No Longer Applicable

It’s 4am and I’m pumping. I’ve been up since 2:30am because it turns out both my kids got the memo about an early morning soiree.

It still trips me out to say “kids.” Every single time I stop and think how lucky I am.

While I was rocking Monito to sleep, I realized I never read the posts in last week’s Round Up. So I moseyed on over there to check them out. One of them was written on a blog about stillbirth: a baby boy who was lost at 39 weeks.

I realized as I read the post that this was the first time I’d read about stillbirth since my son’s birth. As we all know, it’s hard to process stories of loss, even when we don’t know the person we’re reading about. One of the ways I’ve always dealt with those stories is by wondering if that would ever be me. Would my own child die before I’d ever meet him? The mere possibility that something so awful might happen was more than I could bear.

Reading the post today I realized that my fear of such a tragedy happening to me no longer applies. I will not be having any more children, I will not experience the stillbirth of a child. That horrible tragedy is not a part of my story. I can’t tell you how strange it is to be able to push that fear aside, not because it probably won’t happen but because it definitely won’t. This is a fear I’ve held close to my heart for years and years, probably since I was a young girl process the death of my own siblings. To be able to finally, now, let it go, is hard to wrap my head around.

I felt a similar sentiment at the OB’s office last week. Sitting on the chair outside the office, getting my blood pressure taken, I glanced up at all the fliers for pregnant women, chronicling fetal development through the different weeks of a pregnancy. I used to look at those fliers and cringe when I saw the months still ahead, wondering if I’d make it to those milestones. Losing my child inside me was always a part of my experience; so few thoughts about pregnancy (and life) were not tainted by the possibility that it could all be lost.

But it wasn’t lost. My daughter arrived safely three and half years ago and then my miracle son followed. Stillbirth is not my story. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.

So now it’s time to let it go, that fear that has lingered in the back of my mind, in the corners of my heart, for all these years. It’s just one of many fears I’m working on releasing. It takes a lot of work to dislodge these phantom fears and expel them once and for all. Sometimes I wonder if they’ll always be there, if I’ve lived with them for so long that I’ve molded myself around them; even in their absence, my psyche holds their shapes, empty pockets where they once lived.

I do know that I see things differently now. It’s a subtle change in my attitude towards so many things: seeing a pregnant woman out in public, hearing the news that someone is expecting, talking about whether a family is planning on having another child. All these experiences feel different to me, as I shed the fears that loss and infertility nurtured in me. It’s strange to see the world from this new lens of a completed family. I no longer have to wonder, to project my own uncertainty onto the experience of others. My family is complete, the fear no longer applies.

It’s a freeing feeling, to be sure, but sometimes it seems like something is missing. I wrote before about how I’m moving past the family building portion of my life, and saying goodbye to the hold that loss and infertility had on me. It is, of course, a positive development, but ultimately it’s more complicated than just good or bad. As Josey put it in the comment section of my previous post, walking away from infertility is a loss too: the loss of an identity, the loss of a point of common bond, the loss of a certain perspective.

I doubt I’ll ever really be able to abandon the perspective infertility imprinted on me, but I do notice the shifts in the way I see things. Certain touchstones are growing smaller–some are simply not there–and without them I’m left groping, unable to cope in the ways I’m familiar with. When I read the stories of other people’s loss, I can no longer couch my discomfort in fears about my future. Now I must face them head on. I must look the pain of other people straight in the face and see it for what it is, and that is a difficult thing to do.

Walking away from infertility and loss is a complicated process. Sometimes it feels like I’m untangling a knot in a chain, teasing the pieces of myself that are wrapped so tightly around each other as to be almost indistinguishable from one another. I hope, when the knot has been undone, the chain won’t be too bent or kinked. I hope the necklace will be as beautiful as it once was and that I can wear it proudly.

3 responses

  1. I feel the same way every time I say “the kids”- wow. I’m so grateful that stillbirth was not and will never be part of your story, but am so sorry you had so much fear and anxiety about it for so long. I love your necklace analogy- so perfect. I think even if there are a few kinks left it will still be beautiful.

  2. I love this post and how freeing it must be for you to have that in your past (similar, I suspect, to how I felt when we decided to adopt instead of pursue pregnancy). However, I do think infertility bequeathed me a “what tragedy is around the corner” mentality that I’m still working on shaking. Hopefully you do not face the same.

  3. It’s so startling for things to be different and successful when it seemed like success was beyond the realm of possibility, isn’t it? I spend a lot of time crying while admiring the girls these days, just them hanging out and being and arguing over markers or dancing together or just being both in my line of sight. Amazing and miraculous, yet I have to regrow parts of myself that got lost for this to seem more normal. Then again, it’s kind of cool to really appreciate what you have.

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