Friday, July 29, 2011

Infertility & Baby Loss

I have a pretty fantastic friend I met in undergrad. We worked at the same hole of a restaurant together and maybe ate hundreds of these together. She graduated, then I graduated. She married, then I married. She moved and bought a house, then we moved and bought a house. It was all progressing very nicely.

Then she became pregnant. Multiple times. Each ending in miscarriage. It wasn't an easy road. She's part of the infertile crowd. She endured countless IUIs and IVFs and all the lovely injections and drugs in between, but still kept her eyes on the prize.

In the midst of still trying for years, I became pregnant. I'll admit, it was a little awkward coming out to her about the whole we got pregnant on the first try(!) business. I knew there was nothing more in the world that she wanted than what I had. In the correct order of things, she should have gone first. I cut her in line. But being the incredibly selfless friend that she is, we still talked on the phone every now and again until December. We all know what happened next.

I suppose I can now add this to our story: She endured baby loss, and I endured baby loss.

From that moment on, we talked on the phone nonstop. There's more I could insert here about what we talked about and the highs and lows we both experienced in the months that followed (and still continue), but I'll save that. It's personal. She understood what it was like to not only lose babies, but she knew what it was like to lose hope, time and time again. The process of ebb and flow that you just want to come to an abrupt halt with a live baby crying in your arms. She got me. She gets me.

There is some happiness to this story and an internal conversation that follows. She's now pregnant and awaiting the arrival of twins (boy and girl, jackpot!) in October. She deserves this. She's going to be a fantastic mom that understands that every minute is meant to be cherished and will never take one moment of that for granted. For most people/pregnancies, a process goes through my head of if they're lucky, and nothing is certain, and it's only an estimated date of delivery. But with her, I just know this is her time for happiness. Of all the struggle and want and loss and desperation, she's finally creeping toward that finish line.

Now for the internal conversation.

I read infertility blogs every now and again. We carry that common understanding of babies being an enormous gift that don't come without great sacrifice, grief, sadness, and longing. We share the understanding of seeing a BFN (big fat negative) on a pregnancy test and the massive excitement of seeing a BFP as well. We know what loss feels like, as many of those who struggle with infertility inevitably lose through miscarriage or stillbirth as well. We feel that jealously that's sharp and uncomfortable around those who never endured a struggle in starting a family.

But there are also differences. For example, I was once part of that blissfully pregnant crowd. I thoroughly enjoyed my pregnancy with Andrew and never really carried much concern. Of course he'd be born alive. It wasn't even a thought that crossed my mind. Those with infertility cherish every moment in pregnancy but know that the struggle it took to get there leaves them in fear during every moment. At least that's what my friend (above) tells me.

I never had to shoot myself up with medications to make myself ovulate, undergo massive amounts of ultrasounds, experience IVF or an IUI. Pregnancy is not the issue I have. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure what my issue really even is. Keeping babies alive, I guess. Not sure how that can be remedied.

But there is one major difference, I think. Once infertility is "overcome" and that baby is finally in their arms, there is likely a sense of graduation. I could be completely wrong here and wouldn't mind the comments from those who experience IF. Perhaps the way women feel after successfully fighting and beating breast cancer. With child loss, I'll never really feel like more babies will provide me that ability to graduate. Andrew is one of my babies. My first. He'll be missing in every photo I'll ever take for the rest of my life. I'll never graduate. I'll never feel accomplished or proud to overcome the struggle it took us to start a family. I'll be proud to be a mother, but I'll always feel a longing for Andrew. Bittersweet.

And don't think I'm leaving out the crowd who has endured both, child loss and struggle with infertility. It's cruel. Falling in love and longing to share that love and life with a child should be an allowance given to every responsible family. When that ability is stripped away from you, it's beyond unfair. Those babies aren't forgotten and shall never be. I personally feel lucky to have carried Andrew for those months. Those who struggle with IF and loss likely feel the same-- thankful for those moments of pregnancy or infancy they want so badly to breathe in and remember for eternity. But a graduation for them, I doubt it.

I'm hoping that sometime soon I can finish our story from above with: She had beautiful babies that lived, and I had beautiful babies that lived. And maybe throw in there a trip or two to Disney World, why not?


Addi's mom said... [Reply to comment]

I will be interested to see what IVF ladies comment on here as well. I felt like even though I didn't go through IVF my friends that did "get me" more than others. It's like even though our stories are different we still understand the extra long road it takes to get to a baby. You seem right with the graduation statement though...we will never graduate.
I hope to hear that last statement come true soon about you both having living beautiful babies and the Disney World trip will be a must!

Solange, Nik and Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

I really hope to hear you both having healthy, happy, living babies.
Love you!!!

Sherri said... [Reply to comment]

I can't answer this without feeling greedy! I know the pain of IF, and the struggle to create a child. When we had Jenna, there was a sense of such gratitude to finally become parents! We were lucky in one sense, it only took one cycle of IVF.
When we lost Kristen, I mourned not only for my loss, but for the sister Jenna would never get to meet. I desperately want her to have at least one living sibling.. this is where the greed comes in. I know sooo many people who would do anything to parent just one child, and I was one of them for a while. Yet I can't find that peace in my heart to say that I'm happy raising Jenna as an only child!
Sometimes I feel like we were dealt an extra big blow, because of all we had to endure to even create Kristen, only to lose her! But I know that baby loss is baby loss, and there isn't any scale to measure the grief we all have endured. It just plain sucks!
I truly hope that your last statement comes true for you! That you will parent some beautiful children on earth, as well as Andrew!

Tiffany said... [Reply to comment]

This post really got me thinking... there are two separate parts of me to respond-
the first is as the mom who had a healthy son through IVF, and in the next pregnancy had twins- lost one at 9 weeks, and the other was born healthy: that me, wants to say that, yes once all the heartbreak with IVF was done and I had a baby in my arms- it felt like a win. i grieved the loss of Ellie's twin, but i looked at it as a blessing to Ellie (the other baby's hormones allowed Ellie to grow strong and healthy). Without that loss, we probably wouldn't have Ellie. So yeah, for me, definite win.

And then there's the me that's been through infertility treatments (with more treatments on the horizon), and has now experienced the loss of a nine month old. And that me, is confused. Now no matter what happens, Ellie is always missing. Now I am painfully aware that the heartache doesn't necessarily end when the baby is born. Anything can happen at anytime. I look at Max, and his struggles with autism, and I am thankful that we have him, but sad he has to struggle with everyday tasks. I know he is healthy and alive now, but there isn't ever a promise for tomorrow. Even if the next round of IVF ends with a healthy baby being born, there will always be a part of me that will be scared.

The last few years of our life has been one disaster after another, but it all circles around the best part of our life- our babies. I feel like the one thing I've learned is that we just have to love our kids like it's the last day we will ever have with them. Even while going through IVF treatments, even when there is not a physical child yet, you are loving your child. By working so hard to get them, you are loving them. You are loving the potential of them and the dream of them. It's hard to explain. When you lose a child, you don't win. But for me, I feel like just having the opportunity to have them (even for a few weeks in utero) is a win.

Kakunaa said... [Reply to comment]

This is hard. I am ever so grateful for our luck in conceiving with our first IVF. We feel so blessed to be parents. But I wonder why the other growing embryo didn't stick. And I still grieve the fact that if we want P to have a sibling we need another financial and biological miracle. And that if the financial aspect doesn't happen we will be donating P's frosticle siblings. I don't feel cured. I feel like we won the battle but the war rages on...I hope I never have to experience a miscarriage (tho losing 1 embryo hurt) or the loss of a child. I think it would break me.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I went thru 2 ivfs with no success. We adopted from a family member who got pregnant solely with the intent of giving the baby to my & my dh. I got to be in the delivery room when he was born at 29 weeks. I spent everyday in the NICU with him-holding him, kangaroo care, feeding him, changing his diapers and finally 6.5 weeks later, dh & I got to take him home. Because he was born so early, we had not done anything legal yet. So 4 weeks later,the BM took him from us(on Christmas day). I sank into a dark hatred like I've never known. Apparently while at the hospital a social worker told her she could get a SS check for him until he's 5 because he was a micro-preemie. Even though all over his charts it was recorded many times that she got pregnant solely with the intent on giving him to us. When the check went from $50ish to over $450 once he was released from the NICU, that's when she took him. She will never admit that that's the truth-she likes to say that she had post partum depression (that sounds much nicer). At any rate, after having to give him CPR twice and him being put back in the hosp once, she decided that he really did belong with us. We got him back on Feb.13th (almost 7 weeks later). I don't know total loss of a baby, as he did not die and I eventually got him back. However, I can tell you for a fact that having a baby (adopting) does NOT cure IF. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don't grieve in some way the fact that I will never feel life growing inside my body. I love my son with every fiber of my being--more and more every day. I'm more than happy that we got him back. He will be 5 this October. My IF journey hit 20+ years this year. And still a small part of me grieves...i guess it always will.

bibc said... [Reply to comment]

im not sure quite what i want to say, so excuse me if this comes out muddled, i am just going to write what comes to mind.

i have had 4 ivf cycles, and i have lost 4 babies at the 5 month mark of my pregnancy (2 sets of twins) i lost my second set this past june, so i cannot venture to guess how a woman (or man) who has experienced parenting after infertility feels. i can only speculate.

having a healthy child is the goal of any fertility treatment, and if my husband and i are lucky enough to have a healthy child or children one day, (no matter how the child joins our family) i don't think the scars of years and years of trying and failure will quickly fade. i know that we will be happier than we could even imagine now.i know that we will feel blessed, but i can't say that i think i will feel that our infertility is overcome. i realize i am in the third group you spoke of, not the first, but i am trying to imagine. i imagine that my heart will still ache with the memories of losing parts of myself, being told that i could, under no circumstances, conceive with my husband alone in my bedroom.

i imagine that i will continue to mourn the loss of my innocence and confidence in my body in the same way that i do now. i imagine that i will still be sad that in order to build the family i have always dreamed of, and have the amount of children i've always wanted, i will have to continually try either medically or exert my finances and personal time outwards towards adoption, just to try and attain what comes easily to others.

please don't get me wrong, i do not wish infertility on anyone, nor do i pity myself because i have had to deal with it. while i think a baby would bring sunshine and light to our lives, i don't think it will ever take away what i have lost having known my body does not work properly, and that it will never, ever be easy for me to add to my family.

the goal here is obviously one healthy baby, but it is hard to give up the idea that i am unlike others, i will never feel the intimacy of making love to my husband and producing a child. i will never know the glee of a surprise pregnancy or even a positive test that comes without a month of needles and surgical procedures. just as everything has been challenged, everything has also been forever changed because of what we have had to face both as a couple and individually trying to create a family.

B. Wilson said... [Reply to comment]


I'm so thrilled so many of you are responding. These are thoughts I've tried to process or understand. There are so many things that I didn't include in the processing: cost, act of not physically conceiving with your husbands, how you grieve for the time lost and innocence lost.

Thanks so much for adding this. Being a BLM, it's important for me to feel as though I understand others who struggle in whatever way that may be.

e photography said... [Reply to comment]

i'm a NICU nurse and I see the VERY BAD. I look at every pregnant person and think "there's a tragedy waiting to happen" (i know, morbid, huh?) and i look at every newborn baby and think "i hope they don't get sick, SIDS, etc" (even more horrible, huh?).... and there are so many people that have no idea how lucky they are to have great pregnancies, healthy babies. anyways, i love reading your blog. keep writing....xo, erin

bibc said... [Reply to comment]

@B. Wilson

thank YOU for wanting to understand.

this world is full of those who assume what fertility challenged people think or feel.
it means a lot and speaks to your character when you said you know what? i don't understand this, because it isn't my reality. and then cared about the responses.

im so sorry about your boy. i meant to add this before, and felt silly adding it just by itself,though i know it is never silly to hear about our children <3


Sassy said... [Reply to comment]

I hope you don't mind me commenting as well...

We struggle with infertility. While going through years of treatments, I prayed, pleaded, begged...wished with every bone in my body to be blessed with "just one baby please!" Anyone who has longed for a baby knows that feeling. I wanted to be pregnant, I wanted my baby. I was fortunate.I got him. Yes, I "graduated" in a sense. But I'll never forget those feelings, and those feelings of my "sisters" who struggle the same way. I also have that greed for another. I find myself begging again and then wonder if I have any right to do so. I have one healthy baby and so many others do not. I feel torn in a sense.
I don't think there would be a sense of "Graduation" with baby loss. You don't ever get over a loss, you never graduate and feel like it's over. Feel free to correct though.
On another note, I hope that you are blessed with a baby soon and Andrew can be a big brother. AND a trip to Disney would be fun too!
Beautifully written blog entry.

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for generating this conversation - or rather these responses Brandy. It us nice to try to understand other BLM and other forms of grief.

Like you said I don't think I can ever feel I've graduated. Recently giving birth to a living child hasn't changed what's happened. Sure it was and is wonderful, but I really just feel lucky that Finn is here alive. The cord was around his neck - yet it didn't kill him and it had gotten compressed enough to kill his brother. So I will never feel like having a healthy baby has changed my loss - that will always be a very real part of me and my life.

Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

This is so lovely, and I think you do a great job of distinguishing the overlap and the crucial distinctions between baby loss and infertility. And you're right--there's no graduating from this. We carry it forever. I think eventually, though, it becomes both a burden and a gift--not one we'd ever ask for, but one we can make something beautiful with. At least I freaking hope so.

Sassy said... [Reply to comment]

I was in bed last night thinking about this and wanted to add something. I may have "graduated" infertility by having a baby, but it's never a true graduation if you want more babies. Infertility is still there lurking it's ugly head at me because I long for more babies. It's still there. We can't just jump into bed and get pregnant. Just like being a BLM is always going to be there, you'll never forget your babies. Giving birth doesn't take away what's happened. It doesn't just go away.

It's unfair that any woman (and man) has to face either circumstance (or both) and my one true hope and prayer is that we all get our hearts desire and every "story" has a happy outcome.

crazytwinmomma said... [Reply to comment]

@ Sassy: Yes! I am one of those IF'ers who has never had to encounter baby loss but has still endured the pain and frustration of watching everyone around me get pregnant and have babies easily while it took me years. Once I had my twins I felt truly blessed but at the same time I still felt jealousy for those who hardly had to work for it and resentment towards those people I didn't feel deserved all the kids they were popping out. Then, we decided we wanted to try for a sibling and I felt very put of place. I had to work even harder the second time around, yet I felt like I didnt quite fit in the IF community because I already had children. It's a sense of limbo that is hard to describe.

Olaina.PhotosAndArt said... [Reply to comment]

I don't think you graduate. I think you just have one good day, and hope another one follows.

At least, that's how I'm doing it.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

First, I'm sorry you lost Andrew. I hope your pain will fade to a dull ache sooner rather than later. I hope you will get to be a mother to another child.

I had three miscarriages, then had to use fertility drugs to conceive our son. It was a difficult pregnancy; we almost lost him three times before he was born (threatened mc, preterm labor, and severely lowered heart tones during the c-section) and once afterwards (hypoglycemic coma).

I really don't feel like I've graduated from the infertility, especially since one of my doctors told me that my issues are likely to get worse as I get older. It's only going to get more difficult from here if we want another child. But I do feel much better about my losses now that I'm lucky enough to have a child in my arms.

July 24 marked three years since my first mc. Instead of holding the empty little snap-side shirts I bought for that baby and crying like I did on the previous two years, I was able to put my son in one of those little shirts and hold him. Did it still hurt? Yes, and I suspect it always will. But the tears I cried that day were primarily ones of happiness to give thanks for finally getting one to raise and to realize that if I had any one of those other three children, I wouldn't have this child, and I can't imagine my life without him.

Veronica said... [Reply to comment]

I know I'm over a year out in commenting on this, but I just had to. I was thinking and feeling pretty deep the other week as I was trying to put my finger on how I feel about having another child. It felt so incomplete and unfinished. I tried to tell myself that this is a part of life. It's all a struggle. For so many. I just happen to have a stillbirth and a dead son. But life can still be full, and complete in its own way...right? And I always came up with, yes and no. Roadblocked. Yes and no.

The other night, I was scanning your archives, learning more about your journey in conceiving B after A, and I stumbled on this post. And it clicked. For me. It clicked. A full term stillbirth is like never graduating. Starting a family comes in many forms of struggle... But 10 more children will never get me there...never make me feel like we finally made it. we did and didn't make all at once. So anything following, is just aftermath...but not a graduation.

On the topic of IF, my godmother was trying for a baby 30 years ago... Tried for nearly 10 years... Had multiple early miscarriages, and went through fertility treatments. Finally she got pregnant at 41 and it stuck. She told all friends and family... And then lost it at 14 or so weeks. They ended up adopting. And I now wonder - being a full grown adult going through my own struggles and losses in "starting" a family - does she feel like she never graduated either...? I feel if I ask her, she'll either take it wrong way, or tell me we don't get to choose how our children come to us. Her daughter is now 20, and I know she wouldn't trade a thing about how she came into her life...

But it all just got me thinking (more) and I want to thank you for sharing, and for hitting the nail on the head (for my personal experience)