Catching Our Rainbow

Hoping for a rainbow after the storm…

The Feelings are the Same

I recently learned that a friend in my program is one of us. Just as I mentioned in my last post, if you are open enough, you will meet other infertiles and hear their stories. It’s empowering. Terribly sad, but empowering to know that you are not alone. Even in a department full of academics who have no interest in having children right now, I have found a kindred (bitter) soul. After she told me about their situation, I gave her a link to my blog, as well as a few other blogs in the community (hey, you ladies are awesome and I’m sharing you!). Apparently she sat and read through my blog, and today she said the most incredible thing to me: our situations are so different but the feelings are the same. Can I get an amen? Seriously. There are so many ways to join our “club,” so many situations, but the feelings are the same.

We all feel grief: That deep, soul-crushing grief that makes it hard to breathe and makes you wonder if you will ever be happy again. Whether you have never seen that second line or you’ve seen more than you care to remember while still sitting with empty arms, we all grieve the children we don’t have.

We all feel fear: Fear that we will never be parents. Fear that our spouses will give up on us. Fear that we are alone. Fear that we are going through all of the treatments, anxiety, money, etc. for nothing.

We all feel inadequacy: It might come from an inability to get pregnant. It might come from the feeling that your body keeps killing your children. None of us are fulfilling this basic human purpose, and that is really hard to swallow.

We all feel longing: We all see little babies and feel a deep longing. An emptiness in our wombs. We all long to be mothers–some of us more than anything else.

I know that many bloggers have written about pain olympics–the need some members of this community have to to show that they have it worse than anyone else. I even feel like there is an inherit pressure to constantly be anxious and miserable or you are a bad infertile or your situation is not as bad or painful as everyone else’s. Sometimes I feel like I need to prove my suffering through anxiety-ridden posts where I constantly talk about how much pain I am in. But the truth is, even if I will never experience what it is like to see that single line month after month, year after year and even if you will never experience what it is like to lose a precious life that was growing inside of you, the feelings are the same. We all feel the grief. We all feel the fear. We all feel the inadequacy. We all feel the longing. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we aren’t that different–that we share a common goal and that we are all feeling the pain of being kept from that goal.

The feelings are the same.

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Sharing

I am pretty open about our journey. I’ll tell just about anyone about our losses and what we have gone through. I do this for many reasons. I think the most important reason I am so willing to share is to combat the shame that comes with loss. Even if you don’t want to admit it, you feel a certain amount of shame and embarrassment when you suffer a loss. Your body failed and didn’t do what it was supposed to do. If you suffer multiple losses, you start to feel embarrassed that you failed so many times or that you were dumb/selfish/naive enough to keep trying even when all signs point to you not being able to have kids. I imagine this is also true for other forms of infertility. And if I don’t talk about it–if I treat it like it is something shameful that I don’t want other people to know about, then I am only feeding this belief. So I put it out in the open and readily share with anyone.

Truthfully, I also am just an open person in general. I’m fairly willing to share with other people–which can cause some problems as you can imagine. Sometimes I trust the wrong person with information and it comes back to hurt me. But despite that, I’ve accepted that as part of my personality. I’m not completely out–most people in my life don’t know about this blog–but I have even told a few people IRL about it.

One way that being open has been a huge blessing is that it connects me with other people. When I say something about our losses or mention the word infertility, it opens some other people. People who had stayed silent and felt alone. I connect and share stories. I am able to comfort others who are hurting and help them not feel quite so alone. It’s beautiful and encouraging.

But there is an ugly side to it. I can’t help but feel betrayed when I am open and share and I later learn that a friend was struggling and never told me. I think that I am fostering a relationship where others can feel safe to share, and I am really putting myself out there, and I am a little offended when others don’t do the same. I know that everyone is not like me, and I should be patient and understanding, but I’m not always patient or understanding. It’s something I’ve been struggling with after a friend that we have told all of our woes to and who implied that she wasn’t trying and really wanted to adopt got pregnant and admitted that they tried for two years. Why didn’t she trust me? I could have supported her. It’s hard to put yourself out there with all of your fears and feelings of failure and then feel like you don’t engender the same kind of trust.

Don’t misunderstand me. This is not a post complaining about people who aren’t like me. People who aren’t there yet. People who are still too afraid to speak. This is me being honest about my struggles–including my struggle to not internalize it and feel like there is something wrong with me when someone doesn’t tell me when they are facing some of the same problems I am.

Does anyone else struggle with this?

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Acceptance

Try not to read too much into my silence. I’m mostly just really busy with school stuff–turns out getting your Masters degree in English literature means you have to do an enormous amount of reading, writing, and teaching. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining. As busy as I am and as stressful as school can be, I love it. It feels so good to have forward motion in my life when I spent so long feeling stuck. The rest of our life might still be filled with unknowns, but I know what my next year is going to look like. Class. Teaching. Reading. Writing. The library. I didn’t know I could feel so much comfort from these constants, but I do.

At the moment, I am at the end of the semester and feeling a little overwhelmed with final projects/papers. So I’m taking some time out from all of that to tell you about something that happened last month.

Last month we went to Atlanta to visit some good friends. I was talking to N about the adoption process and about people’s reactions to our choice to move on to adoption. I told her the most frustrating thing is how everyone says “You know what will happen as soon as you adopt.” Everyone I talk to is convinced that I will get pregnant after we adopt–even people who know that getting pregnant is not the problem for us. And they all make it a point to tell me that. After I told her about it, N really surprised me. She looked me straight in the face and told me that she doesn’t think that will happen–that she doesn’t think we will be able to have kids. At first I was really confused because I thought I should be upset or offended, but I wasn’t.

I felt…relieved.

She was the first person to confirm that there is a good chance that I won’t be able to have kids. Seriously, the first person. I felt like the pressure was off–like there was at least one person in the world who didn’t expect the impossible from me. One person who wasn’t setting me up to be devastated all over again when adoption doesn’t magically fix me. The first person to focus on the adoption and the child we will get through adoption instead of glossing over that to the future and the hypothetical babies I will start popping out after we adopt.

Why do we do that? Why do we all feel the need to give hope–even if hope is something that can be painful and detrimental? We do it in the blog world, too. I won’t lie–one of the reasons I quit posting about our process to figuring out what is wrong with me is because I kept getting well-meaning suggestions from readers who didn’t even bother reading old posts. I got tired of readers suggesting I take baby aspirin when I have posted multiple times about my severe anaphylactic allergy to aspirin.

My doctor has found something and has suggested a game plan, and we’re going to try it. But we still plan move forward with adoption because the plan might not work. And you know what? That’s ok.

I don’t believe all of the memes and the encouraging phrases about never giving up–that true strength is always picking yourself up and trying again. I think true strength is being able to recognize when you’ve had enough and being able to move on. The truth is that some women can’t carry a child and I might be one of those women. As much as it hurts, I am acknowledging that and looking at options to move on. That’s not weakness. And what I really need right now is for someone to support that and recognize that my choices are ok and that they reflect strength and determination.

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Rambling

I want to start by thanking all of you for your kind words of support and sympathy. I appreciate all of you more than you know.

This past week, it has felt like I’m experiencing so many emotions at the same time–at such a high volume, that I can’t actually feel any of them. Its like I can mentally point out each of these feelings in myself, but I’m completely numb, like my body knows that I can’t handle this again and is mercifully shielding me. There have been so many things that I’ve wanted to write about, but I can’t seem to find the words. But I know that there is healing in writing, so I’m going to give it my best shot. Here’s what has been in my mind, in no particular order:

Guilt This was my fifth miscarriage. Fifth. And, honestly, I’m starting to wonder at myself. I mean, at this point, each loss puts us at a greater chance for another, so how much longer can this go on before I’m responsible? How many times can this happen before I can say that I am consciously killing my children by selfishly conceiving them? I know that sounds terrible, and I’m probably not being fair to myself, but it’s something I can’t get out of my head.

Adoption Before I found out I was pregnant, we made plans to meet with a good friend who is a adoption lawyer for a consultation where we will discuss our options and figure out what direction we want to go. Our appointment is tomorrow, and we are ready. We have talked for years about adoption, and we now know without any doubt that this is the right path for us. Now we just have to figure out which direction we want to take. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of different types of adoption (foster, domestic, private, international), and that is mostly what we are going to discuss tomorrow, so I will update on this later.

Reflections on 2013 Last year I wrote a post where I was ready to say fuck off to 2012. It had been a really hard year with three losses, and I was so ready to move on and had so much hope for 2013. This year also had three losses. We lost Tup in June, we lost Molly in October, and we lost this little one at the very end of the year. Hubby was also dealing with a painful Crohn’s flair-up for almost the entire first half of the year. Between all of my failed pregnancies and Hubby’s illness, we spent most of the year drowning in medical debt and are still trying to work our way free of all the bills and collection agencies. It was another rough year. Yes, the year did have some positives, including my assistantship that allowed me to go back to school (although that has made our financial situation even more dire) and our sweet little Jack Jack, but I’m ready to move on. Things have to turn around for us sometime, right?

Prevention I’m trying to find out what to do about the months to come. My last tests showed a potential cause for these losses with a new treatment (a post for another time), but we are not on that path right now. We are ready to move on to adoption. I feel like we need to prevent for awhile, but I hate birth control and hubby hates con.doms, so what’s a couple to do? I know the copper iud provides birth control without the hormones, but it’s pretty expensive (see medical bills above) and it lasts ten years. Yes, it’s reversible, but that’s a lot of money to pay for long-term birth control only to have it taken out early. Any other ideas? I feel fairly confident that we could handle the family planning method, but after two and a half years of tracking my cycles while trying to get pregnant, I’m pretty much over it.

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A Story of Love and Loss

As I said before, Hubby and I have been NTNP (not trying, not preventing) since we lost Tup. I guess I had a stupid idea that if we got pregnant without actually trying then it would be “meant to be.” I’m amazed at how superstitious all of this has made me–I guess I need something to hold on to, so I hold on to these ideas.

On Thursday, December 5th, I couldn’t remember the last time I had my period. I thought it was during the first week of November, but I wasn’t sure. So I pulled out a leftover test, and it had the lightest second line I’ve ever seen on a test. I thought I was seeing things and potentially going crazy so I didn’t say a word to anyone. The next morning, I went and bought a digital test (and narrowly avoided my in-laws at the store), and there it was: “pregnant.” That night I went to movie night with my girlfriends from church and one of them announced that she was 14 weeks pregnant. When I got home, I told hubby about her pregnancy and mine. We decided not to tell anyone. Not our families, not our friends, not my blog readers.

I spent the majority of the next morning crying–mourning the loss that hadn’t even happened. Grieving as though the tiny baby inside of me already died. I thought that I had been doing well, but that was apparently not true because this pregnancy hit me hard.

But then I experienced something that had never happened to me before: everything went fine. I had a little spotting for a few days after the test (I’m assuming that was when my period was due), but after that, no spotting. No cramps. No warning signs. Nothing to obsess over (beyond the lack of morning sickness). Everything seemed fine. I made an appointment for an ultrasound last Thursday (the day after Christmas–so if things went wrong, it wouldn’t ruin the holiday), and we went with high hopes and low expectations, Tup’s ultrasound in the back of our minds. Once again in this pregnancy, I was blown away by the unexpected: the ultrasound was perfect. I was only measuring 6 weeks 1 day, which seemed a little behind because it had been 3 weeks since the positive test, but everything looked perfect and there was a beautiful, strong heartbeat. 144. I was in complete shock.

Hubby and I still hadn’t told anyone (except for his boss who knows about our history and guessed when hubby said he was going to an appointment with me), and we decided to wait until second trimester. Not because we were being superstitious or because we didn’t want to tell anyone if things went downhill, but because it had been so much less stressful when no one knew.

So there we were last Thursday with a perfect ultrasound and hope.

*This part is a little graphic. If this is a trigger for you, please skip to the next paragraph*
Yesterday I started spotting. It got heavier throughout the day and started turning red before I went to bed. I put on a large pad and as I tried to go to sleep, I could feel strong cramps and knew something was wrong–that we would lose this one too. I just knew. This morning at 4:30, I woke up and felt wetness in my pad. When I stood up, I knew it was over. I went to the bathroom and saw that I had passed everything–the pad was full of blood and clots and I could see my baby. My tiny, tiny baby sitting there. So I cleaned up all of the blood, took a shower, changed the sheets, and hubby and I sat on the bed, cuddled, and watched Harry Potter, numb.

I still feel numb. I don’t understand how everything could be perfect on Thursday and now I am empty. My fifth baby died today, and I don’t understand.

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Sour Lemonade

I’m not sure if my last two posts have given a true sense of how I’ve been doing. It’s been rough. First, I’m pretty sure I can’t look at Facebook anymore. Seriously, the number of pregnancy announcements, gender announcements, and birth announcements seems to have increased. Maybe it’s because it was Thanksgiving, “We’re so thankful to announce that we will have a new member of the family.” Maybe it’s because I’m getting older so all of my friends are getting to the age that they reproduce. But it’s hard. Then last night, all of the girls in our church group had a girls night and one of them told us she’s 16 weeks. I’ve been waiting for this, for someone in our group to get pregnant. Someone that I see all the time and someone that I love dearly so I will be full of guilt when it makes me cry because I’m so sad. She even told us that they had been trying for two years and had just given up, so I feel even worse because I’m jealous of someone who is one of us.

The truth is that I’m sad and jealous because she’s 16 weeks. I’ve never made it that long. Tup was my longest pregnancy and that lasted 8 weeks. I know from being in this community that there is never a guarantee, but I feel like if I could just make it that long, we could have a baby. It’s been over two years and we’ve had four losses (that we know of), and I’m feeling broken, like my spirit is just beat down. I used to dream of being pregnant and giving birth and having our beautiful child, but now the thought of pregnancy terrifies me. Pregnancy only leads to heartbreak. We’re NTNP right now and whenever I think I feel some sort of pregnancy symptom or can’t remember how long it’s been since my last period, I get nervous. Not, “oh my gosh, I could be pregnant and we might actually have a baby” nervous, more like “Oh no, if I’m pregnant, that means I’m going to have another mc in the next month and I just can’t handle that right now” nervous. I guess you can call it a loss of hope, but I’m basically at the point where I honestly don’t think I will ever be able to carry a child. And that hurts. A lot.

I told you all that we’re talking about adoption and hope to start the process if hubby gets this job. We actually are going to have a consultation with my pregnant friend because she works for a law firm that does adoption and she’s going to go through our different options with us. If hubby doesn’t get this job, however, we’ll have to wait until I’m done with school. That’s another year and a half. For those keeping count, that’s a full four years after we started trying to have a baby before we even start the process. Hubby said that two of his friends got phone calls to come in for a interview last Wednesday, and he hasn’t heard anything. That doesn’t mean things are over and he’s not getting the job, but it doesn’t look too good either–especially since we’ve had the optimists beaten out of us the past two years. Last night we sat together and cried. Hubby said he feels like he let me down because he wasn’t good enough to get this job. I told him that I feel like I let him down because my body apparently doesn’t grow babies. It was rough. Yes, all of this is bringing us closer, but I wouldn’t recommend marriage-strengthening-through-loss.

So that’s where I really am. I’m sad and broken and a little resentful. Things may look good from the outside because we are trying our very best to make lemonade. But to be honest, the lemonade still tastes awfully sour.

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Our Tree

Tuesday was my last day of classes, so I’m home every day until I turn in a 15 page paper, turn in a huge project, and take a final next Tuesday. Yesterday I should have worked on my paper, but I also should have been eight months pregnant. Should haves don’t always happen. Instead of working on my stuff, I turned on jazzy Christmas music, made a hot cup of tea, and decorated our living room for Christmas. It was lovely and peaceful, which was just what I needed. I hung four of these ornaments on our tree this year:

OrnamentOne for each of our babies. 

A lot of people have very fancy trees where all of the ornaments match, where it’s all perfect like it belongs in a department store. But our tree isn’t like that. It’s a little scrawny tree because we don’t have a lot of room, and it has all kinds of different ornaments on it. I love putting them on because each ornament reminds me of something.  I have ornaments from our first Christmas together and our first Christmas in our new house. I have a couple of ugly Hallmark granddaughter ornaments that my grandparents gave me when I was growing up. I have an ornament the hubby painted when we worked at Christmas camp eight years ago. I have wooden ornaments that my grandfather carved and other ornaments that my favorite aunt crocheted. And four glass hearts to represent our four babies.

Our tree isn’t a decoration. It’s a storybook.

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Autopsy Results

I hate that I was gone for so long only to come back with such sad news, but I knew that this community was the only one that could truly understand how painful it was to lose Molly. We got her autopsy results this week and learned that she had a genetic heart defect that would have caused an arrhythmia. She had fibrosis in her heart, and she most likely died of a heart attack while she was sleeping. The vet assured us that there was no way we could have known that she was sick and even if we did know, there was nothing we could have done. She is actually the second pup in her litter that has died suddenly, and I told the woman who gave her to us, so she can tell the others who adopted pups from the litter.

In some ways, Molly’s results were a huge relief. We now know that no one hurt her, and that it is safe to leave Jack Jack outside. Also, it’s a relief to know that we could not have known or done anything. I went over that morning in my head more times than I can count, trying to see if there was some sign that she was sick, something we should have noticed. But there was nothing. She was her usual self–a happy crazy pup. Now we can move past worrying and wondering and just grieve the loss of our pup baby.

Last week I was talking to a good friend who is dealing with some heavy stuff right now. We hadn’t talked in a long time, so neither of us was really aware of all of the tough stuff the other has been going through. At one point, I just looked at him and asked, “Is this what it’s like to be an adult?” I feel really old. I feel tired and I feel like my heart is so heavy from carrying my losses. Is that what adulthood is? Adding to the weight of your heart?

I’m going to try to start posting again. Hubby is in the hiring process with our local fire service, and if he gets the job, we are going to start the paperwork for foster care adoption. And I don’t think I could go through that process without all of you. Plus, I’m getting a little overwhelmed without my outlet–I need you ladies.

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Molly

Last year we got a puppy. My heart was broken because our children kept dying, so we got Molly, a sweet little five week old pup who stole my heart. She filled an empty place in my heart and when I was sad, she gave me joy. Having her was so wonderful, we got another pup, Jack, for her to play with. Just the other day I thought that I could be happy–that hubby and my furbabies could be enough. I was content, and what I had was enough.

Last week, we came home and found Molly dead in the yard. She was lying in her usual spot, but she wasn’t there anymore. She was gone.

I miss her. I miss the way she always smelled like puppy. I miss the way she used to get so excited that she would start yelping when we came home. I miss snuggling with her. I miss the way she would paw at me when I asked her to sit because she was anticipating that I would ask her to shake. I miss watching her chew on Jack’s ears. I miss the way she would fall asleep with her head on my chest. I miss playing fetch with her. She was my baby. The only baby I ever got to hold. And I miss her.

Molly

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Rambling

I’m still here. I keep wanting to post, but I can’t seem to sort through my emotions enough to make a coherent post. Last night in bed, I realized that I was composing a post in my head before I went to sleep, and I did the same thing on the way to work, so obviously I need to write. So forgive me if this isn’t too coherent.

For the most part, I’ve been ok. I don’t know if this is denial or if I’m still numb, but I haven’t sunk into that deep sadness where I can’t function or care about anything like I did with my last losses. No sitting in the shower crying until all of the hot water runs out, which is probably good because we put in a tankless water heater last fall so we have endless hot water and who knows how long I would sit in the shower. I’ve had some guilt about how well I’m doing (which isn’t really that great, but compared to my last losses, it’s sunshine and rainbows), but the truth is that I miss Tup. I miss my baby. I miss talking to him. I miss feeling like everything I did was something that we shared. And while there is still plenty of time for me to have a complete breakdown, I think this calmness is self preservation. I don’t think I can go there again. I refuse to go there again. I’ve already wasted too much of my life in that place and I just can’t. I’m not strong enough to pull myself back out again. So I’m sitting in this strange place that I don’t recognize–one where I have a deep sadness in my heart but it doesn’t consume me–I can compartmentalize it. I don’t know if that’s healthy, but that’s where I am.

I’ve been trying to stay busy, and I know that exercise is supposed to help keep depression at bay, so hubby and I have started training for a sprint triathlon in August. It’s hard and tiring, but I’m really glad we are doing this. Whenever we add another mile or two to our bike ride or I run for a longer period of time before I run out of breath, I feel better about myself. I can feel my body getting stronger and more fit, and that really helps fight off the self-loathing that comes with my body’s failure to nurture and grow my child.

I got a call yesterday about the results of my RPL blood tests. They were normal–nothing to suggest repeat loss. Normal thyroid, no major clotting disorders. The doctor did suggest that I take a baby aspirin every day once we start trying again because it might help and it couldn’t hurt. I’m getting really tired of people suggesting that I take baby aspirin while holding my chart that says I have an anaphylactic allergy to NSAIDs. When I told her that I am allergic to aspirin, she asked if I am sure that I’m specifically allergic to aspirin and have I ever taken actual aspirin. I responded that, yes, I have taken aspirin and I had a reaction–that’s how I know I’m allergic to it. Then she said that even though I’m allergic to regular aspirin, I might be able to take a small dose without any adverse effects and that it would be worth trying. The last time I took an aspirin, I was a sophomore in high school. My whole faced swelled up and my throat almost closed, so I really don’t see the logic in taking a baby aspirin because I “might not react to a smaller dosage.” She did suggest I go to an allergist and see if they can desensitize me to it, which might be something to think about, but at that point, I was so annoyed that I just wanted to get off the phone with her. Really, I can’t understand why a doctor can’t take my anaphylactic allergy seriously.

To make the whole thing worse, she said the words. If you have had multiple losses, you know the words I’m talking about, “If it makes you feel any better…” I’ve gotten to the point now that whenever I hear a sentence that starts with that phrase, I sigh and roll my eyes. I can’t help it. Anyway, she told me about her friend who just had a baby after seven unexplained consecutive losses. Everyone has one of these stories and I can’t for the life of me figure out why people think these stories are supposed to make me feel any better. Obviously, she has never had a loss and does not understand the grief that comes with it. Because if she did, she would not think that a story about someone who lost seven children before having her first child would encourage me. If anything, it makes me feel even more bitter towards the assholes who get pregnant on the first try and have a baby nine months later while some of us suffer loss after loss after loss with nothing but the hope that one day, after enough of our babies die, we might actually get to take one home. And at what point do you stop? At what point do you say enough is enough, I’m done?

For us, that point is now. At least for the time being. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t just sit helplessly while my children die inside of me. I can’t subscribe to the “keep trying and hope it doesn’t happen again” plan. I know this will pass, but even the desire to have children and be a mother has left me. I have children. Four of them. They are all dead. And I don’t want any more dead children. I’m tired of this cycle. Even now, we’ll take some time off to focus on other things: the triathlon, school, hubby’s new job, etc, but eventually we’ll get pulled back in. Eventually we’ll want to try again, and then what? With every loss, I feel like our chances for a healthy baby diminish, but you always think, “just one more time–next time will be the one.” I feel like this cycle never ends, like we’ll never find a way out of it. So, for now, we are out. No more peesticks, no more temps, no more prenatals, no more doctor’s appointments, no more blood draws, no more waiting, no more anxiety filled nights. I’m done. And I have no idea when I’ll be ready again. Maybe I’m not handling all of this as well as I thought.

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