I’m starting to run regularly with our one-year-old chocolate lab these days. We’re still working through it — my job is to let him know he’s not in charge. Unfortunately, I’m not always good at my job.
The other day I noticed our shadow. He was in front, I was in back and there was a line in between. This image really struck me. He wanted to go faster, I didn’t. He opted to work harder and pull me along in order to get where he wanted to go faster. I was willing to pull back and not let him force me to go faster than I wanted. We were tethered to one another and neither of us were getting what we wanted.
It felt like a really good metaphor for the past three years of my life. I didn’t get my official diagnosis of premature ovarian failure until September 2017, but my doctor knew something wasn’t right starting October 2016 because my AMH number was so low. And, even before that blood work was done, I knew something wasn’t right because while tracking my ovulation the summer of 2016, most months the sticks never even registered that ovulation was taking place. This journey started three years ago and that shadow reminded me of a few things I’ve learned so far.
I can only go as fast as I’m capable of going. Some people wanted me to go faster. Through well-intentioned unsolicited advice, people were trying to pull me along, like Steve on the other end of the leash. They said things like, “You can always adopt” or “Just pray about it” or “It’ll happen in time” or “You’ve been a mom to so many.” While these comments may have made the other person feel good, they did not make me feel good. What I took from these comments was: your feelings are not valid, you should feel like (fill in the blank) instead.
People wanted to pull me out of my grief faster than I was capable of going. It was possible to go faster; Steve has shown me, it is possible to go faster. But you know what happens when I go too fast in the beginning? I tire faster and can’t keep up the pace, which means have to walk more. And when I walk more it takes me longer to finish than if I had started out slower.
I experienced this just the other night. I let Steve dictate our speed for the first two miles. In 80 degree heat I was running a pace that was much too fast for me. But, I kept going because it was easier to let him be in charge than try to restrain him. And then, around mile three, I had to walk. And for the remaining two miles I walked quite a bit more. I was hot and tired. I didn’t have the energy to run for longer than a half mile at a time. Because of all the walking, my time slowed down causing the me to take longer and since the sun was going down, I didn’t get to finish the distance I had intended to run.
By following his lead, the run took longer than if I had just gone at my own speed. The same can be said for my grief journey. Sure, I can speed things up. I can ignore my feelings and pretend like I’m fine and go about my life like nothing is missing, but eventually the grief will catch up with me and I’ll have to deal with it. And, I suspect, the journey will end up being longer and more painful than had I just gone at my own pace from the beginning.
I am in charge of this journey and while it may take more effort, it’s up to me to determine the pace. I’m not going to do everything the way others might want me to. I’m not going to work at keeping societal norms or stay quiet about my experience because it will make others more comfortable. I’m not going to restrain myself to make it easier for others. I know some have asked, “Is she still sad about the baby thing?” or “Is Anne okay?” with that annoying pity head tilt.
Yes, I’m still sad about it. I’ll always be sad about it. And yes, I’m okay. Just because I’m willing to be open and honest about my experience doesn’t mean I’m not okay. I’m just being real. Perhaps people should give that a try sometime; I think it’s better than the alternative.
I don’t want to be pulled forward toward something I’m not ready for or be yanked back to a place I’m done with. What I do want is to be the place that’s right for me and I’m the only one that can determine where that place is. If some people aren’t okay with that place — that’s okay. Maybe someday we’ll be able to meet back up in a place that’s right for us. Until then, we can go our own ways.
Steve isn’t trying to hurt me and neither are those people. Steve isn’t really thinking about me at all, actually. He’s just trying to get where he wants to go and hopes that I’ll tag along. I suspect that may be true for those people too.
Being open and honest about a life and circumstance that isn’t often spoken about publicly can make some people uncomfortable. Topics like infertility and grief aren’t exactly fun for a dinner party. But, they are a reality in my life and how I work through them is up for me to decide.
You get to decide too. Whether you’re dealing with infertility or accepting life without children or working through grief, you get to decide how you want to work through it — privately or publicly, slowly or quickly, alone or with others. You get to choose.
I’m choosing to live a good, full life in the midst of infertility. That means acknowledging when I’m sad or angry. That means acknowledging celebrations and joy. All of it. And, all of it is my choice. It’s your choice too.
If you want to join me on a journey to learn how to live like I’ve described — a good, full life in the midst of infertility — I invite you to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. The inaugural issue comes out September 1!