To the women who bought our bassinet and crib

One of you

bought the fancy crib in which 

my babies never really slept

the other

a blue and tan bassinet

with a folding stand. 

*

Our relationships were brief 

born in each instance 

of a commercial transaction. 

And yet they fostered

the sort of candour 

among strangers 

that loss survivors sometimes share. 

*

You each told me about your losses. 

I empathized 

and shared some of mine. 

There were tears 

and fear

– so much fear –

and hope. 

*

I’ve thought of you 

since then

wondering

and quietly hoping

this time is different

this time 

your baby comes home 

in your arms. 

Thoughts on Redundancy 

I have often wondered in the past 12 months whether to officially park this blog or disable it as its purpose – bringing my spirit baby home – was achieved (thanks be to God, the Universe, my Obstetrician, my Reproductive Immunologist and my tenacity). 

And it’s tough not feeling guilty for throwing my success in the faces of my sisters who soldier on – I remember the anguish posts by those who had living children evoked in me before the MT and by those who had more than one while we endured failure after failure on the road to bringing home our spirit baby. 

But enough about me. This post is about the blog and what purpose I envision it serving going forward. The thought that maybe it could help others has fuelled my ambivalence and the hesitance to disable or abandon it with deliberation (as opposed to the inadvertent neglect born of a busy job and busier couple of boys that’s resulted from Life in the past 12 months and especially since I returned to work last December). 

You see, every so often I get an email from a stranger who has stumbled across my humble blog. I’m always surprised by this as I’ve never marketed or cross-posted on twit.ter or insta.gram to increase traffic or otherwise. Candidly I have always considered this space primarily self serving and at best entertaining. Now that I have little to no time in which to write and post here the space began to feel redundant. What was I adding tithe blogosphere that warranted keeping this site alive?

For better or worse I haven’t found time of lard to give that question prolonged thought. Admittedly it has always been my hope that if someone came here needing help or information or a friend in recurrent loss, she or he would feel welcome to contact me. Each time I am contacted I respond genuinely and as generously as life permits. 

Late last week someone from the company that maintains Dr. Braverman’s website contacted me. He said some things that surprised me and made me reflect anew on what this blog has to offer and how I could be part of expanding options for others struggling with recurrent pregnancy loss or unexplained infertility that may have immunological causes. 

In the end I accepted his invitation to post a link to Dr. Braverman’s website not to increase my doctor’s wealth. He needs no help in that department (a fact of which I’m regularly reminded as I continue to pay down the debt a year past our spirit baby’s first birthday). Rather, I wanted to make it easier for women and couples needing help – like I did – to find me and to find him and other available options. 

In short I wanted to make this space feel less redundant. Notwithstanding my neglect of it these days. To do that I’ve made a long overdue update to my profile page (see here) that now includes a direct link to Dr. B’s website. 

Meanwhile I’ve tried cutting myself some slack for the neglect. 

There are posts I’ve wanted to write and grief I’ve been processing that I’ve considered sharing here. But for now the order of the day is “Life rules”.

Vantage Points and Shame

Today I volunteered at the MT’s playschool.  It runs from 9 am to 3 pm which is a pretty long day for kids aged 19 months through 5 years.  It gave me some perspective on a few things. A vantage point.

First, the MT has some truly remarkable qualities of which I am deeply proud.  Among them is his empathy with others when they are suffering.  A new kid who just started with the program last month is very young and “cry-ey” in playschool teacher/parent vernacular. She was having one sob-fest after another before 10:30 am.

My eldest (living) son tried several times to console her. I watched as he offered her among other things both compassion and affection.  She rebuffed him every time.

The MT persisted. Not in an annoying or thoughtless “it’s all about me, you rescuer” way. Patiently. Softly. Using hushed and warm tones and gentle touch. Eventually I had to tell him that she only wanted to be held by an adult (and one particular teacher if not her mom, who wasn’t there) and that he would not be able to help even though he was doing the “right” things to comfort and acknowledge a friend’s suffering.

Other vantage point have presented themselves of late. For example? The MT adores his baby brother but in recent months has blurted out things like “Mommy can we have a baby girl?” or “Mom can me and [baby A] have a sister?” and “I want a baby girl Mommy.”

Yeah kid.  Me too.

These moments are not helping with my ambivalence and deep longing for a third child (which began as an ache for a daughter but has morphed into a more general longing for a child).  Yet they too offer a vantage point and challenge me to sort through my melee of feelings and thoughts on the subject.

In the past few weeks since first sharing my feelings about this topic I have swung like a pendulum between declaring the prospect absurd and out of the question to pining with an intensity that is hard to put into words. The LP and I have drafted pro and con lists and shared them with each other.

Mostly I’ve detached from my feelings and spent the majority of my time numb about it.  Somehow that seems easier than engaging my feelings.

I was thinking about all of this today while volunteering (I was looking at family photos on the “Family Tree wall” which made me want to interview every parent with more than two living young children).

Unexpectedly, I got a text from the LP’s only nephew’s wife. She is expecting.  My eyes burned and I had to bite my lip hard to stop from bursting into tears in the middle of the playschool Pirate Ship.

Almost immediately I wrote the perfunctory “Congratulations” and “Cute”tt about their pending announcement (which included a 12-week ultrasound photo. Because when we have not personally experienced loss those things make sense I guess?)

To be clear:  I don’t begrudge women or couples who celebrate their babies or who make early (or any social media) announcements. But. Still. They send me down a rabbit hole.  That hole is rife with pain and other feelings I don’t even know how to articulate and feel deeply ashamed even acknowledging now that I (finally) have two living children of my own.  How dare I have these feelings?

I did cry when I told the LP when he called to ask how things were going at the playschool.  I couldn’t help it.  I felt ashamed and confused by my emotions then too.

After my “shift” at the playschool I finally gathered my wits if not my feelings and texted again to thank her for telling me before announcing on social media (she’s pure lovely and one of my few Face.Book connections on my real-name account). I also admitted that I still find unexpected announcements on social media traumatizing for reasons I cannot explain (given the two living kids thing).

The weirdest part? I had a dream the other night that she and her husband were having another baby (they had number one last year on the MT’s third birthday). They got married on the due date of the baby we had longed for and lost in my first pregnancy.  I never forget their anniversary. Sometimes life’s timing serves ulterior purposes I guess.

Anyway, watching myself withhold my feelings in a space where it was not safe or responsible to acknowledge or feel them and reflecting upon it late compelled me to think about why I have so much shame in relation to something so “natural”. By way of example, it goes something like this:

Thought/feeling #1: Why can it be so easy for others and so hard for us? (Eyes burning.)

Thought/feeling #2: I will never make an announcement like this and I never have. (Chest aching, throat tightening.)

Thought/feeling #3: How heartbreaking is that? (Tears welling up.)

Thought/feeling #4: It’s your own fault for letting fear and recurrent loss run your life.

Thought/feeling #5: You have two healthy living children.  Even if you fought tooth and nail for them, they are here and you are pining for the grass you perceive as greener on the other side of some imaginary fence.  Shame on you! (Cold wind encasing my body. Feelings going numb.)

Though/feeling #6: I should reply so she doesn’t think I am traumatized or begrudging them for their good fortune and ease of successful conception. (Sending congratulatory text.)

And on it goes.

From the vantage point I now occupy I see that I’ve been stuffing down my feelings about my own longing for the last several  months.

Last Friday I wanted to cancel the telephone consult we scheduled quite a while ago.  It is scheduled to take place in a little over a week with a doctor at a Canadian facility where we might be able to cycle if he will work with Dr. Braverman and follow his protocol or if he will prescribe my past successful Braverman protocol even if he won’t support working in a consultative capacity with Dr. B. Friday was the deadline for cancelling and getting a refund on the charge for speaking with this doctor.

The LP didn’t want me to cancel. I don’t know why not but I didn’t cancel. Yet I’ve oscillated wildly – so wildly it’s kept me up at night on occasion and I’ve had to settle on numb rather than engage my feelings, whatever they might be, about it all – and had come to rest on the decision not to try again about a month ago.

For a variety of reasons I am not ready to share here I have been flip flopping since then. On the whole I get the sense that my heart simply is not in this. I think it is reluctant to face getting broken yet again.

I do not know how to explain it. I feel detached. Afraid. Ashamed. Uncertain. And exhausted by the indecision. A part of me just wants to shut this process down, grieve the sense of loss and move on. I want out of the limbo.

Which brings me back to shame. Damn that emotion. It is a destructive little devil. And immobilizing.

Is my ambivalence fueled in part by shame (and her evil cousin, guilt?)? I do not know but for the first time the question has presented itself to me and it feels hungry, in need of an answer.

I think I need to start journaling again. And therapy. I’ll add both to my to do list.

What if…

In the early months of this year a friend very close to our family – a friend who had intimately witnessed many of our miscarriages, IVF cycles, immune testing and finally our successful immune-treatment cycle that later resulted in the birth of baby Azulito – called me looking for advice. She was pregnant. 

Not planned, a severe endometriosis sufferer in a long-term relationship with a guy who had taken steps to insure he would not father any more children. Yet there she was, the morning after finding out and wanting advice about how to keep baby and herself healthy and safe. 

She did not want to terminate the pregnancy but her boyfriend did not want to raise another child. Her child. Their child. On top of that she had her own fears about becoming a mother and raising a child herself. 

I felt sick. I felt betrayed by things greater than myself. Again. I was sure she was asking herself many of the same questions I was. How could this be happening? Why is life so cruel? So unfair? Why me? Why now? Why, why, why, why?

For a time it seemed she would raise her child even if doing so meant becoming homeless, jobless and without the relationship that has brought her a whole new life complete with (his and his ex’s) children on a part-time schedule. 

I have been very close friends with another birth/first mom for many years. I knew adoption would be a devastating “choice” in these (in any) circumstances. I dreaded the lifetime of unimaginable grief, self-loathing, doubt and loss I knew would await our pregnant friend if she did what her boyfriend said from day one that he would do: place her baby with an adoptive family (while continuing to help raise his kids). 

As the months passed it became clear that an open adoption was The Plan. I promised myself I would support whatever path our friend chose. It has not been easy for us. It has been much harder for her. Infinitely harder. 

I/we offered everything we could to ensure our friend could raise baby if she chose to do so and we have offered what support we can since she chose to place her daughter with her adoptive family and leave her with them at the end of the revocation of consent period. I hope to be able to support her whenever she may need or want that. 

I cannot count the tears I have shed or the ways in which I’ve felt my heart shatter. I know their number and magnitude are dwarfed by our friend’s own loss to date and in the new life she forges in the open adoption relationship she ultimately chose. 

Why am I sharing this here? Now?

I love our friend like family. I admire her candour and the courage with which she is facing life after placing her daughter. I love her daughter even though I cry and grieve a little each time I look at her photos and think of her. She recently described her child as the one thing of which she is most proud. So she should be; she did the very best she could for that baby from day one.

At a personal level these events have given rise to a river of grief in me I could not have forecast. The river is vast and swift. I have felt myself drowning in it many a sleepless night for months on end. 

In my gut and heart I knew for months – even though the testing was inconclusive and even though she felt that the baby was a boy for most of her pregnancy – that our friend would give birth to a daughter. Surely for my grief to be complete the universe had to deal me this final blow. 

And so it was. 

What has happened for me in the process of witnessing our friend’s struggle with how to manage her unexpected pregnancy and make a plan that she could not only live with but try to thrive with in time is hard to explain. I could not explain it here even if I wished. My views on the adoption industry are not popular and I care too much about our friend to cheapen her experience by sharing what little I can truly know or understand about it given my own history and perspective. I hope I have not already said too much. 

In any event her pregnancy – which chugged along beside my own for many months – forms the impetus for this post and probably several to follow. It opened my heart to feelings and my mind to thoughts I have been unable to shake or put to bed. 

The short version is that I have wept and ached not only for her impossible choices and crushing loss but knowing I would never be able to have a daughter myself. Or another child irrespective of whether a boy or girl. I have cursed myself – for being such a late bloomer, for waiting so long, for buying the lies, for not following my gut and looking for a reproductive immunologist sooner – and fate, the universe, God or whatever you want to call it – for screwing me over so resolutely in the child-bearing department. I have raged against all the wrongs I perceived as a result. 

In short, I have drunk deeply and long from the well of grief. My visions blurs and head dizzies just thinking about it. 

And then it happened. I asked the ill-fated question I probably should have eliminated from my vocabulary long ago when it comes to my reproductive abilities. 

What if… 

What if we tried again? Would I hope for a girl? Yes. Would I be just as excited to have another boy? Absolutely. 

Yes we are too old. Yes this is utter madness. Yes it would cost another fortune we don’t have. Yes it would mean three kids in full-time child care because yes, it would mean me having to go back to work before I would like if it even worked. And the worst yes of all: it may not work and would cost nearly the same fortune to fail as to succeed. 

And yet. I have made inquiries. We are waiting for a consult to determine if a certain doctor in our own country would work with Dr. Braverman if we did a DE IVF cycle with him using a protocol designed by Dr. B and with him consulting (ka-ching x 2). I have grown simultaneously calmer and more restless since setting these balls in motion. 

The one thing I have not done is meditate to call on the spirit(s) of any child(ren) who may or may not be interested in us being his/her/their parents. It is too soon for that. 

I am wrought by an anxiety that this is another manifestation of my grieving and not a sustainable rational or reasonable thing to do. It would surely mean my never retiring. At least not before my 70th birthday. I also do not want to set myself up for an insatiable thirst that ca only ever be satisfied at the well of grief. My communication with any spirit baby or babies will be very different if I am reaching out to say goodbye for now rather than extending an invitation. 

And now for a caveat of sorts:

* I have wrestled with whether to password protect this post. In theend – at least for now – I have chosen not to in case anyone else has struggled or is struggling with similar feelings or circumstances. Whether it readsas such or not this is one of the most vulnerable entries I have ever posted. 

* In light of my deep sense of vulnerability I may delete this post or password it. I will certainly delete and block all troll comments as I have done in the past (you’ve been warned, a-holes). And I may not respond substantively in public to any comments though I may be more inclined to do so outside of this public forum. If this happens please don’t take it personally. I feel pretty raw fragile and pensive about all of “this” at the moment. 

 

I remember you

Little light, tiny boy, you were my first. You were supposed to be born in early August. You left us on New Year’s Day instead. I think about you often. As you know we have given our second living son your first name as his second. You are buried in a planter in our front yard. Remember when I dragged that heavy thing, weighing almost half as much as I do, from our old home to the one in which we now live? I remember you. And my love for you lives on always, not only on days like today dedicated to infant and pregnancy loss. 

Little spark, you were with us only briefly and some doctors said you didn’t count. But you did. I remember you. You were wanted. You too were loved.

Miracle Toddler, you broke the spell. Notwithstanding every complication my body threw in your way you triumphed. You have lived through the six losses that followed you. And the one who survived. Your little brother. You were my first miracle who lived. I will love you forever and in all ways. 

Tiny gift, you were welcomed with such hope. My heart broke with a newfound anguish when you disappeared. Too soon. Forever too soon. I remember you. 

Little bean, I was so excited to know you. I dreamed of holding you. I dreamed of you being my best holiday gift ever. But then you too were gone. Too soon. My heart died a little more with your passing. 

Oh, Mandy, then there was you. You were our holiday and special occasion baby. Conceived on vacation. We first saw your heart beating on my birthday. I watched you grow and knew you would be my beautiful baby girl. You were so brave. You fought hard. But it was not enough. I cried begging the doctor to let me see you one more time, fearing you too had slipped away. Knowing something was wrong. And something was. So dreadfully wrong. The Miracle Toddler cried with me as I mourned your passing. Time and time again. I am so sorry I lost you Mandy. I remember you. I always will. You will forever be the daughter I will never get to hold. 

Tiny button, you were our first IVF baby. Your time with us was brief but our love and longing for you deep and plentiful. I remember you.

Dearest whisp, you were with us for Valentine’s Day and the weeks that followed. And then you were gone. Just like that. I remember you. 

Wee Hope, you were my Mother’s Day baby. I traveled far, yearned long and worked hard for you. I did everything right. I thought it would be enough. How wrong I was. You taught us so much. You are missed. And I remember you. 

Little E, you landed in my womb alongside baby Azulito. Little Blue. He lived. You did not although you tried and for that I thank you and, little E, I remember you.

Baby Azulito, you are finally here. You beat every odd and overcame every obstacle my immune system erected in your path. I could not be more grateful. I will remember you in all ways and forever. 

Though my heart is heavy, my eyes burning and my cheeks stained as I write this, little loves of mine, I know I am fortunate and filled with gratitude for the two of you who fill my arms, day and night. I love each and every one of you. And I remember you even when and even if virtually everyone else has long forgotten most of you. 

October 15, 2015 is a day dedicated to pregnancy and infant loss remembrance and awareness where I live.  I typically have a hard time writing on days like this. My feelings are complicated and it is difficult not to feel guilty when I think of others still struggling and facing today and everyday with empty arms. Yet my lost loved ones deserve to be remembered. And so I write. To all of you reading this who are struggling with infertility and or  surviving pregnancy or infant loss please know my thoughts and compassion are with you. 

A very quick update

Azulito/a’s scheduled birth date is still June 9, 2015. 

The placenta has not moved at all from my last ultrasound three weeks ago. A cesarean delivery is mandatory. 
Thank you thank you thank you for your tremendous outpouring of support and kindness in response to my last post. 

I am going to try my best to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that I may need an emergency hysterectomy on June 9th if the risk of placenta accreta (placenta invading uterine wall, posing risk of mom bleeding to death if not medically resolved, the most extreme means of which is removal of the entire uterus) becomes reality. I am going to will that not to happen but want to stay as calm as possible if it does. So that will be my new project.

That and surviving this awful nausea for the next 13 days. 

I have to go back for one more ultrasound at the Perinatology (Maternal Fetal Medicine) Clinic on June 8th to make sure things remain on track. 

Today baby A was estimated to weigh 6 lbs 4 oz – only a couple of ounces less than what the Miracle Toddler weighed at birth. Of course that estimate can be off by up to one pound at this late stage so the little one could weigh 5 lbs or 7 lbs or anywhere in between! 

We are at T minus 13 days and counting, folks. Holy mackerel!

The Mystery Remains Unsolved

To you lovely friends who offered comforting words and condolences yesterday evening about the pain and sleep deprivation I’ve been experiencing lately: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kind words, wishes and prayers meant so much. 

And they may have worked! I got some sleep last night. Still interrupted by pain jags but much more sleep overall than in many days.

At the hospital, we eliminated all serious conditions that could be causing the pain: pulmonary embolus, lung infection, enlarged or dysfunctional spleen, low platelets, signs of infection via blood test. Thankfully, all of those were ruled out. That’s the good news. 
The not-so-good news is that they cannot give me anything I can take for the pain. The only drugs they recommended at this late stage when the baby (whose liver is far more vulnerable than ours) would get it too are Tylenol and Tylenol 3 (with codeine). I am allergic to a filler or bonding component that’s used in codeine; drugs containing it make me throw up (a rather violent action I’ve been trying hard to avoid). So that’s not an option. Darn. 

The pain is likely a result of inflamed rib joints and surrounding tissue which has gotten worse rather than better – mysteriously – over the past couple of weeks since I injured them coughing my lungs clear. Because Azulito is a big-time mover and shaker, I suspect that the kicks and jabs to that area (which are very painful unlike the kicks to the same spot on my other side, which are just slightly uncomfortable) and the muscle spasms they bring on (man, those hurt! And take my breath away) are largely to blame. 

I also think that the LP’s insanely busy work schedule replete with long hours that mean I’ve been flying solo with the Miracle Toddler much more than usual for the past several weeks and the MT’s decision to become my Velcro-child recently (insisting I pick him up and carry him often or endure his sobs and anguished expressions) are not helping me heal the bruised ribs and surrounding tissue. There is no easy remedy for either of those at the moment, unfortunately. 
Last night I took two extra-strength Tylenol and 3 mg of Melatonin. The latter knocks me out when I’m not pregnant. I do not usually take it while pregnant because of the conflicting information about its safety to baby. Last night I was desperate. And I slept more than I have since Wednesday night of last week. Sorry, Azulito/a, if I made you drowsy or screwed you up in any other way last night. Your mommy needed some rest. 

I am truly hopeful that this is the last time I feel compelled to go to L&D on an emergent basis to rule out any serious issues that could impact the safety of baby or me in this pregnancy. Three visits like this are enough. Only three weeks and one day left for my placenta and baby A to hang in there. Thank goodness the end is near. 

And thank goodness for all of you. Thank you again for your love, kindness, support, prayers and sweet words – both when I was stuck in the hospital last night and always.