the power of denial

So, if you haven’t been around in a while, you may want to read this first.

A million thanks to all of you who came by and poked your head in to wish us well. Seriously the support has been incredible. Every comment has meant so very much to me. Thank you.

As we share the news, we’re getting a wide variety of reactions. Too many for just one post, actually.

One set of reactions center around a variation of “see, we told you so” (i.e., if you “just adopt” you will get pregnant). These type of statements make me seethe and cringe every time. For so many reasons. But since I’m still stewing on that and trying to come up with some clever responses (i.e., instead of either chewing off someone’s face or retorting with a detailed explanation of other relevant factors that are none of their business), I’ll save this one for another day. Bottom line: this most unexpected pregnancy has absolutely nothing to do with adoption. Period.

Another common reaction is shock and includes some underlying version of “how did you get this far along without knowing?” This is understandable. The reality is not so much that I didn’t know, it’s that I didn’t think it was possible to believe. Rather, it was impossible to believe. So I simply denied it.

As I wrote before, I was not the only one to have written off my body’s ability to create and sustain life. With a nine year history of infertility and just one pregnancy despite multiple procedures, bodily tracking, medicated IUIs, IVF/ICSI and FET, this was a fact I came to accept.

In reality, both times I became pregnant, nearly six years apart, it happened soon after being told by a trusted medical expert that it was not likely to happen, due to a variety of circumstances.

Some more background: I have a long history of recurring fibroids that at times have occupied my entire uterus and needed to be cut out of my uterine walls, as well as smaller ones that have acted as IUDs and prevented both conception and probably implantation. As a result of many surgical procedures to remove them and related damage they’ve caused, I have one completely damaged tube and one partially blocked tube, as well as permanent scarring that left me at risk for infertility, miscarriage, preterm labor and uterine rupture. And of course, I have 42 year old eggs which, even when younger only managed to pull through for me once, despite the best medical intervention. On top of that, last time we checked, while Mac had a decent sperm count, morphology was an issue. Finally, my cycles had grown more and more irregular and my lining was thin due to scarring. Plus, I had been recently diagnosed as perimenopausal by a doctor I trust. She also suggested that if I continued to have issues with fibroids or irregular bleeding, she was likely to recommend a hysterectomy.

While we stopped actively trying to conceive when we started pursuing adoption in 2008, I could finally completely let go of that phase of my life when faced with medical expertise that it was really over. It just confirmed what I knew to be true in my heart.

And I came to peace with it. In the thick of it, I never thought I’d say that. But it’s true.

I stopped tracking my cycles long ago, yet I was still making mental notes to track the onset of menopause for my next doctor’s visit. So while it came as no surprise that I missed a few periods, I couldn’t even determine when my last normal period was.

At the time I must have conceived, Mac and I were going through an incredibly stressful time, trying to negotiate the purchase of our first home with limited resources and dealing with uncooperative banks and agents while watching the mortgage rates climb several times a day. Each fraction of a point made it less likely that we would be able to buy our home, or any house for that matter. Meanwhile, we were packing since we knew we had to move. When things finally came together, we were both distracted by escrow, packing and moving, and then unpacking and adjusting to our new full life with our very energetic soon-to-be-two-year-old daughter.

So for the record, this was certainly not about “just relaxing.” As if that’s a cure for infertility. Ridiculous.

Exhaustion was the first symptom I noted early on. As I said, I attributed it to the move, to caring for our daughter while trying to work and get adjusted in our new home, our new town, our new budget. Eventually I did go to the doctor because I wondered if something was seriously wrong with me. In my family there is a history of cancers of all kind. I wanted to eliminate that possibility so I had lab work done. Again, there were other explanations: I was anemic (hence the craving for red meat and spinach) and my adrenal functioning was weak. Dietary changes and supplements were prescribed.

Another symptom was the afternoon/evening nausea. This one was interesting, because I experienced the same thing when I was pregnant six years ago. But again, I recently had what I thought was a bout of bad food poisoning. At lunch I ate a salad with chicken and walnuts, and one of the nuts tasted bad, like really bad. This will forever be known as the “musty nut” salad. Needless to say after I was sick for two days I stopped eating chicken, and when I ate it once more I was sick again. When I never really recovered from that I wondered if there was some kind of fungus growing in my gut. Still, the familiarity of this symptom, along with other strange cravings (e.g., peanut butter, cheese, toast, etc.) was first thing that had me question whether there was even a chance of pregnancy. But I figured that was just not possible.

Then in mid-March I had a heavy bleeding incident which lasted about four hours. I even joked on twitter that my non-existent period decided to make a super-efficient comeback. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about ten weeks then. Looking back, had I known I was pregnant I would have been convinced I had miscarried. As it was, I thought well maybe, just maybe, but certainly not anymore. And that was that.

I had been gaining weight for a while, which I carry in my mid-section. When my abdomen felt full, I assumed my fibroids had returned. My doctor had said if I had more bleeding to call her. I knew surgery would be her recommendation. I had no pain or discomfort, aside from the bloat. I really didn’t want to face another procedure. And I didn’t bleed again.

Early breast tenderness was easily dismissed because that’s how they feel before my period. But then it never came and the tenderness subsided. Last symptom was frequent urination. But guess what? I had a UTI and figured that’s why I had to pee all the time.

So.

Plenty of symptoms coming and going. But I felt no movement, no life. Mac asked several times if I should take a test and I said absolutely not. I simply didn’t think it was physically possible. In truth I just didn’t want to go there. After all this time, I couldn’t place myself in that space of “what if,” the “I’ll just pee on a stick and see” total mindfuck when you know the answer already. I had simply given up on that possibility. It just wasn’t my reality anymore. And I refused to go back there.

I was in sheer denial because I simply presumed that it was an impossibility.

For a long time, it was not even in the universe of options, in my mind. And it had to stay that way, for my mental and emotional well being. Self preservation prevented me from ever truly entertaining the thought for long enough to actually buy a test.

As time went on though, it became more and more undeniable. Although the key symptoms described above subsided, my pants were feeling tighter and my belly was feeling more full. Although I felt no movement or signs of life, I knew I’d have to go to the doctor because something was there. In truth I was afraid it was a massive growth or fibroid that would cause hemorrhaging like I experienced last fall.  The final straw, as I said, was swollen ankles. Yet I waited another week to even buy the damn test because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Then if by some miracle I could have possibly been pregnant, there was no way it could be viable or lasting. Hence the terror.

So. There you have it. It may make no sense to you, but that’s how it happened.

Honestly I still don’t know how it really happened — i.e., how I was able to conceive and carry this far — with all the odds against us. Though one theory on the wonky cycle is that women over 40 start to release more than one egg at a time — sort of like a last chance rodeo, or ‘quick, everyone out of the pool!’ scenario — which is apparently why some women over 40 end up with twins without medication. (Most of us, however, miscarry when we use our own eggs at this age.)

Even with so many risks and so much uncertainty ahead, to me this is still nothing short of miraculous.

As many of you pointed out, I too believe it’s a blessing that I was blissfully unaware in the beginning, and especially as I passed the 21 week mark. Not only would I have freaked out over the bleeding incident at 10 weeks, but I would have been terrified and stressed about everything that could have gone wrong. As it was, I drank wine (though only twice as it made me so tired), ate stinky cheese and sushi, drank espresso, took hot baths and slept on my back and belly, among other things. I lived my life.

And that is how I got to this point.

Never underestimate the power of denial.

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~ by luna on July 1, 2011.

23 Responses to “the power of denial”

  1. I totally get all of this. You had so many other factors that would mask Pregnancy symptoms.

    This is such an amazing story 🙂

  2. Thank you for writing this. I began following your blog a few years ago as we decided to leave behind the world of infertility in pursuit of adoption. We were in the process of adoption when we found ourselves pregnant. I had all the emotions you do, and got all the same reactions you are getting. I also wanted to punch people in the face when they suggested that adoption was what caused us to get pregnant.

    Thanks for sharing your incredible story. So excited for you!

  3. You are not the first nor the last person this has happened to, & who ignored all the symptoms for all the reasons you’ve mentioned above. The truth is, it DOES happen sometimes. Although, as you said, adoption has absolutely nothing to do with it. ; ) Hang in there, my friend, we are all cheering for you! : )

  4. I wonder if this wasn’t your subconscious cutting you a break and getting you up to a tricky point without you having to dread it for months. Like you said, you lived your life. You did it responsibly. And I think that’s wonderful.

    Now if only we could enter a time-warp through the second half. Waiting impatiently for every post, Luna.

  5. Wow, what an incredible story. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  6. Can you tell how many times your blog is being refreshed? lol I know I must count for a couple of times each day 😉
    No pressure or anything… just to say that we are all here breathless… obviously no more than you are though, I’m quite sure.
    There’s something cosmic about all of this.
    Still wishing every positive vibration your way.

  7. Wow. Just wow. Still sending calm thoughts.

  8. What a great post, Luna. Your story makes perfect sense. And never mind all of those people who need to make ignorant comments about how it happened. (I was also told to “just relax” for four years – urg!!!) Perhaps you can somehow hang onto a piece of blissful unawareness/denial and let their words float on by. Wishing you peace and waiting for your next entry!

  9. WOW just wow, and I too get so tired (leaving the bad words out) of people saying if you just adopt, if you just relax, if you just ….. As it was my husband and I were in the middle of foster parenting classes and we found out we were expecting. However that doesn’t mean a thing (again leaving the bad words out). Apparently I am not relaxed enough though according to some because I miscarried again at 12 weeks. I couldn’t believe it when someone said to me “you need to be on of those I was pregnant and didn’t know it shows that way you can carry to full term.”
    Calm thoughts, loving thoughts, to you and thanks for the strength that life does go on. Thanks for reminding me to just live my life. I am still trying.

  10. Denial is a powerful thing. When you think it isn’t possible, I totally get why you would be able to dismiss the signs.

    You are right when you said it is miraculous! It is freaking amazing, and it makes me so happy for you!

  11. here via the maybe baby (babies)… what an amazing story, and yes, it makes perfect sense with your history. Sending lots of positive vibes your way. So happy for you. Take care.

    (PS: do you feel movement now?)

  12. Everything makes perfect sense. I’m just so damn happy for you. I shared your story with friends this weekend and nobody couldn’t believe it. What an amazing story this little one is going to have. Seriously. Lots of love to you, Luna.

  13. Wow. Just wow. I’m excited for you but also understand the fears you’ve been dealing with lately and the whole denial thing. Sorry it took me this long to get caught up but I hope that things continue ok with minimal or no problems.

  14. “see, we told you so” (i.e., if you “just adopt” you will get pregnant)

    This kind of statement is horribly condescending and ignores all the trials, struggles, and growth you’ve been through resulting from and connected to infertility and adoption. Sometimes, just sometimes, faces need a good chewing.

  15. Makes perfect sense to me. So now the stress begans. Seriousley people are telling you that BS about adopting? we have adopted twice, I am done I dont’ want anymore children and how could adoptiong cause it when the last just short of 9 years not count of infertility. Such morons.
    Thinking of you……

  16. I completely get this. When I landed in the hospital with preterm labor with our son that died, most of my thoughts weren’t centered around surprise but rather realizing I had already known, but wasn’t willing to face it. It’s amazing what we can know without knowing.

  17. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!
    Wow. I am speechless with you and just very happy.
    Wow. Just Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. […] But this? This we never could have imagined in a hundred years. It wasn’t even in the realm of possibility. […]

  19. […] been starting to share the news, and as I said before the reactions have been interesting. Definitely a lot of “it happens so often!” (i.e., […]

  20. […] our big revelation, we’ve been faced with a number of questions. Not just “how could you not know?” or “isn’t that so common!?” No, these questions get more to the heart of what it […]

  21. […] after denying the possibility for weeks, one afternoon in late June I reluctantly peed on a stick in the grocery store before […]

  22. […] i.e., that I was actually carrying a real live baby — and the next few months were a blur. Denial took hold for so long that I was nearly five months pregnant by the time I finally took a test. I […]

  23. […] really. From first diagnosis to this very moment, I am still adjusting. After a few months of being convinced that I was seriously ill around our big move a year and a half ago, our world was completely overturned. Soon I was making […]

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