Mothering My Angel

Every so often there is a moment that really hammers home what it means to be an angel mom. I had one today.

Yesterday my mom texted me a photo of a collage of family names she made out of Scrabble tiles. We’re all there – her, her partner, me, my siblings, and all our partners. I felt a little jab of pain that she hadn’t included Luca but I tried to push it away. I considered asking her to add him but decided against it. Obviously it stuck with me because A DAY LATER I finally texted her asking if she would add him. She wrote back “I could…Let’s think about that…”.

My mom and I are very close. We get along great, are similar in many ways, and she’s always supported me through this infertility journey. She was even at the hospital when Luca was born; she’s the only other person who “met” him besides me and my boyfriend. She held him, took pictures of him…he was her first grandchild. If my amazing, wonderful, caretaker mom doesn’t know how to support me through miscarriage and loss then how could anyone else? I’m sure she has no idea how much these words hurt me. I’m sure she sat there thinking about how to word her reply (which is the whole reason why it took me a full day to ask). I’m sure she simply doesn’t want to feel sad every time she looks at this beautiful portrayal of our family. The thing is…I don’t either. But I don’t get a choice. Every family photo, every Christmas card, every tradition, every moment in our house I’m aware that there is someone missing. I have to wonder how different things would have been. I have to step gingerly around the gaping hole that is my son. Luca is there whether he’s on that collage or not.

I didn’t text her back. I don’t need to think about it. He’s my son; I want him on there. If he were a living grandchild there would’ve been no question as to whether he belonged on it or not.

I don’t know how to make others understand (I don’t even know if this is how every woman feels after pregnancy loss), but I need my son to be real to other people. I need them to recognize his existence. I need people to remember his name, to say it out loud, to consider me a mom. He was a human being with a beating heart and perfect, miniature hands and feet. He was a son, a grandson, a nephew, a brother to two furbabies. He was so very loved and wanted. He existed.

Me Time

I don’t know if other women feel this way while trying to conceive but recently I’ve realized I actually experience some… relief every time I get my period. Would I rather be pregnant? ABSOLUTELY. But in the two weeks leading up to the start of each new cycle I’ve analyzed every symptom, I’ve worried I’m not eating well enough, I’ve counted down the days, I’ve watched my temperature like a hawk. I’ve calculated my would-be due date, what astrological sign my non-existent baby would be, what holidays he or she would be here for. I’ve second-guessed every twinge and worried that I’m already losing a pregnancy that hasn’t even occurred. In short, I’ve gone crazy. (If you’ve been there you know.)

When my period comes I get to take a deep breath and stop wondering. I get to start fresh. I get a week of not peeing on sticks! Sometimes I even take a few days off from tracking my temperature. I get to be me again. Not Infertile Me; just me. My body is my own. I can push myself in my workouts, I can have a drink without worrying, I can hit reset and give my brain – and heart – a few days of rest.

Last weekend I got so much done around the house. Nothing I did that day had anything to do with getting pregnant. My mind was focused elsewhere, and it felt so good. It felt good to have control over something – to decide to clean my craft room and to just make it happen, to hit twenty-five miles run for the month. I may not have control over starting a family, but these things I can control.

This week was a good reset, and now I’m ready to move forward with IUI #2. I’m ready to put my hopes on the line again because one day it will pay off. But first I’m going to enjoy one last large glass of wine because man, it’s been a day.

Gratitude

I’ve done a lot of whining on here. And that’s ok; that’s part of why I created this blog. This part of life is difficult, and I need somewhere to be honest about how much it hurts, how left out I feel, how much I miss my son. But today… Today I feel thankful.

I am thankful for the sun this weekend, streaming through my windows and lifting my spirits. I am thankful for a tiny bit more daylight each day. I’m thankful to have recovered from my knee injury a little over a year ago and to be able to run again, mostly pain-free. I’m thankful for the brand new treadmill my boyfriend gave me for Christmas and to not have to deal with winter running and all its layers and preparation and challenges. I’m thankful for my body’s abilities, despite its failures. I’m thankful for science and a shot at increasing our chances of conceiving through another round of intrauterine insemination. I’m very thankful that my new insurance plan appears to have at least some coverage for infertility treatment. I’m thankful for my cozy home and its wood stove and enough wood cut and stacked to get us through at least another year or two. I’m thankful for thick socks and leggings. I’m thankful for books – good ones that suck you in and keep you entertained all weekend. I’m thankful for Luca, and for getting to carry him even just for three months – and for getting to love him forever. I’m thankful to know that’s possible. I’m thankful for a new year and saying goodbye to 2020 and very soon saying goodbye to a man who has no business running our country. I’m thankful for hope.

Hello again Christmas…

Last Christmas I was newly-pregnant and bleeding. I was in between the blood work appointments to see if my levels were going up or down. I was cautiously excited. I was hoping Christmas 2020 would be my first as a mother.

This Christmas I’ll be in the two week wait after my first IUI procedure. I am cautiously optimistic but not expecting any immediate miracles. I am missing my son and imagining him at four months, in front of the tree, in adorable suspenders. A photo I will never take.

Will Christmas forever be a time of anxiety for me from here on out? When do I get to experience the magic that it seems like everyone else has? I didn’t even do cards this year because it was so depressing that it’s still just me, my partner, and our dogs. I’ve wanted a child’s sweet face and name on that card for years, but it’s even worse knowing he existed and still isn’t here with us.

This Christmas is different for everyone, and to be honest, I think that’s helpful for me in a way. It’s easier to do less and spend less time with family because then it’s less obvious who is missing from the Should Have Been. There aren’t all of the regular traditions that Luca should’ve been a part of. I’ve noticed that at multiple points throughout this year. In some ways I am thankful for the disruption from normal life because this year could never have been normal for me. Everyone else’s world came crashing down somewhere around mid-March; mine imploded a few weeks earlier.

Time

When you are infertile time really is the enemy. And time has been hitting me hard lately.

One year ago this month I got pregnant with Luca. I can’t believe it’s already been that long. I can’t believe I still don’t have a living child to show for it. I can’t believe I’m still not pregnant with our rainbow. In a few months it will be his first “birthday” and another birthday for me. More candles to wish the same wish on, endlessly. Another complete rotation around the sun without anyone calling me “mama”. Yesterday I found out one of my only remaining childless friends is pregnant. Another recruit for the huge, inescapable Mom Team; one less stuck here on the benches with me. And I don’t even think she was trying.

You see, by most accounts, I am still a young woman. But in Infertilityville I am middle-aged. I want two children. At this point, even if I get pregnant immediately, my third pregnancy will almost certainly be considered geriatric. And that’s if I can even achieve two more pregnancies – and carry both to term. That means even higher risks, after my already-increased risk of miscarriage and pre-term labor. That means less eggs, lower quality, even less likelihood of conceiving. And when you’ve already been trying for almost three years that thought is terrifying.

When you are struggling with infertility every month is a beast, staring you down with teeth bared. Every page I turn on the calendar, every birthday, every period, every holiday – every day is a reminder that I am not where I want to be. Or rather, who I want to be – a mother. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it can understand how deeply infertility affects every facet of one’s life. When I choose my health insurance plan for the year, when I consider vacations, when I buy clothing it is always there. Will I be pregnant by then? Should I choose the lower deductible plan because maybe I’ll actually be delivering a baby next year? Or will that just be a slap in my face when I get all the bills for infertility treatments and testing that aren’t covered? And it reaches so far. I think about how old I will be when I have grandchildren. What if my children have infertility issues? I could be seventy before I have a grandchild. It is a constant spiral of thoughts that others would probably consider irrational, but it’s my reality. It’s where my mind goes when I don’t have the energy to reel it in. It’s worst case scenario over and over because I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And it didn’t turn out okay.

The very next month could be the month. But it probably won’t be. Infertility is living in a perpetual cycle of hope and disappointment, of inability to move forward, of hurry up and wait, of try and fail. It’s trying to keep the faith, to believe in the future even as it seems to slide further and further from your reach. It’s trying not to get your hopes up but also trying not to let depression get the best of you. It’s living like you’re pregnant for half of every month just in case but knowing you probably aren’t. Time, for the infertile, is a thief. A thief of joy, of carefree moments, of a simple sex life, of spontaneity, and most of all, of control.

Hello…

I’m T, and I’m thirty-two. My partner and I have been trying to start a family for almost three years now. Last November I finally got pregnant, and we found out shortly before Christmas. The day I found out was probably the best day of my life; I will always remember watching the word I’d longed for flash across the screen – “Pregnant”. I couldn’t believe it. Ten days later I started bleeding. I thought for sure it was over, but my levels kept going up. We saw our baby for the first time on New Year’s Eve and entered 2020 convinced it would be the best year yet. Boy were we wrong. I made it to fifteen weeks and had six ultrasounds which all showed a perfectly healthy, growing baby and no reason for the intermittent bleeding. Then one afternoon my water broke and I naturally delivered our six inch long son a few hours later. He was born on the day before my birthday – the day we had hoped to find out his gender via 3D ultrasound, the day we’d planned to finally announce the pregnancy on social media. He was perfect with the most delicate little hands and wrists you could possibly imagine. He was mine, he was everything I’d ever wanted, and he was dead. We named him Luca.

After a few months we started trying again, and next month we will likely begin IUI. I started this blog because there is so much I want to say but limited places I can express it all. I want to talk about my son – but I feel I have to limit my mentions of him on social media. Most mothers get to share about their children all they want, but grieving mothers have to reel it in. If we mention it too much we’re considered unstable, we can’t let go, we’re just looking for attention. It’s one of the invisible burdens of infertility and pregnancy loss – walking the thin line between functioning and falling apart, between happiness for others and resentment, between remembering and letting go. And learning how often you can mention your son without depressing and worrying those around you. And, to be honest, that very sentence is a testament to the loneliness of pregnancy loss.

Which brings me to the other reason I started this blog. For you. For you who just had a loss and are frantically searching for stories of those who’ve been through it. For you who have yet to conceive despite years of trying and feeling like you’re the only woman on earth who isn’t in the Mom Club. For all of us moms-in-waiting who know we were put on this planet to love and raise a child, and our bodies simply won’t cooperate. I see you. Thanks for being here. Let’s muddle through this together.