“At the age of 26, I limped out of his house and drove home over 100 miles away with $20 in my pocket, my beloved dog, and a trash bag’s worth of clothing. Everything I built before him was shattered. At 26, I lost my teaching job, my car was being repossessed, and my house went into foreclosure proceedings because of the hold he had over every aspect of my life.
That’s when I started self-harming because the mental torture was so deep I had to shut it off with physical pain. It was embarrassing, I felt alone and unheard, and so I turned my sorrow into an anonymous blog to let out the screaming in my head. I didn’t think anyone in my life truly understood me and I knew I couldn’t be the only one suffering like I was. My blog became an outlet to find a community.
At the time, I didn’t realize it would become as popular as it did, but I’m thankful because it brought me a reader who was a professor at Rutgers University. He told me my writing was like Virginia Wolfe and Kurt Vonnegut’s love child, and he also told me about nonprofits that help abuse survivors and how he thought they could help me. ‘My mom’s a survivor. Therapy helped all of us.’ One Google search later I contacted Safe Connections in St. Louis and got on their waiting list. It was six months before they had an opening but it came at the perfect time. The work I had to do in therapy was excruciating and intimate but I learned to navigate it, figured out how to trust people again, and began realizing the abuse wasn’t my fault. He was a monster; I was deserving of love and acceptance.
Eventually, I was ready to date again. My therapist helped me navigate an unexpected relationship when a handsome former-classmate wrote me on Facebook: ‘I had a dream about you,’ he wrote, ‘You yelled at me about how I filled out paperwork.’ As serendipity would have it, that was the start of our marriage: a random dream turned into a curious spark, and then a forever. Usually this is where the story ends. I could’ve written so many more details into this and turned it into its own post but unfortunately this isn’t the end of my trauma. When Joe and I got married we decided to try to conceive a baby almost immediately. We knew we wanted to be parents and we were 31 when we finally said ‘I do.’
That first year, we tried like most couples. We bought wine, had fun, went on vacation, watched other friends get married (and pregnant) but curiosity turned to worry when months continued to pass and we still weren’t pregnant. My husband, the ever-optimist thought we just needed more time but my gut said we needed help. After some of our most difficult conversations and many tears, I made a doctor’s appointment. We kept this close to our chest because we weren’t sure how family would react. Treatment can be controversial and everyone is full of opinions, whether well-meaning or not, that can really do damage to your mental health.
We just needed to find our own path.
After a year of trying with no success my OB recommended testing and we jumped straight in. I focused most of my attention on self-care as we reluctantly embraced infertility. In fact, I know the reason I navigated infertility so well was because of my trauma therapy from domestic violence. Of course, we didn’t come out unscathed. My husband and I had more hard conversations and there were moments we looked at each other like strangers. We had different ideas on how to move forward and what paths we were willing to take. It’s not unusual, but it can be damaging to a bond. We were given the diagnosis of male factor infertility though we would later find out I also had severe endometriosis, and we were told we needed IVF to build our biological family after two failed rounds of IUI. But just because we needed it did we want to move forward? At first Joe didn’t. He said I’d already been through enough and he didn’t want me on more hormones. I told him I wanted to try and then I told him again and again until his eyes opened. I was calm but certain, quiet in my approach and minutes from waving the white flag when he changed his mind and then the energy resurfaced: I was full of momentum.
After a brutal first egg retrieval that ended with internal bleeding and one viable embryo, we decided to try another round a few months after my body healed from the first. The second retrieval resulted in three additional embryos and we felt good moving forward with a frozen embryo transfer. March 27th, 2017 we transferred two perfect PGS tested, 5BB embryos.
They both stuck and I was pregnant with a little boy and a little girl after a decade of trauma. Lucas (Luke) and Josefina (Joey) came into the world tiny, mighty, and early. I was thirty four weeks pregnant when my water spontaneously broke and suddenly the pain and trauma resurfaced. Were my babies okay? Would we need NICU time? And how do I deal with a NICU stay – or worse, serious complications – on top of everything else we’d been through? I hadn’t even had time to process IVF and there we were, facing down another hurdle to bring our babies home. We spent 36 days in the NICU before they left the hospital; sometimes the microwave beeps and I still think it’s a monitor alarming in their room but we’ve made it 17 months since their birthday and they are a piece of my life I wanted so badly. Now I understand why: they are magic.
I’ve never claimed to be or thought I was special. I just like to talk a lot but what I have found is my truth has helped both myself and others heal, so I keep talking. This year I cofounded a revolutionary infertility summit called InfertileAF, where we empower those struggling with infertility to make the best, informed choices for themselves, and to protect their mental health at all costs instead of playing into the toxic idea you have to keep trying until you have a family. Our inaugural summit sold out in 8 days and I think it’s because we are talking about the taboo, scary things others don’t. We want couples to know it’s okay to move forward with other plans, including adoption, fostering, surrogacy, and even choosing to stop treatment and live life without children. Those choices are valid and brave, too.
I would never have the life and career I do without my trauma. I know some will say I’m glorifying sadness or stretching to find a silver lining. In my mind, I’m just doing my best to process everything that has happened while pushing toward the life I truly want: to be myself and also a mom my kids look up to because she is honest, hardworking, and chases every dream.
A decade of trauma hasn’t stopped me yet, and I feel like I’m just getting started. If you are struggling with trauma, you aren’t alone. Find your tribe, speak your truth, and take care of your beautiful brain: you deserve it as much as I do.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lindsay Fischer who blogs at ComplicatedMommies.com and can be found on Instagram and Facebook. She is a best-selling author of two books, The House on Sunset and The Two Week Wait Challenge. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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