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All I want for Christmas is a BABY

All I Want For Christmas is a BABY:
Bringing Awareness to the Emotional Journey of Trying to Conceive

This blog is a long time coming. I put it off. Why? Because I kept thinking this month I was going to get pregnant, therefore I wouldn't have to write it and sit with all the crappy feelings that accompany it. I do, however, feel it is important to share this very personal story because this isn't just my journey, this is the story of thousands of women silently grieving their inability to become a mother. My hope is that EVERYONE will understand the pivotal role they play in supporting women like me, as we navigate down the unpredictable journey into trying to conceive.

I got married two years ago at 35. I was ready for a baby. Okay maybe not ready, I was terrified, but for the first time in my life, I really wanted to be a mother. As a sometimes over-planner, I started creating Amazon baby lists and even started buying cute baby clothes. I bought all the books and started decorating a nursery. Let's face it, I went overboard. I even bought a crib and a kid bed… come on, it was on sale! 

In the last two years, I have witnessed the announcement, pregnancy, delivery and post-baby lives of over 40 women. And with that, the additional social media highlight reels. About 95% of my friends have children which only makes wanting to join the Mom Team even more desirable. 

The Mom Team
Every 28 days, I get the opportunity to join the Mom Team. From day one to two weeks before tryout, I'm prepping, taking good care of myself, keeping my stress levels down and remaining as positive as possible. I'm lucky enough to know when tryouts are happening because I pee on this flimsy stick and it gives me the most opportune times to make the team. I only have 24-48 hours to give the tryout my best shot though. As I pee on the stick each month, I scratch my head wondering how the hell there are so many people on this planet. 

My husband has to tryout with me which adds this entire other dynamic. I love him dearly, but I'm slightly annoyed that I need him at all to make the Mom Team. I mean for real, I just want to make the team and now this is a joint assignment? Reminds me of high school where you're forced into a group assignment and your ability to get an A+ is in the hands of someone else. And a side note to all you slackers from high school, “You're welcome!” 

After my husband and I put our sexiest game faces on for tryouts, I wait two weeks to find out if I made the team. Those two weeks are hard and long. I try and stay busy but most of the time I'm daydreaming about the Mom Team and wondering if I made it. By the end of the two weeks, I’m an emotional mess. I am either growing a human lifeform in my stomach or I am barren and have to start the entire process over again next month. 

Day 28 arrives, wow that was a long month. I arrive at the field with other women hoping to make the Mom Team just like me. Some of them are new faces and some of them have been trying out for a while, like me. We can see the real Mommies on the playing field, there are so many of them, geez what's their secret? I find myself silently observing the Moms as judgemental thoughts creep in. Why did she make it over me? As shame sets in and I sit down on the bench and wait for what seems like an eternity to be handed an answer stick that says I'm in or out. I take a deep breath, look down at the stick as tears slowly travel down my face.

“I have tried out for the Mom Team 23 times, been given the answer stick 23 times and all 23 times been told no. How am I not worthy?”

The answer stick doesn't come with any notes or advice for how you can make the team next time. The only thing it tells you is that you're not good enough to make the team. Some of the girls on the bench next to me jump up for joy because they made it. I feel a mixture of happiness and envy as I watch them run over to the field and hug all the real Moms. I sit by myself for a bit, holding the answer stick, hoping that maybe there was a mistake. I then have to call my husband and tell him we didn't make the team and I'm really sorry, I promise I did my best.

After a tryout rejection, I enter a dark phase for a few days. I obsess over the past 28 days and make a plan for what I can do differently. Was I too stressed, should I eat differently, was our timing bad, did I not do enough yoga, or maybe my body isn't working right? In my low moments, I am not sure I can emotionally handle another tryout rejection. In my absolute lowest moments, I imagine myself 20 years from now where my parents and my dogs are dead and I will be alone without a family. 

While I'm trying to make this damn team every month, I'm still engaging in other life events such as work, art, family and friends. This might seem like a nice reprieve from having babies on the brain, but everything in life seems to mirror and reflect the fact I'm not a mom yet. Especially when you are 37. 

Work is the safest place, you feel in control, you feel like your actually accomplishing something relatively important. However, that can quickly sour when someone announces a pregnancy that was either unplanned or the of course, “We just started trying.” Art is my favorite way to escape and heal, yet the stress of trying to conceive can easily block creativity which is frustrating. Family events are, well, focused on family, which means there is a good chance of seeing a lot of children or worse, people giving you their ”expert” advice. 

When you haven't made the Mom Team, it can be hard to hang out with your Mom Team friends. It's one of those weird teams where you can mingle with them without being on the team, yet it's obvious you're not an official member. Moms talk about all things Mom, I get it, it's what's relevant and exciting in their world. As a nonmember, it's painfully challenging to hear. I smile, I do my best to put on a brave face, then when alone in my car I cry all the way home. I wipe my tears before I walk in the door, because even though my husband sees and feels my pain, the sadness also overwhelms him. He too, feels responsible and powerless. 

After all that, I wake up on day one of the next month and somehow find the courage and perseverance to tryout again. 

WHAT NOW?
Although my husband and I are still trying to make a baby naturally... six months ago my husband and I started the Home Study process. It would approve us to foster children or adopt. Working through feelings of potentially not having biological children has not been easy. I have so much love for my Native culture. Will I still have a Native child to share it with? I have gone through so many stages of grief and questioning. How do I feel about not having a Native child? How do I feel about not having children at all? 

Fostering has not been an easy pill to swallow either. The main goal of fostering is to reunify a child with their parent(s). As someone who wants to have a family of my own, I can't imagine having a child stay with us for a long period of time, only to leave. I know, I know, I have heard it all, we can provide short term love for a child in need. I don't argue that and I'm not saying I am opposed to that. But isn't it okay for me to want to have a child that stays? I want to watch a child go to prom, I want to be a grandmother. That is not the goal of foster care. I have had people tell me I am selfish for not being open to foster. I have had people tell me I'm being selfish because I'm not sure how I feel about not having a child with Native heritage. I'm currently in the midst of sorting all of these feelings out and who knows where I will be months from now. In the last year, I have come a long way in terms of my openness to explore alternative options. It is definitely a process you can't rush. 

As for adoption, I hear it all the time, "Oh just adopt." I'm not above eye rolling when I hear this one. Do you have 30-40K sitting in your shoe box? Because that is about how much adopting a baby is these days. Not to mention that adoption carries no guarantee. It's all a competitive game of baby roulette and your crossing your fingers that something will land. It can be a long waiting game that isn't cut and dry. 

When you tell people adopting a baby is expensive, the next thing you hear is it's “cheap through the state.” Besides that sounding terrible in itself, they aren't babies though. They are older kids which means they might come with a little extra emotional baggage because obviously they have been through a lot. I look around at all the baby things I bought and wonder if I should sell it and forget the baby dream and adopt an older child. What would I do if an 11-year-old just showed up at our house one morning and BAM... you're a parent? That is a crazy concept to imagine: being an instant mom. The 10 hours of foster care training instills a bit of fear as I remember reading through case studies of intense behavioral problems that are common. Shame rears its ugly face again as I feel guilty for having these fearful and judgey thoughts. I understand why they have trauma, we all do on some level. Am I strong enough to handle it? Because that type of commitment is something you don't want to back out on. I know there are so many older children needing homes, yet that too feels overwhelming. 

Then you have the good old back up plan called IUI or IFV. I don't have a shoe box with 30 G’s inside, however I do have a sock drawer with 25K to cover IFV. Double eye roll with a sigh here. Not only is it expensive, but there are also no guarantees. It's not a try-until-you-succeed investment. If it doesn't work, you better have another 25K to pony up. IUI is less expensive but also comes with a lower success rate. 

The financial repercussions of not being able to conceive naturally feels at times, soul-crushing. I am constantly asking myself, where are we going to come up with that type of money and what happens when it doesn't work? At my age, we don't have years and years to save money. It puts that much more pressure on making a baby for free, naturally. 

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE?
You probably have someone in your life grieving the inability to conceive. You have an opportunity to play a significant role in supporting that person. The best advice I can give anyone in my circle is to ASK WHAT I NEED? What does this mean? Sometimes I just want a hug, sometimes I just want to cry on your shoulder, sometimes I just want you to hear me vent. Sometimes I don't want you to do anything.

What I NEVER want is someone to give me advice or judge the layers of processing I am doing. Women who are just starting out on their journey into motherhood are more open to "all the secrets." Women like me, who have tried to conceive for any long length of time has drowned herself into hours of research through blogs, social media groups and endless doctor appointments. If we haven't tried what you are about to say, it's on our list of plan A, B, C, D, E and so forth. At this stage, I have yet to hear anything remotely soothing or helpful. The unsolicited advice usually just makes us feel more inferior, more inadequate, and more unheard. We often feel this because of the lack of awareness you have in regards to the hundreds of variables that play into the entire mix. There are so many deep layers, especially because it involves another person. These layers are so deep, we don't even know how to talk about them sometimes. 

We don't want to be told to have more sex, to stop thinking about it, or to adopt because then we will get pregnant. We don't want you to tell us that it will happen when the timing is right because in our minds, we wonder if we are one of those women who really don't get to be mother. Don't tell us we have plenty of time, because deep down we know each second that goes by, our eggs are slowly dying. Don't tell us we are trying too hard because once we stop, we fear we aren't doing enough. Don't tell us it will all work out, because last time I checked, you weren't in the business of foretelling the future. 

For ladies who are pregnant or are Mamas already, us non-moms hang out with you because we love you. We attend your baby showers because we love you. We listen to all your cute baby stories because we love you. It doesn't mean that hanging out with you is easy. We understand that interactions with us can be awkward for you, too. We don't want you to stop talking about your pregnancy or kids. We want to celebrate your life and adventures. We do, however, want you to recognize our pain and be thoughtful with your words and timing of that. When those are out of balance, we often leave interactions feeling disconnected and sad. The Non-Mom Team is lonely and sometimes we grieve the different places our lives have taken us. The best thing you can do is make time for just us. 

How else can you support someone experiencing challenges to conceiving? Please understand we know you mean well, we really do. We know that you want nothing more for us to experience the joy of becoming a mom. Here are a few responses that might help validate and console someone struggling to conceive: 

"That must be really hard for you."

"I don't understand what you are going through however if I was in your position, I would feel the same way."

"What can I do to be supportive?" 

A hug. No, really! Sometimes a sweet hug is all I need to know that someone hears me.

"Let's plan a girls outing or night in just the two of us, no kids."

It doesn't take much. We don't want to feel judged because we are throwing plenty of that on ourselves. You might feel like you’re not supporting enough but all we really want is to know that people have taken a moment to really take in the magnitude of what we are processing, experiencing and working through. 

As 2020 nears, I have a new mantra and outlook to approaching this Mom Team journey. I'm not giving up, but I am letting go. I am letting go of the narrative in my head of how this is supposed to unfold. I am working towards opening myself up to the alternative possibilities of what motherhood could look like. I realize that there will be lots of risk involved with the decisions we make going forward, it won't be easy, it won't happen quickly and it might get even harder. After another roller coaster of a year trying to get pregnant, I walk away from 2019 in a better space than when I entered it. There is a lot of unknowns for us but my husband and I will take this adventure day by day and do our best to focus on the positive and the good that is always around us. 

Before I go, I want to make a special call out to my husband who has volunteered to go overseas to Japan for four months in an effort to earn extra money for the financial costs we may have to endure while exploring alternative routes to becoming parents. I know this journey isn't easy for you either. I know that I have let my sadness at times consume our space, which keeps me from focusing on the positive. I love you, I miss you, I appreciate you and the sacrifices you have made thus far. I know you hate acupuncture and don't understand why I make you go, but I love you even more for doing it :)

My final thoughts are for those women trying to join the Mom Team. You are so brave for continuing to wake up each morning willing to try out yet again. You are not alone and there is nothing unworthy about you. If you ever get lonely, message me.

With love,
Tessa



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