went through IVF with me got pregnant. Like a knife to my heart. I was genuinely happy for her, but it was terribly hard to get our of my own head and out form underneath all the sadness. My ideal of a great wife and woman included kids, and I failed that. Image of my grandma and ideal house wife, which I aspired to be, went out the window. Making lunches, cooking favorite meals, sewing costumes, none of those things would happen for me.
Watching my cousin go through her pregnancy was chipping at me little by little. Sad all the time, I struggled. Found ways to focus on other things, and over time I thought I was better, until her baby was born. I could not hold Leena for several months. When I finally did, it was so terribly hard. Hearing all the milestones and things that new parents experience, swards in my gut. My joy disappeared and bitterness set in. Angry and frustrated at others was common state for me. Lashing out when something minor went wrong at home or work, the sparkle was gone. My vibrant, energetic, positive personality was murdered by the bitch that felt the world owed her something and she was going to take it out on everyone in her path.
Crying, anger, they alternated and next thing you know some 3 years passed. I could not let go of my grip on disappointment. Remember me saying that I never really talked about kids or having them. Well,Well, after something hit me, I saw a therapist and realized that I really wasn’t grieving not being a mom. I was grieving not having a choice in the matter. Therapy was huge help. This was my first time seeing a therapist, and didn’t really know how and if it would work. Today I am a huge fan when friends talk to me about therapy. Being in our own head and creating our own narrative can make or break us.
With my anger and sadness, the narrative became negativity and beating myself up. I disliked myself and took it out on myself in so many ways. Picking fights with my family, being moody and grumpy all the time, working out like mad, then binge eating and eventually drinking wine daily. I was not pounding bottles, but I did find myself having 1-2 glasses of wine every night. One when I got home and one when I was cooking or eating dinner was normal. It hit me one day over a weekend, when I was cleaning and opened a bottle at lunch time. It is not uncommon for me to have a glass of wine during lunch with my friends or family on a weekend. This time I was alone, setup a lovely plate outdoors, put on music and enjoyed my lunch in the yard. Cleaned up, I refilled my glass and started chores. My all day routine continues, and a whole bottle of rose was gone. Over some 5 hours I had refilled my glass several times and drank the bottle myself. Did I feel drunk? No, I felt fine. That was the day I realized I had to deal with my emotions or I was going to destroy myself from he inside out. I throttled back, talked about my feelings and started to own what I was feeling. Being honest with myself so I could get past the pain.
Second step was tougher and started just 2 years ago when I started my blog. Self love and self appreciation time! No clue how to do it, I read “I am a Badass” and it helped give me the “You go girl” enema I needed. I made affirmations a regular part of my daily life and started to commute on the positive train. Second book that helped was “The Subtle art of not giving a fuck” but in a different way. What was I stressing about too much that did not matter?” What did I need to give less f’s about? My beginning posts were therapeutic. Putting words on paper and out of my head felt good, something I have done my whole life. Expressing myself in writing was easier and fulfilling to me. But, I would still not open up. I kinda did, but really I didn’t. Fear of being vulnerable and judged stopped me. I didn’t event tell my friends and family that I had a blog for several months, too embarrassed for them to read my content.
Two years have passed, and 2 months back, through another moment of clarity, I began working with a life coach so I could get to the next level. What now? Aren’t you able to life on your own? I asked myself that same question, don’t feel bad. I am good at lifing alone. The sparkle is back. The person I was before fertility is back and stronger. The girl everyone liked being around, the girl I liked being around. My content became mediocre, and soul poring reality I planned for my blog to be, became fluff posts. Spending time with my coach I learned everything I need is inside me, I know I can overcome and reinvent myself to a version that will achieve what she wants. I just have to overcome fear and being hard on myself.
As one of my homework assignment after a session, my coach urged me to write a letter to myself like I was writing it to my best friend. It was tougher than I imagined, but my eyes opened. Little things have impact and this one landed like a jumbo jet. I highly recommend you try this exercise for yourself. If you are dealing with self doubt or you tend to be hard on yourself, try it. If you want to share it my email is below, and if you want me to post it, let me know when you send it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Life gave me some lemons and I made lemonade. Where I am now is refreshing yet tangy. It is exciting and challenging. I am ready to work hard, be nice to myself, enjoy people and relationships around me. Best of all, I am nice to myself, and genuinely mean it. No more destructive behavior like wine or binge eating. All bandaids. Now let’s get real and bring awesome to my blog. I underwent my last surgery and now I have come out on the other side…sparkle side.
Join me and let’s be awesome & sparkle.
MY LETTER TO MYSELF
Me now writing to me before fertility grief and letting her know I am happy that we reunited.