31 January 2012

To Be, Not To Be

It seems so long ago. Nine years, ten years, a lifetime ago we were enmeshed in (in)fertility treatments. We'd waited so long, too long, not realizing that there was a problem, not realizing that we couldn't have it all. 

When all was said and done, we ended up with a real live baby, but the road there? It was rocky. There was a medicated intrauterine insemination. There were three in vitro fertilizations. Laparoscopic surgery. Countless blood draws and many early morning visits with the dildo cam.

We were so happy when the first IVF worked. Big Fat Positive! Happy day! Heartbeat! Joy! Until it wasn't - I went in for blood work and a scan, and - poof! - not there anymore. Early miscarriage, at about seven weeks. I remember standing in my kitchen a few days later, wracked with tears, in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, wrapped in my husband's arms. He and I, we shared that grief. Real palpable gasping-sobs grief, for a baby that wasn't, a miscarriage.

 The second IVF ended in a BFN - big fat negative for those of you unversed in the acronyms. My husband was out of town, I'd gone in for blood work in the morning, and then out to Long Island for a funeral. I was heading home from Penn Station, on the cross town bus, when the nurse called with the results. Tears streamed down my face as we bumped along 34th Street. When I got home, I bought a bottle of wine, a piece of cheese, and I had a little pity fest, alone. Can you grieve that, a procedure that didn't work?  Most attempts at pregnancy don't work; lots of fertilizations the "normal" way end up in early miscarriage, so early that the woman doesn't even know she was pregnant. So, yes, I was sad that it didn't work, with all those dollars down the tube to boot, but that's not really grief, is it?

And then, the third IVF - the third one was the charm, that real live baby who now knows how to scramble an egg. But, but, but - we had ten embryos, and transferred five, and only one nestled in for keeps. What about the four others transferred? I think of them sometimes, though they have an unreality about them. Did they really exist? I know they did; I have a picture of the five that were transferred. Did the four just slough off, or did the triumphant girl absorb them into herself? Then, there were the five left in the lab. Grief, no grief? Who were they?

My daughter has no siblings. That's another loss right there, another kind of loss, an intangible one, not stemming from a treatment, a pregnancy. Maybe we'd have had a second child if we hadn't waited so long and worked so hard to have the first one. Maybe we'd have had twins if one of the other embryos had stuck it out. Do I miss that? Eight plus years out, I rarely have those pangs of wistfulness. I don't flinch when I hand-me-down her toys and clothes. And, on the bright side, she's afforded us a certain lifestyle - we don't need a big house, we don't need a minivan, we only go through two gallons of milk a week.

But what it comes down to is this: without all that went before, we wouldn't have her, the ferocious and magical girl. If that first miscarriage hadn't been, she wouldn't be. If that BFN hadn't happened, she wouldn't be. But she is. She is.




[Credit Mel, the Stirrup Queen, the community connector, for this ramble. She posted a few weeks ago about loss and grief and infertility and dichotomy.]

35 comments:

Anjali said...

Beautiful post.

Time and perspective don't necessarily heal all wounds, they just alter them, I think.

And thank goodness for that.

De said...

Not too long ago, I was asked about my pregnancy history and was surprised that I had to think about it for a minute instead of just rattling it off like I used to do. I know the basics - 6 pregnancies, two births - but the dates and details are fading from my mind. We are so fortunate to have our son for a variety of reasons, but for me alone, he was a happy ending to my fertile years that definitely made it easier to forget all the painful stuff.

Janet said...

You're lucky you had your daughter :-) I went through fertility treatments at 43...and just when the eggs were ready to harvest, my partner decided he didn't want to have a child after all. And that was that. Course, now I have Dave and his kids and grandkids and I love them to pieces. I think I wouldn't have made a good Mom...but step Mom I can handle :-)

Mental P Mama said...

OMG...I was just transported back 21 years. And you know something weird? I had my breast cancer surgery 21 years after-- to the day -- that I found out both embryos were viable.

And when they were transferred, one was "fair" and the other, "poor."

We are so blessed, aren't we?

alejna said...

This was so beautiful and poignant. And thought-provoking. I am feeling choked up.

niobe said...

Sigh. I think about this (well, not this, but, y'know, my own verson of this).

Would I trade the two I have for the two I don't have?

Of course I would.

Carol Steel 5050 said...

Poignant and beautiful;thank you for sharing this.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Gorgeous. Especially the refrain of "she is."

The part that struck me the most is when you ask if we can mourn a procedure; especially in the face of the fact that so many cycles don't result in a child -- can we really mourn them or is it disappointment and... is there maybe even a different word for that sort of loss?

Sarah said...

She certainly is.

xo

Heide said...

Tough stuff. Kudos for the courage to write about it.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think that you and Motherscribe need to put together a book of essays about infertility. You both do your best writing when you're reflecting upon that time in your lives.

It is not a struggle I had, but you make me feel so much empathy for your experience.

Amira said...

I think this is my favorite post of yours. Beautiful, heartfelt, and poetic.

leanne said...

Different story, but similar feelings: "without all that went before, we wouldn't have her" applies to my daughter as well.

It's also how I sometimes look at my life in general... without all that went before, I wouldn't be where I am today.

Bibliomama said...

This isn't a struggle I had either, and I have the utmost respect and sympathy for people who go through it. I think it absolutely is grief when an attempt doesn't work (maybe different in degree from the grief of an actual pregnancy lost, but who the hell knows about degrees of grief) because each attempt bears more of a weight of expectation when you know it's the only way. I also think having children at all is a constant process of small griefs, since their growing is really a series of small deaths - they're not the same person they were from year to year, and as much as I love the children I have now, I do sometimes grieve the children I don't have any more (and again, I know it's not a comparable kind of grief). Especially in January.

mayberry said...

So much to think about, especially as I just spent the weekend with a friend who is now where you were, 9 years ago; and I finally gave her most of our baby things, after clinging to them for many years past needing them.

Quadelle said...

Beautiful. You've captured it perfectly.

Becky said...

That path is fuzzy for me, and I like it that way. But, yes. I was there.

Harriet said...

I haven't been through this myself, but I have been through it with many friends. I think it takes amazing strength. I do feel the loss of siblings, though. It was a decision we made, but we made it because of the circumstances we were in at the time. We still wonder about it and worry.

flutter said...

oh she so magically is, and what a blessing. I am sorry you had the heartache, but so so so glad you have her.

One Mom said...

Grief is strange. Yes we grieve after a procedure that doesn't proceed. But it's the alternative future that we don't get that we grieve -- the one we set up and moved into before the closing conference.

And for that matter, love is strange too. We don't tend to love the amorphous. We love the defined, the delimited, the bounded. So all the things she is not, all the wistfulness, even regrets, are part of what make her "is" such a treasure.

Beautiful, Maggie. Amazing to have shared a small portion of the last 9 years with you. Laura

MemeGRL said...

A bit of a one-off comment but: I love being an only child. Trust that the universe unfolded exactly as it was supposed to.

snozma said...

Well, I got off the hook for the first one and didn't have to do IVF then. For the second one, the nightmare continues...

I can't stop. I try so hard to just forget about it. I can't. I've got to have that kid. Got to come hell or high water.

So that's one way you are really, really lucky. Because this is just sort of ridiculous. All studies say people are happiest when they've got 1 kid. But maybe I don't want to be happy--I want ANOTHER KID DAMMIT.

I think the fact you can forget about that and let go means you are not crazy. I obsess even over times I ovulated and didn't get the deed done in time.

Swistle said...

I was leaning forward to read the words CLOSER.

FreshHell said...

It is what it is. You have, I think, what you were meant to have: one beautiful, brilliant, healthy daughter. Regrets are just what-ifs.

I have friends all over the kid map - some have none, some have two, three, one. Some had fertility issues, miscarriages. Others, didn't. Some, with one, just waited until they were ready and their lives were such that one is all the need, want, can have.

Don't worry about what didn't happen. Focus on what is in front of you. She might wish to have siblings but, hey, didn't happen. I wish my kids had cousins. They don't. They might never have cousins. My small family dwindles. Life is what it is. Cherish it.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

My history is so simple and so uncomplicated in comparison, but I did lose a pregnancy at 12 weeks. Every one handles those situations differently, but I was devastated and absolutely overwrought when I had to have a D&C. At that time I already had my son and just the thought that the doctor would scrape out the remants of the child I imagined was his brother absolutely offended me on the most primal level. Two months later, I was pregnant again, with my daughter. Every year I remember the One that Wasn't, on the day the sonogram delivered the bad news and on the due date that never came.

Patois said...

I don't know how you couldn't have all these thoughts you have. In the end, yes, thank goodness for that girl of yours.

MDTaz said...

I remember when I was pregnant, and excited but also rather terrified, I went to a Pink Martini concert where I heard for the first time their version of They "Que Sera, Sera." Theirs is an interesting arrangement, with a calliope effect that's quite haunting. It made me very aware of the preciousness of each moment, rather than what isn't or what wasn't or what could have been. Any possible future has to stem from the present that we are standing in, right now.

Every time I hear that song (often enough, because I'm a great fan of Pink Martini but I've even come to like Doris Day's version) I think about what will be rather than what wasn't. It helps me a lot to deal with my remorse. Not that my remorse is so painful or terrible. It's just that as thinking women, we reflect on what was and wasn't, perhaps to gain context about what is, as you've done so beautifully here.

painted maypole said...

there are so many things in life that happen or don't happen, and we feel their loss, but also recognize that there were other gifts we now have, that wouldn't be if THAT was. but children... children. they seem to be the gifts, the to be or not to be, that haunt us... for better or for worse.

readersguide said...

Mmm. I wanted another (we have two!) but we waited too long and then it didn't happen, and it took a long time not happening. It took a very long time to get used to the fact that it never would happen -- I thought about myself differently as a person who was too old to have kids. And now I am used to it. But miscarriages are the worst -- and I would bet a BFN feels just like a miscarriage.

antropologa said...

I have two children now, but there was a long time it seemed I would never have any, and I've lost two other children. The magic of the children I have, though, the awe I have that they exist and I get to love them...I don't think much now about that earlier wondering heartache, but when I do it's with appreciation of how it turned out.

dspence said...

The living child doesn't erase the road and losses it took to get there. But then you realize that she is here and she is beautiful. I'm so glad for you.

JustHeather said...

We're finally living with our one. I still have hope of adding to this one to get two, but if it doesn't happen and in the end we only have one, I'll be more than grateful. I wonder what my thoughts will be years down the road after all is said and done. I hope it will be along the lines of what you've written. Beautifully said.

gailcanoe said...

Here from the Creme.

I really like the way you can look back after 8 years and be okay with everything. I hope I can get there someday.

Turia said...

Here from Creme.

This is something I continually marvel at with my son (now 21 months). That if anything, anything at all, had changed, we might still have a toddler in the house, but it wouldn't be him. And I cannot imagine my life without him.

Beautiful post.

Em said...

What a beautiful post. I especially love the way you describe your daughter as ferocious and magical.