Hope is the thing with feathers

I am late to the Instagram game because I’m not the type of person who likes to take selfies. Until recently I used Facebook as a way to stay connected to family and friends. In my short time using it, I’ve come to see that Instagram is a great way to connect with a community.

I love that I’ve found people who UNDERSTAND PERFECTLY what running means to me.

I love it that I’ve found people who are also grieving the loss of a brother.

I love it that I’ve found people who inspire me to be strong.

Another way I’ve been enjoying connecting with people’s stories is through Podcasts. One of the podcasts I listen to is “Ali on the Run” and this week I listened to an episode where Ali interviewed a reproductive endocrinologist, Meggie Smith. Through the conversation Meggie was able to recommend a documentary called “One More Shot” (which is available on Netflix).

“One More Shot” follows a couple, Noah and Maya Grobel Moskin, through their struggle with infertility. They have been trying to get pregnant for several years and it’s just not happening. Maya has limited egg reserves in her ovaries and their first try at IVF does not produce any embryos the Doctor believe should be implanted. The rest of the documentary follows their decision making process on where to go from there and also weaves some other people’s stories in.

I have also struggled with infertility. (I wrote a little about it here)

It’s hard for me to write that sentence after talking a bit about what Noah and Maya had to go through. I feel unable to stop myself from quantifying my time struggling with their time struggling. They endured the rollercoaster for 5 years. I only had to endure 6 months of infertility treatments. However, we have both been through the same emotions, the same frustrations.

In fact, as I began watching the documentary it triggered some memories and emotions from our time that had me crying hysterically when my husband came home from work yesterday. He asked, “What’s wrong?!” and all I could say was “I made a mistake”, haha. He said I scared the crap out of him. We joked about what ‘mistake’ I could’ve made according to where his brain went. I said, “You should’ve just assumed I scratched the car since that’s my M.O.” He said, “Yeah, or I expected you to be like ‘The engine fell out of the car on the highway and I had the tow truck bring it to the garage so I wouldn’t have to tell you what happend.”

The mistake I made was watching the documentary before emotionally preparing myself. Ever since writing my previous blog post I’ve been thinking a lot about when and how and why we will risk going through that whole thing again for another child. There’s uncertainty and there’s a little bit of PTSD allowing yourself to go back to those feelings.

With that being said, no matter where you’re at, I think this documentary is well worth watching.  I can tell you how hard it was, but I can’t show you. I am too embarrased to spell out IUI but they were willing to make jokes about the porn in the men’s private time room.

**Spoiler Alert** So now I wanna talk about some things I loved about the documentary. If I’ve made you want to watch it at all you should go do so before you keep reading. Or maybe you’re the type of person who is gonna Google Noah and Maya halfway through anyway to see if they ever get their baby and if so, heck, keep reading, haha.

First off, I just want to say I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE who took the pregnancy test too soon and had that experience. I paused the documentary, rewound and walked my ipad over to my husband so that he could see Maya say “Maybe there’s still a chance. I mean is there a line?” [pause] Noah: “It’s faint” Maya: “But there’s a line?!”

Oh my god. That was almost my exact same experience, right down to the Dr letting me come in for a blood test only to tell me I was “Kinda pregnant”.

Second part I loved so much was the retrospective commentary from Noah and Maya where Maya is trying to put a positive spin on why they’ve had to suffer through all this. She says, ” I feel like we’ve learned our lessons. I feel like we’ve learned the lessons of being patient and of not getting too ahead of yourself. Of being in the moment with whatever is.” Then Noah says, “I don’t need any new life lessons, though. Like, I don’t think this is teaching us anything anymore. I got enough f*cking life lessons to last me three lifetimes.” PREACH BROTHER! Oh my god. That feeling of wanting to lift your middle fingers in the air.

Even though it doesn’t make sense, so many times during an infertility struggle you find yourself railing against how unfair it is. I want a baby so badly and this person can accidentally get pregnant so easy when a baby is the last thing she WANTS. I did the responsible thing and saved and planned so that our baby will be well provided for. I dream and long for this baby and I’ve suffered enough, when do I get my peace?

Even when Maya and Noah finally get pregnant, they have such difficulty with the pregnancy, they’re so worried they’s miscarry.

M: “I’m scared. It has a heartbeat.”

N: “You heard it right?”

M: “I don’t want it to die.”

Who else was talking to their screen when this happened? I was murmuring loving thoughts throughout the whole thing, but there were so much more during this particular scene.

So… let’s talk about why I named this post “Hope is the thing with feathers”. The quote is from an Emily Dickinson poem:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

and sings the tune without the words 

and never stops at all

I love a story where hope prevails. So many times in life we have to struggle to be strong in order to make it to that point where our hope has been vindicated. It is the single most terrifying thing to acknowledge that sometimes hope is not enough.

I think the two most natural and common hopes that people have are to find a partner who understands and loves them and then through that love, create a family. There is a beauty in carrying your own child. The feeling of a baby’s kick, hearing the fetal heartbeat and knowing your body is sustaining that, and riding the waves of pain through labor–these are all things that I wanted to experience.

But the most common craving I had was to hold a baby and know that they were mine.

For me personally, I think I would be able to feel this way about a child who was not biologically mine or carried by my body and this is why I was open to the idea of adoption. Still, I prayed that I would not have to turn to that option because of all the risk of pain. It would be painful to wait, and wait and wait. At least with infertility cycles there are steps to complete and concrete results–you are either pregnant or not each month.

There is a woman in the documentary who decided adoption was worth the risk and she and her husband were matched with a birth mother. She talked about her anxiety for their first meeting, saying things like “What if she doesn’t like us?” Oh, that fear! Which is worse, fear or disappointment? 

I have a bit of guilt in spending any money on fertility treatments. I have the love to give and I’d love it to go to a child who needs a home, but this takes so much bravery! It takes bravery, strength and hope in large supply.

An infertility struggle goes: hope – disappointment – hope – disappointment – hope

The amount you allow yourself to hope is controlled (at least at the beginning) since you have a monthly cycle to work with. With adoption, unless you are a person with insane self control your hope keeps growing and growing. Who wouldn’t think “This is really happening?!” when finally matched? Who wouldn’t think, “This is my baby!” when they hold them for the first time? Something opens in your heart that can’t be controlled.

I just don’t feel like I could take the loss if my birth mother decided to change their mind. It’s like agreeing to try to become pregnant after being told there’s a pretty good chance your baby will be stillborn or pass away within the first year. It takes so much to be that brave.

I loved how the documentary so perfectly shows that a long, protracted struggle with infertility can also make it harder to control the hope in your heart. As the stakes get higher you just can’t help yourself.  This is what drove me the most crazy. You know you should modulate your emotions as if it were just another try, but you just can’t.

This is where community is so important. A casual acquaintance can’t know the struggle because they are not walking the steps with you. Blogging and podcasts and even Instagram will allow us all to put our stories out there and find someone who just GETS IT. The best part is that even if it’s still too raw for you to put your story out there, just reading other’s stories will be enough to help a little bit.

If you’re IN THE TRENCHES right now, I want you to know that if I could, I’d be murmuring loving encouragement while watching your story too. I know you can be brave and strong. Though a happy ending is not guaranteed, life is a series of these struggles that will not be easy to get through. There WILL be good times again. Treat yourself with love and kindness and find some things that make your soul feel happy.

Above all, never give up on the thing with feathers.

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