Loss and Recovery

My first embryo transfer didn’t take. After a million shots, two egg retrievals, three fibroid surgeries and one transfer, I am not pregnant. It was a boy and he didn’t stay with me. I learned on October 1 that the pregnancy test was negative. Then the ground fell out from under me for a couple of weeks.

That first weekend there was wailing. Sounds came out of me that I didn’t know I could make. There was grief that I haven’t felt before in my life. That embryo had become a child in my mind, and I didn’t even know that had happened until he was gone. I thought that I was internally preparing myself for the possibility that the transfer wouldn’t work, but I was surprised. Shocked. I didn’t realize how certain I had been that everything would work out and that I would be birthing all three embryos that I have. He was a person to me, and his loss was crushing; despite having never met him; despite the distance I thought I was keeping. Now there are just two left.

That first weekend there was also writhing. There was moving the grief through our bodies (my husband was there, too). There was fatigue. And then there was numbing. In the following days and weeks, after each wave of grief receded, we called people to let them know that this part of the story was over. We had decided from the beginning to be open about our IVF process. It involved so much time away from people that we felt it would be hard to hide it. Also, we hoped for support. We got it, too – so much true empathy and so many people rooting for us. We had to let them know what had happened. Some sent us food and cards and texts and other comforts, and several of them cried with us. We are so grateful for that.

We have also absorbed a lot of passive judgment. We have people in our lives who don’t believe in fertility treatment, because they think pregnancy is God’s will (casually implying that I don’t have children because God doesn’t want me to have them). Related to “god’s will” are a healthy portion of people who respond with platitudes along the lines of “everything happens for a reason.” There are some people that respond with advice (as if they had been through this when they haven’t). Then there are a few “manifestors” (people who believe their thoughts can literally impact physical reality, ie. magical thinkers) who can’t accept that this is all happening to us for no reason, and that sometimes, most times, terrible things are just random. I understand that those responses are coping mechanisms. It’s a defense against feeling one’s own feelings, or engaging with someone else’s feelings, or acknowledging that the world, the universe, is not actually under anyone’s control. If things can happen to others for no reason, then they can happen to you, too.

I do understand now that the responses people have to our situation are usually more about them than they are about me. I know that people aren’t conscious of what is in the blank spaces of what they’re saying, and they don’t mean to be hurtful. They don’t realize that to me these statements sound like “you are not enough. You are not doing enough. You are not trying hard enough. You don’t deserve.” I get it, but it can be difficult for me to get past that, especially since I already feel so alone in this experience and am already very challenged not to believe those things myself. I am trying my best not to take it personally.

In the meantime, I am rebuilding my reserves of resilience and self-love for the next round. I have a new working model for what faith might look like to me going forward: things don’t happen for a reason, but we are responsible for giving them meaning. I could assign a self-critical reason for why I lost the first baby and beat the shit out of myself to “fix it.” Instead, I choose to give him meaning as part of my story and reaching, with loving kindness, for motherhood and the life I want.

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