A year ago today (Wednesday — or, tomorrow, September 25th) I learned that I have a chromosomal issue which means I create abnormal embryos.
Just thinking about the day I learned my AMH was barely detectable is enough for tears to roll down my cheeks. I can never relive that time in its full intensity, but I remember wanting to claw my skin off. That was my rock bottom. When, a month later, and the day after my grandmother’s funeral, I saw the words ABNORMAL KARYOTYPE in my online medical records, I stared. I kissed my dad goodnight, jumped in a cab to my late grandmother’s flat, and texted DH on the way. I kept my shit together during the car ride, and did my best to sound normal when my mother sleepily called out to me asI let myself in. The bedroom door closed behind me, I rushed to my iPad and video-called DH. I cried, confused and in disbelief. I raged quietly, because I didn’t have the resources to do anything except listen to DH’s loving, sad voice, wanting him so much to hold me in his arms, but separated by 6,000 miles of ocean and continent. A momentary burst of angry energy left a deep scratch in my inner thigh that hurt for days. A year later I can see its mark, a faint line one shade darker than my skin. That moment I clawed my thigh was the moment it sank in: my inverted chromosome was woven into my DNA, the very threads of life that hold me together. The building blocks of my life were broken and unfixable.
What a difference a year makes…
I’ve said (and as recently as this morning) that “I am no longer in the trenches, but I am still covered in mud,” but perhaps it’s more accurate to say my hands and face are dirty.
Others’ pregnancy announcements are still painful, but they don’t floor me the way they used to. It helps that I’ve acquired something of a sixth sense for announcements.
When I see another pregnant person or a young family, I no longer have a voice in my head pointing out how fertile they are or how they aren’t a freak of nature — because I neither know other people’s stories and I am certainly not a freak. I am quite unremarkable on the spectrum of genetic disorders, but glorious proof of the theory of evolution — I am Mother Nature’s experiment, and though I may not be genetically perfect, I have lots to be thankful for in terms of health and intelligence.
I sometimes feel irked that, oh god, I’m going to be 36½ when V is born — yet some women older than I am have conceived effortlessly. I am wistful when I witness other younger women getting pregnant (with or without help), I tell myself that had I conceived in my twenties, or even early thirties, I would have had a much higher chance of having a severely mentally and physically disabled baby. I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that in such an instance I wouldn’t have terminated the pregnancy. If I’d chosen to raise a Recombinant 8 baby, I would have loved him or her. But I must be honest with myself, and I do feel as though I dodged a bullet by waiting until I was 34 to start a family.
When I see a baby who will soon be celebrating their first birthday, I think of Bean. There is a tiny hole in my heart still, but it’s patched up by his sister. These days, I feel like I am a spiritual atheist. A bit of an oxymoron, yes! I don’t believe in God or that things happen for a reason… but I do believe that, if energy cannot be destroyed and transfers to another medium, then nothing ever dies or disappears — it merely changes. Tiny Bean gave life to a dying peace lily who now flourishes and is in direct view of where V’s crib is. But more than that, I wonder if his DNA courses through his sister’s veins as it does my own. Did his little spirit — his life force — transfer to her? I feel like it did. Getting — and staying — pregnant with V has been incredibly healing. I rarely cry for Bean anymore. Somehow, in ways I can’t fully describe, his short life holds tremendous meaning.
Whenever I run my mind over the mental scars of this journey, I relive the memory of pain, but don’t experience the pain itself. I still get choked up when I hear Catherine Major’s Ourse or Luke Howard’s Pan. My stay on IF Island has been shorter than a lot of people’s, but it’s been pretty intense. I still have triggers and accept they are here to stay for a while longer.
It’s a bit strange, having these feelings when I am so pregnant with such a lovely baby. A small part of me wishes, for simplicity’s sake, that I didn’t need an egg donor… Like, how will I respond to statements that she does or does not look like me? But the larger part of me simply acknowledges that without every single step on this journey, this baby girl would not exist. She just wouldn’t — and I’d do it all again to ensure her survival. I may love her now, but it’s nothing compared to when she’s finally in my arms.
Most mornings, I remember I’m pregnant only when I feel a kick or try to sit up. It’s taken me 33 weeks, but I’m finally allowing myself to get excited and take joy, not discomfort, in other people’s excitement.
This baby was longed-for, fought-for, and loved from the minute she was transferred into my uterus. I want to celebrate her and our unusual journey. Most people don’t know the circumstances of her conception, but in time they will. So, last night I posted a belly photo on Instagram, with the hashtags #rainbowbaby, #PAILmama, and #pregnancyafterloss, and I let it auto-post to Twitter and Facebook. It didn’t feel right before to share a belly shot, but this one was kind of arty and abstract. I’ve loved seeing the number of Likes and reading the comments and private messages wishing us well.
What a difference a year makes: one month from today, on Friday October 24th, V will be placed in my arms for the first time.