Did you know it is National Infertility Awareness Week? I did. I was trying to ignore it. I am tired of defining myself as infertile. But since there are so many of us, I thought it more important to show solidarity. I personally suffer from secondary infertility. It can feel isolating and lonely. It’s made me feel broken. In my worst moments of despair I felt that I was a breeder of death. I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. So here is a link to the National Infertility Awareness website. And I’m re-posting the letter I wrote to the first baby I lost. I wrote it days after my D&C. In it I am painfully honest about my grief. But do not worry about me now, I am okay. I’m sharing it to let those who don’t understand get a glimpse into the silent pain the infertile carry in their hearts. And for anyone who may be reading this who is still deep in grief or fear, maybe it’ll help you release it too. Wishing everyone happiness and support.
Can I even call you that? That which you were, almost…an almost, yet with me for twelve weeks, shifting my body, my hormones, my moods, taking control of my stomach and twisting it with nausea, and swelling my breasts with tenderness and soreness so much so that they couldn’t be touched. Making my mind race, thinking how is this possible? How was getting pregnant so easy this time? How fantastic that we made love thinking about the possibility of you and you appeared the very first time?
And then the other thoughts, the vexing ones, the troubled and fear infused ones. How will I manage two small children? How will I lift Isabelle when I am round and full of you? How will I rearrange the room so both of you can share it? How many diapers will I have to change a day? How will this affect your father? How will you affect Isabelle? How lost will I become when you are born? How invisible will my individuality become as I morph into the mother of two? How bad will the post partum depression be this time? When will I get the chance to do something I enjoy again once you are born? How long will it take to find me again?
Ten weeks in and I already reorganized the closet in your room, kicked your father out of it so you could have the space. Now your closet is bright and empty waiting for you. I have cleared the shelves of dad’s suits, dry cleaned shirts, and size 13 shoes, made space for your clothes, your toys, your needs and smells to be held. I went and bought you your first outfit, a knit winter onesie. I know I bought it early, but I couldn’t resist the purple, white and light brown stripes and the purple pom pom on the top of the hood.
I imagined zipping you in it and taking you to the park on the corner with your sister, giving her time to play and on the yellow and blue teeter totter and climb across the red wood bridge while you and I snuggled. You’d be in my black and white sling around my chest, safe and warm and content.
I hid your outfit in my drawer of maternity clothes. I didn’t want anyone to know that I started getting things for you. It was too early, too soon to imagine how we might be. So I kept it a secret, and looked forward to stretching it around you, and imagined how it would be to unfold your tiny arms and legs and pull them through and see your small face pop up into that pom pommed hoody. I wondered if purple would even look good on you, but dismissed that as being silly.
Or perhaps you knew how much I already loved another and that I hadn’t quite fallen in love with you yet? Did you know I was shocked to realize you showed up? That I had just regained my body back a year after your sister was born and wasn’t so keen on giving it up to another again so soon. Did you know I paid less attention to you than your older sister than at the same embryonic stage?
I spoke to her every day while she was inside me. I sent her my love and my strength. When the doctor didn’t like how she was developing in the first few weeks I was worried. I told her, “Be a fighter. Fight, do you hear me, fight and be strong and stay.”
With you when the doctor told me to keep the pregnancy to myself I wasn’t worried. “This is how it was with Isabelle,” I said to your dad. “This is just how my body is.” I even convinced myself. So I didn’t tell you to fight or be strong, I let you be.
But at 8 weeks when we went back to the doctor and we saw your tiny embryonic self and saw the flitter of your tiny heart I was worried because even though I saw the hummingbird like flutter of your heart I couldn’t hear it. No one could hear it, not me, or your father or the doctor. He tried reaching it, tried amplifying the sound on the ultrasound machine but you were a silent movie. Tony our doctor said, “It could just be the position of the baby, but I’d like to see you in two more weeks.” That was unexpected. I got scared, but didn’t tell you to stay or fight.
I had faith in you because you were making me so sick. Morning sickness lasted all day and was worse at night. I could only eat baguettes and packaged cheese because they were all I could keep in my tortured stomach and all I could stand the smell of. I couldn’t go to the grocery store, all those terrible odors kicking at my gut. I wondered how they all could escape from the plastic surrounding them. I swore mean spirited elves punched holes in every package moments before I passed by.
At nine weeks before I fell asleep I placed my fingertips on my barely swollen uterus. I was checking in on you to see how you may be growing. I wanted to talk to you, tell you about the vision I had the week before I realized I was pregnant; the vision of me lying in the grassy plains as an Indian girl.
The vision came to me in yoga class. I was lying in shavasna and I was transported from my purple yoga mat to a grassy plain. Warm afternoon sun heated my body and the light green long stalks of grass swirled around me. I was peaceful and enjoying the shhing sounds the grass made and how the feathery seed filled tips tickled my hair. I was perfectly still and happy.
An old woman with long gray hair a deer skin dress and rough hands approached me. I knew she was an elder from my tribe. Her steps were quick yet small and she held in her arms a papoose. She smiled gently at me, like a mother does her child when she is amazed by a new skill, and laid the papoose on the left hand side of my body. Then I was back in yoga class.
I believed that was you baby all wrapped up in animal skin, safe and comfortable. I believed we had shared a lifetime together already and you were letting me know that. I felt the warmest sensation of love; I felt gentleness from you and a kindness from the old woman. I thought that vision meant we were going to be okay. But when I tired to conjure it up again a few weeks later I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel the love or the hope of you and I felt ashamed.
Ashamed that I was looking forward to being done with all the illness. Ashamed for not telling you I loved you. Ashamed for not telling you how excited I was because I was too scared to be excited just yet. Ashamed that I didn’t tell you to fight. Ashamed that I kept you a secret. Ashamed that I thought you were taking me away from Isabelle. Ashamed that it took me those ten weeks to be happy about you but you were gone.
You left me with your shell and no life. No heartbeat in that tenth week visit. Just your shelter, just your corporal crust shed like snakeskin, empty but proof that you were there. You left me without knowing, without saying goodbye, or bloodshed or cramps. You left me soulless on a doctor’s table with my feet in stirrups and an ultrasound machine’s condom covered wand inside of me searching for you. You left me feeling like a grave, a hole holding what remained. You left me to wait and see what my body would do next. I waited nearly two weeks before the doctor had to go back in and remove your remains forcibly.
I wonder did I disappoint you some how? Did you know that I loved another so much, were you worried I wouldn’t love you too? That I couldn’t? I worried about how all this love would affect me, wear me out, and make me older. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want you.
And now I am without you and I’m so sad. I’m sad for not enjoying you. I’m sad for not knowing you, or growing you, or giving birth to you, and loving you more when I could feel you against my skin; when I’d be sleep deprived and trying to nurse, when I’d resent your crying and neediness and want a moment of time to myself, a moment when I wouldn’t be needed or touched by another. Did you know that too? Or did you remember me from before, when we were Indians together? Had I left you that time? Did I abandon you to a motherless life?
What lesson are you teaching me my angel? What am I supposed to know or remember? Help me because I am now so lost without you. And I am so sorry if I disappointed you.
I know I haven’t cried, but I don’t want to cry in front of your sister. She gets so upset. I don’t want to hurt her too. And I have so few moments alone, so few moments to let it out, let out my grief. I tried drinking wine to numb me past the anger. I was so angry at myself, so mad that I didn’t do better. That I failed.
Then we were at a barbeque this weekend and Drew and Kerry told us that they are expecting their first child on December 5th and it crushed my heart. That was your due date, December 4th, that was to be our day, your birthday, and it’s theirs now and it hurt me because I couldn’t say, “Oh my G-d! Me too!” and be happy. No, I ran into the bathroom and began body sobbing, leaving your father and sister outside the door knocking. “Holly, let me in,” he said. And they hugged me but it wasn’t you. It wasn’t you and I love them for being wonderful and not being mad at me too, but why not? Why aren’t you? Why couldn’t you be yet?
I want you to know that if you decide you are ready to try again, to come back to us, that I am here. I love you before you begin and I will love you always,