Sometimes the smallest thing can set me off into a tailspin of tears and sorrow. And sometimes I feel ashamed, because my pain comes with someone else's joy. Yesterday I went to my support group, and towards the end of the time, I found myself completely surprised by my (frequently tamped-down, shoved to the back of my consciousness) grief. A friend, one who I am so excited and hopeful for, had had her transfer earlier this week. She shared pictures of her gorgeous, textbook-perfect blasts. The pictures went around, and it was awesome--this is a wonderful time of hope and optimism. Sharing pictures is a great way to both show off your pre-babies that you so hope will come to fruition and to share what this looks like to new people who may have never seen an embryo before. I share my pictures all the time (or all four times I've had pictures) at group, because it's so super cool to be able to see something so amazing and so new and so full of potential. So it wasn't the picture that upset me.
What threw me for a loop was when someone said, "How amazing--just think, if you're successful then you have actual pictures of your child--you can show them this little blob of cells and say 'that was you!'" It was weird, because I have said this very thing to people. It is ridiculously cool that your baby book can start with a picture 3-5 days after fertilization. Slightly creepy, but super cool. It wasn't the statement itself that upset me. It wasn't even the amazement and hope that filled the room as the pictures were passed around.
What happened was that I heard that statement and all I could think of was my box. I have a box under my coffee table that houses all my fertility stuff--paperwork, ultrasounds, previous protocol calendars. And pictures of 10 embryos that will never be the subject of a "this was YOU!" mother-child conversation. Four shiny, black-and-white photo print out sets of 2-3 embryos that will never be a human being. Photos that aren't a beacon of hope for the possibility of what could be, but instead are a painful reminder of all we've lost. I spiraled down into a dark, tear-filled black hole of self-pity and grief. I made it through the last 10 minutes of group without giving away my personal pain and then went to my car. And cried the whole way home. And then cried some more when I saw my husband.
It is so true that those pictures are amazing. When I get mine, I take a photo on my phone so I can keep the photo safe but still be able to share my miracles with the scant few people who get to see them. The original goes in a little cardstock frame on my vision board that says, "We welcome you and we love you!" I do not share the pictures of my embryos on this blog. I have a weird superstition about it. They are intensely private in that sense. I don't like to share them even after they are no more, even though it would be cool to show what embryos look like. It's almost like they are my Victorian death photos -- those creepy pictures people took of loved ones who died, propped up and looking not at all alive. They are sacred to me. I can't get rid of them--they are the only proof that my husband and I have that we can combine our genetic material and there is potential that we can actually conceive a baby. Depending on how you look at it, we've conceived 10 children, if you count from fertilization. Which I struggle with, given all this Personhood crap that would not only endanger birth control but also the IVF process, as who would want to take on the risk of losing embryos when they are all considered "people?" In my mind, potential people yes. People in need of legal rights? No. But I digress and get political.
It made me feel very sad, very alone, and very bitter to have this reaction. I don't like it. I absolutely could have said "Or you could end up with a drawer full of embryos that are no more," but what purpose would that have possibly served at such a time of hope? I didn't want to rain on the parade. I was hurting but I didn't want to infringe on the hope and happiness of my friend who desperately deserves so much hope and happiness. I want her embryo photo to be THE embryo photo. I just had a hard time being reminded of just how many deceased embryo photos I have locked away, hidden in plain view in my living room. It made me so sad to think of all the potential that was lost either before it had a chance to implant or because it implanted incorrectly. It made me feel that intense NOT FAIR feeling that wells up and seeps out from time to time. I felt this overwhelming sense of "how did I get here? How is it that I'm going into my fourth fresh IVF and fifth transfer? Why is this not going the way we'd hoped?"
I don't have answers. I won't have answers. It's just how the cookie crumbles (disintegrates). It doesn't mean that I begrudge others their happy hopeful times, or even their success. I want others to succeed because my path sucks. I don't want more company on this road, it's horrible. Having a drawer of the photographic evidence of my loss is not fun. Sometimes it catches up to me. And all I can think is please, please, please, let my next shiny photo of potential babies be THE picture. Let this be the end of my road. Please, please, please, let my hope finally be rewarded with success.