Going through the motions of Mom, Wife, and Human

You guys, I’m totally fine.

I mean, I was fine.

I thought I was fine.

I am “fine.”

It’s just that, I feel like I’m walking in the fog. I’m squinting to get around each corner of my day. I’m slowing, unsure of each step.

I mean, I’m able to mom well. I’m careful not to lose my temper,though I do, because I’m human. I give my children all of my love, which is very easy to do. They are my miracles in the flesh, thanks to adoption and their birth mothers. Their occasional sass reminds me that they too are human and I am clearly rubbing off on them.

Our four year old has tested our boundaries on a regular basis, which probably means he is a normal child. But man it’s hard. We look for the mode of discipline that says “We love you, please stop being a jerk.” He fights dinner every single night. I’m learning that I can’t FORCE him to eat. I can’t control his actions, I can only make suggestions and show him by example.

Our baby girl is walking now and is testing her limits with us and her brother. She pushes him and pushes us. She is damn cute about it too. She has gotten her brother in trouble probably more than I am aware of. She gets into everything and can’t quite understand why she isn’t allowed to play with electrical cords, though I think we are getting through to her. Hopefully!!

It’s a struggle to keep the tiny humans alive at times between self starvation and potential electrocution. All in all, they are pretty damn amazing. And cute. And smart. And manipulative. Perfect little humans. My perfect and imperfect little humans. I love them more than I can possibly describe. My daily journey with them is both mundane and adventurous.

There is our marriage. My husband has been very stressed out with his job and with his training. He just completed the Xterra World Championship triathlon race in Maui, Hawaii. You would think this is not stressful, but it is the world championships after all, and the most challenging Xterra race he has ever competed in, and he competed with elite athletes from around the world. High stress for him. The whole idea of traveling with kids over long distances is stressful. We had nine pieces of luggage and two children between the two of us adults. It was stressful. Hawaii was great, but getting there, racing, and getting home was stressful. He pushes himself hard in all ways, which is overwhelming for me to watch. He lives with minimal downtime due to his own passions, but it comes with a toll. I don’t dump my shit on him as often as I should. I don’t want to add to his list of things to keep up with, so I try to hold it together for him and just be a “good wife.”

Then there is my working out. I’ve put a lot of effort into working out. Into feeling that I have control over something in my life. Into allowing myself to BE STRONG physically. I can fake emotional strength, but I cannot fake physical strength.

Here is the part where my crazy comes out.

I have a workout plan that I am following. It’s five days a week and takes about an hour to ninety minutes to complete each workout. The first phase was strength training with no cardio, which was amazing because I hate cardio. Phase two added cardio, which then added 30 minutes to my workouts four days a week putting me at a solid ninety minute workout four days a week. All of this requires a gym.

Why does this matter?

Well, the gym daycare only allows babies three months to 15 months to stay in the daycare for 75 minutes, which worked for the first phase of my training. By phase two of my workout program her age would change and I would then get up to two hours of daycare at the gym. I only needed 90 minutes though. PERFECT!

Well, I was pumped and had it all planned out. I get to the daycare on her 15 month birthday and excitedly said, “She is old enough to stay for two hours now!”

They asked her age and corrected me by saying their rules state THROUGH 15 months I am only allowed 75 minutes. So she was not old enough yet. Simple misunderstanding right?

No.

I lost my shit.

I panicked.

I begged for just 15 extra minutes…just 90 minutes I said. They apologized and said they could not adjust the time for me as it was their policy.

Listen, I have hated working out for years. Since I was in high school. Here I am literally crying because I couldn’t workout for 90 minutes.

So I did my workout in tears for my 75 minutes, then picked up my kids from the daycare, in tears. Completely making a fool of myself.

I didn’t leave it at that…oh no. I contacted the director of the daycare and explained my situation and that the wording of the age policy was extremely confusing and they should allow me to leave my daughter in the daycare for 90 minutes. They then explained that they were actually increasing the age limit to 18 months and under to get only 75 minutes. They had found, it was too difficult for the minimal daycare staff they had to take all the little babies for two hours each.

I’m like, GREAT! I ONLY NEED 90 MINUTES!!

Ok, really Sheila? Is this about your 90 minute workout? Or is it about something else?

Here I am, lifetime hater of exercise, complaining to the management of a gym daycare that I can’t workout for 90 minutes because of their daycare policies. I’m still extremely embarrassed by my outburst and the reasoning behind it. I’m trying to figure out what the hell happened and why I was and am still so emotional about it.

It all comes down to control. I haven’t had control of my life in a long time. I haven’t had control over my fertility. I haven’t had control over the adoption processes. I didn’t have control of those embryos that didn’t survive the thaw.. I don’t have control over my sons willingness to eat dinner. I can’t control how fast my daughter turns 18 months. I don’t have control over the fact that my husband is exhausted every single night because he just wants to be passionate about his work as a triathlete and coach while also holding down a “real” job that actually pays the bills.

In the process of all of this, I’ve lost control of my body. I’ve lost control of my weight and my own physical strength. I’ve put so much focus on trying to spiritually control these outcomes by praying, manifesting, and visualizing success. It is physically exhausting to ‘think’ I had control over these things. I feverishly filled out forms from adoption agencies and fertility clinics. I diligently took my medications and gave myself shots. I make food that is kid friendly and do things for my husband that I think might make him less tired. I controlled what few physical things I could control and I controlled them well.

In the process of all this control, I put my emotional and spiritual body into full fledged panic mode. I see that now. I’m still figuring out how to reverse this now automatic reaction to anything I cannot control. If my body can’t control it, maybe my mind can. Right?

I found something else to control. My body.

When the daycare told me I couldn’t have that extra 15 minutes – they also told me I didn’t have control over my body. In my extreme mind’s version, I have control over nothing. My mind is solely focused on this one training plan. Apparently thinking it’s the “ONLY” plan that could work for me. Obviously, this is not the truth.

So, in the present time I sit knowing I have control over very few things. So I made a list.

Things Sheila can control:

  • Keeping a clean(ish) house (sans anything the kids can touch).
  • Continue physical exercise for a reasonable amount of time 3-5 days a week. Whether I hit my program goals or not. 60 minutes a day is REALLY GOOD. 30 minutes a day is totally fine. 90 minutes a day is bordering crazy. Don’t be crazy Sheila.
  • Showering…I can shower…showering makes me smell nice. I can totally control that.
  • Connecting with friends – in person and online.
  • Take vitamins. <– brain health…your brain needs all the help it can get Sheila.
  • Cook and plan healthy meals a few days a week. (not obsessively trying to hit 6-7 healthy dinners a week Sheila… settle down.)
  • Not using the F word.. (failure) – not being angry with myself for missing a workout day, cooking unhealthy meals, having a messy house, connecting with friends, missing a vitamin, etc.

So, that is an incomplete list. But I find if I list all the things out I become obsessed with the schedule and try to complete every item every day and then I lose my mind due to lack of control. Which ALMOST happened when I made this list.

I am trying desperately to live moment to moment. Having to ask myself if I’m doing this or that because I’m using it to cope with another feeling that I’m burying. It’s super confusing. I feel paralyzed by my total lack of control, but I want to fix my need to control. So I need to be still and carefully make choices.

Is that a healthy thought or an unhealthy thought? Do I act on that thought or let it pass by?

Anyway, thats where I am. Stuck in the fog. Just focusing on a few things I can do and trying to let go of the things I can’t control. Which is most things.

The only proper ending I can think of is this:

Let it go… let it go… Can’t hold it back anymore….

SC

Marriage in Movement

Dear God, It is 10:30 at night and I can literally not keep my eyes open two hours ago. Why do you insist on waking me so late in the evening to write? What gives? This better be good. Amen

That’s right, I got up out of my bed, put on a pot of tea, and started writing when I should be sleeping. I do not have the time nor the energy for this. I’ve got kids to raise! That requires sleep, my friends! And my kids sleep good. I am so lucky to have kids that sleep good. My GOD does not let me sleep. It’s like I’m kept awake until I get my fancy pants out of bed and on the computer. I’ve been promised some sort of ground breaking material so here I go.

My therapist reminded me after the embryo transfer failed, that when couples go through a loss of a child, they tend to turn away from each other. They sulk in their loneliness and hoard the grief all to themselves. We don’t automatically reach toward a friend or a loved one when we are grieving. We dive into ourselves and wait for it to pass. Except it doesn’t pass; it festers.

My husband had been distant. He was “doing” all the things and keeping very busy. I tried leaning into him, but he would push away as lovingly as he could. “I’m fine.”  He is the rock of the family after all. He has always been the stable one in all ways. Yeah, I’m not buying it.

I finally told him that if he didn’t tell me what was wrong I would assume he was mad at me. He rolled his eyes and said, that is definitely not what is going on. So I asked him to explain. It came down to his lack of control. He couldn’t control the outcome of our fertility treatments. He had experienced disrespect at work and felt as though he had lost some amount of control of that part of his job. We had just put our dog down that same week so he had felt helpless in that matter even though we chose to let him go peacefully. He is training for a big triathlon and is not feeling in control of his free time or training right now. He was not feeling like the rock. To him, it’s a black and white world for the most part. In control or out of control.

When I thought of it that way, I could understand his frustration. He wasn’t grieving in the same way I was. So I had to think of a way to be there for him that would help him most.

Now, I’m not what we would call a good housewife. I am not a perfectionist in any way. I hate doing dishes, laundry, or any cleaning, and can handle a good mess. So what I decided to work harder at was keeping the house clean. I pulled some of the “doings” away from him. He came home the next couple of days and just sat with the kids “being.” Although, one day he beat me to the punch and cooked dinner for us all. He is a pretty amazing guy like that.

 

Over the past 12 years of marriage I have gotten much better at helping him “do” and he has gotten much better at helping me “be.” I would say the first five years of our marriage our main arguments were over him pushing me to “do” all the time and me pushing him to “be” all the time.

  • Him: You need to clean the house right now!
  • Me: You need to be patient with me!

Then our arguments turned into arguments about our styles of arguing.

  • Me: You yell too much!
  • Him: Well, you don’t even respond to me!
  • Me: You aren’t showing me very much love!
  • Him: You aren’t showing me very much respect!
  • Me: *Silence*
  • Him: SEE!

(This is a paired down version of a 3-6 hour argument we had several times, generally in the middle of the night. Had we said these nice and clear things, it would have been better.)

Seriously people, this was our first five years. Marriage is hard.

Now here we are going through a hard situation and giving each other a break.  I mean we aren’t perfect; we did argue about something I cannot even remember before we left for a six hour road trip. We didn’t speak the whole time. I listened to a book on building my legend (because I am amazing) and he listened to podcasts about economics (because he is a nerd). Throughout our weekend with family we gradually relaxed. We lost the embryos and our dog in less than five days. It was a hard week to say the least.

We really have come a long way in our marriage. I’m not sure we would have handled that so well in the beginning of our marriage. It has taken a lot of work though. Our compassion for each other should come naturally, but it has come with hard work over a period of years.

I had a friend recently ask me how I got my husband into therapy with me all those years ago. I can’t really remember, so I asked him.

There are two things:

  • 1. I also recognized that there was an issue. and 2. Even though I didn’t think therapy would help (and even hated the stigma of therapy) it was just a matter of sucking it up and going anyway with an open mind. Ultimately it comes down to this: We are married and love each other. If one person feels that the marriage is slipping and believes that a specific intervention might help, it is the other person’s job (if they are fully invested) to give it a shot. – The husband

He went to every therapy session I asked him to go too. I cannot tell you how thankful I am he didn’t fight me on this. Therapists are not all created equal and we have had our share of crazies. He powered through all of the crazies with me. I’m not saying all therapists can save a marriage. Some folks go to therapists and decide to end their marriage.  Shit happens. I’m not saying our marriage is bulletproof. What I’m saying is we give every possible effort to strengthen our relationship where we can. Even then I know it may not be enough. Today we are strong, but who knows what we will look like in ten years. I’m hoping we continue the trend of strengthening our marriage.

We still argue, because we are humans. Humans disagree. That is normal. I am still snarky, because honestly, I don’t really know how to turn that off. He has learned to not react to my snarkiness most of the time. I get it, I can be hard to read with my sarcasm. Also, I can be hilarious. He may or may not agree all the time.

He is a really smart guy and I feel threatened sometimes. I don’t know why, but I do. I’ve learned to appreciate his knowledge…most of the time. Other times I get super annoyed, because I am human.

We have learned to give and take. Marriage is kind of an amazing shit show. What other human could you live with in the same space, continually, for the rest of your life. We leave our parents home at 18 – from people who have cared for us, loved us, and given us everything they could…and we run. Yet we find a mate and all of a sudden we are like, “Yeah, I could totally live with this person that I’ve known for a couple years for the REST OF MY LIFE!”

WHAT ARE WE THINKING??

You throw in personal growth over time; changing interests. Throw in some medical problems, family problems, financial problems, kids and gray hair. Everything changes. You are not the people you were when you met. You are not the people you were two years ago. Yet, here you are spending the rest of your life with this one person. Honestly, it’s a scary adventure. What’s going to happen next? Somehow we get comfortable with this. We understand how they move and adjust. They understand how we move and adjust. It becomes this synchronized mesh where we are kind of doing the same thing, but also attempting to be individuals as well.

Marriage is a balance that flows with time. It’s an imperfect dance.

So that is what God brought me. Relationship advice I guess. Even though I don’t feel qualified to be giving such advice.

Bottom line, don’t give up on a relationship that once had love, without a fight.

 

SheilaKChester

Damn the feelings!

Going to a therapist reminds me that I can’t, and shouldn’t, do it on my own. Going to church gives me the same feeling.

The difference is having someone to talk to one on one who can say what they see from a viewpoint completely different of my own. Someone who can help me decipher what God is trying to tell me and what my body is trying to tell me.

My viewpoint: I totally got this.
Therapist: You are burying it; let’s dig around

She called me out today.

Her: Let’s talk about anger.

Me: Anger? Why would we need to talk about anger? I’m totally fine.

Her: I want you to tell me what you could possibly be angry about.

**We play the silent game for a bit until it’s clear she has all afternoon to wait for me to answer her.

Me: Ok, well I mean, I’ve been dealing with infertility for ten years.. *clears throat* and.. I guess the embryos were a hard reminder that I’m still in it, and well, my husband’s dreams of having children genetically related to him are over, and my dreams of experiencing pregnancy are over. And I’m tired of throwing money at adoption and fertility treatments. *Tears welling up* And you know, it’s not like I can just “get over” infertility. It will follow me for the rest of my life. *Tears falling* And every month that I get my period is a reminder that once again I am still infertile and cannot grow my family in a way I had always dreamed I would. *Sobbing* And even when I’m through menopause and the kids are out of the house, they will be navigating relationships with not only me but also their biological mothers. *Ugly crying* And although I will always be their mother, I will never be their only mother. I will never be anyone’s ONLY mother.

*Weird breathing-asthma-attack-style-crying for a bit here*

Her: *also crying* We can’t go through the life force of grief without dealing with anger.

We continued on for a bit with conversation and crying. She then did energy clearing techniques on me and we prayed like we always do at the end of each session.

Dear Holy Spirit, please bring healing and peace to my heart.

She brought my reality back to light. I am angry. I am angry that I have a “condition” that seems to cause endless sadness. I have to live in it, silently suffering. Obviously I’m not so silent about it, but so many people are, and so many more people don’t know how to be with someone who is infertile, so maybe my writing it down will help lessen the awkward conversations out there.

Why do I have to continually go through these incredible disappointments? Is God punishing me? It’s hard to think I am not being punished or being taught a lesson like a child that can’t seem to listen. The truth is that Jesus came and died to save us from our sins. To save us from being punished. So based on this, I know I am not being punished. I feel like I am though.

Could it be that I am punishing myself over and over again for being a failure to my past dreams? Keep trying this treatment and that treatment and maybe that will cure me of my inability to create life.

I listened to a podcast yesterday that talked about women not having children out of choice. Like there are women out there that have absolutely no desire to be a mother. They can create other things in life and be totally satisfied in that. They can live a beautifully fulfilling life without needing to be a mother. There are other women how never had the desire to create life so they adopted. Why couldn’t I have been one of those women? Wouldn’t that be the dream for any infertile woman? Why do we have to go through the humiliation of broken lady parts or man parts or whatever. Humiliation because you have to answer all of the inappropriate questions that come your way. I hope your comfortable with your lady parts because people ask you all sorts of questions about them.

“So are you infertile or is your husband?” “Tell me about your lining” “Have you tried having sex?” “How often do you have sex?” “What is your husbands sperm count?” “Have you had your tubes cleaned out?” “Maybe your ovaries are dying.”

Please, let’s talk more about my vagina, uterus and ovaries.

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mother. Not an aunt or Godmother. A mother. I saw myself being pregnant and giving birth to become a mother. Adoption was never even something I considered. I didn’t know anyone adopted and really hadn’t heard much about it. It was a foreign idea. Talk about the power of visualization. I had it down. Except for the part where my reality did not catch up to that visualization.

I love my kids more than I can describe to you. I am their mother in every possible way. This is my reality. And it’s a pretty damn good one. It’s nothing that I had ever expected or dreamed of, but in a way it is. I get to do everything a mother does, because I am everything a mother is. I’m only missing the creation part – just those first nine months. Yet that creation part is the part I’m hung up on. I’ve only lost nine months, but really I’ve lost a lifetime. The mourning isn’t close to over. It’s constant. It’s there every month when my period comes and again I am not pregnant. Every pregnancy announcement my heart clenches a little tighter. When will this suffering end? When will I come out from this dream and just be satisfied with what I have (which again, is a lot of awesomeness)? When will I not want more? It feels like I’m doing my kids and my husband a disservice by not just “getting over” my infertility. Can I love them with all of my heart and soul and still be sad? 

It may not seem to the naked eye that I have lost anything on this infertility journey. The grief and mourning I am experiencing is because I have lost everything I thought was truth from childhood. A version of my reality has died. There is no memorial. There are no condolences. You don’t get flowers for having a broken reproductive system.

SheilakChester

Good Grief

I never understood grief. I still don’t really understand it. I’m starting to realize I’ve been living in grief for a very long time. Since the embryos were lost I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve been going back to the beginning of our journey and the memories and emotions are flooding back in.  

I’m looking at myself and my husband like characters in a film because it’s a little easier. It’s easier to think that wasn’t me going through that. It’s easier to think that another couple almost lost their marriage.

I’m also looking back and re-feeling a lot of those experiences despite my best efforts to shield myself from… myself.

I was very much hurting all of those years and I responded to people in a way that I’m not proud of. But in a way, I can’t blame myself for reacting the way I did. I didn’t even know I was grieving. I didn’t know what I was feeling. All I knew was my life was completely out of my hands. Any situation that could be stressful was blown up in my mind. I didn’t realize I was carrying a weight so heavy that even if a mouse climbed on my back I would crumble. 

Beyond dealing with my own grief, I did not realize others were grieving around me. How could I? I could barely see what was happening inside of me. I had no extra space for anyone else.

I look back now and can see how everyone around us felt the grief and dealt with it in their own way.  And then they had to deal with me.  I was short (in stature and in attitude).  If someone criticized me for being distant, I pretty much told them to fuck off. I had no room in my soul to decipher anyone else’s pain. I could only feel my own. In fact, I looked around and saw everyone else as happy and in no pain. I can see that differently now.

I can only imagine how our friends and family have dealt with our infertility. I’m not talking about how they dealt with us, I’m talking about how they dealt with their own loss through our infertility. I mean, Justin and I both struggled and changed. Our parents didn’t recognize us.  I’m sure they don’t understand their feelings about it either. Their kids are going through infertility and there is nothing they can do about it. They can make suggestions but ultimately they feel completely helpless. Who knows, maybe they even felt responsible. Was it my genetics that I passed onto my child…is that why they can’t have children? (The answer is no… no one is to blame.)

I remember when I was a child talking to my mom about when she would be a grandmother. “When you are a grandma, will you take my kids on trips?” “Will you teach them how to ride a horse?” And I always wondered, what would my parents be like as grandparents. It was always in the back of my mind from the time I was a child. I’m sure it was in the back of their minds as well.  It’s human nature to look toward your future generations. It is ingrained in us.  So when we couldn’t have children not only were our own dreams crushed, but our families dreams were crushed as well.

Then I see our brothers. Though brothers probably don’t dream of the day they would become uncles, they have probably thought about their children and their relationship with their cousins. I honestly don’t know because men don’t have those conversations. They keep those thoughts locked deep in their subconscious. Way below sports, sex, and career… and a thousand other things.

Personally I was very close to my cousins and loved my childhood with them. Many of my cousins are my best friends to this day. My brother and I didn’t have to discuss our expectations that our children would be close because we knew internally that we wanted our children to have our childhood. No matter the distance our children would be close.

So what happens when we can’t produce the other half of that cousin equation? Not only are our dreams crushed as potential parents but our dream of being close to the cousins is crushed. Will we remain close to our brothers? Will we remain close to our parents? We have nothing to give them but ourselves. There is no cute mini-sheila or mini-justin to break the in-law tension that occasionally happens. It’s just us. Our raw grieving selves.

I remember thinking all of this through in the midst of infertility, but not really putting it together in my mind as grief. We couldn’t be there to support our family through their own grief because ours was too intense. We couldn’t even be there for each others grief. We were each in it alone. We didn’t even see them as having to grieve this. Not until now really.

Our relationships with our families even now with our children have been defined by our infertility journey. A lot of things were said that can’t be taken back. Feelings were hurt. There is still tension. There is a different kind of closeness. The wounds of infertility have forever affected the relationships I have with my husband, our families, and close friends.

I can look back at that time and apologize for every moment I reacted based on my inability to understand what I was feeling. My inability to see my depression and grief.

How do you say, “I’m sorry for how I behaved when I was sad.”

You don’t really want to apologize for your own sadness but there are wounds that will take a very long time to heal from the words you spoke. Is sadness a legitimate excuse? Why didn’t I take care of myself better? Why didn’t I go to a therapist sooner? Why didn’t I get on depression medication sooner? Grief is an asshole that comes and goes as it pleases. One day you’re fine, the next you’re a train wreck.

I know that people avoided me during this time in my life. I was a different person. I wish I could have avoided me. I wish I could have avoided the entire situation! But ultimately it shaped me into the woman I am today… and I wouldn’t change that. It shaped our marriage in a way that has created a powerful strong connection today. A marriage that survives trauma and continues to survive it… MUST be strong.

This experience created the family I have today. I can see clearly now the rain is gone. Without the rain I wouldn’t be sitting in my sweaty workout clothes feeding my sweet baby spoonfuls of hummus (which inevitably end up all over her body) and typing away like I am some sort of professional “writer”.

You guys, infertility is a shit show. It is a mess. It won’t kill you physically, but it will crush you emotionally. How the hell do I write that in a way that will get across to a population that is so vastly different from me?  Hopefully you get what I’m saying here because I’m STILL lost in the confusion of grief right now.  I’m fairly certain I will be grieving for a lifetime.  I cannot procreate as nature intended. Luckily I can procreate as God intended.

By the grace of God and my and Justin’s tenacity as a couple and as individuals, I am a mother and he is a father. I have the most incredible children and I am forever grateful… and still grieving the loss of our children that will never be. Our current children cannot replace those that were lost. They are individuals that were meant to be in our life. I cherish them for exactly who they are and who they will become. I am loving every moment of their growth. Even when my son asks me why I have a big butt. I love the hell out of that kid. More than I could have ever imagined I could love ANYONE. And my daughter… she is a light in my world and has brought me through some serious shit in the past year.

My kids aren’t here to fix my grief. They are here to grow with me and love with me. I pray I get that message across to them clearly. That is an entire post in itself. Chat with you soon! 

 

S.C.

When Fire Consumes Your Soul

Sometimes God calls you to do amazing things. Sometimes you hear it loud and clear. THIS IS YOUR CALLING!! So you run into the fire with God as your shield standing behind you saying THIS IS THE WAY!

Today, the fire consumed me.

We have been pursuing embryo adoption since 2014. The summer of 2015 we tried two transfers, both ending with a momentary pregnancy. We spent the next year searching for more embryos. We went through two failed matches so we decided to start the long adoption process again. Three months into starting that adoption process we got a call that we were matched. It took 2 months to approve that embryo match and another 6 months to receive the embryos at our clinic. The same time we were working on our adoption home study. It was taking FOREVER. We were at 6 months into the home study and I was calling the agency daily to get them to move along. I started medications for the embryo transfer and one week later we got a call from our adoption agency that they had a child for us. Now it was all happening at once. All of the babies at one time. I could see the miracles happening before us. I was truly living inside a miracle.

Our sweet girl came home and our lives were perfect. We delayed the transfer by a year. God gave us this child and these embryos for a reason. Then for some icing on the cake HE encouraged me to try breastfeeding and I did. I successfully breastfed my daughter for six months. Just enough time to get started on the next round of fertility treatments.

And here I am today, waiting for the nurse to call me to tell me the embryos are perfect. As I’m driving to drop the kids off at daycare a song comes on the radio.

Let me preface this a bit by explaining that I just started listening to Christian music on the radio. I’m pushing myself deeper into my spirituality so my challenge to myself (and from my friend) was to start listening to Christian music.

So a song comes on the radio.

I’d never heard it before, but I’ve only been listening to Christian radio for about a month so no shocker. But I listened intently to her words. Thy Will Be Done. In my prayers every night I’ve been adding, May Gods Will be my will. But ultimately may Gods Will Be Done. My spiritual counselor said this to me many times last week as well. Thy Will be done.

So what’s the story?

My nurse called after I dropped the kids off to say that the first two embryos didn’t survive the thaw. I held it together, because I had two left.  She recommended I stay relaxed and take a valium… I’m not gonna argue. So I took my valium and downloaded the song and listened to it again. What is God trying to tell me? This doesn’t sound like an uplifting song.

My nurse called me at 11am… she was sobbing. The remaining embryos didn’t survive. My heart sank.

She said the embryologist and fertility doctor were devastated. They were honestly trying to figure out if they had any embryos designated for donation that they could give me today.

The first time I walked into this fertility clinic was 7 years ago. I’ve been working with them on and off for 7 years in-between adoptions. They are truly friends.

Now what?

The words God gave me in my prayers last night were this:

For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

Deuteronomy 16:15

The truth is, my Joy is complete. I am no longer chasing “more”. More will come if it is His Will. More in all ways. More love will come in children, in my marriage, in my soul.  God tells us to expect miracles, so maybe in some way this was a miracle to bring me more joy. I just can’t see that through the smoke right now. I do know its out there.

I pray this adds to my story. I’m wearing my wonder woman shirt today, because I’ve got this. I can cry today and mourn the loss of these children that will never be. Tonight I will hug my complete family tight knowing that they are my dreams come true. They are my people brought out of miraculous circumstances.  My husband, my son, and my daughter. Miracles from God.

Today I walked into the fire with God by my side. I feel Jesus in my heart, the Holy Spirit in my head and the true love of God engulfing me like a fire blanket.

Infertility has rocked me to my core. It has made me hateful, angry, depressed, anxious,… and then something changed… it has made me loving, compassionate, complete. Infertility pulled me away from God and then brought me back in grand fashion.

No matter your fire, you are never alone and there is a bigger story to be told.

Discover the stillness of the cyclone.

Sheila K Chester

 

Thy Will by Hillary Scott

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know you’re good But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

What Adoption Biological Contact Looks Like… For our Family

I am not an expert in adoption. I’ve only been “in it” for 4 years. I am a loving mother hoping and praying I’m doing the right thing for my kids by telling them and showing them the truth.

Last week we met with both of my childrens’ biological mothers.  Many of my non-adoption friends were weirded out by this. I understand. It’s a weird situation, but here is what it looks like for us.

Our sons biological mother met us with her boyfriend and his son at a local park, though I have been to her house and she has been to mine.  When we saw her last week, she was the happiest I’ve seen here in the last 4 years we have known her and that made my heart very happy. Her life isn’t perfect just as ours isn’t perfect, but to us she is an angel. She is the one who made us parents. Our son deserves to know his and our angel. He is only four and doesn’t quite understand our relationship with her. We tell him that he grew in her belly and she (and him) picked us to be his parents.

“I bet you kicked her belly really hard when she looked at our profile book.”

We all call her by her first name. He doesn’t have deep conversations with her about how he came to be (yet) but they just enjoy each others company. Really he just runs around like a crazy four year old and she watches him and laughs. We have no preset RULES on how and when we see her, we just text or fb message each other and say “hey, lets get together.”

Yeah, it’s different, but it is what it is.  It in no way makes me feel like less of a mom. My child comes home with me and has his temper tantrums when I’m at the grocery store, gives me wet kisses, and pees all over my floors. It’s magical. This also in no way makes her less of a mom. She gave him life. We are not better or worse than one another. We are both his mother. He may never call her ‘mom’…. or maybe he will someday… but she is not my competition. She is my angel.

We met with our daughters biological mother at her home this past week as well. We met more of her extended family and the kids played and played. We celebrated our daughters first birthday together. It was honestly a good time. Our daughter has a biological half sister as well. We plan on encouraging a sister like relationship for them. I’m not sure how, but I’m designing a book for them both now.

The main difference between me parenting my children and you parenting your biological children is the conversations we occasionally have about adoption. When we visit their biological families we say that we are vising OUR family. Because they are OUR family. We don’t talk about adoption everyday, but if we see a form of adoption on tv or in nature we briefly compare adoption stories. “She is adopted just like you.” We have created their baby books with their adoption story in it so they can pick it up anytime and ask questions or ignore it completely. Mostly the adoption conversation is child-led. I’m just there to answer questions. I’m certain adoption will get more complex as they get older, but this is where we are today with two small children.

Not all adoptive families have contact with their childrens biological family. I consider myself lucky to have the relationships I do with my childrens families.  I consider myself lucky to even know these women! My children get their beautiful looks from them and parts of their personality from them. They get a lot of their personalities from my husband and I as well. It’s funny to see them grow into the tiny humans they are. I want to know as much about their biological families as possible – especially things that might help me better parent our children.

I can say with 100% certainty that I deeply love my childrens biological mothers. Not only for their decision to place their children with us, but also for their decision to maintain contact with us. It cannot be easy for them to see us raising these little people that look like them. They gave up a LOT when they placed their children with us and I KNOW that they know that.  I hope they know that I know that.

What about their biological fathers you ask? We would love a relationship with them as well, but thus far neither has had much interest. I’ll keep track of them and continually invite them to speak with us, but I also don’t want to push them away. It’s a fine line. My children may want to look for them and meet them someday and I want to help them as much as I can. 

I want our children to know and understand the truth – whether we continue to have contact with their biological family or not. I understand anything can happen and tomorrow we could lose touch with either or both of these amazing women (which would devastate me). But for today, this is what we are doing.

There are no two adoption stories that are the same. There is no one perfect way to parent. Just be real with your kids.

This is our “plan”. We are wing’in it.

Where the Spirit leads me

My spirits (aka angels, consious, guides, ect), of late, have been somewhat forceful and put themselves in the lead. So much so that they woke me up tonight and “forced” me to write this.

I’ve been delaying writing this one but they keep me awake at night pushing me to share. Nothing like another crazy Sheila story. You are welcome.

The last month has been quite eventful and I’m starting to pay attention. I’ve been seeing an “energy therapist” for a year now. She has helped me understand my path in life and really tune into my body, mind, and spirit. Since seeing her I’ve been capable of manifesting incredible things, including my daughter, breast milk, amazing friends, and now pregnancy. (See what I’m doing there, manifesting, that’s what)

My body and soul have been pushing me to dig deeper. My body is literally speaking to me through pain, tiredness, energy, dreams, and literal voices in my head.

I’ve been asking my body what it needs to be fulfilled. I heard, be strong. So I hired a personal trainer and got strong. I loved it! I became obsessed with becoming strong. Then I pushed harder, went longer and my body said REST. I resisted.

I cannot rest! I must be strong. I must lose weight. I must gain muscle. Lose fat. Yes, that’s what it wants. I stopped listening and kept DOING. Soon my body retaliated. My back began to ache so i worked around it.

Failure.

Then my knee goes out. I rehab quickly again and jump back into it. I went to my energy healer. She said REST. I continued to train. GET STRONG is what I wanted.

Then, my back went out so bad that I couldn’t move. Bulging disc with nerve pain shooting down my leg. I couldn’t even lift my baby girl. I had time to think about my situation. I returned to my spirits. They said REST! I was frustrated. First you say get strong then you say rest. What the hell does that even mean?? Am I talking to myself here? Oh, I am? Well, it’s not the first time.

In the time my back was healing, I overcame some fears and helped a friend in labor, I was rocked by the news that another friend had terminal cancer leaving her young son behind, and rocked by more news that my home town lost a young man. I reflected on many of my friends suffering. A friend who lost a child a year ago. A friend who is dealing with her childs persiatant brain tumor. All this suffering just within my circle. I’m paying attention.  

God, what are you telling me? What do you mean by REST?

When my people are in need my reaction is to fix it. When my body is broke my reaction is to fix it. My mind was racing… how can I fix these things? I started to develop a rash. Seriously my body is speaking to me and I just keep DOING. This rash is where I have gotten shingles in the past. It was a warning. I had to stop my mind. Its been 10 years since I’ve had shingles. Why now? I’ve been under much worse stress than this moment.

My fertility nurse called to say a few of my blood tests came back wonkey and I needed to start on some medications. These are blood tests I’ve had done several times in the last few years and always come back normal. My angels are messing with my test results now. I should probably pay attention.

I’m listening now. REST.

Rest your mind, they said. Open your eyes to what is happening around you and rest your mind. Allow the spirit to work within you. Muscle strength is good, but I need to also strengthen my soul. Love my people. Love myself. Surround myself with souls that build me up. Surround myself with energy that brings me peace.

So I meditate and pray in my sanctuary. My war room. My meditation room. With my Bible and my angel cards and my crystals and my journal.  God almighty with all His angels are here guiding me, calming me, and strengthening me.

With the help of meditation, the beginnings of that rash is gone. I’d say it’s unbelievable, but I know better. I no longer have pain in my knee or my back.  With in 10 days of having a bulging disc I have NO PAIN. Rest. I’m learning to just BE THERE for my friends as they and I go through life altering events. I’m learning to BE HERE for my body. I’m learning to be gentle and kind with myself. I am no longer in fix it mode. I am just here, listening.

Now that my mind is clear, I can see the road signs guiding me down my God given path. I always thought my path included money and great success, but great success is in the eye of the beholder and money is just a tool that comes and goes. I have both.     

I am exactly where I am supposed to be. It has taken me years to understand this. I am RIGHT where I am supposed to be. I am not missing out on anything, I am living in the now. I have amazing things ahead of me that I am very excited about; but today I am resting, loving my little ones, lifting and loving my husband, soaking in the energy and love of my dear friends and learning to love and trust my mind and body.

I will not race to my next destination. I will sit here and soak in the gifts that God has lovingly bestowed upon me in His perfect timing.

Patience is a difficult practice. But it is just that, a practice.

I know this was a little off from what I have posted in the past, but I want to be able to sleep tonight and I am told by sharing these thoughts, I can rest.

Thank you for getting to the end! I hope a part of this resonated with you this morning. Thank you for being a part of my life and supporting me in all the ways that you do.

With my deepest Love and Gratitude,

SheilaKChester

Deflated but Elated

The boob saga has come to a close.

What an amazing run it has been. Six months of breastfeeding!! But alas, it is time for our next phase.

My goal was to hit six months of breastfeeding with my sweet little girl and we hit that! I got so much joy from nursing her – comforting her and feeding her with my own milk.  I’ll never forget those moments we had in the middle of the night where I could just get up and go to her without having to fuss with making a bottle. The entire process was a total miracle in every sense of the word.

A month ago I stopped taking my essential oils (fennel/basil) and medication to help with milk supply (Domperidone), and finally I have stopped getting drops of milk. My milk makers have deflated; I loved them dearly. Yes, my boobs. It was one of the many highlights of this experience.

Baby girl had no problem transitioning back to the bottle, and though I do miss our intimate time together, I am glad to be done. I still cannot get over what a miracle that really was. Not everyone produces as much milk as I was able to get. Many women get huge hormonal imbalances as well, I didn’t observe many changes in that aspect. One change I did notice was some weight gain, but I can live with that.

Being able to nurse my child has built such an incredible bond between her and I. I’m not saying I don’t have that same bond with my son, but I wish I could have added that extra layer of attachment when he was an infant. Being able to nurse made me feel more feminine, something I’d been searching for. Infertility has made a direct attack on my feminine heart. I feel like being able to nurse was very healing for me in that aspect. I feel like I’m becoming a whole person rather than an adoptive mom who couldn’t have her “own” children. No one said this to me, I projected it onto myself.

My hope is that the next time I breastfeed, the milk will come in naturally after birth.  No pills or feverishly pumping, massaging, and coaxing my milk to come in.

Next time?

You see, we are trying for #3 or #3 and #4 — however that works out. Although my husband might lose his shit if a #5 sneaks in there.

A month after our sweet girl was brought home, we were notified that we had received embryos from our embryo adoption agency. It wasn’t a total surprise. We had signed up with them and accepted this set of embryos, but we were over six months into the match and things were moving so slowly. I was feeling as if nothing would work, so we jumped the gun and got on an adoption list as well. Ultimately we decided we were willing to continue with the embryos even if we received a child through adoption. So here we sit; potentially a family of five or six.  We could also remain a family of four, and that’s ok too. I’m starting to FINALLY come to terms with the unknown of our future.

In 2015, we adopted embryos as well. We transferred twice that summer, and both transfers “almost” took. As in, I was confirmed pregnant for nano-seconds (aka a few days). It was exciting to know I could potentially get pregnant, but there was so much more that needed to happen to produce a living child.

The statistics for embryos taking is about 40 percent per embryo.  So there is a 40 percent chance (x4) that we could have more children. We have four little “snowflakes” (the name termed for frozen embryos) waiting for us at our fertility clinic here in Colorado. We will likely transfer 1-2 at a time, but there is always a chance that those embryos won’t even survive the thaw. I think the statistic is 65 percent survive the thaw. All I know for sure is that, statistically speaking, if we don’t attempt to transfer the embryos, we will have no more children. So many numbers and statistics I could drown in. Thank goodness for an amazing fertility nurse and clinic that keeps all that information so I don’t have to.

At this point, it is up to God. I’m ready and willing to accept whatever path we are given…as long as it ends in a minivan. Because seriously, this mama deserves a minivan after nine years of intense family planning. 

Our embryo transfer will happen sometime this year if all goes as planned… which it never does.

SheilaKChester

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This is Us

This is us.

The show that has everyone experiencing a straight up emotional back hand. Thank you television for making me feel my emotions. Something I’ve tried to avoid for my entire 35 years.

Not only does this show evoke emotion in me, but it evokes emotion in my husband. I have never seen him react in any manner after a show or movie other than… that was good. But there is something about this show that digs deep into his soul. It’s not just the adoption party that catches us, its the relationships. Life is a series of relationships and this show captures those relationships with vigor.

For one, watching Randall connect to both his biological father and his adoptive father has my husband on his knees. I get why Randalls mother didn’t want him to know his biological father. It’s fear. Fear that our children can’t love two people with similar titles at once. Yet as parents, we can love more than one child. Why wouldn’t we expect our children to do the same?

The last episode where Jack and Rebecca got into a huge fight before she kicked Jack out of the house…. We were both stunned. We had that fight. We had that fight several times. Before finally deciding to build our family through adoption, we were at each others throats. We were on the verge several times of just giving up on our marriage. I wanted to leave. I was tired. And it seemed there was no end in site. We were stagnant in life and blamed each other for our lack of movement. It’s because I wouldn’t do IVF. It’s because Justin didn’t want to adopt until we tried all medical options. It was because we were tired and blamed ourselves for this infertility. I’m sure we had other selfish issues on top of the infertility that played a role in our bickering.

It probably doesn’t help that the same day we watched this last episode, was the day of our monthly marriage counseling. I was expressing some insecurities I had and didn’t feel like I was being understood. I left that session feeling tired and confused.

That night, after the show, Justin turned the tv off stood up and looked at me. He stared for a moment and then said, “I think you are the most beautiful woman in the world. You are gorgeous. The way you look is beautiful. Your heart is beautiful. The way you are a mother is beautiful. You are a beautiful, gorgeous woman and wife. I’m sorry I don’t say that enough.”

Cue Tears. And silence.

I didn’t know what to say. I’d been so hard on myself the past several months (probably years) for not being enough. I’ve been steadily gaining weight for the past 5 years and I’ve finally hit a tipping point. I feel unattractive, undesirable, and unlovable. He was telling me those thoughts in my head weren’t true.

I am attractive, I am desirable, I am lovable.

I hugged him for a long time then we were off to bed. I feel like my response to his outpouring of love was sub-par. I don’t know how to take compliments like these? Automatically my mind said, he is lying. He is just trying to make you feel better. But he wasn’t lying. He was sincere. My husband opened his heart to me to try to explain to me how much he loved me.

How do I turn of that internal voice that is so mean to me? Those thoughts?

Forgiveness.

I forgive myself for gaining the weight. I forgive myself for being so angry all those years. I forgive myself for having those hateful thoughts about myself.

That’s all I can do.

To love someone else is easy. To love yourself, well that’s another story.

Time to build that relationship with myself. I wonder, if I had as much love for me as my husband does… how would my life be different. Well, hopefully I will find out soon enough.

– Sheila Chester

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Why WE Will Never Stop Going to Therapy

The first time my husband and I went to therapy was for pre-marital counseling with our pastor. A requirement for our pastor to marry us. We learned a lot about each other that we had been struggling with through our short relationship. Single ladies and gents… relationships are hard. They take work. A lot of work. If you go into a relationship not willing to give it 100% of your mental and physical energy, then you should probably stop now. Shit happens. Humans are just that, human. We make mistakes. We say things we don’t mean… or we say things we do mean that are mean. We say things in anger and in fear. We say things in the heat of the moment that we cannot take back. If everyone gave up in that moment, there would be no relationships ever.

Our first year of marriage we were lucky to be a part of our churches newly wed small group. We loved that group. Everyone argued over silly things like laundry and dishes. Do the forks face up or down? Yes we all got in serious arguments over ridiculous things. Especially that first year of figuring out how to live with each other. So many arguments about in-laws on all sides of the marriage. We were not so different after-all.

My husband and I have been in and out of therapy since that first year of marriage trying to find common ground in silly arguments… and those not so silly arguments.

Fertility problems triggered a big set of arguments for us. Our equal frustrations created a huge gap in communication as well as a loss of respect for each other. Blaming ourselves and each other for our lack of a child. We would go from therapist to therapist trying to find one that would fit my emotional needs and my husbands logical needs. It was a difficult process. In fact, we had one therapist suggest we get a divorce. She didn’t last very long. Another therapist suggested sex therapy. Nothing like discussing your (lacking) bedroom shinanigans with a total stranger. I’m sure there are good sex therapists but this was not one of them.

One therapist (ok she was a psychic) suggested we stop discussing divorce and start getting along like grown ass adults. Our marriage was not slotted to end in divorce. I don’t know if it was that she was a psychic or if that I really had not heard this statement before that got me to thinking. Either way, I started to see the hurt in my husbands heart and really tried to find that synergy we had when you first got married. When I opened my eyes and heart to his, he opened his to mine. Weird how that worked. A simple act of forgiveness can truly change the entire future of a marriage. Really, I was forgiving myself. My self-hate was coming out in anger toward my husband. He was just reacting to my crazy. It was a whole mess of crazy up in here. When I lessened the crazy, he lessened the reactions. We started to synergize again.

It was then we decided to adopt. Can you imagine any agency accepting a crazy couple like us? Every agency we asked regarding counseling and therapy congratulated us on our work on ourselves and our marriage and said it would have no affect on the adoption process. There were some international countries that wouldn’t accept families in counseling due to their out dated beliefs thinking therapy was for the seriously mentally ill.

We finally had a plan of action that almost guaranteed we would be a family of 3 sooner or later. Granted it didn’t make the waiting any easier. But we were finally in it TOGETHER in it. We were equally waiting. No blame. No guilt. Just waiting together.

We went through a hard failed adoption together and it made us stronger yet. Holding a child in your arms and then having her taken away makes you dig deep to just get up in the morning. But we endured it together.  Being fully TOGETHER is something we had never truly experienced.

When we were placed with our son we blossomed even more.

Even though our lives seemed put together we still had our moments. This past year we jumped back into therapy head first. We went in because we kept getting in arguments over the dishes… yes 10 years later… the dishes is what we fight about. Turns out dishes was actually my fear of becoming a dreaded ‘housewife’. Which I had some negative stereotypes against. I’ll discuss some of the changes I personally experienced in another post.

This new therapist is one we can both really connect with. My husband gets his logical needs met and I get my emotional needs met. We are both told to get our heads out of our asses and given homework to do. This therapist understands job security really well and keeps finding things we can work on as individuals and couples. The thing is, we are doing it! We are doing everything we are told to do. We are enjoying our sessions and looking forward to them each month. The dishes argument is still around… because seriously…. I hate the dishes. But we have other issues that come up… individually and as a couple. Sometimes our sessions are just a hooRAH session about how awesome we are doing as a couple…. because some days we totally kick ass at marriage. And some days… we argue about the dishes.

therapy-is

The point of me telling the internet this is that I know SO MANY couples who refuse to go to counseling. They refuse to get help in any way. They think therapy is for sick people or they finally agree to go when its too late. They think their religion is their therapy… or their sister is their therapy. Your sister is ALWAYS going to side with you!!   If your religion is your therapy, see your pastor! You need a third party to come in and tell you the truth. You need a third party to help your decipher your SHIT!

We went to therapy over the freakin’ dishes people! It’s never about the dishes! It’s always something deeper.

But I’m too busy with the kids. I’m too busy with my job. We don’t have the money right now. It’s JUST NOT a priority right now.

What happens when you don’t make your marriage a priority? What if you took your marriage more seriously than your ego?

It doesn’t take too much thought to know the answer to that.

Look. Divorce happens. I’m not saying I’m against divorce. It has its place and in many instances it’s necessary. I’m just saying, unless your physically beating the crap out of each other, give it everything you got before it gets to the big ‘D’. Before it even starts to get to that point.

-Sheila

A note from my husband: 

I’ve been going to therapy for quite some time now, many times with my wife, sometimes by myself.  Is there anything “wrong” with my marriage?  Nope.  Is there anything “wrong” with me?  Nope.  But that doesn’t mean that my marriage can’t be stronger or that I can’t be a stronger pillar in my marriage; it doesn’t mean that I can’t be better at dealing with stressful situations; and it doesn’t mean that I can’t be a better father…and that is why I no longer have a problem discussing with folks that I go to therapy pretty regularly.  The stigma that therapy is only for those who are “broken” or for marriages that are on the verge of failure needs to go away – therapy is for anyone who wants to grow, anyone who wants additional tools to handle the stresses of life more effectively.  I enjoy therapy for that very reason – I enjoy the personal introspection that I must do to grow, and I think many more people can benefit from therapy if we remove the notion that “I’m not broken, therefore I don’t need to go to therapy.”  Try it…you’ll like it, or at the very least, you’ll learn something.

-Justin Chester, Physicist, 4x Ironman finisher, Triathlon coach, involved father, devoted husband, Mans Man.

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