At times, my life centered around the activity in my ovaries. If you stopped me walking down the hall and asked me where I was in my ovulation cycle, I could rattle it off in a heartbeat. When you concentrate too greatly on one small part of your life, you realize that you are letting too much of other, actually important things slip by without you noticing. I wasn’t a great friend, caretaker, employee or loved one during this time.
When I was in graduate school, I adopted a cat that I named Orson. He was the most affectionate cat that I ever had. Orson would literally lay on my pillow beside me at night with a paw on my shoulder. He was looking out for me and he realized that I was not always the best at looking after him. During the three years of my fertility treatments, his kidneys were failing. At night, he would literally scream at the top of his lungs. The vet gave me a warning when his kidneys started to fail, but the process seemed to go quickly. One morning, he refused to eat or even move. He laid at the end of my bed while I got dressed for work.
I dropped him off at the vet before work and told myself that everything was fine. It’s a virus, a minor thing. The vet will conjure up something to make him stop screaming. By lunch, she had already called me to report that his kidneys had completely stopped functioning and he was in a great deal of pain. Later that day, I sat in a clinic room holding him saying goodbye. He was still on an IV for pain as he ran circles in my lap trying to cuddle me as much as he could. I realized that I was so focused on becoming pregnant that I lost focus on him losing his battle with his kidneys. I cried hysterically for two hours before I would let the vet enter the room to give him that final shot.
When you are struggling with fertility, your relationship is altered a bit with other pregnant women. You are happy for them, but you also burn with red-hot envy. I felt guilty sometimes for my thoughts when I was around those pregnant women, but I am sure I was only being human. Waiting in the lobby of the doctor’s office surrounded by pregnant women was like sitting a modeling agency’s lobby with open sores on my face.
It was after a failed try that my brother and his wife decided to come to town to share the news that they were pregnant again with my lovely niece McKenna. My first thought was that we were going to be pregnant together. Yeah, this last try failed but this next one will work and we will have children who are close in age. That did not work. McKenna was conceived, gestated, born and almost four by the time that I became a mother.
I found myself aching for distractions. How could I stop thinking about what my body was failing to do. Ah yes, I know. I should enroll in graduate school. Having heaps of homework would keep me busy. I enrolled in a 18-month program convinced that I would not finish in time. That was fine. At least I was moving myself forward in some way. Of course I finished the program will almost two years to spare. Every time I registered for another semester, my thoughts would wonder back to, what if now is the time that this happens.
When fertility came and went and I found myself in the great long wait of adoption, I spend my first six months wearing myself out thinking that any moment I would get the call to go to the hospital to pick up an unwanted child. My body bounced back and forth to excitement to stress.
One day, I noticed that the left side of my face was breaking out and my ear felt on fire. My mind told me it was bug bites from working outside over the weekend. My garden was determined not to grow anything that season and I wasn’t giving up the battle. I put on more make-up than necessary and went on to work. Within the first hour, a co-worker entered my office and immediately started backing up. “Something is wrong with you. Something is wrong with you.” She left quickly and grabbed another co-worker. The second co-worker marched right up to my desk and demanded that I leave work at once. They thought that I was having some sort of allergic reaction. After hours in the lobby in the urgent clinic, it was determined that I had shingles. Before I could get home, they stretched my from left ear to my nose. I looked like I suffered a bad burn on my face with all of the blisters.
I immediately felt betrayed but my own body. Here I was trying to get ready for something big and my stress levels triggered shingles. It was an eye-opening experience. I was not allowed to come back to work until all of the blisters were gone. So there were four days of alone time at my house alone with my thoughts of how did I let myself get so stressed out. Sometimes you need a bout with illness to slow you down and realize that what you are doing is not working anymore.
Keeping my mind solely on becoming a mother was driving me completely crazy. I needed another focus. My stress levels were off the charts which negatively impacted the situation. Cue new obsessions. Now is the time to focus on something else other than myself.
I decided to volunteer at the local animal shelter. It made sense to my brain at the time. I wanted to become a mother and create a family. The dogs at the shelter wanted a “mother” and to join a family. We had the same purpose in life. We wanted someone to choose us and free us from this isolation.
So, I volunteered once a week after work to walk dogs for several hours. When dogs spend too long in their cage, they start going a bit crazy. They are not exactly make the best case to prospective families as they toured the facility. When someone gets them out of their cage and lets them run loose for a little bit, their temperment changes. Dogs go from wild, crazy animals to joyous and happy dogs with waggy tails. It was wonderful to watch this transformation. I yearned for this change in myself very soon.