I guess therapists are human, too. Darn.
My name is Thai-An. I am a therapist and mother, and this is my story on the ups and downs of my motherhood journey. It begins with my struggle with infertility, then goes into the excitement of pregnancy, dipping at the devastation of postpartum depression, and arriving at my destination of recovery. I also share about how my pain inspired me to open my counseling practice to help other moms and dads who struggle like I did. It's amazing what hidden gifts can be pulled out of our suffering.
"We heal when we pull a gift out of the tragedies we've been through" - Rockey Robbins, Ph.D.
This was originally just my postpartum story. Apparently, I couldn't shut up and wrote enough material for three blog posts. Some friends encouraged me to break up my story for cohesion and ease of reading. I think that was good advice, so here is the first part of my story on my struggle with infertility. I honestly didn't think my infertility struggle was significant enough for its own blog. Then I realized there is this unfortunate mindset in our society that if someone else's suffering seems greater than ours, then our pain is not valid. I want to challenge this mindset for others and for myself, as well. I've worked with clients who have invalidated their pain because so and so had it much worse. Even though that may be true, our pain is still valid and deserves a voice. Pain is just pain; it all sucks. I hope all struggling moms and dads begin to shed shame around infertility and continue to give their pain a voice. It deserves to be heard.
"Happiness shared gets doubled and pain shared gets halved." -Anonymous
Why I'm sharing my story
I talk to my clients about how vulnerability shows true strength and leads to powerful human connection. Nobody wants to connect with a stoic, emotionless wall that acts like it doesn't have any problems. As a wise client once eloquently stated, "don't act like your shit don't stink." So, I will try to follow these wise words and be vulnerable and transparent in my story with you. I feel a bit exposed and nervous about sharing my story openly, but my hope is that it will help another new mom or dad in the same place know they're not alone. This is also a story about recovery and how I overcame my struggle in hopes of giving a struggling mom or dad the gift of hope. This was a gift that was given to me in the depths of my struggle, and I want to pass it on.
So let's rewind to October 19, 2013. I got hitched! Woohoo! We were pretty darn happy. I always knew I wanted to have kids. I just love those chunky, little things. My mom told me that when I was a little girl, I asked her to give me a baby because I loved them so much. She said I told her I'd settle for a puppy, but would still prefer a baby. She gave me neither. Oh, well. After getting married, my husband and I wanted kids right away, but we figured we'll just let it happen when it happens.
My struggle with infertility
By Fall of 2014, a year later, we still weren't pregnant. I was getting a bit concerned. People started bugging us more about when that kid is going to come. Don't you hate that? I want to tell them, "It'll come when it comes, mofos," but I refrained. Just a word of encouragement, the next time you have an itch to ask a young couple when they're going to have that baby, think of what struggle they may be going through. It could be infertility, miscarriages, or they may just not want kids, and that's okay. So we shouldn't assume or put our expectations of how we think life should go for them. One of the fathers of cognitive therapy Dr. Albert Ellis called this "shoulding" on other people. Don't do it. It stinks.
Anyway, back to my story. Fast-forward to Spring of 2015, my family doctor recommended that I go see her OBGYN because I didn't have a cycle for 8 months. The OB told me I had to take Clomid to improve my chances of getting a baby. Clomid is a drug commonly used to treat infertility. It's amazing how a woman can question her womanhood and everything about her body when she's labeled as "infertile." I know I did. It sucked. I had a lot of sadness and shame around infertility, which I wish women didn't, since it isn't our fault. I couldn't even say the word "infertile" or really talk about it then. It just sounded gross, giving me that punched-in-the-gut feeling that no one likes to have. Unless you're a masochist, then there's probably a whole different blog post for you.
During the first couple of rounds of trying with Clomid, I got my hopes up and tricked myself into seeing all sorts of signs of pregnancy, only to get shot down with negative tests. Womp womp...There were some tears and disappointment for sure. I couldn't help but question what was wrong with my body. It seemed so easy for everyone else. It really was pretty painful stuff. But of course, there is also "shoulding" on ourselves, thinking our bodies should be better, we should be there by now, this should be easier, etc. Shoulding on ourselves stinks too. It just isn't a good idea. I know my journey doesn't even compare to other women who've had to suffer through in vitro, ICSI, injections, pregnancy loss, and years of trying. I just got a glimpse of the pain they've experienced and admire them all the more for their perseverance. Women are tough.
By Summer 2015, almost two years later, there were two lines on the pregnancy test! Holy crap, I was going to be a mom! This was the best news ever. I think it was early July, because we told my mom on her birthday in August that she was getting her first grand baby. My dad cried. My husband's dad cried. There was just a lot of excitement and emotions going around that day. It was a pretty sweet time.
I sure took good care of that bump, too. I ate all the right things, exercised, took my vitamins, had regular check ups, etc. We were stoked. On October 7, 2015, we had the gender ultrasound. It was a girl! This was the next best news ever. The ultrasound tech asked if I wanted to know the gender, and before she could even finish her question, I yelled "yes!" Then we saw the little hamburger (that's what she called the baby female parts because that's how it looks like on the ultrasound--two buns and a patty) It was the best hamburger I'd ever seen.
Excitement was at times mixed with the fear of having a miscarriage. I knew it was not uncommon, and it was scary to think of the possibility and potential heartache. There were also many other emotions as I prepared to embark on this journey to the unknown territory of motherhood. Thinking back, there was already some anxiety during the pregnancy. It felt like the typical amount that most moms had though. Pregnancy was overall pretty great. Feeling every little movement and watching my body grow a tiny human life was nothing short of miraculous. I couldn't wait to see her little face.
So as you can imagine, this made being hit unexpectedly with postpartum depression completely devastating. I got exactly what I've been yearning for and couldn't even enjoy my baby girl after she was born. You can read about my battle with postpartum depression here.
For tips and techniques through your infertility struggles, click here for exclusive access to my free guide and 4-day e-course for overcoming postpartum depression and anxiety. Many of the tips are helpful to depression and anxiety during infertifility and pregnancy.