Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eternal Sunshine

Sometime after my loss and before my sister's, we had a conversation about denial. I was beating myself up for (theoretically) ignoring signs that should have sent me to the doctor, and she mentioned something about how we learned to be in denial from my mom, who, really, was Cleopatra* about many things.

When she had her loss, my sister's initial reaction, when I tried to be comforting, was to deny. She said all the things you never want to hear when you are grieving, but about her own situation. (I think I wrote about it but I'm not going to go dig out the post.) Later on, she indirectly acknowledged that she had been in that place, right after her loss. That the kinds of things she said, "I'm just going to go out and have fun and be happy!!" at that point were defenses against the outrageous pain. She could acknowledge that.

In a recent phone call, I asked her about being on the other side. Of infertility. Of loss. She referred to it as always being there, like in a rearview mirror, getting smaller and farther away. I mentioned the article on one of those magazines, and they talked about how IF seems to be one of those causes that people don't advocate for once they've reached the other side. My sister told me that for Res0lve, IF is a temporary state, eventually you either have a child or you don't and you go childless/free.

Then she talked about my dad, who has volunteered with the local hospice (almost) since my mother died. She said, it seems like he's not letting go. I responded that it's important work, even if it's not fun, and he gets something out of it. She said something about how it's so painful, so sad, why spend your time focused on that?

She talked about how she has a daughter now, and a life that needs living, and doesn't want to be stuck in the pain of her past. Or something. My words, not hers. That was the essence of it, I think.

So how do you balance it? Does it just fade? A past life? Life does go on, and, honestly, I don't spend a lot of time these days thinking directly about the boys, or what we went through in that horrible 10 days. But I feel it, I think. The IF. The loss. The secondary (?) IF. Next steps. New steps. But it all builds up to where we are, doesn't it?

She doesn't suggest pretending it never happened, but not getting stuck in it, not focusing on advocating for those still in it -- instead, moving forward into today.

I don't know.

I know this question has been asked, and answered, by many, but I'm asking it again. How much do you hold onto? If you could erase that whole period of time -- (IF,) pregnancy, and loss -- would you?

Just now, I said to C, I kind of wish I could just blank on the last 3 years. Or even the last five, as we approach 5 years of trying to have a living child (or working toward it). I don't know if I even meant it. I'm so tired of feeling sad and resentful and hopeful and tired. Tired of working to be hopeful and happy and productive in my work. Working to try to have a child. Depending on others, paying others to build our family. Especially when it seems other people's fertility is in my face -- and will be in my face for the rest of my life.

Sometimes I'm tempted to just chuck it all.

We were at the dog park with Stella today, talking with some of the local dog owner's group (who organized funding and creation of the park) and gushing about her. Stella. Our dog.

It felt a little ridiculous. We are so eager to talk about our sweet pup. We love her so much. She is the lucky recipient, I guess, of the love of frustrated, childless people.

Lately, there has been a very, very small voice inside that says, Wouldn't it be nice to just go on with the rest of your life without trying so hard, working so hard for this?

But I can't imagine it. I would have to run away to the other side of the world. Never see my (aggravating) sibs, never see my nieces/nephews (I assume there are more coming). Never see dear friends and family. I couldn't do that. As it is, I miss them all too much. Even when we live in the same town.

There is no eternal sunshine.

And even though I usually answer those questions with, I would rather have the pain because I get to remember the love and, especially, the joy.

I don't know anymore.

Maybe that's what's making all of this so difficult.

*The Queen of the Nile. Queen of Denial.


Sara said...

I have so much to say to this post, but have a POD full of crap to unpack this morning/afternoon. I'll put a long response as task #1 for the day we're unpacked.

But for the moment, to answer 1 question. Would I erase it all? Yes. Sometimes I say no, but I think at this point, and for as far forward as I can see, yes. If I could skip straight forward to Samuel, especially. Sometimes I try to clear my mind and imagine life with a 3 rather than a 2.5 year old. Can't do it. Sometimes I try to imagine my life having been faced with taking care of a micro-preemie that survived, rather than a big fat full termer who has bounded forward with health and energy since day 1. Can't and don't want to do it. But I had no real choice in that anyway, so I don't feel too guilty.

Love and miss you all.

Jo said...

Wow, so much going on in this post! Here's what stood out for me, though:

I have to disagree with your sister (this, of course, coming from someone who hasn't made it to the other side). If everyone just "moved on" and didn't advocate for those still fighting, where would we be with cancer research? Or heart disease? What if, once your loved one passed and/or beat the disease, no one ever talked about it? Where would we be then?

Infertility MUST be advocated for if we ever want it to be treated for what is is: a disease. If we want others to recognize our heartache, we have to stand up for it. If we want insurance coverage and affordable treatments, we have to educate others about it.

If you, or a loved one, hasn't dealt with cancer -- you still know about it. You know how scary chemo is. You understand the side effects.

It should be the same way with IF, with infant loss and miscarriage. But the only way that will ever happen is if we continue to talk about it, even after our own situation is resolved.


Betty M said...

I could hardly talk about it when I was in the process but now I do. I am upfront about the miscarriages, the difficult pregnancies and the difficulties getting pregnant in the first place in the hope that people know to go get help, that others are out there like them and that for this the internet is a place which really can help you get through it.

As others have said you are sounding happier which is great to see.

luna said...

it's not like you can ever say all that tragedy and all those tears will ever go away. that is a part of you now. I like what your sister said about it being in the rear view mirror. sometimes we sit and stare and reflect backwards about what could have been, but mostly, it just lingers there. but it is *much* harder to say you shouldn't dwell there than to actually do it.

it's not like you can ever say all of that was *worth* it either, because the anguish steals a piece of your soul and forever changes you.

but I have to believe that at some point, you come to *peace* with it. you learn to live alongside your grief instead of being smothered underneath it. you take little steps in front of it and let it fall behind, even if it catches up with you from time to time.

in my own experience, yes, holding and loving and caring for a living breathing child -- even though I did not create or birth her myself -- helped me to live in the present moment and experience joy again. I had to be ready to take that step of course. I had to feel healed before I could be open to loving another child. and I know it's not the only way. but it is possible. xo

Reba said...

i really like how your sis described it's right there in the rearview mirror, just getting smaller and smaller but never actually going away. i didn't know that about resolve, and i think that's sad.

i will tell you, i still visit my old IF message board. but i almost never post. i don't feel welcome there now that i'm on the "other side" of IF. i remember seeing people with kids posting there before. it used to infuriate me and i wouldn't want to create those feelings in anyone. i remember how much every thing hurt me then.

having a living child does help you to enjoy life again. actually in most ways, i think my hubs and i enjoy our daughter way more than most of our friends enjoy and appreciate their kids. will never forget. there may come a time when you don't think of it all (IF, your babies you've lost) every hour, then every day, then maybe every week. but there will still be times when something brings you back and you see them, in whatever form your memory has for them. and it will still hurt, but it will hurt less because it is in the past now.

Ya Chun said...

I think it is the rare few who can become advocates, like your dad. I am thinking of Joanne C from MISS (infant loss, not infertility per se).

And I think you are right, I don't think about Serenity so much as feel - feel her absence, feel my pain and guilt. And it just comes, so I don't think it is something that can be controlled.

You and C will find your way - and it will be *your* way.

erica said...

I go back and forth on what to hold onto, what to let go of. I don't want to let go of my son any more than I've already had to, so part of me wants to hang on to all of it, but I don't think there's a healthy way for me to do that. I keep hoping to find a way to carry it all more gracefully, & with a loosened grip.

We were told by someone wise and learned and wonderful that five years is about normal for integrating the loss of your child into your life (never mind IF - talk about complicated grief) so maybe the answers take time (lots and lots of bloody time) to come.

Michele said...

I hold onto all of it. It's all I have of my life before... It's all I have of Nick, and Sophie, and Alex now... To let it go, to let it fade, in some way (to me) is letting them fade. I dont live my life regretting what happened; it's a part of me. It always will be. And, at the same time, each new day becomes a part of the same blessing.

Jonathan said...

I send hugs.
Moving on isn't the same as forgetting, at least for us. We remember our miscarriages, the painful times. I don't know what the trick is, just keep breathing I guess.

Anonymous said...

i would not blank on it. it is part of who i am, it has made me the person i am today. but more than that: it's love. i got to love two extra people, as painful and devastating as that love has been. and now when i miss the girls i love them more than i miss them. it doesn't hurt as much, which helps -- and that's time as much as it is additional children -- and i'm glad it doesn't hurt as much b/c that pain is a gobsmacker.

i couldn't blank on that love any more than i'd give up other loves i've had.

i miss you. it would be nice to chat in person over lunch.


loribeth said...

I would not want to forget. Perhaps not having any other children has something to do with it, but Katie was my one & only pregnancy. There was grief & stress but there was also joy. I have learned so much about life and myself from that little girl who never took a breath. I like to think that I'm a more compassionate person these days.

And I agree -- where would we be without people who have been there, done that & are willing to advocate for those still in the trenches?? I find it difficult to talk openly about what we've been through to our families & friends -- but I'm still blogging about it, 12 years later ; ) & we only just stepped down from volunteering for our pregnancy loss group for 10 years.

I suppose some people might think dh & I are wallowing in our grief & have not moved on. Personally, I think we've both come a long, long way, & writing & volunteering have helped us to do that. My daughter's stillbirth was the defining event of my adult life and while I have learned to live with it, I will never deny nor forget what happened.