Therapy and Steak `n Shake

by Kathy on June 15, 2008 · 4 comments

in Bob, CHD, Loss, Molly, Sean

What do going to therapy and eating at Steak `n Shake have in common?

Not much at face value, though I do find eating Steak `n Shake cheese fries and drinking their chocolate shakes to be therapeutic on occasion. However this afternoon, Bob, Sean and I decided to stop at one for lunch en route home from our family reunion/vacation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where we had been for the last week (I will share about our wonderful time there in a separate post). We were eating our meals and chatting when a woman and her young child entered the restaurant. I quickly realized that the woman was my former therapist, whom I haven’t seen since February of 2007. Of all the places I thought I might run into her someday, if ever, a Steak `n Shake off the interstate in Indiana was not at the top of my list.

I started going to see her in September 2006, after Bob and I had been trying to conceive on our own again for about six months, since we were allowed to try again, after a six cycle break following the c-section like surgery to remove our interstitial ectopic pregnancy. My next OB/GYN annual appointment wasn’t scheduled until the following January and I knew that our OB did not intend to refer us to an RE before we had been trying again on our own/without medical assistance for a year and/or I had another miscarriage (mostly for insurance reasons), to total three miscarriages (since the ectopic didn’t “count” as a miscarriage) which would have technically “qualified” us as either being infertile or suffering from recurrent pregnancy loss.

At the time I felt like my husband, other family members and friends were tired of hearing me talk about our struggles with secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, even though by the technical HMO insurance definition we weren’t considered to be dealing with either. I feel like I have, and had at the time, a good sense of self and thus realized that I needed to get some help. I felt like I was somewhat depressed and also semi-obsessed with trying to conceive and sustain another pregnancy in our efforts to try to expand our family and have another child.

The prior year, in November, after our interstitial ectopic pregnancy, we had received information about our hospital’s perinatal/bereavement support group and the contact information for the hospital’s perinatal support coordinator. At the time I didn’t think I needed a support group or to be in touch with a person who specialized in helping those who have gone through what I just had been through. But I did keep the information on file and dug it up one day that September and called the perinatal support group coordinator. She was very sweet and empathetic. She encouraged me to attend the next perinatal support group meeting that she helped to facilitate at the hospital. I also asked her if she knew of any therapists in the area that specialized in infertility and pregnancy loss. She gave me some contact names and numbers.

The following week I attended my first of many monthly perinatal support group meetings at the hospital where I met some amazing women and men who had suffered the loss of one or more children through miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant death. That week I also met for the first time with the therapist that saw today at Steak `n Shake. In the beginning I met with the therapist weekly so we could get to know each other and build a relationship. Over time we met less often, but usually at least once or twice a month. My goal in therapy with her was to “get through” the months between September and January, until my annual OB/GYN appointment.

My therapist was very helpful in my attaining this goal. She taught me some great coping skills, including the practice of therapeutic yoga (during which I would hold poses for 3-5 minutes at a time while trying to relax and clear my mind), which I began practicing 20 minutes each day. She helped me to realize that my obsession with wanting to conceive/sustain a pregnancy was strongly linked to my misunderstanding that the further apart in age Sean and a potential sibling were, the less likely they would be to have a close and friendly relationship with each other. Through conversations with my therapist and other friends and family members I was able to conclude that it is primarily siblings’ personalities and not their age difference that make or break their bonds or lack their of. My therapist introduced me to Dr. Alice Domar’s awesome book Conquering Infertility. My therapist also helped me to prepare for my annual OB/GYN appointment by encouraging me to be assertive with the goal of leaving that appointment with a referral to an RE, despite it not having been a full year of trying to conceive on our own since we were “allowed to” after the ectopic.

I always believe that when I stopped seeing my therapist, it would be my choice and on my own terms. I never thought I would stay with her much past the January appointment, as I saw my therapy with her as a short term solution to my mild depression and obsession with trying to conceive another child, that surely would be cured by our being given the green light to move forward with infertility diagnosis and related treatments. So you can imagine I was surprised, really more like shocked, when I met with her one day in December and she told me that she was planning to stop working as a therapist in the new year, to devote herself to being a stay at home mom to her child (who was with her today) and to potentially, down the road, try again with some frozen embryos she and her husband had from previous IVF cycles when they were trying to conceive their first.

However when I found out she was planning to retire from therapy, at least for now, all of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t see her enough and wanted to make the most of whatever time I might be able to have with her before she was done. She agreed to see me through mid-February, as she wanted to take time to phase out her relationships with me and her other patients, which I respected and appreciated. Bob and I had our first consultation with our RE while I was still in my therapist’s care. She was able to help coach me for that first appointment and after I shared that our RE was recommending that we go straight to IVF, she was able to tell me about her first-hand experience with IVF and gave me some great tips (to help me both physically and emotionally) while we were preparing for our first cycle.

Anyway, as we parted ways that February, she joked that maybe we would run into each other someday while we were both doing ART cycles in the future, as it turned out we both used the same agency, though not the same primary clinic locations. I never did see my therapist while going for an ART related appointment or treatment, though I always kept an eye out for her. The last time I saw my therapist, prior to today, she had asked me to let her know via her supervisor where I went to her for therapy if and when we had success with IVF and then her supervisor could and would let her know the good news. I always meant to do so after we found out we were pregnant with Molly through our first FET cycle, but I guess my pregnancy with her, not being “normal,” got away from me quickly and I never followed through on her request.

I have thought about my therapist many times since our last meeting. I have thought about how grateful I am for many of the tools she taught me that helped me to get through those months before our OB/GYN (the same one who delivered Molly almost two months ago now) gave me a referral to our RE at that appointment in January 2007. Those same coping skills also came in handy once we began our first IVF cycle in March/April of 2007 and continued to be useful in our subsequent ART cycles and pregnancy with Molly. I have also wondered about my therapist and her family, knowing some of what she had shared about herself, her husband and her child during our therapy sessions. I have prayed for them that if they wanted another child that they would have success if and when they tried again on their own or with one or more of their frozen embryos.

So when I looked up from our table at Steak `n Shake this afternoon and laid eyes on her it was all I could do not grab her, sit her down, fill her in and get her take on everything that has transpired in my life, especially related to reproduction, over the 16 months since we last met. I did call out her name and she and her child came over. I had to remind her how she knew me and then she seemed to look like she had some memory of our prior relationship. I introduced her to Bob and Sean and she introduced me to her child. It was bizarre. We small talked briefly about where we were both coming from and where we were both headed (family vacations). I was dying to share about our ART cycles last year, about how we finally had success on ART cycle #4 (FET#1) and of course about our baby girl Molly’s short but very special life. I wanted so much for her to ask how I was doing in more than a superficial way, but quickly realized that Steak `n Shake with our children in tow was not the place or time for such catching up. And as Bob reminded me later, in the car as we continued our road trip home to Chicago, it not like we are old friends. She was my therapist who got paid to listen to me, talk with me and try to help me. Ours was a professional relationship and not a personal friendship.

As we left Steak `n Shake after we finished our lunch, she and her child were still there sitting in a booth together waiting for their meal. I waved goodbye and we both said, “good to see you.” Being me, immediately I tried to make sense of the coincidence of our meeting today. I struggled with what meaning it could or should have in my life now, after all this time has passed since I was her client/patient and she was my therapist. I wondered if there was supposed to be some significance with this coming week holding so many special dates in our life, including Tuesday, June 17 (two months since Molly was born and went to Heaven), Wednesday, June 18 (our ectopic angel’s EDD in 2006, he or she would have been two this month) and if Molly had lived and not been stricken with such severe CHD, she might very well have been born via a scheduled c-section this week, if not before, as I would have been 39 weeks this coming Saturday, June 21 and her due date of Saturday, June 28 is also quickly approaching.

However, when I began to reflect on the things that I learned from my therapist many months ago, I remembered how she would tell me that although such dates are important and such coincidental meetings can have significance, everything that happens in our life isn’t necessarily a sign from God and it is okay for some experiences to be what they are and nothing more.

So I guess what I take from our encounter today, is a reminder that despite all that I have been through over the past year on our journey trying to expand our family, that I am amazingly doing really well right now. I do have my moments, which I know is normal, as I continue to grieve the loss of our baby girl and heal, both physically and emotionally. I am feeling good about myself, my family and our life together. I am content with where I am at in my life and though I intend to honor Molly and our ectopic angel baby’s memory in the coming week, I am also going to try not to make more or less of their special dates than feels appropriate to me.

Finally, I would like to wish my readers who are fathers and all of the fathers, grandfathers and Godfathers in all of my readers’ lives (whether they are with us here on earth or watching over us from Heaven) a very happy father’s day today!

I also would like to wish my due date buddy Farah’s, at Fertilized (http://fertilizeme.blogspot.com/), husband “E” a very happy first father’s day today (as many of you know their first child, a son named Austin, was born last week)! I am sooooooo happy for you Farah, E and Austin and look forward to continuing to follow your journey as a new mother and family of three!

Thank you for reading and for your continued support, comments, positive thoughts and prayers.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SommerNyte June 16, 2008 at 1:47 am

Kathy ~ I am like you, I’d be thinking about the dates and trying to figure it all out. (((hugs)))

Cute story to share with you… I have the photo thank you card with Molly’s pictures on it on the side of my refrigerator and Calista just noticed it today. She said, “Whose baby is that?”

I said that baby’s name is Molly and she belongs to my friend Kathy.

Calista smiled and said, “She’s cute, just like Ace and Nate” and happily skipped away. 🙂

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2 Katie June 16, 2008 at 9:17 am

I always do the same thing with dates and really think that nothing in life can be a total “coincidence.”

And is it wrong that I now really want cheese fries? And a shake?

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3 Fertilized June 16, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Kathy- I just think you are an amazing woman of faith and you are such an encouragement. Thank you for wishing E his very first father’s day. This whole experience has been surreal. I just am so very lucky and glad to have found your blog. I hope Austin is half as sweet as Sean

Happy *belated father’s day to Bob.

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4 Kymberli June 17, 2008 at 11:53 am

I had to take a moment to think about this and then come back to it. Like you, I also tend to look for reasons “why” when odd coincidences such as your chance meeting or when significant dates seem to line up one right after the other.

I think that there was significant meaning behind this encounter with your former therapist. I think that you kind-of hit the nail on the head yourself: what I think you came to see is that what she thinks, this kind woman you once saw for guidance and support, is far less important than what you think about all that has happened and how you are coping with it. The validation that you felt you wanted to get from her at the Steak & Shake wasn’t necessary – you know on your own that you are coping well (with your ups and downs, of course), and it seems to me to be a mark of your personal strength and growth that you did not need to rely on her to tell you that. Thinking of you through this week and beyond.

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