Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I Held A New Baby Yesterday

Count this among small victories, even though I suspect I was trying to prove to myself that I'm amazingly okay (while I am okay, I am not quite THAT well adjusted that it didn't put me in a bit of a funk).

I went to visit my friend who was recently placed with the very last minute baby yesterday. I brought over two bags of gifts, one that was not wrapped in tissue paper that was stuff I had from before that I hadn't earmarked for someone else's eventual success, and one that was adorable books and a monster/alien onesie set for later, definitely wrapped in tissue paper and in the cuter bag. I also brought lunch over, because I figured they couldn't get out much since bringing their son home just over a week ago.

I knew that it was going to be hard, but I was also determined to not cry or need to leave. My friend was super sensitive, texting me every day to let me know that it was okay if I couldn't come, if it was too much, that even if I needed to cancel last minute it was okay, she got it.

I came in and immediately washed my hands. I got lots of kudos for that, because people don't always do that and he spent some time in the NICU and is really tiny, so that was lovely. I do all the right things, apparently. Lot of good it does me, but I'm glad it works well for everyone else's babies.

I ate my salad while I heard the story of how this tiny bean became theirs to parent, I focused a lot on that salad while that evil bitch in my head tried to push me into my dark pit by saying things like, "That could have been you" and "See? Wait long enough and it WILL happen." A part of the story is that it was between my friend and her husband and another couple, and both met the birth parents in person before the decision was made. How stressful that was, and how glorious it was when they were chosen, how unbelievable, how amazing.

As I held her baby, that tiny mini human who curled up in a little fetal ball on my chest and rested his tiny hedgehog-snuffling-noise-making head on my right boob, I felt so peaceful. I mean, I felt sad, too, because holding him as he slept and realizing I was making little rocking motions with my arms without even thinking about it, it just felt so freaking instinctual and also so very unfair that this is never, ever, going to be for me. That I will always be holding someone else's baby, never my own. But I don't ever want to stop holding babies. There was a part of me that when she said "do you want to hold him?" questioned whether it was a good idea, what with the timing of things and me being in a bit of a funk lately, but apparently my face said "HELL YEAH I want to hold that baby!" and honestly I really, really wanted that bundle of sweetness in my arms.

What helped me so much in not feeling bitter, in not beating myself up (too much) was imagining that other couple.

It might seem weird, because my friend is the one who was chosen, they are the ones who finally have this amazing happy moment. All the years of striving for this parenthood genesis have FINALLY come to blissful fruition in a surreal moment of "We choose you." It is easy to be like, "Wow, amazing, I can't imagine the crazy emotions of that moment when you realized you'd be a parent, for real!"

However, I can actually more easily imagine what it felt like to be the other couple, the runners up who did not get in their car wondering how they could install a car seat in it properly by the next day to pick up the baby. Who weren't driving home chatting a mile a minute about all the things they had to do to prepare, all the things they needed to assemble, how and when they were going to tell people this news. Maybe the ride to the agency was filled with those things, the What If dreams of those things, but only one couple got to leave full of the actual amazing anticipation of a tomorrow that would end the quest for parenthood. And it wasn't them. Their dreams died. I can imagine so clearly the trying not to cry as a social worker broke the news that someone else was chosen, that hopefully there'd be another profile opportunity soon. I can see the slow walk to the car, the sitting in a stunned silence until gasping, animal sobs escape and two people in the front become this many-armed figure of grief and comfort where there isn't much to be had. The drive back to a house that may or may not have had a nursery set up or things hastily gathered in a corner of a room, just in case...but that won't be used, not this time. The feeling of "What's wrong with US? Is this EVER going to happen?" and the devastation of a close call, so close that you can sort of imagine the child that could have been yours from the feature of his biological parents you just met but didn't click with enough to be chosen.

I can imagine what a situation like that would do to me, personally, and know that I didn't make a bad choice. I am not a "quitter." My situation is different from everyone else's, and so many factors go into all the ways things can go. As Bryce said later, that sort of situation would have undone me completely.

So I held that baby and tried so hard to be kind to myself.

It was interesting to see how people had already showered them with gifts, even just a week and a half in. People from the yoga class where we met had come to visit and brought handmade toys (a crocheted owl one stabbed me a bit) and every last one of them was successful. This friend was the last one still at it with me who I'd known throughout the journey, and now I am alone in leaving adoption, in ending this journey with a beautiful study instead of a nursery. Obviously these are two very different things, but I couldn't help but think about how lonely it was to have my breakdown, to hit my ENOUGH with such spectacular velocity that I was shattered goo on the floor, and how no one makes welcoming signs for that or showers you with prizes or says "Welcome to the club!" I mean, part of it is that having a baby is such a celebration, and finding yourself dangling from threads at the end of your rope is...uncomfortable, and messy, and very, very sad. It was lonely because I kept it that way, to some extent -- I was open here and had so much support from you lovely people, but I kept it super quiet otherwise while I was going through everything. There are lots of people who don't even know why we stopped, who might (maybe) wonder, "What HAPPENED?" I isolated myself in my grief and my loss and my anxiety and brokenness, and slowly let people in. Probably out of self-preservation to some extent. Almost in a parallel to expecting a baby and keeping your names a secret -- if you tell people before its final they have opinions, better to tell when the decision's been made. Which is why I didn't rip my bandaids off until our nursery was gone. It was irrevocable. Final. We had thought through everything clearly, and then acted so that it was decisive. No wavering here.

Apparently the yoga group has a facebook page for "Graduates." Apparently the person who runs it added my friend to the group and sort of announced her adoption on the Graduates page (which would have driven me crazy, because she didn't think she was going to do that and so didn't give express permission).

Let me tell you how I feel about this idea of "Yay, Graduates!" This was actually one of the parts of my unraveling in April. I eventually hid the facebook profile of the woman who runs the yoga because there was a photo shoot of a group of women who were the "recent graduates from fertility yoga" -- with something like, "They fought through hell together and so are uniquely prepared to be amazing mamas together!" This idea of "graduates" makes it seem like the logical next step in all this is a baby. And if you happen to not be successful, well, then I guess then you'd have to be a dropout. And that's what cycled in my head, my troubled Prednisone-marinated April head, over and over -- "DROPOUT DROPOUT FAILURE FAILURE!" I didn't make it to graduation. And it made me so mad, because I AM NOT ALONE HERE, and while this tactic may be great if you are successful, or if you are looking for a reason to do your 4th or 7th or 10th IVF cycle and just keep going and NEVER NEVER GIVE UP, I guess it would be inspirational, but for those of us who didn't make it to parenthood? It feels really awful. It feels like, "See? They did all the right things and they MADE IT and they're going to be GREAT MOMS because of it, because they STUCK WITH IT." It's like an avatar for the nasty voice in my head. So this idea that my friend has become a graduate at around the same time I flunked out, and that all these success stories just rally around and bask in the amazingness of it all...it got to me. Not in a way that makes me upset whatsoever with my friend, but in a way that makes me feel like I took a wrong turn somehow and I am being silently judged, or am a tragic yet slightly shameful sob story told in hushed tones while everyone is admiring each other's baby pictures. It reminded me so much of Mali's amazing "Infertility's Waiting Room" post, in the flesh...the surface parts. We all went through one of those doors, but I'm the only one who went through the door no one wants to speak of.

I know it's irrational, to a point. But it was painful. And I spent so much time making myself look okay, for them and myself. I did flinch when the whole Graduate thing was mentioned, because that bothers me so much, but otherwise it was looked fine. My arm smelled like baby for an hour. I drove home and a friend came to pick up a folding banquet table for her garage sale, and then when she was gone I sat and stared and then ate some buffalo cheese dip and those damn tears would not come.

So I went to my go-to "Make the rock cry" trigger -- I brought up the montage from UP on youtube and watched that super realistic portrayal of depression and grief after loss and then a readjustment, although one that didn't quite turn out the way they'd hoped. And then I started to cry when she stumbles up the hill and gets sick, because in my head I went in this dark spiral of "oh no, that's going to be me -- I did too many IVF cycles and I'm going to die of some related cancer before we get the chance to fulfill all our dreams and Bryce will be left alone and crabby and not wanting to deal with life anymore." WHAT. THE. HELL. So, the UP montage was probably ill-conceived. But I did cry a little bit, so it did its job.

Then I read and organized up in my study and I read a little bit of Living the Life Unexpected and I made a killer white chicken chili for dinner. So I occupied my thoughts with what I can do, rather than what is lost to me.

I think this is the balance I have to find...honoring the pain of the losses, the cumulative ball of grief yarn that has wound its way through our journey, but then finding a way to continue on, to pick myself up after I have a good cry and focus on something productive. To sit with my sadness, and then move towards something a little more positive than an oppressive pile of "could have beens." It's not. It won't ever be. And that's sad, but the "what ifs" can whirl until I'm hardly recognizable in the flurry of guilt and self-doubt...which isn't healthy.

I'm glad I visited my friend and her new family. I'm glad I held that sweet tiny baby. I'm glad I could be sad but not fall down the pit again. I'm so glad that I have this beautiful space to retreat to, to surround myself with beautiful things and cozy nooks to heal my bruised soul. And I'm so, so glad that I have you with me on this journey, that I'm not actually as alone as I feel sometimes.

24 comments:

  1. The graduation thing got me. Like full on balling my eyes out. Jess, you are not a dropout. Far from it. The fact you are being made to feel that way, even if unintentional, shows how far behind we are in society for not recognizing that resolving infertility without parenting still is something to celebrate. My vote is you've earned this honor.

    And you held a baby. Coming out of it without feeling completely destroyed. Wow. That's huge. Seriously. Huge.

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    1. Thank you, so so so so much. I hate the graduation thing. So much, mostly because I don't get "credit" like you sort of said for resolving my own way. My way is perceived as failure, as horror story, as "didn't try hard enough" at least to some, at least in some piece of perception. It sucks because that's the message you get from a lot of fertility-related services, and it isn't fair to those of us who resolve this way, or who are in the difficult position of making the decisions of what to do next, how best to live life moving forward.

      It was kind of huge, wasn't it? I am pretty damn proud of that moment with that tiny baby. My cats don't smell quite as good when I hold them, all squirmy and stuff... :)

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  2. I am really proud of you, Jess. I mean, you are just crushing the whole "I can do hard things" bit. And you come out of it still somehow able to be so reflective, and I am just in awe. Truly.
    That wasn't easy, and you are a true friend. And I can understand your need to hold the baby, of always wanting to be able to hold the babies. And goodness, no, you are NEVER ALONE!!! Never, ever. Wrapping you in a lot of love tonight.

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    1. Thank you so much, Charlotte -- I really appreciate your kind words. I totally cried with your emphatic YOU ARE NEVER ALONE! Thank you. I felt that love wrap.

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  3. You are a rock star. I avoided babies like the plague after the loss of my daughter -- until about nine months later, our neighbours brought home their new baby girl, and I took over a little gift for her and held her. It was very important to me that it be MY choice as to when & where & what baby I held -- and to do it privately, away from prying eyes. It was hard to do but I was glad to get that hurdle over with. We knew the neighbours, and I knew that this little girl and our Katie would likely have been friends (and it was hard watching her grow up over the years we lived there) -- but it wasn't quite the same as a relative or coworker's baby, with lots of relatives or coworkers standing awkwardly around and all eyes on me. No thank you!!

    And leave it to you to remember the other couple, the one that wasn't chosen, and think about how they must be feeling. <3

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    1. Oh, that must have been so, so hard. Definitely a hurdle, a big one. I'm with you -- do it in someone's living room, in private where you can be yourself if you find yourself oozing a bit... not in front of people at work or at a family event. I feel not entirely magnanimous in my thoughts about the other couple, as it was making me feel better that it wasn't me going through that part of things, but I suppose the empathy is what counts. The intensity of that two day period must have been just awful for that couple. Thanks for the love, lady!

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  4. OMG, you showed up to see the newly adopted baby with gifts, lunch, AND washed your hands. You are not a failure or a dropout, you are a STAR. I don't know why you had to suffer so much with infertility treatments and adoption process. It's just awful. Many people experience two or three aspects of awfulness; I feel like you went through ALL of them. You know what isn't awful, what's bloody amazing, is a human being who keeps doing the kind and compassionate thing no matter what. I respect all the complex painful emotions you describe so well here. But when I read this, I see a winner; I see a shining light. Tell that to your nasty little voice.

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    1. Thank you so much, you have made me feel so much better! Here I was thinking "oh no, everyone's going to think this is a sad sap post, boo hoo hoo Jess" but I am SO GLAD it's not. It's so hard not to feel like a failure in that context, but I am so grateful that I am not seen that way, and that I can turn that shit around in my head now that I am not quite so fraught with everything. I can hear you telling off my nasty little voice! :) And yeah...by the end I felt a little like Job or something. Like Lieutenant Dan tied to the mast of the ship in the storm, WHAT NOW??? I'll never understand why this was so hard and ended not in the way we'd hoped, but I can do my best to figure out how to move forward in the best ways possible. It's been such a crapfest with every single step, so few moments of light and hope that we might be done soon. Thank you so much for your love and cheerleading!

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    2. Torthuil took the words out of my mouth (or really my fingertips). Even in your sadness, you were able to bring gifts and think about making others happy. That is amazing. Seriously.

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  5. Wow. I'm not sure I would have been visiting the baby so soon. Well done. I loved that you finished this by talking about honouring your losses. In doing that, you're honouring yourself, your poor wounded heart, and helping it heal. Good for you.

    Oh, and that Graduates thing? How extraordinarily unkind to all the women who haven't been included. Ugh. And how very myopic. After all, if anyone has graduated through pain and hard work and effort and achievement, it's been you. Not through good fortune, but through sheer hard work and understanding and knowledge and insight. You're going through that door that no-one wants to acknowledge, but you're going to round that corner and find the beauty of it soon enough. And we're here with you.

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    1. Thank you so much. It helps so much to have you and others out there who get it, who've felt these feels, who are proof that it gets better. I think for me, seeing the baby sooner than later was important because the reality would be better than stewing in my head and I didn't want to feel any resentment. I feel like the timing is just cruel but not anyone's doing, just a big cosmic eff you, but I wanted to be able to share their joy (and then go home and cry). And yeah, the graduates thing is really irritating. I guess it goes with the marketing and everything though -- everyone wants to see the success stories, no one wants to admit that sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Thank you for considering me a graduate... :)

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  6. I just have to say to all of you that who needs UP when you have such touching comments from friends? I totally bawled my eyes out last night reading these comments and reading the post and comments to Bryce. It was super cathartic, and I am SO DAMN LUCKY to have you as my beautiful friends.

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  7. Late to the party but sentiments the same as have been expressed. You are so brave, so strong, so caring. Winner, winner, white chili dinner!

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    1. Thank you so much! Mmmm, that white chili was so good and soothed the battered soul. Thanks, lady.

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  8. Your UP scene is SO something I would do. I think this is why I really resonate with you and your blog -- you make me laugh about my neuroses (we get credit for at least being aware of them, right?).

    I join the others in being so proud of you for facing this really tough thing with such mindfulness and compassion.

    The problem with people using "Graduate" and "Dropout" as metaphors for the finish line of parenting is that in school, hard work can get you across the line. Not so in family building, where you can't study or research your way out. Sometimes it just comes down to a big ole dose of luck.

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    1. Ha! Absolutely, embrace those neuroses. Too funny. It works every time. :)

      Thank you so much. And I love, love, love what you said about luck versus work. Even if you're pushing yourself with treatments and everything, it really is interesting that good fortune is the main indicator of success. I worked really hard but just didn't have whatever mojo was the secret sauce. Just love that last paragraph. Mwah.

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  9. All I can do is echo what everyone else has said already: wow. Your generosity, kindness, and strength in going to see that baby (and bringing gifts, and lunch, and washing your hands) is nothing short of extraordinary.

    The graduation thing sounds really painful. It's completely unfair to acclaim only the one path - knowing your own limits and having the strength to say "enough" should be honored just as much.

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    1. Thank you. It didn't feel all that spectacular, and I was thinking this was going to be a sad post, but apparently not! Which makes me feel better, actually. A shift in perspective. I'm not a sad sap, I'm a superhero of sorts! Har de har har har. Yes. I think the Enoughs should get the props as well. More than one path should be honored. Thank you so much!

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  10. Yes I can totally see how the "graduation" comments can be really hurtful for those left behind :( I think I remember a post on lifewithoutbaby about the idea of throwing a "moving on party" which I found interesting! I hope that you could be a part of your friend's kids lives still (if that's what you would like of course). I know it's absolutely not the same thing as having your own and I don't want the suggestion to come across the wrong way. It's just you have so much to offer and I can imagine children having a special relationship with you and Bryce. In the middle of our IVF journey we went on holidays with friends and their daughter and it was really sweet to spend time with her. I still used to enjoy holding babies too even though it was also hard. Thinking of you.

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    1. I LOVE the idea of a "moving on party!" That sounds awesome. Like an un-baby-shower, a celebration of the life to come. I do have friends with kids that I can enjoy, and that is fun for me, but when I'm raw it's also so, so hard to see the life that won't ever be for me. But the joy in those little goofy creatures is so worth it! We actually are thinking about planning a vacation with my best friend and her husband and kids, not this year clearly but in the future. That is a great idea. It was strange to me to find that a lot of people who write books about life after becoming childfree not by choice actually volunteer in hospitals holding babies. That seems like a special hell right now, but maybe in the future it would be a good way to use that energy. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  11. You are an incredible writer. You have such a gift for words. The graduation piece gutted me, like others have also said. We still have so much to do when it comes to infertility education, especially when we don't get our babies. I have a friend, and long time infertile who has two kids through IVF and is always telling people to never give up. That it will happen if they make it happen. It was always so much to try to live up to. Anyway, keep writing here. You touch more lives than you probably realize.

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  12. Oh, Jess, I have been slowly and surely making my way through your past posts, heartbroken for you. I am so sorry I have been MIA and was not there to reach out to your during this difficult stage. I am amazed that you are doing so well, despite everything. You may be on the floor occasionally. So what? If that's where you need to be, so be it. But you do get up and do everything you can to get back up and move forward. The universe is indeed testing you about your decision. No doubt about it. That will continue to happen and it will continue to hurt until the day it stings a little bit less. The first time I saw UP, tears came down my face, as I knew exactly how they felt. The graduate thing - ugh. Delete. I think the hardest part about infertility and even the adoption process was it made me feel so undeserving, so punished, having to endure so many physical trials, so much stress to my marriage, my very sense of who I was.I will chant to send strength to you and know that I support you...even on the floor.

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  13. Heartfelt hugs your way, Jess. Super proud of you for visiting your friend and newly adopted infant. And you did so in a way that was focused on the child and family through your actions and mindfulness. Sorry to hear about the graduates group. Sounds like a sucker punch. Sometimes the unintended hurt can hurt more, especially when you are feeling it alone and in the silence. It sucks to be going through something awful and to have limited support. Glad you feel the support here. However, it is not the same as in real life. I think with all that you have been through, you have a good framework for moving forward. Your second to last paragraph has some good pointers for how to get through those bumps in the road. Hopefully, your journey may include a nice smooth stretch for a bit.

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