Parenting after infertility and recurrent loss… Not exactly the rainbows and unicorns I had hoped for.

It is a strange world I inhabit these days. I am intensely grateful to be the mother of two boys I fought hard – desperately, compulsively, fantastically hard – to conceive, carry and avoid losing amidst eight pregnancies I lost along the way. Yet I find myself committing one parenting failure after another. The guilt, shame and utter loneliness of that fact boggles my mind. 

And keeps me awake at night. 

The nightmares and middle-of-the-night waking for hours on end (minimum of 1.5 hours, maximum so far 4 hours, average of 2.5-3 hours) continue.  Of late my subconscious mind has been traumatizing me with nightmares related to a recent waking anxiety of mine – dry drowning. And as of last night, real drowning. The dreams began with my toddler – the Miracle Toddler (MT) – accidentally (dry) drowning a very young puppy. I woke up before finding out if the puppy ultimately survived though it was conscious by the time I awoke in a cold sweat. 

Last night in my final bad dream the MT dropped himself into a moving body of water after he dramatically ran away from me trying to redirect his troublesome behaviour (i.e., he was misbehaving and mad at me for trying to discipline him). In short, it was my fault. Or so it felt. And I couldn’t get into the water immediately to rescue him. I didn’t think to yell back at his dad to call 911. All in all, a monstrous parenting fail. 

I woke up gutted emotionally. I hadn’t yet rescued the MT. I watched him sinking. Everyone moved in slow motion. I hated my mind for ever going to this awful place. And I felt – feel (did I mention that my mother’s first son drowned?) – frightened and unhinged.  Ashamed. And scared that maybe my dreams are trying to tell new something but I don’t know what. 

What on earth is wrong with my mind that it must torment me so?

If I am compassionate and brutally honest with myself (which in my view go hand in hand for how else does one cut through the stories we tell ourselves?) I think there are a few things at play. 

1.  I am struggling with this job of parenting after recurrent loss. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. That is a challenging place from which to attempt to live a full, meaningful and present-centred life. I wonder if this qualifies as a form of post-traumatic stress?

2.  I am not getting quality rest. This likely is both fueled by and exacerbates numbers 1 and 3 in this list. 

3.  I have bitten off more than I ought to be chewing. For example, I am doing volunteer work, home renovations by myself, providing full time care to a very young baby and part time care for a very spirited, extremely active and sometimes physically combative three year old (he is in a dayhome part of most weekdays), caring for and nursing back to health a chronically diseased 15-year old cat rescued from a close family member with whom I no longer know how to relate or particularly want to (cue guilt, hurt and anger) and wrestling with massive financial anxieties at home and applying for financing to address that, to name a few items on my to-do and worry lists. Oh and I would really love to write a book before I have to return to work. (Call me a pipe dreamer. You won’t be the first.)

4.  Speaking of work… I am dreading my return to it.  My planned leave is half over and I feel crushed about that. And ripped off; I spent the first eight weeks recovering from two major surgeries that included a ruptured appendix and resulting peritonitis and working my breasts off trying to establish a decent milk supply after the appendicitis fiasco. It feels unfair. The thought of leaving baby Azulito on December 1st makes my heart hurt. 

If it weren’t for the financial issues I would tell the LP I want to stay home longer and that we need to figure out a way to make that happen. But in our home I pay for all of our costs of living – which includes our food and other household purchases, mortgage, utilities, childcare, property taxes, insurance, home and my cell phones, Internet, cable that I never watch, yard care because I’m allergic to cut grass so can’t do that job and because in the few waking hours of each day in which the LP is home I want him to spend it with us not the lawnmower, car payments, car maintenance, gas (except on the LPs car) – and the LP cannot afford to take on those costs while I take a longer leave. 

I could pull the MT out of his dayhome and save $800 a month. But then I would have to find him and baby Azulito a new caregiver when I go back to work. I like our caregiver at the MTs dayhome. He loves her and the kids there. I want to break down and issue big ugly sobs just thinking about that option so it has never really been an option. 

As for cutting other expenses, I already terminated my gym membership to save that monthly expense. The only ones I could really eliminate are the cable and yard work expenses. The yard expenses end after this month anyway so that’s a plus. The LP is a tv addict (in denial) so we have compromised by agreeing to only keep the minimum basic cable and his sports channels. That will save me a couple of hundred dollars per year I think. 

I have thought about selling my car to get rid of the payments and buying something much cheaper but it has some hit and run damage and a stupid pregnant exhausted mommy moment’s damage (I scraped the front bumper) and paying to fix all of that would eliminate a good chunk of the profit not to mention requiring cash we don’t have on hand. Plus then I would end up with an older car that in all likelihood would need major repairs eventually and new tires almost immediately when our scary-driving winter hits. So not a great option though I am considering seeing what I could get if I traded it in for a decent used vehicle just to end the payments on it. Then in a couple of years when we got our financial bearings back maybe I could get a newer car again. 

I have thought about selling our home and moving into a condo close to either work or the dayhome so I could take public transit and we could reduce to one car but with two small kids, a senior dog and now a geriatric cat (you’d never know either animal was a “senior” if you watched them move or saw them but both need medications every day – another expense I cover 100%) it is hard to imagine how that would work. Selling to buy a home in another location would actually cost us money not save any so that’s not an option. 

Is it any wonder I lie awake at night unable to sleep and have terrifying dreams about one or both of my previous boys being taken away from me?  Something has to give. Clearly. 



28 thoughts on “Parenting after infertility and recurrent loss… Not exactly the rainbows and unicorns I had hoped for.

  1. Wow those are some vivid nightmares. 😦 It sucks that you get them on top of not getting enough sleep. Looking at the list of things you have to do and all the financial worries, no wonder you have a hard time sleeping well. From the looks of it, you have thought of all the possibilities of how to handle this situation. I have no advice, but just want to say that I am sorry that life isn’t easier for you now. I hope that you will at least start to sleep better without having those horrible dreams. ❤

  2. Big hugs.. I would definitely say this is a form of post traumatic stress.. I’m so sorry. I wish things could have just been easy for you, but the one thing I know about you is you have such a strong resilience. You’ll find a way through the financial stress, but that is hard. We’ve had to make cuts too and it’s so stressful.

  3. I’m sorry you are struggling so much. I tend to agree with both Isabelle and Sondra – the stress in your life is likely the reason for the dreams and that this is probably some sort of PTS. Have you been able to get in to talk to your counsellor about all of this? If nothing else she/he may be able to give you some strategies to manage the anxiety and sleep a bit better.
    Can you maybe find a way to reduce some of your volunteering and house reno’s? I know it wont solve all your problems, but it might help reduce some anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.
    We have also had the car selling conversation and the moving conversation. But, Mr. MPB’s car is already 15 years old, so we cannot really get something much older. And my car, well by the time we sell it and get a older car we will then have the same bills we have on his car, and that just defeats the purpose. And the house, by the time we pay realtor fees and legal fees, we will likely be in the hole particularly now that the market is starting to suck in this part of the world. Oh, and we love our house and we bought it for our family so we are staying here for our family!

  4. Have you sought out any help for this – doctor, counselor, etc.? I’m neither, but post traumatic stress sounds very likely, and I also wonder about post partum something or other. You hear about post partum “depression” which may not be exactly like what you’re describing, but a close friend of mine (who experienced neither infertility nor any pregnancy loss) had severe frightening episodes like this in the postpartum periods after both her kids were born. I wonder if there may also be a truly hormonal factor at play. Can you check with your doctor? My friend who had this was given meds for it and they absolutely worked wonders. If there is a hormonal issue and you can get that balanced out again, then you can be in a better position to face the rest of it, if you know what I mean.

    As for not wanting to go back to work, I totally get it. I desperately wanted to find a way to work less when I went back after Bunny was born. Like you, financially there just plain was no way we could lose my income. But I kept soul searching about it and I did manage to negotiate a slight schedule change. It’s not much, but every other week I get a day off to be with Bunny. Far from ideal, but better than I had before. I’m just wondering if there’s some way you can think outside the box and come up with a compromise work scenario rather than an all-or-nothing approach? Is some sort of part time set up an option at all?

    But most of all, I’m sad to hear that you are struggling so and wish I could give you a *real* hug. Thinking of you, as ever.

  5. shit. the last thing you need on top of the very real financial and time constraints is dreams making things scarier. And, I am a classic anxiety dreamer, so I get it. (Most recently I dreamed I was being put in prison – not clear why – and I was going to have to wean Ansel and not see him for years and years and it was really terrifyng.) I have no advice, just letting you know I see and hear this, and I really hope there are some ways to make things fit better, for all of you. I still mostly wish we lived in a culture that actually supported parents, but in lieu of that, I will wish for perfect solutions that allow you to take some time and get your feet back on the ground.

  6. You gotta cut yourself some slack. sometimes it’s like you’re just powering through and your fine and then you’re just not fine and that’s when the shit just starts coming back to bite you. Try to make some space in your life so you have some room to breathe. Maybe you know a cat lover who could take the kitty for a few months? Maybe you can drop the volunteer gig… Etc. it sounds like you’re a bit over-committed and that’s making it tough to process everything.

  7. I know I’m just some random stranger on the internet, but that sounds like a bad case of postpartum anxiety, a subset of PPD. I also had a bad case- it went away on its own after about eight weeks- but some nice benzos at night really made a difference and are also safe while nursing (in moderation of course). I hope you find something that helps, that sounds pretty awful.

  8. So I don’t want to sound dismissive of the very real stressors in your life right now (and I understand being the breadwinner myself, and knowing that at the end of the day, no amount of cutting corners really helps), but I have to agree that even with all of that, this really is sounding like a post-partum anxiety disorder. I had PPD after my daughter was born, she had colic and I never slept and I was a complete wreck with anxiety and bad dreams and over my impending return to work. I was really reluctant to see a doctor about it, but in hindsight I do wish that I got over my self-aversion to medication and tried to find relief for the very real suffering. My fog and sadness and numbness and exhaustion started to abate at 12 weeks, which is just when my maternity leave ended. To some extent I have dreamed of another pregnancy, another maternity leave, another infant as a “do-over” – sad but true.

  9. This too shall pass. Given our backgrounds without any stress and being post-partum we are subject to nightmares. From what you have outlined you are doing amazing with the boys. It is hard but I agree with the dayhome. So hard to find someone you click with. I would suggest getting a quick checkup. My thyroid and B12 SUCK and that was part in part the issue with my nightmares along with PP. Chin up you are doing AWESOME. And it is very obvious that everyone in your family is much loved and cared for!

  10. I am so so sorry you’re going through this so much on top of the financial/work/time stresses and all that involves having a new baby, not least the sudden emergency surgery you had right after birth! You have been through the ringer and it does also sound like a lot like a mix of PPA/PTSD. I hope that you can find some resolutions, whatever they may be. Hugs!

  11. Hey lady–this is more than PTSD, this sounds like PPA and PPD. I’ve still got serious PPA and I have a lot of what “they” call *intrusive thoughts*, including but not limited to dry drowning (or car crashes, plane crashes, stranger danger–basically I have flashes of worst-case-scenarios that I immediately try to push out of my mind). I wake up to feed BG in the middle of the night & like you am awake for a minimum of 1.5hrs (I only got 3hrs of sleep last night–it was a bad one).
    It’s terrifying to love someone so much and feel wholly responsible for their safety and happiness, and as new moms (you for the 2nd time) being at home with the kid(s) can (and for me, has) become all-consuming. I obsess and come up short, feeling like I’m not good enough regardless. My therapist keeps pointing me towards “mindfulness”, centering yourself in the moment. There are so many great moments when I look at BG and feel overwhelming joy–every day, most of the day. But nights are hard, even when Mr. MLACS is home.
    Sorry for rambling but does this help? Does this resonate with you? I’m here with you. XOXO

  12. Oh my dear friend, I am so sorry to see you struggling so. Thanks for having the courage to express these thoughts and emotions. it’s important to talk about the hard times and not just the good times. I am no professional but it definitely sounds like you are suffering from some real issues and i know you’re looking for ways to cut expenses but it might be a good idea to see a professional of some sort. I really think you need to cut yourself some slack. You’ve been through (are going through) so much that this seems a natural although severe reaction. Here are my thoughts… Unless you find the volunteer extremely fulfilling I think you should try to step back temporarily. It sounds like it’s draining you of resources you are short on at the moment. As for the renovations, can they also take a backseat or at least slow down for a month or so? I know with winter on the horizon that may not be the case but think about it. Also as much as I would love to read any book you write, I think you’re expecting too much of yourself right now. The book will come when it is time. I know you’re dreading going back to work but you still have almost 3 months before that happens. I’d like to see you hunker down and direct your energy internally to yourself, your 2 little boys and the LP for as long as you can. A good couple of months of quality time right now might have you feeling better about everything else to come. Also regarding your dreams, these are scary and I’m guessing normal given your experiences. I tend to have nightmares quite often usually of the running-for-my-life variety. I wake in a panic and have to calm myself down so I can understand a bit of what you’re dealing with. In this pregnancy my dreams had been getting pretty crazy and I had to purposefully spend some time asking my angels and guides for protection from these dreams. I have a visualization that puts me in a protective bubble and fills me with gold and white light. I did this one night before bed and my dreams have been much better since then. I’ll email you the details in case you think it might help. I know it’s woo-woo but it can’t hurt! Please be compassionate with yourself. We are here for you!

  13. You have been through so much for such a long time. It is difficult to be exhausted and then have sleep deprivation, financial concerns piled on top of it. I also do the same thing as gradualchanges – visualizing myself in white light – has helped a lot. I am here if you need/want to talk. I am so sorry that you are going through this. ❤

  14. I have been earnestly covering you in prayer since reading this. Your dreams are not premonitions of anything to come. In my spirit, I feel that you are traumatized by all of the events that led up to your blessing and there is guilt associated with it. You finally have what your fought and prayed for and because of the long journey to get here, you are overwhelmed, scarred, and hurt. It is okay to feel like that. Financial issues compound that and cause guilt as well because you spent the money to get to this point. Just as God put that healthy and gorgeous baby in your arms, He will also provide you with everything you need. Exercise your faith and TRUST HIM !! Get someone to come stay at your house for a few days and you need to take some melatonin or nyquil and get some real rest. Find a counselor asap. This seems to be also some post part um depression, which will pass soon. Keep your head up, look down at those boys and feel GOD’S love for you through the gifts He has entrusted to you. This too shall pass ! You need to live in the moment. Don’t waste another second worrying. Spend it loving ! Xoxo

  15. I know you wrote this a while ago, but I am behind the times! I hope you’re feeling at least a little better these days. I think you are absolutely experiencing some type of PTSD. All that you have been through in the last few years is just brutal. It really is. Secondly, and I know you know this, but lack of sleep makes everything AWFUL. I am sure that is exacerbating the situation. I am hoping that this is just a brief storm, though, and nightmares go away so you can get some rest. I’m so sorry you are dealing with all of this.

    It doesn’t sound like one car works for you right now, but should it ever become a realistic possibility, I can tell you from my experience at least that it is pretty awesome. Not only did we save money, but it feels like so much less of a hassle. There are rare occasions where we get in a jam and in that case we use a car share. Do you have anything like that near you?

    Anyway, just know that you have been on my mind a lot lately. I wish I could come over for a cup of sleepytime tea, play with the MT while you snuggle with A, and have a good, long chat. Hang in there. It will get better. It has to.

  16. Oh wow you’ve been through so much, I’m sure the mind needs time to process x Sending you thoughts of peaceful dreams, both asleep & awake x

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