Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Letting Go of the Books

This stack of books has lived in the little room, aka the baby's room, for YEARS.

The bottom four were gifts from a friend who had been on the infertility rollercoaster, and then chose to adopt from South Korea and now is the mother of two amazing school-aged children.

The bottom one, The Complete Organic Pregnancy, caused me so much anxiety. I read it cover to cover the summer I was briefly pregnant, although now I can't remember if I read it the summer of the Ectopic or the summer of the Miscarriage, but nonetheless I thought maybe we'd crossed over into an infertility success story. It scared the bejeezus out of me. I finished reading it and was left feeling convinced that everything in my house, down to the WALLS, was toxic and a threat to the tiny thing that might (but didn't) become our baby. I feel like I did a pretty good job checking stuff for off-gassing and replacing plastic with glass and as much organic as we can afford BEFORE reading that book, but afterwards I felt like I may as well be living in a superfund site. Possibly created by myself.

The top one I bought myself, in a Barnes & Noble in Burlington, Massachusetts, during the ectopic debacle. I liked it because it started at 5 weeks, whereas many books start at 6, 7, or even 8. I was accompanying Bryce on a business trip the summer before starting my job split between the 8th grade and the 9th grade, and so while I had fun reading with me, I also had earth science study guides and algebra study guides and was boning up on 9th grade curriculum. (I also liked this book because Great Expectations was required reading for 9th grade, so it seemed appropriate.) I hung out in the hotel while Bryce worked, trying to move around housekeeping's schedule, taking advantage of the sunny courtyard with umbrella tables outside, and occasionally venturing out for a movie or the bookstore (and hoping I didn't get lost on the way back). We had received a call on the way that our bloodwork was continuing to take a wonky path upward, that we were at 172 after our last beta that was 75, and while I took that to be a good sign they were not very optimistic. It had been three days, not two, and that was triple but still way low for 5 1/2 weeks, where I was at the time. I spent one day having a conversation with our doctor at the time, listening to the various outcomes that we were to be prepared for: blighted ovum, unhealthy embryo just waiting to miscarry, ectopic pregnancy. At the time I was terrified of ectopic, but knew it was super rare, and I had conceived through IVF, where they put the embryo IN YOUR UTERUS. It was by far the long shot, but a possibility they wanted me to monitor myself for -- bleeding, one-sided pain, shoulder pain (sign of internal bleeding), etc. I was stubborn. "But it could also just be an odd beginning to a fine pregnancy, right?" I was told that was the longest of long shots, more so than the ectopic. Hmm.

So, I hung on to my hope and bought the pregnancy book and a Fit Pregnancy magazine, I sucked on my ginger candies, I peed on sticks for the joy of seeing "PREGNANT" fill the screen. And all that time my embryo was tucked deep in my fallopian tube, having been sucked up by backwards-facing villi. But I would believe it when I saw it. I would read about where I was developmentally, be happy when I hit 6 weeks at the end of the trip and the little nugget was the size of a sesame seed, and look forward to all the exciting developments to come, all the fruit-based analogies that I knew would be mine.

But they weren't. We went for bloodwork again and we were at 492, high enough to warrant an ultrasound in a few days but still low enough to be told this was a no-go. And then the ultrasound showed my uterus to be empty. And then my bloodwork came back over a thousand, and off to the perinatal ultrasound place we went... and the rest is history.

I didn't regret buying the book. I used it when we got pregnant the following year, when I barely made it to sesame seed again and decided that my uterus could only handle foods that cause diverticulitis, and that I would never ever look at the books again until I was at least 8 weeks pregnant and we'd seen some kind of heartbeat.

You know how that worked out.

So these books sat in a drawer, and I slowly tossed the pregnancy magazines, but left the books just in case.

And then justincase became, I'll hold on to them until someone becomes pregnant who I feel is worthy of these books that I've held for so long, worthy of the momentous step that is letting go of pregnancy, of the possibility of pregnancy, accepting that those are books that won't be for me. Ever. (Ever is pretty final, but so is our prognosis for achieving a pregnancy that is healthy for everyone involved at this point, so I feel pretty good about saying EVER.)

I packed them up (minus the anxiety-producing organic pregnancy one) yesterday and gave them to friends of ours.

These friends have been slogging on the infertility path, much more privately than we have ever managed our journey. They have endured so much, and suffered through losses of their own. The last time the had a post-cycle (post-miscarriage) meeting with their fertility doctor, they were told that egg donor or adoption were their best bets for building their family at this point.

They got pregnant on a break. So far, so good, although cautious optimism is the name of the game. They were graduated from the fertility clinic. They wait and cross fingers and hope that everything turns out.

They got the books.

It was surprisingly difficult at first to part with them, to say that that hope is gone. We are thrilled, beyond thrilled to be pursuing adoption and building our family in this way. But not ever being pregnant is a big fat loss to me, even though I understand that it is not for me and that parenthood is the ultimate goal. There was an emptiness felt when those books left my possession. There was a deep sadness, one that didn't last but was profound, in transferring that hope over to another couple, a couple that was told "probably never" as we never were, but so far are successful. In knowing that happy endings can happen, incredible long-shot success stories are out there, but not for us. Not in this way, anyway.

This is not jealousy. This is in the category of "Happy for You, Sad for Me," but with a twist... because I'm more sad at the loss of that dream and the physical representation of it. However, I removed those books from a room that is actively being turned into a nursery for a baby that quite frankly could arrive before theirs is born. That room is full of hope in a way it never was before, and removing those books, those reminders of a dead-end pathway is a GOOD thing. They don't belong in that room anymore. But it's not really surprising that it brought to the forefront, no matter how briefly, those feelings of loss and a dream that died. It's so complicated when these feelings are mixed in with joy for friends who made it when we didn't, so far, and fear for shoes dropping out of the sky. I hope they don't. I hope they've made it.

I feel better today, and I still need to find a home for the Organic Pregnancy guide. I am excited to move on, and definitely excited and hopeful for our friends. I sincerely hope that everything continues to go well. There is a strong heartbeat, but many hurdles to cross still. And I can understand feeling robbed of the innocent joy and anticipation that fertile people get to hold, where all we feel is a sense of waiting for another shoe to drop. A feeling that we have niggling in the back of our minds for adoption, as well, but since we have no experience with adoption setbacks, we can be a little like the fertiles on that one, although wary that for us, when bad things are possible, bad things have tended to happen.

Goodbye, pregnancy books. Time to leave our baby's room, make space for more things for a real live baby that is on its way to us, time to continue nesting during this bizarre waiting period where we don't have physical reminders that a baby is on its way, or a defined timeline for when that may happen. But it's happening, nonetheless...and I have to expect that these moments of loss for what could have been but wasn't will crop up. It doesn't mean I am less happy. It means I am more human.


  1. Sounds like a difficult but necessary step. Physical objects can be powerful emotional triggers. (As I stash away more and more baby stuff, I sometimes feel like I am building a big trigger time bomb, if that makes any sense, because I don't know if or when or if ever they will be needed). It's great that you can pass the books on to where they are needed and appreciated; that must be a good feeling. If we don't need our baby stuff again, I am rooting for two sets of friends to become quickly pregnant because I think I would feel best about passing it to them. But that organic pregnancy book? Seriously, rip the covers off and recycle it. NOBODY needs that! I was shuddering as I read your description, remembering all the anxiety I went through while pregnant, terrified of germs/poisons/fate. The fact is we live in one of the safest and healthiest periods of time ever and PREGOS DON'T NEED THAT KIND OF GUILT AND ANXIETY. Throw. It. Out.

    1. It's so nice when you can earmark things for friends, makes it easier to let go and feel quite so sad. I can understand how putting away the baby stuff would be like setting up a time bomb, and a sad activity in itself. I feel like I really made the book sound terrible...It did have redeeming qualities but you're right, there's enough anxiety and we do live in relatively safer times. I just can't seem to throw books out, ever... I'll figure out some way to get rid of it though without inflicting harm on others. :-)

  2. I think a lovely bonfire this time of year might be a great way to come to terms with that organic pregnancy book. I mean, what can make you feel better than S'mores? Toasted over sweet relief at having a little less anxiety in your life.

    Except that will probably be difficult to do since you don't like throwing away books. Send it to me. I'll take care of it for you.

    1. That is actually tempting... It's almost brand new condition so I feel so guilty thinking about tossing it, but like you ladies said it isn't the most constructive book in the world. Although maybe to a "normal" preggo it wouldn't be quite so anxiety-ridden? Mmmm, relief s'mores... I think s'mores are happening tonight for sure.

  3. Sounds like you are letting go of the books on your timeline and when you are ready. It is a big step. And I like that you are giving yourself permission to grieve. Love the last line of your post.

    1. It felt like a big step for sure, but I was sad and surprised at how much it affected me and put me in a little funk. Lots of that in the past week or so, but that's the whole grieving thing. Thanks... I loved that line, too. So true.