Hi friends. I am going to take a break from my surrogacy series (which I promise I WILL finish), because I wanted to share this post.
I wrote this when Ivy was nine weeks old:
I am in the ninth week of rehab.
My daughter was born nine weeks ago. I didn’t give birth to her, so I am not healing physically from the birth. Yet, I was entitled to 11 weeks of time off with income thanks to my employer and the state of California.
I took advantage of every single hour I was entitled to.
I needed it.
At time time of Ivy’s birth, I am sure many assumed that we were swimming in happiness. And while we had brief moments of that, I arrived at Ivy’s birth weary down into the very bottom of my soul. The last three years had been relentless. We had done four rounds of fertility treatments and for us that included intense meds, daily intramuscular shots, lots of emotions, deep marriage struggles, wrestling with God, and the inevitable miscarriages that followed every time. The last miscarriage broke me right in half.
And I almost sigh with a wistful sadness that only time has dulled as I remember our earnest hearts jumping into the adoption process only to have it end in more loss. I wish I could tell you in words what that adoption did to us. Maybe in time, I will be able to explain it.
And then after TWO MONTHS and very little grieving, we jumped into a very intense (amazing, but still very intense) surrogacy journey. During the pregnancy, it felt like I was holding my breath the entire time and waiting for bad news, while trying desperately to accept that it was time to be happy.
During those years, I also had learned how to hate my body. After all, I felt it had let me down time after time. When I was a young bride, I was diagnosed with Crohns disease. Where there should have been romantic get aways, there was hospital trips, surgery and intense diets. When we tried to have a second baby, it seemed as if my body hated my own children, as I helplessly watched it reject those little ones though miscarriage time after time. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t even successfully adopt a child. And even further, someone else had to physically carry my baby (and thank God she did!). It was easy to buy into the vicious lies swirling in my head- “You can’t even carry your own child. What kind of mother are you? Your body is worthless.” My self worth was wobbly at best. And so I just stopped taking care of the body I had come to hate. I gained 15 pounds and hated it even more.
Every kind of fatigue had settled in the hard to reach places, and became a constant companion. So constant that I wasn’t even aware of its weight. I had stopped trying to thrive, and aimed to survive. I had stopped trying to shine, and aimed merely to show up.
It took every ounce of me in order to avoid wildly spin out of my lane.
And I was exhausted… and fed up.
So… when they handed me a brand new baby and 11 weeks off work, I decided that these precious weeks would be the start of something new. Something HAD to give. I decided that if it HAD to be something, I wanted it to be the unhealthy habits, the lie believing, the anxiety, the depression, and the coping mechanisms that had held me afloat for the last three years to be the things to go.
The problem is that I had no idea how to do that. My new way of life had become so familiar to me that anything different felt foreign and unattainable.
But I was determined to try.
I decided to do a little experiment. What if I used these next 11 weeks to learn how to take care of body? What if I took the time to sit with the pain and work through it? What happened if I sought out the things that filled me up? Or more importantly, to find out what those things actually were.
What would happen?
Webster defines the word rehab as, “the process of helping someone (such as an injured patient or a drug user) to become healthy again: the process of rehabilitating someone.”
Further, Webster defines the word rehabilitation as, “to restore or bring to a condition of health or useful and constructive activity.”
I needed all of that.
I started out making drastic decisions. I joined Weight Watchers so I could learn how to make better choices with the food I put into my body. I cried at the first meeting. The weight I had gained was so emotional for me.
I looked into health products and supplements that would support my journey towards health.
I made a desperate cry for help and found a therapist that I trusted and aligned with my values.
And I spent the time and money to do all of those things.
I quit relying on a glass of wine (or more) to help me fall asleep at night. I got out my exercise DVDs. I made plans to take more walks and watch less TV. I decided to be honest with God for the first time in a long time.
All of those changes were very hard and required sacrifice. After all, some of those things had help me cope for the last three years. They hadn’t helped me thrive or shine, but they had kept me in the game. I felt like I was walking off the ledge without my trusty net.
And all of those dramatic changes set up the framework for the real work that needed to be done.
Because once those were in place, it all became very small and routine. It came down to very small choices. Instead of going out to eat, I chose to go on a hike. Instead of feeling pressure to clean the ENTIRE house, I allowed myself to take time to make myself a healthy snack. Instead of volunteering for the next activity, I took time to write.
And the guilt inevitably followed. Of course it would, right? You are acting pretty selfish. You sure seem to spending A LOT of time on yourself.
But I knew it had to be this way. If I continued down the path I had been on, it led straight to self destruction. I HAD to take care of myself, and so I started to realize that the guilt might actually be a lie that I had foolishly believed for a long time.
In order for me to have one ounce to give to my friends and family, I needed to learn how my own cup could fill up.
I booked massages. I went rollerskating because it made me really happy. I snuggled my new baby. I really listened to my son. I told God that I felt weighed down by all my questions and doubts and found a refreshing healing in that honest place. I cried with my therapist. I was honest with my husband. I was honest with myself.
And now 9 weeks in, I think I am starting to reach some of those forgotten places. The weight is starting to lift. It is like I am sucking in air all the way for the first time in a long time. I am not relying on the shallow breaths that kept me alive.
Rehab has been good for my soul.
I think I am starting to thrive… and just maybe, I am starting to shine.
Obviously, this is a very personal post for me to share (and part of me wants to push “publish” and then run away and hide). But I am sharing it for those of you who may feel the same. For those of you that might need to take a “rehab” journey of your own.
And I know I have a lot of infertility sisters that follow my blog. This is especially for you. Infertility (and grief in general) does a real number on our bodies and hearts, doesn’t it?
It feels SO SELFISH. And TOO HARD. And if you are like me, it took me a long time to even WANT the change I was pursuing. It was easier to stay depressed. To stay sad. To wallow in my losses. To feel that all the things taken from me was unfair.
But I know that I am a child of God and that I have a purpose on this earth. It would be such a shame to miss out on this big, beautiful, broken, amazing thing we call LIFE.
2016 is my year of health- inside and out. And although I am still getting the hang of this and still make the wrong choices sometimes, it is starting to feel more natural. And that feels SO GOOD.
If you want to know about the health products and supplements I am using, here is a link. I love them so much and they have really helped increase my energy and overcome a weight plateau. I would would love to pass them on to you!
There were so many of you on social media that encouraged me with your health posts and I am so grateful. Even though I couldn’t act on it then, it was a small seed that was planted. Thank you. I hope to be one of those “seed planters” for those coming behind me.
This was such a tender post for me to write. If you made it to the end, thanks for listening to my story. I hope it encouraged you.
Lots of love,