Why this infertility survivor is NOT off to see the wizard…..
Continued from Round 2 Part 1
Tired of disenfranchised grief yet? That’s ok, me too. We’re almost there….
After the group reading for the show Long Island Medium, things continued to head south after my unexpected mini reading with Theresa as I was waiting for my friend to be interviewed with the other interviewees.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I made eye contact and said to a man who had tragically lost his wife. And I truly meant it. Although he had to have heard my conversation with Theresa loud and clear, he, flanked by his three healthy children, looked at me, nodded, and said thank you. No “and I’m sorry for yours as well”, or “best wishes to you”, or anything. Nothing.
On the way out by the bar, I observed another woman connecting with this gentleman. Even amid this bastion of loss and pain I am still off to the side as usual, unable, through no fault of my own, to connect with anyone.
I had tried to feel for this woman during her reading, but couldn’t construe much for some reason. When she was telling her story, most of the rest of the room had tears of shock and awe rolling down their faces. Though I understand that losing her daughter was horrible and that no one should ever have to go through that, I felt strangely numb, outside of it all. The things she was describing, after all, were gifts I had fought long and hard for but never got to have. Memories. My daughter’s earrings. A blanket with my daughter’s smell. A pregnancy, bringing life into the world, a face, a name and most of all a fusion of me and my husband. Six precious years of life. Getting to be my daughter’s parent forever.
I am not saying people who suffer such horrific losses aren’t deserving of every ounce of empathy the human race can muster. Of course they are.
What I am saying is that my loss and losses like it are no less significant. And that we live in a world where this woman gets everyone’s tears and one “I’m sorry for your loss” after another while losses like mine get next to nothing is entirely unacceptable. I will never understand it.
“Stay strong. I have three more at home, it’s hard,” she proclaimed to the gentleman as she strutted out of the restaurant, her face aglow with something I couldn’t recognize.
When she says this a vision of the photographs of our twenty four beautiful embryos entrenched in the unforgiving frozen ground fills my entire body. I can see that the pictures, though lovingly encapsulated in a wooden music box that plays Edelweiss, are fading and damaged by moisture. As far as my children go, this is all I have. My soul quakes.
Feeling sorry for myself is a very tough emotion for me to allow. I judge it as unproductive. But heck if no one else is going to do it……..I struggled with accepting this and the following day managed to reach out to the part of myself that feels isolated, unseen, and uncomforted. I tell her I’m sorry….I’m sorry that very few people care that she lost her children. I tell her I’m sorry most people respond to her one surgery and ten failed fertility treatments as if she went to the beach and picked her nose. And that I’m sorry most people are so clueless as to think having a baby and being a mom is the toughest job on the planet, because at least under normal circumstances it so isn’t. I tell her I’m sorry the world doesn’t even consider her loss a loss, and that I’m sorry she gets negatively judged for even having feelings about it. I tell her I’m sorry that not only the human race but also the spirit world has failed to provide her with even a shed of comfort. And I tell her I’m sorry she feels like the teacher from Charlie Brown practically every time she speaks.
Truth: I’m an infertility survivor
Fertile world translation: Wah wah waaaah wah wah
Truth: I’m grieving the loss of my children
Fertile world translation: Wah wah waaaah wah wah
People who lose a significant person in their lives usually say they feel that a piece of themselves also died along with that person. I feel the exact same way about the loss of our children. I feel very much myself, yet part of me is tucked away in the ground with them, likely to never return. All while the pieces of me that are actually making it out of this crisis continue to go, for the most part, unacknowledged.
After my mini reading I was left with the naggingly pungent feeling that they were in there. Our children were in that group of embryos, something I had suspected all along. And that they never showed up on earth, well, no one knows why and likely ever will. If they weren’t coming from those embryos, then they are not coming from anywhere. Somehow my mini reading left me more connected with this strange truth than ever.
“You know how I know our loss is horrible? You know how I know our loss is real?” I mused to my husband that evening. “Because one day this question came to me out of nowhere. I don’t know where it came from, but out of thin air it said ‘If you could have one of those embryos turn into a person, but it ended up that your child would die at age five, would you take it?’ Ya wanna know what I did? I gasped yes, yes, of course I would.”
“Really? No…..no, I wouldn’t” my husband said.
“Well, I would. In a heartbeat. No thought required. Every cell of my entire being just knows. I’d much rather have five years of one of our children than nothing at all. Plus, how many parents who lose a physical child would rather that child just hadn’t been born? I know Adam Lanza’s father expressed as much. But other than that, very few, I tell you. Very few.”
The truth of the matter is that even amid forums dealing with pain, loss, and trauma, I still feel alone and quite the misfit. Bottom line being that for as long as one has a major loss that society won’t recognize, no matter where you are or who you are with, connection with one’s fellow humans is fragile on a good day, and futile on a bad one. I don’t really hold anything against the psychiatrist or Theresa. They are ultimately, I believe, good people who do helpful things for those who suffer. Infertiles not included, unfortunately, although I know they both tried their uninformed best.
According to Wikipedia, “The medicalization of infertility has unwittingly led to a disregard for the emotional responses that couples experience, which includes distress, loss of control, stigmatization, and a disruption in the developmental trajectory of adulthood.” Yeah, I’ll say.
A survey on infertility done by Redbook in 2011 was also mentioned. 61% of respondents hid their infertility from family and friends. Nearly half didn’t tell their mothers. I can’t say I blame them, and, as I can say from experience, revealing yourself to strangers ain’t all that much better.
Like breast cancer, infertility is a disease that effects one in eight people. Can you imagine if 61% of people with breast cancer needed to hide it from their family and friends due to a lack of compassion and understanding? And if 50% couldn’t tell their own mothers due to shame and fear of rejection? It got me wondering if there are any other diseases with a similar number of recipients that people feel the need to hide with such fervor.
About a year after our final loss, I still haven’t a clue as to how to re-enter the human race. I don’t even know if it’s possible. On an individual level I’ve done pretty well, attending to all of the no brainer things like our financial recovery, taking steps to set up our home that is no longer waiting for a baby, forging new and childfree appropriate social opportunities, enjoying time with my husband, and continuing to immerse myself in my interests and passions.
But as far as functioning openly in groups of humans, my vision is comprised of one big question mark. One thing I do know for sure is that as of now, speaking up creates more ramifications than dividends. Yet I feel so compelled. I tell myself I can change my mind, that if this method isn’t working I am free to try things another way. I am pretty good at shifting gears, generally speaking. But in truth I’m not so sure. When it’s coming upon my turn to speak, my brain tells me not to. “Don’t do it, it’s too much. Go easy on yourself, make something up..….” Because in those moments I feel like quite the shredded human being, assuming I’m lucky enough to even feel like I exist at all. And then the words just tumble right out, in spite of my body being collapsed in a pile of angst while anticipating the blank stares and uncomfortable posture fidgets that might occur in the eerie absence of any “I’m sorries” or empathetic utterances. I’m afraid not to speak, yet my fear is also that I will keep speaking even if it wrecks me. Perhaps I need to find some faith in my own resilience. Or become an accountant or land surveyor – something that is technical, black and white, and lacking in mystery and emotion. But that’s just so not me.
The last fact on the aforementioned Red Book survey brought it home for me a bit. “The message of those speaking out: It’s not always easy (or possible, I might add!!) to get pregnant, and there’s no shame in that.” And that’s just it. Deep down, I know I and people like me have done nothing wrong and have just as much of a right as any other human to speak our truths, take up space, and receive a little bit of consideration in this world. I suspect this is what drives me to speak when all else fails. I can only hope that piece of me is bigger than any panic attack, biochemical imbalance, feeling of despondency, or belief that I’m invisible. So far, so good I guess.
The other thing I do know for sure is that, at least as things stand in the world now regarding losing one’s children to infertility, there are no answers to seek, no “higher power” pots of wisdom to stir.
For me now, this quote rings so true:
“Bodhi (enlightenment) is to be looked for within your own mind. You seek in vain a solution to the mystery in the outside world.” Basho, 1644-1694
I do think it’s perfectly reasonable however, to seek a bit of empathy from the outside world. I did lose my children, after all. As far as doling out empathy to those of us who lose our children to infertility, I appreciate the few good apples that are out there. I know exactly who you are, what you did, and what you said that gave me a desperately needed break, even if I wasn’t able to show appreciation at the time. As far as how the rest of the world acknowledges early child losses, it appears many have much of their own enlightenment to seek.
Like I said, I have no clue how to re-enter life. But I am able to envision what will happen should I ever meet the ultimate Wizard of Oz.
Sarah: So, whadaya make of me being forced to spend this past lifetime as an infertility survivor?
God: What’s that?
Sarah: Uh, really you should kinda have something on that. It’s when you can’t have children due to a malfunction of nature that is beyond your control. It’s when you try and try and try to have children, but don’t get to. Because you get to the point in your journey where continuing would be potentially far more self destructive than a life without children.
God: (Pondering the best he can) I dunno….maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
Yes, I won’t be shocked if this disenfranchised grief thing really goes on forever. Or that when I get to heaven, no matter how groggy my soul may be, I’ll likely have some hell to raise there too.
BRAVADO/RUSH/If we burn our wings/Flying too close to the sun/If the moment of glory/Is over before it’s begun/If the dream is won/Though everything is lost/We will pay the price/But we will not count the cost//When the dust has cleared/And victory denied/A summit too lofty/River a little too wide/If we keep our pride/Though paradise is lost/We will pay the price/But we will not count the cost/We will pay the price/But we will not count the cost//And if the music stops/There’s only the sound of the rain/All the hope and glory/All the sacrifice in vain/And if love remains/Though everything is lost/We will pay the price/But we will not count the cost/We will pay the price/But we will not count the cost
It was on this day one year ago we learned that our children would never be coming home. This is for them.