Last night we all gathered in support of Z and her husband, who had found out earlier in the day that Z's pregnancy was not viable. Z was right around eleven weeks pregnant, I think, but the baby never really developed at all. Z will have to undergo a D&C tomorrow. I have never been through this, and I can only imagine it is similar to what hell is like.
I found out about Z's pregnancy about six weeks ago. I didn't know it then, but her story has become inexplicably wound up with and connected to my own story.
And so, this is her story. And this is my story, too. And maybe, just maybe, it's your story as well.
I have made a solid effort to keep baby talk out of my blog. I wrote this post and then decided that I wouldn't talk about the issue any further until I had a pregnancy to report. The blogosphere is full of blogs devoted to trying to conceive, infertility, pregnancy loss, and just babies in general. While I don't look down upon those blogs at all (I actually really enjoy reading them), I didn't want my blog to become one of them.
The reason for this is because I wanted to keep my private life private. Despite some very personal posts that I've written, I don't reveal everything about my life, my past, or my feelings. This is the internet, and I don't always feel safe to let it all hang out.
Another reason I have chosen not to discuss certain things is because I don't want to obsess about them. Having a place like this blog, a place where I can pick and choose what I want to talk about, is therapeutic for me. It gives me a break from reality, which lately has seemed very grim. And in a sense it gives me a chance to paint my life in a way that is positive, which always helps when I'm not feeling so great about it.
I transferred these preferences for keeping my private life to myself to the rest of my life as well. If I posted on any online message boards, my signature didn't indicate anything about my sex life or when I could expect to ovulate or how many cycles I'd been trying or what I'd been diagnosed with. If people that I didn't feel especially close to asked me if we were trying to conceive, I would say no. (If you were one of those people, sorry about that. It's nothing personal, I swear.)
So why all the secrecy? Well, frankly the contents of my uterus are no one else's business, unless I choose to make it their business. However, enough time has passed that I feel like sharing (some of) my business with the rest of the world.
My uterus is very, very empty. And she needs a public forum.
Back in October, I went off the pill. In November, I charted my first cycle. During that first charted cycle, we had a small oops moment that resulted in about a minute of panic and about ten days' worth of "Wouldn't it be cool if I was actually pregnant?" We both knew then that our excited reaction pointed to something that we never could have anticipated so soon: we were ready to expand our family. We were ready for a baby. Those feelings came out in this post, although I was trying like hell to not reveal the reason behind them.
There is no way I can describe the hope and promise that one feels at the beginning of the journey of making a baby. It was a time when I looked at Roy (and myself) in utter amazement, not believing that we had finally made it to this point. After so many years of fumbling with condoms, late periods/possible pregnancy scares, and trying to avoid getting knocked up, I was ready to embark on the journey of parenthood. The level of commitment that it brought to our marriage made me love Roy so much more.
Of course, I wasn't pregnant, but we began actively trying in December, over half a year earlier than we originally intended. My theory: it could take us awhile to actually conceive, so starting early was actually a good thing.
As it turns out, I was right. Nine months later, I am still not pregnant.
In the nine months that we've been trying, here's what's happened (in no particular order):
Mandy and Paul got engaged and married.
I got two SLR cameras and started thinking seriously about photography.
I shot two engagement sessions.
I went to the OBGYN to talk about my long cycles (and they later got shorter).
Roy got a new job.
Roy took his comps (and passed).
I planned and hosted Mandy's bridal shower.
Roy and I got our asses kicked in school.
I completed my internship.
Roy completed his internship.
I taught for the first time.
My dog was put to sleep.
All of my melanoma blog people have died.
Myra moved away.
Beans moved away.
My uncle got sick (and is now on the mend).
We went to Vegas.
We stayed at the Morey Mansion.
I had my mole removed.
We found out our wedding videographer is no longer in business.
I learned Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, etc.
I deleted my knot/nest account.
We celebrated our first wedding anniversary.
We went to Minneapolis.
Z and her husband got pregnant and then lost the baby.
Two of my friends have been diagnosed with infertility.
I finished my thesis proposal, and it got rejected by the graduate committee, thus delaying my graduation date.
And so on and so forth.
You see, it's not so much that nine months is a long time to try to conceive (it's actually considered average). It's that so much has happened that it feels like we've lived a whole lifetime in these nine months. So much has changed, highlighting the fact that the state of my uterus has not.
Six weeks ago, when I went over to Z's house and saw her chart indicating her pregnancy, I experienced my first true blow related to TTC (trying to conceive). Z and her husband conceived their first month trying, and they had started trying about seven months after us. Once I was able to actually make sense of what I was seeing on Z's chart, I excused myself to the bathroom. I was shaking. I just couldn't believe it. I was now in a position that I never wanted to be in, and it was the first time that I truly began to consider that something might be keeping us from conceiving easily.
I got a taste of my own bitterness that day. I could hear it in my voice when I told Z's husband how lucky they were to get it on the first shot because it sucks to have to try for awhile. I heard that and couldn't believe it was me. But it was. And I immediately felt like such an asshole for letting my own baggage interfere with their good news. Later, I sent Z an email and apologized. And then I cried and cried and cried. It was one of the worst nights ever. I felt so torn. I was happy for them, but I was so sad for us. And I was so angry at the randomness of the universe and at myself for letting that "Bitter Betty" moment slip through.
It took me about a week and a half until I felt like I had accepted Z's pregnancy. I had several days where I just cried in my office at work, feeling like a complete and utter loser for not being able to be so overwhelmingly and joyfully happy for Z and her husband. My sorrow was never really about Z; it was about me and my failure to get pregnant and my desire to join that exclusive pregnancy club. And yet I was almost immediately invested in Z's pregnancy, wanting to know if she was feeling symptoms, when her next appointment was, etc. Despite my own frustration with our situation, I already loved the baby that Z and her husband had created.
And now, Z's baby is gone (for no apparent reason), and Z and her husband are reeling, and my heart just hurts for them. I didn't sleep much last night. I got up and watched an episode of 90210 around 3 AM. Ironically, it's the episode where Kelly's mom finds out she's pregnant and experiences a big moral dilemma about whether she should keep the baby.
Why can't we all be so lucky to have that choice? Some of us have no choice in what happens with our bodies or with our babies. Infertility is on the rise, and so are miscarriages. Everywhere I hear stories about women who have lost babies or who can't get pregnant without medical intervention, and it is all so heartbreaking. It makes me want to stop now because right now, with the loss of Z's baby, I don't know if I can take anymore.
I love Z and her husband so very much and am wishing them the best with their physical and emotional recovery from this tragedy.
Where does this leave us?
We have been trying for less than a year (but not much less), and many people think that you shouldn't seek medical attention until you've been trying for at least a year. I used to think that way, too. And then I realized that enough time has passed and that we want some answers. We are both 29 years old and would like to have at least two children before we are 35. It's time to start ruling some things out. We have absolutely nothing to lose, and we are tired of being in the dark. If the tests come back clear, then we will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that nothing is obviously wrong and that it's probably just a matter of time until we get pregnant on our own. If the tests indicate that something is wrong, it's better that we find out sooner rather than later.
I am terrified, sad, and angry that we are headed down this road. But part of me has always known that it wouldn't be easy to get pregnant. (I am basing this on some very wild years that I had - I really should have ended up pregnant, but I didn't. This is not a very scientific reason, and I am aware of that. Let's call it a hunch.)
Despite my less-than-stellar feelings concerning our TTC journey, I don't want to be one of those people who constantly posts things on their blog about what is and what isn't appropriate to say when someone is trying to conceive or has issues with infertility. I don't want to be the girl who's been trying for sixteen months and jumps down the throat of the person who is upset because they have been trying for six months without success. Trying to conceive month after month without success is hard, and you can't quantify the pain related to it, and you can't treat TTC/infertility like it's some kind of contest. And you certainly can't control the ignorant and insensitive things that people are going to say to you. All you can control is your reaction to it.
Recently, I heard that bitterness is a choice. This came from a very wise someone who posts on a message board that is full of the most bitter and angry women I've ever seen. Granted, we have no known infertility problems right now, and I don't really know what these women are going through. At the same time, it does no good to play the infertility card constantly like these women do. I understand the feelings of anger and sadness that can come from not being able to join the pregnancy club, truly. But I don't understand the need to drag everyone down as well.
I am terrified of becoming this way. And so I keep reminding myself that it is what it is. Whatever "it" is, I know I can handle it - no matter how big or scary.
I feel quite sure that Z is probably terrified too. Because being a woman is terrifying. It's about subjecting your body to the dangers (and the rewards) of housing a fetus. It's about early miscarriage, blighted ova, late losses, stillbirth, and infertility. It's about giving birth, breastfeeding, parenting, working, loving, giving, creating, and living. (And don't get me wrong - I feel that women who are childless by choice are great and don't mean to exclude them in any way with my description above. In a world that is overpopulated and yet is so geared towards keeping women as incubators and housewives, I respect the choice to not have children. It's just not my choice.)
Life is overwhelmingly tragic sometimes. It's scary and sad. It's filled with moments of doubt and anger. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense a lot of the time.
But life is beautiful, too. I believe that. I believe that Z and her husband will get through this and have beautiful children. I believe that Roy and I will get pregnant and that we will also have our own beautiful children. I believe that everyone else I know that is struggling with reproductive issues will receive the gift of a child. Until then, I wish all of us the serenity and grace to wait patiently. I am happy to wait if that's what it takes.
There. My uterus has spoken. And for the moment, she is satisfied.