February 16, 2013

THE INCOMPLETE LOCKET

I cannot imagine what it's like to live through a lot of things.  I cannot fully grok losing a parent, or losing a child, or losing my husband.  I can approximate the emotions and try to put myself in those shoes, but I know I cannot conjure the depth of that agony.  Nor can I wrap my brain around being homeless, having cancer, or any number of life's difficulties.

 

One thing I've tried to explain to people over the years is the slow, aching agony of "trying to make a baby."  It is life lived entirely in two-week chunks.  It is a neverending timeline in the back of your mind.  It is a rollercoaster of death by hope.

 

And I know it can't fully be understood until you've lived it, but I keep explaining it because I need to get it out.  I need to beat it into other people's brains, just to prove that it is a real thing, that it is something painful to experience, that it is not in the least bit fun or romantic.

 

So let me beat your brain one more time, please.

 

You get your period and you are bummed; you are not pregnant.  And so the clock starts again.  Two weeks later, it is Time To Make A Baby, and you alternate between feeling nervous and stressed that your timing might be off, and exceedingly hopeful that maybe This Is It and you have nailed it and will be adding to your family.

 

And then you have to wait two weeks, with your hope building to a crescendo, for the results.  You roughly calculate a due date.  You think about what season maternity clothes you'd need to wear.  And then the test is negative and your crescendo crashes.  Hope flatlines, the clock starts over again, and the hope slowly builds again for another two weeks.

 

Sometimes, in my case, the pregnancy test is positive and hope spikes to record highs at the end of the month.  Forget calculating due dates, now you're calculating when the child will graduate high school and marveling at how futuristic the date sounds.  Hope soars.  And then three weeks later, the ultrasound without a heartbeat sends hope plummeting to the floor again.

 

I can explain all of this but I cannot make anyone else feel what it feels like to live on hope for two weeks.  Perhaps if you've awaited scary medical tests, you know what it's like.  The constant feeling that you need to Do Something even when there's nothing that can be done.  The way you anticipate both scenarios and play them out in detail in your head.  The way you swing wildly between hoping for the best news of your life and dreading the worst.  It is emotionally exhausting.

 

I have lived that way for six years, minus a chunk in the middle when I was pregnant with perfect-DNA BabyGrok and when she was a newborn.  (Ha, but that's stressful in a totally different way.)  For six years, I have lived my life in a holding pattern.  Five and a half years ago, I saw a help wanted sign in the window of a doggy bakery.  I thought that job would be so fun, but I was trying to get pregnant and thought it was a bad idea to take a job and then turn around and quit.  It would be nine months before I even got pregnant...and three years before I ever had a baby.  The doggy bakery was out of business before my pregnancy would've ever made a difference.

 

So many things are like that when you're trying to build a family.  You can't see a dentist when you're pregnant, and when you're trying to get pregnant every month for six years, you put off calling the dentist's office and scheduling an appointment.  I've been having some other minor pains and health issues for years, but I've put off seeing a doctor because I can't really take medication.  Every time I need to call to schedule something, I do the math in my head to see when it's time to take a pregnancy test.  And sometimes it seems to make more sense to wait five days and take the test and know for sure before I call to schedule...and then it's always negative and I should've just called months ago and gone to the damned dentist.

 

On the one hand, I am lucky to even have hope that I can have children; some couples don't even have that.  The cycle of hope keeps me trying -- hoping I'm pregnant, hoping the baby lives, hoping the IVF works -- but it's also what keeps me perpetually stuck.  Stuck in time and unable to move forward, unable to even go to the dentist, because I am always hoping that there's a baby around the corner.

 

That hope kills me.

 

And I have to let it go.

 

At Christmas, I bought a locket from my cousin's Origami Owl business.  I chose a baby's footprint and Baby Grok's birthstone as the charms.  And then I told my cousin that I wanted to choose the number 6 to represent the other lost members of our family, but that I couldn't bear to purchase the 6 and then find out I needed a 7...or 8...  So I bought the other two charms and said that I would complete the locket with the appropriate number charm once our family was complete.

 

After my IVF cycle got cancelled, I thought a lot about my incomplete locket.  It is the perfect metaphor for how I've been living for six years: stasis.  I've been living as if my heart, my locket, has a missing piece, and I keep thinking that once I fill that slot, I can move on.

 

And I decided I have to let it go.  I have to complete that locket.  

 

Last weekend I asked my cousin to send me that number 6 as soon as possible.  It was such a relief to receive it yesterday and click it in place.  I need to be OK with that locket representing our complete family: BabyGrok and six others in our memory.  If that changes in the future, then I can change the locket, but I can't continue to live in stasis.  I can't keep treating my heart like an incomplete locket.

 

And I felt good with that decision, and at peace.  It may not seem like much if you haven't lived your life in two week chunks for six years, but for me it was a giant step forward.  I was ready to accept things the way they are and be happy with that, come what may. 

 

And then as soon as I made progress and moved on, as soon as I was ready to accept that our daughter might be an only child and our family might actually be complete already, hope reared its head again.  I went back to Walter Reed to return the stockpile of IVF meds that I still had.  The nurse told me that I could keep them, thousands of dollars of medicine, and consider doing IVF back at home, which would reduce my costs and travel woes.  So just when I thought I was moving forward and putting hope behind me, I'm presented with another angle to consider.  Another niggling hope to take root in my heart and make me second-guess my choice to move on.

 

We can keep trying at home, maybe give it another two years, of death by hope in two-week chunks.  And maybe get pregnant, or maybe not...and maybe the babies will die, or maybe not...  Or we could try IVF again here in DC, either in April (a logistic nightmare because my husband will be gone) or July.  Or we try IVF at a local clinic, with a doctor who might be more receptive to helping me personally instead of herding 100 women through like cattle.  But at twice the cost and perhaps less chance of success.

 

Or we bury hope altogether, call the locket complete, and decide we three are a family and start moving forward together from today.


There is still hope that we could have a baby someday.  But it's hope that has made this entire journey so hard; it's feeling like there's a baby just out of reach, just around the next corner, that causes the agony.  I imagine that if the situation were hope-less, I could accept things and move on.  

But I'm certain that people who live in hope-less situations would tell me that I don't grok their lives either... 

Posted by: Sarah at 03:03 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 Sarah, I can't grok, but I will continue to pray.

Posted by: Sandi at February 17, 2013 11:57 AM (KCoJV)

2 I think Amy in the comment below said it best.  I, too, have followed you through all of this.  Having gone through a different infertility problem with our daughter and son-in-law I know a bit about the emotional and physical aspects of all of this.  After going through all they did with their problem they decided the emotional part was too much and adopted two babies.  Adoption is not easy, very expensive and it comes with it's own set of problems and complications. (This is for those people who think it is an easy solution.  It is a viable one but not easy.) May you and your family find the peace and comfort you are seeking.  I think you will know when it is time to let it all go. 

Posted by: Judy at February 19, 2013 09:39 PM (f/2gM)

3  As an added thought, give yourself permission to let it all go.  There is nothing wrong with that. 

Posted by: Judy at February 19, 2013 09:45 PM (f/2gM)

4 Wow, I don't know how I stumbled on your blog tonight but this post certainly resonates with me.  My husband and I have also been trying, with only lost pregnancies for about the same amount of time.  I get the stasis, I get the living in 2 week chunks.  I get the pain of loss and frustration that other people don't get it. I really DON"T want to be with my family this Easter and they keep bugging me- and I just don't want to explain it one more time...  my prayers are with you and yours tonight. What small consolation it is, just remember that you are not alone in your pain.

Posted by: mandy at March 25, 2013 11:05 PM (ijWYe)

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