It’s noon. Had things gone well, I’d be wrapping up my FET by now. Instead, I’m tapping out anger and wearing my gym clothes.
Last night I drank four dry Manhattans. This morning I am dehydrated. I note that normally four cocktails would have brought on a migraine, but I haven’t had one since starting probiotics earlier this summer. Still, dehydration is excuse enough to delay wearing myself out on the elliptical that I have a love/hate relationship with.
I don’t often get sick. It’s rare that I get a cold. And if I do catch a bug that’s going around, it usually starts and ends at the back of my nose. No, I get the debilitating stuff. Like migraines and endometriosis and anxiety. And the really weird stuff, like complex cysts in my breasts and a pericentric inversion of chromosome 8. This morning I read that my inversion is extremely rare. Inversions account for 1-2% of all chromosome disorders; a pericentric (long break) inversion on chromosome 8 rarely happens, because it’s usually so devastating the embryo doesn’t stand a chance at survival.
And yet, here I am. In spite of the odds, I made it. Little Embryo Lauren escaped the usual fate, almost unscathed. But it’s a hollow comfort. I think about these odds and wonder, What’s the fucking point?
V awakened at 3am with a wail, the kind that I recognized as a nightmare wail. “Mommyyyy!” she cried. “Mommy, please don’t go!” She’s still so little, her stuff of nightmares is about being separated from me. I scooped her into my arms and brought her into our bed. We slept alongside each other, her heels digging into my upper back, or, as day was breaking, her head on my head. She woke up late after an early night, refreshed and peaceful. Her blue catlike eyes opened and focused on my waiting smile, and her hands cupped my face. We cuddled and hugged under the covers for a long time. This is the point. I snuggled into these moments with my terrific girl. Would it really be so bad just to have only her?
I’m wary of becoming bitter. I used to find it easy to show compassion to others, but this year has done a number on my empathy reserves. Months have gone by, and I still haven’t been able to muster up the strength to wish a number of women congratulations on their pregnancies. I’m not, by nature, a jealous person, but this year has devolved my feelings of envy into rage and jealousy. And guilt.
The way I have come to think about my trauma is like a list. It’s not that my pain is any greater or lesser than the next person’s (because pain is pain, and grief is grief), but my list of things that have gone wrong or required adjusting to seems to be a lot longer than a lot of other people’s. The number of spontaneous pregnancies in the infertility community this year has been numerous. Irrationally, it feels like the bags of rocks we all been carrying have been made lighter for some, and heavier for me. I feel like I’ve been given a bunch of other people’s rocks to carry. It’s an ugly way to feel, but it is too exhausting to fight. I need to allow my anger to surge forth, and this way there is no direct target.
Miscarriage. Primary infertility. Egg donation. Carefree pregnancy. Placenta previa. Caesarean. Placenta accreta. Postpartum hemorrhage. Nearly dying. Needing to wait 18 months before we could even try again. Accepting that a second child would mean relinquishing my uterus to the incinerator. Accepting that I would miss their birth, caesarean under general anaesthetic. Secondary infertility. Multiple failed FETs. Weaning my girl before either of us was ready. There are grief triggers everywhere, PTSD flares without warning, and none of this is enough.
It seems that it’s not enough to have one niece the exact same age as a baby I lost. Early in the new year, I will have a second niece, a week older than the girl I would have had, if not for my chemical pregnancy in May. My SIL wasn’t even trying, yet here DH and I are, slaving away for 16 months and counting. Cancelled cycles, dashed hopes, weaning my girl, hundreds of injections, thousands of hours, miles, and dollars. And now, open-mouthed disbelief that I put my poor body—my stupid, fucking broken body—through 11 weeks of Lupron hell for nothing.
Haven’t I, haven’t we, suffered enough? Paid our dues? I just want to know, what the hell is ENOUGH?
We’ve haemorrhaged (and I do not use that word lightly!) money and time, trying for a second child. We chose egg donation over adoption for a few reasons, and a pretty damn big one was because we always wanted more than one child. That was always the plan, and now I find this choice was never mine to make?!
This year has brought the stark realization that all of V’s firsts might well be lasts. I wasn’t prepared for that. I’ve never had trouble getting pregnant before, and thought that by removing my DNA from the equation we had solved all our fertility problems. I thought that we’d be deciding what to do with a clutch of remaining PGS-tested embryos, not burning through them.
I feel so fucking naïve. I worry that I didn’t savour all those early moments, until I remember filming her kicks in my pregnant belly, delighting in her open-mouthed shudder as she sought out my breasts. I feel guilty that I never felt sad about packing away her newborn clothes. It wasn’t until I was labelling clothes the eve of her first day of preschool that it hit me: This might be the last time I get to do this. And I broke down, and hardly anyone—not even my fellow infertiles—understood why I was so sad, but it’s because I was never prepared for this as a possibility.
This year has also brought the understanding that this is PTSD, and I am always going to have grief triggers. They might not be as frequent or as intense, but a pregnancy announcement, the first signs of menopause, its conclusion, grandchildren or no grandchildren, these feelings are here to stay.
Maybe enough is now. Since we started trying to have a second child, every step of the way has been a struggle. By comparison, 2013/2014 feels like a red carpet was rolled out in my honour, beckoning me to come this way, this way, this way. This time around, we’ve had roadblock after roadblock after roadblock. And I weep to think that maybe this is god or the universe’s way of telling me to stop, that if I doggedly pursue a second child via pregnancy, I will have another massive postpartum haemorrhage, but this time I will bleed out on the operating table and die. I don’t believe in god or the universe, but I can’t deny this thread that seems to bind me and my choices.
In my most trying moments of motherhood—the kinds that make you question your competency as a parent—I still think, I get to do this. In my motherhood’s quieter moments, I sadly acknowledge that one day, the three of us will no longer be together. There’s nothing I can do about the eventual inevitable, so why would I speed up that process by tempting fate?
Perhaps it is time for a break. I have an uneasy feeling that my RE is going to push for surrogacy, this time a little more firmly than the last. (After all, we paid a package deal for unlimited transfers, so at this point she is losing money on us.) My body absorbs the estrogen, but it seems that its receptors are saturated: my uterus can’t cooperate, even if it wants to.
Since Wednesday when I knew my cycle would be cancelled, I’ve been wrestling with the thought that I can’t keep doing this for much longer. Yesterday, my friend, Rachel, quietly said, “You’ve never said that before…” and I loved her for noticing my taking a hard look at myself. I can’t see myself giving up just yet, but there is a white flag of surrender in the corner of my eye.