The human body is incredibly fragile. Even impact with another human can cause trauma, in the form of broken limbs, strained ligaments, deep bruises. We can survive major traumas like car accidents but our bodies are never the same. And our fellow humans don’t expect us to be the same. The same can’t be said for mental or emotional trauma. We are diagnosed with disorders and depressions, being labeled as broken. But in reality we have suffered trauma and should be expected to go through therapy and rehabilitation. As a mother who has lost her child, I will never be the same. I have suffered a trauma. I have been in therapy. I have sought different outlets for my grief. But I should never be made to feel as though there is something wrong with me for feeling the way I do after this loss. The same can be said for our infertility. This is a trauma. I have been unable to have a second baby, even with medical assistance. I have lost part of myself and entered a realm I never imagined. But I am expected to be the same as I used to be. I will never regain that innocent, naive woman. But I can heal. I can go to therapy. I can find a group of supportive people who help to lift me up. I can attend summits and immersion experiences and learn to be the new me. I will always struggle with pieces of this trauma, but so would any one with a shattered leg or damaged organs. Our expectations of others should not be for them to cover up and be happy and move on. We should allow them space to heal and live their new version of life.
Today is one of those days. It doesn’t have any real significance in Lincoln’s life but it holds a lot of memories of planning for the future. Kyle and I love Halloween. We have enjoyed dressing up together over the years. We have been our favorite movies characters, pieces from Clue, pirates, and even G.I.Joe. I had it all planned out to add Lincoln into our costumes. His first Halloween, we were going to go as Jack Skellington, Sally and Lincoln would be our Oogie Boogie Man. He would have looked so cute dressed in a little potato sack. This year would have been the best so far because I think he would have been excited to pick his costume. We may have gone trick-or-treating for the first time. At least to a few places we know. It’s days like today when I miss him the most. Because the truth is, we didn’t just lose our baby. We lost his toddler hood, we lost him as a teenager, and all of the other stages.
We did a walk this weekend for Lincoln. I raised almost $1,000 for stillbirth research in the hopes that this may save even one baby, one family from ever going through this. Completing this walk made me think about a lot of things. As I checked in, the volunteer asked if I was Lincoln’s mom. No one has ever asked me that before. It felt so good, I almost cried. I met up with 3 other moms who I have connected with on this journey. It always feels so bittersweet to be with people who get it. We talked about our babes as though they were with us. And there was no awkwardness or pity that can accompany those conversations. I also realized I haven’t written about Lincoln in a while. We became so occupied with trying to move forward. It’s not that I forgot about him or stopped thinking about him, because believe me, I think about him every day. It is still as though a piece of me were missing. And this is true because a part of me died when I heard those words. “There is no heart beat”. Someone told me the other day that there is a reason for everything. I used to believe that too. And maybe there is. But that reason will never be good enough for me. I have tried to become a voice for stillbirth families and infant loss sufferers, as well as for those who have battled through infertility but would I trade that for my beautiful 2 and a half year old? Hell yes I would. I ache to hold him and wonder what our sweet Linc would be doing. Would he be talking? Would he be potty trained? Would we be thinking about preschool soon? What would I be like as a mom? Would Lincoln have a sibling or would we have struggled to try again either way? I try to focus on the good things in my life, but one doesn’t cancel the other. Because they are my 2 sides. I can’t be who I am now without both good and bad. Since we came to the end of our infertility journey and have started to focus on other ways to be parents, I am trying to understand this new me. I am trying to find purpose if we end up without living children. This is a hard vision for me. I know that if it is our route, I will mourn that dream for the rest of my life. But as I said to my mom the other day, if all I get out of life is Kyle, then I am a damn lucky woman. I can’t tell you all how much we have always appreciated your support as we have navigated each new challenge and there may be more to come. But I do hope that we can count on you all to support us, whatever decisions we make.
I thought when Kyle said that we were moving to Indiana, I would be elated. And at first, I was. However, all of the changes that have come from the move have been very difficult and have caused me a lot more stress than I could have predicted. I have mentioned before how difficult new situations are for me dealing with my grief and our treatments. The move has brought that about in so many ways.
We no longer have a “home.” We are living in a transitional location. And it is small. We no longer have our own space. Poor Kyle can’t even shower without me barging in to use the bathroom.
I have lost my one consistent adult companion, Moises. Making the decision to end his suffering was one of the most difficult I have ever made. He has been by my side since I was 21. I catch myself wondering where he is when I am in the apartment. When dropping food in the kitchen, I think he will get it and then I realize he won’t. We had him cremated and he is now in a small box that I keep next to Lincoln.
I started a new job. I love my office and my position. But this means new people and deciding how much/when/if to tell our story. It took me almost a year in my last position to talk about Lincoln. It was nice to not be pitied or have awkward conversations. I could just be Heather, not loss mom Heather, not infertile Heather.
Additionally this new job, has brought a lot of firsts. First time working downtown, which means parking is more difficult, travel can be stressful, I walk to and from work a lot in the rain. I am not looking forward to winter.
We are still on a break from treatment. This has its own issues, as I feel there is a time bomb ticking inside my body. Right now though, we have only agreed to meet with a new doctor to push for more testing. I am hoping to find an answer. After that we will see.
One of the most difficult things is missing Ohio. I miss the family we created there. I miss walking to Heather’s and spending an evening on her deck or gathering around the fire at Sam and Blaine’s. I miss Chad and Diana’s humor at work. I miss our home, the first one Kyle and I created together.
Most of these things seem small, but add them up and it is a lot to handle. My anxiety is through the roof and I had a mild panic attack this week. I was able to run through some grounding exercises to help bring me down. But that sense of agitation and apprehension is my ever present companion again. I keep waiting for one of the balls to drop.
We packed away Lincoln’s things this past weekend. It was the hardest room for me to tackle. I loved this room, the colorful prints on the wall, the theme of our favorite books. Everything was clean and fresh. The clothes in the drawers even had a hint of baby laundry soap after all this time. I remembered that weekend 2 years ago, when I threw my new clothes with the wash with his, thinking I would smell like his clothes and it would lend to us bonding. And how I cried about that a few days after he was born. I smelled like a baby, but he wasn’t there. I found the breast pads that I wore for almost 4 weeks because I had nowhere else for the milk to go. I remember standing in the bathroom crying as the shower warmed up and the milk leaked down my body. In reality it only took about an hour to put all his clothes and toys in tubs to be saved for another baby. Not very long, like his not very long life. This room, in this house will always be his room. Someone else may live here but I will always picture the quiet grey walls and beautiful dark wood crib. Lincoln never slept here but it will still be his. Part of me is relieved. We will move into a new house and hopefully create a room for another little person. These things that I packed up can just become baby things we have. He turns 2 today. He would no longer be my baby and these things would be set aside with the hope of a sibling either way. I am sure his personality would be larger than his head, and that is saying something. My grief has softer edges than it used to but it still knocks me off my feet from time to time. Especially on milestone days like today. What would he look like? Would he have taken after me or Kyle? Would he be smart and silly? I still think about that day and even though he came into this world without a sound, he made a huge impact on it. I want this day to always be a special day. So I am off to enjoy the nice weather at one of the Metro Parks. Happy birthday beautiful boy!
I wrote the below back in February. I was feeling so defeated. 19 months of the same result tends to kind of wreck a person.
“I have decided to take a break. I feel as though life is telling us to take a step back. We rushed into treatment with the thought that it would bring us this miracle cure. And while we have only done 2 rounds of IUI, the 8 medicated cycles have taken a toll on my body and my mental health. Every month that the positive doesn’t come beats me down a little more and it becomes harder to believe that it ever will. This is a very difficult decision to make. But we very much went from mourning our son to trying again without truly processing what one meant in relationship to the other. I have been wrapped up in the thought that another baby would mean that I was fixed or that I didn’t fail, while knowing in my heart of hearts that another baby could not replace Lincoln. So we are going to pause, maybe indefinitely.”
Little did I know that a month later, life would throw us a curve ball that would cement this decision. Kyle and I are moving back to Indiana. He starts his new position on April 8. We are busy packing and prepping to put our house on the market by the same day. With the timing and the work we have going on, we are foregoing treatment for a while. It is strangely freeing to not worry about my next ultrasound appointment, picking up meds, making sure I take the meds correctly, have Kyle giving me shots, taking a test even though I know it will be negative. Not to mention, that I don’t have the mental anguish of am I or aren’t I. No two week wait, no over analyzing every possible symptom. So while it is hard to stop trying, I can’t wait to be back in Indiana.
Aunt Flo has shown her face at my door again this month. The process has been the same for the last 16 months. I ovulate, we baby dance, I beg, bargain and plead with whoever will listen for 2 and a half weeks that this will be the month I see a little plus sign on that little plastic stick. But still she comes. The first day is ok. I think, “we will try again.” The second day, the despair and worthlessness set in. And let’s talk about that term, Aunt Flo. You want to picture this little old lady with reading glasses on the end of her nose, showing up with her little red bag of feminine hygiene products and pain reliever for your discomfort. But really she has shown up to tear down the walls of the home you have built for your baby. She says “fine, you don’t like it, here have some cramps, have a migraine.” No woman really likes getting her period, but I have come to loathe mine. For so many years I was programmed to think about baby proofing my body when really it has been teflon-coated all along. But most of all I have come to dread the “comforting” things that people will tell me. That our baby will come, we just need to relax, that I need to hurry up so I can be pregnant with them. Instead, I wish that someone would tell me that it is ok if we never have a living baby. That my worth doesn’t depend on that plastic stick. That I am a mom either way. That my worth as a woman doesn’t depend on whether my uterus can build a human. I know many are rooting for us. And I am too. But in order to “relax” I need to know that it is ok if we don’t have another baby. That my future has meaning and purpose no matter what kind of mom I am.