Friday was my birthday, so this post is a few days late, but after a fun weekend celebrating with my boys, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the previous year and my goals from the one to come. I thought I’d share some self reflections for my birthday. I’m not sure if I ever shared this, but I love birthdays! I love celebrating other people’s and my own. I just feel like it’s one day (or in our house, week) all about you and celebrating your life and where you’re at and going. It’s like my own personal New Year’s in many ways — a chance to reflect, reset, set goals. And since my birthday corresponds with spring, I always feel really hopeful and like it’s a time of rebirth in some ways.
Don’t get me wrong, I was excited for my birthday this year. Mostly because it lands on a Friday, which means it gave us the opportunity to do something fun and really turn it into “birthday weekend”. But I didn’t feel the same motivation as I think I would have in years past to plan a fun getaway or dinner with my friends or something special with the hubs or a family adventure. It’s been a really hard year for us, one of the hardest of my life. It’s funny because I remember going through a breakup one birthday in my twenties and thinking that was a rough one, but looking back, that was nothing. I barely remember that guy and while the pain was real for sure at the time, I had friends, a 20 year old bod, and the ability to drink and party all night and function the next day. Life wasn’t so bad. This year, struggling with infertility and the chance that my biggest dream and hope in life, to have a big family, would never come true was truly one of the greatest heartbreaks of my life. The emotional rollercoaster it took us on and the loneliness and pain and fear were more than I had ever imagined. It was a hard year that was almost dominated by our infertility struggles, but looking back as I share some self reflections for my birthday, it also revealed a lot about where I am at in my life and where I want it to be.
I put a lot on hold. If I’m being totally honest with myself, I put my whole life on hold, waiting to get pregnant. Of course that made nothing easier and just added stress and pressure, but it’s hard to move on when the only thing you really want and so deeply important to you, you can’t seem to have. It’s hard to explain to people not going through it, and my old self wouldn’t even recognize me this past year. I was never someone who let anything stand in the way of me getting what I want and achieving my goals, and here I was just giving up on all of them. None of them seemed to matter anymore. I think that’s the thing about depression, which is definitely a side effect of infertility that i experienced.
It’s funny, I started off my birthday last year full of hope. My self reflections for my birthday were full of optimism, an optimism that was quickly squashed. We were trying and disappointed not to be pregnant yet but hopeful it would happen at any point. I even think I avoided drinking just in case. Of course I wasn’t and three months later we would see a doctor and start our first round of fertility tests and treatments. But at the time, I was upset that I wasn’t pregnant but I was sure that at this time the following year, I’d have two kids and I’d already be thinking about the third. That was legit my only goal/hope/dream for the year.
I really didn’t mean for this to become a blog post about our infertility struggles. It’s funny, I actually stopped blogging about them for awhile even though opening up about them made me feel so much better, especially after so many of you shared your own struggles and shared so much encouragement and support. But I just honestly ran out of things to say in a sense. It was like deja vu every day, every month. Hopeful, on a hormonal rollercoaster but hopeful. Not pregnant. Heartbroken, depressed, and then it the cycle would start all over again and I had no control over any of it. I started to come to a place of acceptance though. Yes, I was still heartbroken. Yes, I still cried a lot and felt sad and sorry for myself and avoided my fertile friends and unfollowed every baby bump and pregnancy announcement, but I stopped thinking maybe I was pregnant, I stopped picturing our life as a family of four and then five. I stopped talking and thinking like it would happen for us. It wasn’t a conscious decision and it’s not like we stopped trying or stopped fertility treatments, but I guess subconsciously it just beat me down and I stopped hoping and dreaming of the family I always wanted.
As sad as that sounds, especially looking back (and I’m not going to even try to minimize the pain of infertility), and I’n not going to say I just stopped caring and trying because that’s far from the truth. But I guess it enabled me to start moving on in small ways. I started running again (my go-to workout pre-James) and cleaning up my diet rather than waiting to get back in shape until after I had the next. Fertility treatments caused me to gain weight, and it’s been a real struggle and made me feel worse, but I stopped letting myself be scared to workout and ruin my fertility and decided to prioritize looking and feeling my best again. I slowly started focusing again on this blog and growing it and thinking about my career and future. I know it’s small stuff, but looking back it felt like a big shift.
Looking back, I learned a lot. I don’t know that I am even far enough away from it to really reflect fully on all that I learned. As they say, it’s still a little too early to look back and laugh. I’m still not out of the cloud but I’m in a different place. But here are some self reflections for my birthday and what I learned from a difficult year dealing with infertility:
I learned you can’t control everything. As a control freak, this has been really hard, but I think feeling like I had no control over something so deeply important to me allowed me to let go of my need to control everything else in my life and completely dictate my future. It allowed me to let go and to be OK not knowing what was next but not to stop that from moving forward or enjoying the here and now.
I learned to enjoy the here and now. Being grateful for what you have is so hard when you’re struggling with infertility. I know I am so lucky to have my health (for the most part), a healthy amazing two year old, a husband who has been by my side through this all and kept hope for both of us, and a lot of other amazing things in my life. But it’s hard to feel that way when you’re coming to terms with the fact that you may never have the family you always dreamed of. I’m not at the place where I can just live in the moment and list all the things I’m grateful for each day, but I started to allow myself to find joy in the small moments I could find and that feels like a big step. Sometimes it feels daunting when you feel like you always have to be grateful and happy, and you should be appreciating the moment etc, but just letting myself go to a movie with Andrew or laugh or be silly with James allowed me to live more in the moment and find joy again.
I learned not to put everything on hold until all the pieces fell in place. Ok, I’m not quite there. But I’m on my way. I’m starting to realize that if something is not making me happy right now, a baby won’t cure it. And that I can’t just put my life on hold until I have another baby. Yes, things will change when we expand our family, but in the meantime, we need to still plan vacations, figure out a place and space to live that will make us happier and better fit our family, and focus on achieving my goals for this blog and my career.
As I mentioned, I like to start the year off on the right foot by not just sharing self reflections for my birthday, but also by setting goals for the year ahead. I really want to make the most of every year and this is one of the ways I do it. This year, my goals include:
Finding a place and space that will better suit our family right now and allow us to really enjoy being home together and to entertain and spend more time with family and friends.
Really grow this blog and turn it into what I feel passionate about, not just what I think it should be.
Making my health a priority. I want to avoid diets and fitness trends and really just commit to taking care of myself and my body. That means eating healthy every day, not to look a certain way but to take care of myself and give me the energy I need to be my best and because really, I’m sick of worrying about what I should eat or if I should be trying Keto or Whole 30. I just want to be healthy and take care of my body.
Learn to cook. As part of that, it’s time I learn to cook. I’m legit going to make that a priority this year to make sure I”m more conscious and deliberate about what both myself and my family eat. Plus, it’s time I learned a new skill.
Plan more trips and adventures with my family. I can be a total homebody but getting out of the house and doing stuff and going places is one of the best ways to make memories that we’ll always cherish.
Learn to calm down. I get easily worked up and stressed about things, and I want to learn to really let go and not freak out about everything. I know it’ll make me a better mom, partner and boss.
Focus on friendships. In the past couple of years, between having James, taking on a bigger role at work, and going through infertility, my friendships have really gone to the wayside. I haven’t made an effort to catch up with old friends and nurture those relationships and I haven’t put any effort into cultivating new ones. Having mom friends and people you can hang out with both with and without your kids is so important, and it’s something that I want to be better about this year.
So that’s it. My self reflections for my birthday, my goals for a new year, and some (measured) hope for the year ahead.