“We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out, but wander farther and deeper despite ourselves; the fear, the anger or the sadness preventing us from returning. Sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering. Sometimes it’s easier. Sometimes we find our own way out. But regardless, always, we are found.” –C. Ahern
I’m not a very big fan of Thanksgiving…the food isn’t my favorite (aside from the mashed potatoes of course), I can’t really get behind the whole backstory of the holiday (I don’t really believe the pilgrims were kicking it with the Indians), it’s really just the day I need to get past in order for it to be socially acceptable for me to only listen to Christmas carols and put up all my holiday decorations. But I do make an effort every year to think about what I’m thankful for…most years my list is long and my heart is happy… This year my list is still long (I do have A LOT to be thankful for this year)…my heart though- not happy.
It was a rough week leading up to the holiday. Dan and I tried valiantly to celebrate our Warrior on Sunday. We took a train into New York City on Saturday morning, it was a beautiful day so we spent the afternoon exploring then saw a show that evening. The next day we met his younger brother who lives in the city now for brunch. Dan wanted to ‘celebrate’ the baby we’ll never have on their due date, as if it was a birthday, but I just could not seem to get past that pain in my heart… Dan’s better at this grief thing than I am. He manages to compartmentalize- it’s like there is a box in his brain for all the sadness, but there’s a million other boxes with a million happy things. I am not that way…my grief finds its way into every other box.
My sadness, like me, is a work in progress.
The whole week I felt drained- just emotionally and physically exhausted. I woke up Thursday in a mood. I argued with Dan in the morning, I snapped at my little sister who was spending the weekend, I was slow to get ready (something I never do: I pride myself on being punctual). And then right before we left the house to go to my aunts I had a full-blown breakdown. I saw myself walking into a room filled with people who love Dan and me, but who were fully aware that this year there was supposed to be a baby present…and there wouldn’t be. And I was hysterical…sobbing in Dan’s arms…I just kept repeating “this is not my life.” I would like say I stopped crying, washed my face and smiled through the rest of my day… but that would be a lie. I smiled with my family, I laughed at their terrible jokes, I enjoyed my time with them…but the ache in my heart didn’t go away. It seems every wonderful thing in my life is overshadowed by my sadness (grief in all my boxes if you will).
BUT…I’ve been thinking. Maybe I need to stop looking at our loss as this terribly tragic thing that happened to us. Maybe when making my list of things I’m thankful for I should include our loss, because I’ve learned so much from our grief and it has truly changed my life.
-I have been amazed almost every single day by the kindness of humans. My parents, my siblings, my friends, my co-workers…they have shown me more love and compassion than I knew most of them were capable of. My heart has been so filled with gratitude for these amazing people in my life.
-I have been overwhelmed by my husband’s goodness. His ability to hold my sobbing body without saying a word. His willingness to accept the bad days with the good. His positivity, his encouragement, his unwavering faith in the success of our next cycle. He never doubts the process.
-and for my own growth. For the perspective I’ve gained, for the strength I’ve acquired, for the kindness I’m more apt to give. Grief has made me more patient and more understanding. A co-worker asked me the other day why I was always so positive at work, even when things are a genuine nightmare, and I answered her as honestly as I could… “A few months ago I had one of the worst days of my life at work (the day I started to physically miscarry) and only a few people knew. I just try, every day, to remind myself that someone I’m dealing with might also be having one of the worst days of their life.” *That, my friends, is a lesson I never would have learned if it were not for grief and it is one that has truly, completely changed my life*
So here’s a bit of my thankful list:
Dan, my family, my friends, our dog Rory, my health, our home, my job, the fact that AHS: My Roanoke Nightmare didn’t suck, my book club, Tostito’s restaurant style salsa , Hallmark movie channel, my parents having a home in Florida, my nephew Cam and his daily photos which are the highlight of most days, the amazing blog community I’ve spent the past 11 months becoming part of, my new short haircut which saves me a fortune on shampoo, Instagram, Amazon Prime (mostly for the free Amazon music app), Billy Joel and the magic that is Miami 2017, my nurse Marsha at our fertility center, Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc for being as cheap as it is delicious, HomeGoods, my grief, our Warrior and Cycle 2.
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” –E.Gilbert
There’s an ugly scribbled pen mark on my planner under November 20th…the scribble represents what you became, it covers what you were. On a chilly day in March I sat in a CPR class at work, half listening to the instructor, half staring at my cell phone imploring it to ring. It had been my last morning of bloodwork before our first ultrasound…today I would know if you were ‘developing’ on schedule…you, my precious little Warrior, most certainly were… “Your numbers are perfect!” the nurse exclaimed over the phone and I smiled because I knew they would be…just like you would be, just like you already were. “We can safely give you a due date…November 20th.” I hurried back into the CPR class, ignored the annoyed look of the instructor, and immediately took out my blue polka-dot planner…flipped to November and under the 20th wrote DD with a small heart next to it. (Due Date my dear little Warrior).
A week later, after they told me you did not have a heartbeat, I flipped to the same page and scribbled out that happy DD and little heart with such strength the marks can be seen on October 16th and September 18th….The injustice of it all still makes my heart ache…the grief, the anger, the disappointment…You deserved so much more than a scribble…You deserved a life.
But I could not give you that…so I’d like to give you something else today, your day. Here are all of things I will never get to say to you…
You were not simply hoped for…you were fought for…and you were a fighter too. We called you Warrior because you were a survivor, you were literally made of the strongest stuff. Your cells endured, you told SMA to take a backseat, you were the only 1 of 4 who said you’d like to have an at bat and you were a homerun…
Sadly, we lost the game.
I like to imagine you would have been the best parts of your father and me. I envisioned you with his perfect shade of blue eyes and my strangely oversized lips (you would have hated them through high school because you thought you looked like a fish…then learned to like them in your twenties). I hoped you’d have your father’s strange sense of humor and his innate ability to win over a room within minutes…everyone loves your father, everyone would have loved you. I like to think you would have been a planner like me, a fan of details and a lover of words.
I anticipated a life for you…noisy Christmases with your cousin Cam and a roomful of relatives you knew were insane, but the good kind of insane, who made you believe in mermaids and haunted shipwrecks, and cheered you on at every sports event and school play. A life where you camped out in the backyard, swam in freezing cold water in Cape Cod, sang along to Disney songs in the backseat of the car and believed in the Tooth Fairy. A life where you knew every single day how much your father and me wanted you, and prayed for you, and fought for you, and loved you…but also knew you were not above punishment, because as much as we wanted, prayed, fought for and loved you…it was important to us that you were a kind, thoughtful, accepting human.
I know you would not have been perfect. You probably would have drawn on the walls and spilled juice on my white couches. I imagine you would have caused me countless sleepless nights and a lifetime of exhausting days. There would have been times when you let us down…when we found out you teased a classmate or failed a math test…but we would have loved you unconditionally.
We DO love you unconditionally.
The greatest thing I want to tell you is that… I am sorry. I am sorry I could not do better by you. I am sorry that you will never know the joy of riding a two wheeler for the first time, or tease me for crying during The Polar Express (even though we’ve seen it 100 times), or experience the butterflies of having your first crush. I am sorry that today is marked by a scribble…but you were, and always will be, so much more than that.
Your father and I love you. We will never forget you. We will tell the people we love about you for as long as we have people to love. I will always wear the necklace with your name on it around my neck, even if someday I wear the necklaces of your sibling’s names too. If there are siblings, I will tell them about you. I will forever be stronger because of you, because I now believe that a Warrior’s mother is a warrior in her own right.
All the things I wished for you…kindness, strength, unconditional love and hope…you gave them to me. You made me better. I will spend my life whispering to you a million thank you’s, a million I’m sorry’s and a million I love you’s.
So dear Warrior…thank you…I’m sorry…I love you.
“For you can grieve your heart out and in the end you’re still where you were. All the grief hasn’t changed a thing. What you have lost will never be returned to you. It will always be lost. You’re only left with your scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on- on not.” –C. Frazier
I know its Thursday…forgive me…it’s my first week alone at my new job, my parents are packing up and moving to Florida tomorrow and our Warriors due date is Sunday… The struggle is as real as it gets right now…I think I have a 24 hour grace period on words.
It’s almost my due date…
It’s weird preparing for next Sunday. I try imaging what my life would be like right now if I were a few days away from having our Warrior. We probably wouldn’t be living in our new house. I definitely wouldn’t be at my new job, nor would Dan be at his. We might not even still be in Connecticut. Our life would have been so very different if we were having that baby. Our life is so very different because we are not.
I’m struggling with how to acknowledge what should be on the 20th, while accepting what is and hoping for what might be. The thing is-I don’t want to be sad…I’ve already spent a lot of time being sad and I’ve been really optimistic lately, I’ve truly started to embrace cycle 2, but our Warriors due date feels like the end of cycle 1…and I think I need to acknowledge it. But how?
I think I’m looking for a way to say goodbye to our Warrior…I think I’m looking for a way to say goodbye on the day I had planned on saying hello…
I just don’t know how.
Advice would be appreciated.
So Monday I started a new job…I’m making a conscious effort to decrease my stress for our next cycle and working full-time in an insanely busy, understaffed intensive care unit in a teaching hospital in a local city was simply way too stressful. So, I left the bedside and took a position as a nursing supervisor in the small community hospital in the town we live in. But taking a new job means I’m meeting a whole new hospital of co-workers…none who know about our infertility…and all who want to know about my life. I find myself questioning how much to share…our infertility and loss is a huge part of who I am…but one doesn’t lead with that when meeting knew people. (Of course if I was fertile and had children, or 9 months pregnant with our Warrior no one would think twice about me leading with the discussion of babies….) So I smile and say I live with my husband in town, I shake my head ‘no’ when asked if I have children, I sometimes continue “we hope to soon” and I smile and listen as they list off the number of children they have, their ages…and then smiled and gushed over every adorable Halloween snapshot on their phone.
And that was fine. Kids in Halloween costumes are adorable. I like listening to these new co-workers discuss their children. I want to get to know people.
But…then a co-worker who I found myself spending a lot of time with kept talking about babies…her child, friends children, fertility…it was as if every discussion we had came back to children…and it was making me a little crazy. So at one point she mentioned taking Co-Q10 and I casually said “Oh, I take that too.” She asked why I take it (she takes it for cardiac purposes) and I, as casual as I could replied “Oh, my fertility doctor recommended it.” There it was on the table…my fertility doctor…AKA: ‘Hi! infertile over here, tread lightly with the baby talk please.’ Her reaction was minimal…she didn’t ask for information, she just smiled (that soft, sympathetic smile you get when you identify yourself as infertile) and said she didn’t know it assisted with fertility and continued on. She didn’t ask for details and I didn’t offer any. I don’t think my infertility affected her much. And I appreciated her so much for that. She didn’t pretend to understand me (she already told me she was basically a Fertile Myrtle), she didn’t offer unsolicited advice (we all know those people) she didn’t pry when I clearly wasn’t interested in sharing more information. She was respectful and kind. AND she cooled it on the baby talk…
I wish I had thought to thank her for her response. In the moment it seemed so simple, but thinking about it as I write this post I realize how much I appreciated the way she reacted. It is so rare to have people just respond so appropriately! I wish I could write a book on the way people have responded to our infertility and miscarriage. The good (this woman’s simple kindness or the co-worker who gifted me an African Fertility Doll after hearing of our struggles and wrote a sweet note that said “I’m so on this journey with you…”), the bad (the people who told me ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’ after our miscarriage or the friend who said ‘it took me 6 months before I got pregnant!) and the ugly (the boss who asked me why I needed to go home when I started miscarrying at work “I know people who have had miscarriages, it’s not that painful.”) The truth is, more often than not people get it wrong, I failed to recognize how nice it is when someone, very simply, get it right.
Because of this woman’s reaction I feel more confident sharing our infertility with other co-workers when the opportunity arises. I’m not naïve, I know some people will react in ways that hurt me, but I can also appreciate now that some people won’t. Putting yourself out there to new people (in every aspect, not simply with infertility) is scary and overwhelming, but it can also be rewarding and inspiring. Who knew a simply comment about Co-Q10 could do so much! (which is nice, because I don’t actually think its helping my fertility at all!)
“Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can’t escape the damage. But now, I am also learning this: we can be mended. We mend each other.” –V. Roth