Oh man, where do I even begin?
Well, I suppose I want to begin with the biggest, most heart-felt THANK YOU.
Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and support and getting back into blogging. I truly can’t tell you all how much I appreciate it, and how happy I am to be back.
In my introductory post about being back, I gave all of the high-level details of what’s gone on in my life during the intervening time. But today, I’d like to tell the whole story. Obviously, unlike my usual Weblog Wednesday. this one is going to recap way more than the past week. So settle in, ha.
I’m actually going to rewind a bit to before my last regular blog post in 2017, the one where I announced our infertility.
So, we were living in Nashville (well, about 45 minutes outside of Nashville, which is about to become important to the story). I had started a new job at a startup company which shall remain nameless. For my whole career I had worked in the financial services industry (which is super conservative, and the reason I use a partial pseudonym on here). But Nashville does not have many banking jobs, so I took what I could find at this startup.
Y’all. It was awful. And, I don’t mean “the coffee sucks and things are disorganized” in-a-joking-way kind of awful. I mean truly, truly awful. I was bullied on a daily basis (which is a first for me – I was never ever bullied as a child or teen, so this was new territory for me). There was a group of three women who would call me fat, ugly, stupid, old, et cetera on a daily basis. They were truly the meanest, and I could not believe that adults could act this way. I didn’t know what I ever did to them, although it later came to my attention that apparently my salary was higher than all of theirs, and they learned about that and decided to punish me for it. Anyway, when I went to my boss about the bullying, she told me that she wanted me to “work it out” on my own. “Just go talk to them! Tell them how you feel!”
Tell them I literally cry the entire drive home every night? Tell them that their words sting and only make my infertility-fueled depression worse? Tell them that they’ve brought back my anorexia demons?
I tried. I really did. I went to them. I tried to befriend them. I tried so, so hard for them to like me. It didn’t work.
They all eventually got fired (thankfully other managers were better than my manager as far as actually intervening). But it was too late. The damage was done.
I was truly and utterly miserable, and I felt so, so horribly about myself. Every day I would cry, believing their words that I was fat and ugly and old. Just take a look at my company headshot. You can see how damn depressed I was. This isn’t a real smile. This is the face of someone who is terrified to walk in the door each day, who feels defeated just getting up in the morning.
Compare that to my smile now! This is me from earlier today, in my crafting lair. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s continue with the story…
So, where were we? Ah yes, spring of 2017. So, the bullies got fired. Thank all that is holy. But, I knew something was amiss physically. Since I’ve battled anorexia off and on my whole life, I’ve never been regular. I always knew in the back of my mind that it might present difficulties with conceiving. So it came as no surprise when bloodwork confirmed that I was not ovulating. It was still devastating news, to see that I had the hormone levels of a pre-teen. I felt like less of a woman.
We went straightaway to Nashville Fertility Center, where they ran further tests that ruled all other issues out. We endured three unsuccessful medicated intrauterine insemination rounds. These were probably the hardest emotionally. The medication I was on — Letrazole — is a chemotherapy drug for breast cancer, and it made me terribly, terribly exhausted. I felt so sick on it.
All the while I was still commuting an hour or more each way to my own personal hell, the startup with bullies. (Oh, side note: did I mention that this workplace was also hella immature? The CEO would literally pour tequila shots for people at 9 AM. Not joking. People would work while drinking LIQUOR all the time. I have never had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol thankfully, but I can only imagine how triggering that sort of environment must be for someone who has).
Life was hell. I had no friends nearby, because we lived so far outside of the city. Work was hell. Infertility was hell. I was made to quit running to help our chances with pregnancy.
Then … Melanoma.
As if life couldn’t have gotten any worse.
My mom died of melanoma back in 2011, and I am a pale ginger who lives in a warm sunny climate. I literally could not be any higher risk. I’ve had countless spots removed over the years, all without event. Imagine my surprise, then, when I logged into my patient portal after a routine spot removal, to see the dreaded M-word.
I cried. A lot.
Surgery was tough. It was on the back of my leg, which meant no running or even climbing stairs for months. Running is my coping mechanism. Since regaining weight from my latest bout with anorexia, running is what keeps me going. It clears my head. It gives me that proverbial runners high. And I couldn’t do it. Hell, I could barely walk.
I am incredibly lucky that we caught it when we did. One surgery is a million times better than multiple surgeries and radiation and chemo.
I am also incredibly lucky that it did not delay our IVF. (They won’t let you do IVF if you’re in active cancer treatment).
IVF itself was surprisingly not-so-bad. Sure, my husband had to give me injections in my abdomen every night for two weeks. But it was honestly not nearly as bad as I feared.
If you’re not familiar with IVF, here’s a basic summary: In a normal cycle, a woman produces a single egg. In IVF, she is given of shots hormones to stimulate her ovaries to produce lots and lots of eggs. A doctor then goes in and surgically retrieves those eggs when they are mature. The eggs are combined with sperm and are left to grow in a lab. Some will survive, some will not. After 5 or 6 days, the hope is that at least one embryo has formed, which can then be transferred back to the woman’s uterus in the hopes of implantation.
We did what is called a planned freeze-all. I plan to write a more detailed post about it later, but basically, I was at a very high risk for something dangerous called OHSS, so we retrieved my eggs, made the embryos, and then froze them for later us.
While we were unlucky to be the 1 in 8 couples who struggle to conceive, we were extremely lucky to have a very successful IVF cycle. We ended up with FIFTEEN embryos (which is way way way more than usual), eight of which were genetically normal. I cannot thank my lucky stars enough.
After IVF, I was mandated to take some time off from treatment to allow my estrogen levels to go back to normal, since I over-reacted to the medication (despite being on literally the lowest dosage possible).
I quit the damn startup. We went on a lavish Disney trip. I found an amazing, wonderful, fantastic new job (back in financial services) in a new city. We moved. A lot happened! Things finally started looking up!
In November 2017, I finally was successful at convincing my husband to let me get a dog. I had been wanting one for ages, but he was hesitant. We adopted a precious little rescue chihuahua-terrier mix. Her name is Piglet (after Winnie-the-Pooh), and she is my sweet pup!
Dogs are so therapeutic. My depression was already lifting due to the fantastic new job and our move, but adopting her sealed the deal. There is truly something about cuddling with a loving furball that makes everything wrong with the world right again.
In late November — the day after my 33rd birthday, in fact — we traveled to Nashville for our frozen embryo transfer (FET).
The next 10 days were agony, waiting on test results. Then, it came. The call that changed my life forever.
I will never, ever, ever forget the overwhelming joy in hearing my nurse’s voice saying, “Congratulations!”
I cried. So hard. Tears of joy! WE WERE PREGNANT!!!!!
The next nine months would not be easy, but oh, they were worth it. The day before Christmas Eve, I started bleeding profusely. We drove to the hospital, sure that I was miscarrying.
Miraculously, there was a heartbeat.
I was hemorrhaging — badly — but baby was somehow OK.
I was put on modified bed-rest for the first trimester. It was tough, but we made it through. The second trimester was a breeze. I had energy, I was cleared to exercise again, and baby was growing healthfully.
We took a “babymoon” to Disney World (of course), where we did a maternity photo shoot and did our gender reveal and name reveal.
I still harbored a lot of anxiety and fear going into the third trimester. Given everything I had been through, I just knew something bad was going to happen.
At 38 weeks 4 days, I went in for a scan, which was weekly for me since I had been experiencing decreased fetal movement for about a month. My OB took one look at the monitor and said, “you’re having this baby tonight. If we don’t get him out now, he’ll be stillborn.”
It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. I’ll write up a full post about his birth story later. They stuck me in a wheelchair and took me to the hospital, where I was given IV fluids and prepped for an emergency C-section.
At 7:05 PM, August 6th 2018, Jordan Taylor Graham entered the world!
While it was a VERY tough experience emotionally (what with him nearly being stillborn), physically it was actually a breeze! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the C-section was honestly not bad at all.
I healed beautifully and bounced back physically very easily. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a few weeks and was back to running by the time my 8-week postpartum checkup happened.
Jordan gave us a big scare with a bout of jaundice that required him sleeping in a light bed for a while, and he lost a lot of weight. But after recovering from that, despite being early, he is healthy, happy, and huge!
Maternity leave in the United States is a joke. I got eight whole weeks (which I wasn’t even legally entitled to – that was simply due to my employer’s benevolence). During that time, my husband and I came to the decision that me being a stay-at-home-mom was best for our family.
It was a really, really tough decision. I LOVED my job, my coworkers, my boss, everything. But I loved being at home to raise my son even more. Especially after all that I had been through to have him — and the times I nearly lost him.
I love being a SAHM, you guys. I feel so, so, so grateful to even be in this position. I feel beyond lucky to have a living, healthy child. I feel beyond lucky to be in a financial position to be able to stay home to raise him. Despite the infertility, the IVF, the cancer, the bullying, despite all of it – I truly feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.
It has allowed me to fulfill my dream of motherhood while at the same time pursuing my creative outlets. I now have two successful Etsy stores, where I sell graphic designs and physical products I create using my Cricut, such as this autumn decor:
While I am truly satisfied being a SAHM, postpartum anxiety has been a horrendous beast. It comes and goes, and I’ll probably write a whole post about it. But for now I’ll just say, thank God for Zoloft.
So, that’s it, folks. That’s what’s been going on in my life for the past 18 months.
Tell me, what has been going on with YOU since we last spoke? I’ve missed you all so, so much!!!
So much love, xoxo, Charlotte