My first husband and I were married for ten years. Almost the entire time, I was desperate to have a child. We tried everything short of in-vitro fertilization, with no luck. Eventually, we were able to adopt, but that desire for a child that I could carry in my own womb was overwhelming.
After four years of marriage, I found out he had been cheating on me. As time went on, I came to discover he had always cheated on me, and the number of women was terrifying.
Aside from the fear of STDs, my worst fear was that in the middle of my infertility hell, he would impregnate one, if not several, of his mistresses. After all, he had done it before!
When we had been married for five years, he admitted that he had another "potential" child. He tried to claim that this child may not even be his. That son was only six months younger than his second child with his first wife - who he also tried to claim might not be his.
I tried to tell myself that these things that happened before me didn't matter, but I could quite never shake that feeling that if he'd done it once, he would do it again.
We divorced shortly after our tenth anniversary. He married his mistress of three years. She left him when she realized he was cheating on her, too. Irony at its best. I remarried, my ex eventually gave up his rights to our daughter; she was adopted by my husband, and I gave birth to an amazing little boy.
It has been eight years since he left me for Wife #3.
His birthday was last week. I wish I could forget that date, but unfortunately, it's a permanent fixture in my head. His sisters and his mother took him out to eat for his birthday. One of the sisters posted pictures on Facebook from the dinner.
At first, I just scrolled past them, but a sense of morbid curiosity made me go back and look through them. Few things are as satisfying as knowing that your ex is falling apart without you.
Sure enough, he looked like crap. He's put on weight. He's not aging gracefully. It makes me much too happy.
Among the pictures was one that made my heart stop. There was a little girl. She was about the age of my daughter. I knew she didn't belong to either of my former sisters-in-law.
In another picture, she was standing next to him with her hand on his shoulder in a very comfortable, affectionate position. Looking at the two of them together, I was stunned to see that she looked exactly like him. Same facial structure, same chin.
He has a daughter.
A daughter that is too old to have been conceived after he left me.
Hoping that I was wrong, I sent a message to his sister asking her who the girl was. When she didn't answer back, I knew I had my answer. She finally did answer more than 24 hours later, saying she wasn't comfortable answering questions about her brother.
If that little girl had belonged to anyone other than him, she would have just said so. Not talking about her brother was the proof I was looking for.
At first, I was furious! Enraged! Pissed!
How DARE he get some other woman pregnant when I had suffered for so many years to have a child with him!
I sent the picture to several friends and family members, to get their opinions of whether or not I was imagining things and jumping to conclusions. Everyone agreed: that's his daughter.
And who knows how many more children he has running around in this world!
I was still shaking several hours later when I went to bed. I couldn't sleep, thinking about confronting him. Whether I would punch him or just slap him when I saw him. After a few hours tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep.
The next morning, however, I was fine.
I realized it really didn't matter.
I always knew there was a good chance that it would happen. I was grateful that I didn't find out about her when I was still married to him, or I would probably be in prison for murder right now.
My daughter and I are free of him. He can't hurt us. And the fact is, he is not worth the time and energy it takes to be angry with him. He is a scumbag, he has always been a scumbag, and he will always be a scumbag. Who cares how many illegitimate children he has? That's his problem, not mine.
I believe in God. I believe that one day we will all have to answer for our sins. My ex-husband is going to have some pretty major sins to answer for someday.
I think I'll just worry about my own life.
It's not uncommon to see my clients struggling to own their stories; especially to own every single part of their stories. We can all struggle to own, accept, embrace, and maybe even like every part of our stories.
I've been asked, "How do you just put it all out there without any qualms or fears?" I make sure to be very real, very honest, and very brave. Owning all the parts of my story, even on my strongest of days, involves mustering up courage; this courage does not exist without fear.
On the good days, I say who I am, my choices, and my mistakes without skipping a beat; palms dry, voice steady, my light shining through.
On the harder days I say who I am, my choices, and my mistakes while stumbling over words; palms clammy and hot, voice shaking, and yet, I make sure my hope shines through.
It's only been through my own brutal work with my therapist that the ownership of my story has strengthened. With this continued work, practice, fight for recovery, my shame slowly dwindles.
I will continue to own and tell my story to help and change myself and - hopefully - others. I can only do this with bravery, feeling the fear, and doing it anyway.
I was recently challenged about the amount I am able to own my story within the limitations of judgment. We all judge, some more so than others. We have all been judged, some more so than others. I'm not sure we'll ever fully escape this human experience of judgment.
What I do know is that the more I accept, embrace, and own my story - all the parts of my story - including the really difficult, misunderstood, invalidated, and judged parts of my story is that this judgment doesn't have any room to grow.
It is really difficult to truly judge someone who wholeheartedly accepts, embraces, and owns themselves and every single part of their story.
I am not sure there will ever be a day that I am not judged on my story:
Judged for not figuring out how to try more rounds of IVF, both financially and emotionally,
Judged for knowing and making it clear that we are not choosing to adopt,
Judged for accepting a child-free life while leading a very child-full life,
Judged for living this all out loud,
Judged for attempting to change the shamed silence of infertility,
Judged for authentically living my work in recovery,
And judged for being the genuinely vulnerable therapist that I am.
But I dare you to hold on to your judgments as you read my words let alone hear me speak my story.
I dare you.
I am a survivor of infertility and IVF.
I stopped treatments after two failed rounds, because for us that was enough.
I know adoption is not my path to a family.
I bear the soul scars of three never-to-be babies, and yet I am still a mother.
I accept a child-free life, while having a very child-full life.
I will spend the rest of my life finding the end to my story by giving people permission to break the silence of infertility, and to break the silence of any of their sufferings.
I am resolving to know more than one happy ending.
I am an open and honest therapist who fights for her own recovery.
And, I dare you to judge me.
I have faith and trust that when I own every single part of my story, through my fear, shame and all, your judgment will become uncomfortable enough that your world will open up.
You will learn. You will see me - all of me. With that sight, I can only hope you grow a little more educated, a little more compassionate, and a lot more brave yourself.
And, I assure you, I will not allow your judgment and your misunderstanding to dim my light.
I will own it.
All of it.
Because only then do I find myself again.
And, only then will this light shine bright enough to hopefully give others the ever upward courage to do the very same.
I dare you...
We all have letters we'd like to send, but know that we can't. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can't send?
Why not send it to The Band?
I thought about changing your name for this but then I realized, nope, screw that. You didn't care about my feelings when you did what you did, why should I protect you?
I was going through a really hard time when you and I met. I had been dealing with infertility and wasn't taking it well. We weren't telling anyone we were trying to have a baby yet, so no one knew why I was fighting with depression as much as I was.
We were still fairly new to the area, and I was desparate for friendship. That's where you came in. Your office was right next to mine, and we both had a lot of down-time with our individual jobs. We had a lot in common, so our friendship came naturally.
We confided in each other. Neither of us was in a stable marriage. Your husband preferred to go hunting rather than spend time with you. My husband liked hanging out with his friends after work instead of coming home.
I didn't approve when my boss' marriage started to fall apart and you flirted with him. You were not appropriate with how you handled that situation. But then one of our co-workers started paying attention to me. I won't lie. I liked the attention. My husband was ignoring me, and this guy was cute.
I regret that I flirted with him.
Unlike you, I kept my flirtation to just at work. There was nothing more to it than two people who were attracted to each other who talked and flirted at work. I didn't take breaks with him. I didn't go anywhere alone with him. Did you know that when I took my breaks, I was in my office working on a Christmas gift for my husband?
You, on the other hand, took my boss out for lunch, just the two of you. You even went so far as to throw a party when your husband was out of town and invited a bunch of guys (and only one girl) from work to the party. There was drinking and craziness, and you admitted to groping my boss. I knew he was too emotionally distraught to return your inappropriate behavior, but I was less than impressed with what you were doing.
Then came that horrible night when my husband confronted me about my supposed affair. He repeated things back to me that I had told you in confidence. My words had been twisted to sound like I was guilty of much more than a mild flirtation. He accused me of a full-blown affair and implied that I was using this other guy to try to get pregnant. He said that I had been seen leaving with this other guy and we had been seen holding hands and kissing. You know as well as I do that that never happened.
He had his mind set that I was cheating on him and anything I said was a lie. I wish I could say I was 100% innocent, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
We were leaving the next day on vacation. We still went. We talked through things and eventually he said he believed me that I hadn't cheated.
What I couldn't figure out was how he'd found out the specific things I had said. I had trusted you. Your sister-in-law also worked for the same company we all worked for. I figured you'd blabbed to her and things got back to him through the company grapevine.
We returned from vacation, and I went back to work. I still considered you my friend, but I was much more careful about what I said to you because clearly you couldn't keep your mouth shut. I completely severed any friendship with our co-worker as soon as I returned. I requested a transfer to a different location, so my husband wouldn't have to worry about me being around our co-worker.
A few years passed. I found out that the whole time my husband had been "hanging out with friends" after work, he had actually been having multiple affairs. While he never admitted to anything, I had learned to read between the lines to figure out what was going on. One day, he let enough information slip that I figured out you two were sleeping together. All that time I thought I could trust you, not only were you having sex with him, you were reporting back to him everything I said - twisting it to sound like I was mocking my marriage.
I looked you up online recently. I was happy to see your first husband divorced you. I wonder how much of his not being around you was caused by his knowlege of your behavior.
I'm still very angry. I'm angry at all of the women who knew my now-ex-husband was married and chose to have sex with him anyway. I'm angry with the people who knew about his cheating and didn't tell me. I'm especially angry with you for pretending to be my friend while betraying me in the worst way possible. I don't want to be angry anymore. The fact is, you're not worth my anger.
I've moved on. I haven't had any contact with my ex in years. I'm happily married and busy raising my kids. I don't need to hold on to the past. I'm hoping that writing this letter and releasing it out to the world will help me to forgive you for your actions.
So I'm going to say it, even though I don't feel it yet, in hopes that I'll feel it soon.
I forgive you.
I was 26 when we decided to have a baby.
This year, around Christmas, I will celebrate my 36th birthday. My kid will be celebrating her second birthday.
The road to our daughter has been hard, with many potholes, and many things out of the scope for this particular thing I want to share.
My monthly mate would appear bang on time, always.
It was irritating when we were not TTC. It made me cry when we were cycling.
But my periods have become devil's incarnate since.
Both of my pregnancies changed my bleeding pattern.
(For two full-term pregnancies, I have only one living child to show. Hard.)
I had heavy bleeding after every pregnancy.
My second pregnancy temporarily snapped me out of bleeding hell, but after delivering my second baby, I struggled with the bleeding for almost a year.
Now, my bleeding has been tamed, but it's stretched out to eight day episodes when it was once a five-day affair.
I'm glad that I'm not bleeding every 11 days. I'm glad that I'm not bleeding so much that I smell of my blood.
My initial problems of adjusting with the baby, and all other issues were compounded by the fact that I was not feeling well thanks to the continuous bleeding.
I was consulting my OB, and it took a while to get things on route. That year was hell.
Now, I'm not sure if we want to try for more children. I mean, we want to.
I still have baby fever. My husband doesn't oppose the idea of a sibling for our child.
We do not want to adopt, so we are passively trying.
I hope to become pregnant.
But I do not want my periods. I hate it. My mind flaps down, obsessed with my uterus for four days before my periods.
So you are reading an essay from a woman who wants a swollen belly, and is dreaming of a hysterectomy half of the month.
I dream of having a hysterectomy. I can't wait for the menopause to come. And if I take my mother's age as the benchmark for when my menopause will come, I think I still have a decade of periods-hate left for me.
And I am terribly torn apart. There are other signs. I am on a blood sugar regulating medication, and I lose weight like a breeze on it, but I have been gaining weight. I have constipation.
My mind is exploding. And I think of having a hysterectomy so much. So I want to ride two boats at the same time.
Having a hysterectomy will rule out me carrying a pregnancy. But seriously, I just want to be free. But I want to be pregnant too.
Hey Band, do I make sense?
After four years struggling to get pregnant, going to the doctor, getting tested and undergoing fertility treatments (3 rounds of Clomid), I'm pregnant!
I'm due April 5th of 2014.
I'm so excited, obviously, but there's something else, too.
I had tough pregnancies the first two times. With my first, I was sick for the first 20 weeks before finally started to feel better. Then, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and put on bed-rest.
For 18 weeks.
Yeah, not fun.
My doctor didn't want to put me on any medications for it, so I felt sick all the time. I also have a bleeding disorder, so even though other on-call OB's said I should be delivered, he waited until I was term to attempt a (failed) induction and then c-section.
The pediatrician told us if we'd waited any longer, our baby would have died.
The second time around was a lot better. I felt great throughout the pregnancy, but the preeclampsia reared it's ugly head the 30-week mark - this time much worse than before. I was immediately given steroid shots to mature the baby's lungs and sent to a hospital that had a waiting NICU bed. Fortunately with bed-rest and medication, the doctors managed to get things under control and I was discharged two weeks later. I had a repeat c-section at 38 weeks.
I keep waiting for that other shoe to drop.
I know I could have a perfectly healthy pregnancy, but given my history I doubt that'll happen. My sister-in-law is also pregnant and dealing with preeclampsia and bed-rest. So even if I could somehow manage to push the fear out of my mind, there's a constant reminder of what can happen.
I should be happy and thrilled and basking in the joy of this. Don't get me wrong, I AM very happy - I just can't get those negative thoughts out of my head.
What if it doesn't end so well? What if the baby isn't okay? What if I'm not okay and leave my kids without a mom?
I'm only 16 weeks along, but I've already placed myself on modified bed-rest, doing as little as possible. I don't know if it's because I think it will help or I'm depressed... or a little of both.
I don't want to do anything; I'm grouchy, emotional and I don't feel myself. All symptoms of pregnancy, but maybe prenatal depression there as well. I certainly have a history of it.
I just wish this could be easy.
Someone told me a few days ago that I should quit complaining and feeling sorry for myself; there are so many people who can't have kids who'd gladly trade places with me. It's not that I'm not grateful and happy to be pregnant, there's just so much fear and worry thanks to my history.
Of course I know there are people out there who have it way, way worse than me, but does that make my feelings less important?
I wish I was good at being pregnant.
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