Category Archives: 2.0 Pregnancy

Closing doors

I found out earlier this week that my application for a post-doc was rejected.

I wasn’t really surprised by this. The competition for funding is incredibly fierce (this year’s competition had a 23% success rate) and the vast majority of awards tend to go to individuals who already have the PhD in hand at the time they apply.

I put an application in, even though I was nowhere near defending back in October, because every now and then the committee awards a fellowship to someone who wasn’t yet finished at the time applications were due.

It was always going to be a long shot, but I took a punt on it anyway, because the only thing I knew for certain was I wouldn’t get a post-doc if I didn’t apply.

I’m not really sure how I feel about missing out on it.

To a certain extent what I mostly feel is relief.

I’m not entirely sure I wanted to do a post-doc.

I know that I don’t want to be a tenure-stream academic.

I’ve watched Q., who’s been a professor now for eleven years. I’ve seen first-hand what he’s had to sacrifice to make it work. I want to kill anyone who complains that professors “only teach twelve hours a week and get four months off in the summer”.

Despite getting tenure three years ago, despite publishing his book two and half years ago, Q. still works evenings, still works weekends, still works hard enough that I worry he will make himself sick in the not-so-distant future. I don’t joke about heart attacks at forty.  I have nightmares about them.

It became rapidly apparent to me after we had E. (right at the same time that Q. was officially tenured) that there was no room in our household for a second career that was going to demand as much as Q’s does. No room at all, unless we were willing to cede most of the raising of our son to others.

That’s a deal breaker for me, and for Q. as well.

And there’s never been a question as to whose career will play second fiddle. We knew from the moment we made the decision that I would apply for the PhD that whatever career would result from that decision had to fit around Q’s.

I can’t move to take up a tenure-stream position, if one were to become available in my field (a BIG if these days given the current state of affairs).

I can’t move to take up a post-doctoral fellowship, or a three-year contract, both of which would keep me on the right track to be competitive for a tenure-stream position.

Academia has a term for people like me: we’re called “trailing spouses”.

I expect I’ll end up teaching bits and pieces, always as a sessional, always hearing at the last minute, hopefully mostly at the two universities in my city, but there are others that are close enough to make it feasible to teach there as well. I will be badly paid, and not at all paid in the summer months if I’m not teaching.

And honestly, I don’t really mind all that much.

Having E. fundamentally altered the way I felt about my PhD and my future career. I WANT to be able to be there when he gets home from school. I WANT to have the flexibility to spend the summers with him. I WANT to be able to put him first.

I am incredibly privileged.  I can look at the future and embrace the uncertainty of contract teaching, because Q.’s position, as a tenured associate professor, is probably one of the most secure jobs that exists. He makes a good wage. It doesn’t go as far as we would like in our big expensive city, but we will never worry about how to keep the roof over our heads, or how to keep food on the table, even if I have a semester where there isn’t any teaching on offer.

And the truth of the matter is, I’m not cut out to be a tenure-stream academic.

I have an almost paralyzing fear of failure and an inner critic the size of King Kong. I could be a textbook’s example of imposter syndrome. The thought of having to send my work out to be reviewed and, gasp, published, fills me with anxiety to the point where I fear I might vomit.

I could be taught to get over this. All academics have to learn to culture a little bit of arrogance, just enough to get over the fear (too much arrogance, however, means you become a pretentious asshole, and I’ve met my share of those).

I could get over my fear. But, to be honest, I don’t love research enough to be really good at it. I like the idea of research. I like coming up with ideas and reading lots of things. I even (sometimes) like writing about my ideas. But I fall apart at the endgame (something which I had already known before writing the dissertation but which has become ever more clear to me over the last few months). When it comes to that final ten percent, the point where in order to really get that article finished you have to read the book written by that German scholar in 1880 to add one more footnote to tie up all your loose ends, I just can’t be bothered. There are so many other things I’d rather be doing.

I do love teaching. And I have enough arrogance to know that I am very good at it. It’s not at all, therefore, a bad thing that I know now that I will be spending next year cobbling together bits and pieces, trying on for size the job of “sessional worker”, “contract lecturer”, “adjunct professor”.

Assuming, of course, that there are bits and pieces for me to teach.

And here we come to the one thing that really disappointed me when I opened my letter and discovered there would be no postdoctoral fellowship for me.

It was a guaranteed income for the next two years.

The year before I started the PhD I taught, as a sessional, at my university. I enjoyed it so much it spurred me into deciding to go back to school myself. But it was always a gamble. Sessional work at my university is based around a convoluted system of seniority where having a PhD does get you ranked more highly than someone without it, but not by much. Had I stayed a sessional, I would have had six more years of experience now. The job market is much worse than it was when I applied to do the PhD. There are many more people in my field floating around my city, underemployed. Most of them rely on the contract teaching to make ends meet. Some of them are the primary wage earners for their families. They don’t have the luxuries I do.

I don’t regret applying to do the PhD. I’ve done very well with government funding. For three years in particular I made a very good wage, one that made it possible to persevere until we were blessed with E. without causing much financial hardship. I couldn’t have spent as much time at home with E. as I did if I had been a sessional.

But, now that we are in the endgame, I look at September and I worry. I wonder if we have made a giant miscalculation. I wonder if there will be any teaching for me.

I don’t dwell on it. There’s no point. We won’t know the true state of things until the autumn semester starts.

But one thought did flit through my mind when I opened that letter.

That post-doc would have meant another IVF cycle.

I’ve been moving the goalposts, you see.

I can’t remember when I first realized my feelings had changed, but I think it was within a day or two of that last appointment.

We had said we were done.

We had said this was going to be our last retrieval.

I wanted a 2.0, or I wanted closure.

I didn’t get either of these.

If this cycle had been a clear negative, a bright white BFN, then when (I can’t even bring myself to say if) that last FET failed this coming summer, we would have had no difficulty in walking away. That would have been five blastocysts. Five blasts and nothing to show for it would have been enough.

But it wasn’t a negative.

We got SO close.

Both of the embryos implanted. They just didn’t turn into babies.

So for a number of days now my overriding thought process has been about the possibility of one more fresh cycle, after the dissertation has been defended, sometime in the fall or early winter.

I know part of this is an instinctive means of self-protection. If I’m thinking about another cycle, I don’t have to think about this cycle and what its failure might mean. I don’t have to face up to the reality that this miscarriage, in all likelihood, marks the end of our dreams of a family of four.

But I also recognize that this cycle didn’t produce a result I was expecting. It teased me. It let me get so close, but not close enough.

Two long protocol IVF cycle with transfers of two fresh blasts.

One baby.

Two miscarriages.

Maybe the third time will be the charm?

I haven’t discussed any of this with Q.

There’s no point, really. Not until we know what I’m doing next year.

When we first started trying for a baby, Q. and I agreed that we would not go into debt to cover fertility treatments.

We’ve stuck to that. We’ve dropped close to $30,000 of our own money (and easily that again on medications which, thankfully, Q.’s insurance covers) on family building. We only have one child to show for it, but we never went into debt. We went without a lot of other things.

I don’t hold a major scholarship anymore.

If I don’t get enough contract teaching, we can’t do another round of IVF.

We gambled.

Now we have to wait to see if our gamble paid off.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, A matter of faith, Anxiety Overload, Grief, Loss, Money Matters, Second Thoughts

Shattered

Back in the summer, when I was in the middle of a crisis of confidence with my PhD dissertation (which, if I’m being honest, hasn’t really ended, but I’m at the stage now where I have to just get over myself and finish the damn thing), I spent a lot of time blogging about how conflicted I was feeling about going back to the clinic and starting to try for a 2.0.

At the time, I wrote this:

And so my reticence about going back to the clinic is not just about whether or not we are truly ready for a 2.0 (because I know we can’t ever really be ready in the same way one can never really be ready for a first baby- you just have to go ahead and have one and cope with what comes), or about how we will balance two children and two academic careers, or about how E. will adjust to being a big brother.

What it’s really about is I’m opening myself up to failure again, and, what’s worse, opening myself up to failing at something at which I’ve already passed.

It’s as though failing to have a 2.0 would not only be a failure in its own right, but it would also colour/darken the triumph that is E.

I wouldn’t have really passed infertility after all. I would have somehow squeaked through the first time without the gods noticing, but my greed at trying again would ultimately catch me out. As though the universe would take back my shiny certificate I earned with E.’s birth and rip it up, shaking its head. “You didn’t really pass, Turia,” the universe would say. “You bought yourself some time for a while. But in the end you’ve failed.”

That was what I was the most afraid of.

It’s happening.

I really believed after we had E. that we had FIXED things. Yes, it took 35 months, and IUIs and IVFs and FETs, and there were many, many heartbreaking BFNs before we got there, but when we did a long protocol IVF and transferred blastocysts, it WORKED.

I got pregnant.

I gave birth to a live, healthy baby.

And I honestly believed the second time around would be easier.

Because we KNEW now, or so I thought, what we had to do.

We knew what my body needed.

I absolutely believed that one of the two blastocysts that had been frozen and waiting for us at the clinic for three years was going to be E’s younger sibling.

They were from the same cycle, you see.

The cycle that WORKED.

When both FETs failed this fall, it really shook my confidence. But Q. and I talked about it, and we agreed that it hadn’t been exactly the same.

E. was the product of a fresh cycle.

So we waded in again.

We did exactly the same thing we did to get E.: a long protocol IVF with a five day transfer of two blasts.

And it WORKED.

We felt vindicated. We’d been RIGHT. We knew what my body needed.

And then I had an ultrasound where I learned that there wasn’t going to be a baby in September and my whole world came crashing down.

I don’t know anything anymore.

I don’t know if this loss was a fluke, if we were so unlucky as to have that blastocyst grow into a baby who was never meant to be.

Worse, I don’t know if E. was a fluke, if somehow he squeaked through unnoticed, but there’s something hitherto unrecognized in my body that will cause me to kill any future babies should I be so foolish as to try to keep growing them.

All I know is any confidence I had in myself, in my body’s ability to nurture and carry a baby, has been shattered, possibly irrevocably.

I was GOOD at being pregnant, you see.

I had almost no complications with E.

I carried him to thirty-nine weeks and four days.

I still felt good in the last week of my pregnancy.

I looked freakin’ amazing pregnant.

I had a fast, unmedicated labour and delivery, with very few physical repercussions.

I was able to successfully breastfeed my son, even through the MSPI issues and his later rejection of all day feeds, for thirteen months.

I was NORMAL.

I’d held on to that, all through the summer while I wrestled with my emotions, all through the fall and the FETs, all through December and the IVF grind, all through January and February, until I wasn’t allowed to believe it any longer.

All right, I told myself, I suck at getting pregnant. But that’s the hard part. I have a perfect track record with being pregnant.

One for one.

Now it’s one for three.

I didn’t blog much about the embryo that never got further than the gestational sac.

I thought about it, a lot actually, but I never wrote much down.

But if it had been the only embryo that implanted, I would have counted it as a loss.

I would have had a positive beta.

The numbers might not have doubled properly.

I might have known before that first ultrasound that things weren’t going to turn out well.

But I would have been pregnant.

It would have been a loss.

I thought about that, after the first ultrasound, but I didn’t say much to anyone else.

I had the other baby to concentrate on.

“The good baby” is what the ultrasound tech called it at that first appointment.

Except it wasn’t a good baby either, in the end.

The day after it happened my father called me. I tried to explain to him how I was feeling, how I could cope with E. being an only child but that if that was how it was going to turn out, I wished so much that we had never even tried to further expand our family, that we had been content with him as an only, that we had saved ourselves this pain and heartbreak.

“Well, Turia,” said my father, “surely it’s better to have actually tried. Everyone fails at something in their life, and you’ve done really well up until now.”

He’s right. I haven’t failed at very much before now.

But he doesn’t get it either.

There is a great gaping chasm between failing at something because I haven’t worked hard enough, or haven’t done enough research, or haven’t put enough thought into it, and failing at something when I have done everything in my power to make it work, have altered my life for months on end to give it a chance to work, have wished with all my heart that it would work, and, worst of all, have failed at it when it has already worked once before.

I thought I knew things.

I don’t know anything anymore.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, A matter of faith, Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Loss, MSPI, Nursing, PhD, Pregnancy, Second Thoughts, Siblings

Future Imperfect

I am burying it, as deep as it can go.

I am shying away from conversations with people who know, because I don’t want them to ask how I am doing. I don’t want to be reminded of what has happened.

It’s when I’m reminded that I start to cry again.

The only place I’ll allow myself to engage with what happened is here.

Here I feel safe.

Here I can work through my emotions without interruption, in my own time, when I am ready.

I know I should probably be trying to process what has happened. I know it is not healthy to bottle things up inside.

My jaw is already sore because I’ve started unconsciously clenching it again.

I am so quick to anger these days.

I have so little patience for E., my most beloved son, when he gets silly or defiant and pushes my buttons.

I should be letting myself grieve, letting myself cry, letting myself do what I need to accept it, and, in time, heal.

I’m not ready.

The problem is it’s not just about this baby.

If it were just about this baby, this loss, I could stand to think about it, to confront it rather than hide it down deep, as far as it can go.

I’m not ready to engage with what I’m afraid this loss means.

A friend who had a miscarriage before she had her second son sent me an email where she told me that she knew how awful it was to have to replan a year when you hadn’t wanted to change the plan at all.

I feel like I’m not just having to replan the next year, but replan my whole life.

I’m so afraid that this loss marks the end of any chance we had at becoming a family of four.

I know, I know- we have one frozen embryo- a blast- waiting for us at the clinic.

I don’t know what grade the embryo is, and it probably seems premature to discount it.

FETs don’t work for me though.

Fresh transfers?

Three out of four blasts implanted (the two Day 3 embryos we transferred with that very first IUI/IVF conversion cycle in May 2009 I’m discounting because my thyroid was too high. They never had a chance.), although, of course, only one of them ever turned into a baby.

FETs?

Zero for six.

And two of them, in two separate transfers, were exactly like this frozen embryo: a blastocyst that hadn’t quite made it to blast status by the time of the transfer, and was frozen on Day 6.

Late bloomers.

Late bloomers that did nothing in my womb.

I can’t see how this one is going to be any different.

And so, while it’s true that this loss does not, in itself, mark the END of our attempts to expand our family, I am so very afraid it marks the end of our hopes that we might succeed.

We’ll transfer that last embryo.

Of course we will. We won’t leave it alone in the dark.

Probably in the summer. We’ve reverted to our original plan to go and visit Q.’s family in the middle of the year, so we won’t start anything at the clinic until after we’ve returned.

But after that? When it fails? (I can’t even bring myself to write ‘If’ because of course it will fail. FETs fail with me. It’s what they do.)

I don’t want to look at what comes next.

By the time we are through with that final FET, we will have spent as much of our own money (or possibly even a bit more- I’ve lost count) on failed efforts to bring home a 2.0 as we did trying to bring home our first baby.

In December, Q. and I agreed that this would be our LAST.RETRIEVAL.EVER.

When we found out that only one embryo was frozen, and we’d had another terrible attrition rate (70%), I freaked out.

All I could think about was: one more chance.

Everyone told me to let go of the anxiety about the future, to concentrate on the current cycle.

I did.

Yet here we are again.

One more chance.

And not even one I believe in.

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Filed under 2.0 IVF, 2.0 Pregnancy, Anxiety Overload, Grief, Loss, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, Thyroid

Little pitchers have big ears

Maybe we shouldn’t have told E.

He has been confused.

Puzzled.

Questioning.

He talks less about the baby now, but we have yet to have had a day where he doesn’t mention it, doesn’t ask me to “explain again why there isn’t going to be a baby in September anymore”.

But.

We have been going through a very very difficult time with E. over the last few months. I haven’t written much about it on here, because it has just been so hard.

E. completely rejected his father.

He would order his father to go back out of the house as soon as Q. got in from work.

He would shriek “No, no, no!” if Q. asked him a question, but answer it without any fuss if I asked.

He would Lose.His.Mind. if Q. tried to do anything for him if I was in the house.

If he woke up- from a nap, in the middle of the night, in the morning- and Q. went in instead of me, E. would immediately become hysterical, screaming for his father to get out of his room.

Some nights he wouldn’t even kiss him good night before I took him up to bed.

And don’t even talk to me about bedtime.

I posted about it on my birth club, and with my infertility friends, and the general consensus was that we just had to push on through and teach E. that he couldn’t always expect Mummy to do everything.

But then it got so bad that bedtimes, if Q. was doing them, were a fifty minute (or longer) ordeal with E. screaming his head off and fighting his father, every single step of the way, to the point that I would be sobbing downstairs listening to them.

We tried sharing the bedtime, where I did bath and pjs and then Q. did stories, songs and goodnight, but it wasn’t any better. E. would be fine with me, and then lose his shit as soon as Q. took over.

E. was so frantic, so miserable, so hysterical, that Q. and I talked about it and decided to just go with it. He obviously needed something, and he needed it from me. And it was breaking Q.’s heart every single time he tried to do something with E. and E. rejected him.

The fighting at bedtime was damaging their relationship.

So we stopped pushing E., and I took over and did almost everything E.-related from mid-December onwards.

It started in the fall, so we originally thought it was related to the disruptions from moving back. Then we thought it might be related to E. starting at nursery school- that he was clinging even harder to me on days when I was around because of the days where he was away from me.

We figured it was, like everything, a phase. A truly horrible phase, to be sure, but a phase nonetheless. One that would end eventually.

Here’s the thing: from the moment we told E. about the pregnancy, his attitude towards his father began to thaw. And this past weekend, it was like the last few months never happened.

Thursday night, after it happened, Q. put E. to bed while I lay on the couch downstairs.

E. didn’t fuss about this at all.

When he woke up (after a huge sleep) on Saturday, he called out, “Mummy, Daddy, Mummy, Daddy, Mummy, Daddy. I’m ready to get up  now.”

Q. went to get him.

E. gave him a big smile.

Yesterday, Q. and E. spent a happy hour and a half building paper airplanes and flying them around the kitchen and building paper boats and sailing them in the bathtub while I lay on the couch and read.

E. now interrupts our  nightly routine of two rounds of Sleeping Bunnies at least three times a night to run and kiss Q., who is in the kitchen doing the dishes.

This is a complete reversal of how he was behaving all through the fall, and especially in December, when things got so much worse.

It might be coincidence.

It could be that it was just something developmental and he’s worked his way through it, in the same way as he’s suddenly started using “I” and “me” to refer to himself rather than “you”.

But, in retrospect, it’s entirely possible that his rejection of his father stemmed from displacement anxiety about my frequent visits to the doctor. This especially makes sense with how much worse it got in December, when he wasn’t in nursery school most of the time, and when Q. was around more often too. It should have got better in December, not worse.

Except we did the IVF in December.

If, if I am right, and his rejection of his father was tied to his fears about why I was at the doctor so often, telling him about the pregnancy- giving him a reason, a good reason, for me being at the doctor- was the best thing we could have done.

And that makes it worth the untelling.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, 2.0 Pregnancy, E.- the third year, Grief, Loss, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Finding the better moments

There are good moments too.

***

My May 2011 birth club has sent us food. Package after package of frozen meals, made by a chef. Because they love me said the card. Not a small number of them have lost babies too. They know how hard we worked for this baby. Q. took the gift in the generosity of spirit with which it was meant, and did not view it as an insult to his ability to look after me. (Another friend wanted to bring us dinner, the day after it happened. I asked her not to. Q. needed to be able to do something. Cooking gave him something to focus on. Before E. was born, I remember my sister turning up at my house and saying, “I’ve just read one of those ‘top ten things to do for a new mother’ articles. Q. would kill me if I turned up and started cleaning your bathroom or cooking dinner! He’d be so offended!”)

“This all looks really good,” said Q., perusing the packages in our freezer.

***

A friend picked up my M coat so she could take it back to the store, so I wouldn’t have to.

The store agreed to accept the return, against their usual policy.

***

My sister and her fiance sent us flowers, just to say that they were thinking about us. She keeps wanting to call, but I shy away from the phone right now, will not speak on it unless cornered. When I keep silent, when I keep to myself, I can control it.

The flowers were in a red vase.

E. is deeply pleased by this.

***

My father called, the night after it had happened.

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” he said. “I felt I didn’t have much to say when you called last night. I was just in too much shock.”

He and my mother lost a baby, early in the second trimester, after I was born but before my sisters.

My mother has told me this, many times.

I can’t remember my father ever mentioning it before Friday night.

***

Q. and I went for lunch on Friday.

Not because it was Valentine’s Day.

I should have been teaching. I shouldn’t have been available for lunch.

We ate and talked.

We didn’t forget.

But it wasn’t omnipresent.

***

We discovered an ice slide when we went to our farmers’ market on Saturday.

E. shrieked with laughter as he went down.

Shrieked with laughter as he tried to get off the ice at the bottom.

Shrieked with laughter as he ran up the hill.

Shrieked with laughter as he got back into position to do it all over again.

***

“Q., I need to ask you a question. I’m reading this book and the husband is starting to become a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, partly because he doesn’t know what her blood type is. I don’t think I know what your blood type is.”

“I don’t think I know what my blood type is.”

He thinks it might be O something, says it’s something very common.

“I’m A positive.”

“My A plus bunny.”

***

We take E. to the pub for lunch, so we can watch the hockey game.

When we planned this, well over a week ago, I said to Q. that if we got through the first period we’d be lucky.

We stayed for the entire game, including the two minutes of overtime that were needed before the right team won.

E. was interested in the hockey for the first two periods and then played with his trucks and read his books when he got bored. During the commercials he asked me what each one was for. Sometimes it took me the entire commercial before I knew.

We’ve never had a restaurant meal that easy.

It was actually fun.

***

We are lying in the darkness, two spoons in the bed, idly discussing the last episode of the latest season of one of our favourite shows. We watched the download that night. There was pregnancy, but it wasn’t central. I could cope.

“Night night!” I say, in perfect imitation of the sing-song cadence of the show’s master villain, the one we were supposed to think is dead, the one who clearly isn’t.

And Q. laughs. Laughs and laughs and laughs. I laugh with him, and for a moment we are both free of it.

***

I can’t be sad all the time.

But I don’t know when happiness will be anything but fleeting.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Family, Friends, Grief, Loss

The Unmaking

Here is what you do.

You take all of your maternity clothes out of your closet. You wash the ones you wore that week. You put them back into the suitcase in your basement storage room. You expect they will be musty again by the time you next get them back out. If you get them back out. Your regular jeans still fit. A small kindness.

You fill out a new form and write new cheques for E.’s registration for nursery school. You go to hand it in. “Q. tells me your work schedule changed suddenly,” the admin assistant says brightly. She looks at your new requests. “You’re working more then. Is that something you’re excited about?”
You burst into tears.

You call your midwife. Or, to be more accurate, you call the number for the midwife collective, on the weekend, when you know no one will answer, so you can just leave a message cancelling the appointment you were supposed to have this coming Wednesday, so you don’t have to say to anyone but a machine that you’ve lost the pregnancy.

You take the ultrasound pictures out of your agenda where you have been keeping them (collecting them, adding one with every new scan) and tuck them away in the filing cabinet, along with the picture E. drew for you on Thursday afternoon to help you feel better.

You ask a friend, one of so very many who has asked if there is anything they can do to help, to take your M coat back to the store. The store normally does exchanges or store credit only for items that were on sale, but you emailed and explained the situation and they are being kind (so kind) and will absolutely refund the money. You don’t want to keep it in the house ‘just in case’. You can’t stand to look at it. The basement is filled with baby things that you have kept for close to three years ‘just in case’. They weren’t supposed to be ‘just in case’ any longer. They were supposed to be ‘in September’.

You email your supervisor. He didn’t know you were pregnant but you tell him the truth. Your work has been so badly disrupted over the last few months that you cannot stand him not knowing, not understanding why you have gone from being months ahead of any expected timeline to being dangerously close to falling behind.

You reread books about great racehorses when you wake up at 4 a.m. and cannot fall back asleep (because you cannot fall back asleep, not any more. You wake up, and then you remember, and then you cannot fall back asleep because you cannot unremember it.) Seabiscuit. Secretariat. Ruffian. You are running out of options because you already read most of your comfort books, the ones you will gladly read over and over again because they are beloved friends, during the first couple weeks of the pregnancy, or during the IVF, or during the FETs. You are wary of reading anything new because every time you try (Gone Girl, Life After Life), you are ambushed by an unexpected pregnancy, or miscarriage, or stillbirth. You certainly cannot face the third volume of Call the Midwife, although you enjoyed the first two. It is surprisingly difficult to find a good book that is not going to ambush you with some sort of story about babies.

You have stopped crying, for the most part.

Most of the time you don’t feel anything at all.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Grief, Loss, Midwives, PhD

The Untelling

“E., I need you to listen to me.”

E. nodded, looked into my eyes.

“You know how we told you that there was going to be a baby?”

E. nodded again.

“We were wrong. There isn’t going to be a baby anymore.”

E. thought for a moment. “You want Mummy to tell me why there isn’t going to be a baby anymore.”

I took a deep breath. “Sometimes it happens, E. Sometimes we think there’s going to be a baby, but there isn’t.”

***

I’m lying on the couch, under the blanket that my grandmother made for me before I went to university. It is the afternoon after it happened. Q. is making dinner that no one will want to eat.

E. comes trundling into the room.

“I want to yie down wif Mummy.”

He climbs up on the couch, curls up under the blanket, next to me.

“That makes me feel better,” I tell him. “Mummy is feeling very sick right now and very sad.”

E. thinks for a moment. “I will go and get a Kleenex so Mummy can wipe her tears.”

***

I called my parents.

I chickened out with my sisters and emailed them instead.

I couldn’t face four phone calls.

I couldn’t cope with Skype.

***

I told my birth club.

I told my beloved blog readers.

I quit my new birth club.

I told my infertility friends and my May mummy friends, the ones I met in prenatal yoga during my pregnancy with E.

I felt like too many people knew.

I felt like I had to keep writing it over and over again.

But most people in my life didn’t know.

Most people will have no idea my heart is breaking.

We were so close to being able to tell everyone.

But not close enough.

***

Thursday night I had a terrible dream.

I’ve had terrible dreams all through this pregnancy.

I dreamt that Q. and I were fighting because I didn’t want to be the one who told his mother over Skype.

Then I dreamt I went and had a really hot bath, which I’m not supposed to do until the bleeding stops (because now, now, there is bleeding. After the fact.)

When I woke up I knew that, just like the others, those were just bad dreams.

But then I remembered that some of it was real.

***

“It’s the untelling that’s the hardest part,” I wrote on my May 2011 birth club, “breaking everyone else’s hearts along with our own.”

“Oh Turia,” one of them replied, “Here you are worried about everyone else.”

But it’s when I have to tell everyone else that it has to be real again and not some terrible bad dream.

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Love

Readers, you have no idea how much your comments mean to me. They make me cry, every time I get a new one, because they make me remember, but it means so much to not be alone. I’m not really in a space where I can respond right now, but please know how much they are appreciated.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Blogging, Friends, Grief, Loss

Hurting

This is how it happened.

***

Q., E. and I were eating breakfast together.

“I hate ultrasound days,” I said to Q. “I like them after the fact, but I hate the morning of an ultrasound.”

“It’s worth it to see the baby,” said Q.

“Yes,” I agreed. “And it should be wiggling around now.”

“MY baby is wiggling around now!” proclaimed E., patting his belly.

***

“How are you?” asked the tech.

“Anxious,” I said. “I always get anxious before an ultrasound.

She smiled. “Relax! Take a deep breath.”

We chatted. I commented that it must be a quiet day if she could call our numbers as soon as we’d finished signing our names. She told me that there were four of them working that morning. Some mornings there were only two. She didn’t always start at 7:00 on Thursdays. Normally it was 9:00, but today one doctor was leaving early and another one was away, so they needed more staff.

Then she put in the ultrasound wand.

And she didn’t say anything.

I remembered her from my pregnancy with E. I remembered that she never said anything until she was finished scanning. I learned one week that our baby was still alive from Q. because he gave me a nod when he saw the heartbeat. She always chooses rooms that don’t have the extra monitor, so I couldn’t see what she was seeing.

But she still didn’t say anything.

Then she paused and looked at my chart. She let a breath come out between her teeth.

And right then, I knew.

She scanned some more.

Looked at my chart again.

Scanned some more.

Her face had a practiced expression on it, one that said, “I’m not supposed to let any emotion show while I do this, but this is very hard for me right now.”

And then her shoulders dropped, and she sighed, and she touched my knee and said, “I’m so sorry, honey.”

And I burst into tears. Huge wracking sobs, right there, lying on the table, because she’d given voice to what I’d feared above anything else, but never really truly believed could happen.

Not now.

Not at ten weeks.

Not after three perfect ultrasounds.

I sat up.

She gave me a hug. Found me some Kleenex. Told me to get dressed and she’d put me right in a room and find my doctor right away.

“You won’t have to sit back out there,” she promised.

***

I sat in a room.

I cried.

I waited.

My doctor burst in once, seemed very confused to see me, asked how I was, and then vanished again without waiting for an answer.

He obviously didn’t know yet.

When he came back in a little while later, he opened my chart.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I can’t understand how this has happened.”

I burst into tears again.

He gave me a hug.

He sat there, looking at my chart, repeating over and over again, “I can’t believe it. There was nothing to indicate a problem. Everything was so perfect. I don’t understand.”

I know he sees bad news every day of the week, but I really believe this completely caught him off guard, that he was as shocked and bewildered as I was.

He suggested a D&C. “I would like to do some genetic testing,” he said, “to try and get some answers. I think there must have been something terribly terribly wrong. It’s the only thing I can think of that would explain this.”

He didn’t know if we would get the tissue we needed. He said it had probably happened not long after I was last in there.

I can read my chart upside down now.

The previous entry said 8w2d.

That morning’s entry just said GS and then a line drawn through where the baby’s measurements ought to have been.

There wasn’t a baby anymore.

I’d been walking around thinking I was pregnant when I wasn’t. Not anymore.

***

He stepped out so I could call Q.

My doctor was leaving on vacation that afternoon. He could do my D&C that day, but if I wanted to wait a day, it would be one of the other doctors.

Friday would have been easier. E. would have been at nursery school. Q. could have been there with me.

But if it was over, I needed it to be over and done with right then and there.

I called Q.

I told him the baby had died.

Then we had to discuss logistics.

And then Q. had to go back to wrangling E.

***

I had a couple of hours before they would need me over in the IVF suite.

I tried using one of the computers at the clinic but it was so antiquated I could barely get it to load pages, let alone be able to actually compose anything. Everyone has a smartphone or a tablet now, I guess, and just uses the wi-fi, so the clinic is letting their public use computers die a natural death.

I had to call Q. again to get him to log in to my work account to send a message to cancel my class on Friday. Then I sent a very vague text to a dear friend who was in town for a few days and with whom we were supposed to have dinner that night (“I bought some beer,” said Q. on Wednesday when he got home. “I figured we could say we were out of wine, but we had some beer. He likes beer, and you don’t, so it wouldn’t be an issue that you’re not drinking.”)

Then I gave up on the computers and left.

***

I wandered around the streets for a while.

I proved that in a big, anonymous city, you can cry in public (true ugly crying, not just the odd polite sniffle) and no one will bother you.

I drank some apple juice since I was no longer allowed to eat anything.

I found a liquor store and bought a Valentine’s Day present for Q. I was supposed to do that after the intralipid. It was still going to be Valentine’s Day tomorrow, even if we weren’t going to feel like celebrating.

I bought a stamp set for E.

Anything to keep me from thinking.

***

I went back to the IVF suite.

I had to tell them why I was there.

“Did he put in a luminaria?” asked the nurse.

“He didn’t mention it. He just told me to come over here.”

“He has to do that first. Go on back over to the other side and then come back once you’ve seen him.”

My doctor is busy enough that it was entirely believable that he could have forgotten this.

***

I went back across to the other side.

My doctor was on the phone.

I told his secretary I needed to clarify something with him.

Someone else was trying to ask him something as well.

In the chaos, I don’t think he realized it was me. He told the secretary to pull my chart and he’d see me.

That meant they put my chart where all the charts go after cycle monitoring, when you’re waiting to see the doctor.

There was no chart ahead of mine.

But my doctor vanished.

He does that, sometimes.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

That was the worst part.

It was the time of day when couples were arriving for their nuchal translucency scans.

You can always tell that’s what they’re there for.

You never see men in that clinic unless it’s a procedure day or there’s a baby to be seen on an ultrasound.

It was too late in the morning for those couples to be there for procedures.

One of the other doctors came by.

He always says hello to me. He always remembers my name because of my last name.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. His eyes were sad. “I’ve only just heard. I’m so sorry.”

I burst into tears in front of all the happy couples with their stupid healthy twelve week fetuses.

I fought the tears back down.

Eventually my doctor reappeared. This is about the time of day that they lose him nearly every day. Q. and I have a theory he wanders out of the building to get a coffee and have some peace and quiet, which is fair enough but it’s a big part of why he always runs so late for procedures.

He flipped open my chart, and then looked at me, surprised.

I think he started to ask if I had changed my mind.

“They told me to come back over here,” I said. “They said you had to do something…”

By this point I had forgotten the name of what it was he was supposed to do (this morning I looked it up. It’s a rod that they insert to help open the cervix).

“You don’t need it,” he said. “You had a vaginal birth last time. You’re ok. You tell them I said you’re ok.”

***

I went back over to the IVF suite.

“He says I don’t need it because I had a vaginal birth,” I told the nurse, still not knowing what ‘it’ was.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “He usually always does it.”

One of the other doctors, the one who did the transfer that brought us E., was on hold on the phone. She glanced up. “No, if she had a vaginal birth, she’s ok. She doesn’t need it.”

Finally, over an hour after I had returned to the clinic, I got a cubicle, and I had somewhere where I could sit where no one would look at me.

I’ve changed my mind.

This was the worst part.

There were women in there doing intralipids.

One of them was four days ahead of me.

They were chatting and laughing with the nurses.

They were talking about graduation day.

That should have been me.

“I was supposed to do an intralipid today,” I said to the nurse when she came to put in my IV.

Her eyes were sad. “I know. I called you yesterday to give you the time.”

“You’re going to do another ultrasound to make sure, right?”

I couldn’t stop asking them this. In my head I couldn’t shake the insane idea that maybe, somehow, the ultrasound tech had fixed on the other sac, the one that had always been empty, and had somehow managed to miss our perfectly healthy baby.

I can read my chart upside down, you see.

I couldn’t understand how there could be a baby in there one week but then nothing the next.

***

I waited.

I didn’t do anything.

I tried not to think, not to feel.

Sometimes it worked.

I called Q. again and changed the time he was going to pick me up (my doctor was unsurprisingly running late).

Right after I called him, they came to get me.

“You’re going to do another ultrasound, right?” I asked this nurse too. “You’re going to make sure before you do anything, right?”

“Of course we will, honey,” she said. “We’re going to look after you. We’re not going to leave you.”

They all felt bad that I was there by myself.

I felt bad that I was there by myself.

I am certain it was ripping Q. into pieces.

I still didn’t want to believe it.

Not even when they walked me into the OR and I lay down.

I couldn’t believe that this could have happened and I could have had no warning.

No blood.

No cramps.

No pain.

My symptoms had eased off, but they had done exactly that at exactly the same time with E’s pregnancy. I could only assume that all was well.

All was well.

Until it wasn’t.

***

It was conscious sedation.

The same as what they do for egg retrievals.

The last thing I remember is the nurse asking me if I was getting sleepy and me telling her that the ceiling was spinning a little.

The next thing I remember after that is waking up in the chair and checking the time on my phone. I hadn’t even put it away before I could hear Q. and E.’s voices coming down the hall.

I’d been asleep for an hour.

Nothing particularly conscious about that sedation.

It’s probably better that way.

***

The nurses said they sent away some tissue for testing.

I guess we have to wait and see if they learn anything.

They weren’t sure how long it would take.

E. gave me a hug.

Q. gave me a kiss.

We staggered home, just the three of us.

That morning, at breakfast, we thought we were four.

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The other shoe

I went to the clinic this morning for a routine ultrasound and an intralipid infusion.

I had an ultrasound.

Then I had a D&C.

There was no heartbeat.

There wasn’t really a baby anymore.

My doctor thinks it probably happened not long after I was last in there two weeks ago. He was completely devastated and just kept looking at my chart repeating, “I don’t understand how this could have happened. Everything was going so well.” He suggested (and I consented to) collecting some tissue for genetic testing to try to get some answers. He feels something must have been very very wrong with the baby for this to have happened.

I heard the news on my own. I had to call Q., who was wrangling E. (who isn’t at nursery school on Thursdays) to tell him.

I had the D&C on my own. Q. rented a Zipcar and came with E. to pick me up when it was all over.

We still haven’t figured out how we’re going to untell the pregnancy to E.

I didn’t make it to ten weeks, not really.

I probably didn’t even make it to nine weeks.

The baby might have died by the time we told our parents on that Skype-filled giddy Saturday.

The when of it doesn’t really matter, I guess.

All that matters is we’re not going to get to bring this baby home in September after all.

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