life lessons

Angel Babies and Silver Linings

I never wanted to have kids. Ever. I was eight the first time I remember saying I didn’t want to ever be a mom. I had big goals and motherhood wasn’t one of them. Then I entered a relationship in my early 20’s that had me living in a new world immersed in love, affection, deep conversations, mutual support and more.  I finally understood why people want to have children. We want to create an expression of the intimacy we share with someone; a joining of two to blend our love and lives forever. The idea of becoming a mother to his child took root. It felt right and wanted. We knew we would be together forever. We stopped using contraceptives and banked on our affection bearing a new love between us, of us.

My handsome hubby, Clayton and I 

My handsome hubby, Clayton and I 

 

But years of endometriosis, surgeries, debilitating periods, tears and frustration led us to believe that maybe we were destined to be the cool Aunt and Uncle, not the cool Mom and Dad. We made peace with my infertility. We envisioned travelling the world, sending exotic gifts to our nieces and nephews. We began to focus more heavily on a future that involved successful careers, long hours and hard work.

Fast forward to age 28. I’m in the middle of my degree and working full time. I’m standing outside Subway on Cumberland Avenue in the frigid winter sunshine, tears spilling out of my face as I call my fiancé (and now husband) to tell him I am pregnant. To say we were shocked is an understatement. We had JUST accepted our childless future six weeks prior and we had finally found peace. A baby no longer fit into our plans. But what’s that saying? Tell God your plans and you’ll hear Him laugh? So here we were, January 2013 expecting a child, unprepared for our future as parents and scared to death.

After having an easy pregnancy, we met our healthy baby girl and the future we had envisioned no longer held the appeal it once did. I didn’t know how empty my life was until she entered it. She was an exceptionally happy baby who slept through the night by 13 weeks and who showed me what unconditional love looked like. She was ecstatic to see us every day. She woke up every morning with a smile and a look of “I’m alive? I get to do this again today? Wow!” She was and still is, amazing.

As we got to know her, we wanted more kids. We wanted to grow our family and continue reveling in this newfound joy and different way of being present in the world, as individuals and as parents.

At the time of writing, the Universe seems to have made different plans for us. Or rather, an undoing of plans.

It's been four years since welcoming our daughter and I have had as many miscarriages. The first was during our daughter’s first birthday party, when I started miscarrying at 10 weeks. The second took place the day before a trip to Banff, when I was seven weeks pregnant. For the third, I made it one week more before my miscarriage started at eight weeks. My most recent was the shortest pregnancy, at five weeks it came to an end while we were camping this summer.

Sometimes I wish I had the infertility card back, not the recurrent miscarriage card. With my infertility I never learned what this kind of hope felt like. My hopes as an infertile woman were full of longing and prayers and anticipation that this treatment would work.  Pregnancy after miscarriages brings a flicker of hope that never fully catches ablaze. My days of pregnancy excitement are behind me. Now, a positive test means despair, anxiety, fear and horrible thoughts. All while desperately trying to convince my body and heart that THIS pregnancy will be the one that sticks.

One of the many positive tests I've gotten that left me with negative feelings

One of the many positive tests I've gotten that left me with negative feelings

 

I spend those early days moving slowly so as not to induce bleeding. I take progesterone and vitamins and homeopathic remedies. I talk to the Universe/Spirit/God/ [insert whatever you connect with here]. I pray fervently and meditate daily. I go for acupuncture and practice yoga. I repeat mantras and affirmations incessantly. And still, I miscarry. Those spiritual exercises cause me to doubt the entire Universe. I doubt my intuition. I question every food I ate, every move I made, everything I could’ve or should’ve done but didn’t.

I don’t share this to make you feel sorry for me but to illustrate how tragic this journey has been. Not only for me either, but my husband and daughter, our family and friends. Watching someone you love suffer renders most people helpless. There’s not much anyone can do except hold space and witness as we’re grieving a loss.

I do share this because I have found so many silver linings in my dark clouded days. I started my blog, What We Don’t Do, when I was pregnant with my third angel baby. Having an outlet to share my grief and anger allowed me to release it as opposed to bottling it up and letting it fester. Blogging saved me. I used stream of consciousness while I wrote so I inevitably released a lot of thoughts, feelings and emotions I hadn’t recognized before. It was cathartic, liberating and more importantly, healing.

Another silver lining was, while I couldn’t necessarily always help myself, I was able to reach and help hundreds of women in similar circumstances. The messages and emails I’ve received since starting WWDD has made every tear shed worth it. My words have helped others cope and there’s no better feeling than knowing you are helping someone, somewhere. I am serving a community of largely voiceless women by becoming an obnoxiously loud voice for our fertility community!

Also, I had the bewildering experience to be invited on to CBC Saskatoon’s morning radio show to discuss my miscarriages and the response the miscarriage blog post received. That post was read in over 25 countries and over 7,000 times. Writing those numbers still brings tears of gratitude and awe! Through that interview, I reconnected with an old co-worker who approached me with an idea she had: she wanted to start a non-profit organization that raised money for families to help pay for fertility treatments. She asked for my help in making it a reality. From there, Dr. Adrian Gamelin, the Director of the Aurora Fertility Clinic in Saskatoon, who was co-interviewed with me on CBC, introduced us to Wendy Winiewski, a Global news anchor and fellow infertility Phoenix mama (a woman who has heroically risen from the ashes of infertility/pregnancy loss/perinatal loss). Her daughter Aeralyn was conceived through IVF and Wendy has shared her journey and reached hundreds of women through her Instagram account a.voice.of.infertility. The three of us are an unlikely combo but yet, we shine together. We’ve raised almost $10,000 in three months and will continue to raise more as we increase awareness surrounding infertility and fight for affordable treatments.

Dani, the brains; me, the soul; Wendy, the heart behind the Family Fertility Fund of Sask

Dani, the brains; me, the soul; Wendy, the heart behind the Family Fertility Fund of Sask

 

The final and most significant silver lining is how much I’ve changed. Prior to my struggle, I never knew heartbreaking loss before. I had never lost someone close to me. I had never faced death or severe illness nor knew anyone in my inner circle of friends and family who did either. I always had a roof over my head, food in my tummy, clothes on my back. I never had to struggle for basic survival like millions of people do on this planet. I didn’t know tragedy or true despair. Until four years ago, I had it pretty good. I still have it pretty good but my pieces have crumbled to nothing only to be put back together again, albeit differently. I believe that through pain comes incredible new beginnings. Sometimes we can’t appreciate the good without knowing, really knowing, the bad.

a captured laugh at our FFFS photo shoot

a captured laugh at our FFFS photo shoot

I am stronger now. I have a resiliency and emotional intelligence that was never there before. I am wiser yet softer, more forgiving and understanding. I appreciate the mundane in each day and take time to stop and take in moments more often. I find the joy in a summer thunderstorm and feel the comfort of a campfire like a warm blanket. I love harder and hug longer. I listen better and hold unwavering faith. I am not ready to back down yet. I still want another baby and I will try to have another baby. I have fight left in me.

But regardless of how my story ends, I know it has been exactly how it’s meant to go.  If I never give my daughter a sibling all of these struggles were to teach me a bigger lesson than having a baby can bring.  Life is unfolding and undoing exactly as it should. I’ve made peace with my recurrent miscarriages. I have four guardian angels watching out for me now and guiding me towards the Light. That’s a silver lining that can’t be denied. We need more women who are strong, resilient and rising again to become the change the world needs. I’m happily stepping forward as a Phoenix Mama and can only pray my growth doesn’t end here. The lessons are in the journey, both in the good and the bad. But whatever may come, I will rise again.

 

Back To Good

I've recently spent a good chunk of time living in a zombie like state of chaos. I've been checked out mentally and physically and didn't even realize it. I felt like I was accomplishing my day-to-day activities, but then I blinked and maybe a month had passed, maybe two? Maybe 6? I don't know, but I DO know that we all get stuck in ruts from time to time. Sometimes our lives can unravel right in front of our noses. I'd like to say it happens to the best of us, but frankly, I have no idea what kind of life problems you people out there in Internet Land have. Let's just say that you can relate to this. If not, click the back button, cause this post isn't for you. If you've ever found yourself coasting day to day like that Groundhog Day movie, except not one bit funny... read on, friends. 

I was lost and I had no idea. The smiling, funny, ambitious, compassionate, adventurous girl I knew when I looked in the mirror had left the building, and a deadpan version had taken her place. I had become really good at faking it sometimes, sometimes not. That was not ok. Not for me, and not for those closest to me. Let's be real, the he ones you love end up taking the brunt of something like this, because we often take them for granted, or we don't notice how our actions even differ from one day to the next.

I ended up unexpectedly hitting a wall, and I was forced to realize that some changes needed to happen for me asap to break out of my Garbage Pail Kid state and find myself again. After all, how can you be the best person for for those you love when you aren't respecting yourself? They say you have to do it for YOU, but sometimes you want to do it for others too, and it pushes you that much harder. 

An authetic paparazzi capture of me currently trying to bumble through life. 

An authetic paparazzi capture of me currently trying to bumble through life. 

I started with small things and will keep working on cultivating my little personal growth seed. Things take time. When dealing with self-care, I tell myself each day is a new opportunity to be humble and do the best I can. (Chicken Soup For The Soul Anyone?? God, what has become of me?) Realistically, some days I get up and feel like there is no reason to do anything other than go back to bed. But its one day at a time with these things. We, as women, (and for those male readers who can relate to this), think. We are thinkers. We are often over thinkers. Sometimes that thinking can propel us forward with strength and grace, and sometimes it leaves us feeling defeated, internalizing the blame for everything you felt you've ever done wrong.  For now, if you're struggling too, here are my Top 10 little things for starting to get myself back to good. 

1. Making my bed. Seriously. Such a small thing, but something I started doing before anything else in the morning. Start the day with a small accomplishment that will be waiting for you when the day is done. 

2. Making sure my dogs get a run. It is a priority and a privilege to treat other living things with respect, rather than viewing them as a hassle. As humans, we are all they have. 

3. Feed and water myself. This should be a no-brainer, but not necessarily the case when you are a resident of Zombieland. I try to always have a huge cup of tea in the morning and strive for at least 80oz of water a day. This is aside from wine, mmmkay? Then eat something, anything, try to pick something healthy I guess. Or live off Triscuits if you must, its better that nothing. 

4. Make a plan. What do I need to get done today?  I make an effort to clean up and respect my space so I can have some clarity.  I may not get every daunting thing done at once, and some things may get done later than sooner, but I make a list and take it one task at a time. Yard work, fixing shit, decluttering, washing walls, it all sucks. However, it's satisfying when something gets done, because I can check it off the list. I love lists. 

5. Take the time to make someone else feel good about themselves. The smallest thing can make someone's day. I believe in putting little bits of good energy out there, because it will come back around. A little check in with someone can go a long way in today's checked out world. 

6. Cry it out. Sometimes you just have to. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere, sometimes in unfortunate places and situations. Often it happens at home, when you are alone. Sometimes it might feel like a private purge of emotion, but most times you will likely wish someone else was there to see you at your worst and comfort you. It's when nobody is there that you really are forced to dig down deep and find your strength. 

7. Make time for physical activity. Easier said than done, cause frankly, it sucks ass. But our bodies and minds are connected and if they are outta whack, we won't feel good. It gives us clarity. I try to pick something that I don't dread that day, maybe something new, take a workout friend, switch it up. Even just go for a walk. (Maybe I should get some of those weird walking sticks I see people with... google them, they are bizarre.) Just get out and move. 

8. Indulge. Watch a shitty reality tv show, read a crappy thriller, meet friends for a beer, take a soak in the hot tub, drink the expensive glass of wine. Do those little things that make you feel sneaky and awesome. Maybe it's sitting by yourself watching re-runs of Master Chef while eating cold ravioli out of a can... Is that beyond the scope of acceptable? #askingforafriend

9. Choose kindness. Choose optimism. Choose forgiveness.  Choose love. Believe in happy endings. It can be difficult in hard times, I know, but break out those rose coloured glasses whenever you possibly can. 

10. Sleep. I don't care how you do it. I do it my own way with good old fashioned sleeping pills because that's how I roll. it's about as badass as I get. But you can meditate, use breathing exercises, smoke dope, take melatonin, get someone to knock you out with a frying pan for f*cks sake, or by all means, join the pharmaceutical Valley Of The Dolls like me. Have a good bed, good pillows, and remember that your body can't function without proper rest. 

Are all of this things easy? Hell no. If they were I wouldn't be writing about this floofy crap. But but when things are sh*tty,, we have to start somewhere. Will my little things work for you? Maybe, but maybe not. We all need to find ways to plant our little seeds and try to feel calm, accomplished, and worthy of living another day. So even if there is one person out there who feels like you're living in chaos and cruising along in a big ol' rut - take a deep breath, ask for help, you aren't alone. 

Take it one day at a time. 

Start by making your bed. 

Katie xoxo

What do you mean I can't have a baby?

It just doesn't seem fair does it? You spend a portion of your life learning the importance of properly protecting yourself from unplanned pregnancies, use all the contraceptives, or perhaps you even abstain. Like how many times have you had a pregnancy scare and felt like your world might come crumbling to a halt!?! Fast forward a few years, perhaps even a decade and you literally couldn't get pregnant if you tried....like really tried. Everyday tried. Millions of doctors appointments, getting poked by needles, scheduled intercourse, more appointments, monitoring everything, waiting, disappointment, and more waiting. If you could only make money off all the times you were told, "Don't worry it will happen when it's supposed to". F*^$& that noise. 

Que sadness, despair, resentment, and self-pity. 

Infertility is a real thing. It's a really sad thing and I know way too many people in my life that have experienced it. No one tells you that your dreams of being a mother might not come true. What do you mean my ovaries are blocked and I have never been able to conceive? That would have been great to know 10 years ago! Could have saved lots of worry and some bucks. Yes, adoption is an option but it's not the idea you had in your head. And to start it all off you will wait months before the doctors will even look at you, then spend zillions of hours with specialists, now testing, waiting, hormones- great!, and more waiting. How far will you go to get that family you envisioned? Is IVF in your cards? And more importantly, how much can you endure to get there?

In 1984, the estimated percentage of couples with fertility problems was 5.4% [MediResource Inc. ]. In 1992, this number increased to 8.5%. And today, the estimated prevalence (total number of couples with infertility) is up to 15.7%. So whats up with that? Sources say that multiple factors could play a role into why we have literally tripled our numbers within my lifetime. Most noted would be the fact that women are simply waiting to have kids and as we age we become less fertile. Obesity, chronic diseases, and sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase which can also play a vital role in these growing statistics. 

Now, I personally don't know what infertility feels like - i'm speaking on behalf of the many women in my life that have recently gone through it. I do know what miscarriage looks like. It's equally as ugly. It is heart-breaking and in my opinion brings up a lot of the same feelings that goes along with it's nasty neighbor - infertility. My reproductive reality happens to be recurrent miscarriages. unexplained. I could simply get sneezed on and I will be pregnant. Keeping it just isn't in the cards. It has been one year to almost the day since the last one. I found myself in the same situation as the rest - trying to hold back the flood of emotion, keeping it together as essentially few people even knew I was pregnant, and just told myself to move one foot in front of the next. It's okay...you are a seasoned vet by now. It's gotta get easier, right?

Now the doctors will tell you that it is SOOO COMMON. Among women who know they are pregnant, 1 in 6 pregnancies (some studies say even 1 in 4) ends in miscarriage [NHS Choices. Miscarriage. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/Pages/Introduction.aspx]. Really? What is just no one talking about it then? After my first miscarriage I spent hours researching this bizarre phenomenon - but how does a fetus's heart just stop? I became obsessed....I had to know everything I could because I certainly didn't want to go through that again and I think I had to reassure myself that it was not something that I did. 

Here is what I know about miscarriage and/or infertility, like the #truthbombs:

1) If you have experienced either, you literally will resent people that announce they are having a baby. It's okay! If 1 in 6 of us are going through this just imagine all the fake smiles and forced (but also well intended) congratulations that are happening. You are not alone. Grin and bare it girl!

2) Having scheduled sex is hard on your relationship. And so is peeing on a stick every month to only see one line. Also those sticks are over priced and there isn't one that is better than the rest. Ohhh digital...must be more advanced...sure charge double. If it gives me two lines then sure! Let me try it.

3) You become slightly crazy after a miscarriage and/or fertility drugs. I'm not sure if its the combination of grief/anger and the hormone changes but like bat shit crazy nuts. It goes away, you will eventually feel normal again. Soon you won't cry at a drop of a hat or lose your mind because the laundry didn't get folded. 

4) It's 100% not easy and you are not alone (see stats above). There are forums, chat rooms, and support groups. It feels better to know that someone is feeling the same way as you. It takes a little bit of that pain away. Source one out or talk to someone that understands.

5) For those of you that haven't experienced infertility or miscarriages - thank your lucky stars and be mindful of others. It seems common to ask, "Why don't you have kids?" Just don't ever ask that. Like ever! To answer your question, they either don't want kids or are trying.

6) Life is precious. The experience makes you realize how bizarre this whole livin thing really is! Our bodies are so complicated and it really is a miracle to be able to conceive and give birth to a healthy human. Slow your roll and enjoy life. We get wrapped up in our own ideologies and "our plans" that we forget that today is as important as tomorrow. So live it. 

There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes - David Platt

Supporting those you know that have suffered a miscarriage or battling with infertility can be difficult but it's important for the healing process. Even if you don't know what to say making yourself present goes a long way. To all those that are fighting the fight - stay strong - we are standing with you. 

Chan XOXO

 

The Difference A Year Makes

Today I turn 34 years old (happy birthday to me!). Birthdays are milestones, and milestones cause reflection for me, this year perhaps more than usual.

Flashback to one year ago today- I had just days before my 33rd birthday found out I was pregnant (surprise!), and my entire life shifted in every way possible. The year to follow would turn out to be one of the most challenging and rewarding of my entire life. I met the love of my life almost 5 months ago... his name is Asher, he is an amazing and beautiful tiny human and he is my son.

Last March I was running a business, managing a team and creating jewelry on the side. Fast forward one year.... I spend my days nursing, changing diapers, singing rounds of "How funky is your chicken" and making faces to get giant smiles out of my little mister. I get puked on roughly 12 times a day. All of my clothes were black...now they are puke stained black. I am a different person now that I have a child. I didn't think I would be, but it is impossible not to be - I have another human being who is an extension of me. Through the ups and downs of the last year, going through a not so comfortable pregnancy ( that is a whole other blog post!), and navigating the early days of parenthood with my partner, I have learned many things - and many things have shifted.

Most of my life I struggled with saying yes - to people, projects, plans. I wanted to do #allofthethings, and I wanted to do them myself. Instead of delegating tasks and projects at work -something my boss had been trying to teach me for months (hi Anna!)-I hoarded them all because I wanted to be a part of everything. It wasn't really working for me then, and it very quickly stopped working for me when I became pregnant. It was then that I (finally) learned a very beautiful thing... I learned to say no. I learned to delegate to my team, and how to lift people up and help them grow by playing to their strengths. I learned how to put myself first, because now I really had to... and I learned that is not selfish, it is powerful.

Asking for help has never been my forte, in any setting. I could do #allofthethings myself, and handle any curve-ball life threw at me alone, why would I ask for help?! Another beautiful lesson that I learned this past year. You know what happens when you ask people for help? They help you. I know right?! Whether I needed help with a project at work, moving into our house before baby came, or now needing support in taking steps to deal with post partum anxiety - I learned asking for help means my people will help me. With love, and without judgement.

"Living in the moment" has taken on a new meaning to me. What used to mean spur of the moment plans, or turning a morning breakfast date into afternoon patio drinks and laughs with my bestie, became letting Asher nap on me for 2 hours and soaking in his little baby snores. It's pressing pause on writing this blog post 5 times to bring him laughing onto my lap and play with his little baby feet. While I miss those all day adventures, and staying up late laughing into the night, I know they will come again. This little man will not cuddle me all day forever (whyyyyy?!), and so I pause, and I enjoy. Most days don't go according to plan right now. Plans go awry, tasks don't get done on time and now? I go with it.

I've always found the little things in life to bring the most joy, and I've realized a new appreciation for those little things in the last year. A full cup of hot coffee, an extra long hug, five more minutes of sleep (any more minutes of sleep!). A partner who tidies the house as he walks in the door from work, a friend who sends a simple heart emoji in the middle of a rough day, a gummy baby smile from my son. I have found that these little things are the big things to me now.  A year ago I packed a million tasks and plans into my days, rarely taking the time to slow down and pay attention, opting instead for the self inflicted busy-ness I thrived on. In the past year, I have discovered a newfound appreciation for my partner, for myself, for time. These days I find supreme excitement in purchasing the stroller I wanted instead of new suede booties for myself, I plan Asher's outfits for outings instead of my own (because I will be wearing puke stained all black, obviously). Social engagements after 7:30pm require more planning and a breast pump and wandering the aisles at Superstore doubles as "me time". I find myself content and really, I wouldn't change a thing.... except the puke stained clothes.

xo,

Megan