How Does it Feel?

I am so very hesitant to post this.

I’ve been weighing it up all weekend, trying to decide whether now is the right time or not. I think I’ve decided that there will never be a perfect time and I just have to trust that it reaches the right people.

Basically it’s something I angrily scrawled down late one night just before we started IVF. I want to be clear that time has softened the severity of pain I feel – yes, the pain still twinges and burns, but it is no longer agonising. I have had to learn to accept what has happened, and derive my happiness from other things. Some days I do better than others, but overall I am much, much, much happier.

When I read what I wrote five years ago, I almost can’t believe that it was me. There is so much resentment, pain, anger, disappointment and jealousy. It’s really not pretty! But I’m sharing something so personal and so raw in the hope that it helps articulate what failing to conceive for years feels like. Well, even more basic than that, I’m sharing what grieving can feel like.

It is my hope that this story is able to voice the pain that other couples are silently enduring right now.

It’s probably an uncomfortable read, especially if you’ve never seen this side of me before, and for that I apologise. Also, beware of the over-abundance of adjectives and melodrama; I was in the middle of a Literature degree at the time!

Ok – Brace yourselves!

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27th December 2008

IVF.  So this is how it begins.  We have spent the last three years trying to come to terms with the whole thing.  Infertility.  That dirty, rotten, seldom-spoken, sympathy-ridden, gut-wrenchingly painful word.  That word that consumes every breath, every thought, every growing belly, or rolling pram or playground or commercial or waking or sleeping.

Infertility.  It is the demon child that grows within you, but only grows and grows and threatens to burst you apart from the womb to the heart.  It is the devil inside that mocks, taunts, burns, throbs and feasts upon any moments of happiness.  And, as each month slithers past that beast takes even more of you, even though you were quite sure there is nothing – no dream, want, need, or yearning – that it hasn’t already devoured.  But, as surely as winter follows autumn, the pain can deepen.  Suddenly, sharply and with increasingly regular intensity, the infertility tumour within you bursts forth like a volcano, spitting and spewing hate and hurt into the faces of all those around you.  It takes all.  It destroys the truest parts of you.

But, most of all, that awful monster within scrapes.  Day and night.  Long lazy summer afternoons and bone-chilling mornings.  It writhes inside, grating its sharp yellowed claws along your insides.  Dragging itself down your spine then tearing back up through your stomach, trying to fight its way out of your barren cage.  But you know it can never be born.  No.  That gnawing pain, those tears that are only seconds from your eyes, they are yours alone to own, yours alone to carry.

How has three years passed?  Three Christmases, three Easters, six birthdays, countless dreams.

“Don’t worry- you can have mine!” Well-meaning, insensitive friends tease.  Or, “Are you sure you’re doing it right?”  Oh, for goodness sake, sometimes I just want to hit people. And for the countless people that find it fit to remind me that, “Once I’ve got them, I’ll long for the days without them” – Thanks – but I think I would sacrifice any asset, any career, perky breasts or quiet nights for a touch of flesh I’ve made, tiny fingers reaching for me, cries of trust and longing, need and urgency, a toothless smile and those chubby, ticklish thighs that are mine.  Mine.

But even as you think those greedy, guilty thoughts you can almost hear all those “real-life mothers” chuckling quietly with nostalgic sympathy for you.  If only she knew, they tut.  Those nappies, those screams, those rotten loud toys, the spoiled Pumpkin Patch jumpsuit that was just washed, those sexless screaming nights, every shopping trip, every girlfriend visit, every loss of liberty, every wanting hand, everything.  If only she knew.

And, yes I agree, if only I did.

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Phew! You made it through that roller-coaster of anguish! And so did I, thank God. And that’s what I really want to reiterate if you are grieving right now – you can make it through. I’m definitely not at the end of my journey yet, and I doubt I ever will be, but the intensity of the pain has decreased, and my strength has increased ten-fold.

Again, I thank you for being brave and open enough to walk alongside me and many other couples.
x

Capture Your Grief

Day 22. Words.

Today things start to get a bit (more) personal. Below is an excerpt from journal entry from a 21 year old me – bursting with hope, faith, innocence, naivety and sickening youthful optimism.

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It reads:

12 June 2006

I would like this book to be my pregnancy journal. I’m actually not pregnant yet but I want to write down my feelings about having a baby. We have tried for 6 months to conceive and, although my baby doesn’t exist in the natural, I love him or her with all my being. Already I treasure my future children inside my soul and desperately long for their arrival. In fact thinking about them consumes me – I yearn to touch them, kiss them and watch them grow… I am satisfied yet impatient in the knowledge that the Lord is slowly, steadily crafting these perfect angels in his mind and I am eager and terrified of the fact that one day he will entrust them to me. I hope I do a good job.

Of course the rest of the journal remains unused and blank, but I’m determined that my life doesn’t.

‘Capture your grief’ is a great initiative by Carly Marie Project Heal. It is a daily photographic challenge for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month designed to explore grief and raise awareness around baby loss. The theme for October 22 is words, which is kind of perfect for me.

Except… I’m not sure if I really belong there. I’m not sure if my grief could ever compare to holding your stillborn child. In fact I know it can’t.

And while it’s never helpful comparing grief with grief, I have a constant feeling of exclusion from nearly everyone. I don’t fit in either box – I’ve never been a mother, but I’ve fought for my child for the longest time.

Yes, I know the feeling of longing desire for a child probably better than many, but I don’t know the feeling of absolute need for that particular child, the one who was gone too soon.

I have seen my perfect four-cell embryos created outside my body flickering on a screen filled with life and potential, but I don’t know the elation of a positive pregnancy test. I don’t know the slamming pain of miscarriage, but I know the drowning quicksand of constant failure and hopelessness.

And I think that’s the problem with infertility, you’re always in the middle somewhere, stuck in some vast, heavy no-mans land.

You are constantly grieving and constantly hoping, yet there is nothing solid to grieve or hope for. It’s a tug-of-war between two maybes – maybe you will be a mother one day, and maybe you won’t. You are pulled along, year after year, tirelessly chasing a dangling carrot that you just can’t catch. It’s exhausting and debilitating.

So how can you grieve for something that may not be lost? For me, it’s about acknowledging that some dreams are over and grieving that. The dream of being a mum in my early twenties, the dream of having babies alongside my best friends, the dream of natural conception.

But when, if ever, should you grieve the entire fruitless dream? ‘Never’ is too unrealistic and discounts the constant suffering, but ‘now’ is too pessimistic. My only answer at this stage is to somehow have other dreams as well, something else to cling to and strive for through the path strewn with landmines of failure.

Lady Breaks is what I’m clinging to at the moment, it’s helping me ‘Capture my Grief’ by being honest and vulnerable with it. It sucks and it’s nasty and uncomfortable but it’s also real and a very big part of me. ‘Capturing’ it means making it visible and accessible to others, hopefully giving a voice to other people’s pain.

x