Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Are You?

I have been asked this question several times over the past week. For the strangers and acquaintances who don’t know what I’m going through, I can usually answer with “I’m fine.” But for my friends and support system, the question has been a little heavier. It’s a genuine question of wanting to know how I’m doing, how I’m absorbing the news we got last Friday, and if I really am fine. I’ve been answering them with a shrug of the shoulders and tears, because I can’t say that I’m fine. And I have so many emotions going through my head that it’s hard to pick 1 or even 2 to be able to answer the question. So for those of you who are wondering, here are the ways I would answer.

“I am relieved.” In a lot of ways, the doctor finally telling us that we shouldn’t get our hopes up and that my chances of carrying another child are not good frees me. I am relieved that there will be no more procedures, no more poking and prodding, no more medicines. I am relieved that I can start some things that had been put off while trying for another child (like working off the 10-15 pound infertility gain). And most of all, I am relieved that I do not need to spend another month setting myself up for failure. I feel a bit of a weight lifted off of me, and like maybe I’ll get the chance to breathe again. But the second I start feeling this weight lift, it is replaced with another one.

“I am wracked with guilt.” There are still things that we could try. And while the doctors don’t have much confidence that any of them would work, they are still hanging out there. In my heart, I know it’s time to stop. But, the truth is I could still try. When people tell me that I did all that I could, it doesn’t feel right to me. I am not exhausting every possible option, and I feel like I should.

“I feel alone.” I should probably say that “we” feel alone, but I don’t want to presume to speak for Gordon. But this feeling of loneliness doesn’t come from any problems in my marriage. It comes from being in a place that so few people understand or know how to handle. I feel like the pitiful person that everyone feels sorry for, but no one knows what to say to, and so most say nothing at all.

“I am lost.” Having a child has been my primary goal for nearly 3 years. Our life has been largely built around it, because it had to be – I had medications and doctor’s appointments. Just last week, I was taking multiple pills and 1 shot every day and had 4 doctor’s appointments to navigate around. And just like that, they are all gone. My nightly ritual of taking a prenatal vitamin, which I have been doing every day for 3+ years, is no long necessary. I still reach for the vitamin bottle every night, and feel that stab in the heart when I remember that I’m not taking them anymore. This week, I didn’t need to think about assembling my meetings around a doctor’s appointment. When a potential work trip came up, I didn’t need to think about how that fit in with my cycle. The thing that I organized my life around is over, and I’m feeling pretty lost on how to go about my day without it.

“I am profoundly sad.” Hearing that news last Friday really represents yet another loss for Gordon and I. People will say how there are still ways to build our family, and that is true. But the fact is I will never carry our children. I will never feel my baby kick for the first time, I won’t feel them grow, and I won’t get that early physical attachment. And while it’s the destination (having a child) that matters most, there is still grieving when another path to that destination closes.

“I have never felt worse about myself.” I have answered the question this way for only 2 people – my husband and a dear friend who I knew wouldn’t judge me for it. But, here it is. My feelings of self-worth are at an all time low. To feel so damaged, both physically and emotionally, is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone. You start to think that God just thinks you’d be a horrible parent, and so He finds every way to stop you from violating the plan. You see pregnant women and parents with children everywhere and wonder why you are so unworthy of that experience.  Infertility already does a number on the self-esteem. Getting the “probably never going to happen” speech from your doctor sends the self-esteem to record lows.

“Mostly, my head is swirling all day, every day.” All of the emotions I described above, I feel simultaneously all day long. I’m finding that it’s hard for my brain to process all of this when it feels relieved, guilty, alone, lost, sad, self-loathing and other-emotions-I-have-yet-to-identify all at the same time. I try to move forward with something to take steps to move on, and I become paralyzed by sadness. When I even start to think about getting rid of my maternity clothes, I get so overcome that I can’t even breathe.

It’s only been a week since we’ve had to let our dream go. I know there is still much healing to be done, and time will do what it always does – make things more manageable. In the meantime, I sort through all of these complicated emotions and attempt to figure out a way to answer “how are you?” in a way that is more easily understood, but still honest. It will be a while before that answer can be “I’m fine.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Window Closes Too

This post should probably come with a disclaimer. This is not a happy, hopeful post. This is the harsh reality that is my life.

We’ve been keeping a secret from pretty much everyone we know. Over the past few weeks, I have been preparing for a frozen embryo transfer. We didn’t tell many people because it felt private. I have taken countless pills, both orally and vaginally (sorry if that’s TMI – welcome to my world), been on a high iron and magnesium diet, and gone to acupuncture twice a week. All of this was in the hopes that it would thicken my endometrial lining, and we could move on to an embryo transfer. We’ve had mixed results throughout, but got a glimmer of hope earlier this week that maybe, just maybe, we could get there.

We found out today that this isn’t the case. My lining is pretty damaged from the D&C’s I had after Vivienne was born, and despite medications, diet, and acupuncture, it will likely never get to where it needs to be to sustain a pregnancy. While there are still some other options we could try, the doctor told us not to get our hopes up.

And so a month ago, I closed the door on ever getting pregnant on my own. Today, I attempt to close the door on ever carrying another child.

It’s probably for the best, in some way. My body has been nothing but a deathtrap for my children. It has failed me and them more times than I can count. To continue to try for a miracle feels incredibly selfish, like I would just be inviting more loss and heartache. To continue to try would only be for my own self-worth, so that I wouldn’t continue to feel like a failure. I can’t justify putting one of our precious embryos in an unviable situation just so I can feel like I tried.

I have never tried harder for anything in my life. I have endured countless procedures, 3 surgeries, pills that could fill your medicine cabinet, and shots and needles that fill 3 hazards containers. All of this in the span of 16 months. And ultimately, all for nothing. All that I have to show for it are 3 more children in heaven, a few extra pounds, a lighter bank account, and a heart that has been broken over and over and over again.

We will figure out a way forward from here. But for now, I am just exhausted, confused, frustrated, angry, disillusioned, hopeless, and most of all, unbelievably sad. I don’t exactly know how to accept that you can work so hard for something you want so desperately and come up empty handed.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What's in a Name?

There is an online magazine that I read called Still Standing. It’s a place where I cry, nod my head, and just generally feel understood. All of the writing is about loss and infertility – 2 topics that can make me feel so out of place in my everyday life, but in this magazine, I feel at home. Each month, they introduce a topic for a blog round up, and this month's topic is about how you chose your child’s name. It's a story that people would ask about if she had lived. But since she’s gone, we generally receive “what a beautiful name” spoken softly, like you would at a funeral.

We started discussing baby names at the end of the first trimester. We felt like we’d be tempting fate to make plans any earlier. Boys names were very difficult for us to decide on, but we had a few names going for girls. Vivienne was always at the top of the list. I’ve known for years that if I had a girl, this is the name I would want. I could only hope that Gordon felt the same. When we started discussing names, and I told him “Vivienne,” he was immediately a fan.

And so the days passed, and at about 16-17 weeks, we found out we were expecting a girl. Vivienne officially became the front runner, although I would not officially declare it as her name. I felt like I needed to see her, know her, and decide that yes, she’s a Vivienne after all. We started to discuss middle names, but couldn’t quite decide on one. We were only halfway there. We had plenty of time. Or so we thought.

When Vivienne was born at 22 weeks and 1 day, we held her, and through tears, Gordon said “she’s a Vivienne.” The hospital asked us if we wanted to name her. It felt like a pivotal moment where we recognized that our daughter was a person and that she lived. Of course we wanted to name her. We gave her the name Vivienne, and she was baptized.

When we left the hospital without our baby girl, we left her without a middle name. As Gordon was out picking up my prescriptions, he called me from the pharmacy. He wanted to give her a middle name, and it came to him while he was waiting. She would be Vivienne Grace. When he came home, we called the hospital to amend the paperwork and make sure that our daughter had her full name, including the middle name that she sent to her Dad when he needed some comfort. 

We talk about Vivienne all of the time and say her name like it’s second nature to us. We even find ourselves using the nickname we thought she’d have – Vivi – as we talk about her. It comes with some sadness, as we imagine those instances where we’d use a nickname. Those memories that we’ll never get.

Weeks after her death, as I packed up my maternity clothes and pregnancy books, I decided to look up the name Vivienne in the name book I had. The definition  - full of life. It felt like the cruelest kick to the gut. For a while after her death, I had a hard time with this inconsistency. My daughter, whose name meant full of life, was dead. I’ve now come to accept that my daughter changed my life – made me focus on what matters, and to make a difference. Her life is my life. It’s up to me to make sure her name being "full of life" is expressed through me.