I know. It’s been a week and nary-a-new post. And truly … for months I’ve been finding little to no time to comment on other friends’ blogs. Thank you for those that still stick around and read about my silly (and lately, not-so-silly) ramblings.

And before I go any further, I just want to send out a ti-gantic (as opposed to ginormous) hug to absolutely everyone out there in the cyberworld for all the warm sentiments and prayers sent my way over the past three weeks. I know my Grandma would be absolutely amazed by the sheer number of people that have expressed such loving and caring thoughts about my love and respect for her both here on my bloggie … and in my Fac.ebo.ok world. Thank you thank you THANK YOU!

265Okay … I’m sure I’ll have more posts about how I’m dealing with this loss. And I’m sure I’ll have even more posts about the week (last week) that my nephew came to visit on his “Spring Break.” Or the subsequent trip he’s making this weekend with his mom and step-dad and sister. But since I spent a lot of time writing the following blurb below … I figured I’d share it with you. But first … a little preface.

My good bloggie friend sent a “call out” for some assistance with a paper that she’s writing for her Philosophy class this semester. The premise of her paper is to cite examples in which life-altering events or times of crisis cause a person to question his or her sense of self … and ultimately a shift in his or her outlook of life and the world. *

So yeah. What better life-altering event might there be than going through infertility and subsequent treatments? And the after-effects of failed treatments? And the ultimate decision to give up that dream of creating a family with the love of your life … at least for now?

You bet I answered the call. And because the questions she posed certainly had my noggin working overtime … and because, quite frankly I’m too tired, as of late, to write a “proper” post … I decided to post a copy of my answers here. So without further ado …

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Hello, Interviewees!
Thank you in advance for your willingness to help me complete my senior thesis by participating in my interview call.

The purpose of these questions is to glean from a wide audience the ways in which we define our sense of self, and what happens when we feel that there has been a change in that sense of self. All responses will be kept anonymous, but for my own tracking purposes (if, for instance, I want clarification on one of your answers) and for the purposes of sorting responses, please fill out the following demographic information:

Name: Emily (Apron Strings)
Age: 36 (yikes!)
Gender: Female
Marital Status: Married
Religious Affiliation (if any): Catholic

And now, the questions:

  1. Do you believe that you have undergone a significant shift in your sense of self? (Please note that if your answer is “No”, then the rest of these questions will be irrelevant to you!)
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    I believe I have.
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  2. What do you feel precipitated this shift? Was there a specific event or point in time? Was the change gradual or sudden?
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    Hindsight is always 20/20. I’ve been dealing with infertility for most of my married life which makes this time period well over 12 years. I didn’t recognize how much I’ve changed since dealing with infertility until about two years ago. This makes me believe that this change has been gradual.
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  3. Describe yourself both before and after the change. What areas of you life or aspects of your self were most significantly impacted?
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    When my husband and I first started out on making our family, I was a pretty optimistic and overall happy person. I saw things as half-full and I saw possibilities in just about every avenue of my life. Mostly I saw the ability, with hard work and effort, to achieve any dream or goal I put my heart into.
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    At the peak of my infertility treatments, I can recall becoming more of a pessimistic person. I began to think that there seemed to be no use to going through the monthly regimen of ultrasounds and medications where I would have to poke myself with a needle. “Why bother hurting myself?” I can recall thinking. “I’m just going to end up disappointed once again.”
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    In other words, why did I have to put any effort into this dream or goal of being able to create a life with my husband … when, at the end of the month, I’m still not going to achieve that dream?
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    266At first I tried to avoid allowing my Infertility “issues” and subsequent change in “self” to infiltrate my life outside of my personal life between my husband and myself. However; the longer I remained in my “infertile” and pessimistic world, the more it infiltrated my social and work lives.
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    Socially, I began to isolate myself. It started out whenever I attended any social gatherings. I’d inevitably get the “Still not pregnant?” questions which I would, in the beginning, answer politely. And when I would explain to them our situation, it appeared as if the conversation would turn “awkward” for the person I was speaking to. After a while, the more I got asked the question, I’d feel more hurt and angrier at them. And the less I’d want to talk to anyone in a social situation. Therefore, because of my negative responses and actions (refusing to participate in further “children” discussions), people stopped asking me any questions (child-related or not). After a period of time, I stopped getting any invitations to gatherings. This then resulted in further isolation.
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    In work, instead of being the highly driven, goal-oriented person, I began to be the person that would always find things “wrong” with the current situation. Worse is that I became the person I’ve always dreaded working with; the one who was always complaining / whining about any and every issue but would never offer any resolutions.
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  4. How have others viewed your shift? What has the external response been? Are people quick to adjust or slow, positive or negative, etc.? .
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    The first person that ever brought up this “change” was my husband. And honestly, it’s because he is the closest person to me. He has been good about telling me when I’ve “crossed” the line from being just “dejected and hurt” to being “negative and hurtful” to others and other situations. And because both of us were going through infertility, that was hard for me to hear without feeling as if I was hurting him in the process, too. However, my husband has always been very supportive and has overall been great at adjusting to any situation. In other words, he was quick to adjust to the changes within me and has been a positive force in helping me realize what had changed. He is absolutely excellent in me and in “reeling” me back in any given situation when needed.
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    Socially, I’ve not had many people “comment” about the change in me, but never directly address it with me. I think it’s mainly because infertility is such a hard subject to talk about for other people. And quite frankly, I don’t see any other way that someone might bring up this “change” in me without first having to discuss my infertility issues. With that said, I believe socially … people have been overall negative and slow to adjust to this change.
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    At work, the only example I can give you is this: The year before I found out about my SIL’s pregnancy, my annual work performance review (for 2007) was “excellent.” The following year’s review (for 2008), which occurred after the birth and subsequent death of my nephew, Liam, and the announcement of this same SIL’s latest pregnancy … well, let’s just say that my performance review was less than stellar. Add to the fact that my former boss wanted to put me on a “corrective action plan” based on my attitude (and not my work or work ethics, by the way) … well, as you can see, the people at work were very slow to adjust and overall negative to this change.
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  5. What has been your response to the shift? Have you undergone a shift in behavior or habits or lifestyle? What about in the way you judge your own (or others’) actions?
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    267I absolutely hate the fact that I’ve become the person I am … or rather was during this period in my life. And I do say that in “past tense” because I am actively trying to change back to who I was before infertility changed me to the negative person I am today. 

With that said, I have undergone a shift in behavior, habits and lifestyle … and I’ve done / am doing it twice, thus far, in my life. I’ll break it down into the two phases: During Infertility (DI) and After Niece’s Birth (ANB).
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    DI: My behavior consisted of thinking of all negative outcomes to any given situation and acting on what the negative outcome would be (even if the outcome could be or ended up being positive). Using the social life as an example; even though a good friend might be having a baby shower … because this was a “baby” related event, I would avoid going to it without any given explanation and assume I’d have everyone, including this friend, be pissed off at me. Whereas the truth is, if I was up front with this friend about why I couldn’t go, I was more apt to elicit a favorable response and a perhaps form even stronger bond with this friend. (I’m just sayin’ … it could be possible!). Suffice to say, doing things like avoiding “baby” related things has changed the various habits we may have (avoiding baby aisle at various stores, including grocery stores, as an example) and the lifestyle we live (difficulty in relating to friends who now have children of their own; difficulty finding “childless” couples to hang out with that are around our age).
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    ANB: After the birth of my niece (my SIL’s pregnancy after my 5 month old nephew had passed), I went through a very very negative period in my life. And honestly, I would have thought that going through the previous pregnancy would have prepared me for this one. But the thing is, my SIL’s pregnancy with my niece was much smoother and very uneventful that I almost had no recourse but to think I was “okay” with it. It’s only after my niece was born that all this anger and negativity and pessimism rose again … and to its highest degree, may I add. But it was my reactions to the birth of my niece that made me realize how much I hated what I became. And it was the catalyst for me to change.
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    So as I type, I can tell you what changes have occurred since last September. (1) I moved out of state – while it may seem that I’m “running away” from the issue at hand, I view it as giving me some breathing room to decompress and grow out of the shell I isolated myself in for so many years. (2) I’ve started a new job – again, not to “run away” from my problems from my previous place of work. No, this is another attempt at growth … because instead of going to work daily “just to get paid,” I am going to work with a purpose and with a challenge and end goal in mind. That, alone, is a big feat … because my end goal is no longer focused on creating the family that may never come … but it’s a goal that I can work hard at and eventually achieve the results I desire. And finally, (3) Since moving, I’ve found myself making a conscious effort to find the positive in any given situation and run with it. I try to make the most of what I’ve been given and try not to think too much of the “What If’s” or “Why’s”. I’m trying to think of the future with a positive outcome … it might not be what I imagined or dreamed or planned it to be, but it will still be a good one.
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  6. Do you believe that you are fundamentally the same person now as you were before your shift? Describe as best you can what leads you to the conclusion to which you come. Specifically, what factors do you use to determine your core sense of self?
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    I think that there is part of me that still remains the core person I was before infertility came into my life. I think that my sense of values as to what is important in my life remains the same. If I weren’t that person anymore, then there would be no way that I’d be making the conscious effort to try to return to who I was before my core was shaken.
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    However, I am realistic enough to know that I cannot … nor will I ever be … the same person I was 12 years ago. There have been too many events and experienced I’ve encountered in between those years that has shaped me into who I am today.
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    I almost prefer to think that 12 years ago I was just plain naïve about the rest of the world.
    I can understand how physical loss (-ie- the death of a loved-one / child / parent / sibling / other relative) or physical illness (-ie- pick your choice of terminal diagnoses, psychiatric diagnoses, or even life-changing circumstances like para- or quadriplegia) can be life-altering. However, I had no idea that something as “tragic” as the inability to create a life would break my heart into a million pieces and rock my sense of self to its very core. I had no idea that infertility would force me to look at who I was … and who I still know is “buried” inside of me today.
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    The difference is now I have hindsight to refer to. I can still retain that “self” I was before infertility, but now I can alter it (based on my past experiences) to reflect the true strength I’ve acquired over the past 12 years. I can still be that optimistic person with life goals ahead of her, but realize that there are some goals in life that I might never achieve … even if I work very hard at it. I can still be the same person who values family … even though my family consists of my husband and me with our three furbabies. And even if our responsibilities to the “younger” generation consists of being the best Auntie and Uncle in the world. I can still be the person who values responsibility … and still respect that there are some responsibilities that I am not responsible for.
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    I’m not quite sure I fully answered this last question appropriately, but this is the best answer I can come up with.

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268Well I must admit, I used up all my brain power answering these questions. And because I know I’ll be having yet another busy (but fun) weekend … this might be all I’ll be posting for now.

But between the rest of the blogiverse and me, I’d be quite happy lying on my newest piece of I.kea furniture and doing absolutely nothing … (Oh, who am I kidding … I will be enjoying the time spent with my niece and nephew!)

Yet again, thanks for reading my ever-so-interesting ramblings. And once more, thanks for all the wonderful bloggie love I’ve gotten over the past few weeks.

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* Okay, Ms. Kate. I hope I didn’t slaughter your thesis. Eek!