Monday, July 31, 2017

Infertility, loss and The Great British Baking Show

"You own everything that happened to you. 
Tell your stories."
-Anne Lamott

"As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer's long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn't touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, 
dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown.
 So I just didn't stop."
 -Barbara Kingsolver

Grief is a powerful emotion. It chokes you, it can make you feel small and angry. It can also allow the release of confined emotions that are held in, in an attempt to appear "together."

Yuri and I started our journey to parenthood three years ago. We were met with three consecutive and devastating miscarriages, and a realization that pregnancy loss is a topic that doctors will often label as "normal". Perhaps this comes from the intention of being comforting, but it actually minimizes the pain that miscarriages bring. Following our third miscarriage, we were finally referred to a fertility clinic, and began a series of tests. When everything came back normal and in fact "excellent", our  doctor seemed out of ideas. A year and a half had passed from our last pregnancy, and we were left with no answers, and a feeling of hopelessness. We couldn't seem to keep a pregnancy, and then we couldn't even manage to get pregnant at all. This past spring, shortly after a buying a house, a stressful move, and the addition of Yuri's family living with us, we were shocked to discover that extreme stress seemed to be the missing link. We were pregnant again! 

This time it felt different. I was immediately started on high levels of progesterone and baby aspirin. I took extra time off work so I could rest and reduce stress. I took a variety of vitamins, and drank liters of water. The morning sickness was violent, and my doctor was pleased. "It's a good sign." We went for an early ultrasound, and were thrilled to see our first heartbeat. Everything looked good. 

Around 10 weeks I went to the doctor who attempted to use the doppler. "It's early, but I often have success getting the heartbeat." When it didn't work, she was quick to reassure me that it's early, and it's normal. But I couldn't shake the fear. As it wasn't deemed an emergency, it would be weeks before we could clarify with a medical ultrasound, so Yuri and I went to a private clinic. It took only 30 seconds for them to discover what we had already suspected.  

Moving forward with a fertility history like ours has been challenging. There is no cure, so do we try again and face the quite real possibility of experiencing further loss? Or do we take a step back and reconfigure our life with the idea that we will not be able to have biological children? And what are we supposed to do with the deep rooted sadness and anxiety that now surrounds what is supposed to be a happy and exciting time? 

And in the meantime, I will drink wine, eat chocolate and pastries, and watch The Great British Baking Show, which always makes me feel as though everything is going to work out. 

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