This post falls into one of those categories of ‘maybe I shouldn’t be sharing this,’ but I’ve never held back before and I’m not going to start now. I couldn’t have guessed the ending to this story, but I’m sharing it because it has a happy ending.
About a year ago and two days after I started IVF#5, my brother and sister-in-law skyped me. They had important news to share and they wanted to tell me first and give me a “heads up.” They were pregnant, of course. This came as a shock to me and I had a hard time keeping it together. They told me that they planned on telling our parents and the rest of the families on Christmas morning. I congratulated them and I meant it. I held it together through the rest of the video call and then broke down after we signed off.
It hit me like a sucker punch to the stomach. I guess I knew in the back of my mind that this would be coming some day, but I was still unprepared. Dealing with pregnancy all around you, while going through infertility and loss, is so difficult. It forces us to think about our problems, our losses and our broken dreams. When clouded with this heartbreak, it’s hard to be outwardly happy for others even though we wish them well and are actually are happy for them. Conceiving and carrying a child is too close to our hearts and too fresh in our tears for us to be able to separate ourselves from the equation. I wrote more on this topic here.
I always thought that if my brother and sister-in-law got pregnant, I would be ok with it because that would mean I would become an aunt. Also, I thought, that might be the closest thing to a child we might ever have.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. It was really hard for me to deal with. I think having someone close to you being pregnant is just hard because you are around them often or talking often, whereas you can usually try to avoid other pregnant women. Also, they are younger than us and that stings for me, as it’s a reminder that we are just getting older and older and getting past the normal prime to have children. Not to mention that I felt lapped, like I have many times before. People younger than you having kids, people who tried for no time at all, people having second or third children while we are still trying for our first. It just makes you feel perpetually left behind. My parents really wanted to be grandparents, and we really wanted to make that happen. Now, my brother and sister-in-law are doing that and that’s great, but it just made me feel like a failure. (Yes, I know that is not true. But, when you are depressed, you do a lot of self-loathing.) And, it just wasn’t fair. None of it is. But, that’s not for me to decide and it’s not something I can control.
It was the perfect storm. Dealing with a recent IVF failure, being on hormones for the next IVF, and dealing with complicated emotions. I felt awful for feeling so bad about the situation. I was so mad at myself. It’s really a bad cycle when you feel sad and mad at the same time and feel guilty for feeling the way you do. I was shocked that I was handling it so bad when I always thought that it would be the best possible pregnancy announcement and I would be fine with it. I was even mad at myself for not knowing myself better than that.
I dreaded Christmas. I mean really dreaded it. I knew they were planning the big reveal for our Christmas morning celebration. We always go to my parents house early that morning and open presents and then my mom makes breakfast. I thought about getting up that morning and calling and feigning being sick and just not going.
As it turns out, it wouldn’t have been a ruse, as I woke up that morning and felt ill — just sick to my stomach. What is normally a bright, happy day was anything but. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go and break down and ruin their happy day and happy announcement, but I didn’t want to be a Scrooge and “cancel Christmas” either. I ended up deciding to go because I knew my parents would be sad if I didn’t. My solution was to take a Valium on the way over and then another one later. I remember feeling numb, not really the “without-a-care” feeling I was hoping for, but I thought, “I’ll take it.” I remember sitting on the couch and my mom handed me a cup of coffee and I reached out to get it, but wasn’t strong enough to grab it. I felt like a wet noodle. I worried that my family would notice I was acting funny, but if they did, they didn’t say anything. I also remember telling Erick that it wasn’t working and I didn’t know if I could do it.
I kept wondering and waiting for “it” to happen and I was ready for it to be over. All of the gifts had been opened and there was one left…for Mom and Dad. Well, this final gift announced their news. My parents were so happy and I was able to just sit and be and get through it. After that, we all got up to refill coffee or do whatever. My mom called me back into their bedroom and embraced me and said, “I’m so sorry.” I broke down and so did she. Then, my dad came in and we all cried together.
This meant the world to me and more than they could ever know. This meant they understood. They really “got it.” It meant that they supported us and in their happiness, didn’t forget our sadness. That was the best gift they could have possibly given me that day.
Fast forward 9 months later. This was after I had just miscarried at 8 weeks, which had seemed like our most promising pregnancy yet and was IVF#6. I was raw. We knew it was all over. We knew we wouldn’t try again. We knew our doctor didn’t think we should try again. We were dealing with a devastating loss of our fifth baby and grieving the loss of a biological child at all.
We got the call that my sister-in-law was in labor. It was hard for me. Instead of thinking that my beautiful niece or nephew was about to be born, all I could think about were the births I never had. All five of them. I know it seems so self-centered, but when you live, eat and breathe trying to conceive, it invades your mind and soul. And, when you experience loss the way I have, the grief can be crushing.
My parents went up to Philadelphia to be there for the birth. Erick was out of town for work, so it wasn’t practical for me to go and drive up by myself and I had something important going on at work. Not that I wanted to go anyway. But, no news came even though she was in labor. A day went by. Another day went by. At this point, I started to become worried. In some magical moment on that second day, everything fell into place and I became an aunt.
I was worried about Jes, my sister-in-law. I was worried about the baby. And, I knew too much — as in, bad things that could happen. I started to pray. And, at some point, I realized that my whole outlook had changed and that I was excited to be an aunt and couldn’t wait to meet that baby. My niece or my nephew. A real baby in our family. And, one with my blood (sort of). I was happy and excited. And, I was happy that I was happy. And surprised.
But, I was still worried…Jes was still in labor and having a really hard time and in lots of pain. The next day, after three days of labor, an earthquake and C-section, my perfect niece Avery finally made her appearance.
They sent a photo and I instantly fell in love. I now had a face and name. She was healthy and just gorgeous.
This is one of those situations where you think, “God, why?” at the time, but later you look back and understand that he did have a plan. I still don’t get the master plan, though. So, God, if you’re listening, we’re still waiting for the grand finale. =) We are trying to have faith and trying to hold on to hope.
But, I am thankful for small miracles and this was one. This little person has helped to heal my heart. Not to fix what’s wrong or take it away by any means, but certainly made things better. It’s nice to know that my heart hasn’t turned completely icy because dealing with anger and being bitter is no fun. It’s nice to love. It’s nice to feel happy when I think of her. It’s nice to see photos and videos of her. And, it’s hard to be so far away. I am so sad when I have to kiss her sweet little face and say good-bye after a visit.
This past Christmas and the one before couldn’t possibly be any more different. Last Christmas, I was really struggling and this Christmas I was so thankful to have Avery in my life.
She has changed other things for me, too. We fight over who gets to hold her. I even change her diapers. I didn’t use to be able to even walk through the baby section of a store without crying. Now, I find myself making a beeline for it and looking for stuff to buy for her. Who am I? Seriously, I was starting to wonder what alien abducted me? I’m not complaining though. It’s just really surprising to me that I was able to make this complete 180. But, I’m grateful and glad that I was able to.
I have to admit that I am still not warm and fuzzy with other babies. I continue to avoid them. It’s painful.
Avery got a special pass and I’m so glad she did. So, thank you, to my sweet baby niece who has helped to heal my heart a little.
To all of you out there struggling, I hope and pray that something will shift a little for you, too. I’m not saying it will. We’re all different. But, I can say that I never could have predicted this. I told you about all of my low points so you would understand what a change this was for me. People had told me that it would get easier after the baby was born and I didn’t necessarily believe it. But, in my case, it not only got better, but it really has been a blessing for me.