The In-Between

My symptoms have tapered off, but there’s still no bump. I feel no movement. I don’t have another ultrasound for five weeks, and I still have no fetal doppler. (My husband is adamant on that point, afraid I’ll rush to the ER any time I have a hard time finding a heartbeat. Not entirely without reason.)

I feel more like an imposter than ever. The “p” word still doesn’t feel like something that really applies to me. Unless the “p” word is “provisional.” When people ask about the due date, my mind flashes to the other due dates seared into my memory, the ones that turned to dust and blew away. One was due in May, the other in September. Why should March be any different?

Occasionally, in unguarded moments, I feel a little thrill, try to connect with this miracle swimming and dancing in my belly, tiny and perfect, growing every day. And then the cynicism tries to clamp down again, reminding me it could all be nothing yet again.

The joy and hope lasts only a few days past each check-up. On a recent post check-up high, I wrote this comment on a friend’s blog:

“I could not possibly be more excited about my very first “p-word” that made it past the first trimester if this (donor embryo) babe shared our genes. I couldn’t love her or him more. I think it’s extra special that it “took a village.” The sky is brighter, the breeze is sweeter, and as long as things continue to go well, it does feel like the past four awful years are beginning to disappear behind us like footsteps in sand.

When I was in the middle of it, I truly despaired of ever seeing this day. I still can hardly believe it. Finally I’m daring to look ahead to the future and feel it might be happy — wondrous — after all.”

I went on a bit later:

“It just underscores, though, how horrible this experience can be. I didn’t even realize how much of my hope and happiness it had robbed until the clouds finally started to part a little. I barely recognized myself for a very long time. And I never thought of myself as the kind of person who’d be so lost in something like this. You never really know until you’re in it…

It’s like some kind of divorce or death or car crash over and over and over and over and over as your savings (your plans, your hopes, your travels, your security) evaporate into thin air, and the very worst part is that your partner has to suffer as well and there’s nothing you can do about it, and you have NO IDEA when or if you’ll ever get out of it. Sometimes there’s just no bright-siding that, no matter how strong you are, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes the bastard of fertility issues just grinds you down.

And there’s no shame in that. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but feel what you feel and then pick yourself up and move on. Sometimes “numb” is the best you can hope for when the most important person of your life stubbornly refuses to materialize. (I know it’s weird to talk about the most important person in your life when they don’t exist yet, but for some people, you just know they will be. And it hurts to miss them every day, to fight so hard every day and be beaten back over and over and over.)

I can only speak for myself here, but there’s been nothing in my life close to as grueling as this. Four years of it! I will always shudder to think about it.

What’s the point of being ashamed of that? It is what it is. I did my best, and it wasn’t much, but I grimly persevered.”

I guess it makes sense that it’s not easy to recover from that in a matter of weeks. To change your mindset from one of grinding lack to one of joyful abundance. And yes, I really had no business having a “lack” mindset even during those four awful years considering how many blessings we have, but knowing that and feeling it are two different things. I tried my best to feel it, and I had my moments, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a hideous weight to carry. It’s such a heavy fog to have around for so long, your eyes can’t help but adjust to the dimness.

It’s hard to understand how any of us get through it, other than just knowing we have no choice. Some people will be OK without having children, others know they never will be. For people in the second category, there’s nothing to do but carry on however you can manage.

And right now, with no symptoms, no bump, no kicks, no ultrasounds, no doppler, it leaves a lot of space for the old doubts, the PTSD, to creep back in.

Even my OB, whose daughter-in-law has a nine-month-old IVF baby, said there was nothing he could say to ease her anxiety while she was pregnant. Only a living baby could do that.

Kicks and a bump will help, though, plus knowing the gender so we can really play around with names and stuff like that (though we won’t make a firm choice until we actually see the kid and see what names fit). And it helps to go to prenatal yoga classes and have an OB and read up on birthing practices and generally go on as if this thing might really happen. (A colleague of my husband’s gifted me her copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and offered me her son’s hand-me-downs — how sweet!)

We’ll also start thinking about a general announcement after the 20-week scan, which is kind of crazy in itself. I shared little parts of our journey with Facebook World along the way but then piped down after the first miscarriage. It’ll be nice to let people know we’re finally in a good place. But I’m really not sure how to go about it. I don’t think I can do one of those stereotypical cutesy posts (we’re not cutesy people), but I don’t want to be too clinical about it, either.

(When I went to my team’s first soccer match of the season in civilian clothes, I didn’t feel like lying but didn’t want to say the “p” word, either. So I said, “Sorry guys, I can’t play, I have an abdominal parasite. And will for about the next six months…” They still got it and congratulated me, but it was easier somehow. 🙂 )

My instinct is not to lead off with the fact that it’s a donor embryo. Not because I have any problem or shame about it whatsoever, but because to me it’s secondary to the miracle that we’re going to have a child together. And if I bring it up, I feel like that will become the whole focus. I remember being pretty ignorant about these things not that long ago, but I don’t really want to have to put on my “teacher hat” every time I share our good news. Lots of other things to save that energy for.

I have a friend (white with a white husband) who’s fostering a mixed race baby, and I witnessed someone see the baby for the first time and say absolutely nothing about how cute or sweet the baby was or congratulate the mom or anything until she nailed down why the baby didn’t look like her (foster) parents. It was incredibly off-putting. Some people literally see skin color / genetic origin before they see humanity.

So yeah… I think I may let people get used to the idea that I’m pregnant and really happy before I spring the technical details on them. It’s really going to be a lifetime navigating this unique miracle, and I’m not that bothered about it personally, but it’s an interesting extra level of things to think about. Once the child is here, of course, the number one priority will be making sure she feels 100% secure in her identity, to make sure she (or he) knows how deeply she’s loved and wanted, but without putting any pressure on her to feel she has to “live up” to anything.

Do you know what I mean? Like to never feel for one moment that our aching desire for her and everything we went through to get her means she has to be any particular thing other than whoever she is. I want her to know she’s a miracle, but… so is every child ever born. And I never want her to feel that she can’t express curiosity about her genetic origins or feel like she’s hurting us if she wants to track down her donors. It’s entirely up to her. That kind of curiosity is natural, and it has nothing to do with how much she cares for us.

Haha, so yeah, this is me vacillating between self-protectively pretending (or feeling) like not much is going on and planning the next months and years with our child. 🙂 It’s a bit of a schizophrenic place to be. I guess, like everything else, it’s just a matter of doing my best as the days inexorably pass.

And reminding myself that my MFM, an expert trained in high-risk pregnancies, gave us a 95% chance of a healthy birth. Those are by far the best odds we’ve ever had.

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8 thoughts on “The In-Between

  1. Oh man, I know I felt nervous in some way or another until I held that baby in my arms so just hang in there, you are doing great. The good bits will last for longer once this dreadful early stage is done. You feel awful wishing it away but really, what else are you going to do. I hated that bit with my first and didn’t have fertility issues for him at all. It is just a sucky part of the journey. Not enough feedback.

    I remember after I’d had the fertility baby I went and wrote a blog post about the journey and I likened it to carrying a backpack with stones in it and every failed cycled it is like you add more stones, never emptying the stones from the time before. The longer you go on, the more stones. And we wonder why we become so fragile by the time the dream pregnancy arrives. It is exhausting but we aren’t really noticing and giving credence to the slow increase of weight we are carrying within us.

    You are doing great. Just hang in there. Those happy times are going to extend.

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  2. You touched on so many great points here it is hard to know where to begin. First- the imposter piece I get and kind of like Infertility you just get through it as best you kind and seek out the good moments. As far as sharing origin- we have told close friends and family but beyond that we are letting her choose how she wants to share as she gets older. We don’t want it to be a secret (I think that implies shame) but we also don’t want to make it a big thing unless she feels it is or wants it to be. Finally- making sure your child can just be and doesn’t have to live up to something is big. A good reminder to me. I adore this little girl so much it is overwhelming and I need to remember to remind her she is always good enough and our gift just by being born. Because she truly is. I have no hopes or dreams for her other than to uncover who she is and wants to be. Thank you for that. Xoxo

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