Heavy Heart

heavyheartI’m struggling today. My own grief over our recent loss combined with the grief and fear over the presidential election results are just too much. My heart is just too heavy.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been doing the grief work that I know I need to do in order to heal and move forward. My therapist and I talked about the importance of acknowledging the loss in some way, like a service or ceremony, or some sort of physical memorial, like a tree (or the tattoo I’m planning). She asked if the baby had a name, and I told her no. It’s true – we hadn’t officially decided on anything, though I had pretty much settled on one before we learned of her condition. I hadn’t told my husband, because I was afraid I might change my mind before she was born. I still haven’t told him, but now I think I probably should. I think I would like for her to have a name. And, as much as it hurts, I would like to talk about her more, and giving her a name would help with that.

We haven’t talked about trying again. I’m afraid to open that door, because I have a feeling he will want to slam it closed and weld it shut for good. I keep telling people that we’re not sure if we want to try again, but the truth is that I do want to try. I want to try with our embryos until we don’t have any left. If we don’t, I may grow to resent it. I worry, though, about the strain it may cause. My husband is already working like a maniac to support us. We’re far from poor, but paying for even one more FET would be a stretch. Not to mention the emotional strain. At this moment in time, however, my desire to have another baby is greater than my drive to avoid conflict or discomfort, greater than my fear of having another baby with a neural tube defect.

I used to think people who claimed fear or grief after an election were just being dramatic. I mean, I wasn’t happy when George W. was elected, but I was far from scared or depressed. But this year, I’m among those scared and despondent. Chief among the many reasons for feeling that way is what this means for reproductive rights. It was hard enough for me to get an abortion for medical reasons, I’m legitimately afraid of how much worse things could get not only for people in a similar position, but also for those seeking abortion for any reason. Not only that, I’m dismayed by how many of my loved ones support a president and other elected officials who would take away my right to choose to end my pregnancy. It makes me sick to think that people I love, who are supposed to love me, would force me to carry to term a baby with no chance of living. It hurts. Deeply.

I’m not dealing with all of this emotional turmoil very well. Writing this blog post is the healthiest thing I’ve done in a while. Mostly, I’ve just been eating my feelings, and then feeling terrible for it, and  then eating THOSE feelings. A vicious cycle.

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Word Vomit

Excuse me while I vomit words all over this page. As I’m sure you can understand, I just need to get this out. Sorry if it doesn’t make sense.

In addition to the immobilizing grief of losing a baby, I’m experiencing a great deal of resentment and anger about all the different pieces of “fallout” from the loss. For instance:

  • Once again, I have to do the “unfollow” on social media dance. I had just gotten to a point where the infertility thing didn’t hurt so much, and even “fertile” pregnancies didn’t really bother me. I didn’t need to screen my social media accounts for triggering baby-related posts or advertisements, because nothing triggered me anymore.
    • New friends of ours went through IVF at the same time we did. In fact, their transfer was only 10 days after ours. It was her first, and I had helped answer questions for her about medications, and ease her mind about some spotting caused by the progesterone suppositories, and then put her at east again when it was time to stop the progesterone. My husband and her husband talked about the process and their feelings about infertility, which was amazing to me, as my husband doesn’t usually open up about this stuff. Her pregnancy is going well, thankfully, but it’s hard for me. I had to unfollow her on FB, as I just can’t bear to see what we SHOULD be experiencing at the same time. Not only that, I’m not in a position to support her while she navigates pregnancy after infertility. I’m literally the only person she knows who has gone through it, and it makes me feel terrible to just disappear. But I have to protect my heart.
  • Screening e-mail and snail mail, and unsubscribing from all the baby-related crap. I was actually beginning to enjoy some of it. Now I’m once again being triggered by offers for discounted birth announcements.
  • TTC… again… or not? This was supposed to be our second and last child. No more TTC ever again. After our baby was born, the plan was to purge all the maternity stuff from our home, and decide on permanent birth control/endometriosis management for me. Instead, we are faced with 1) deciding IF we will try again, and 2a) if so, HOW will we try – how much effort are we putting into it? OPKs, fertility monitors, supplements/medications, just have sex whenever we feel like it and hope for the best, FET? And for how long? 2b) if not, how do we make peace with that decision? When are we supposed to make these decision?
  • Related to the above, what the hell do we do with all the baby stuff we were getting ready to use again, for the last time? Hide it, so it doesn’t taunt me as we decide whether or not to try again, or while actively TTC? Get rid of it, because we will probably never need to use it? Every time I see a baby toy or bottle or even a nursing pad (for some reason, they are STILL floating around everywhere in my house), I break down in tears.
  • What about our plans to transition our toddler to a new bed and a new bedroom? Do we just abandon that idea, forgetting we ever planned to do it at all? Or do we proceed as planned, though we don’t need to? I literally go back and forth on this one all day long.
  • Now, I know we don’t need to make any decisions about this stuff right now, but the mere fact that we do eventually have to think about this shit is really pissing me off. Because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO FUCKING BE THIS WAY.
  • Therapy. I’m a huge fan. But right now, I’m fucking angry that I need it. I resent that I have to take PTO to go to sessions, that I have to plan it around meetings, so that I don’t walk in late with a tear-streaked face or red, puffy eyes. I know: No one wants to be grieving. Clearly, not a single person chooses this. But, of all the times I’ve grieved, this one seems to be very different in the sense that I’m resentful towards the whole process. I know I need to grieve, I need therapy, but I really hate being here at the start of it all. I hate that I have work through this shit. Does this even make sense to anyone other than me? Basically, I’m complaining about it being a major inconvenience. No shit.
  • Everyone asking me how I’m doing. I can’t tell you how sick I am of that question. I know people mean well by it. I’m glad they ask, even while I rant in my head about how impossible it is to answer that question. It’s not so much the fact that the answer changes from one moment to the next. It’s more the fact that I don’t fucking know in any given moment. I’m functional. I shower, I go to work, I play with my daughter and tend to her needs, I do household chores, I plan for future things. I’m sad most of the time, but I feel happy at times, too. I’m not in a state of constant despair, but I do have moments when I can’t even move from the weight of my grief, or when I need to close my office door so that my colleagues can’t see the tears suddenly welling up in my eyes. So, I guess it’s not the question that bothers me so much as the fact that I don’t know how to answer it.

Shittiest Birthday Ever

Today is my birthday. We lost our baby 553001473-lonely_birthdaytwo weeks ago, so this is pretty much the shittiest birthday ever. Three days ago was the shittiest birthday ever for my husband. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day (my due date was February 11)…. all of the holidays that will soon be upon us will be the shittiest ones we’ve ever had.

The due date for my first ever pregnancy was the day before our wedding anniversary in November, and my miscarriage of that pregnancy was the week before Mother’s Day. So, it’s safe to say that pretty much every holiday, birthday, and anniversary is ruined. Only my daughter’s August birthday is still safe.

I know things will get better over time. The main loss anniversaries will always hurt, and I’m pretty sure Fall is forever ruined for me, but I know I will eventually be able to celebrate my birthday and other holidays free of grief. I know it takes time. But right now, it really sucks.

I’m trying to take grieving one day at a time, but it’s hard not to think about the holidays coming up and how much they are going to suck this year. Next year will be better, I know. As will the year after that. But for next year or so, I’m anticipating lots of awful, sad celebrations.

No Longer Pregnant

I wanted to preface this entry by warning you that it will be long, and sometimes very detailed. This is more for me than for you, dear reader, so please don’t feel bad if you can’t get through it all. I have read every message since my last entry, and I am so very appreciative of all the kind words and supportive comments. 

I spent the last week begging my baby to go before our appointment to terminate. I explained that it wasn’t her time, but that she could and should come back to me as soon as possible. I told her over and over that I loved her, but that this body wasn’t meant to be hers. I promised that we would try hard to make a new one for her, one that would be more whole. I told her that if she left now, it would be a wonderful gift to mommy, so that I could stay home with my family. I don’t know if I even believe that she could understand that, or even if there was a “her” at all. But I was desperate. Desperate for this to be over. Desperate not to have to get on a plane and travel far from my home to say goodbye to my baby in a strange place.

Not only did I beg my baby to let go, I pleaded with gods I didn’t believe in, and with relatives who had passed long ago, to help me convince her to leave. And, you know, maybe she did leave. Maybe she left behind a shell that still had a strong heartbeat. I suppose that’s possible. I don’t know how this whole life/soul/spirit thing works.

But, of course, what I really wanted was for her heart to stop beating. Because if it did, termination wouldn’t be necessary, and I wouldn’t have to leave home for medical care. That didn’t happen.

Wednesday, September 21

I spent the morning of our flight unpacking my regular clothes and packing away most of my maternity stuff. I kept a few pieces out in case my body didn’t get the message right away. I fought back tears and hoped with all my might that I would soon need those maternity clothes again.

As the plane took off, I couldn’t help but notice that the trees were starting to show their fall colors. Fall is my favorite season. The weather is finally cooler, and soon it would be my birthday, and my husband’s birthday, then our anniversary, and the start of the holiday season. As I watched the ground get farther away, I felt my love for the season diminish. Fall will always hold a deep sadness from this point on. Fall was my favorite season.

Upon arrival in the Big City, our plane was met with some undesirable weather. We ended up in a holding pattern for a while, and the pilot warned us that if we were there too long, we would need to be diverted to another city. Great, I thought. The icing on the shittiest cake ever. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Though we did experience some awful turbulence before landing.

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The storm that almost diverted us 300 miles from our destination.

Thursday, September 22

Morning came slowly, after a night of tossing and turning in an awful hotel bed. I managed to eat a little, but my stomach wouldn’t allow much. All I can think about is how today might go.

So much fucking waiting. I was warned about the time it would take, but that didn’t make it easier. Too much time to think. And cry. I tried to stay distracted by focusing on the conversations my husband and best friend were having, but it was all so trite and annoying.

When it was finally my time, I was taken to an exam room for vitals, etc., much like any doctor appointment. More waiting, then another ultrasound. Pure torture. I chose not to look, but I cried anyway. The tech was really nice, and told me I had an anterior placenta, which explains why I hadn’t felt much movement, even though she was always moving like crazy on the ultrasound.

More waiting, more information about what was to come, and finally it was time for the dilation rods, or laminaria. So far, everyone has been very courteous, but the support person assigned to me and the doctor who placed the rods were incredibly friendly and compassionate. The insertion was almost completely painless. In fact, I hadn’t even realized that she had started until she was nearly done. Right at the end, as the last rod was placed, I began to experience some pain. More waiting in the recovery area, then I was discharged for the day.

Back at the crappy hotel, the pain was almost unbearable, so I took the pain killers they gave me and tried to relax. Eventually, the drugs kicked in, and I was able to get some rest.

Friday, September 23 

19 weeks 6 days

I cried in the shower. This is not how this was supposed to go. At 20 weeks, I should be posting pictures on Facebook of my “half baked” baby bump, not getting ready to “terminate for medical reasons.” I can’t eat or drink, but, for the first time in my life, that’s just fine with me. We drove in silence to the clinic, arriving a half hour early. They called me back right on time. More consents, more vitals, and then I changed into a hospital gown. More waiting, then the IV, pain medication, and finally (but right on time) I’m in the surgical room. Everyone was kind and compassionate, telling me how sorry they were to meet me under these circumstances. The doctor asks me about our plans to try again, and gives me the same recommendation as the OB and MFM: at least 4 mg of folic acid, starting ASAP.

After I get comfortable in the stirrups with my ass hanging off the end of the bed, a cool breeze on my nether regions, they give me the fast-acting sedation. It’s glorious! The procedure took only a few minutes. It was mostly just uncomfortable, but as soon as I told them I was in pain, the doctor paused while the nurse gave me more pain medication. The nurse and doctor talked to me the whole time, asking me about my work and my daughter. I don’t remember much, but I am grateful for the distraction. It was over quickly, and I was wheeled back to recovery where I ate and drank and was discharged about an hour later.

Physically, I felt fine. I was expecting pain, but had none. I bled heavily the remainder of the day, but it was down to spotting by the time we arrived at the airport. Our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes, which isn’t bad at all, but feels like torture when all you want to do is be home and holding your child after losing your baby. It was about 10:30 pm by the time we walked through our front door, and I did indeed pull my little girl out of her bed to hold and rock her for a few minutes. I breathed in her scent, whispered how much I loved her, and told her I was sorry that she wouldn’t be a big sister just yet, but hopefully some day. I fell asleep, crying, but happy to be in my own bed.

Now

It’s hard to say at any given moment how I am doing. Now that the physical part is over, I feel like I can finally move ahead. I’ve returned to work, trying to get back into a normal routine, which will include regular therapy sessions for a while. I’m grateful to be surrounded by caring and supportive people in my “real” life and online. Friends and family are constantly checking on me, and sending lots of love and chocolate. I continue to feel good physically, and it’s my hope that my body will recover it’s “normal” cycle soon.

The What-If Game

It’s impossible not to play it. Thoughts just pop into my head all of a sudden and take on a life of their own. Today the theme is What If My First Baby Hadn’t Died.

My husband and I met and got married relatively late in life. I was 33 when we got married; he was 32. We didn’t know we would be infertile, yet we both recognized that we weren’t getting any younger, so we started trying to get pregnant right away. We wanted to have at least 2 kids, not too far apart in age. Much to our surprise, it did happen right away. Then we lost the baby. She (I have a strong feeling the baby was a girl) would be about 2.5 years old today.

This baby I’m pregnant with right now should have been our second (living) child. I should be struggling to potty train a 2 year old to get her out of diapers before this one arrives. I should be worried about how the older child will adjust and the cost of having 2 kids in daycare at the same time. I catch myself imagining this alternate universe life in great detail from time to time. What if that was my life? How would things be different? How would I be different?

It’s not a game I like to play. I love my life as it is, including all the shitty things we’ve been through over the years. I appreciate that my marriage is stronger for having to deal with adversity, that we are each stronger as individuals for having worked through hard times, and that should we face more challenges in the future, we will be well equipped to face those adversities head on. I like who I am, and how I’ve found a place in the infertility and loss communities. I love being able to get and give support and advice.

Maybe I just tell myself these things because I know I can’t go back in time and change events. If I could go back and not have a miscarriage or infertility, would I? Would I sacrifice who I am now to avoid suffering? I would have said yes in a heartbeat 3 years ago, 2 years ago, even a year ago. But, today…. I’m not so sure. I will admit, though, that the alternate life running its course in my mind is very appealing.

 

Confession

I feel like a terrible person.

I belong to a loosely organized support group on Facebook for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant after losing a child. I’ve only been a member for a few months, so I don’t know everyone and their stories very well. Some have had early losses, some late. Some have lost infants. Some have lost several children. Some are also infertile, but most are pretty damn fertile.

Yesterday, one of them announced her BFP. After her loss, she and her fiance decided to put TTC on hold until after their wedding, which was ONE MONTH ago. I don’t know how long ago her loss was or whether she’s had more than one. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was angry when I saw that she was pregnant already. One month?! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME!

It shouldn’t surprise me. It’s not an infertility support group.

I’m happy for her, I really am. But, man, does this sting. And I feel like a jerk because of it. It’s not only her, either. Another woman recently got pregnant unexpectedly just 5 months after her son was born. Actually, she’s one of the infertile ones, so you’d think I’d be especially excited for her. Nope. I’m mostly jealous and annoyed, because I secretly hope the same will happen to me, even though I know the odds are slim.

It’s yet another example of how infertility hurts like hell no matter where I am in my journey. And, even though I’m connected to lots of people who share experiences similar to mine, I still feel alone. I guess we all have a unique situation that makes us feel like we don’t really belong fully to any one group.

A Pregnant Infertile on Mother’s Day

Here I am in another one of those bittersweet moments.

Three years ago I miscarried our first baby a week before Mother’s Day. For some stupid reason, I stumbled bleary-eyed and light-headed through Mother’s Day brunch with my family and my sister’s in-laws while my husband was at work. What was I thinking? Trying to put on a brave face, I suppose. Or, more likely, trying to convince myself that I was okay.

For the next three years, the holiday would be nothing but painful. I felt terrible for wanting to avoid it, since my own mother had been nothing but supportive and loving through our miscarriage ordeal and the aftermath. Not to mention she’s always been an awesome mom. She deserves to be honored, thanked, and celebrated. For the last three Mother’s Days, I managed to get through the day, but not without a great deal of sadness and a great many tears. I know it was a part of the grieving process not only from my loss, but also with my infertility. Still, I felt guilty that those negative feelings outweighed my love and appreciation of my own mother. I feel like I let her down. She would (gently) scold me for saying that, of course.

So, here I am today, not only pregnant, but just a few days past 24 weeks. Viability. Does that change how I feel about Mother’s Day? A little. It hurts a little less this year, knowing that I have a healthy baby growing inside me. But overall I still feel the weight of grief. Not only for me, but for all of the women who have lost babies, for those who are still waiting for their take home babies, for those who may never have a child to call their own, and for those who have lost their own mothers. For so many, it’s a painful reminder of what one doesn’t have. And while I am incredibly grateful that I have my own mother and my baby to make this Mother’s Day special, I still grieve for the baby I lost years ago. This holiday will always be tinged with sadness.

 

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