There is a Buddhist saying that goes something like this:
Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is not found in finishing an activity, but in doing it.
And although I sometimes admire people who buy into theories wholesale, exceptions must be made. If you worship at the altar of Adam Smith, I urge you to reconsider energy and health care, because I'm not convinced (Enron?) you can cram them into the capitalist model. And if you try and embrace Buddhist philosophy AND you're infertile, well, here's a quote that you're better off shredding into a million pieces, stomping on it for a while, running it over with your car, and then setting it afire.
Yesterday at my therapy session I mentioned I was a bit stuck on something. I feel stalled reproductively, and that I can't make any decisions until I have more information. And sadly, this includes the big decision about whether I want to do this again or not, regardless. There are a lot of "it depends" out there that need a bit more feedback from the great geneticists on high before I decide to trot my (soon-to-be-) 39-year-old body to an RE and ask what gives in the egg basket, and what s/he can possibly do for me. Like any good infertile, I need to expect those freaky outliers which in my case are things like: say I get pregnant using egg/sperm donation, and then find out 7 months into the pregnancy that they've cracked the code and found the mystery gene that killed Maddy. Clearly I carry out the pregnancy (or, you know, try) but how would I deal with this? Regret? Pack it and move on? Try (gulp) yet another pregnancy while now geriatric? What would said kid think to be bookended by 100% genetic siblings? Gah.
ANYWAY, I said something to the effect that it's hard for me to mentally move on in other areas -- like where Maddy fits into this puzzle of my life, and how to plan a foreseeable future for myself -- until I solve this reproductive piece. It's holding me up, and gumming the works. Which in my head, while sad, made perfect sense and didn't really seem out of the ordinary. And my therapist greeted this statement with Alarm. And I became alarmed at her alarm. And spent yesterday wondering why on earth this was just such a familiar place for me to be -- stuck like this, with everything on hold. So I ruminated, and it came to me.
Early in 2002, six years ago right about now, while I was in the waning months of 33, I began my journey to have a family. And a week or so after my 34th birthday, I miscarried at eight weeks. To say I was clueless about the whole thing does disservice to the word clueless, but as my miscarriage dragged on into a 3.5 month debacle ending in a D&C in July, I quickly ramped up, this time with my good friends BBT, ovulation sticks, google and friends in the computer. And tried again. And again. And life turned into the two year treadmill of trying and failing, the groundhog day when your period starts. As any infertile knows, infertility quickly bleeds (pun totally intended) into every other area of your life. That it permeates your marriage and sex life is a given. But as your life slowly becomes consumed, and broken down into increments of days and sometimes hours, infertility begins to invade just about everything. It is entirely impossible to compartmentalize infertility and check it at the door. Can I go on that vacation or would that be just about the time I would be miscarrying should I get pregnant this month? Shit, that business trip falls on cd 12-14, better see if I can rearrange that. Would love to go out for a margarita with you, but I'm 6 dpo, so it's water for me. (Again.) Try me again in 8 days, and I'll spring for them and chasers.
When I finally went to an RE, I prayed he would find a problem just so we could do something. He did, a minor one, but a potentially solvable one, and I became pregnant with Bella. What I really liked, though, was that from square one in his office we had a plan: This month we treat you like a lab rat. For the next three months we'll try this, and if this fails, we'll try that the following two. And then we'll bring out the big guns, and don't worry, here they are, and I know how to wield them. Finally, there was an outline to the repetitive, head-banging struggle.
And hope? Forget it. If you've suffered through infertility and miscarriage(s), you know better. Where others can view two lines as the end game, you're left merely hoping it will stay blue for another two weeks. And then another four. And that there'll be a heartbeat. And up and down through the seemingly infinite markers along the 40w trip, hopefully past the date of your last downfall, hopefully past the nervous phone call from the perinatal center. Infertility tests your hope to the extreme, and to say that I've been burned after making it through every milestone including delivery is an understatement. And hope is one of those things that's nice to have elsewhere in your life, y'know?
So after Bella was born, we knew we wanted a second, and now I was solidly in the "advanced maternal age" category, so there wasn't much time to waste. I finished breast feeding at a year, gave myself about 6-8 months to lose a bit of weight, enjoy some wine, catch up on sleep, and then back I went. Back into the cycle of planning and plotting and having everything rotate around your reproductive schedule, this time with the bonus of secondary infertility: finding childcare so you can pop in willy-nilly on days 3 and 8 for blood work, 11 for an ultrasound, and so on. Schedules shuffled, diets changed. When I began bleeding during the US-Italy world cup game (week 6 of Maddy's pregnancy), I sighed, and realized I now had to plan a D&C around work, child care, selling our house, and world cup. I walked into the RE with the world cup schedule in hand on Monday morning, determined not to miss a match laid up in the hospital or zipped out on drugs, and there was Maddy, heart beating away, with her new friend, a big cyst of blood.
What does this have to do with now? I feel, to put it bluntly, that I've just experienced a failed pregnancy. And I'm still on the journey to have a family, but but now I'm in the desert doing donuts, and there isn't a road sign to be found. To belabor the metaphor, my car is really beat-up and dinged, and there's no radio to occupy my brain. Hope left the building years ago. There's no kind doctor pointing the way, showing me the promised land and the big drawer of artillery. No one averring or even gently suggesting that I should definitely avoid one turn-off over another. It's very hard for me to plan in a future -- a future now weighed down with grief for a missing child whose space in my life I need to consider -- whether I need to leave some leeway in there to think about this all-consuming exercise and the panorama of potential results one more time. I'm not sure whether it's time to turn off the engine and leave the car be, or, stay on making donuts in the dust, hope someone can begin again to prescribe tests and blood draws and the ever-lovely vaginal ultrasounds and fertility drugs so that my life, already consumed in toto by this journey, becomes full with the minutia of having a baby once again.
Maybe it's totally possible for some to just be on the grief journey, and not let that particular depression and anger overstep it's bounds into other arenas. But when the grief is part of a longer, much longer, more tedious and stressful journey that has already taken over all areas of life like kudzu? I believe it's a bit more complicated. I've already done the delicate tap dance with family. I've already had my hopes dashed, although not to this extent. I've been on a six-year trajectory of loathing people who can easily become pregnant and carry on as though it's the greatest miracle in the universe. Believe me, I've asked myself, do I think my grief is like infertility, or a part of it? And I think I've concluded that my life was already all-consumed before Maddy's arrival/demise, and that this is just a big, sad, chapter of that entertwining journey.
And thus, I feel a strange sense of deja vu, like I'm back where I started. Infertile. No answers. Ground-hog day, over and over. Hope beaten into the ground. Except this time without the distraction of the daily countdowns. And I need a phone call, or failing that, a divine sign, that I need to let the journey enter it's 7th year, or hang up my shoes not having reached the destination I set out for, accepting the place that I've reached with Bella, and begin another completely different journey anew. I'm now at 11 months past Maddy's death, and it's caught my attention that many other people who circulate through here by this this point have some sort of plan, direction, and journey. I guess I just wish mine felt a bit less futile and contained a few more signposts, and was a bit less entrenched into other parts of my would-be life. There is no joy left in this trip. And it may well be time to book another.
Note: It has, with a great amount of embarassment, come to my attention that I cannot do math. I used to be able to, I'm not sure what happened. In the beginning of 2002, I was in fact 32. I turned 33 in 2002. Thank you, that is all.