Thursday, September 27, 2018

Published two years later

15 years ago I was a freshman in college at Texas State (then Southwest Texas).  I was completely adrift.  I was away from my very protective parents and I was away from the friends I had grown up with over the last six years.  9/11 had just happened and the entire world seemed like a scary and unsure place.  I was trying to find "my people", a group of friends I could fit in with.  Who accepted me with all my quirks.  I was hopeful that I would find that in the marching band, and for a short time I did.  

I became close with a small group of freshmen and sophomores.  One guy in particular liked to invite a few of us to his dorm to watch movies.  It was fun and free.  One night, close to the end of the semester, I got an invite to watch a movie in his dorm room.  He said several others were going to be there.  I checked with my friend and she agreed to go.  That night I was the first to arrive.  We talked about the marching season and what we were planning to do over break.  No one else showed up.  When I commented that it was strange he shrugged and said the others must have gotten a better offer.  He asked if I still wanted to watch the movie.  At that moment I began to feel a little uncomfortable but ignored my instincts.  I didn't want to hurt his feelings so I agreed.  

He sat next to me on the floor, too close. I moved over and so did he.  I turned towards him to jokingly ask what he was doing when suddenly his mouth was on mine.  Forcefully.  I was smaller then, barely breaking 100lbs.  He was not tall but he was heavy.  He pinned me to the side of his bed as I struggled to get away.  He stopped for a moment and looked offended.  I don't remember what he said but I think he said I needed to stop being a tease.  He kissed me again, pinning me with one hand, running the other down my stomach to my crotch.  He rubbed, hard.  It hurt and I struggled, terrified and confused.  He shifted his weight and somehow I managed to roll out from under him and onto my feet.  I ran to the door, threw it open, and was running down the stairs and outside before I could really fathom what had happened.

I remember running home in shock.  Scared, confused, ashamed.  I kept looking behind me for fear that he was following.  I got to my dorm room, locked the door, and crawled under my covers.  The next day he came and knocked on my door.  At first he knocked softly, then harder and more forcefully.  He gave up and left.  I found flowers, a necklace, and a card outside my door.  He came again the next day with more flowers.  And the next.  And the next.  I threw it all in the trash.

I didn't talk to him or any of my friends for three days.  When I spoke with my friend that had said she was going to go she said that he had told her not to because we wanted some time alone.  I knew then that he had planned it.  I don't know if he had planned to assault me or if he honestly thought I was interested.  But I know now something that it has taken me 15 years to come to terms with.  I was sexually assaulted that night.

The fallout was terrible.  He told our friends that I was a whore, a tease.  He said I slept with him that night and then felt guilty about cheating on my boyfriend.  He told them I had wanted it, that I was at fault.  He told them that I was making up stories because I didn't want them to think I was a cheater.  They bought it.  So I partially bought it to.  I knew that I hadn't wanted him to kiss me, that I hadn't wanted him to touch me.  But had I led him on?  Had I been too friendly, had I worn something that was too sexy?  Was it my fault if he thought I was interested in him?

I stopped talking about it.  I couldn't stand to tell my parents, I was too embarrassed and ashamed.  How had I let this happen?  How had I been so naive?  If my friends didn't believe me then why would my parents?  Why would anyone?  I stopped believing myself.  It wasn't that bad.  A kiss.  We had gotten our signals crossed.  It was a harmless, innocent kiss.  I had blown it out of proportion.  I hadn't screamed, surely that is something I would have done if I was really afraid.  It's not like I was raped.

But I was sexually assaulted.  We live in a world where some of us want to deny that rape culture exists.  But it's ingrained.  Women grow up being told to watch what they say, watch how they act, don't wear anything too tight/low/short.  Because "boys will be boys" and who is really at fault if we "encourage" them so?  This is not the only time I have been assaulted, just the most egregious example.  I honestly can't count the number of times my butt has been slapped/pinched, my breasts have been fondled.  Not by men openly doing so, but by sneaks in an elevator, in a dark club, passerby's on the street.  I used to feel like these times were my fault.  I had chosen to go to the club, I had chosen to go to the concert, the bar.  I put myself in those situations therefor it was my fault. 

Sexual assault is not a joke.  It's not "locker room talk".  Admitting what occurred is painful and uncomfortable.  The idea of my husband, my parents, my in laws, my friends, my coworkers, all knowing makes me want to hide under the covers ashamed.  But I can't be ashamed any more.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Listen up!

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  Yes, I am getting up on my soapbox again.  This is near and dear to my heart because I have been living it for six years and it's not going away.  Only by talking about the elephant in the room can we get rid of the taboo.  At least 1 in 8 deal with infertility.  That means that you likely know several people dealing with it, many who might be too afraid of the judgment discussing it brings.  If this is you, you are not alone.  If sharing my story can help even one person then it's worth it.

I was 27 when we started trying.  We conceived relatively quickly but lost the baby at 8 weeks, never getting to see a heartbeat.  I was beyond devastated.  Due to family history I had always been afraid that I would have a difficult time conceiving.  So we tried for a few months before I contacted my OB.  My labs were off but my OB wasn't worried.  I was young and it can take a normal, healthy couple a year to conceive.  But I pushed for a referral to a Reproductive Endocrinologist.  More labs and a laparoscopic surgery confirmed my fears.  I had endometriosis and diminished ovarian reserves (DOR).  Our RE recommended an aggressive protocol of Femara (pills) and Gonal-F (injections).  Our insurance only covers diagnosis, not treatment.  This was very costly.  We had already booked a vacation in Las Vegas so my prescriptions went with us.  I still laugh thinking about what the hotel maid must have thought seeing my fertility drugs in the ice bucket.  Probably not as rare as you would think, right?  We were so luck that Jacen and Spencer came from our first treatment cycle.

After their scary birth and NICU time I thought I was done.  Until I held my neighbor's newborn girl not long after the boys first birthday.  I wasn't done, not by a long shot.  We conceived relatively quickly again, on our own.  This time we saw our baby's heartbeat.  Several times.  But I had a missed miscarriage that required a D&C.  We were able to find out that our baby was a boy with Triploidy.  This is supposed to be a random occurrence, very unlikely to occur again.  Six months later I saw a new RE and did several cycles with just pills.  Nothing.  Financially we had reached an end point.  Then miraculously we conceived again.  But a month later I experienced another missed miscarriage, another D&C, and another diagnosis of triploidy, this time a girl.  Our RE explained to us in no uncertain terms that continuing with my eggs would not work.  Donor eggs with IVF would be my only chance to carry a pregnancy.  Remember, our insurance covers nothing.  $30,000 is the approximate starting point for this.

So we are done.  Except I do not feel done.  I feel like I am meant to mother another living child.  I'm not sure if it will happen or through what means that child will come.  But I live with the grief on a daily basis.  I grieve my three children in heaven, and I grieve for my boys that they will never know their other siblings.  I grieve when a new friend asks if we are going to have more.  I grieve when one of the boys asks for a sister.  Although I rejoice when a friend announces their pregnancy or has their baby, I grieve too.  It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.  Infertility has tainted every relationship in some way.  I am constantly angry at my body, angry that it is unable to do what others so easily can do.  I had hoped with time these feelings would fade.  They don't, at least not for me, not yet.  But most days I have a somewhat uneasy truce with these emotions.  They are there, but they no longer completely rule me.

Infertility and loss are such taboo subjects but they don't have to be.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bad Mom

Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything you do seems to go badly?  This past week it has felt like my skin is on too tight and with one more wrong move it would split in half.  Everything has felt uncomfortable and I have felt like I suck at everything.  

After a day that shouldn't have been bad but somehow felt like it was I was in a horrible mood.  I took Pyro for a walk but even he wasn't making things easier.  I was done.  So I decided to go see Bad Moms.

Best. Movie.  Ever.

For reals.  It's raunchy and unapologetically potty mouthed.  It was perfect.  Those moms are me, except way cooler.  Or are they?  The world puts a ton of pressure on me but I make it a million times worse. My inner monologue is a constant drum beat of disdain for my choices, words, appearance, and behavior.  Nothing I do is good enough for myself.  We struggled so damn much to get our boys and then I constantly feel like I'm screwing up.  Like I'm screwing them up.  I'm constantly mad at myself for getting frustrated, for not making the healthiest meals, for not giving them my undivided attention 100% of the time I am with them.  I'm in burnout mode at home and at work.  And it's all my fault.  But there I go with the negativity against myself again.

I need to give myself a break.  I am not the perfect mom, wife, daughter, worker, coworker, friend.  And I never will be.  Because perfect is not realistic.  I am flawed but I love fiercely.  My loved ones know how truly loved they are and that should be all that matters.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Due Date

Sweet Liana, tomorrow is your due date.  When I first found out I was pregnant I never thought I would make it to my due date but I was so hopeful I would make it close.  Even with our history I had hope.  I had no idea how things would work out or how I could possibly survive your loss.  But I have.  I am still here, walking amongst others, parenting your brothers, trying to be a good wife to your daddy.  I miss you so much.  Every night, as I am drifting to sleep, I imagine your face and your personality.  Would you be a mini me like your oldest brother or a firecracker like S?  We lost so much when we lost you.  We lost our dreams and our hopes for your future.  Andy and I lost our daughter and the hope of another biological child.  Your big brothers lost their little sister.  You would have rocked our world and turned it upside down.  But I would have relished every moment of it knowing how lucky I was to be your mom.  I know that I will meet you and hold you one day.  You are playing in heaven with your big brother Gavin and our first child.  You are not alone and I like to imagine all the fun you must be having being spoiled by all your great grandparents.  I love you.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Gavin

My sweet boy, you should be turning one today.  My grief has faded somewhat but you are always in my heart.  Today your father, brothers, and I will spend the day doing fun things together.  In your memory we will build memories together.  I do not forget you.  I love you.

"You are my angel, my darling, my star...and my love will find you, wherever you are.
You are loved."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Waves of grief

"Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim."  - Vicki Harrison

Sometimes I feel guilty for how well I'm handling things.  We lost our daughter less than two months ago yet I am able to laugh, smile, and look towards the future with excitement.  I should be a mess, right?  I'm a horrible person for not grieving her more obviously.  Then a wave of grief hits me, hard.  It knocks my feet out from under me and I struggle to breathe.  The tears are there, a stinging presence, ready to be unleashed at the most inopportune times.  In those moments I feel like a terrible wife, mom, daughter, friend, employee...I struggle to put a cap on the overwhelming emotions and squash them back under the surface.  To gain control again.

What conflicting ideas!  I feel like a terrible person for not more openly grieving, then when a strong wave hits I feel like a terrible person for feeling it so strongly.  I think to myself that I should be thankful for what I have: Two amazing, loving, bright boys who light up my world.  That's more than many of my friends have.  I should be satisfied with the blessings I have, right?  And yet I grieve.  

We should have a child turning one next month, a child turning four the month after, and I should be securely in second trimester right now.  Grieving them does not make me less thankful for our boys.  But I feel the judgment of a good portion of our society.  At the park a new friend asks if we will have another and I struggle with how to answer.  Do I answer openly and fight the taboo or do I lie?  It's a hard decision and I make it in the moment, I tell her we have been trying for two years with two additional losses.  Instantly I can feel the awkwardness in the air.  What had been an invitation for our children to play soon hastily turns in to them needing to get home.  Now.  I know most people, thankfully, haven't been through this journey.  They don't know what to say and are afraid of saying the wrong things.  So they shut down, they run away from the grief.  

Loss and infertility are isolating experiences.  I'm an awkward person anyways, these experiences have just amplified it.  I try so hard to relate to others but I can't and I know most others struggle to relate to me.  When I am having a good day, when the grief ocean is calm, I can smile and get along with anyone.  But these stormy days are tough.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Where will I be?

We're considering donor eggs.  It's a huge step and not one I am fully ready to even consider right now.  My grief is still fresh and I need time to heal mentally.  But no matter what we choose I know that I will never have another biological link to a child.  It's difficult to process.  Before we lost our girl we had given up on trying, but since we weren't protecting it was still a possibility.  Now I'm back on birth control pills.

My grief over a biological child and our girl is so linked, I don't know how to separate it.  I see a little girl playing outside and I wonder what it would have been like to raise our girl.  Cute girls clothing stands out to me at the store, I should be buying them.  Then I look at S and see the way his eyes squint when he grins, just like mine do.  I will never have another child that "gets that" from me.  J is so much like me in his determination.  It's complicated trying to wrap my brain around possibly having another child who doesn't get any of their genes from me.

I would love to adopt if it was a sure thing and not so complicated in it's own way.  I know I could love an adopted child just as much as I love J and S.  I also know that I would love any child that resulted from donor eggs just as much.  But there is still feelings of grief over the genetic link.  When I take the boys out I always get so many comments about how J looks like me and S must look like Andy.  It will be different if we have another.  Different isn't a bad thing, but I'm not ready to fully go there yet.  I'm not sure I ever will be.