Saturday, December 11, 2010

My losses

I have been working on an ongoing list titled "My Losses." Many times when I have been struck by a wave of sadness, I have added to the list as a new feeling of loss was triggered.

Many of the items on the list seem silly, superficial, or small, I know. And I am sure at the end of my life - and certainly in eternity - I will look back on this time very differently. But in this season of my life they feel very real and painful. The heaviness of the sense of loss I feel is almost crushing.

I also thought about the way we describe grief, in general. If I describe my sadness over the loss of my beloved grandmother 8 years ago, I would say things like, "I miss sitting at her kitchen table and hearing her tell stories from her life," or "I wish I could open up her fridge and see the jello in small glass pyrex cups she always had waiting for me." There are few words to describe the loss and pain, but somehow those little things I can describe add up to convey the magnitude of grief. And with death, I feel like we can all relate...that we can hear somebody describe those little things and feel with them the giant monster of pain within their heart.

And so it is with infertility, I think. I can only say "This is a really painful loss" in so many words, but all of these "little things" I have listed below communicate those feelings better than my few words can. The only problem is, unlike my example of death, most people cannot relate. And to them, when they read these little things, they just seem like little things. Insignificant. "Why can't she just move on? It's not the end of the world."

I am not saying the experience of loss through infertility is greater or more painful than loss through death, but that it feels very lonely. And it is yet another reason I am so thankful for the blogging community, that here, in this virtual space, I know many of you do understand what this list of "little things" communicates.

Without further ado, here are "My Losses" as I think about the possibility of not having a biological child:

  • The moment of finding out, feeling that joy, and celebrating with my husband.
  • Telling our family - would we drive down and tell them in person? Make a phone call? Wait for a family event? Getting to see their joyful reaction. Talking about the baby & pregnancy with our moms.
  • Telling our friends. Seeing their joy. Even making a Facebook announcement.
  • Reading pregnancy books. Learning about the miracle of a new life growing. Reading about the development week by week, day by day. Reading things aloud to my husband.
  • Seeing my belly grow. My husband would love watching this. Taking pictures as it grows. Seeing his joy. How would I carry a belly - “all belly” or “all over?” Would my belly be small or large?
  • Experiencing the discomfort. I don’t really want to be sick and uncomfortable, but it seems like part of the miracle. Part of the story of me and my child. Knowing it is worth it. Having my own “pregnancy woes and stories” to tell.
  • Seeing the baby via ultrasound. Going to appointments with my husband. Sharing that excitement and amazement.
  • Buying maternity clothes. Superficial, but I always looked forward to it. Would I be a cute pregnant lady?
  • Feeling the baby move. Experiencing that intimacy. Talking to the baby. Praying for the baby with my hands on my belly.
  • Finding out the gender. Calling our family.
  • Giving birth. So much tied into this one. How to even put it to words? I feel like as a woman I have a biological urge and desire to do this. I don’t want the pain, so to speak, but I want the whole experience - even with the pain. I see births on TV and I bawl. It is an amazing, life changing moment. One day you are carrying a life inside of you, and then your whole world changes and you get to see and hold that baby in your arms. Having a “birth story.” Staying in the hospital with my husband. Our families meeting the baby, holding the baby.

Biological connection:
  • Seeing our physical & personality traits in our child. What would our child look like? Hearing people say, “She has your nose” or “Were you tall as a toddler, too?”
  • Seeing our family members in our child. Maybe even family members who have passed away. My dad would examine the child’s feet to see if he had our feet. Or would she have curly hair like my mother in law? A long torso like my Grandma & me? Crazy tall like so many in my husband’s family? All the things we always wondered and talked about....and have to stop wondering and talking about.
  • Feeling like the “family line” is carrying on.


  • Breastfeeding. Getting that “bonding experience” with the baby. I know not everyone is able to breastfeed, but women who do often are sad when they have to wean - I want to get to try. (I know some people try to do this even with an adopted child, but I can’t imagine doing this - who knows, though).
  • Living in a world where most people experience pregnancy/birth/having biological children - and I want to, but can’t. There are reminders everywhere.
  • Getting pregnancy announcements. Would this ever not sting?
  • Hearing people make comments about their children/ future children and having to stop making our own (ie “Our child will definitely have blue eyes,” “Maybe we could have a red head,” “I hope our child is organized and clean like you.”) But everyone else talks like this.
  • Having things happen in a predictable, traditional timeline. Start the nursery, have a shower, and generally know when to expect the baby.
  • Sharing in this experience of womanhood. Instead of getting to talk about it with others, I would feel like an outsider as I have to hear their experiences.

"The English language lacks the words 'to mourn an absence.' For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful, some not. Still, we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only 'I am sorry for your loss.' But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?" ~ Laura Bush


Sarah said...

Wow, powerful post. Would you mind if I quoted you on some of that?

RMCarter said...

I loved this post. I identify with so much of it. I absolutely love the Laura Bush quote and I would love to share it. said...

This post is amazing!! I wish I could forward it to everyone in my family who doesn't understand the struggle to conceive at all.

Kakunaa said...

This is amazing. You have really hit the nail on the head. If you are comfortable, you should submit it to Resolve. As someone else mentioned, it would be great to hand out to friends/relatives. Do you mind if I save it? I will not repost, though I may direct people here. But I would like to have it on hand.

Hang in there sweetie. HUGS.

Lindsey said...

Great post. I share EVERY single one of those losses with you. To me, none of them are little things, they are all important parts of the experience we so desire to be part of.

I love the Laura Bush quote too. It is so true! There are no words to describe how that feels, and very few people can relate.

Praying for you always!

Hillary said...

Hillary~ I know every feeling you are feeling. I have and still continue to grieve all of those feelings. This blog is beautifully written and I think this list is something that ALL woman should read. a very newly adoptive mama (our daughter was born 11/9) I want to tell you that a lot of those feelings get better or go away. Colbie is our daughter and we don't look at her any other way. We don't wish her story was different, and the love that we felt when we met her is completely indescribable.

Our "family line" is carrying on, just differently

She actually has a cleft chin like everyone on my side of the family

We found our her gender before she was born and got to call our parents

And even though we don't share the same genes, we share the same love. And I certainly hope she grows up more organized than her mommy.

Praying for you during this very difficult grieving process.

Melissa G said...

Wow Hill, such a painfully honest post. I think grief is a perfect way to describe the emotions associated with IF. And you're right that it isn't quite the same as mourning a lost loved one; it's a different kind of anguish. One that is renewed-if you will, every single month. Making it incredibly difficult for the wound to heal. Unlike with loved ones, where the passing of time makes us think of the happy memories - like your grandmothers jello...

I can identify with so much of your list, but I just hate that you even had to make it.

What a beautiful quote by Laura Bush by the way, it makes me ache for all of us.

Tabitha said...

This post breaks my heart. Litterally. I started to cry reading it, because everything your explaining, everything your going through I felt at one time or another. I'm so very sorry your in this place H, but I pray that God sends you comfort and peace and a joy beyond your wildest dreams! Don't give up hope for the family you've always wanted! God is a God of miracles, one way or another :)

Anonymous said...

This was a great post. I'm struggling with many of the same things. Love love the quote from Laura Bush too.

Rosie said...

Your post reflects every fear I have been experiencing. You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for. Life might not happen how you planned but I hope it brings you plenty of joy just the same. Hugs to you. Never give up your desire to be a mother, you will get there in some way, shape, or form.

Anonymous said...

As a teenager many years ago, I gave a child for adoption. Four days ago, she turned 40.
Your description of grief hit home with me even this many years later. I don't carry the same grief today thanks to my daughter searching for and finding me, but I understand it.
My second daughter recently conceived via IVF which brought me to your (and others) blogs.
I wish you many blessings in your journey. I know you will be as wonderful a mother as the mom to my relinquished daughter was, whether your child is biological or adopted.

kkasun said...

Wow, what a beautiful post. Thank you for the struggles I am sure you endured as you wrote this, as it puts my fears into words much more eliquently than I ever could.

Missy said...

Yes, yes, yes. These are all the thoughts going through my head and heart now. Although, about hearing people say the baby looks like you, unless you have a cross-race adoption, you will likely still hear those comments. I have a friend who used donor eggs and gets many comments about how her son has her eyes or nose.

Alex said...

Here from kkasun's blog... Amazing post - thank you for writing this.

Faith said...

I also found you from kkasun's post. I am the new mother of a beautiful son, who we adopted almost 4 months ago. I had to go through all those emotions, all those losses, before I could really see the beauty in adoption. Yes, you lose so much, but there are no words to describe what you gain in yet another amazing process - adoption. There are many small miracles and special things about that way of parenting as well. I say that to say, there is always hope. I come from an even more miraculous place, in that we also conceived our daughter soon before finding out about our son, who was due in 2 months. Life has twists and turns, some awful - like infertility, others are amazing. I truly believe your joyous twists and turns WILL happen, when it's time. Hang in there....Sometimes what life has in store for us is even more beautiful than what we had planned:)...

Michelle said...

It's as if you took the words from my heart. I have said all these things! I know your pain, I also know there is nothing that can erase your pain. The only thing that gets me "over" all these things is that God has a plan and I am trusting Him completely. There is a baby out there that belongs in your arms and He will make that happen! That's the only way I get through grieving the loss of "being a woman!" God bless and know you are not alone! I am here always for you!!!

Mrs. Hoppy said...

Thank you so much for posting this - I feel like I was reading the feelings I have experienced and haven't ever been able to put into words. The loss we feel is huge even if others can't understand it. It brought tears to my eyes.

kdactyl said...

Hillary...such a touching and insightful post. I always said that giving up the hope of having a biological child was a mourning process....mourning the loss of all those things you so eloquently wrote about. They are not small things, they are your hopes and dreams and no matter what...they are important and valuable to to possibly give up on any one of them is a true loss. I have read what others have said about adoption and being able to get some of those back in a different way. I have to agree with them. We adopted in a different way...we adopted embryos and were blessed with a pregnancy...we got all those wonderful milestones, felt life within me, experienced showers and gender reveals....and then childbirth (for me..a. c-section...but still got to do it)....and the love for this child is amazing .... and....most people know she is the result of a donated embryo...but still...she resembles us and has captured our hearts and loving her is so fullfilling and so easy. So...although I know the biological link still will be mourned, there are still ways to build your family and fulfill many of your hopes and dreams. I hope you find a way to do that.


Polly Gamwich said...

**WARNING: if you visit my blog you'll see that we've been successful, so go only if you feel able**

I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed getting lost in your blog this morning. I am in my early 30's with elevated FSH and male infertility and I too am a believer. One of the things that really stood out to me, is that you seemed to have been making decisions about your infertility treatments that are in line with your faith - and so many women don't do that. We did that too. For us our issue was recurrent pregnancy loss, so of course all the RE's wanted us to go through some form of PGD ... but if they find that a baby has Down Syndrome or the like, they will NOT transfer that embryo back inside you ... and letting a baby demise is not something I could sign up for - chromosomally normal or not. For us, we've fertilized all of our embryos with the intention and legal plan in place to give those babies a chance at life. But, we haven't had much luck with any to freeze. Ok, I'm babbling now. I just wanted to encourage you - because I know in my darkest times that I would doubt whether I was doing the right thing - following my morals and beliefs ... BUT STILL NOT GETTING BLESSED WITH A CHILD - when so many were doing selective reduction and the like AND getting blessed. I was so hurt and so frustrated. But I just want to encourage you that God will honor you for honoring Him - He will. It just hasn't been in your time.

And lastly I want to ask ... what are your thoughts on embryo adoption? It's a lot less expensive than traditional domestic or international adoption, it would allow you to experience many things here in your list. There are 400,000 embryos on ice in America ... you and your hubby could "rescue" or adopt one (or more ;-) of them. Just a thought - please disregard if this suggestion is inappropriate and/or out of place.

Big hugs to you,

andreajennine said...

I think it's right to recognize those losses. Even though I've had a baby after infertility, some of those losses are still on my list due to B's premature birth by emergency C-section. I missed most of the third trimester, I never experienced labor, and breastfeeding didn't work out because B was so tiny and didn't have the strength for it. I'm still disappointed over those things, but I'm learning to trust that God planned these particulars for me.

Willow said...

What a great post--such accurate descriptions of the losses of infertility! Thanks for sharing this!

Tanya said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes and the quote from Laura Bush says it all. When I try to express my sense of loss and deep sadness to people who are not experiencing infertility - they understand the words but not the depth of the feelings. You have articulated them beautifully. Losses need to be acknowledged and grieved for our hearts to truly heal.

PFM said...

Here from Creme. This post made me cry because it so simply states the enormity of loss experienced by infertility. The quote at the end is great. I have never read that before. If it is ok with you I may link to this. Your post would be a good place for people to learn about the loss of IF and also feel less alone if they can relate.
Thank you.