April 11, 2007

Life and Loss

Yesterday I got some very sad news. One of my favorite clients is an older guy in his 70's who I have never even met in person but who somehow became more than just another client over the years. Funnily enough, he's one of those people who asks me every six months when I'm going to have kids, and for some reason it doesn't piss me off coming from this crotchety old man. I kind of have to smile at the fact that he feels like at his age, he has every right to ask me whatever he wants. I imagine he farts out loud in his office and doesn't give a hoot (get it?) who hears.

Well yesterday he told me that his son was killed in Iraq on Saturday. I tend to be pretty desensitized to these things, but this one really got to me. The boy's mother left when he was young and the father and son had a very close relationship. He had told me before how proud he was of him. The boy was 25 years old and left behind an 11 month old daughter he had only spent five weeks with between deployments. He was on his second tour, up for a bronze star for saving two other soldiers' lives a few weeks before, and already had earned a purple heart in his first tour. Personally I am against our involvement in Iraq, but there is no question this guy was a hero. In corresponding with the dad yesterday, it was clear he was not even close to having processed the loss yet. He is behaving very 'business as usual'. I can see he is trying to continue to manage all the things he still has control over, in the face of such a horrible loss over which he has no control.

I think those of us who struggle with infertility are perhaps a bit more keenly aware of the whole circle of life thing; how death and loss is such a part of life. We deal with loss in every cycle where we fail in our persuit to create life. Like my client, we struggle to maintain control over what we can. Larisa described this perfectly in her recent post about being an IVF addict. That part of the cycle when you know what you're doing, exactly how to do it, and can see your progress at each check is such a reprieve from the waiting and the losses. It might sound ridiculous to my fertile friends, but there is something nice about feeling like you're good at infertility for a time.

And I really felt like I was good at it. Not only do I totally have the drugs and the injections and the appointments down, but I know my way around the clinic as well as the nurses. I know which cabinet the drapes are in if they forget to lay one out, and which drawer the pads are in if there was an extra lot of jelly on the wand. I know all the phlebotomists and which ones suck and will probably bruise me. But more than that, at some point over the last few years, I felt like I was even good at managing the emotional aspects of it. I was happy for other people's pregnancies. I went to all the baby showers. Diaper commercials no longer stung. I kept hopes at bay, expectations low, and no longer frantically searched for symptoms during the 2ww. I had reached the acceptance stage. I felt like I had mastered infertility.

As my blog buddy Lindsey pointed out, I had simply stopped imagining being pregnant. I made myself numb. It didn't hurt anymore because I refused to let it. At some point, I had taken all I could and I just turned it off. As I went through my cycle, I was focused only on each step in the protocol, without thinking ahead to the outcome. If I did mention it, I used euphamisms like "the end game" because I absolutely could not allow myself to think of being pregnant one day. It was a very odd feeling because of course no one would go through it all if they weren't hoping it would eventually work, but I had somehow totally detached myself from that hope.

So all of this, I think, explains why I had been having a hard time lately. It is not possible for me to remain so detached after hearing the heartbeat. As the pregnancy hormones go raging through me (no small thing on its own), all my hidden hopes and fears emerge from that steel box where I had locked them away and rush to the surface. The friends and family who read this blog and so know the news are growing frustrated with my unwillingness to share their excitement. I have been given congratulatory gifts which I accepted, but not at all graciously, feeling like a fraud. I know that all pregnant women have fears and this is normal and it's how we prepare ourselves, but it is different when you've become accustomed to experiencing a loss on almost a monthly basis for years.

And then hearing about my client losing his son reminded me that it will just never end. I guess you know on some level when your child goes off to war, but I just can't imagine how anyone prepares for that. Probably you can't anyway, so why be dominated by the fears? Still they must always be lurking somewhere.

As the pregnancy continues, I do find myself becoming more encouraged and looking a tiny bit further ahead. I'm also aware that I'm opening myself up to a fall from a much more terrifying height with each step. But somehow in the face of my client's news, my fears seem small. And it makes me feel like I can be a bit braver. So oddly his loss has allowed me to feel a bit happier about my progress so far, or perhaps a bit more grateful. I guess sometimes a death can heighten your appreciation for life.

Lastly, and I realize this post is already enormously long, but I just wanted to again thank you all so much for your support. It means the world to me.

22 comments:

Watson said...

Sarah,

Amazing post! I'm so sorry to hear of the terrible loss your client suffered.

And your line, "I'm also aware that I'm opening myself up to a fall from a much more terrifying height with each step" is so, so true...

Here's hoping everything continues to go well for you my dear, and that you don't have to experience that fall at all.

Nicole said...

I am thoroughly enjoying the read. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments on my blog. They are greatly appreciated and really do help. I have a lot of hope for you. And, I agree that death does create an appreciation for life, and that's what this whole cycle is all about, life.

Becks said...

What a great post and everything you have put is so true. I wish you loads of luck with your growing heartbeat and growing hope...lets hope this time, its a happy ending.

My Reality said...

You said it all so well. We do what we have to to protect ourselves. We do get good at being infertile - managing the appointments, the injections etc. It becomes your identity. Now that you are looking at the other side of things, you have to redefine yourself. You have to manage not only the fears of pregnancy, but all of the changes it brings about.

Marie-Baguette said...

It is hard not to let IVF swallow your life. And it is hard once pregnant not to freak out on a daily basis. I wish you all the best for your pregnancy. If you have any question do not hesitate to contact me -- I am a few months ahead. I did feel a lot better after the end of my first trimester: better physically and more optimistic. I hope you will be on "this side" soon

Bumble said...

What a beautiful post Sarah.

I'm sorry to hear about that man's son, I can't imagine how difficult that must be for him.

You should put this post in the emoblopedia over at Stirrup Queens...

Sticky Bun said...

This is such a great post on so many levels. Your comments about detaching yourself from hope, and realizing that you had just stopped actually picturing yourself getting pregnant are so right on the money. I really feel that way. It's the routine of IF that you get good at and that gets comfortable...and I know I for one do feel totally detached from "the end game." I really have lost the ability to imagine it happening at all.

anyhow, thank you for sharing. This really hit home for me on so many levels. And, for you, I hope that you do let hope in, and that your 9 months is struggle-free with the perfect end game. :-)

dark ages said...

It's a wonderful post, on some of life's great puzzles: what defines us, who are we when the chips are down, the life cycle, parenting. But you've got one thing down for sure: the worry never ends. But let the joy of the miracle wash over you when you're ready. It's just the beginning of that, too.

Tam said...

Sarah, beautifull post. I am praying that everything continues to go on smoothly and that you never have to take that fall. May hope hold you up at all times!! Here's to forgetting the familiarity of infertility :)

Baby Blues said...

The lost of a loved one is never easy, especially when parents lose a child. It's the most devastating loss. We just have to be reminded that it's not the length of time that we've spent with them but how they were able to touch our lives.

Hoping everything goes smoothly!

Foxy said...

Dear Sarah,
Enjoyed your post so much, as always.
I can not begin to imagine how scary, wonderful and frightening this all is for you. You have been thru so much and are one of the strongest people I know. I truley admire how you have handeled everything and what a source of insipration and support you are to your fellow bloggers!:)
I hope that soon you are able to let the excitement in and have a smooth nine months ahead! My thoughts are with your client and the loss of his son.

Lindsey said...

All that Iraq stuff just tugs at my heart. Especially since C spent 4 years in the Army because it was more or less the only way he could get a college education. He narrowly escaped Iraq (by about a month), thank goodness. I am so sorry for your client and for the loss of his legacy, his son, for the loss of life, which as we know, is so very, very precious.

Also, I am on the same page with you about infertility opening our eyes to the delicate circle of life. Infertility has given me a high rise view of the big picture, and things that seem important to most my age, seem more than trivial to me.

I know you were probably an A+ student at managing infertility, but you seem to be just as successful at being pregnant, and you've been doing it for a much shorter time. Your old dog does new tricks, even if the new tricks don't have measurements and instruction pamphlets and scheduled doses. You are good at being pregnant, too.

I really love this post. It speaks my own thoughts in so many ways. I hope you don't have to wait too long to see your OB/GYN. I hope your hope keeps increasing, and that circle of life within you keeps circling.

I'm sending good hopes your way.

Kate said...

Wow, Sarah, what an amazing, beautiful, profound post. I honestly don’t think there is anything more horrible than a parent losing a child--no matter how old. Your post has touched me in so many ways. Thank you for writing it.

Anonymous said...

Sadie,

This was lovely and wonderful to read and gives great insight into the process and emotions you have been experiencing. I think what is difficult for all of us to understand when we encounter rough times is that, while most people can't fully comprehend the pains, fears, necessary defense mechanisms, etc that are specific to whatever mountain it is we are trying to climb, those feelings of sadness, fear, or abnormality are actually pretty universal - most of us will encounter a great hurdle or two, and will have similar feelings about it. And that means that none of us are alone, none of us have done anything wrong in our lives to make us deserving of it, and we are strong enough to get through it and see a beautiful light (and life) at the end of the tunnel. Parenting - and I think maybe in particular Motherhood - as a journey from the very beginning of even consideration - has its very special way of pulling immensely on all heartstrings of joy and fear - and the need to protect oneself. Whether that makes you not so able to accept gifts or imagine that serial killers are everywhere, eventually coming out on the other side and seeing your family and friends waiting for you with arms open and smiling faces is a great place to be. Maybe there will be future stumbles - hopfully not - but I can tell you with certainty that your crowd of supporters with open arms and smiling faces is a strong one and will be here for you no matter what.

Sara said...

What a great post. You have encapsulated my thoughts about hope precisely. I got my first baby gift two weeks ago, and felt absolutely nothing. It didn't seem that it had anything to do with me. I thanked the giver, and then stuck it in a closet. It's hard to count your chickens before they've hatched after so much loss.

I'm so sorry for your client's loss.

The Momcaster said...

it's great that you know yourself and your emotions so well. i really hope you can get excited about your pregnancy soon. in the meantime, i'm happy to get excited FOR you ;)

K77 said...

What sad news.

I was sitting here nodding along with your post. I think it's perfectly ok to be unexcited after being in self-protection mode for so long.

megan said...

what a fantastic post. i too think that it is perfectly normal for your emotions to be on the conservative side right now. congratulations though and i wish you smooth sailing from here on out!

The Town Criers said...

This is an amazing post. And all I can say is feel whatever you need to feel.

Hope said...

Awesome post! I know the trepidation of those first weeks, you will continue to get more excited as time progresses! It's Ok to feel how you need to feel right now. Praying for you and a smooth pregnancy!!

TeamWinks said...

That was a very well written post, and I am certain it will resonate loudly with many people who read your blog.

That's a lot to think about right there!

I wish I had something more witty to say, but alas, not today.

Tam said...

Hey you, just wanted to pop in and say hi...thinking of you and hoping all is okay on your side :)