A couple of weeks ago, I shared a blog post from Carrie Alexander at The Tired Girl. Here is my interview with the mastermind behind the hilarious blog and her touching and relatable posts…
When she’s not writing for her blog, The Tired Girl, Carrie Alexander spends her time: petting her dog; avoiding yard work; sewing things with straight lines; overbuying cardigans; staring at her husband; working full-time from home; and finding ways to make dinner using the least amount of dishes possible. Carrie graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Public Relations from and currently works with teachers across the country helping create successful blended and online programs.
The Tired Girl is where you can find Carrie’s Thank You Hormones series: http://www.thetiredgirl.com/p/thank-you-hormones.html
Find her on social media at: Facebook and Instagram
Reach Carrie directly at: email@example.com
The title of your blog section about your infertility experience is "Thank You Hormones." Can you explain why you chose that title?
It came from a place of deep bitterness! Which I assume is where lots of good ideas come. My whole life was lined up for me to be a mom. Everything was ready to go. But these hormones would not cooperate. I want to cuss about it – they would not fucking cooperate. I looked like the picture of health and yet every month – nothing. As we got deeper in to the world of infertility I felt like my body was my biggest enemy. It was like talking a bad employee into doing the most basic tasks – this body was what I needed to create a healthy life and this body, and specifically the hormones, were making me a crazy person and making a crappy situation exponentially worse.
You think you feel bad on a normal month of hormones – well once you spend THOUSANDS of dollars to inject crazy-inducing drugs in to your body, you really feel like shit. I was so raw – I just needed these terrible words and thoughts out of my body. I was not embarrassed about how I felt, and I guess because I already had a blog I pressed publish. Then when people responded it felt like my world got smaller - I connected with others that had similar grief. And people that would have never known what was happening had a front row seat to my feelings.
I took the ability to comment off of the posts, because I didn’t even want there to be a way for people to say anything. I didn’t need approval or disapproval and I didn’t want empty comment boxes. This wasn’t about other people, as jerky as that sounds. These were my thoughts – read them or not.
I was in so little control of my body that the one thing I could control were my feelings and how I chose to share them on my blog. “Thank you hormones” is what I would say to myself when I was feeling particularly shitty. But one of my favorite sayings is “where there is crisis there is opportunity,” so though I originally said “Thank you hormones,” sarcastically, it began to mean genuinely thanking the good things emerging from a place of frustration.
How did you first know you were dealing with infertility?
I started to worry after my second unsuccessful round of Clomid. My mom and both my grandmothers had been plenty fertile, and I had always been regular. I took birth control for 13 years because of my painful periods, but I had never heard the word endometriosis. I blame my doctor for that – sometimes there are things to blame and I blame him for part of this – he should have fucking educated the young women that were in his examining room. Just use the words to tell them what they may be experiencing. As soon as I told him I had such terrible periods he was like “No worries girl – I got you. Here are drugs.” And I took them.
So, after I was off of the birth control for a year and didn’t get pregnant he did recommend a fertility doctor. I am thankful he did that at least.
My grandmother had the “dye test” 50 years before and she got pregnant right after that – so I didn’t think too much of it really. My first of month of Clomid I thought I was going to die – ha! If I only knew how much worse it was going to get. The Clomid made me so uncomfortable – so much pain – and I was starving. I would stop at Taco Bell on the way home from work – and that was not in my character. I thought I’d be eating for two in no time. So that was the beginning of this new me of pain and comfort eating and a new world of infertility treatments. The weight start coming on little bits at a time and after the second round of Clomid (another miserable experience), I was like “well shit.”
What happened once it was determined?
It was a slow burn. Just one test after another. We had the post coital test three times to make sure everything really was good there. I did about four rounds of Clomid and then we ramped to IUIs. Because the infertility was not definitive, it was like my motherhood was right around every corner. Each month, each test, each vitamin, and anecdotal story was taken into consideration. “Gin and tonics.” “Doggy style.” “Just relax.” “Raspberry tea.” “Take a trip.” “Give it time.” “Acupuncture.” “Pick a fight.”
About a year in I became depressed. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. But I would cry almost every night when I’d get home from work to get my sadness out before my husband came home. I wanted escapism. I wanted a different life than trying to get pregnant. I didn’t want to continue this torture and I didn’t want to stop either. I felt stuck. After a few months of the crying I decided if I didn’t feel better in a few weeks I would tell my doctor. But the school year ended and I had the summer to relax. We bought a new house. I was surrounded by love and happiness and so thankfully the sadness let up.
I did get more clinically depressed a few years later though. After our last round of IVF the hormones just kind of stuck around and this mixed with the grief I felt over the death of our beloved dog. The grief was debilitating, and months later it sill gripped my body. Where I could feel the hormones dissipate in the past it didn’t happen in the same way. I had zero successful coping mechanisms. Frankly I was a mess. Turns out jamming needles full of hormones had lasting effects on me and I was cooked. I went on antidepressants and felt better. I had to do the work of solving the infertility puzzle for my own heart. But the antidepressants gave me a break from the sadness. I also gained another 15-20 pounds. But I wasn’t fucking sad!!! Just chubby. Good times.
You had planned to adopt-can you talk about what happened?
It’s a classic story where a woman decided to keep her own baby. Ha!! But the details to that point were painful, of course. A mutual acquaintance put us together. She was quite young – couldn’t even drive when she got pregnant. We got her on Medicaid, and into a great doctor so she could deliver at the best hospital. I took the day off work each month, drove hours, to take her to every doctor appointment because no one in her life would. And every time I spent the day with her I would come home and cry (are you sensing a pattern here – I. AM. A. CRIER.) It was such an emotional rollercoaster. I needed her to love this baby inside her enough to take care of it. And I needed her to love it enough to give it to us. That was a lot to ask of a person. Also, I could sense that she didn’t like me – for reasons I understood. It was tough.
My husband and I decided to decorate a nursery though – we wanted to be prepared, optimistic, and it gave us something fun to do. Joe said something like, “It’s going to be shitty if she changes her mind, but we might as well be prepared.” And he was right. Decorating the nursery was so much fun. I sewed beautiful curtains and focused on lots of details that had meaning to us. It was such a pretty room and it made me happy to put it together, because the idea of taking this little being home was frankly terrifying. Again – so many things I didn’t have any control over, that it felt good to have something of my own in the process. I won’t go into all of the details. The plans for baby showers, the name we picked, the ways we protected ourselves, the ways we didn’t, the reasons we didn’t think we need to protect ourselves.
A week or two before she was due she changed her birth plan and I knew it was over. I talk about this in my blog. She did change her mind after the baby was born. The care that we showed her and the lack care of she took to tell us was painful. Are you sensing a pattern here too? THIS. WAS. PAINFUL. I came to peace with it though and came to peace with her. I was like a zombie for a few weeks but she would have had a hole in her forever. I understand why she kept her own baby and I don’t blame her for that. It worked out the way it was supposed to.
My feelings about adoption are complicated and even though I am happy to cuss I don’t want to offend anyone with my adoption views. We had a second failed adoption after that, but it wasn’t as personal as the first one, but that part of me just closed up. I am not interested in people telling me I should have tried harder. This is my story. And I was done with that.
My advice if you are looking to adopt – is to go through an actual agency or get a really good adoption attorney. Our attorney just floated along. The social worker that was involved was nowhere to be found when our birth mom delivered a baby at 16, and her own mom who did nothing to take care of her, in fact was crying for her to keep the baby. Where the fuck was her support? Not to talk her in or out of it, but to help her. So, make sure you have LOTS of support for you and birth mom. Don’t assume everything is cool – make sure professionals are very involved.
You write that you “have improved as a human through this process.” Can you talk more about that?
My heart is softer where it used to be so more black and white. I am more understanding of people, situations, and the idea that people struggle with something and still have to go to work every day. I am so much less judgmental about the choices people make. I am a liberal person politically and socially, but I was still judged about things I didn’t know anything about. Now I take a beat when I start to rant about someone in my brain.
I also have a calmness about painful things in a way I didn’t before. I am softer but I am also stronger. I used to say things like “Oh I could never do that.” And fill it in with some non-thing – well guess what – I can do a lot of shit I didn’t know I could do. I am so much stronger physically and mentally than I ever knew. And that makes me know that other people are stronger too and it helps me find ways to support them. I know how bad I felt when certain things didn’t go our way and because of that I am much better – I think – at helping friends with their own kinds of grief. There is no hierarchy of pain or grief. If it hurts you then it’s important and I understand that firsthand.
I don’t regret any of it. I like the new (chubby) me. I am strong and have perspective and will be able to go through the rest of my life having a better understanding of what it feels like to struggle with something. I like the person I became through this misery! I don’t want to go back. But I value my pain.
What has been the most helpful as you’ve moved through this process?
Two things have undeniably made all of this ok.
One is the love of my husband, my family and friends. Every time there was a setback, I never felt alone. I have this image of a fence of loved ones around me and Joe, and they keep getting closer and tighter until we are in a permanent hug. That is corny, but that’s the truth. I am loved and I feel it. Everything feels a little better when you are with others on a journey.
Secondly, being able to vent in my blog gave me a way to create words in my mind to categorize a situation. Instead of feeling empty when we had to abandon a round of IVF,and I had to stare at $5,000 drugs in my refrigerator. I would start narrating it in my head. I guess I created my own reality show in a sense. It made it artistic instead of just flat out horrible. I ultimately created a coping mechanism that worked for me.
I am smart and I am a fixer. And I could not fix this. It was a level of frustration that made me want to produce blood curdling screams. I COULD NOT FIX THIS. It was a totally unworkable puzzle. It didn’t matter how much I wanted it. It didn’t matter that sometimes I felt like my chest was being crushed because I wanted my husband to be a dad more than anything. This was not a movie where we would work hard and then we would get what we wanted. As the years went on and the options got smaller and smaller and I was getting worn thin I realized that it doesn’t matter if you work hard, you ‘deserve’, you want – we don’t always get what we want. And life just keeps going.
I imagine you have gotten one million questions and comments about your no-kid status. You write in one post, “Bottom line: It’s cool, you meant well.” What is the best (kindest, most thoughtful or helpful) thing someone has said to you…and the worst (most ignorant)?
I think someone asked me once if I was going to be ok. It was the way she said it – like this thing happened to you and will it define you? It felt strong the way she said it, because I’m not sure it would be the nicest question if it were said in a different way – so I know that’s not that helpful. But it gave me the place to say that I was strong. Am I going to be okay? I AM okay. It felt good to say it!
The worst to me, even now, is when people imply that we didn’t try everything we could have. Maybe we didn’t want it enough. I can see the look in their eyes or a sound in their voice. In the same sense the other person asked and it felt okay I think we can just sense people’s intentions. We know who is loving and who is judging. But even when people are insensitive I don’t believe they mean it- they just have no idea. They haven’t gone through something like this. So, then I see them as naïve little dears. And I feel weirdly superior. Like I’ve seen shit – and they don’t even know!! Ha!
What do you want to tell people who ask you “when are you going to have kids?”
I tell them that we tried really hard, and it wasn’t meant to be, and we are good. We are happy and we filled our life up in other ways. This is hard for some people to grasp and others are just fine with it and are happy to move on. And then I usually quickly ask them something to just start talking about them.
I have found that making jokes about how much money we have saved or how much sleep we get makes us look like selfish dicks. And being ‘sad’ just to respect their life with kids is annoying for everyone. So, I do not editorialize much – believe it or not. I do not belittle a life with children and I do not want to sound forlorn. No one wants to be with someone like that – I don’t. And though this journey is all mine and my husband’s - I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone. But I still don’t want to be a drag to other people.
How has your husband dealt with this process?
It was tricky for him in ways that were so much different than mine, obviously. For every doctor visit, hot flash, internal ultrasound, acupuncture visit, and rage-cry I had, he had to watch someone he loves suffer, while dealing with his own grief and frustration. He watched his young, slim, happy-go-lucky wife gain weight, age from grief, become depressed and become irrevocably different, and still he had to change his view of what his life was going to entail.
I wanted a baby so badly for him and he wanted it so badly for me. I know a lot of marriages suffer through this process, but that wasn’t us. We were literally always on the same page. When I wanted to take a break, so did he. When I was ready to ramp up again, so was he. We saw how much we worked for each other and so I think we are even closer because of it. But that being said, it was hard for him. People asked how I was doing. People emailed me. He didn’t get the same support. We have friends that have wrapped us tight in love (see my corny imagery above) but this process wasn’t as acute to him in other people’s eyes. He never complained about any of that – I just know that had to be tough – to not have an outlet. He is an exceptional writer and he wrote a few things about the process that were beautiful.
I think as this process progressed it made me want a child of his even more. I loved him even more. Which it made it more painful Waaah! Ha!!
What would you say to someone in your position if they are thinking, “now what?”
Well even though I don’t want to be responsible for other people I do love to pass out advice – I can be bossy.
We made decisions that made sense to us. And those decisions could be totally different than yours. So, don’t listen to me! You do you.
I have a friend that did everything up to IVF and then she was like ‘no.’ She and her husband didn’t spend all the money we did and they never looked back. Everyone has their own path and of all the things I can judge about I do not judge others fertility/infertility path. Once your feet are in stir ups, you get shots that burn like fire, you throw up when you are coming out of anesthesia and you get a negative pregnancy test then there is no judgement from me.
We had a goal – no regrets. We wanted to feel like we tried everything and could and be at peace if it wasn’t meant to be. And we feel like we tried or worked to consider everything. We weren’t interested in jeopardizing our finances beyond repair, my body slowly became a non-issue, and my desire to have a child from our own bodies created a perfect storm where we were happy to take a break. And that break never stopped. Everything about the process is such a slow burn. There were very few big moments. It progressed at glacial speed. We never really officially said “enough is enough.” It was all so subtle.
One of the trickiest things about infertility is that my life looks different than I thought it would. At first I was annoyed that I wasn’t going to get to plan for a baby because we were adopting and we didn’t know if we’d get to keep it – it wasn’t really ours. But then I realized – who the fuck cares if I don’t get to have baby showers and feel it kick and blah blah blah – get over it – I was going to get a child – that is all that mattered. AND THEN when things went deeper and I realized I probably wasn’t going to be a mother at all I really had to change my mindset. I wasn’t going to go on a college tour with my own children. I was not going to be a mom to human children.
My life was going to completely different than I planned.
And it was going to be ok.
We made financial decisions about our careers we may not have made if we’d had children.
We bought a smaller house.
We embraced our real life.
We didn’t wish that things were different.
We are active participants in our life.
We worked to have a baby and now we work to have a great life without children.
We tried really hard, and it wasn’t meant to be and we are good.
We are happy.