Sunday, April 21, 2013

Join the Movement: An Ah-Ha Moment

I remember well the day it happened.

I was sitting on the back patio holding a stick.  His favorite stick.  The lavender was newly blooming, the fragrance enveloping me, and the bees flicked around the purple stalks making a loud buzzing sound impossible to ignore.  I smiled up at the sun knowing that this was a great moment.

I intended to carve his name in that stick and toss it in his favorite lake where he use to dive in and swim after it no matter how far it was thrown.  I always joked that he would swim until he died. 

Bailey was my beautiful, wild yellow lab.  A strong swimmer, an eater of random non-edibles like plastic bottles or underwear that missed the hamper, and a source of daily laughter (or certain expletives when his ever-wagging tail would connect with a shin) .  He was always at the ready when we'd walk in the front door, like he had heard our car a mile away.

Except, of course, the time he ate a whole tray of freshly-baked brownies.  He hid upstairs that day.

Bailey had died the previous winter.  My handsome, funny, crazy, yellow lab was just ten days short of 8 years old.  And I missed him the instant he was gone.

I didn't know of the lesson he would teach several months later as I sat among the lavender.  It's propelled and motivated me in a way in which words fall short of describing.

Briefly: I was finally happy.

That moment was six and a half years post infertility diagnosis with tens of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, raging hormones, a seemingly endless emotional roller coaster, intrusions on my body and mind, and no baby to show for it.

But, as I sat there, "it" happened.  The realization that I was happy.  My ah-ha moment.

"How could this be?" I thought.  I should be sad, discouraged, angry, and, and, and....

Yet, I wasn't.

Why?

Somehow in the mess of infertility and losing Bailey, I realized I had everything I could ever want or need right then.  In that moment.  Happiness is now.  And the more that I want something that I don't presently have, the more unhappy I feel.

Sure, wanting something more...dreaming of something more...craving something more (like parenthood) is normal.  But, I was obsessing, perseverating, and becoming consumed with the ache of not having that thing.  That's where I lost myself.  And my happiness.

When I really thought about what was happening, I was able to trace that shift to sometime the previous November when I really began looking forward to the holidays.  I was always happy about the holidays, but this was more than just reaching my pre-infertility level of happiness.  I was so much more grateful for everything I had.  Even though I didn't have a baby, I had a fabulous husband, awesome animals, a comfy home, and my dream job.  I enjoyed lots of different hobbies and got to help people on a daily basis; some of whom were dealing with the same confusing and overwhelming world of infertility.  I didn't take even one of those things for granted anymore.  Just like not having a baby, any of those things could be gone.  And I didn't know it at the time, but Bailey would be gone in just a few short months.

Because, I'm a researcher and pseudo-academic at heart (Okay, I'm a nerd.  There, I said it), I wondered if this happened to other people.  Could I be the only one?  Is it just me, or was I experiencing this traumatic health crisis and feeling, not only happy, but way more happy than I'd ever been?

No way.  No way!

After digging a bit on Google Scholar, I discovered a phenomenon that had been studied for the past decade or so called posttraumatic growth.  You know what PTSD is, right?  Well, this is the opposite:  When good things happen as a result of trauma. 

I know.  Weird. 

It's the message in that song "Live Like You Were Dying."  You know the one.  Are you humming it yet?  The character in the song is diagnosed with cancer and decides to do all of the things that he ever wanted to do.  He began to make Each. Moment. Count. 

Now, would I ride a bull named Fu Man Chu?  Uh, no.

But, there are a ton of things that I (or any of us) could do in any given moment.  To live in that moment.  To really be present right then and there.

Like throwing a stick for your dog.

Thanks to thoughts of Bailey, I discovered what was happening to me.  And I decided I needed to know more and pass it around.  I began research for my dissertation on infertility and posttraumatic growth, and I began throwing ideas around for this blog. 

Hence, I began Joining the Movement to contribute to the infertility community and to educate outside of it.

It's the crux of this blog to recognize the suffering that people with infertility experience and to highlight that one is not alone and does not have to suffer alone.  I'd like to also highlight that one can be in the gutter and simultaneously look up at the stars and wonder at their beauty.  Suffering does not negate joy.

I'll say it again: Suffering does not negate joy. 

I'm Joining the Movement to contribute that small piece of knowledge that can have a big impact on your life, if you so choose.

I'm happy to say, I took my joy back from infertility.  And it even grew exponentially beyond what it was before I began the wild infertility ride. 

Take that, IF. 

And thank you, Bailey. 

One last thing: I wouldn't know it for another year, but as my "shift" happened that previous November, my son was being born half way across the world.  A Thanksgiving baby.

Coincidence?  I think not.  But, that's another post. 


May boundless joy be yours,
~Maria

Dedicated to my Bailey Boy swimming after sticks somewhere

To learn more about the disease of infertility, please visit this page at RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association).

This post is written in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week 2013 (see badge in sidebar). To learn more about NIAW and the theme "Join the Movement," please click here.

Also for HAWMC's Day 21 prompt:  “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Mulan  True or False?   I vote true.  Obviously.  :)


26 comments:

  1. this post really struck a chord with me. i teared up and laughed as i read about Bailey (i even read bits outloud to my wife) and then i got to the part where you talk about posttraumatic growth and it was a eureka kind of moment. i am not really a member of the IF community, though i have spent years ttc and have endured all kinds of reproductive procedures and interventions and will continue to do so; however, i lost my son back in december when he was just one day old, so i know something about trauma and it's aftermath. losing our little boy, has devastated me and my wife, but it has also woken us up in some unnameable way. i am finding joy in the small things again and we both have had a huge spike in creativity. yes, posttraumatic growth, i think that's exactly what we are experiencing. thank you for giving me a way to name it.

    what a sweet, sweet face Bailey has.

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    1. Ah, thanks so much for your comment and sharing your story in brief. It's amazing that through unimaginable loss, one can find joy in small things. So glad I could help you put a name to it. I wish you continued joy and wellness.

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  2. oh, and i forgot to mention how very much i adore Oscar Wilde. that's why i clinked on the link to your blog. :)

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    1. Ah perfect! The quote in the tagline is actually Wayne Dyer, but he did source Mr. Wilde. Good stuff. :D

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  3. Hi from ICLW. Beautiful dog. Sorry about your loss.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca...and a happy ICLW to you as well.

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  4. "Suffering does not negate joy." YES! I am going to write that down and stick it on my mirror. Thank you, thank you. Blessings to you and happy ICLW!

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    1. You bet! Hope it brings you some daily peace. :) Happy ICLW!

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  5. Here from ICLW.... What a beautiful post. I've grown in some ways as a result of my infertility, but there are some facets of my life where the wounds are deep and still quite fresh. I started my blog as a way to "take my joy back from infertility." I look forward to exploring your blog more.

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    1. Deep, fresh wounds are absolutely understandable (and expected from the crazy IF world). Thank goodness we have writing, right? Hoping you find some healing and joy through blogging.

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  6. Lovely post. I'm here for ICLW and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree, we have to find happiness in the moment we are in, not the one we are working for.

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    1. Thanks Egg Timer...hoping you find plenty of those happy moments.

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  7. Maria, wow ... what a thoughtful, lovely post. In some of my darkest days, I realized that I still had a choice to let pain make my heart harder (more bitter and closed) or softer (more open and aware of other people's pain, as well as moments like the ones you've described). I can't say that I'm happy, but I do believe it's possible, and that makes all the difference. Thanks for sharing this story, and Bailey, with us here.

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    1. "I do believe it's possible, and that makes all the difference." I couldn't have said it better myself. :)

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  8. I love this post :) Finding happiness in the moment is something I strive for every day!

    ICLW #61

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  9. Hi from ICLW...great post!!! I need to find the happiness in today since I am in such a dark place in my life...

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    1. Obviously easier said than done. Reminds me of a Chinese fortune cookie I once received (I think I wrote about it, actually..lol) that said something about the darkness making light seem even brighter. Hoping you get a peek of brightness soon.

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  10. Hi from ICLW

    We didn't undergo as many treatments or suffer through them as long as you have, but that same moment happened for me once during our 3 year period of infertility. That doesn't mean I didn't still have some bad moments of course but in the end found that infertility wasn't my entire life, even though sometimes it felt like it.
    Love this post.

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    1. "...in the end found that infertility wasn't my entire life, even though sometimes it felt like it."

      EXACTLY!

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  11. Oh my goodness, Maria. I am so glad to have found your blog via Bloggers Unite NIAW. What a beautifully written, fully-felt story. I'm so sorry for the loss of your wonderful pup, and at the same time, I am so happy to hear that your aha moment came...in a way...with him, holding his favorite stick, thinking about him. When I read about your son being born on the other side of the world, I had to choke back tears. What is more worthy of celebration than that?! Thank you for joining the movement by sharing your story. I am so thankful that I get to raise my voice alongside yours for infertility awareness.

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    1. Thanks so much, Em...it really was an amazing moment. Bring on the advocation! :D

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  12. I know a lot about PTSD, but I have never read very much about posttraumatic growth. I love that you found that happiness, that joy, in the midst of suffering. That is a beautiful thing.

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    1. Thanks so much Tracie. Yeah, it stands to reason that if awful things can come of trauma, then good things can, too. Right? Or at the very least, why not? I am just totally intrigued by the subject...probably my glass-is-half-full thinking. ;-)

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  13. Here from ICLW... what an awesome post. Moved me to tears. I got lucky, and had one child, but never managed to have the second child that I had always wanted. Three years and four losses later, we have given up the fight. I am trying hard to find my new normal- to find happiness again- so this post really speaks to me. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Catwoman..I'm so sorry for your losses. Deciding to move on is SO DANG hard...I'm glad that you're willing to do so and seek some happiness in your life with what you *do* have. I'm glad this post could bring you some comfort. :)

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