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.”