Strong Enough

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September 22, 2012 was our wedding day. Last week we celebrated our three year wedding anniversary.   We have not been married for a long time, but we have been through so much together. Today, I saw this quote floating around Facebook:

The couples that are “meant to be” are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.

We are definitely one of those couples. We have been faced with so much that is meant to tear us apart. I’m not sure if we are stronger yet, but I think we are at a place where we are strong enough. We seem to be in a constant state of “licking our wounds” with short breaks of stability and a chance to remember we can still be happy. Our three years of marriage have not been easy. Somehow we find a way not to give up…on our journey or each other. This marriage has not been all sunshine and roses. At times, we hang by a thread, and at times we can’t let go of each other. Our entire relationship has been overshadowed with fertility issues and two devastating pregnancy losses (amongst life’s other challenges). We’ve shared the roller coaster of hopefulness following an embryo transfer and have had to grieve in our own way every time it has failed.   He’s had to watch me lose hope and he’s had to watch happiness fade from my eyes. When I’ve given up, he hasn’t. Somehow, that’s helped me come back to see the light again. When he’s lost, my strength comes back to find him.

Seeing this quote today reminded me that we are strong enough not to be torn apart no matter how close that feels sometimes. We love each other.

Photo by Mary Bernsen

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The long, long wait

Africa October 2007 (3034)

I was first married at the age of 31. I married my high school “sweetheart” after we had been together for about 15 years or so. I remember in those early days of marriage and through most of our married relationship, we’d get a lot of questions about when we would have kids. Sometimes questions were direct, and sometimes they were subtle hints. Sometimes it was not subtle at all. I remember a family camping trip where the in-laws snuck into our tent leaving behind baby shower signs. I thought it was kind of cute and funny at the time, not knowing I would still be childless so many years later. In the beginning, these questions didn’t really bother me. It was definitely on my mind, but following high school, we had both been very driven with our college education and our careers. Once we were ready for marriage, there were travel plans to fulfill before babies. I wasn’t quite yet ready for kids, but I also knew that time was ticking and I didn’t want to end up regretting it later because I had “missed my chance.”   In that dual income, no kids relationship, we were fortunate to travel to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Amsterdam, France and Greece. It was truly incredible. I’m thankful for those opportunities and the memories of seeing lions, elephants, zebras and monkeys in the wild, glaciers in New Zealand, and sunsets in Santorini. When I turned 34, the clock was ticking loudly and I thought we better not waste any more time. But here’s where infertility hit without actually being an “infertile couple”. It just takes one person in the relationship to decide that kids were no longer in our future and bam…you can no longer make a baby. And that’s what happened. And during this time, I had my first experiences avoiding the comments…

”When are you going to have a baby?”

“You better not wait too long or you’ll miss your chance”

These questions and comments tore through my heart. I was now facing a decision of staying married with no kids or divorcing with the hope of still having them in the future. It was then, that I started realizing how hurtful these questions can be. I hadn’t even touched the surface of infertility at this point in my life, but this is when I realized, even hinting at parenthood could be a painful topic. I myself had been guilty of asking others these questions without any idea that it could be such a difficult topic.

I went through my 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and there I was in my early 30’s wanting a baby.   But now the person I had married was taking away an irreplaceable dream.   My high school sweetheart turned out not to be so sweet. This was the first time in my life I had to go through the grieving process of not being able to have a baby. By the age of 36, I was going through a divorce. I had no idea if I would marry again, have a baby, or if I would even have issues trying to get pregnant.   I remember thinking, “how could I possibly meet someone, fall in love, get engaged, get married and have a baby while I still actually have good eggs? Who knows how long this could take?”

A year and half went by between my separation, finalized divorce and magical eHarmony wink. And there he was. We went on one date and fell in love. So, that accelerated my imaginary timeline to baby quite a bit. Five months later we were engaged and a year and a half after meeting, we were married.   I was 38 when we got married. Let the baby making commence! Well…not so fast. We determined at the beginning of our relationship that we were one of those 1 in 8 couples. Three months after we were married we had our first round of IVF. In early January of 2013 I found out I was pregnant. Two days before my 39th birthday, I miscarried at 15 weeks. From there our story continued with a second miscarriage of twin girls and now I am moving toward our 8th embryo transfer at the age of 41. I’ve been married twice, yet I’ve never had the chance to try to conceive naturally.

I’m 41 years old and still trying to have a baby. But trying to conceive at 41, brings a lot of blessings in addition to the heartache. At 41, nobody asks anymore, “when are you going to have kids?” Nobody is on our case about having a baby.   Nobody says, “you better hurry up”. Baby showers become a rarity, since all of our friends already had one or two kids years ago. By the time 39 slipped away from me, baby making peer pressure that had previously existed, simply faded away.

Where that’s helpful when faced with infertility, it’s also scary because you start to realize that perhaps there’s no longer a reason for anyone to ask those questions. I worry that people may think we are crazy to try to have a baby so late in life.  Or may not even believe it is possible. While I see other women in their 20’s and 30’s going through the challenges and emotional pain of infertility, I realize in some ways I’m really lucky. When I was in my late 20’s and throughout my 30’s, all of my friends were having babies. But all this was happening at a time when I wasn’t faced with infertility and the pain associated with that journey. I went to a lot of baby showers and played a lot of baby shower games. I bought a lot of baby gifts. I could enjoy walking into a Baby Gap and buying some cute little outfits. I was able to be there with my friends not just for baby #1, but also for baby #2. And I loved all of it. I was able to be emotionally there for them and to watch their joy and feel their joy with them. I was able to be a friend and really care deeply about their move into mommyhood and was able to fall in love with all of their children. I have nieces and nephews that I love dearly, but I’m also an “Auntie” in several other households. I’m known as Aunt Cookie, Crispy, Auntie Chrissykins and Auntie Nasty. My husband even acquired the nickname, Uncle Cupcake this summer. I’ve been able to watch these kids grow up without the cloud of jealousy due to infertility. I didn’t have to back away from being a part of those growing families because I had just had a miscarriage or another failed embryo transfer. Those things didn’t start to happen until after my friends had their babies and for that, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that even though I’m doing this so late, those same friends are there to support me in my struggle. They are there to offer me words of encouragement when I can’t take the emotional pain anymore. They are understanding and allow me to follow my own path. They are compassionate. At this point in life, my good friends have had the life experiences to know what words to say or how to offer sympathy and kindness.  They have the strength to feel my grief with me.

While I never expected to wait so long to have kids of my own, I have had a journey that has changed my life. It has taught me how to survive deep emotional pain and grief and allowed me to support others in their journey as well. Through all the heartache, it has taught me that hope and faith still do exist. I haven’t given up yet. I’m still waiting for my baby…but oh, does it feel like the longest wait ever.

Photo by CJE – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

This is Me

31chances_Chrissy2About six months ago when I started this blog, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about putting such personal and emotionally painful experiences into words for anyone to read. I wasn’t sure who else was out there that may be writing about miscarriages and infertility and whether or not connections would be created through the blogging world. It was a new realm of social media for me and I didn’t know what to expect. What would my friends and family think? What would my husband think? I had been writing for a couple of weeks before I even told my husband about my blog. With so much uncertainty, I decided to be an anonymous blogger.

When I started writing, I just knew that I needed this place to put my heartbreak and confusion and sadness. I needed a way to honor the babies that I had lost. I needed a way to tell people close to me what I had been through without having to talk through the story over and over again. I hoped that others would understand why I was writing and how much it helped me to share my story. Writing seems to give me a place to put my pain so that I don’t have to carry it with me all the time.

As I began writing, the connections slowly started with one “like” and one comment. I’m not a blogger with a lot of followers, but I have now connected with enough of you to know that in this journey, I am not alone. What I have discovered is that there are so many of us struggling with infertility, pregnancy loss or both. I have discovered that the stories are different but the pain and heartache are the same. I have discovered empathy and support from people that I’ve never met in person. I’ve discovered an online support group that I wish I had found 3 years ago.   I don’t want to be anonymous behind my story. I’m so much more than the words that I share about this one part of my life.

So, here it goes. This is me.

My name is Chrissy and…..

I am 41 years old.

coastal walk  kaylee coast  polka dot headbandsI love to go out walking with my dog and as you’ve seen in previous posts, I love my dog. She is a rescued pitbull and her name is Kaylee. I dress her up for holidays and take funny pictures of her.

Kaylee red boa

I love photography and I enjoy taking pictures of anything that I think is pretty. I have my own Etsy shop where I sell cards of my photographs.

I hate to cook but married someone who loves to cook (thank goodness).

chrissymike-291  chrissymike-765  wedding 1

I met my husband on eHarmony. I never believed in love at first sight until I met him.

We got engaged 5 months later.

When I was a kid, I was a gymnast, a swimmer and a ballet dancer. I quit gymnastics and swimming almost 30 years ago but I can still do a cartwheel and I can still swim butterfly.

I am a stepmom to a teenage boy.

I’ve had an 18 year career in the biopharmaceutical industry.

Until I started this infertility journey I was very career driven. Now I’m very baby driven.

ParisOn our honeymoon, we got to go to many places including Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Nice, Cannes, and Monaco. It was a dream come true. I found out that Pierre Hermé macarons are delicious and it was worth our trek through Paris in the pouring rain to find them.

PeruA few years ago I went on a 40 mile hike through Peru. I left within just days of meeting my husband. I came home with a $1,000 cell phone bill.

I have 3 siblings and I love them so much!

Sometimes I accidentally snort when I laugh.

I am a melanoma survivor.

me and dad2I lost my Dad to cancer in 2008. I’ll never forget the sound of his voice when he said, “Hi Sweetie” and I’ll never forget his laugh.

My favorite flowers are Gerbera daisies.

I have a sweet tooth weakness for dark chocolate, chocolate cake and peppermint patties.

My guilty pleasure is watching “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” TV shows. And by the way, if any of you are in Bachelor Nation, you’ve got to check out the blog, www.Ihategreenbeans.com for the Bachelor Recaps. You will not stop laughing.

chrissy little  childhood photoI had a very happy childhood including an awesome teddy bear collection, wonderful grandparents, loving and dedicated parents, lots of pets, and my Dad rocket launching my sister and I into the air in every hotel pool we visited. My mom has been my rock through everything in life.

I think The Muppets are totally awesome.

“Sixteen Candles” is my favorite movie.

I think I have my mom’s eyes and my dad’s smile.

I love giggle fits with my sister.

Thanks for getting to know me.

Love,

Chrissy

Wedding photography:  Mary Bernsen

Other images:  CJE