Monday, November 4, 2013

The Thankful Project

Dave and I have been trying to figure out ways to teach our children gratitude and lessen their feelings of entitlement. This is a tough one, especially when you're dealing with a 5 and 2 year old. I decided that it's hard to teach your kids something you don't openly practice and so I am instituting a nightly discussion of what we are each grateful for.

Then this morning, I stumbled upon a great idea from Kenzie at Chasing Happy. She started The Thankful Project on her blog. Here's what she says about it:

The Thankful Project will be 28 days of intentional gratitude and community. Each day, we'll write a post in response to a gratitude prompt. You'll also have the chance to link up your posts here on Chasing Happy, so we can share our thankful spirits with each other (and find some awesome new blogs to read in the process!). There will be a new linkup set up for each day, so you can write on as many of the prompts as you want and share your post each time.  
The motivation behind The Thankful Project is this: an attitude of thankfulness can help us push through and overcome just about anything. It can keep us afloat when our world crashes down around our shoulders. It can help us be content with who and what we are right now, at this very moment. It can boost our self-esteem, strengthen our relationships, give us motivation to persevere through tough stuff, and give us perspective when we're so busy we can't stop our heads from spinning. Being thankful, and taking the time to express that gratitude, makes us happier, healthier individuals. And by sharing our gratitude, we have the power to encourage and build each other up. We even have the potential to change lives. It might sound hokey or idealistic, but it's true. Intentionally cultivating an attitude of gratitude will change your life.

And so I've decided to participate, even though I'm starting a few days late. I'm not going to attempt to catch up by posting 4 posts today. I'll just start with the Nov. 4 topic. So here goes nothing!

Topic: An Experience

Those who know me personally know that I have struggled with various health problems over the years. But the first big health-related crisis I had in my life was a struggle with infertility. After being married for a year, Dave and I decided we should start trying to start our family. I suspected that it might take a while since my cycles were never regular. After a few months with no success, I started the awful process of daily temperature charts in an attempt to track my ovulation. Temperature tracking was a joke! Not only do I have a strangely low basal body temperature (to the point where I had to alter the charts I printed off that didn't go low enough), but my temperature never peaked.

After a few months, we had moved and both Dave and I had new jobs and we finally had health insurance. And so I started my seemingly unending series of visits to midwives and reproductive endocrinologists.  After my third cycle on fertility meds, I got a positive pregnancy test. I still remember that it was on a Sunday in February -- Super Bowl Sunday, I think. I was so giddy that it was ridiculous.

Sometime during the following week, we went to see the doctor for a "viability ultrasound." Just the name of that sounds frightening. It hadn't really occurred to me that the embryo would not be viable until I scheduled my appointment. In we went. Based on the timing, I should have been 6 weeks along. When we saw the embryo on the screen, there was no heartbeat. The doctor said that things looked okay otherwise, so we should wait a week and try again.

That week was the longest week of my life. When we went back in for another viability ultrasound, the doctor took one look before looking at me with sadness in his eyes. He showed us the embryo and how there was no heartbeat. The sac was collapsing. I would have a miscarriage within the next week. I have never been more devastated than I was that day.

After miscarrying, I needed to wait a few months before trying to get pregnant again. While we waited, I underwent a hysteroscopy to remove a septum in my uterus that could potentially cause miscarriage. And then we started over with the fertility meds.

A few months later, I was pregnant. I was much more hesitant to celebrate this time around. We made sure to schedule the viability ultrasound a bit later to make sure there would be no week of waiting this time around. And when we saw the tiny flutter of our baby's heartbeat, my emotions were so confused that I didn't know whether to be happy about this baby or sad for the first one.

Our baby "Smidgen" at 6 weeks gestation.
The morning sickness (which was more like all-day sickness) during my first trimester left me feeling miserable, but I felt horrible that I felt miserable after everything I had gone through to get myself to that point. I thought I should be grateful to be pregnant instead of wishing I wasn't sick. Ultimately, I confessed my misery to my midwife, who referred me to a counselor. I was ashamed that it had come to this, but I went and sobbed as I told her my story and then she said a simple, but profound thing: "You have permission to complain." She helped me understand that I needed to separate my feelings. I could still be sad about my miscarriage, happy about my pregnancy, miserable about the morning sickness, but I didn't need to feel guilty about my feelings.

And now, 6 years and two kids later, I am very grateful for this entire experience. Not only did it give me answers about what I needed to do to get pregnant, but it also gave me confidence when dealing with doctors, took away some of my fear when dealing with medical issues, and prepared me to be willing to ask for help when I ultimately dealt with postpartum depression. And now I am grateful for that as well because it has given me such empathy for others who struggle with infertility and mental health issues and I feel like I have been able to be a help to others.

June 2013, my family

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