Standing alone in a sea of dozens of other commuters, I stared at my reflection through the EL window. I look like I do every day — hair semi-tamed, make-up on, work clothes on, headphones in — check, check & check. Eyes slightly tired, but whose aren’t on a Monday morning commute? No other commuter would ever suspect by looking at me that a few weeks earlier, my husband and I went from being elated that we’d hit the 12-week mark of our first, hard-fought, pregnancy to having to make medical decisions that would ultimately save the life of our daughter but cost the life of our son.
Peaches and Roses?
As I stand staring at myself, I think back to all the moments that got me to this place — standing, commuting, as if a life-altering moment had not recently happened. The failed IUIs, the canceled IVF cycle, the numerous shots, vitamins, powders, acupuncture, womb massages (yup, that’s a thing. Google it), gentle yoga which got us to a place of ‘success.’ A positive pregnancy blood test — with twins no less. No one prepares a person dealing with infertility that even when you reach the ‘holy grail’ — the positive pregnancy test — that the world may not be all peaches and roses afterward.
But that was the case for us, and I dealt with that news like I did all the other blows before it. I put on my big girl pants and carried on. I dug deep — you know that feeling we all have that gets you through those nights studying for finals, the big deadline at work. I soldiered on and went back to work, my daily routine. I didn’t give myself the time or the space to grieve and I put on the face, the armor, and did all the things I was supposed to do. To the outside world, I celebrated the little girl that I was carrying while inside I struggled with resentment, shame, guilt, anger — both for the process of even getting to this spot and for the decisions we had to make.
“I never took off my armor, not once”
To anyone looking at me without knowing me, they’d see a pregnant woman, celebrating her pregnancy. To anyone who knew me they’d see someone who was pregnant, who had just bought their first ‘adult’ house, who had just been promoted at work — who by all of society’s standards ‘had it all.’ What they didn’t see, what I didn’t let anyone see, was at night creeping into what would be my daughters’ room and lying on the floor in the fetal position looking at the grey walls (because it would be a great color for a daughter AND a son) but not letting myself cry. They never saw the heartache every time I looked at the Bugaboo Donkey Stroller, which now only had one seat, instead of the twin extension. They never saw the ache in my chest anytime someone with twins brought up how difficult it is to have twins. They also never saw the shame, the guilt over the decisions we made or why we made them. On the outside, I had it all. On the inside, I was crumbling, a shell of myself.
As I stared at myself in that EL train window, I recall thinking that no one would ever guess the journey I’d just been through. But how would they? I never took off my armor, not once. Not even to those closest to me or my husband. How many of my fellow commuters that day had their own stories? Their own armor that they put on each day? What stories are not being told because we’ve all put on our armor for the day?
It would be easy to say that after that moment I never judged anyone again, myself included, but that would be a lie. That moment on the EL was the moment I realized that we all deal with moments that we’ve felt alone or isolated – we just very rarely talk about those moments. Being that I was the queen of being able to compartmentalize my emotions, I spent the highs & lows of my daughter’s first years, shoving my emotions into a box, and throwing away the key. I never dealt with my journey to becoming a mom – instead, I just put one foot in front of another and got through each day.
It would take another moment (this one at 6:03 am on a random weekday morning), now the mom of a 1.5-year-old & a 9-month-old (another IVF baby) that changed the course of my life. That morning, as I was brushing my teeth, my husband looked over & asked me if I was happy and for some reason, that morning I blurted out the truth — No, no I wasn’t happy. It was at this moment that I realized that I’d lost my voice, my power at some point. I had a choice at that moment– I could backpedal & make a joke out of my answer or I could be honest & get help.
Thankfully I chose help, and in doing so, I began to unpack my journey to being a mom. I had to learn to forgive myself and most importantly forgive my body. I had to learn how to trust myself again, because (for me) infertility had robbed me of my ability to trust my body with even the simplest tasks.
Eventually, I began to share my motherhood story – first with myself, then eventually with others. It was in sharing my story that I began to hear “me too” and it was in those moments when I realized we all have these moments where we’ve felt alone or isolated. It’s now my personal mission to create community & connection through sharing personal stories to empower individuals to step into their own light, reclaim their voice & drive greater impact. Because for me, it was in sharing my story where I found the courage to forgive myself & found the community & connection, I hadn’t even known I was craving.