There’s no scrapbook for that

I’m not sure if I’ve been inspired by the BAZILLIONS of bloggers in my reader feed who are participating in the Who Needs It Declutter Challenge or if I’ve just hit the wall at my own, shit-strewn house but I have decided that I’m using these final days before I go back to work to try to cull through the crap and make sure that ALL THE THINGS HAVE A PLACE because right now, it seems a good deal of them just float around on counters or the floor, never ending up at a final destination.

If I can’t find a place for something?! I will THROW THAT SHIT AWAY.

So I’m spending the precious moments when my son is asleep during the day, or when my in-laws are kind enough to take him, and tackling problem areas in my house. Today I finished Monito’s room, where I got rid of all his 0-3 month clothes, a bunch of baby blankets (seriously, we’re never going to use the 15 we ended up with–and where did they all come from?! I’ve never bought one in my life!) and other random things that just lay around without a home. I also did the three plastic junk drawers in our kitchen, which were so disgusting they had to be emptied and WASHED. Gross.

Tomorrow I’m going to tackle Osita’s room, which shouldn’t be so bad as I’ve been doing it in bits and pieces since before the baby was born.

The big one will be our room, where shit just accumulates on the floor as if by magic. I am going to be really harsh about throwing shit away in there. If I don’t have a good place to put it, OUT OF SIGHT, then it is going in the trash. I don’t care if some day I regret throwing it away. THAT SHIT NEEDS TO GO.

So as I was culling through the crap today, I came across a small folder with our infertility paperwork. There were A LOT of papers in there. More than I expected. More than I remembered. There were lab requests and lab results and SA scipts and SA results and informational packets and bills and all these pieces of paper with medical evidence suggesting we wouldn’t have another child. I remember looking at those pieces of paper, all the medically significant numbers they held, and realizing that they stated, pretty damn clearly, that our family building days were over. We couldn’t afford treatments and even if we could, with those numbers? It would be insanity to throw a couple hundred dollars at the effort, let alone tens of thousands.

Holding those papers, I felt the finality of my belief that we weren’t having another child. I could see those thoughts so clearly, I was just so sure we were done. And it was everything in that folder that convinced me.

I started at the folder for a long time and then texted Mi.Vida, asking him if I could recycle it. He quickly responded with an unceremonious, “yes.”

And with that, I walked into the kitchen and dumped the folder into the recycle bin.

Not five minutes later I came across a file with a stack of unused BBT charts. I thought Osita could draw on the backs so I threw them in with her art supplies and that’s when I realized that at the bottom of the pile were my charts from way back when I was trying for my first pregnancy, before I even joined FertilityFriend and started charting online.

Leafing through those charts really took me back. Tracing my fingers over the dark scrawls, remembering how desperately I marked every temperature, recorded every symptom, wondering WHY it wasn’t working, why I wasn’t getting pregnant. Looking at those charts now I see so many patterns that eluded me when I first started. How could I not see how short those 20 day cycles were? How did I not realize they signaled a rapidly declining ovarian reserve and future infertility?

As I glanced at each terribly short cycle, I finally came across an incredibly long one. The jagged line marched all the way across the page. When did I ever have a cycle like that? I wondered, confused. And then I realized. It was the cycle of my ectopic pregnancy. I kept taking my temperature every morning, for weeks after I got my BFP. I just wanted the reassurance that I was still pregnant, that things would be okay. I took it all the way up until the day I started cramping and bleeding–two days before I landed in the ER and found out my hard-won pregnancy was ectopic.

Staring at that BBT chart I was flooded with emotions. It was like I could feel the weight of each one of those days, so simply recorded as a tiny circle traced around a specific number, each one of those markings representing an anguished 24 hours of elation, uncertainty, and terror. I thought about the girl who circled each one of those temperatures, tentatively assuming all would be well, despite being so scared something would go wrong. Each day she made a small circle and hoped so fiercely for the best. I felt such sadness for that girl, who didn’t know what was in store, who didn’t know that her silly temperature taking could never keep the horror of losing her pregnancy at bay.

After many long moments of reliving those days, I took the BBT charts I had used and stuffed them into the recycle bin, right next to our RE folder. In so many ways, it felt wrong to throw those things away. They are tokens of a terrible, but important and transformative, time. Shouldn’t I save them, as a reminder? Except I don’t need them any more and I want, no I NEED, to get rid of everything I don’t need. There isn’t space in my life, not physically or emotionally, for stuff I’m not using. And thankfully, I don’t need BBT charts, or my infertility history, anymore. And frankly, I don’t really need the reminders.

I found those papers in a book shelf in our hall, the same book shelf that houses all our photo albums. Those papers were right above Osita’s four photo books, the memories of my college days, chronicles of vacations we’ve taken in the past. Those books are chalk full of papers, little memories folded into the scrapbooks of our lives. But there are no scrapbooks for infertility and loss. It’s not appropriate to fold the BBT chart from my lost pregnancy into Osita’s first photo book, or even the book from my successful pregnancy. That loss was separate from those happy times. It paved the way to them, but it shouldn’t be included with them. And our infertility does not define my son’s birth. That folder doesn’t have a place in his keepsake box, already brimming with cards of congratulations, the plaque from his hospital bassinet, our labor and delivery bracelets, the first onsie he wore. Again, those memories paved the way to our son, but their legacy isn’t something I want to take up space in the box where I store tokens from his life.

I chose to throw away those pieces of paper but I know I can never throw away the memories they provoke. And I wouldn’t want to even if I could. I wish I could say that throwing them away were symbolic, that I felt lighter after doing it, but I didn’t. Those dark places are still there, in my heart, and dumping some papers can never lighten that load.

But it can get a bunch of paperwork out of my book shelf.

What do you do with the keepsakes of your pain? Do you keep them or throw them away?

4 responses

  1. Good for you! I’ve thrown out a lot of the same things, even happy things like BFP HPTs , but I can’t bring myself to shed my ectopic paperwork. I’m not sure why. I still “need” it for some reason, but it’s something I’m going to look at when I cull my files in the future. I’m very much past it, I think, but also not quite.

  2. Its interesting that you just posted this, because I came across our RE folder last weekend. It had ALL the paperwork from our first two failed ivf cycles, my d&c, and the lone photo of our fist lost “perfect” embryos. I showed B and said, “I’m ready to throw these away,” with a certainty in my tone. He said, “not yet.”. I asked why hang onto them, and he said, “because we can never get them back, and I want no regrets.”. Turns out, he’s not ready yet. It broke my heart a little.

    I did discard my sharps containers from all of our cycles once done injecting myself at 12 weeks for Bryson. That felt good. Damn good! I also threw out all HPTs but the very first BFP for each of our boys. But I’ve kept every form, every insurance statement, every EVERYTHING from my successful cycles. They’re never going anywhere – other than our safe deposit box for those precious first embryo and ultrasound photos.

  3. Maybe I’m an outlier here, but I’ve never kept anything that reminds me of hurt or disappointment or loss – especially fertility-related. With every embryo transfer we do, we get a picture of the embryo(s). Whenever I get a BFN, they go in the trash. When we did get a BFP, I kept the pee sticks and embryo pictures… until I miscarried. Then they went in the trash, too.

    I suppose I could say that I throw things out because metaphorically speaking I don’t hang onto pain, but that’s not entirely true. For me, it was more I just couldn’t deal with the reminder that I once had hope of things being different. So I get rid of them.

    It was – still is – much harder to rid myself of Owen’s baby things. There are so many clothes I bought after he was born – because I FINALLY could buy baby things! But those are keepsakes borne of happiness and joy. Because of that, those are the hardest for me to part with, knowing they’ll never get use again.

  4. I loved this post. We still have all of our embryo pictures (mostly from failed transfers) as well as D’s first u/s pic that also includes clearly the image of the no-longer-developing fetus. I kept my records from clinic 1 & 2 as well as the HSG pic that revealed my uterine defect and misshapen right tube due to endo. I should throw a lot of it away, but I think I have a tendency to hang on to the bad stuff as well as the good. Something to work on for sure.

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