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Cold Peace

Last Wednesday night, I was cutting the ChickieNob’s nails before her bath, and I cut her thumb nail too deeply.  A dot of blood welled up, and she first started to cry and then changed her mind and looked away from it.  She asked her questions as I quickly cut the rest of the nails before I took care of it, trying to keep ahead of the blood which was threatening to run down her thumb.  How did I know that the blood was going to stop?  And did I think this was a big cut?  And have I ever bled before?

Everyone bleeds at some point.  Who can even remember all the cuts that seemed important at the time?

She wanted me to tell her about different times I’ve bled.

I didn’t say what was really in my head.

I told her about various times I’ve nicked myself shaving my legs.  Times that I could remember falling.  And I told her about a time when I was doing an injection and I hit a blood vessel.  When I pulled out the needle, an unexpected geyser of blood sprayed onto our apartment’s carpet.  We crawled around with a bottle of seltzer trying to dab up the spots.

At least, I thought Josh had been in the room with me.  I couldn’t remember what I had been thinking beforehand; only the moment of surprise when I saw the spray of red, like rose petals being tossed on a stage.

*******

After she went to sleep for the night, I took out my diary and read the passage.  I had been alone in the room.  The reality was that I had been trying to be nonchalant about the injection, telling myself that I was a huge fucking baby for not being used to them by now.  I had hurried through it, trying to convey to myself just how comfortable I was with needles.  I probably would have hit the blood vessel even if I was going slowly — it’s not as if you can see these things with a sub-q injection.  But I blamed my carelessness, my trying to pretend that I didn’t care.  This was apparently for my own benefit seeing that I was, after all, alone in the room until after the incident when Josh arrived with seltzer.  Apparently, I lied about how infertility affected me even when I was by myself.

*******

ChickieNob got into the bathtub, first holding her thumb out of the water despite the fact that I kept telling her that it was okay to submerge it, and finally holding it rigidly under water as if she had somehow ended up with someone else’s hand on the end of her wrist.

She asked me in the tiniest voice what happened to all the other babies that the doctor had tried to put in my belly.  Sometimes I think she is like a shark who can smell blood on the water miles away.  She knew exactly what was in my brain when I hesitated as I cut her nails, told her about the shaving nicks, the scrapes, the blood vessel.

“Well, they really weren’t babies.  They were zygotes or embryos.”

Sometimes, when I don’t think she really wants the full answer, I throw enough science-y terms at her, and she fills in the blanks however she needs to fill in the blanks at the moment.

She splashed around for a bit and then said, “wow, I could have had a lot of sisters and brothers.  If all of those zygotes and embryos had become babies.  They must have been just like an egg.  It would be like losing an egg.  It wouldn’t be like losing a baby.  Because where would the baby even go?”

She asked me why some birds leave their eggs in another bird’s nest and asked if birds will always sit on another bird’s egg, keeping it warm for them.  She spent the rest of the bath marveling at the idea that a bird could have a strange egg in its nest and not even know until the bird hatches.  She told me that she read about this in a non-fiction book.

*******

The diary covers a period of time before we started trying and goes until 5 days before we found out about the twins.  I’m not sure why I chose that day to stop writing because I didn’t journal again in any true sense of the word until I started this blog.  What was it about that day that made me put the pen down?

The reality is that the twins would not be here if not for all the zygotes and embryos that didn’t make it; the cycles that were cancelled or just failed outright.  They would not have been the ChickieNob’s brothers and sisters because if any of them were here, the twins would not be here.  And maybe it is because I have that part to the story that I can close the book on those early losses and not think about them.  That is only half the truth — an invented truth — just like I lied to myself that I didn’t think injections were a big deal; like I misremembered Josh being in the room. I do think about them.  But I don’t wish they were here like I did before the twins came.  That sometimes feels like a terrible thing to say; I obviously wanted all of them.  But they are the children I don’t know.  Would they equally move like a Muppet like the ChickieNob or curl up like a comma as the Wolvog does each night in bed?  I can’t imagine life without these particular children.

Right before Christmas, I was speaking to someone about their sibling’s miscarriage, and I told him a brief version of our history, so casual as if we were discussing the best way to make a crepe.  I went home and thought about it on and off all night.  I hated myself for speaking calmly about that point in time, as if the only proper way to discuss infertility or loss is to scream until my stomach turns inside out and the contents of my body are spewed all over the floor.  And I congratulated myself for being able to speak so frankly and calmly about something that had been so emotionally difficult in the moment.  Well which one is it?  Am I cold?  Am I healed?

The reality is that even in the moment, eight or nine years ago, I never named those losses.  I didn’t feel attached to them, per se.  I never felt the baby kick.  I never saw my stomach swell.  Those early losses never made themselves known in anything more than nausea.  What I felt attached to was the hope that this was finally it.  And again, I feel cold writing that, I berate myself for writing that.  I don’t feel like I’m explaining it well.

It’s not that I didn’t mourn those losses; I still felt a deep grief over them even after the twins were born.  I still light a candle for them on October 15th.  But because my story continued, it is something different because to long for those children means now that I wouldn’t have these.  So I don’t long for them.  I just think of them with the same sadness that I apply to infertility in general.  They have fallen backwards, blending with the rest of infertility so it is just one ball of grief rather than a ball of grief with five spikes sticking out of it.  It is still a ball of grief; it just doesn’t rub me raw as it used to do.

I am so acutely aware that this is the luxury of not only time, but the story continuing.  Of having the twins here rather than being back on that day when the journal ends.  They certainly didn’t erase all that came before, but they reframe it; simply by existing.  And by existing, they create this dichotomy.  I both wish and don’t wish that those other cycles were successful.  Which makes me feel cold.  Which makes me feel at peace.

And how will I remember this years from now?  This conversation with the ChickieNob over a clipped nail.  Will I remember Josh into the room?  Will I think that this was the conversation when I explained pregnancy loss?  Or will it fade from my memory entirely, just like a cut which felt so important in the moment but disappears from the mind by the time the Band-aid comes off?  Will I forget it until it read about it here, one night, in the future, after a different conversation?

63 comments

1 Anna { 01.08.12 at 8:34 am }

I found reading this profoundly affecting, thank you. It’s wonderful and a little awe-inspiring that ChickieNob is to tuned in to you that she had a sense of how you were thinking. It’s also wonderful that she could ask you. This made me think so much that I don’t really know where to start except for by saying thanks for writing this, I do not have that peace yet and I don’t have to composure to answer my daughter’s questions, hopefully I will grow with her in time to be up to the task.

Regarding how you remember, you will remember the meaning, if not all the detail, you will remember what’s important.

2 Becky { 01.08.12 at 10:14 am }

I struggle with not ever been able to get pregnant, those what-if’s show themselves all the time. And my rational brain reminds me that if I had gotten pregnant, if those 4+ years of cycles had ever worked, I wouldn’t have my boys. And that would be tragic. So, do I wishI gotten pregnant? Yes and no. Do I wish to just feel at peace about the whole thing? Hell, yes.

3 N { 01.08.12 at 10:24 am }

As above poster said, it’s the remembering that’s important.

This post touches me, as well, and it’s something that’s been on my mind lately (how did you know? heh).

I do think about them. But I don’t wish they were here like I did before the twins came. This really rang true with me, but then also later what you said. J and I spoke with a woman writing a book on pregnancy & adoption loss in the lgbt community earlier this year. The meeting was really good, we talked for a long time. But it was mostly upbeat; no tears, and there wasn’t quite that same horrible pain that there used to be when talking about it. I’m sure some is that we were being interrupted every 2 minutes by a 1.5 year old maniac, but it still bothered me. Yet why? I don’t know. Whatever it is, it is. And that’s okay. I think.

4 Louisa { 01.08.12 at 10:41 am }

I think this post really touches on the conflicted feeling the successful infertile struggles with after the take home baby. We will always be infertile and remember our losses but the success gives us the ability to hold the grief at arms length. Sometimes that balancing act seems so strange.

5 Rebecca { 01.08.12 at 10:49 am }

This was so moving. I’ve been thinking a lot about this sort of thing. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my unfulfilled due date. Here I sit, almost 16 weeks pregnant with twins, and I can’t help think about the hope I had up until 11 1/2 weeks with my first pregnancy. I love these babies who I have only seen on an ultrasound screen with all of my heart. And, yet, I feel a sadness tinged by guilt at the loss of hope for my former baby. It’s hard to think negatively about anything that has led to your current happiness — but it’s hard to know how to feel any kind of positive emotion about something that was so painful and so horrible.

6 Hope { 01.08.12 at 11:03 am }

I also found this post moving and thought provoking. I appreciate knowing more about your personal infertility and loss history before the twins were born. And I really liked what you said about how the twins’ birth reframed your previous losses. I hope that will happen for me someday, when I finally have a take-home baby.

7 Mic @ IFCrossroads { 01.08.12 at 11:15 am }

Oh wow, this post has me crying. It’s so incredibly profound. I can’t even get myself together enough to write a coherent comment so I will just end by saying thank you for writing this.

8 Esperanza { 01.08.12 at 11:53 am }

Wow. I can’t quite put into words what this post meant for me. The confusing swell of emotions it inspired that din inside of me, a storm I must endure until it fades into a quiet calm.

I was thinking the other day of my miscarriage, marveling at how it didn’t hurt so much any more. The reality is, sometimes I think about it and it hardly hurts at all. Sometimes I don’t feel it, the area is numb to the touch, like the place where a dog bit me once and even though it was one of the most heinous wounds I ever had, it never caused me pain because the dog had dug out the nerve with my flesh. That is what looking back on my miscarriage is like. I know it was a heinous wound and that it should hurt but it just doesn’t, not anymore.

And I know it’s because of my daughter.

My first pregnancy was due in March and my daughter was born in June. My daughter could not exist if that pregnancy had thrived. And the thought of losing, as you said, my particular little girl, is too much for me.

It’s not just my daughter though. The first March after she was born it still hurt to touch that loss, to speak of it, to return to it. It wasn’t as raw as the March I was pregnant but it was tender all the same. I suppose it’s time healing a wound. But it’s also the fact that part of the wound was in the wanting, not in what was lost. And I have now what I was wanting, it might be slightly different than what was lost but it’s also very much the same. I think it’s also in that I didn’t have to want for very long after what I lost. The short months between my loss and my pregnancy helped it to heal faster and leave less of a scar. I wondered before but I’m sure of that now.

When I think about trying again and the fear of another miscarriage takes hold of me, it doesn’t seem so paralyzing. It’s not that I wouldn’t be devastated, because I know I would be, it’s just that I also *know* I can survive it now. Not because I have survived it before, but because the wanting of it is no longer a raw and savage thing whose infinite power sends me reeling. The strength of that wanting has been tamed, by my daughter, by my age, by a new expectation that I will probably be able to have another child and by a knowledge, based on prior experience, that if I do have another child, the wound will heal and scar and some day stop hurting.

After my ectopic I took to devouring miscarriage and loss books. Every book validated my feelings of devastation but they also spoke of those for whom early losses were not all that painful. I remember wondering, incredulous, how a woman could not feel as I did, that her entire being were bleeding out of her. Such a distinct memory of being sure that I would never, NEVER feel that way about my own loss. It would never be something small and inconsequential, a comma signaling a brief pause in one sentence of my life.

And it’s not that I feel that way now, but I feel closer to it, and even the movement in that direction feels traitorous, to what I lost, to who I was before, to what I have written. I still haven’t reconciled those feelings.

I also wonder if it makes me cold.

9 Allison { 01.08.12 at 12:11 pm }

Now being blessed with a 4-month old after six years of trying and one early loss, I find myself quite annoyed when people say “do you even remember what life was like before the baby?” I’ve struggled with that because it seems for most of the world, Having A Baby means you forget your past. But I do remember. Those years, those wounds, are all a part of me; they’re not erased because I finally got lucky.

So, this line spoke to me most of all: “They certainly didn’t erase all that came before, but they reframe it; simply by existing.”

Thank you for putting together the words I could not grasp.

10 JustHeather { 01.08.12 at 12:26 pm }

Very profound and something I think I can relate to, at least in thought and theory. I hope I will be able to fully relate and put it into practice if this pregnancy works out.

11 Esperanza { 01.08.12 at 12:33 pm }

Mel, I just wanted to let you know that I posted my comment here on my own blog.I felt it was important to have this conversation with my own readers, even if it terrifies me.

12 Mo { 01.08.12 at 12:35 pm }

Thanks for this post. Just… Thank you.

13 Pale { 01.08.12 at 1:48 pm }

I just love this:

Everyone bleeds at some point. Who can even remember all the cuts that seemed important at the time?

Loved the whole post. Lit up up all the neurons with this one, Mel. Bravo.

14 Daryl { 01.08.12 at 1:48 pm }

I feel myself talking about our infertility in a way that seems cold already, and we’ve barely begun our journey. Maybe that’s because we haven’t had any losses, but we also haven’t made any attempts at pregnancy yet (because of azoospermia). But in my heart I feel anything but cold, and I certainly don’t feel at peace. I hope to one day. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of what that might be like.

15 May { 01.08.12 at 2:32 pm }

I remember thinking, whenever I got pregnant, ‘but if I hadn’t lost the previous baby, I wouldn’t have this one.’ And then I’d lose this one. So, at the moment, I absolutely wish the first one had lived, that I had a three-year-old right now, and that none of the others had ever ever happened. I hope so much that one day I’ll have a living child and be able to see my losses in a more philosophical, nuanced manner. But I probably won’t, and I probably won’t.

16 Trish { 01.08.12 at 2:51 pm }

This may be one of the most powerful posts you’ve written. I agree with it so much. If those babies had been, the babies I have wouldn’t be. Logically I know I’d have loved those babies just as much as I love the ones I have, but it’s impossible to feel like things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.

17 Alissa { 01.08.12 at 3:09 pm }

This is such a thought provoking post. I am sitting here in shock and deep thought. It hit me. Does this relate to the statement…”everything happens for a reason?” Was the reason for you to have the kids that you do and for you to offer what you do to others? I have liked that statement because I don’t want to believe that my daugheter’s death is a lesson learned, but it doses make me think now more than ever. Thank you.

18 Lil' Dreamer { 01.08.12 at 3:15 pm }

Loved this post and its honesty. It speaks to the special connection you have with your daughter and portrays the child mind so well. As a kindergarten teacher, I often get that innocent little question, “Do you have any children?” Sometimes I can answer with a simple no, but sometimes it stings intensely and I struggle to find any words. Sometimes the children keep going with their innocent curiosity. “Why not?” “Do you want a baby?” “Aren’t you suppose to have a baby if you’re a grown up?” But other times, it seems as though they pick up on my pain and their questions trail off before they give a quick hug and go bounding off to play.

Your post brings me hope for what the future brings–that someday we’ll get the very little beans that are meant for us. I haven’t had any failed pregnancies, just a lot of failed cycles. So, while I can’t mourn the children I didn’t have, I do often think about if my little beans had decided growing at any of these points, specifically at the point of my severe OHSS.

For whatever reason, everyone in the hospital kept smiling, giving hopeful eyes, telling us that this is often what happens with fertility treatments that result in pregnancy. And while that might be true, as my ovaries ballooned to the size of an IV bag and me and my 27 extra lbs lay in a hospital bed, I remember telling my husband, “It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I get out of this intact, that I am fine. I don’t want to think about that at all.” I also remember meditating on it one day and somehow hearing a little voice. The only thing it would say was, “You’re going to be fine.” When I asked it if I was pregnant, there was no answer, but when I went back to focusing on if I was healing, it was there again, filling me with an overwhelming sense of calm.

Despite these medical professionals optimism and seeming want for a resulting pregnancy, I now know that pregnancy would have been about the worst thing that could have happened as it would have undoubtedly have brought many more complications from draining to increased chance of losing an ovary to even organ failure. At the time, I couldn’t believe that I had to go through everything I did and still have nothing to show for it. Yet today, with a clearer mind and far less hormones running through my system, I am overjoyed my babies didn’t tumble down out of the clouds during those days. Grateful because it would have probably been more devastating still.

Thank you for reminding me that our babies are out there and that when they come, we will see just what a perfect fit we all are together. It is closest I have ever been to really believing that all this pain won’t affect me so much once we are finally on the other side of infertility because I will have what I was always meant to have.

19 Mali { 01.08.12 at 3:50 pm }

This is interesting, and I’m going to put the other perspective. I’m about 9 years on from my pregnancy losses and failed IVFs. Unlike you, I don’t have children, but like you, I don’t have that grief anymore either. I don’t wish my babies were here with me now, simply because it didn’t happen, couldn’t happen, so there is no point in torturing myself. I don’t wish they were here now as 9 or 10 year olds, because I never knew them as babies, or toddlers. That’s not to say that I didn’t grieve their losses, grieve the fact that I never got to use their names and they are known only to me and my husband, grieve the fact I never gave birth, or breast-fed, or held them, etc etc. I think that, to an extent, our feelings are similar. I don’t think that either of us are cold. I just think our feelings are a result of time, healing, and acceptance.

20 Still Hoping { 01.08.12 at 4:58 pm }

Wow. I’m not sure where to begin on how this post affected me. I winced when I first read the words “I can close the book on those early losses and not think about them.” Until I continued reading and how you explained how different those losses are for you through the eyes of being a parent now and looking at your twins and how they have changed your life.

I often wonder how things will be different for us once we have resolved our infertility. My parents suffered several miscarriages before finally having three children. Things were obviously very different 30+ years ago and people didn’t talk about them at all (I can only imagine because people still get weird about it now). I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t something she talked about much. Then with our miscarriage last year I wondered how it affected her, like re-living some of her losses. Did she think about her own babies?

Everybody has a different take on this and I know that no child will ever replace the one we lost. But I think that those of us in the IF community view those losses differently than others. We can’t just try again, we can’t just have another. All our hopes, dreams and money were tied to that little life.

I know this is rambling but thank you for writing this. It helps me to see how things can be on the other side of IF. Those losses are always a part of us and I’m sure they’ve helped make you into the person and parent that you are. Maybe we’ll always wonder who those babies would’ve been… but this helps to give me peace as we move forward with IVF #2. Thank you.

21 Leah { 01.08.12 at 6:01 pm }

Beautiful post. I can remember how I felt after my loss but to come from that place to this one seems crazy. But I am grateful, I grieved and recovered. It reminds me that a degree of being blasé about the nature of mortality is required to enjoy life.

22 stephanie { 01.08.12 at 7:10 pm }

How strange that you would post this here today. After my first loss in 2007, I met a group of friends also experiencing loss online. We still have our private FB group for chats, support, laughs and tears. Just yesterday someone posted that our babies would be turning four this year. There were lots of comments and support (mine included). I felt oddly separate from that post. I had two other losses after the first one. Then I had my youngest daughter. I feel odd and disconnected when I think of those losses. It was heartbreaking and scary and sad and sad and sad. However, I don’t grieve on the EDD. I don’t grieve on the angel date either.

I often wonder how differently I would feel if we were not blessed with another sweet baby. I haven’t forgotten the pain, lonliness and sadness. Maybe I just choose to not visit it often???? Is that even healthy??

23 jjiraffe { 01.08.12 at 7:51 pm }

Mel, you are such a beautiful writer. Esperanza texted me this post and her own answer asking my reaction. Which is: I wish I felt this way. I am happy for you both that you have made peace. And I am at a loss why I have not, yet. I’m still pretty miserable about my last miscarriage, almost two years ago after I had my twins. I know logically it was the lack of support (“Thank God that didn’t work out: you’re so stressed already!” was one particularly loathsome comment) and the fact that I never dealt with the first loss, the NICU, the scary twins pregnancy at the time. My heart hasn’t caught up with my mind.

But I really hope to achieve peace someday. I wish that for all of us, too. I’m glad you’ve arrived at a place of calm.

24 Kristin { 01.08.12 at 10:23 pm }

Isn’t it fascinating how our memories twist things into a more comfortable, palatable format?

Really a great post and I identify so much with the feelings you have regarding the early losses.

25 Justine { 01.08.12 at 10:58 pm }

I can’t help but feel like this is connected to some of your posts about bloggers who have “crossed over” being able to connect with those who haven’t yet made it … and writing a balanced blog … and self-censorship for the sake of the community … and others like them, that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I’ve been pretty bad about posting lately, for lots of reasons, but this is yet another one of them: that I feel at once part of this community (who happens to be most of my readership, despite the fact that I’m one of the lucky “crossed over” ones), and not. I feel like maybe those losses should feel differently, should be more tender to the touch. But the truth is, they’re not as raw as they were. It makes me feel both cold and strangely inauthentic.

On the other hand, sometimes I look at my daughter and feel, in a more deep and scary way, afraid that she could be taken from me in an instant. I don’t think I felt that quite in the same way with my son, before I experienced RPL. This is visceral.

I also think that everyone experiences grief and loss in a different way. And that doesn’t make us cold, exactly … it just makes us human.

26 a { 01.08.12 at 11:07 pm }

I can think of most of my losses pretty dispassionately – the first one gets me still, because that was the longest pregnancy I’ve had aside from my daughter’s. But I’ve been thinking of them all quite a bit, because the little menace WILL NOT STOP TELLING ME HOW MUCH SHE WISHES I WERE GROWING A BABY IN MY BELLY. She wants a sibling, and since we’ve had a bit of exposure to death of late, I think about telling her she has some siblings in heaven. But I know it’s not the right time – if there will ever be one. And then I start assessing how I should be counting those potential siblings. I had 2 miscarriages, 2+ chemical pregnancies, 7 eggs retrieved that fertilized and fell apart. That’s a lot of potential.

I’m not a journal person, but I did one during my pregnancy. I wanted to have some sort of historical reference for my girl. She has some of the information about my reproductive history in addition to some of our family history. I meant to start another one, but it just never happened.

27 Mrs. Gamgee { 01.08.12 at 11:08 pm }

Thank you for this post Mel, and for your honesty.

I don’t think you’re cold. I think we all grieve in different ways, and our grief changes over time. We do what we need to do to get through and move forward, into whatever future we get. Peace is the ultimate goal, whatever road we take to get there, I think.

People (namely my mom and sister) don’t understand why my Beloved and I chose to name our lost ones, why I have a mother’s ring with three birthstones instead of one, and why I have a shadowbox memorial on our family picture wall. But it’s what we needed to help us through. Will I still have that shadowbox on the wall in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? I don’t know, I can’t say. It brings me peace now, and that’s what matters.

Do I still grieve our lost ones? Yes. Is it sharp like it was a year ago? Two years ago? No. Will it change a year from now? I hope so. Otherwise I’m not growing.

28 smiling scar { 01.09.12 at 4:21 am }

This beautiful… and I hope you feel all our support as you take a moment to go back and reread, rethink, re-remember the past as it weaves back into the future.

I was really struck by your line “one ball of grief rather than a ball of grief with five spikes sticking out of it. ” I don’t know why.. I just have a sense that will be in my head for awhile… I might go write about it now on my blog…

I do know that I hear myself talking very calmly and dispassionately to people about infertility. Take care and thanks for this wonderful post.

29 smiling scar { 01.09.12 at 4:44 am }

PS I really love your comment Mali: “I don’t think that either of us are cold. I just think our feelings are a result of time, healing, and acceptance.”

I really believe that with time I’ll be where you Mel or you Meli are standing… and it is more than just time, I think I need to chose a path. Choose to go down DE/adoption and give 2-3 years of my life to really really pursue that or choose to just put this dream to bed and get on with some big dreams I hold back from. And this limbo land is hard. And the Phd just makes me feel like I have to wait to exit it…

30 Manapan { 01.09.12 at 9:04 am }

I was thinking about this same subject the other day when I realized that in just the six short months after having our son, I’ve forgotten the unfulfilled due dates of the past. At the time it horrified me that I could forget so easily, but then I realized that finally moving on is a good thing.

I can discuss those pregnancies without having to shut off my emotions now. I don’t think it makes us cold. I think, as you said, that it’s a perfectly natural reaction to the passing of time and to having new priorities thanks to finally realizing parenthood.

31 niobe { 01.09.12 at 10:43 am }

I am cold. I admit it. I own it.

Still, if I had to choose: would I give up the two I have now if I could just get my twins back?

Of course I would.

32 k { 01.09.12 at 10:53 am }

Holy crap Melissa. You’re always intelligent and profound, but this – this is amazing.

I think I come at it from a different place. My first IVF was successful and gave me the twins, after a year of struggling but no losses. No, the losses came once we started trying again. While my story will always continue because I have the twins, my infertility has bitten harder since them and their presence has tempered it in some ways but it’s almost as if watching them grow and hit milestones amplifies the passage of time and the plank I’m walking to where “the end” of TTC is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful beyond grateful. But it’s difficult, sometimes, to be infertile on the back end of a successful cycle/pregnancy (not that I wasn’t infertile before the IVF). Because you don’t fit anywhere. People assume you should be grateful for what you have (I am) and that somehow makes it all ok. It doesn’t. It makes it different. Never ok. Sometimes it’s hard to wonder if it isn’t the universe righting the balance. I didn’t have losses prior to the IVF, just BFNs. Am I experiencing what I am now because I didn’t BEFORE I got pregnant?

My kids don’t quite yet have the interest in these things to have these discussions, but I know it’s coming. And I worry – because my two are incredibly sensitive, especially to my emotions. What will I tell them about the other embryos? I know when I get there I’ll remember this post and hope I can be as graceful as you.

33 serenity { 01.09.12 at 11:24 am }

This post made me cry.

xoxo

34 Lisa { 01.09.12 at 11:46 am }

Thanks for wirting this. It sums up so many of my own feelings – on how if my loss didn’t happen I wouldn’t have my boys. I could not imagine my life without them. And how infertility and pregnancy loss always affect someone, just in different ways in the different seasons of their lives.

35 Emily { 01.09.12 at 11:47 am }

Thank you so much for this post. I always feel cold when I say my chemical didn’t kill me. Of coarse it upset me, but not much and I don’t think about it a lot. It is so nice to read about others that think the same way I do and not think I’m crazy.

36 Erica { 01.09.12 at 1:04 pm }

Beautiful stuff, Mel. I have a very difficult time sorting through the fact that if Teddy had lived, I wouldn’t have Dot. I want them both, of course, but even contemplating the fact that my first child’s death led to the creation of the toddler who makes me laugh and say “I’m so lucky” on a daily basis hurts my head.

ChickieNob is, of course, amazing. I love that she asks you important questions, and that you give her good answers.

37 m. { 01.09.12 at 1:10 pm }

I wasn’t really sure where to go with my comment until I saw niobe. I, too, am cold. I am getting to the point where I own it. I shock myself sometimes with the surgical precision at which I say “my children died.” I find myself getting impatient when folks need a moment to comprehend that reality. When years ago, I would have bristled if they didn’t.

I have no living children to dull the pain or to shape it into anything other than a Big Empty. The Empty hurts. Bad. But not as blindingly as it once did. I am smack dab where smiling scar is, in a limbo between really, really really busting my ass to try to make something happen using extraordinary means, or working really, really hard at being ok with life as it is.

I find the limbo by far the most mentally exhausting point of our journey thus far.

38 Chickenpig { 01.09.12 at 1:25 pm }

I feel, in some way, that we have the children we are meant to have. If my earlier cycles had worked out, or if I hadn’t gone through infertility at all, I would still have the kids I have. Granted, they might not be in the order or the combination that happened (maybe I wouldn’t have twins, but all singletons, or maybe I would have my daughter first…or triplets. You get the idea) but I would still have the same kids. I feel the same about adoption. The child that comes into your home was meant to be there. I think that is why I keep trying for number 4. For a couple of years now I have been dreaming about a baby, seeing it with my other kids, holding it in my kitchen. It is hard for me to believe that this child isn’t waiting for me…I just have to push to bring it through.

I totally understand your peace/coldness. I don’t feel any pain for the BFN’s I got, my first miscarriage at 8 weeks, or my chemical pregnancy. But, the miscarriage I just had still hurts. I think what you’re feeling is peace and the distance of time. I remember distinctly that my first miscarriage was devastating when it happened, mostly because I thought I would NEVER have children. But now it is just another blip on my long infertility timeline.

39 magpie { 01.09.12 at 1:37 pm }

there are different levels of grief for me – there’s the miscarriage (a grief I shared with my husband), there’s the IVF that ended in a BFN (which is mine alone, I heard the news on the cross town bus), and there are the four embryos of the five transferred for the successful IVF (I only think of them sometimes, they have an unreality about them). I need to think on how to unpack this.

40 Rachel { 01.09.12 at 4:08 pm }

I don’t think I’m cold. I do mourn my miscarriages. I never named them. I do think about what life would be like if just one of them had turned into a baby. I think about what it would be like to be parenting an older child. But if one of those pregnancies had worked, I know I would love that child as much as I love H now, so I don’t think things happened this way so I would have this specific child. That child would certainly be a different child than H is, but I know I would think that child was as magical and wonderful and amazing and brilliant and entertaining and loved as much as H is. It would simply be a different child.

And as an adoptive mom, I do think about what it would be like to have a child where his father and I would be his only set of parents. That would be the one big difference if any of my pregnancies had worked out.

41 LMM { 01.09.12 at 4:26 pm }

Spot on, as are so many of the comments preceding mine. I had three miscarriages, my daughter (now 4), another miscarriage at 11 weeks, then my son (13 months). There is not a doubt in my mind that these are the children I was meant to have. They are the ones I was picturing and dreaming about each time I got pregnant. Those losses hurt like hell at the time…but not nearly so now. Now it feels like my two kids were hanging out, waiting, until my body could get it’s act together and grow them. As I’m typing this it sounds so silly and I don’t mean it in a religious way and I know that it isn’t everyone’s experience. But I think of those other pregnancies not as children that aren’t here, but as failed attempts to carry the children I have now. Because I just can’t even conceive of not having them.
Thank you for writing this. Truly.

42 It Is What It Is { 01.09.12 at 9:35 pm }

This is such an honest and poignant post. I had four 1st trimester losses prior to having my son. Even when I didn’t know for sure that I would ever carry a pregnancy to live birth, I still didn’t connect to my losses as if they were the death of a child. I grieved the broken promise that each miscarriage brought; the cruel joke of being pregnant one day and not pregnant the next. However, in all my six 1st trimester losses, I never connected them to the loss of my future child.

Even now, as we have struggled for 4 1/2 years to have #2, I still don’t look at them that way. I don’t think it makes me cold, I think it makes me realistic. When three out of five pregnancies end in loss, success is not the statistical norm. A miscarriage is painful enough without borrowing hurt in grieving the loss of a child that never was. Gosh, maybe that sounds cold, but it doesn’t feel cold to me.

Maybe it is about self protection at the end of the day. How else could we ever proceed and keep hope alive, loss after loss?

43 Emily { 01.09.12 at 10:54 pm }

I love this. I have not had a loss, but think about it a lot, I guess because I know that it will be my biggest fear when I do get pregnant. Someone once told me that “my baby would find me”. For some reason this put me at ease, made me think that each failed cycle or a potential miscarriage would be part of my journey…part of the journey as my baby finds me.

44 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.09.12 at 11:25 pm }

OMG. This post has sat in my heart for days now. I think I still do not have the words that do justice to it.

For one, it speaks to all the roads not taken, all the infinite lives we don’t get to live in lieu of the one we get to live.

For two, it makes me weigh potentialities against realities. I don’t think it’s cold to acknowledge that realities carry more weight.

And I’m also wondering if one has to choose between cold and healing. I’m not sure they are on the same continuum. Can you be both warm and resilient? And if so, how?

45 dspence { 01.10.12 at 10:21 am }

Thank you for posting this and for the conversation that has developed in the comments. I have had cause to wonder over the years what life would have been like without this specific child and am grateful everyday that I don’t have to find out. This specific child was meant to be mine just as I was meant to be her mother. Anything else is inconceivable.

46 Kim { 01.10.12 at 12:19 pm }

Thank you for posting this. The post and the comments made me cry, and I needed that cry today. For me, secondary IF was the hardest battle, and I lost to it. It’s been 7 years now since I gave up on that dream, but sometimes it still feels like a knife in my heart. (Especially since my now ex-h and his new girlfriend immediately got pregnant and delivered a healthy child.) I thought I was over it, but I’m not. I guess I won’t ever feel complete ~ satisfied with my reproductive history ~ I still don’t, anyway, and I’m 43 years old now. I hate IF.

47 luna { 01.10.12 at 12:32 pm }

these thoughts have been floating around in my head too, yet I just couldn’t find the words except to say, “without that, there would be no this.” thanks for articulating them so eloquently. xoxo

48 KH99 { 01.10.12 at 1:44 pm }

This was a beautiful, amazing post. I’ve technically never lost a pregnancy because I myself never achieved one (we did have a vanishing twin with our gestational carrier), but when we were doing massive fall cleaning last year, I found the pictures of all of our embryos, including the one that went on to become our son and his first ultrasound pictures that still had the vanished twin’s sac in it. After each failed cycle, I made my husband put them away because it hurt too much to see them. I’m able to look at them with a little detachment now. If one of those cycles had worked, I’d have a 3-4 year old, but I wouldn’t have my sweet son, and knowing and loving him but not knowing or loving the others except for those pictures, I can’t imagine it being any other way.

49 Caro { 01.10.12 at 2:33 pm }

Lovely post

50 Em { 01.10.12 at 2:36 pm }

Just stumbled across this blog. Your post could not have come at a better time for me. Thank you, for your courage to post about it; I think you capture the complexity and nuance perfectly.

51 Detour { 01.10.12 at 2:42 pm }

Beautiful post, wonderful writing, and so honest. It made me cry.

52 Cristy { 01.10.12 at 4:58 pm }

I just did my first cycle of IVF this past December, after 2 years of struggling with infertility. The procedure was successful, but I learned 3 days after the first pregnancy test that something was wrong and yesterday that I miscarried 5 weeks into the pregnancy. I’ve been struggling with this loss and trying to gather strength to move forward. This post helps me do that, because it shows me that maybe there’s a reason for all of this loss as well as all this madness. I hope that one day I can be in a similar place to where you are now.

53 Summer { 01.10.12 at 5:14 pm }

Crying and speechless.

54 Courtney { 01.10.12 at 7:19 pm }

For some reason, as I read this post, I found myself feeling angry. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, because as I read your words, I could completely understand why you feel the way you do and how you were so honest and brave to post this. But I had to sit with it for a while to figure out what else it was that I was so upset about, and it’s because I’m still on this side. I’ve had four losses, two of them almost into my 2nd trimester, and not only do I have the obvious pangs of jealousy that you and so many other women are where you are, but it’s that that’s all I have of my children. I know they weren’t children yet, I know that, and yes, it’s the hope that we have for those children that we cling to most, but what if that’s all I ever get? What if I never have a child that gives me the opportunity to feel he or she is the reason I lost those other babies, that it was because I was meant to have him or her? What if I never get that chance? I was angry for myself and my situation (not at you and yours), scared that one day, these losses won’t mean as much to me as they do now because it may be all I ever get of being a mother. If I lose these feelings, then I lose a huge part of me that has hoped for that for so long. Of course I don’t want to continue feeling the way I do now (with my grief) for the rest of my life, that’s no way to live…but there’s a part of me that is so scared to let go of this because I fear it’s all I’ll ever have of being a mother.

I think it’s amazing that you can feel this way, and if I were in a different place, if I truly believed I was still meant to be a mother, it would give me hope. I don’t think you’re cold at all. I think, like so many other commenters above say, time moves on and the grief and loss we once felt so strongly gets replaced by new life and dreams. But for me, I’m just not there yet. I have that desire, but it’s riddled with fear and sadness.

55 slowmamma { 01.10.12 at 9:18 pm }

As all of the comments indicate, this is such a spectacularly powerful post. I think it touches very beautifully on the tyrannical nature of grief. When our losses are fresh, and I believe that the loss of a child is a compound loss that encompasses both the baby that is gone and the mother that goes with him/her, the grief is relentless and crippling and we have practically no recourse against it. But as time passes and, hopefully, those holes are filled by a living child/children, the grief abandons us to the point that it sometimes feels that we are left powerless to honor those we have lost.

56 Angie { 01.11.12 at 12:15 pm }

I just have to tell you that I have been thinking about this post since you wrote it (and I read it on my Droid and didn’t comment.) It affected me deeply, in a perspective shifting way. Thank you. I think it is so hard to explain loss in connection to who we have here. That didn’t come out right, but I suspect you know what I mean. With love.

57 Lorrie { 01.11.12 at 10:12 pm }

That hit me hard. None of my zygotes turned into babies, but two women on the other side of the world gave life to my life…my Chinese children. It all worked out in the end just like a chick flick, yet greedily, I wish I could have had both.

58 {sue} { 01.12.12 at 12:45 am }

I typed out and deleted 4 different comments. And then I read Esperanza’s comment which is exactly what I couldn’t figure out how to say.

59 Laura in Pa { 01.12.12 at 1:29 pm }

I’m de-lurking here, rather than on your de-lurking post because I’ve been thinking a lot about this post. I was reminded of it again last night, talking with my 7-year-old daughter about death–a teacher’s aide at her school passed away earlier this week. I guess I was trying to explain how, even though she felt sad now, she would start to feel less sad as time passed. When I told her how I felt after the deaths of my grandparents–at first very, very sad, and now, many years later, not sad all of the time, but only sometimes–she was upset. I think it seemed to her that I was forgetting about them, if I wasn’t sad anymore. I’ve been reflecting on my own feelings about my only miscarriage, which happened between her birth, and the eventual birth of her brother–in very much the same way you’ve described here. I can no longer imagine my life without my son, so what to do with the loss of the babe I’d once hoped to have? The meaning of that loss for me changed once I had the child who “replaced” the lost one. That really does sound awful, doesn’t it? But, as I told my daughter, we can’t keep all the sadness we ever feel with us all of the time–how could we live that way?

60 Tiara { 01.14.12 at 8:31 am }

Thank you so much for writing this. You have articulated what I’ve had such trouble finding the words to say.

61 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 01.14.12 at 11:22 pm }

What Lori said… I love how this post speaks to the part of me that always wonders about untaken paths. I was driving through my hometown a couple of weeks ago, and, apropos of nothing, wanted to cry, because the wish in my heart at that moment would be that my husband and I never left that town, that we had been able to build a life there, closer to our friends and family. And then, I realized that if we had never left there, we wouldn’t have our boys now, and that cut me to the core. Yes, perhaps we would have different children. Perhaps we would have had these boys but in a different arrangement (if we can believe that our children “find” us as some other commenters have suggested). But what I know for sure is that we were able to conceive by choosing IVF, which was far too expensive to be realistic for us had it not been for the generous coverage offered by the medical school associated with the university my husband works for… which is what caused us to move and leave my hometown in the first place.

So, yep. Lori got it right. Potentials vs realities, infinite paths forward in life and oh, the what ifs, what ifs, what ifs… Such an excellent and thought-provoking post. Thank you.

62 Bionic Baby Mama { 01.17.12 at 10:20 am }

coming to this late and without the profound thoughts of many earlier commenters, but i did not want to let the moment go without telling you that this is my favorite post i have ever read from you.

63 magpie { 01.31.12 at 2:26 pm }

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