This past weekend the world looked on as London announced the birth of William & Kate’s second child, a baby girl. It was impossible to avoid the endless stream photos, nearly all of them featuring the beaming parents proudly holding a brand new bundle of joy in their arms. But it was the close-up photo of that baby’s tiny, beautiful face– completely unaware of all the attention surrounding her– that hit me so hard, like a punch to the stomach. Just the sight of her was so achingly painful that for a moment I could hardly breathe.
The news of baby Charlotte’s birth reminded me of William & Kate’s first pregnancy announcement at the end of 2012. We were visiting Kyle’s family in Florida at the time, rapidly approaching the end of our first full year spent trying to get pregnant. I was still recovering from the surgery that was meant to help increase our chances. There would be a three-month window of time during which we’d have a higher-than-normal potential of getting pregnant before we’d be right back where we started. We were so hopeful that we were finally on the right track, still continuing to believe that we were only ever a month (or less) away from the best day of our lives.
I remember feeling so relieved for Kate Middleton; I couldn’t even imagine the level of pressure she had been under in regards to her fertility. And I remember telling Kyle that I thought it was a sign (you are always looking for signs when you need a reason to continue being hopeful) that we were going to get pregnant now too. But, seven months later, I sat in bed with my laptop looking at the first pictures of baby George, still not pregnant and feeling far less hopeful.
Now Kate & William have had their second child and, again, I am looking at photos of their sweet new addition, no closer to having a child of my own.
We’ve watched a lot of pregnancies come and go around us throughout this time. So many that we couldn’t even count them all. It’s tough to hear each new announcement, to see each new baby, and to be left wondering whether we will ever get to be parents ourselves. We’ve been at this so long now that we’ve seen whole families come together, all in the time we’ve been trying to have a single child.
Sometimes I think about The Life That Could Have Been. If we had been able to get pregnant when we’d wanted to our current lives would be drastically different. In some alternate reality we would have a child just a few months away from celebrating a third birthday. We’d be talking about preschool and our house would be full of life rather than quiet and empty. The loss has since become compounded because we’d likely have a second child as well, perhaps still on the way. It wouldn’t just be the two of us struggling to live with this gnawing, painful void. Instead, we would be part of a family. Sometimes I think of those alternate-reality children that we will never have or know and wonder– who would they be? What would we have named them? What would they have looked like? What would we be doing right now? What would our lives look like?
But in this reality we are staring down the barrel of a second embryo transfer, not knowing what will come from it and more than a little scared to find out.
“The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?” – Laura Bush, “Spoken From the Heart”