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I’m pretty sure I have PTSD: Part 1

Yesterday—which happened to be the day Easter fell—marked a year since we had Olivia dedicated at our church. I wish I would have blogged about it, but the Risa last year seemed to have dropped the ball. So here are some quick photos from that day:

She was REALLY excited to get her presents.

I was baptized as a baby in a Lutheran church. We’ve been attending a non-denomination church for the last few years and they do baby dedications maybe 4 times a year.

I don’t even really remember the specific service that it got hard to be there for. At our previous church, I do remember attending a few when we were first married and had started trying. It didn’t bother me then. I’d sit there in the pew, smiling and pointing out all the cute babies.

Somewhere along the way, as I began taking Clomid to try to get pregnant, not long before my blog was started, I approached the altar after a service with Chris and asked someone to pray for us.

As time went by, I started avoiding baby dedications. And I carried guilt with that. I mean, it wasn’t like I blamed these parents for having kids when I couldn’t. Besides, I’m more mature now in my journey and I know the likelihood that at least 1 or 2 of these babies came from struggle. But seeing the line of people along the front of the church only proved to be a reminder (one of many) that my own arms were empty.

For years after, I carefully made other plans on the weekend in order to avoid Dedication Sunday. Even when I was pregnant, I looked down at my belly as the announcement was made for the following week and and still.

Still I didn’t belong. Still I was overwhelmed.

Olivia’s own dedication was hard. I was to stand up there and declare to the church that my daughter would be raised to know God. It was a promise I was to make to the church to raise her in a Christian household. Instead, I was distracted. Because Adam should have been dedicated too. Because I stood up there missing a baby. Because one of my friends and fellow infertility small group member stood next to me with her husband, holding a daughter, but grieving a son as well. Because holding my daughter up there in front of everyone, I couldn’t get it out of my head that somewhere out in that audience were other people experiencing infertility. People who looked at me and wished they could have been anywhere but sitting in church, watching a baby dedication. People who’s arms were still empty.

So I was torn between being happy for my little family and wanting to cry and get off the stage.

It was about two months ago, when I was hit smack in the face of infertility PTSD.

I haven’t been back to another dedication since Olivia’s. But two months ago, at church, when I walked into the room and saw the line up of parents and the tell-tale screen running a slideshow of the babies, I stopped. Right in the aisle where I was following Chris to get a seat, I stopped. And I tried to catch up to him, to whisper a breathless plea to make him leave with me. But he didn’t hear me and I ended up following him, forcing one foot in front of the other. We sat down, and I leaned over him, trying to make myself heard over the music.

“I didn’t know they were doing this today.”

He looked at me. “Did you want to leave?” And I felt so unbelievably ridiculous about the whole thing. My daughter was in the nursery. I survived infertility. I had a baby. And only the force of what seemed like God Himself was keeping my butt on that chair.

Because I was freaking out, you guys. My heart was hammering, and tears were coming to my eyes and I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to run out. I’ve never experienced anything like that, and it was awful. It’s like my body had completely seized control over the rational part of my mind and was preparing for an imminent bear attack.

I sat through the service, gripping Chris’s hand. I sat there as the parents walked on stage with their children. I sat there as names were introduced, and a message given—the same exact thing that happened last year as I stood up there with Chris. But now I just sat there, crying quietly to myself because the pain and ache and ridiculousness and anger of infertility was rushing back to me and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

People that say post traumatic stress after infertility doesn’t exist are probably fertile. And assholes. Because I’m here, telling you that it is very much a thing.

Church ended, we picked up Olivia, and as I sat in the car for the drive home, I texted my two friends who would understand better than anyone.

I didn’t know they were doing baby dedications. It kind of caught me off guard.

What I wanted to say was this: I still can’t seem to get it together, you guys.

I want to tell you a little more about my PTSD. Because hey, I’ve never shied away from brutal honesty on here, right? Right? But that could fill a book. So stay tuned.

P.S. Please excuse any typos. The baby was fussing in her crib and making me type faster.


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17 Comments on "I’m pretty sure I have PTSD: Part 1"

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Jess
Guest
I completely agree that there is infertility PTSD. I just had this conversation with a friend of mine who has a daughter thanks to treatment and she feels strongly that it is a powerful thing, whether you resolve with a child or not. I am so sorry, that experience sounded so hard — both the dedication you were a part of and the panic of being there when you didn’t want to be this year. It is overwhelming. It brings back all those feelings. I used to avoid driving past our old local clinic because my heart would hammer when… Read more »
Travelcraft
Member

Your feelings are absolutely valid, and that is a real thing. The pro-family/kids aspect of church can be super painful. It’s totally okay to skip out when you need to too. I have a lot of anxiety around church. It’s not all IF-related, but that’s part of the equation.

Mel
Guest

I believe it because I’ve experienced it, too. Different triggers, but I am suddenly panicking, even if I’m not still in the same situation or even the same person I was during the trauma. Life has changed, but certain situations have the ability to throw me backwards, emotionally. Sending a hug.

Cristy
Guest

Infertility PTSD is very real. I live with it and though the waves of panic and anxiety are far less and the triggers more well defined, when it hits it still leaves me reeling.

The first step in all of this is acknowledging you’re not crazy/selfish/cowardly/awful. You are none of these. But baby dedications may need to be avoided. Not because you’re awful but because it’s a trigger. It may not always be, but for now protecting your heart is the more important than others’ feelings.

Jane allen
Guest
Infetility is like the Hotel California; you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. It hit me last Mother’s Day. I was pissed off because I kept osilating between feelings of ‘Finally! this is my day to celebrate!’ and ‘I can’t celebrate because I remember how shitty it is to be infertile on Mother’s Day’. It didn’t help that my Husband and my mother barely acknowledged that it was my first mother’s day, but my fertile friend Myrtle sent me a small gift. She may have been clueless when it came to dealing for infertility,… Read more »
Erika
Guest

Oh my goodness, yes. Infertility PTSD is absolutely real. I’m so sorry for your experience. I have experienced that myself many times, and the depth of the emotion always shocks me. I just don’t know if it’s something we’ll ever get “over,” you know? I think time will ease the sting, maybe. Thank you for sharing so openly.

Holly Benson
Guest
First off I love seeing your baby in your arms. Its so beautiful! You are on of the bloggers I connected with when we were both knee deep in those trenches. PTSD. Sigh. So I have 3 kids now and 1 more boy on ice (all boys over here.) the thing that triggers me is boy/girl twins that survive, but still, for the love of all things holy, PREGNANCY announcements! I think I lived in such fear of these dumb things popping up all over the place that when I hear one, my first honest gut reaction is jealousy and… Read more »
Amber
Guest

Oh Risa, my friend, I’m so sorry you were blindsided by this at church. It’s so hard when our emotions take over and there’s nothing we can do about it. Big hugs from me!

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