I was sitting on the back patio holding a stick. His favorite stick. The lavender was newly blooming, the fragrance enveloping me, and the bees flicked around the purple stalks making a loud buzzing sound impossible to ignore. I smiled up at the sun knowing that this was a great moment.
I intended to carve his name in that stick and toss it in his favorite lake where he use to dive in and swim after it no matter how far it was thrown. I always joked that he would swim until he died.
Bailey was my beautiful, wild yellow lab. A strong swimmer, an eater of random non-edibles like plastic bottles or underwear that missed the hamper, and a source of daily laughter (or certain expletives when his ever-wagging tail would connect with a shin) . He was always at the ready when we'd walk in the front door, like he had heard our car a mile away.
Except, of course, the time he ate a whole tray of freshly-baked brownies. He hid upstairs that day.
Bailey had died the previous winter. My handsome, funny, crazy, yellow lab was just ten days short of 8 years old. And I missed him the instant he was gone.
I didn't know of the lesson he would teach several months later as I sat among the lavender. It's propelled and motivated me in a way in which words fall short of describing.
Briefly: I was finally happy.
That moment was six and a half years post infertility diagnosis with tens of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, raging hormones, a seemingly endless emotional roller coaster, intrusions on my body and mind, and no baby to show for it.
But, as I sat there, "it" happened. The realization that I was happy. My ah-ha moment.
"How could this be?" I thought. I should be sad, discouraged, angry, and, and, and....
Yet, I wasn't.
Somehow in the mess of infertility and losing Bailey, I realized I had everything I could ever want or need right then. In that moment. Happiness is now. And the more that I want something that I don't presently have, the more unhappy I feel.
Sure, wanting something more...dreaming of something more...craving something more (like parenthood) is normal. But, I was obsessing, perseverating, and becoming consumed with the ache of not having that thing. That's where I lost myself. And my happiness.
When I really thought about what was happening, I was able to trace that shift to sometime the previous November when I really began looking forward to the holidays. I was always happy about the holidays, but this was more than just reaching my pre-infertility level of happiness. I was so much more grateful for everything I had. Even though I didn't have a baby, I had a fabulous husband, awesome animals, a comfy home, and my dream job. I enjoyed lots of different hobbies and got to help people on a daily basis; some of whom were dealing with the same confusing and overwhelming world of infertility. I didn't take even one of those things for granted anymore. Just like not having a baby, any of those things could be gone. And I didn't know it at the time, but Bailey would be gone in just a few short months.
Because, I'm a researcher and pseudo-academic at heart (Okay, I'm a nerd. There, I said it), I wondered if this happened to other people. Could I be the only one? Is it just me, or was I experiencing this traumatic health crisis and feeling, not only happy, but way more happy than I'd ever been?
No way. No way!
After digging a bit on Google Scholar, I discovered a phenomenon that had been studied for the past decade or so called posttraumatic growth. You know what PTSD is, right? Well, this is the opposite: When good things happen as a result of trauma.
I know. Weird.
It's the message in that song "Live Like You Were Dying." You know the one. Are you humming it yet? The character in the song is diagnosed with cancer and decides to do all of the things that he ever wanted to do. He began to make Each. Moment. Count.
Now, would I ride a bull named Fu Man Chu? Uh, no.
But, there are a ton of things that I (or any of us) could do in any given moment. To live in that moment. To really be present right then and there.
Like throwing a stick for your dog.
Thanks to thoughts of Bailey, I discovered what was happening to me. And I decided I needed to know more and pass it around. I began research for my dissertation on infertility and posttraumatic growth, and I began throwing ideas around for this blog.
Hence, I began Joining the Movement to contribute to the infertility community and to educate outside of it.
It's the crux of this blog to recognize the suffering that people with infertility experience and to highlight that one is not alone and does not have to suffer alone. I'd like to also highlight that one can be in the gutter and simultaneously look up at the stars and wonder at their beauty. Suffering does not negate joy.
I'll say it again: Suffering does not negate joy.
I'm Joining the Movement to contribute that small piece of knowledge that can have a big impact on your life, if you so choose.
I'm happy to say, I took my joy back from infertility. And it even grew exponentially beyond what it was before I began the wild infertility ride.
Take that, IF.
And thank you, Bailey.
One last thing: I wouldn't know it for another year, but as my "shift" happened that previous November, my son was being born half way across the world. A Thanksgiving baby.
Coincidence? I think not. But, that's another post.
May boundless joy be yours,
|Dedicated to my Bailey Boy swimming after sticks somewhere|
To learn more about the disease of infertility, please visit this page at RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association).
This post is written in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week 2013 (see badge in sidebar). To learn more about NIAW and the theme "Join the Movement," please click here.
Also for HAWMC's Day 21 prompt: “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Mulan True or False? I vote true. Obviously. :)