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Her.

Over the weekend, Poppy and I attended a Birth Without Fear conference. It was an inspiring day, filled with so many inspirational women and moving moments. But the one that has stuck with me was unexpected.

I first saw her early in the day, when I went to the talk about loss. The speaker was a doula who lost a baby at 34 weeks and, as you might expect, the audience was filled with women who had tear-streaked cheeks and tissues balled up in their fists. The one who sat in front of me wept openly and there was something about her that told me her pain was new. Raw. She had long hair, a full face, a striped shirt, and a swollen belly. A belly that held life, or death, or at least did not so long ago.

I never did speak to this woman. Her vulnerability makes my heart look at her as a girl, but no. She was a woman. Probably around my age. I don’t know her story. She won one of the giveaways and asked if it had any baby stuff in it. I heard her say, “I can’t do baby stuff right now.” I can only assume that she lost a baby very recently, or was in the process of losing one, or was going to lose one that wasn’t compatible with life outside her womb. Or something. I don’t know. But I felt drawn to her.

Our paths crossed many times in the day. I held my Poppy tight against me and watched her quietly, felt the sadness that radiated from her, and thought of Teddy Graham. I ached for her, and ached to reach out and provide some meaningful words of comfort and support, but I felt lost. I may have three children, but I still relate to loss mamas and infertile women more than anyone else. I am not so far removed from the pain and trauma caused by those experiences. And yet, I also am painfully aware how lucky I am and I know — I so very much know — that my loss cannot possibly compare to the loss of someone who loses a baby much farther into her pregnancy. They’re the same thing. And they aren’t. So I feel in limbo. Like I don’t quite fit in anywhere. And when I saw that woman on Saturday, I yearned to provide comfort, but I was holding my perfect baby and felt tongue-tied and idiotic, so I said and did nothing.

When the conference was over, I found a window seat on which to sit and feed Poppy before we made the drive home. And as I sat there in the warm sunlight and thought about the day, the woman with the round belly walked by, carrying her prize basket of non-baby items, quietly leaving the conference alone. She glanced my way ever so briefly and I gave her a small smile, but I don’t even know if she noticed, if she saw that I saw her. Her pain. Her loss. Her baby.

I wish I would have chased after her then and asked to hug her. I wish I would have expressed how sorry I was for her pain and given her an opportunity to talk about her baby. But instead I watched her go and thought of how heavy her heart must be in that moment, but also how strong and courageous she must be in order to attend that conference, a place full of bumps and babies, with such a heavy heart. And to do it alone, no less. As she turned the corner, I said a silent prayer for her, because that was all there was left to do.

And now I remember why I make such an effort to do things that are important to me, despite how fearful I am. Because I hate the feeling of regret. I feel haunted by this woman and her loss, haunted by the fact that I didn’t do something when I felt called to do it. That I said nothing when I was in a position to do so. And I don’t know if it what I would have said or done would have been the right thing to say or do; I just know that I should have acted. I expect better of myself.

And so next time — if there’s ever a next time — I will. I will do better. I will be better. I will continue to try to live a life that doesn’t have room for regret and to connect with other women heart-t0-heart even when I feel my attempts are lacking, insignificant, or pointless.  Doing something is better, I am reminded, than doing nothing. I didn’t expect that to be my takeaway from the BWF conference, but alas…it is what is. Unexpected lessons in unexpected places.

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Six Years Ago Today

Six years ago today was a very dark day. We had been struggling to conceive our first child for well over a year. I had just learned that a close, childhood friend had given birth to her son just days before. I was about to take a pregnancy test that I knew would be negative. And it was time to finally accept that the Clomid wasn’t working and we needed to try something else.

I didn’t know then what was in store. I couldn’t have know then, on that dark, lonely day, that I would give birth three times in the next six years. I was sad and scared, desperate and distraught. And yet, everything was about to change. Because six years ago tomorrow, I would get a positive pregnancy test. My very first. For the first time in forever, I would see two lines on that pee stick instead of one. What a glorious moment.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of a day of celebration. A celebration of so much hope, anticipation, and joy. But today? Today, I remember what it was like before. Before this all began. The heavy heart. The quiet house.

Six years ago today, I was in so much pain. I will never forget that.

Left Behind

Another friend is pregnant.

But she’s not just any friend. No casual acquaintance or Facebook psuedo-friend. Lillian is a very close  friend and the one who has helped me along through the last nine months. She’s 36 and, in many ways, she’s one of us. Technically, she doesn’t have trouble getting pregnant. She has trouble staying pregnant. She has a daughter now who will be three in April, but before conceiving her little lady in 2009, Lillian suffered three miscarriages over the course of nine months. She knows the ins and outs of charting and temping. She’s all-too-familiar with the pain of wondering if she will ever hold her precious child in her arms. She understands why pregnancy announcements and baby showers are hard for me, why it’s difficult to see or hold a newborn right now, without explanation.

When I lost Teddy Graham, Lillian was there like no one else could be. At the time, she was one of only two people whom I personally knew who had experienced the loss of a pregnancy, and she was the only local one. No other friend even knew I was pregnant. Lillian had guessed just by looking at me, and I feel that must have been something orchestrated by God, because she was the best one to turn to in my loss. She guided me through all of it. She invited me over for playdates and out for ice cream so we could talk. She offered to watch Cupcake if I just needed to be alone in my grief. And I give her all the credit for this blog. She may not have written the words for each post, but she is the one who encouraged me to do so because that is how she navigated this when she was facing RPL. Because of Lillian, I have all of you.

Last night, Lillian and I had dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Because we both started TTC at the same time after my miscarriage, and have spent many hours in the past sharing the nitty-gritty details of our cycles, she knew we would be discussing the most personal things over our curries. And she did not want to lie to me, so she sent me an e-mail last week to break the news, an e-mail because she remembers that’s what I wanted from my sister. She did and said all the right things. She treated me with the tenderness, gentleness, and sensitivity that my sis never has (which, until now, has been my barometer to judge all of this). She gave me the option of canceling our dinner date and she welcomed me to express to her how I felt about her news. And when I did, completely and truthfully, she responded not with hostility, bitterness, or condemnation, but repeated thanks for my honesty. I did not know it was possible that someone like this existed.

Last Wednesday, when I read that e-mail first thing in the morning, it crushed me. I cried until sundown. I felt more defeated, more hopeless, than I ever have since the start of this journey. I could not respond to Lillian’s e-mail at the time. I was not a pleasant person to be around. This one little pregnancy announcement from someone I love and respect felt like the end of the world. And I said things I am not proud of and did not mean, things like how much easier this would all be if life just didn’t continue. That was a very dark day.

Let me be clear: I have no ill will towards Lillian. None at all. She has done everything perfectly. She has treated me exactly the way I hope I would treat someone else if I was in her shoes. At dinner, she did not go on and on about her pregnancy, but apologized whenever she did mention it. She let me talk and worry over my journey, and sympathized with everything I said. She is the friend I have always wanted. I would be lying if I said I was not jealous, but that jealousy does not lead me to anger or bitterness or ugly thoughts. It only makes me weepy, and thankful that she understands.

It is still early for Lillian. This pregnancy is very new. She is only five weeks along. She is scared because she does not know if history will repeat itself. I am scared for her. And happy for her, too. And sad for me. But most of all, I feel left behind. By everyone. My Reader is full of bumpdates and positive peestick photos, but that is the very least of my heartache. Every one of you deserve this. I am happy and hopeful for all of you, my friends. But there are pregnancy announcements everywhere I turn. I was *lucky* enough, while TTC my darling Cupcake, to know only one person who was pregnant…and I didn’t learn about her pregnancy until two months before my own BFP. I did not have to wade through any of this kind of pain. In this moment, I have cousins, old and new friends, acquaintances, and a sister who are expecting or have recently given birth. Some of them are first babies, but many are second or third or even fourth. And now, my own in-real-life ally has crossed to the other side, too. I will be the only regular in our mom’s group who does not have more than one child. It is not fair of me to feel abandoned because I know Lillian will be there for me whether she gets to have this baby or not…even whether she has ten or twelve or a hundred babies. But I do. I feel utterly alone.

But this is not all about me. I know that. Lillian is worried about and fearful for what these next few weeks bring. I want to support her like she has supported me. I will be checking in with her frequently. And I have offered to watch her daughter if she just needs some rest or has a bad bout of morning sickness. This is what friends are for. She has given me permission to pull away, to take time off from our relationship, to not feel any joy about her joyous news, but I will not do any of that. I pride myself on being thoughtful and selfless in my friendships, on being everything my sister has failed to be to me. In my relationship with my sis, I have been there for her in other ways. I have really tried to be the kind of sister she wants. I have made gifts for her and I spent way too much money on a baby that hasn’t even been born yet. But in my relationship with Lillian, I want to do better. This is my opportunity for redemption. This is my second chance.

A Promise for Positive Thinking

Since the turn of the year, I have been in a slump and I can’t climb my way out of it. Especially now that my mom is back home and I spend my days essentially alone, and my sister’s baby shower is looming closer every day, I find myself feeling melancholy and forlorn. Freakishly without hope and only filled with dread. In times like this, it is easy to forget my list of 100 blessings. Pathetic but true.

But I am tired of feeling like this year is just going to be a series of sadnesses, losses of hope, cycles which bring nothing but an empty bank account and a broken heart. I don’t want to perceive life in this way. Am I not more than my infertility and loss and struggle? Question mark because sometimes I don’t feel that I am. This infiltrates every part of my world, every thought, every moment and memory, every relationship. But 2013 does not have to be an endless dark tunnel with no light, no fleeting time in the sun. I still have plenty to be thankful for. There is deep sadness in my life, but there is intense happiness too. And while I do not yet know what this year holds for the future of our family, there are other foreseeable things, events and days and plans, that lay ahead for me to wait for and countdown to. Like:

  • Monthly Bunco nights with my girlfriends, good food, and lots of wine (and sometimes a surprise win, like the $20 I came home with this week).
  • Daily moments of laughter, delight, and wonder as I watch Cupcake grow and become and experience and create.
  • Deliciousness. I worry about my weight, but I do love to eat, and I know there will be many fantastic meals, snacks, and treats that I can live for this year.
  • A church service at the end of this month that is specifically for infertile couples and offers a lot of prayer on their behalf.
  • Fat Tuesday, a day when my husband and I go to a nearby bakery, order a ridiculous amount of their pretty chocolate pastries and desserts, and spend one night indulging ’til our stomach’s content (and beyond).
  • Our wedding anniversary in March. It will be our 5th and my husband and I are spending the night in a nice hotel in the city to celebrate. (This, however, will also be the anniversary of Teddy Graham’s conception, but I’m trying not to think of that…)
  • My mom will possibly be spending another two weeks with us in March, if she is able to get the time off work.
  • The birth of my sister’s baby in the spring. This is on the list because it can be a joyous occasion if I let it. This will be the birth of my first biological niece or nephew, which means a great deal to me. I never thought I would have this, so I’m torn between the pain and joy it brings me.
  • A long weekend visit from my mom at the end of May. (Yes, this lady has the ability to bring me lots of joy with her presence alone.)
  • A July road trip back to Idaho for my cousin’s wedding, where I will get to see some family and enjoy some hot and sunny weather.
  • My 30th birthday in August. I am not looking forward to thirty, nor am I excited about a birthday spent without a baby in my belly or arms, but my mom will probably be here (again!), and we will take Cupcake to the zoo for the first time and I do like presents, if I’m being completely honest. 🙂
  • The holidays. I dread another holiday season spent without a newborn, but Christmas can still be fun and special and memorable in the most beautiful way, if only I allow myself the freedom of focusing on all that I have rather than on the one thing that I do not.

This is my attempt at positive thinking. I struggle with it more often than not, but I do NOT want another year filled with so much self-pity, and bitterness, and darkness. It’s okay if that’s the way I feel in the moment and if I need to wallow. That’s okay. But I do not want it to define this year. I will not let it. This is the promise I am making to myself right this minute.

But I do reserve the right to renege on this promise at any time. Please forgive me if I do.

Countdown to the End of a Dream

My daughter’s (very small, but very lovely) birthday party was this afternoon  and, on Wednesday, she will turn two. As the first birthday presents arrived, I realized there is no denying it anymore: Cupcake is growing up. She’s not a baby anymore. It’s been two years since what was, until recently, the hardest period in my life came to an end. Two years since the baby I longed for and dreamed of filled my empty arms.

This momentous occasion should be one of joy, of celebration. And it is. Nothing, no amount of sadness, can stop me from appreciating and rejoicing in the life of the child I was not certain would ever exist. Of the child I wanted more than anything else in this world and the next. But with this day also comes a rock of dread sitting in my stomach. I imagine part of this is normal stuff that mothers feel as they watch their tiny, helpless babies morph into real people with their own opinions and desires. But for me, it is more than that. It is tangible proof that time is passing. The clock is ticking. And nothing in my life is changing, evolving, or improving.

There was a time when I expected to have a ginormous belly for my daughter’s second birthday party. I do not. I do not have a baby bump of any size, in fact. And then I prayed that I might become the mother of a second living child by my 30th birthday. As the calendar pages flip one-by-one for this month, though, that dream is fading. My next hope, my forever hope, is to have another baby in my arms by the time my daughter celebrates her third birthday. I have always wanted my children to be two to three years apart. To make that happen, I must conceive in the next three months. Cupcake’s second birthday is the start of the countdown. And while I know that the world will not end if this doesn’t happen, and that I will welcome any baby whenever s/he comes, it is hard to see your dreams diminish. It is hard to accept that the way you envisioned your future may be nothing more than fantasy.

Please do not mistake this whiny, listless post as a lack of gratitude. I know I am lucky. I am reminded every day as I read all of your blogs that I have been given a great gift. So many of you would give anything for one child. I am forever thankful to be in this position of worrying over having another baby. If it comes to it, my daughter, sweet beautiful precious perfect Cupcake, will have to be enough. She is enough. I love her more than air, water, and chocolate and I couldn’t ask for anything better. But having just one child is not the dream. Having a big family, a house full of noise and laughter, screaming and too many toys, is what I want. Having now what I never had as a child is what I want. I want that more than almost anything. (And yes, I did say almost, because good God, I do not want it at the sacrifice of the life of the child I already have or that of anyone else I deeply love…but that it is it. That is the only thing more important to me than this.)

And as days like today pass me by, it feels as if that dream I have been holding onto is slowly slipping away.

Thinking It Over

I’ve done some serious thinking over the last couple days, since getting the results of my husband’s semen analysis, and I know ya’ll are right. I need not make a hasty decision right now. I shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything that I’m not comfortable with. And I must get Honey re-tested.

Which is just what we’ll do. Soon (I hope). I’m not exactly sure how Honey is taking this news of his ill-shaped swimmy friends, but I do know he’s been googling himself into delirium trying to get all the facts. And we all know how *reliable* Dr. Google is. But there are some suggestions for supplements and herbs to consider, which we will, after getting a second SA. And because my husband is a skeptic and suspicious of everybody, we will be retesting at a lab that is not associated with the fertility clinic that is pushing for IUI. Our insurance will allow us to go to a specialist without a referral, so Honey plans to make an appointment to see a urologist (hopefully one specializing in male fertility) and will then get another SA from there, if all goes according to planned (which, you know, it rarely does).

I’m not particularly hopeful that the results will be any different, but I’m also not particularly panicked by it anymore. All of a sudden, I feel sort of indifferent. I don’t know what to think. I keep coming back to the same thing that so many of you reminded me of. I’ve had two pregnancies that happened rather quickly after I started ovulating. That has to mean something, right? Either that…or those babies really were true miracles.

I will say this, though: while not all hope is lost, I have lost my confidence. Confidence that this will happen. Even after my miscarriage, I was certain that that we would have another child, though I wasn’t so arrogant to think that it would happen quickly or easily. But now…I can’t say even that. There is more doubt than there ever has been before (at least since we began TTC #2). More uncertainty. I still hope, but no longer am I sure, that Cupcake will be given a sibling. Instead, this journey is just starting to feel long and endless and sometimes I question the value of it. Is it worth it? Is all this pain, heartache, frustration and fear worth it? The problem is, we don’t really know the answer to this ever-important question until our journey is over — one way or another.

And so I march on. I will not let our fertility clinic talk me into a step that I am not ready to accept or embark on. IUI is our last resort, for there will be no IVF/ICSI for us, and I’m not ready to tap it just yet. For now, we will continue as though my husband’s sperm are the macho men we wish and once believed they were. I will go forward with this monitored cycle. I will do a trigger shot when the time comes. We will get naked together every other night until we know we don’t need to anymore. And next month…we will do it all over again.