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.
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.
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.
I met with my therapist yesterday. I had not seen her in over a year. So much has happened in that time. I lost my job and secured a new one, I started co-leading a group of women who are trying to lose the weight of grief that comes with losing a child. I have made strides forward and taken steps back. I still carry so many of the aspects of my grief around with me everyday. So my therapist gave me some homework. She suggested that I find some stones and paint or decorate them to represent the things that I need to let go of; then I am going to take a walk and physically throw them away. So I have been thinking about the stones that I carry.
Failure of my body. – This is something that I know I will work on for a long time. I feel as though my body is broken. Something wasn’t right that cost Lincoln his life. I also feel that whatever that is, is keeping us from having a second child.
Fear – I actually need 3 stones for fear because I carry 3 types. I carry the fear of miscarriage. The chances of miscarriage after a still birth are real. I also carry the fear that we will have another stillborn child. The odds of this are fairly rare but it happens. I know. I have met loss moms who have multiple pregnancy and baby losses. The third fear is the strongest of all, and that is the fear of never having a living child, the fear of never having children that can be seen.
Jealousy – This is another that I think I will have to work on for a long time. Dealing with these feelings of “why did she get a baby and I didn’t.” Getting eaten up with envy as friends and family continue to announce new life.
Unworthiness – I constantly struggle with the feeling that I have done something that I need to be punished for. My child was taken because of some act that needed repentance in the form of my son.
Mistrust of life – When things go right, I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t trust that the good times will last. I am always waiting for the next tragedy that will bring me down.
My therapists suggested that when my anxiety is talking I need to stop and think about my thinking. Try to stop the spiral. And throw the stones away. Even if I have to throw them away again and again. Sometimes I will need to go back and pick one up because I am not ready to let them go. And there are parts of my grief that I will always carry. The love of my son, the wish to know what he would look like, act like, smell like. The fact that he made me a mother.
Today, I am thinking about my tribe. I am facing a test today that is giving me a little bit of anxiety (ok a lot of anxiety). I am having a bubble test done. Without going into too much detail, they are testing to ensure that my Fallopian tubes are clear of any blockage. It is just one more step in our baby journey. Because of this test and my aforementioned anxiety, I have reached out to my tribe. I need some reassurance that all will be well, because I am assuming the worst. My mom, my sister, my sister-in-law have all heard my cries of what if. They are all always there for me. I never have to worry that they will listen or offer the shot in the arm I need. They pick me up when I am unable to carry my baggage. I am also part of this amazing group of women, who I only know through Facebook. They are the reason that I have finally lost my 15 pounds of grief weight. We listen to each other, understand each other, and rally each other to keep moving. And that is nothing to say for my husband and what he does for me. So I know when I walk into that exam room this afternoon, I will be lifted up by this amazing group that I call my tribe. And for that I am thankful.