Worse than a cautionary tale

Over the weekend, I picked up a book that had been recommended to me.  “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination” by Elizabeth McCracken.  For those who are not familiar, it is a book about a woman’s journey from the loss of a child (stillborn) and the subsequent birth of her healthy baby a year later.  I read it in one sitting and thought she had a wry sense of humor and honesty about the subject that was refreshing. 

A few passages in the book resonated with me, so I thought I’d share them.

“I missed the child we lost and I wanted another and these seemed like two absolutely separate aches.”  

I think why that passage stood out to me is that often I think of my sadness as a single sadness in not being a mommy (a mother, technically yes I will always be their mother, but I wanted to be a mommy to Quinn and Trace).  The reality is that losing and missing Quinn and Trace is one big, huge sadness all on its own.  And not being a mommy (except to my puppy) brings its own separate sadness. 

And yet, separated from both of those, is an additional sadness of giving up on the fantasy of a happy pregnancy and birth, and the fantasy of ever being pregnant again.   These past few weeks I have had more than one dream about pregnancy: one with my very pregnant belly having childs handprints in bright colored paint on it; the other that I shared in my previous post about almost doing another IVF cycle transfer before waking up to stop it from happening.   Perhaps it is my subconscious working out some left over grief about being pregnant?   

Don’t get me wrong, I simply don’t think I could handle the fear that would go along with being pregnant again and right now, with my body and my history of PROM (premature rupture of membranes), I wouldn’t want to be pregnant now.  The risk is too great.  The doctors have been clear in their recommendation against me being pregnant.  And I feel okay with moving forward in our adoption plans. For me it wasn’t really about being pregnant necessarily, it is about being a mommy.  But apparently, my subconscious needs to work a few things out still? 

Another thing she said far more eloquently than I have been able to was:

“He was a person. I missed him like a person.  Seeing babies on the street did not stab me with pain the way I know they stab some grieving women, those who have lost children or simply desperately want to have them.  For me, other babies were other babies.  They weren’t who I was missing.”  …. I always said, ‘if human reproduction has to carry on, I want it to work out for people I like.’ “

That so nicely describes how I feel about my friends or clients who are undergoing fertility treatments.  I want it to work out for them.  And although it sometimes makes me feel a pang of sadness for what I don’t have, mostly I am just so happy for the ones who are pregnant or send me the photos of their newborn babies – knowing that in a small way I helped bring them into this world.  I helped them achieve their dream of being pregnant and having a family or expanding their family.

But this last part, really gets me and makes me sad: “That is one of the strangest side effects of the whole story.  I am that thing worse than a cautionary tale: I am a horror story, an example of something terrible going wrong when you least expect it, and for no good reason, a story to be kept from pregnant women, a story so grim and lessonless it’s better not to think about it at all.”    

I HATE that I am a horror story.  My clients always ask me about my experiences with fertility treatments and want to know about my success.  And I have no choice but to tell them how happy I was with the IVF clinic in Europe and my treatment, and how we were so excited to finally be pregnant with twins.  Then I hurriedly move on with the story before they can congratulate me, and tell them that our twins were born alive but too early and they did not survive. And then I reassure them that what happened to me is so rare and not something they should think or worry about.  I tell them success stories about my clients who have healthy singletons, twins and even triplets.  But my story is the story of a perfect storm, of everything going wrong – and somehow I need to reassure them and give them hope that it is so rare it could likely never happen to them. 

And although I never wanted to be the cautionary tale, or the horror story, the reality is THAT is my fertility/pregnancy/birth story and always will be so.  The children we will have someday will not change that story.  This horror story will just always be my story, and that makes me sad.

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2 Responses to Worse than a cautionary tale

  1. Michelle says:

    Oh Sue! I hope the refreshing parts of the book outweighed the sadness about this.

    For me, I look at both your and Elizabeth’s *complete* story, and not just what happened on the saddest days. And I find MANY lessons in it. You’re both amazing people who show the resiliency of the human spirit. I am AMAZED at your ability to be so so positive with your clients and other pregnant people, and reach out to people like me. I am sooo not there yet–may never be–and my situation was less traumatic and heartbreaking than yours.

    Yes, that chapter of your story was horrible and senseless, but in the end it will only be a chapter.

    Love, MM

    • New Normal says:

      Oh yes, I really did enjoy the book. And even the parts that were sad, were only because they resonated with me, and because of that, it was satisfying to read them (as strange as that may sound). I actually read the book in a single setting, thanks for recommending it.

      My hope all along has been to get to the place where losing the twins is a part of me, but does not define me. I’m still working on it – but I am confident in time, that is how I will be able to frame it. Never forgotten, just a part of all the things that make up who I am. Right now, it is a bigger part than most others, but I don’t think that it is permanent.

      I am convinced that each person experiences loss and sadness their own way – and there really is no better or worse – bad stuff is bad stuff, loss sucks. So, never feel that your situation was less heartbreaking. We’re all struggling through this together.

      Thanks for staying in touch. I hope you’re doing okay.

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