Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Grief Sneak Attack

It started at the bank.

I left school with rolls of quarters, dimes, and nickels in my cupholder to go exchange for $5 bills and a couple ones for our vacation tip money. I keep missing the bank's open hours, so these rolls of coins have been weighing down the side opposite where my morning coffee goes. But today, I made it with twenty minutes to spare.

My bank is a chain, but I love going to my branch because they are very friendly and remember who you are; so it's sort of like an old-fashioned bank from yesteryear. Also, they have notarized EVERY SINGLE FREAKING THING from IVF to donor material to adoption paperwork to embryo adoption releases. So they know us fairly well.

After exchanging my coins in their neat paper packages for crisp bills, the woman behind the desk asked, "Sooooo, how are things?"

I knew exactly what she meant.

"Still waiting," I said with a plastered smile.

"Really? Wow. That seems...long."

"Seventeen months -- some close calls but nothing has really meshed. Yet. That's why we're going to Vermont for Christmas, to avoid feeling sad around the Christmas tree just us two...again."

And then she said, "2017 is YOUR YEAR. It just HAS to be. I've been notarizing paperwork for you for years, this MUST be the year."

Oh, I hope so. But it echoed and ricocheted in my mind...how many times have I heard "This is YOUR YEAR?" in the past seven?

And it just never is. Or rather, it just hasn't been, not yet. But there's just SO MANY not yets piled up.

The second hit came when I opened a card from a friend of mine and the age of her children hit me in the heart, hard. How on earth could they be so old-looking? I mean, they are now just school-age, but I remember when she was pregnant. I remember right before she got pregnant, that she said, "I've been trying longer than you, so it would only be fair if I got pregnant first." And then she did. And I had the ectopic and then the miscarriage and then...nothing. And now her children have grown up suddenly into these not-babies, and I remember talking with her about how surprising it was to feel the expansion of twins, how painful her first trimester was for all the stretching to accommodate those two precious babies. I remember her visiting me in bed as I recuperated from my laparoscopy to remove my tube and my wayward baby and the botched incision thanks to a late-night asthma attack post-surgery, and how I asked about her anatomy scan of the babies and if she knew the sex and she stood there by my bed, with tears rolling down her cheeks, and told me that it was a girl and a boy -- and I told her that I didn't want her to not tell me her news just because mine was so shitty.

And now those babies are bona fide children. I love the card, and the family they make, but it hurt my heart so much to realize how long it's been, how hopeful I was that we could be moms together, at the same time, and our kids could grow up together. Obviously that didn't happen. They're growing up without my Mystery Baby's companionship.

Then the kicker came, and it surprised the fuck out of me.

We decided to watch a Christmas movie after a crazy day. I picked A Christmas Story, because I haven't seen it in forever.

I had no idea that it would result in a sobbing jag and a trip down into the pit.

When Ralphie beats up the kid with the yellow eyes and his mom peels him off (and leaves the bully bleeding in the snow), there's a tenderness in the dinner scene after where the mom manages to simultaneously tell the truth ("Ralphie had a fight") and protect her son from any paternal wrath by bringing up sports stuff and not pursuing it further. It's a sweet mother-son moment where he realizes he has an ally in his mom, even if just a bit ago she was washing out his mouth with LifeBoy soap for uttering the F-word. The tears started then and then flowed freely as the family went to see Santa on parade and then the boys wake up to the magical frosted Christmas morning and race down the stairs to mess with their presents.

Oh my god, what if I never have that? I thought. I've been missing this for years and years. What if I miss it forever? 

It slammed me in the gut and stomped all over my heart to see this family tableau play out in a movie where Bryce noted we've always identified with the kid, and now we identify with the parents...EXCEPT WE'RE NOT.

It sucked.

I just cried and cried in the bathroom as I washed my face and took off my eye makeup, and then I cried some more--wild animal sobs--as I sat on Bryce's lap and he rubbed my back. I cried for all we've lost. I cried for all the lost time. I cried for the possibility that this just may not be for us. I just cried and cried and felt all my losses, all the years of hope and disappointment, as if it had just happened.

I wish we had watched Love, Actually, which was my second choice. Although for all I know there would be tears for that, too, today. I don't remember all the parts--it's possible there would be a trigger there since I am apparently set up for tiny filament triplines. I thought I was okay, I thought that looking forward to the balm for the soul Vermont trip that is such a refuge for us had put me in a holiday spirit, a place of healing and happiness in what we DO have. And I am, I am happy for what we have right now.

I just really grieve the life we thought would be for us that hasn't quite come to be yet.

24 comments:

  1. This is YOUR Year! I hate that expression

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    1. Me, too. I get it, and I know it's supposed to be hopeful, but I think that really only works when you've had one or two "not your years," not SEVEN of them. (Or three or four...)

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  2. Jess, you don't know me, but I found your blog while I was writing for a certain embryo adoption organisation. I've been following your story. I'm not a mom and don't intend on being one, but I have such a heart for you. I live in England now, but I wish I lived closer so I could buy you a coffee and chat. You are so funny, sweet, wise, and I love that slightly dark edge that you have. I'm in my first serious relationship at the age of 34, and I've so enjoyed reading about the bond that you and Bryce have with each other. I don't know if this will be your year, I don't know if it will ever happen for you...but I do know that rain or shine, you'll have a fan over here in England. I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know that. Have a wonderful Christmas in Vermont, my friend.

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    1. Hi Erica, and thank you SO much for the beautiful comment! I so appreciate your thoughts and it sounds like we'd have a great time having a coffee and a chat. Thank you so much for reaching out--I hope you have a wonderful holiday as well. What warm fuzzies I have now! :) Thank you.

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  3. Sending you big, huge hugs. That's about all I have right now, as this season has turned into a cluster, a twisted version of Christmas Vacation, only decidedly unfunny, where last night I admitted defeat. So I am not feeling very festive, either. But hugs and prayers I do have, so you can have them all. Thinking of you.

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    1. Oh, thank you. Today is better, but I was on the edge of tears a lot. What a fragile time. I'm sorry that you have had a bad time this holiday season too -- I hope that after defeat comes new joy (sometimes that drop of expectations makes anything positive seem amazing). Happy holidays to you, thank you for the thoughts and prayers, and know that I am thinking of you, too.

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  4. I have no words, because really, anything seems cheap. I admit, while in infertility, I said the "your year!" thing a lot. Sort of a rah rah, because I would get all fired up when people said it to me, like, "Let's do this!" And then the year passed and it didn't happen. And then another year passed. And sometimes I feel guilty not joining in when others surround someone and cheer them on. Because I know it doesn't always happen. So to you, I just want to say, this sucks. And I hate that you don't have your baby this Christmas. It's unfair and it sucks. <3

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    1. Your words are lovely, actually. I think the cheering is a funny thing, because in the beginning it totally makes sense and then you want to be encouraging, but the blanket platitudes that make it seem like success is an eventuality are problematic. (Like the "This is THE cycle! This is YOUR time! I just know it!" comments.) Thank you for the commiseration over the suckiness of still being babyless, it means a lot!

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  5. Ah so sorry. I think I understand why people say things like "it's your year" or "it will happen" and/or all the variations. They want to believe there is some kind of cosmic justice in the universe, that if people are mostly good and mostly do things right they will be rewarded, or at least spared the worst kind of suffering. But while I can't say if there is or isn't such a thing, I know it is hard when all of one's experience implies that it's not true, that there's no lucky break coming. I hope of course that 2017 is the year that more dreams come true. You are also right how the most random things can be reminders of a missing family life. It's so taken for granted that people can have babies and that families can perpetuate themselves.

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    1. Oh, cosmic justice. Oh, people who think there's fairness in this arena, or the concept of "fair" in general, really. I guess I'm glad people are optimistic, it's better than the alternative for sure! I think you can appreciate the sentiment and still feel the sting. And oh, triggers. I laughed today about how "A Christmas Story" was a trigger, but it's those little moments where you just feel that total absence of a life you'd hoped would be in that place by now (or years ago, even). Thank you for your thoughts, I really appreciate them.

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  6. Oh Jess. I'm sorry I've been absent with comments, but I've been reading and thinking of you through all of this. No words either as it just plain sucks. I'm sorry that there are so many triggers and I'm thinking of you while sending love.

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    1. Oh, thank you for the love. No worries about comments, it's a CRAZY time of year, and then when you add in the other stuff going on for you, yikes! I've been thinking of you too and hoping that all is going well on the job front. And yeah, triggers galore. Hopefully I've gotten my sobfest out this year and now I can enjoy our holiday the way celebrate it today more than I mourn the alternate reality holiday we don't yet. :) I appreciate the love! Happy holidays to you!

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  7. For very different reasons, I have not watched a single holiday themed movie this season. And while not in your circumstances, I do indeed feel your pain.

    I hope the subsequent days have been less tender for you emotionally. I hope you and Bryce are enjoying your holiday.

    Peace.

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    1. Thank you -- same to you. It was my crying jag of the holiday season, it would seem. Peace to you, too!

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  8. I'm reaching a very loooooooong arm clear across the country to make sure you know you are not alone and that you have support. I am breathing with you through the triggers and the uncertainty. xoxo

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    1. Oh, thank you. I appreciate the breathing and the long-distance support.

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  9. I'm so sorry you felt this, but I'm not surprised. Holiday movies are emotional at the best of times, but perhaps too because they give us an excuse to feel things we don't normally allow ourselves to feel? In some ways I'm glad you've had this release, as you've obviously been suppressing a lot of the stress and emotions, inevitably as we do. I hope too that it means you are able to shake it off and enjoy your holiday in Vermont. Sending gentle hugs.

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    1. Oh, yes. Did not cry once in Vermont, thank goodness. This was the cathartic holiday cryfest in all its glory. I want to watch more holiday stuff, but man am I afraid of the triggers now! :) Thank you for the hugs, and I hope you've had a lovely Christmas.

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  10. Christmas can be a hard time in general with so many happy families and cute kids everywhere. Lots of triggers in all the movies too. Sometimes a good cry is what you need. Thinking of you! Hoping that you and Bryce are having a nice Christmas.

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    1. Oh, yes. I stayed away from Facebook a lot because so many videos of children's Christmases, running down the stairs, joy at the magical presents. I sort of long for when that wasn't all so public, but it's a brave new world, right? Thank you for your thoughts, and I hope that your Christmas was lovely as well!

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  11. Oh, Jess, I'm sorry you had experienced three moments that ended up being triggers for you, especially just before your trip. Sometimes it catches up with you and it is a lot to hold together around the holidays. I'm not a fan of the well wishes of "this will be the year" for a lot of situations. It makes me want to respond, how the f&@$ do you know? Such an unhelpful comment.

    As for feeling sad about not raising a possible future child together with friends, siblings or cousins is really hard. I've had those moments of realization with those close to me. It just really sucks and feels so unfair and isolating.

    Sounds like Bryce is very supportive as you cried every tear that needed to be cried. Hope you are feeling a bit better now and enjoying your trip!

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    1. Oh, thank you. Better before the trip than during, right? And YES. Your response to "This is YOUR year" is the one I say in my head (and not out my mouth, thank goodness). I would LOVE to have that crystal ball, but maybe not since they are frequently wrong... ha. I so appreciate your thoughts and I hope your Christmas was good and free of those feelings too, unless you needed to feel them. I think I needed to get that out so that I could enjoy our Christmas, as is. And, as always, Bryce is just the best when it comes to support, especially as it's his loss, too. Love to you!

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  12. Oh boy have I been in this place. The holidays are such a raw season when life is giving you a run. I won't say that this is your year, though I surely hope the teller is right! I will only say again that I think this angst is a purgatory of sorts and that you will end up somewhere happier and resolved in the long-run...but that is grounded in the incredible resiliency of your character. XO

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  13. Those triggers are so, so hard. Worse because they can be so seemingly random and sudden as well. I also hate that "this is your year" thing - it sounds so supportive on the surface but underneath it's so...easy to say, in a sense. It's the thing people say when they want to sound empathetic but don't want to do the emotional work to actually empathize.

    I'm so sorry you ran into those difficult moments. Thinking of you and hoping for some better days ahead.

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