Becoming Me

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Around birthdays and anniversaries I find myself drawn into a makeshift “this is your life” review.

Dim the lights and cue the music because … that’s right Pamela Jeanne….THIS IS YOUR LIFE. (I must have caught the reruns as a kid because I just learned I was born several years after the show stopped taping.)

So, with my 45th birthday waiting for me at the end of this week I’ve been busy pulling out journals and photo albums and looking at what I was doing XX years ago. This now being the digital age I’ve also been giving my laptop a workout pulling up photo slide shows and re-reading older blog posts. I don’t know about you, but there are times when going down memory lane that I feel like a documentary producer looking at someone else’s life.  For example, this post excerpt from March 2007. The words seem strangely unfamiliar, yet they’re on my blog so they were indeed my thoughts…

“Who among us likes to showcase what we don’t do well?
Heck, even the lowest life forms on the Discovery channel reproduce
flawlessly. They taunt us with how prolific they are.

And us? Our bodies failed us. That’s extremely hard to accept. Many
of us compound that failure effect by torturing ourselves with thoughts
that maybe, just maybe we managed to contribute to our conception
failure by our actions or thoughts. Did caffeine play a role? How about
that hiking trip at altitude? Should we not have used the hot tub on
vacation? Boxers or briefs? Maybe I need to lose a few pounds? I need
to stress less and relax more…the what ifs are endless.

These thoughts and more came flooding back into my mind yesterday as
I sat trapped in a conference room directly across from a woman who
kept stoking her very pregnant belly throughout the entire meeting. Her
action tormented me. It took incredible effort to keep the noise in my
head down long enough to focus on the business at hand. “Why her and
not me?” was the steady mantra. I walked away feeling ashamed because
instead of feeling happy for her, I was angry and envious.”

And then there was this post written in the same time frame reminiscing on my 30s: Please Hold For the Children. It led me, in turn, to thumb through a photo album.Pam I wanted to see what I looked like just days ahead of starting our ICSI IVF protocol (with assisted hatching).

This is what infertility looks like (see photo, right).

Yes, when this photo was taken we were in the queue for one of the most advanced fertility treatments at one of the leading research hospitals on the planet. We were there because the doctors at this Silicon Valley institution told us there was virtually no way we would ever conceive using any less high-tech involvement. (Our earlier attempts with the junior varsity surgeries and fertility treatments had clearly proven that).

While I was toasting a birthday, I was secretly thinking that by my next birthday I’d be holding not a glass of wine, but a baby.

What a time it was. Hopeful, innocent (and blonde then) I had no idea how attached I would get to the images on the ultrasound print-out that came midway through our cycle. The embryologist made me more hopeful still telling me our embryos looked like those of a women 10 years younger. They were, according to her, “gorgeous.”

How many dreams I would associate with them. How hard it was to come so close to motherhood — passing all the medically-assisted conception tests with flying colors but flunking the final exam. I went into serious denial in the years that followed. I was still young enough to conceive spontaneously, and I wasn’t above believing in miracles — being raised Catholic and all.  I just couldn’t let go of the idea that we had come so close to actually creating our children. Surely it would happen…

It has only been in the past 18 months that I decided it was time to finally let go of the hope, bury the dream and grieve it properly. Since then I have felt in a visceral way the painful emotions that I had securely locked away. It’s been difficult. I never knew such deep sadness was possible but it’s had time to build. It’s been a dozen years since I first envisioned what it would be like to conceive, to be pregnant, and then to see my husband’s eyes or my mother’s smile or my father’s wit live on in my child. Now I am closing that chapter of my life.

It’s time to look forward, not back. I will continue writing because this is new territory in blog land. I know only a handful of women who write about remapping their lives without children as a result of infertility. If there are others out there plotting a new course I’d love to hear from you. And for those still trying to conceive I hope you see that whether you succeed or not, you can pick up the pieces.

Now I’m going to get to work on the mosaic I first wrote about here.