The PAIL Monthly Theme post for September is “Guilt and Grieving.”
This is a tough topic for me because my feelings are all over the place. I mean – ALL OVER THE PLACE. Something happened just the other day that brought out my ugly IF side – but more on that later.
PAIL asked this month what we lost with our IF struggle, what we grieve. Good questions… and ones I needed to think about.
I don’t really think I grieve much when it comes to our infertility. I am an “everything happens for a reason” kind of gal. I have always lived my life that way and applied it to our IF struggle (which did not make it any easier, but helped me keep trudging along). On June 27th in 2011, as we pulled into our neighborhood with Matthew in the back seat, on our way home from the hospital with him, I turned to B and said, “all of the shit that got us here was worth it. If we hadn’t had that miscarriage (with the FET), we wouldn’t have Matthew. If the IVF had worked the first time, there’d be no Matthew. I’m so glad those things happened.”
Honestly. I said that.
And… I still feel that. I am so glad those things happened. I am so glad we had to do IVF to get him because if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have him. We’d have another baby that we would love just as much, but it wouldn’t be him. I feel that so deep down in my core that it has become a part of me – IVF was a gift that gave me my wonderful boy!
I do grieve our first failed IVF cycle because it was so hard on us emotionally. We never thought for a moment that it wouldn’t work. We had a clear diagnosis, we had a well-defined protocol, we had a great stimming experience until the very end, we had great retrieval numbers (16 eggs), and we had 9 stellar embryos, 2 of which were transferred and 7 frozen. We were nothing but positive – but it failed. If positive thinking gets you pregnant, then I should have been pregnant with IVF #1 because there was no one more positive than me. The thought that it may not work never really crossed my mind. So yeah, the memory of that first failure – of B coming down the stairs to tell me that it didn’t work and then me losing my shit and him holding me as I sobbed and sobbed uncontrollably – I grieve that memory. I always will.
But it’s not because it failed. It’s because it killed the hope within me. Every cycle after that became less and less exciting – so much so that by the time we did IVF #2 (after an early loss with FET #1), I had no fight left in me and I just did what the doctors said to do. I didn’t read into anything, I didn’t ask them if they thought it would work, I didn’t pay much attention to the ultrasounds when they counted my follicles. I just went in, let them do what they needed to do, said hello to the people I loved to see, and walked out. I didn’t get excited about anything. I figured it would fail. I had no hope. That makes me sad – but it is what it is – and I honestly think that that helped me cope with that final IVF cycle that resulted in Matthew. I do believe it made it even more special when it worked. That phone call was magical!
I lost a lot with my IF experience. I lost hope, I lost peace, and I lost optimism. My pregnancy was awesome – it was almost perfect aside from the debilitating heartburn (which was remedied with a prescription) – but I was so nervous the entire time. All I thought about was how the baby was doing. I was nervous before every single ultrasound and each time the doctor used the doppler. I counted kicks like a crazy woman even before you’re supposed to (before you can rely on regular movement). I counted down my pregnancy in days, not weeks, because every day down was one day closer to a live baby. I was so nervous about still birth that I checked out NILMDTS and searched photographers in our area and picked the one I liked best in case the worst happened (true story – and this is how we found our birth photographer which was awesome!). IF robbed me of a mentally pleasant pregnancy. I had the physically pleasant pregnancy, and I loved every moment of that, but I was constantly worried that the baby was going to die and we’d have to start all over again.
IF also robbed me of being genuinely happy for other pregnant people. I still struggle with this today. I’m getting much better, but sometimes there are still feelings of envy when someone gets pregnant easily. Just the other day, a friend told me that she’s pregnant and I was genuinely happy for her (truly!) and I was so proud of myself. This was a big deal for me because it was one of many recent pregnancy announcements that made me happy for the person instead of jealous. I feel like I’ve turned a big corner in this department. I then asked her if she was excited and she said, ‘no, to be quite honest. I don’t like having babies until they’re 18 months old.’ It took everything in me not to pack up Matthew and his things and leave their house immediately. My ugly IF side returned instantaneously. I am apparently very fickle when it comes to pregnancy announcements 😉 If you don’t say it just so, then I may lose my shit. Ugh.
IF has made me very self-centered, and for that, I feel guilty. Take the story above as an example. When this friend told me that she wasn’t excited to be pregnant (which I just don’t understand if she was trying to get pregnant, which she was), my first thought was, “how can you say that to your friend who you know has to go home in 2 hours to give herself a shot in an attempt to get pregnant?” I hate this about myself – because it’s not about me. But I make it about me. Being jealous of pregnant people is ridiculous because they didn’t get pregnant AT ME – they just got pregnant. End of story. But I still take it personally. I take it very personally when they tell me it was an accident or that they aren’t excited about it. I need to work on this. I know that. I feel guilty about this all the time. I need to keep reminding myself that it is not about me – someone else’s fertility has nothing to do with my infertility.
I don’t feel guilt anymore when I read TTC blogs. I feel empathy. I still read quite a few TTC blogs because I want to support those gals who still don’t have their first baby. Trying to get that first baby is so hard – it’s just exhausting. Because of that, I will always continue to throw my support to those trying for #1 – because it’s a dark lonely place – and it’s hard to keep hope alive. But I don’t feel guilty. I did my time, and I’m doing it again, and my guilt won’t help these women get pregnant. It just won’t.
So how’s that for being all over the place? 😉
And with that, I’ll close with a picture of the boy that was worth it all – and continues to be worth every emotion that courses through me.
September 20, 2012 at 12:35 am
“IF has made me very self-centered, and for that, I feel guilty. Take the story above as an example. When this friend told me that she wasn’t excited to be pregnant (which I just don’t understand if she was trying to get pregnant, which she was), my first thought was, “how can you say that to your friend who you know has to go home in 2 hours to give herself a shot in an attempt to get pregnant?” I hate this about myself – because it’s not about me. But I make it about me. Being jealous of pregnant people is ridiculous because they didn’t get pregnant AT ME – they just got pregnant. End of story. But I still take it personally. I take it very personally when they tell me it was an accident or that they aren’t excited about it. I need to work on this. I know that. I feel guilty about this all the time. I need to keep reminding myself that it is not about me – someone else’s fertility has nothing to do with my infertility.”
This paragraph really spoke to me. Deeply. I will be dwelling on this for a while because I too take other people’s pregnancies personally, and it really has NOTHING to do with me. I never thought about it in quite that way, but I really see that now. Thank you for helping me shift my perspective on that. I really appreciate it.
September 20, 2012 at 12:52 am
I think it was my mom, of all people, who told me that other people’s fertility has nothing to do with my infertility. I don’t quote her often (ever?), but that one was worth remembering and sharing. I’m glad it’s helpful for you too 😉
Hey – I commented on your post today but it said it needed to be moderated. No biggie, but in case it shows up and you don’t know who it’s from (my wordpress was a mess this morning – very confused when I commented on posts) – it’s from me.
September 20, 2012 at 1:46 am
I really hear this: IF robbed me of being happy for pregnant people. Me too 😦 Right now there has been a rash of parents expecting their third kids at my preschool and I’ve had to run and cry in my car a few times. I wish I didn’t care, but of course, I do.
September 20, 2012 at 6:37 am
YES! It killed the hope! That is what I feel most deeply. It killed the naivety, the innocence that ordinary fertiles get to enjoy when thinking about having a kid. I miss that terribly. I miss not having to put qualifiers on statements about expanding the family and I miss not actually being able to “relax” and let it happen. 😦
But you’re right, it also gave us so much! And your little man is such a gift!!
September 20, 2012 at 8:57 am
OMG…. Hope…lost… Gone….and the other pregnant people….I can totally see how you can lose your shit….I know I have lost mine a few times!
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September 20, 2012 at 10:34 am
I was wondering if other people felt this: “I am so glad we had to do IVF to get him because if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have him. We’d have another baby that we would love just as much, but it wouldn’t be him.” – because I OFTEN look at my girls and think exactly that. If I had been pregnant two years sooner, I wouldn’t have THESE girls, and my heart only wants THESE girls. I thought maybe I was the only cheesy weird one who felt this way – nice to know I’m sharing a boat with someone else. 😉 I think “being all over the place” is par for the course with this topic… there are so many places to be when it comes to grief and guilt, that’s for sure.
September 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm
“I lost peace” – This is what resonates with me the most. Dealing with IF/loss, and dealing being treated terribly because of it, has been seriously damaging to my mental health, my marriage, and my friendships. I struggle deeply to find peace in so many aspects of my life, and I feel like I can pinpoint the moment that all happened. Perhaps it is the effect of the “before/after” dichotomy that I have placed over top of my memory of all of this, but I just *know* I was better before. A better person, a better partner, a better friend. Now, I am nervous, I am anxious, I am distrustful to a fault. I don’t like that about myself. I feel like it is lifting (and good LORD blogging is helping with that) but it’s still heavy. Very heavy.
Thank you, my friend, for sharing this. 🙂
September 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm
“I don’t feel guilt anymore when I read TTC blogs. I feel empathy.” — YES. At first I felt guilty, but really, I did my time, and I’m still there to support those who are in the dredges of TTC#1. Empathy is so much better than guilt.
I definitely have issues making other’s pregnancies about me. I had two pregnancy announcements in a row in my instagram yesterday (for fellow IF bloggers – #2 for both of them), and my gut reaction was jealousy. WTF? That is definitely a work in progress for me. *sigh*
September 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm
I didn’t write my own theme post because I felt like I’d kinda covered it in the PAIL post where I introduced this topic. Now I feel like I have so much more I should have said. Hmm.
September 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm
Yikes, and there I am making a comment and only talking about myself! I should add that I loved this post and you really gave me a lot to think about. I like how you put it, and how you illustrated the way you feel the grief aftereffects of infertility without necessarily regretting the experience. That’s where I think I forgot to go and what I need to write now.
September 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm
“Because of that, I will always continue to throw my support to those trying for #1 – because it’s a dark lonely place – and it’s hard to keep hope alive. But I don’t feel guilty. I did my time, and I’m doing it again, and my guilt won’t help these women get pregnant. It just won’t.”
Thanks for this – I really needed to hear it put this way!
September 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm
You bet – any time! Good luck to you, by the way 😉
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September 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm
Great blog post! So many different things to grieve with IF. I think the loss of hope, optimism and that “if I work hard I’ll get what I want” is the biggest loss with IF that I feel too. It took a part of me, that youth is gone and was replaced with “Sometimes, shit happens and it doesn’t make sense, but you carry on.” It’s a good life lesson, but I miss the girl who was so optimistic and looked at life that anything was achievable. that’s gone now.
best of luck to you this cycle!!!
September 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm
Yes, I lived my life thinking that if I want something bad enough, it will happen with hard work. IF took that away from me. It wasn’t my hard work that got us to where we are – it was luck. Many people work just as hard, or harder, than me and end up with no baby in the end. Plain dumb luck. I got lucky!
Thanks for the luck – and same to you 😉
September 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm
This is such a great post! I feel very similar, in many ways. I felt the same way about my first ivf – of course it was going to work! And when it didn’t, I was crushed. But now I have my Alex, and every step was worth it.
September 26, 2012 at 9:03 am
Reading your blog because I miss you so!! I love your candor, honesty, authenticity – its what makes you YOU!! You go girl 🙂 xoxox
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