March 25, 2013

GRIEVING: THE END OF HOPE

In high school I started wearing a retainer when I slept.  The first one I owned lasted 11 years without any problems until my new puppy chewed it up.  Replaced it and that one got chewed up too.  The one I have now is 5 years old and will need to be replaced soon because I'm grinding my teeth like a maniac.  So the first retainer I had lasted me through the stresses of high school, going off to college, studying abroad in godawful France, an insane senior year, getting married, and sending my husband off to war.  But this one that has lined up with years of infertility is practically ground through.

I am gritting my teeth so hard I'm chewing through plastic.  That is why I am happy to be moving on.


But I don't really know if you ever move on.  There are so many little triggers that remind me that I'll never have that second baby.  The expectant mother parking space.  The slew of people around me still expanding their families.  That rare but heartbreaking gas bubble in your gut that feels exactly like a baby moving.

I just finished the book Unsung Lullabies.  There's a chapter on the grieving process that sums this moment up in my life pretty well.  All along, I have been living with grief.  I have grieved all the lost babies, I have grieved the loss of my ideal timing and spacing of kids, I have grieved the lack of siblings and cousins for BabyGrok.  But it's only when you completely quit -- when you decide to never again pursue the available options to continue to try to create life -- that the full weight of all the grief crashes down on you.  Yes, you've been grieving all along, but you've been living with hope too.  That hope, fickle and irritating as she may be, keeps you from fully taking account of the compounded losses and seeing reality as it is.  And once that is gone, everything changes.

I wasn't exactly prepared for that.

We spent a long time trying to get pregnant.  We also spent quite a bit of time doing fertility treatments, where we imagined multiples.  And named them.  Naming has always been easy for us.  We named BabyGrok last millenium.  And we had names picked out for the next baby to join our family.

Only there will never be a William or an Alice.

The thing about infertility that's hard to explain is how you grieve human beings that never were.  There never was a William or an Alice, but I grieve them as if they existed.  In my heart, they died.  And the family we imagined died along with them.

Lots of people's lives don't turn out exactly as they'd planned.  Maybe you get a disease.  Maybe your kid has a disability.  Maybe you lose your job or are the victim of a crime.  Those are all unforeseen things that come down to bad luck.

What also belongs in that category is having fewer children than you wanted.  It's bad luck too.  But unlike cancer or crime, it's something we think we have absolute control over.  No one ever grows up expecting that it will be really hard to have two children.  In fact, the more common complaint is that you had too many children, that whoopsie you weren't expecting.  Most people fear accidentally becoming pregnant, not being unable to do so.  Most families I know of have more kids than they had planned on, not fewer.  Unlike cancer or crime, the number of children you have seems like a choice you make.  You decide how many children you want and then you stop.  The opposite of that -- and the stunning lack of control you feel about about such a basic aspect of your own life -- is tragic.

But it's a hard thing to tell people that you're dealing with.  Someone gets cancer, everyone understands that upheaval.  Even a miscarriage is something that people can commiserate over.  But that's a fixed point in time.  The ongoing ache, the one I fear may never go away, is the ache of never meeting William or Alice.  And of grieving them as if they died.

I find myself fixating on the past.  Baby #2 had a heartbeat and grew to 9 weeks.  What happened?  I don't think that baby was translocated.  Maybe he was, but he grew more than any of the others.  What killed him?  And why can't I go back in time and have a do-over where I take aspirin and progesterone, or at least an autopsy, or something.  It's so unhelpful to stress so much about something long over, but that's the one that keeps me up at night.  That's the baby that defied the odds to live...and then defied them again to die.

Was that little gummy bear that I held in my hands my William?  Was that all I get?  Was that my second kid, and all I got were those few hours we spent together one day?

The grieving has begun.  I imagine it will get easier with time, but I don't imagine it will ever go away.

Posted by: Sarah at 10:37 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 It took me a few days to get to this.  It sounds like you're in a hard but good place.  Grieving is very hard.  I'd still recommend a grief counselor to help process it all. Ching deals with grief a lot more than I do, I've been so lucky so far.  But I know the losses she's suffered in the past ten years still affect her. 

Posted by: Beth at April 01, 2013 11:01 AM (s/jIo)

2 Sarah, I am an old lady who has watch you from the time you started to blog.  I never married and have no children, so I am not qualified to give you advice, but I have grieved with you thru the years.  However, could I remind you to concentrate on your beautiful little daughter?  You can't imagine how soon she will be grown up and off living her own life.  So you want to make all the memories you possibly can now.  And I pray God will comfort you in your sorrow.    Pat

Posted by: Pat at April 06, 2013 02:44 AM (lIEBr)

3 I know I'm one of those lurkers that has been faithfully reading your blog for years. Since before the war began and that seems impossible and yet... it really has been that long.  

My condolences for all your losses, and all the grief/grieving.  My good friend once told me that the pain of grief is equal only to the love we had for that person. And it is because you loved them that you feel the loss so deeply.  

Posted by: Crystal Green. at April 22, 2013 11:25 AM (zGCUe)

4 I mourned the finality of my infertility on an exam table a few months ago, but I still ache for the fact that I have no choice to proceed (at least not realistically). I've always wanted to shop at stupid Motherhood Maternity and have a baby shower without contingencies like adoption finalization. And of course, there are always a million beautiful reasons to be happy, but being reminded of that - particularly by incredibly fertile women (or hell, even women who have zero children, saying things like, "Well, at least you have ONE") - still stings. I know you and I haven't always seen eye to eye, but I feel your struggle. When I see a pregnant person, my heart sinks, and then I think of you. I, too, wonder, if I will ever really "get over it". 

Posted by: Erin at May 20, 2013 08:12 AM (65/6I)

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