Tag Archives: #Grieving

# 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.

 

 

# 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.

# 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.

# 9 – Fibroids & MRI

It didn’t occur to me to freak out the day before when my legs were in stirrups in Dr. V’s Park Avenue office.   He and Matt were discussing a New York Times article while my vagina was in front of his face.  This was probably the closest I’d come to a threesome, I thought as Dr. V jammed the wand in and out trying to get a better look at the fibroids outside my uterus. He looked concerned. “It doesn’t have the round shape of normal fibroids.” He said.

“Oh my God, is it cancer?”  I asked, as I squirmed almost pushing the wand out.

“No, no, it’s benign it just looks different, you need to have an MRI tomorrow so I can have the results before the surgery. They may need to come out.”

We flew all the way from Los Angeles to have a laparoscopy to see if I had endometriosis, I wasn’t expecting fibroids or an MRI.

I didn’t freak out about the MRI then, I’ve had plenty of them due to my low back issues and even a brain scan when I fainted a few years before and hit my head on the marble floor due to the stress of being in a shitty marriage with my first husband and my mother’s then recent cancer diagnosis.

I was a veteran of MRIs so I thought nothing of having one the day before the surgery until of course, I got there and saw that it was a closed MRI. What kind of uncivilized hospital was this?  I started to panic when I saw the thin white tube I was going into. Maybe it would be OK, it was a pelvic scan, as long as my neck was out of the machine I’d be OK but this machine may as well have been from the middle ages or the 1980s. The technician kept sliding me in and when my chest was in the machine I started to freak out.

“OK when does it stop, it’s a pelvic exam, you don’t need to push me in all the way.”

“Yes I do” he said.

“Why’? I asked.

“Ma’am it’s just the way it is, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to”. “Yes she does” Matt said with a force I’ve never heard in his speech before. “Lucy, you have to do this , Dr. Vidali needs to know what these fibroids are doing, you have to do this, for us.” Matt has never begged me for anything the way he did at that moment.

“Ok, Ok” I took a deep breath.

“Go ahead” I said to the technician.

When he wheeled me all the way in, my eyes and my forehead were the only things out of the machine.

“I can’t do this” I said.

He pulled me out five times and then he lost his temper.

“Ma’am, I have three MRIs scheduled in the next two hours”

“Can you give me a xanax or something?” I asked.

“No, you should have thought of that yesterday and asked your doctor for a prescription.”

“Can my husband stay with me?” I could hear the man’s impatience giving me the side eye.

“Fine” he sighed, his annoyance stunk up the room.

“Just so you know, once we start, if you make me stop, you will be billed for the whole thing. Do you understand?”

I nodded like a scolded school girl. I was going to go through with this MRI, for me, for Matt and for the stupid baby we want to have.

“Keep your arms on your side or over your chest, and don’t move” I barely fit in the machine and all I could think of was my mother’s funeral, her white casket, her white dress, her laying still with her arms over her chest.

In I went as Matt stood over me, I felt his breath and told him he was too close. I focused on his Sinatra blue eyes as his tender hands caressed my hair. Tears of terror, tears of mourning and tears of gratitude flowed freely as I tried to calm my breath. The noise cancelling ear plugs were not working. Matt’s sweet voice whispered words of encouragement as the loud beeps, clanks and bangs drowned him out. I read his lips “I Love You” “You’re doing great” “THANK YOU” it was a mantra he repeated over and over as my tears cascaded down my temple. I was glad he was there because without his support I was ready to give up and forget about wanting a baby and buy a beach house in Ventura or a cabin in Big Bear.

# 2 – Longing for Mami

The cobalt-blue blanket with the red trimming and a thousand little fuzz balls that Mami made for my nephew, the one I stole from his closet because I wanted to feel close to her when I was home in California and she was dying in New Jersey, the one I gave my sister when I was declutering and then took back after Mami died, shelters me and my baby when we lay in bed listening to Stevie. I hum My Cherie Amour and Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday before her afternoon naps.  We listen to the songs on my Spotify playlist before bed time.

The chenille fabric is no longer soft,  it thins in the middle as if it has been shaved. The small hole in the corner seam of the red trim has gotten bigger. It still smells like Mami, and the house in Jersey that is no longer ours; It’s Fabuloso and sofrito and Tide and albondiga con moro de habichuela negra.   It’s Ivory soap and Lancôme moisturizer and Elizabeth Arden youth restoring ceramide capsules. Skeptics would say it’s all in my mind, but my nose knows.

I lay on my side so I can watch Hudson thrash and toss before she settles down, her head laying on the crook my arm. Sometimes she falls asleep on top of me, other times her head rests on my shoulder. My upper body is knotted. I should see my chiropractor more often but I don’t have time. I want to spend as much of my waking hours and all of my sleeping time holding my baby.

Her eyes, Sinatra blue like her father’s, in the dark with only the hallway light coming in from under the door, look brown like Mami’s. Most nights I feel her gaze through my daughter’s eyes.

By the time Stevie sings the last notes of Yester Me, Hudson’s eyes flutter shut for the night. I bury my nose in her head trying to smell the last of the delicious baby smell that is slowly evaporating.  I do the same with the blanket and pray that the smell never leaves.

***

I hid behind big, dark, Jackie O type sunglasses at Mami’s funeral. My eyes, no matter how hard I squeezed or how many memories I replayed, refused to cry.  The days after she died was the first time I was able to sleep soundly without sleep aids. My eyes looked like an airbrushed advertisement for expensive eye cream.

What was wrong with me? Who doesn’t cry at their mother’s funeral? Why did I always have to be the weird one?

Not even the memory of the sunglasses purchase made me cry. Me and Mami, five years earlier at the Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet at the Bergen Mall, a distraction before one of her chemo treatments. I was broke and going through a nasty divorce from an unemployed, wannabe musician who was threatening to sue me for alimony. The designer sunglasses cost $95, money I did not have because all of my money went to maintain the Brentwood lifestyle my then husband sucked us into. I could barely afford the trip from Los Angeles to New Jersey, I did not have $95 in my bank account but Mami insisted. She put them on me like she used to with my prescription glasses when I was a little girl. She fixed my messy hair, turned me towards the mirror and smiled.

“Te vez come una millonaria.” She said, as I marveled at the ability of these sunglasses to make me look like a million bucks. I loved the power to hide my reality behind them. I insisted that I couldn’t afford them.  She paid for them even though she was in no position to spend the money. Her health insurance had denied the claim for one of her PET scans and now owed the hospital about fifteen thousand dollars.

“Pagame cuando salgas de ese albatross” she said. I wished I had given Mami back the money after I got rid of the albatross but she never asked me for it and up until her funeral, I had forgotten.

I sat in the family pew, our section was in the front, against the wall, between the casket and the rows of guests. My husband held my hand. I looked the part of the grieving daughter as long as I did not take off the sunglasses.

I was not ready or willing to let go. I was busy not dealing, being in denial was easy. I continued my life in California pretending Mami was still alive in New Jersey.   I did not delete her from my phone. Each time I called my husband or one of my siblings I would see her picture icon along with the rest of the family members on the  favorite contact section. I did not erase her voice mails and would listen to them when I wanted to hear her voice. My delusion went so far that I would forget she was dead and call her cellphone a few times a week only to be shocked to reality when my nephew’s voice or voice mail answered because he took over her number.

***

I started IVF treatments five months after the funeral, I needed to be in a state of Zen and happiness but even if I blocked my mother’s death out of my mind, my body knew.

I finally got pregnant one year and four months after she died thanks to IVF number four.  Unfortunately, it resulted in a miscarriage so bloody it made the elevator doors in the film version of The Shining look tame by comparison.

Two months after the miscarriage I went on vacation with my friend Teri. Actually, I invited myself on the trip she was planning with her sister and a family friend.  I was desperate to escape. Matt had recently switched jobs, taking time off was not something he wanted to do.  I treated myself to a first class ticket. After years of putting travel on hold because “What if Mami dies while I’m in the middle of nowhere” or “What if I get pregnant and don’t want to travel”, I was ready for a good time.

Teri’s sister took care of the planning, all I had to do was get there.  There, was casita with a private swimming pool and a butler at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen.  I arrived the day after Teri and her sister, sunglasses in tow looking like a millonaria.

One night after dinner, relaxing in our private pool, Eugenia, Teri, their friend Susana and I were sipping wine, enjoying our privilege.

“You know, if this next round of IVF doesn’t work, I’m done. If I don’t get pregnant, Matt and I will be OK. We will travel, maybe buy a beach house in the Dominican Republic.” I said, resigning myself to our possible fate as a childless couple. I was no longer going to let infertility stop me from enjoying life.

“How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?” Teri asked.

The aha moment didn’t have time to register because within seconds of her saying that, we heard a swishing, chattering sound that turned out to be a bat. It flew into our space making us scream like horror movie characters about to meet the boogeyman. Teri and I ducked into the pool while Susana accidentally swatted the bat making it squeal and flap its wings above us longer than it probably intended to.

Two days later, I flew back home by myself. I was listening to music, my playlist on shuffle.

Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday blasted through my headphones. The first time in years I had heard the song.

What happened to the world we knew

When we would dream and scheme

And while the time away

Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday

“How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?” echoed over the lyrics.

Teri felt like an oracle delivering a message in the form of a question.

 Where did you go that yesterglow

When we could feel

The wheel of life turn our way

Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday

 “How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?”

It was somewhere around the second verse of the song that images of me and Mami flashed like they do in the movies when a character is about to die.  In a span of a few seconds, every memory played in fast motion. I started sobbing and gasping for air. I tried to be quiet, to control it. The flight attendant rushed over to me, asked if I was all right. All I could do was nod and breathe.

The images slowed down; Me as an infant on top of Mami’s stomach as she did sit ups. Me as a toddler sticking my index finger in the corner of her eye trying to fish out the eyeliner gunk. Me stretching Mami’s ear lobes trying to pull out her hoop earings. My childhood, adolescense and adult life with my mother played nostalgic like an old song.

I was grateful that the cabin was not crowded and the few passengers on board all had their noise cancelling headphones on. The flight attendant kept coming back to check up on me and bring me water during my four hour crying binge.

***

The fifth and final IVF was scheduled for September 18th, 2016.  I spent last summer grieving, hiking, cooking, reading, writing, spending time with my husband and my nieces Onabella and Ayden who were three and one, I needed all the baby energy I could get. I got massages regularly, saw my chiropractor and acupuncturist weekly, tried to meditate and lastly, I booked four reiki sessions with a healer/poet/activist who taught me about the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono.

I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You

Love

Atonement

Mercy

Gratitude

From Wikipedia

“Ho’oponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻau among family members of a person who is physically ill. Modern versions are performed within the family by a family elder, or by the individual alone”.

I used the prayer to make amends with my mother.

Mami, I love you so much

I’m sorry I was not a better daughter

I’m sorry I never paid you back for the sunglasses

Please forgive me for all the nights you spent desvelada, waiting for me to come home

Please forgive me for all the times I made you worry when I was married to the albatross

Thank You for always being there,  siempre resolviendome whatever problemas I asked for your help with

Thank You for all the sacrificios you made for me

When I got a positive pregnancy test four days after the embryos were transferred, I knew I would have my THB (Take Home Baby). I entered the date of the transfer in a Due Date App. According to this app and later confirmed by my Obstetrician, my baby was due on Mami’s birthday. I know like I know that two plus two is four that my daughter is a gift from my mother.

I am still grieving, I think I will always grieve. I have accepted that she is dead, I am no longer in denial about that. Giving birth has added a new dimension to the longing I have for my mother. So many times I wish I could pick up the phone and call her.

Hudson and I lay in bed, covered in the blanket, we listen to Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Jose Luis Peralta. Every night  I hope to dream with her, every once in a while I do.