Seeing friends and acquaintances listing all their accomplishments on their social media feeds made me feel inadequate.
Last year started off with me trying to survive being back at work after returning from maternity leave. I was dealing with hormones, missing my baby, an unhealed coxic bone that made the daily commute unbearable, bosses who were worried I was not committed to my job and a president I didn’t vote for. The only thing that helped was vicodin but I was afraid to take it. The last thing I needed was to add addiction to the depression, mourning and post-partum that lurked not so deep inside me.
My mother passed away in November of 2013. She had been battling a metastasized cancer since 2006. In that time, she saw my life fall apart at the hands of an abusive husband, she saw me leave that relationship, thrive on my own and meet the man I would marry. She saw me go through a miscarriage and battle infertility. Prior to her dying, I started looking into IVF, crunching the numbers and seeing how unaffordable it was, I was ready to give up.
“Take out a loan, worry about paying it back later, once you have your baby it won’t matter.” She said. But I am practical and instead of taking a loan for IVF, Matt and I took out a mortgage.
Before she died, Mami came to visit, she stayed with my sister in North Hollywood. I should have taken time off from work, spend as much time with her but all I did was spend an afternoon with her at my sister’s house and another one when she came to visit me in the new house. I couldn’t watch her die, I don’t feel guilty about it, I know she understood. It is because of her that I am the way I am.
She left me some money with the specific request that it be used for IVF. In April of 2014, I did my first round. In May, I did the 2nd, followed by a mock transfer in June to send the tissue from my uterus to a lab at Yale University so they could test the timing of the embryo transfers. The third transfer was in September of 2014, nothing, zero, zilch. My doctor nicknamed me “The Purple Zebra,” because in his years of working with infertile women, he had not seen a case like mine.
On the first anniversary of my mother’s death, there was no baby that I could take comfort in. The money Mami worked so hard to save and leave to me, gone. Nothing to show for my efforts other than weight gain, anxiety and pain. I had been so consumed with the IVF that I did not properly grieve my mother. Grieving meant admitting she was gone. Every time I used the money, I felt she was still here, taking care of me.
I felt Mami’s intervention when my husband switched jobs and his new insurance offered fertility coverage. In 2015, I consulted with a reproductive endocrinologist in NY. Seventeen vials of blood revealed all potential future illnesses and that I most likely had endometriosis, which explained all the back problems that no musculoskeletal doctor or MRI could confirm and the painful periods. My husband’s magical insurance covered what would have been about 15k of lab work.
I was impatient and I asked the NY doctor to put me on a medicated cycle that included blood thinners and steroids in addition to estrogen and progesterone. The doctor agreed but said that if it didn’t work, I had to agree to a laparoscopy to get rid of the endometriosis.
In March of 2015 I got a positive pregnancy test followed by a miscarriage, bloodier than it should have been at five weeks because of the blood thinners .
Two months later I had the laparoscopy, instead of endometriosis, the doctor found three fibroids hiding behind my organs that were undetectable through a vaginal ultrasound.
I gave birth to my daughter in June of 2016. I thought that once I gave birth to a healthy baby, the depression would go away, instead, I missed my mother immensely. I was grateful that I listened to my OBGYN and had my placenta encapsulated, she said it could help with postpartum depression which I feared.
Whenever I felt the blues come on, I popped a placenta pill. I don’t know if it was a placebo but it worked for the post-partum. It didn’t work for grief, the lingering effects of Infertility PTSD or the anxiety caused by the country’s new president.
My mother in law passed away in March. My daughter will grow up without grandmothers, both my grandmothers are still alive. I did not grow up with my grandmothers. I don’t have that connection many people have to their abuelitas, now, my daughter won’t either.
I went on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic in early July. It’s the place I was born, where my first memories with Mami took place. I was hoping to reconnect with a mother that has been dead for four years. As the plane landed on the island, the cabin filled with humidity, the smell of palm trees, ocean and wet soil. Tears I was not expecting suddenly cascaded down my face, gasping noises that took a few breaths to realize were coming from me, I felt Mami’s aura, I knew for those few seconds, she was with me, I could almost touch her. I let her know how grateful I was for everything she had done for me, I thanked her for my daughter, whose due date was on her birthday. I spent the rest of the trip trying to find her. Maybe I shouldn’t have been looking so hard, I should have let whatever it was I needed, find me.
Within a few weeks of returning from our vacation, I got bronchitis that took me three months to recover from. I developed allergic rhinitis; one of the illnesses I was predisposed to based on the blood tests from the reproductive endocrinologist. I spent July through December fighting the fatigue that comes with excessive coughing, sneezing, soreness and the runny, stuffy, itchy nose, caused by the post nasal drip.
My 2017 was spent doing my best not sink into depression. Daily baths with Palo Santo soap, praying, attempting to meditate, weekly hikes and running which I had to stop once I got sick but I plan to get back to it. I also managed to reach my weekly Fitbit steps. These were probably the main reasons why I didn’t go into the dark hole.
I’m not one to make resolutions but I plan to go back to therapy. I don’t have to carry all this pain and manage it on my own. I’m trying to stop being such a control freak and letting some things just be.