I have written on this topic before and focused on phrases to avoid. But as I was having a conversation with an aunt during Thanksgiving about a dear friend of hers who had recently lost a grandchild, it prompted new thoughts and feelings. This will be that family’s first holidays since his passing and my aunt wanted to reach out and say “the right thing.” As humans, we worry about saying the right thing, and often we avoid sharing our feelings for fear of being wrong. We feel moved to share words as profound as the loss itself. Often times we get wrapped up in this need that we don’t truly speak what is on our mind or we fall back on the trite, pithy condolences, which can come across false and empty. The simplest of phrases can actually go a long way.
I am thinking of you during this difficult time. – Loss of any kind is isolating. We feel alone and devastated in our grief. Having someone make contact can often help heal some of the widest cracks. It says that you are with me in this dark time. And maybe opens doors to further communication.
I wish _______ were here. – There is nothing more profound than this statement, especially during the holidays when the focus is togetherness. Missing that person becomes especially sharp. Having someone tell you they are missing that person too helps carry that burden of grief.
I am here for you. – This phrase only works if you are willing to listen and not offer advice or those trite phrases I mentioned before. Or even better just sit and let that person cry and give them space.
Most of all – show up, reach out. Don’t skip saying something for fear of saying the wrong thing. Speak from your heart.
2 months ago today, I embarked on a trip whose impact I struggle to put into words. I traveled to Phoenix, AZ a state and city I had never visited before. This in itself was not daunting, I have traveled alone many times before. I am good at getting around a new city. However, I was going to have several hours to kill before being able to check into the most amazing rental house. Time is my enemy. It allows me to think of all the horrible things that can go wrong. But I decided to set myself some tasks. So I found a massage therapist and received an amazing massage with cupping. This took up 90 minutes of my several hours. I spent the rest of my time at Starbucks. I did manage to drag my luggage into an art store and purchased a journal to record all of my thoughts and observations from the weekend. During my time at Starbucks, my anxiety skyrocketed. I was able to worry about meeting 9 women who I only knew through social media. My biggest concern was whether I was truly infertile. We haven’t even done IVF before we stopped. Would the others judge me for not having taken that step? On top of that I was just nervous in general. I struggle with new people because I don’t enjoy small talk. It makes me awkward and far too frequently I overshare and get too personal. Would they think I was annoying and avoid me the rest of the trip? When Tia sent the text message and said that we were welcome to come to the house, I hopped an Uber and tried to banish the feelings and focused on feeling confident. This did nothing to slow my outrageous heart rate, sweaty palms, and near tears. Then I walked into the house. Lindsay, Danielle, and Tia wrapped me in a hug and helped me get settled in. And I did overshare in the first 5 minutes of meeting all 3 but Danielle assured me that she did the same thing and we bonded over the fact. The first night we created name signs like we would at camp. We showcased who we are and had to choose a word to define what we wanted to get out of the weekend. My word was ‘Purpose’. I am in the middle of an identity crisis. I don’t know how to be me without striving to become a mother. I was worried that I have no other purpose in life, that I have nothing else to offer or achieve. Then we set our intentions with some guided meditation and shared our stories of infertility and loss. The second day we had the opportunity to spend 1 on 1 time with Tia and Lindsay, the Infertile AF founders. Tia challenged me to come up with a goal and work on small steps towards it. Lindsay challenged me to find alternative ways to mother. The rest of the day I spent with the rest of the women. I shared some of my darkest fears and deepest pain. I have not felt as accepted and seen in a group as I did in those few days. Our third day, we headed to Sedona. We did some sightseeing and hiked a short trail that ended on a rock that was pretty high to the bottom. I am incredibly afraid of heights but I stood up and felt the wind whip around me and felt so free. Lindsay pushed me to scoot down and sit on the edge and take in the valley and surrounding mountains. Tears sprang to my eyes as we sat silently. I vowed to do hard things and work towards healing my heart. Our last morning was so bittersweet. I didn’t want to leave. I am always anxious to get home. But not this time. I didn’t want to leave my AZ babes! I made more steps forward with those kick ass women in 3 days than I had in the last 3 years. Since I have been home, I have continued my work. I have been practicing gratitude, which was always a struggle. I took a Photoshop course, to get back into my photography. I confronted my boss when a difficult work situation arose. I climbed a mountain for a second time in Arizona and wasn’t scared of the height at all. I am taking an online yoga class and am working on my health again. I am trying to look at the holidays in a more positive manner. I know I still have many more steps forward to make but I feel more at peace with who I am and the life I am living. Lindsay, Tia, Carrie, Lacey, Loren, Courtney, Jill, Tiffany, and Danielle I love you and I am so thankful for you embracing me and my weirdness and pain!
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.
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 am in a funk. To start, it is holiday time. We survived Thanksgiving. But I was very disappointed again that few people talked about Lincoln unless I brought him up first. I get all kinds of responses when I post on social media but when in person, people seem to avoid the topic. It makes me want to scream and yet I wonder if it is something I should just accept. I read a post by another loss mom about this same thing. At the time her words resonated with me but now they are lost. I can’t remember what she said that at the time seemed so insightful. How can I accept that others don’t mention my son? It feels like betrayal. I hear all the time that people don’t know what to say. I don’t know that I can tell you the exact words, just let me know that you are missing him too and say it first. Don’t wait to see how I am feeling or if I might bring him up. Because of course I miss him, of course he is on my mind. Every. Single. Day. And now I am dreading Christmas. I am dreading the effort it takes to decorate, but I feel this need to make things sparkly and bright. As though that might ease the hurt in my heart that I won’t have to tell my toddler not to play with the ornaments or my other breakables. Lincoln should be here to share in the wonder of this season. He even has his own stocking now. There was a visitor at our office last week. My CFO has a grandson named Lincoln, born a month after our Lincoln. He was wandering around picking up phones and anything he could get his hands on. My heart ached with the thought of my mischievous little boy and all the things he should be getting into. On top of all of this, we are struggling to get pregnant again. We have been trying for close to a year with no success. And we don’t know why. We have met with a new doctor, who is running tests to get to the root of our trials. But when he looked at our initial results, his response was “Everything looks great, why aren’t you pregnant?” I don’t know. I am finally feeling like I am getting my health back on track. But even that has added to my gloom, as I finished all 8 weeks of a new program. I want to start over, but can’t seem to find the drive that kept my going the last 2 months. I just feel as though I am in a quagmire of melancholy. I fear getting stuck but the more I struggle, the more I stay in the same place.