Infertility, Grief and Transformation

Anyone who knows me knows I share a lot of myself.  However, I do have untold stories that affect me deeply and are difficult to share and re-experience.  This is a story of that kind.  One of many I lock deep inside for fear of facing the pain and struggle.

In 2010, my husband and I became determined to add to our family.  We wanted little feet pattering around the house to keep us young, vibrant and full of life.  Unfortunately, that is not what the Universe had planned for us.  Instead we learned about infertility, grief and transformation.

Now, I know you're thinking, "every body has this tale," but to me it was a life-changing event in many ways.  

We finally decided after six years of trying to conceive to consult a doctor to see what, if anything, was wrong.  To our dismay, we discovered a physical problem in my husband that couldn't be fixed.  The bright side was we had a good chance at in vitro fertilization and decided at this point, me being 38 and he being 39, it was time to take the chance.  We were lucky my health insurance covered 95% of the costs involved with the process.  Anyone who knows anything about fertility treatment knows it can cost upwards of $20,000 to have one round of treatment.  So, the journey began.

In September of 2011 we started the hormone therapies, the almost daily doctor visits and planned for our newest addition.  By November of 2011 we were on track to have a transfer of three embryos to see if the first round was successful.  Thanksgiving 2011, we learned the transfer failed.  Not one of the embryos was successful in implanting and our hearts sank.  We decided to try another round.

In February 2012, we started the hormone therapies again, endured the appointments filled with blood draws and by March 2012, we were pregnant!  YAY!  As excited as we were, I still had doubts in the back of my head haunting my every moment.  Throughout the entire process, I worked and maintained a normal lifestyle, except my eating habits were much better than before and all of the hormones I was on kept my sanity on the edge.  Sleepless nights, stressful days and all the while, a baby growing in me.  Life at that point couldn't have been better.

At nine weeks, my fertility doctor released me to a regular OB/GYN for the remainder of my term.  We had a sonogram, heard our baby's heartbeat - strong & healthy - and were ready to start planning where the nursery would be in the house - upstairs?  Or, downstairs?

Three days after our release I began to experience excruciating pains, uncontrollable fatigue and just overall discomfort.  Of course, I attributed this to being 39 years old and pregnant, so no other thought was given.  On day four, I was in the emergency room trying to figure out if my baby was ok, if I was ok and whether or not my husband was going to survive all this drama.  To our surprise, all was well in blood tests, sonograms and examinations, so we thought maybe I was just too tired and stressed from work and needed some rest.

On day five, I was back in the emergency room, in pain, and on the road to a miscarriage.  I won't go into details about my experience at the hospital, but I will tell you it wasn't pleasant.  I've never had to be in the hospital for anything...  So, this was an experience I will not soon forget or want to experience again.  After six hours of intense pain and no nurse or doctor care, it was over.  I remember feeling nothing, by nothing I mean I felt completely lost, overwhelmed and wasn't sure what I should feel.

Once I was released and had a little time to process the events of the night, I cried for days - literally.  Not only were we not having a baby anymore, but we now had to sort through the feelings of loss.  I tried to be strong through the next couple of weeks of doctor's appointments, surgery and recovery, but I just couldn't find the place in my heart where my strength had come from.

During my two weeks of recovery (hell), I thought I could just go right back to work to try to find some normalcy.  Boy was I wrong...  the week before I returned to work, my pup, Doe, got very ill and I had to spend my recovery time worrying about her health and ultimately making a decision about her quality of life.  Exactly 14 days after our first loss, we had to lose another very important member of our family.  The grief resurfaced with a vengeance and I only had one day to recover before facing the public.

My first day back in the office was excruciating.  I saw the pity on people's faces and the ones who didn't know of my suffering went about their business as usual.  I had a very hard time the first day, but on day two, I pushed that pain so deep, even I didn't remember why I was so "blah" about life.

Two weeks of "normal" life passed in a blur until the moment we heard my father-in-law had had a spinal stroke and was on life support in the VA hospital in New Mexico.  Geez, can we get a break from this?  Dealing with the thought of losing him was unbearable.  For six months he clung to life and we swam in a well of emotion.  2012 was not the year for the Barnes family to enjoy or even pass through without a scrape.

Revert back to June 2012 and I'm in New York City for a big "team" event, meeting new people, gathering with old acquaintances and rekindling my joy for life a bit - until THE MEETING.  Thirty minutes before I was set to sit with my colleagues for five days, my manager pulls me into a meeting to discuss my desire to volunteer for more responsibility.  To my dismay, shock and utter disbelief, the meeting was about my lack of motivation, my lack of dedication and overall disenfranchised attitude.  Those exact phrases were used.  Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows these are not words ANYONE would use to describe me in any situation.

Stunned, I wiped my tears (by the way, he never offered me a tissue during this 30 minute discussion) and tried to regain my composure before facing my teammates.  Mind you, I would normally have defended myself with the utmost conviction and used my words to make sure he understood his complete misguidance with my performance, but still reeling from the hormonal imbalances of the previous nine months, I kept my mouth shut.  One other note, he had only been my manager since April, 2.5 months to the date.  Never once did he reach out to me during those 2.5 months to discuss my experience, my job, my career goals or any of the other things a manager does.  The only discussions we had were about when I was coming back to work after the miscarriage and surgery and could I take phone calls while on serious pain medication - I know, right?

This began the twelve month battle between my job, my family's financial stability and my health.  Until this meeting, I adored my job, the people I worked for and the people I worked with...  I had been with the company for 5.5 years at this point and never once thought about leaving, and, I'd had several offers for better pay over the years, but I stayed.  I had never enjoyed a job more and never for one minute thought I'd be leaving before an official retirement.

Between June of 2012 and November 2012 I spent my work days in turmoil and my evenings still trying to process the losses we'd had in the course of 2012.  Now, I had to add my wonderful job to the list of losses because I dreaded having to get in the car, drive to the office and hear the voice of a man who had no respect for me.  I didn't cross paths with him very often in day-to-day work and thank the Universe, but just knowing he was there made it difficult.  Each day I enjoyed the fact my daily interactions were with colleagues and clients who knew my dedication, motivation and complete commitment to my role within the company.  I took comfort in those people and really did my best to keep my business as usual face on.

In any case, I had a decision to make...  my health or my family's financial stability.  Even though my surgery had gone well and I was on the road to recovery, I still wasn't out of the woods.  During the surgery the doctor found three golf ball sized tumors not there at the start or during fertility treatments.  This scared the hell out of me...  Are they cancerous, am I going to have to do chemo treatments, what else could go wrong?  Do I do the testing?  Do I act oblivious?

This is the moment I decided I needed to change.  One week before Thanksgiving 2012, I began my lifestyle change.  No more junk food, fast food and a lot more exercise.  My husband had already been changing his life and I saw the progression of his new-found self and I decided it was time for me to do the same.  We embarked on the next journey together and this is when my life transformed.

From November 2012 to May 2013 I lost 40 lbs of fat from my body, built 20 lbs of muscle and was wearing a size 10 in clothes - which I hadn't seen since high school more than 20 years ago.  We ran our first Spartan Sprint in April of 2013 and for the first time in a very long time I felt I was taking control of my life and my emotions.  Only one thing remained, my job...  I was still struggling to change the management perception of my worth to the company and still butting my head against a very thick brick wall.  The tumors hadn't gone away miraculously and I certainly wasn't helping them by staying in the stressful environment.

On a team phone call, the straw that broke the camel's back fell...  A bold lie and reprimand of myself and several other colleagues on a public call left me disgusted.  That's it, I'm done.  I'm a fairly tolerant person, but when someone degrades a person or people in public I genuinely care about, that's it.  Standing up for yourself is one thing, but to sit and listen to someone berate and lie to your friends and colleagues was enough.  That day I constructed my resignation letter.  This specific event coupled with my health concerns and the fact I needed to do something different in order to keep my sanity, changed my life forever.

In April 2013, I gave a 90-day notice of retirement to the management.  I politely explained my family life and my health were more important to me than the job.  I wanted to dictate my own success or failure and in order to do it, I was retiring from Corporate America permanently.  

Really, it shocked me, too!  For as long as I can remember, I have been responsible.  Responsible for my brothers and sisters, responsible for myself and responsible for setting the example for anyone and everyone crossing my path.  I went to college, the first person in my family to do this, and got a "responsible" job and continued down that path for 38 years not realizing how unhappy, unfulfilled and detached I was from myself.

I wasn't sure what my next steps would be, but what I did know was no one would ever tell me what to do, how to do it or say I was not "good" enough ever again.  As it turns out, I had been metalsmithing as a stress reliever for just under ten years at this point so I decided this would be my next career.  It brings me joy, I get lost in the making and there is always something new.  Why not?

Today marks a little over two years and 9.5 months since I began my new life and I can say for once in my life I am on the right path.  It definitely hasn't been easy and the stepping stones to getting here have been far apart, but I am grateful for the lesson this struggle has taught me.  I'm 41 years old and finally living my authentic life with my husband, my dogs and my mother-in-law in tow.  Now, to convince him to do the same...