Tag Archives: Loss

#23 2017

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.

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# 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.

# 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.