We're home from our last stretched-out Christmas family event, having spent a few beautiful days in southern Vermont with my husband's mom and stepdad. Ironically there wasn't much snow there, where the skiing is king, but we came home to enough snow on the ground that our driveway was plowed.
The thing about drives in the car is that you have this time where you can have conversations and the other person can't escape: there's no walking away, or suddenly developing a burning interest in doing laundry or vacuuming, or deciding now's the perfect time to go for a run. It's really a hostage situation. This can make for some interesting conversations, and is kind of the perfect time to really delve into difficult subjects. Plus, it's hard to make sustained eye contact with the other person (safely, at least), so if something hard has to be said it can make it a little bit easier...even though you are stuck there and can't run away.
I am not succeeding at making this not sound like a fight. Today was not a fight, not at all, but it was some hard-truth-discussing, that's for darn sure.
Over the vacation we kind of felt out how my husband's parents felt about adoption. They thought it was a great idea. Which led to questions about why we can't just move forward with that and put the rest behind us, why we can't drop the infertility treatment piece cold turkey and throw ourselves straight into adoption. Out of love, out of concern for my health, out of concern for time.
I am going to be completely and utterly honest in this post, and it may not be easy to hear/read, but I have been feeling so very conflicted and I need to kind of sort it out and get it out of my head a bit.
In having these discussions, I was a little in awe about how much I've already learned about domestic infant adoption and the process and the players and the pitfalls of explaining what adoption looks like today versus thirty or twenty years ago. I was also a little in awe about how excited we are, how much passion goes into explaining and talking about this as a possible (and probable) future. There is nothing like talking about a pathway with others who have a stake in it to make you realize that you really are on board with taking this step. That as afraid as I've been to start this process while finishing the other process, it is absolutely the right decision for us.
I am finding that I am in a funny place. I don't have a whole lot of hope that we'll end up pregnant. I'd love for that to happen, but honestly what makes me think this could happen for us at this point? This journey has been nothing but cruel to us. We have done 9 cycles, transferred 25 embryos, and only two of those cycles and two of those embryos ever did anything remotely exciting. To sit there and look at the fact that it has been YEARS since my one uterine pregnancy is incredibly discouraging. To feel like perhaps it would be nice to be put in some sort of stasis for transfer (and maybe even the wait) so that I don't feel horribly sad as we put these little bundles of potential life inside my uterus, because really I feel that they are going to their death. That is not a good feeling. I try to be positive, but when the odds seem so utterly stacked against you, how can you not feel like this is a lost cause? Especially when we've had TWO cancellations in the past year when that's never happened to us before? Especially with our brand-new issues of polyps and uterine scarring? This is where, I feel, people stop understanding me.
THEN WHY KEEP DOING IT? WHY PUT YOURSELF THROUGH THIS AGAIN? WHY NOT JUST MOVE ON?
No one yells this at me, but I kind of hear it that way. People, including my husband, including our respective parents, including our closest friends, are concerned. And I am moving on, I am. I would like some credit for that. Originally we had another fresh cycle in our package. We 100% are NOT doing that. No more fresh cycles. Our frozens are all we have left, and I would like to finish it out. I would like to give them a chance. Even though, I realize, I just said putting them in my uterus makes me feel like it's NO chance.
Here's the thing...no one is telling us this is not going to happen, even when it feels to us that everyone on our team is completely delusional. The scarring is at the tippy top of my uterus, and the belief is that it won't impact a pregnancy. But it sounds awfully scary. And how do they know?
The fears people around us have:
- We won't get pregnant and we'll have wasted time.
- We will get pregnant and we'll experience another miscarriage.
- We will get pregnant and we'll have complications on my end that are life threatening or compromise my health either short term or long term.
- We will get pregnant and there will be complications that result in premature birth and complications that come with that.
- We will get pregnant and we'll have a late stage loss.
I have these fears, too, but I don't necessarily think they're founded. I do not want to end this journey in more tragedy than we've already experienced, but who has said that these things are any more of a possibility than they are for the average 38 year old pregnant woman? And, if we start the application process and gather our documents and paperwork and all that assorted work for adoption while we're finishing this out, then have we really wasted any time?
Why is it so bad for me to want to use these embryos and close out our process? It seems somehow wrong not to. To me. Please understand this is my thought process and my situation, so if your situation is different, I am in NO WAY judging you and your decisions. However, there is embryo donation. But for me, I feel like we don't have embryos from a successful cohort, so who would want them? Can I donate embryos to someone else that don't have a good track record from the buddies who came before them? This has been asked. The answer-and-question-all-at-once, WHAT IF THEY WORK IN SOMEONE ELSE? has come up. That one hurts. It hurts because then it's really my uterus and my ability to carry that's the problem, ultimately, and that would really make me feel terrible. It is definitely not my fault, and it is nothing whatsoever that I've done, but it would feel that way. It would feel like I was the ultimate failure in the equation, and even though I would be so mad at anyone who would say the same to themselves, I'd be all "it's not your fault!" and "stop blaming yourself, crazypants!" I can't take my own advice. It is hard for me to think that these embryos would work for someone else. Gestational carrier is so tricky in NY and is a path that comes with its own difficulties, so we probably wouldn't do that as tempting as it is to me to figure out if it's my uterus that's the culprit. I know people who have done that and it STILL didn't work out. Better to move on to a process that is no longer medical in nature, no longer a treatment, something that separates us from all that. Why can't I let these embryos go?
Would life be easier, be simpler in some way if I could?
Is the only thing keeping me from diving into adoption these frozen embryos?
Is it that I believe these are our last chances at pregnancy, at an experience that otherwise we need to let go of?
In talking in the car today, it is painfully apparent that while I hope that we experience that, I just can't see it anymore. I want to, but that version of a future reality has been stripped away, layer by layer, by every negative, every loss, every cancellation, every surgery that reveals some new hideous hurdle. I have friends who tell me they still see that for me. Good for them, because I can't. It actually hurts to imagine it, because it has hurt so much to lose that hope and that dream every time it is not our reality to hold. But can I see us with a baby in our arms? Absolutely.
It is so hard to put this to paper, to make it real in a sense. Not to crap it up with an example from my ugly past life, but it is almost like when I suspected my ex-husband was cheating on me but had no concrete proof, and while it hurt so much to have that betrayal exposed to me, it was also a relief. Because there was this truth that was lurking beneath this glass, and I didn't want to face it, but I could move on with my life and have a MUCH BETTER existence if only I faced it. It took someone else exposing disgusting emails and telling me things in a way I couldn't deny for me to finally be like, yes, I guess I knew this in some way, okay, this sucks and it hurts, but now I can let that go and move on to a new chapter. And if I could go back to my previous self and tell her what amazingly wonderful things await her, even when the loss of what I thought I had was so fresh and raw, I don't even know if Old Me would believe it. It would be like a fairy tale of sorts, because my life now is SO DIFFERENT. And so much better, even with all this infertility horrificness.
I have heard that couples who end treatment and go down the adoption path feel this way too. They want to go back and tell their Old Selves what awaits them on the other side of that loss, that it's so worth it, and that they wish they'd discovered this earlier. It seems so similar, except in this case there's no one else to break the glass and let this truth out, it has to be me who comes to grip with the fact that I can't have the happiness without accepting the truth that pregnancy is just not our way to a baby. That if I can just make it through the howling and the finality of realizing that IVF DID NOT WORK FOR US, THAT WE WILL NEVER BE PREGNANT, then I can move forward and start a beautiful new chapter that has its own challenges and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, easy...but we can have a child. I can be a mom. We can be parents. We can have that dream of holding our infant come into focus and become a beautiful reality.
It is a big loss for me to come to grips with. In the grand scheme of things, pregnancy is such a tiny part of parenthood. But it's a part I wanted. It's a part you never think won't be for you. I feel small and materialistic in a way, admitting this, but it is hard for me to let go of telling people I'm pregnant, of my maternity photo shoot, of shopping for my baby shower with a beautiful bump in front of me, of holding up tiny clothes at my baby shower and resting them on my ginormous belly, of hearing a heartbeat, of birthing our baby in whatever way and meeting him or her on the outside after bonding on the inside. So many things can still be had, just not how I imagined. And that imagined life, the one that plays out daily on facebook and Christmas letters and whatnot...it's hard to surrender. But surrendered it must be to move on and greet the beautiful life that is waiting for us.
I am not 100% of the way there. While the thought of sticking myself with another goddamn needle makes me want to puke, and even tomorrow I have to go, on New Year's Eve, for a midcycle ultrasound at my OB/GYN to gather data for our February cycle, and that makes me feel icky, I have a hard time not finishing this out. We have a consultation, a post-cancelled-cycle consult appointment in person that I set up because we wanted to see our doctor face to face and have a difficult conversation before getting started on this next go-round, our last one with ready-made blasts and maybe the last one ever if those 2PNs fail to grow out to Day 5. It's next week. I am testing out the idea of letting it go. Why should this next cycle turn out any different than the cancelled one? Why should my lining cooperate this time? Why should we have any hope that this will work? Seriously, why?
Right now the plan is to execute these two FETs and do the application. To focus on the application and not the FETs. Hard to do when the FETs require so much time off from school to drive to Buffalo and rest and all the needles and the side effects and the feeling of hope that dwindles and then surges and then dwindles and then surges and, historically, then leaves us feeling bereft and lost. But maybe, if we are focusing on this new door, this new route, then a negative would feel more like a step towards resolution, towards reaching our path.
I struggle so much. Can I let go of the embryos now? Can I embrace the new path 100% and leave this medical disaster behind, unfinished, unresolved by anyone but us? Would those embryos haunt us? Bryce asked if I'd consider saving them for later and adopting now, then trying for a sibling with these embryos later. Interesting idea. But will my uterus continue to deteriorate? Will that just force the issue and make it moot?
There is a Buddhist saying that I first read, ironically, in a women's magazine (quoted by a famous actress who recently went through her own personal uprooting). "Let go or be dragged." It is so simple. It is so powerful. It spoke to me. It's haunted me. Every time I dig my heels in and want to keep going with our FETs, it whispers in the back of my consciousness. "You're being dragged." There is another quote attributed to Buddha (but apparently is REALLY from a book by a guy named Jack Kornfield, called Buddha's Little Instruction Book, so I guess it's in the spirit of Buddha) that raises my hackles, but speaks to me and I hate it but also understand it more every day... "In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you." Can you see why this raises my hackles? The idea that something can be NOT MEANT FOR YOU is deeply offensive to me, like someone somewhere is making a judgment, especially when this thing is granted to people who don't want it ALL THE TIME. But really, the reason why I think it bothers me so much? It's a hard truth. It lurks beneath glass and needs to be let out. It bothers me because it may be true but hard to face, that pregnancy is just not meant for me, not now, at this point in my life, maybe not ever. As of this moment it has not been our lasting reality, and I feel a little foolish for pursuing it still when there is SO MUCH HISTORY telling us that we are chasing a dream of epic proportions.
So can I let go? Can I face this truth? Is there a smidgen of hope left that I could have the hands on a big belly that belongs to me and see this dream fulfilled? Or is the true dream, the best dream, holding a baby that we have loved since we first committed to trying to have a child, a baby that grew in someone else's tummy but is meant for us to love and raise and complete our family? Chase and grasp or let go and find joy? Accept that our path is truly ending on the medical side and embrace a different reality than we originally imagined but one that is far more joyful than our current reality?
"Let go or be dragged." It is so much easier to read it than to live it.