# 15 – Pesadilla

My heart, fast beats punching my insides.

My body, a mixture of chills and sweat.

My breath, obstructed like someone holding a pillow over my face.

It took me a few seconds to catch up to my reality; my house, my baby and my husband next to me, sleeping peacefully.

Inhale, exhale, relax.

THANK YOU GOD.

My alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button. I gently pick up the baby, drape her on top of me and get lost in the smell of her hair as I stroke her back.

THANK YOU GOD.

Tomorrow is the seven year anniversary of the divorce from the ex.

April 27th, the day a judge in Santa Monica granted me my freedom.

The last time I saw the ex was eight years ago.

Unexpected sounds or noises still spook me.

I am anxious about running into him.

I still look over my shoulders because I don’t know where he lives.

The nightmares still haunt me.

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# 14 – Infertility & Self Loathing

When Matt and I were in Sydney for our honeymoon in 2010, I told him that I wanted to go back to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary with our future 3 year old.

After a year of acupuncture and a paleo diet, I got pregnant in 2012.

I had a miscarriage.

I decided to deal with the loss by focusing on the positive. I was happy that I got pregnant when it looked like it would never happen. I was hopeful because my body knew how to make a baby.

After seven months of trying and no rainbow baby (a baby born after a miscarriage), we consulted with a fertility doctor.

2014 was the year that IVFs 1-3 did not take.

The 4th IVF in 2015 was somewhat successful because I got pregnant but at five weeks, I had another  miscarriage.

To deal with this one, I started planning where to go for our 2nd honeymoon/5 year wedding anniversary/vacation.  I broke down thinking of the three year old we did not have. I went in and out of my boss’ office every time the tears spilled, relieved by the lack of people at work that day.

I needed to do something to feel like I was helping the situation. I reached out to all my religious friends and had them ask their pastors/priests about adoption, in case they knew of anyone who wanted to give up a child.

I was desperate.

This was something so out of my control that not even two top fertility doctors (one in New York and one in Los Angeles) could  help me because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong either.

I needed an answer, a reason, even if it wasn’t a good one,  something to help me move on.

I threw myself into my job and writing. I took two workshops at once, my free time was to be consumed with reading and writing.

I did not want to cry or dwell on the recent miscarriage.

What would the boy or boys have looked like?

Why did this keep happening to me?

What was wrong with me?

I decided that I would try one more round and that would be the last time I would put my body and heart  through the rigors of IVF. I made it my goal to work on being happy no matter what the outcome of the fifth and final IVF.

I would not be bitter if it didn’t work.

I would be grateful for having the resources to try.

In the end, I wanted no room for regrets.

I was already on my journey to gratitude and contentment when Matt got a new job that interfered with my plans for a second honeymoon on our fifth wedding anniversary.

I didn’t mope or complain. I was not going to have a depressing, miserable summer. I was getting better at coming up with plan E when A-D didn’t work.

I went on vacation with my girlfriends.

I had nothing to lose by trying to be happy.

In retrospect, it sounds like a piece of cake to switch gears and decide to be happy. It was not an easy task. This being a shitty first draft, I see where I need to fill in the details of the pain I was in to properly illustrate it.

Below is an excerpt from my journal.

Anger Stage of Grief: This is what self loathing looks like a week after  miscarriage number two from IVF number four.

April 2015 – I am angry; at myself for wanting this so fucking badly, at my body for not fucking doing this for me, at the pregnant bitch showing me her fucking ultrasound picture. I don’t give a fuck, keep your enthusiasm to yourself you stupid hoe bag. To the other one, nosey fuck, it’s none of your fucking business when my IVF is, I fucking hate you. Most of all, I really do hate myself right now. My fucking sister is telling me how brave I fucking am, how awesome my fucking body is for trying and trying.  No, I’m not brave, I’m a fucking idiot who doesn’t fucking know when to quit. My body is not fucking amazing, all I’ve gotten is two fucking miscarriages. I am obese with a bmi of 30 from  the anxiety, eating my feelings and the fertility drugs. I don’t feel amazing or maybe I do.  You know what I think of the word amazing? It’s overused and most people don’t know what it means. They glorify things that are not amazing, like parents who call their toddlers amazing for hitting milestones they should have hit months ago. In that case, yes, I am absolutely amazing, an amazing fucking loser.

After I wrote this entry, I screamed into a pillow and cried for about three hours. I did not let Matt or anyone see me like this. My heart, body and soul could not take it anymore. The physical and mental pain was exhausting and would probably kill me if I didn’t do something.

My daughter is now ten months old, the fifth IVF worked. I don’t know if it was the change in mindset or the odds finally being on my side. I am beyond blessed to have her. I do not take her or motherhood for granted.

I would like to think that if things hadn’t gone the way they did, I would have found a way to be content. Happiness is a tall order. Even when you get everything you want, there are too many horrors in the world for me to be truly happy.

 

 

# 13 – Virtual Children

I turned in my outline and plot breakdown for my pilot. I am taking an online television writing class. One of the story lines was inspired by a flash I wrote in 2015. I’m trying to keep up with the challenge of writing an essay a week during my lunch time but between the writing for the class and a recent death in the family, I have not done much memoir writing.  Since I consider this a blog of shitty first drafts, I’m going to share some older writing until I can catch up.

Virtual Children

I just found out that my husband has two adopted children, virtual children in the world of Skyrim.  “How long have you had them?” I ask, perturbed. “A few years, they have a pet fox and I give them gold coins whenever they ask for an allowance.” He says like this is the most normal thing in the world.

“So these fake kids, is this how you cope?” I ask trying to decide if I’m being funny, sarcastic or mad.

“Yeah, you know that. When I’m bored or stressed I play video games, why are you acting so weird?”

“I mean, is this how you cope because we don’t have a kid, like if if this cycle doesn’t work and I don’t get pregnant, are you going to buy your virtual children an exotic animal and give them a gold coin? Or are you going to spend the rest of your life in the computer hanging out with them?” I say and now I’m owning my anger.  I knew there was a reason I did not like him playing that game, I knew there was something that did not feel right but I wasn’t about to tell him to stop playing.  Three Christmases ago I bought him Rocksmith, a music video game that teaches you to play guitar and bass.

I was happy when Rocksmith became the favorite and Skyrim was temporarily forgotten.  He was spending a lot of time learning to play the bass but that didn’t bother me, it made me happy that he had a healthy way of dealing with the stress of his long commute.  Rocksmith is still his favorite way to relax along with learning Spanish on Duolingo but since the miscarriage four months ago,  I’ve noticed that Skyrim has made a comeback.

Matt thinks I’m blowing things out of proportion because making stuff up, especially things that you want in real life or things that don’t exist is part of the fun of video and role playing games.

I feel a little crazy for letting this get under my skin so much. I know that what bothers me about Skyrim is that it gives Matt an escape to something I haven’t been able to give him.

# 12 – A Letter About Depression

I am sharing this letter I sent to my close group of friends in June of 2014 because there’s a lot of people on my social media feed that are grappling with some form of grief, loss and/or depression. In hindsight, I wish I had sought the help of a therapist. I left out the two failed IVF attempts, I was not ready to share my battle with infertility. If you are going through depression, get help and know that you are not alone.

 

Dear Friends,

Sorry I’ve been in hiding, crying, depressed, hoping to keep it together so I don’t cry at work. I just returned from a writing workshop at UC Berkeley and I have not cried since I left on June 22, I feel so good. I think I needed to get away from everything and focus on writing – I was exhausted every day, I thought I’d be able to take a few trips to SF and explore northern CA, I got so invested in what I was doing that I left the campus once to go to the faculty reading. I attached what I workshopped  and at the end of the email is the teacher’s feedback (he is a well regarded author and his memoir is a must read).

The reason for my depression;

Shortly after my mother died my godmother also passed away – she was one of my mother’s closest friends as a teenager and also my father’s sister – my parents met because of her. I didn’t realize how much her death affected me, I was planning on interviewing her, spend time with her asking her questions about my mother and their friendship.

One of my best friends (not copied here, please don’t send this to her) is also battling cancer it has spread to so many places, I’m praying for a miracle for her.

One of Matt’s best friends suffered a stroke, she is recuperating but it devastated Matt, he helped the family as much as he could and I’m grateful that her recovery is speeding up.

Matt’s mom is not doing well and probably does not have much left either, she is almost 90 years old, and is deteriorating rapidly due to a fall in early May. Seeing how compassionate Matt has been to his friend Janet and his mother reinforces my first impressions of him; he is a kind, compassionate and empathetic person and I am lucky to be married to him. He has been spending a lot of time with his mother, assisting in her care taking, even changing her diapers and helping give her a bath when one of her attendants didn’t show up. I am humbled just to know him and it reminds me of Sonja’s strength when she took it upon herself to become my mother’s caretaker during the last month of her life. The eldest child is supposed to be the strongest and here are the babies of my two families proving me wrong.

OK, I’m crying now for the first time in two weeks. My acupuncturist told me that my crying is natural given all the recent losses, writing them down on this email has made me realize that yes, it’s a lot and I’m glad I let the tears flow instead of holding it back.

I’m still being a turtle, taking my time coming out of the shell but wanted to share with you what a magical time I had in my workshop. I’m saving money because the next one I want to go to is almost $3,000, in Hawaii, taught by Cheryl Strayed – her memoir Wild took me forever to read. I thought it was about a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (it was) but the crazy hike was inspired by her quest to find herself after the death of her mother! See the themes here?

You don’t have to read the story, it’s 14 pages so no hurt feelings.  Sometime next week I will work on the revision. (Lynn, you already read it but wanted to include you in the email so you can see the feedback and know I’m thinking of you).

I hope you are all doing well and know that I treasure your friendship.

Thank You all for being in my life.

# 11 – a Micro Essay About a Place

I left NY on a freezing Saturday evening in January of 2003.  A few hours later, I landed at the Long Beach Airport in Southern California where the temperature was 79 degrees.

I deplaned onto the tarmac, the smell of burnt wood infused the air. I inhaled deeply savoring its bitter sweetness. The warm breeze enveloped me like a mother greeting her long lost child.

“That’s the Santa Ana Winds” my sister said.

We rode with the top down in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The smoke stacks of Carson behind us resembled dancing ghosts wearing shiny amber necklaces.

“The highways are called freeways here and they are always crowded” she warned.

The never ending break lights ahead of us looked like a glitter explosion on a home made Valentine’s card.

The headlights on the opposite side twinkled brightly, similar to a curtain made of Christmas icicle lights.

A giant American flag loomed in front of a cloud of blue smoke outside one of the refineries.

I turned on the radio, The Doors and the RHCP welcomed me with California anthems.

“I love this place” I said to my sister.

Billboards, car dealerships and fast food restaurants lined the freeway. The Goodyear blimp, illuminated by a spotlight, flew above us. Everything was flat, no skyscrapers in sight. This was my first encounter with the parking lot otherwise known as the 405.

Ten years later I buy a house in Long Beach and commute daily to Westwood, traveling the same roads I did when I first landed here.  Every day I am reminded, without regret and full of gratitude, that I traded crowded subways at rush hour for the privacy of my car on congested freeways.

 

Update

I will catch up with the entries. I have an taking a television writing class. I’ve been busy writing my first pilot based on a short film I wrote. I’m contemplating a fundraising campaign to film the short hopefully by the end of the year.

# 10 – Grief & Depression

Grieving Mami was more difficult than I anticipated. I had six years to prepare but I was not ready. Each day greeted me with a new reminder that my mother was dead.  How many times would I dial her number before I remembered she was gone? How many times would I crave her bacalao, albondigas and carne mechada before realizing that their flavor, aroma and comfort died with her.

I planned to visit my God-mother in the Dominican Republic the summer after Mami died. Consuelo was Mami’s best friend, Papi’s sister and the one responsible for their union.  The day I bought my plane ticket Papi called to tell me she was dead. Cancer got her too. The rest of my life will now be filled with the regret of unanswered questions and one sided conversations with Mami’s ghost.

My grief morphed into depression. The more I tried to stop it, the deeper down the maelstrom I went.  Driving on the freeway felt like an unseen hand was squeezing my throat while another one pinched my nose. I started driving on the exit lane to not add claustrophobia to my anxiety cocktail. I self-medicated with food and Netflix binges. I lost my desire to read, to hike, to see friends. I gained fifteen pounds.

My life became robotic; get up, drive to work, eat, work, eat, drive home, eat, Netflix, eat, sleep five hour, repeat.

My worse fear was that the darkness could lead me to commit suicide or get addicted to drugs even though I’ve never had thoughts of suicide or an addictive personality.  A medicine cabinet full of Vicodin that I rarely used and did not know how to properly dispose of should have assured me that I would not go there.  I excel at worrying about everything including things with very little chance of happening.  I asked my husband and sister to keep an eye on me just in case.

A few years earlier my therapist diagnosed me with anticipatory anxiety because I always think of the worst case scenario, I need to be prepared for it, have a plan, just in case. I thought I was ready to let Mami go while she was dying but I was not prepared for my her death or the aftermath.

I am an optimist, always finding light or a shimmer of hope to guide me through difficult times. After spending half of my adult life witnessing the strongest person I knew battle cancer, suicide and drug abuse were not options for me.  I knew my mother and aunt were dead but self-awareness did not make the darkness go away.  Is this what the road the Cuckoo’s Nest was like? Was I, to quote Ozzy, “on the rails of a crazy train?”

I learned to function with depression. I have a hard time asking for help, in hindsight, I should have gone back to therapy to deal with the initial grief and loss.

My friend Rachel, whose mother has been dead for over a decade, once told me that you never get over the loss of the person that loves you the most in the world. She made me realize my sorrow was normal. When  “the person that loves you the most in the world” dies, you are left with an emptiness that can never be filled.

I gave birth to my daughter almost three years later. My due date was on her  birthday.  I know my baby is a gift from Mami.  She came out of my womb with a piercing cry that rippled through me like a high voltage current. The intensity of the moment made me miss my mother more than I ever had.