Written by Kateka Goodman, WTF Contributor
We all sacrifice for motherhood in different ways. For me, for a decade, my sacrifice was in using my money to pay for treatments; the sacrifice came when I put my body through hell with injections, hormones, treatments, miscarriages, weight gain, hair loss; I sacrificed my sanity, and my faith, for a while; I nearly sacrificed my marriage. Last year, when I stepped into my 3rd and final IVF egg retrieval (having already experienced two IVF miscarriages before this), I knew that I had to go into it, sacrificing next-to-everything because if it didn’t work, I hoped I’d be able to look back with no regrets. I called it the ALL HANDS ON DECK cycle. We threw every trick, test, and drug into the mix to make sure all our bases were covered.
And then I got pregnant. My numbers were low but they looked better than they ever had before. At my 6 week heartbeat ultrasound, I was told my baby had died. They did an immediate D&C. In that moment, it felt as though the world had swallowed me whole. I had no more embryos. I was no further to having a child than I was when I started this process 10 years before. If anything, all I was was an empty, but heavier, shell of what I used to be. I was bitter, cynical, judgmental, hopeless, numb, angry, stressed, and coping in unhealthy ways (binging on food and tv). I was unavailable to those I loved; my husband, my family and friends, and even, myself. Infertility had turned me into the worst version of myself. Watching your husband mourn the loss of his babies, something that you’ve failed to force into existence, has a way of extinguishing the light you have inside you. What was my purpose? How could I survive yet another failure? What good was I? How could I ever come to peace knowing I’d never pass on my own genetics?
I was purely and utterly lost.
One night, I talked to my mother and told her what a failure I was. She reassured me I wasn’t and told me I was so strong. I sighed and thought, ‘She has to say that.’
That night, while falling asleep, I recalled the conversation with my mom and my mind turned the tables. In my half-awake state, I was suddenly the mom, and my adult daughter was telling me she had her 3rd miscarriage after giving infertility the fight of her life. I could see her pain. I wanted to fix it. I wanted her to understand she was stronger than she understood. She fought every step of the way, even though she had fear riding on her shoulders the entire time. She was not a failure, she was a warrior. I wish she understood how loved she was. I wished she could love herself.
I wrote my strange half-awake dream down and described it to my husband the next day. He told me, if there were such things as angel babies (past or future), that they’d be proud of what we tried to do. In thinking of my angel babies, I had this yearning that they needed me to stop focusing on growing our family for some time, and instead give myself some much needed care; the same kind of care I’d give to any of my loved ones who needed help.
(Here I am a few weeks after my D&C in May of 2018, heavier than I’d ever been before)
In the spring of 2018, I made myself the priority. Not baby-making. Not scouring online forums and books for “fix-it’s” to my infertility. I worked on giving myself some serious, much-needed, self-care.
My self-care was focused around: getting therapy right away, feeding my body better, getting more exercising, resting when I needed it, finding healthy ways to cope with my emotions, and having some happy things to look forward to (not baby related).
- In therapy I learned many life lessons, including the importance of self-validation. No one’s words will ever be enough if you don’t first validate from within.
- I’ve done restriction diets in the past to lose weight or to try to improve fertility and it didn’t help in either way. My endometriosis had done so much damage that changing my diet now would do nothing to improve my already ruined eggs; also, taking away bread and sugar just leads me to binge (and gain more weight). Instead I focused on portion control. I eat a lot of healthy foods, but I still enjoy “bad” foods (in small portions) so that I never feel deprived.
- When it came to exercise, I listened purely to my body. I started off with light, low-impact workouts, and with time, my stamina naturally improved. If my body was exhausted, I would take that queue and rest on those days. Other times, I was bursting with energy so I’d use that energy to give more to my workouts.
- Instead of using food to cope with my feelings I paid attention to my body queues. If I needed to chat, I’d either journal or call a friend; if I felt angry, I’d take it out on my workout (making sure to add PUNCHING BAG to my workouts that day); If I was growing obsessive or feeling crazy, I’d work on a craft, puzzle, or meditation to try to distract myself; when I felt like crying, I allowed the rivers to flow, making sure to never stifle any of my feelings; when I needed perspective I would try to serve others.
- My husband and I planned a trip to Kauai! We were excited for months leading up to our adventure and it really helped us live more presently, instead of in the past, or future. We had a wonderful time there and are anxiously looking forward to when we can travel again.
- And! I lost 54 lbs. (I have to give my husband a shout out who has also worked on his health and is down 60 lbs right now too).
Allowing my body to purge of all the hormones, eat healthy foods, workout again, and find happiness in TODAY, did so much for my overall wellbeing.
Crazy enough, I feel closer to being the mother I’d like to be for my future children compared to where I was when I had my short pregnancy last spring.
This year, I have many resolutions I am working towards. My husband and I want to get more tests done before we figure out how to move forward next (donor egg, embryo adoption, foster care, or adoption), we need to continue saving money for whatever baby plan we choose, and I want to continue working on my overall health so that if/when babies come into the picture, I can be a mama they’re proud to call their own.
The thing is, whether you have completed the fight, are in the middle of the fight, are about to start the fight, or maybe are taking a break from the fight, we are all following our hearts and doing our best. You are strong. No matter where you are in your journey, make sure this year to take time for YOU. Give the same love that you’d give to your children, to yourself. From one warrior to another, I am wishing you a very happy, and successful, New Year.