Since the day we lost Kyle’s mom, we have tried our best to help fill the void. We flew back and forth to Florida twice in the first weeks after her passing to make arrangements, plan the funeral, unpack the new house, sort through her things, deal with the finances, and make sense of the monthly bills. Picking up the pieces has been such an enormous job that even now, more than six weeks later, there is still a never-ending list of calls to make, bills to figure out, and issues to untangle. Having never lost a parent before, each step I have taken throughout this process has been done blindly. I want to be able to support Kyle through this horrific time, but I am so far in over my head that I no longer know what to do. Add in to the mix that we were already exhausted and stretched beyond our limits before any of this happened, and I don’t know how we’ve managed to limp along this far.
Obviously, thanks to various chronic illnesses, my body is unreliable at best. Yet, somehow I pushed through those first harrowing weeks, taking on as much as possible so Kyle didn’t fall too far behind in his graduate classes. I don’t know where the strength or energy came from, but it has left me now, and in its place I am fighting an increasing amount of pain and fatigue. The progress I had made with my health this summer has drained away again, and I have found myself continuing to struggle to function. I feel as though I am being dragged back into a hole that I had just climbed out of. Most days I try to accept that my every waking moment will be spent in pain, but then there are days that I just feel so angry that I want to break something. The frustration of not being able to live even a shadow of a life right now has become truly unbearable.
We held the funeral for Connie on September 25, the day before our 6th wedding anniversary. Memories of her from our rehearsal dinner and wedding day flashed through my mind as we sat, dressed in black, in the first pew and went through the motions of saying goodbye. The little Paddington Bear we’ve carried throughout this journey came along and sat in my lap through the service, a physical representation of Sweet Pea. Had I been able to get pregnant myself, our son would have been present at his grandmother’s funeral instead of being many, many miles away from me.
The last six years have been the worst of my life, but that has nothing to do with Kyle or our marriage. Instead, we have been living with grief and loss as constant companions since shortly after our wedding in 2009. From my grandpa’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer that first year to his passing in December 2010, I have never really recovered from what we went through or the loss of him, a best friend and role model. Unlike most newlyweds who enjoy a honeymoon phase after getting married, our lives soon revolved around radiation treatments, doctor’s appointments, and the fear of what it would be like to live without him. I spent every possible moment with my grandparents during those months, gave them everything I had to give, and I would gladly do it all again in a heartbeat. That time we had together where we didn’t take even a moment for granted was precious in the midst of the pain, but there was no way to come out of that experience unscathed. I once thought that 2010 would remain the worst year of my life until I experienced the first one without him.
When we began the process of trying to start a family not long after my grandpa was gone, I finally had hope and a reason to look to the future– and then we fell headfirst into a devastating battle against infertility, losing so much of my health along the way. I spent more than two years of that time almost completely bedridden due to complications from coming off my medication in the hopes of getting pregnant, but still we kept fighting. Then came treatments, testing, and surgery, but there was never any progress, and the fact that I could no longer function became an increasing concern. Before the first doctor ever had a chance to bring it up, we started to realize that even if I was able to miraculously become pregnant, it would be extremely dangerous for both me and the child. The tidal waves of grief hit us over and over again throughout those years: first it was the loss of being able to get pregnant without intervention… then the failure of the intervention… and eventually there was the loss of not being able to carry a child at all, even after everything I’d endured to try to save my fertility since I was 12 years old. The self-loathing I felt at not being able to do something that comes naturally to everyone else consumed me.
Even now as our story has begun to change, the surrogacy process and the years leading up to it have taken a huge toll on us. Some days I wonder if we will ever be able to heal from the damage. And, by the time we felt as though we were beginning to reach the other side, we got the call that Connie was gone and have been plunged into darkness all over again.
Getting through this latest tragedy-on-top-of-tragedy-on-top-of-tragedy requires a very long, painful journey of grieving that I do not have the energy for. If Sweet Pea was already here to bring us joy and distract us from the pain of loss, I believe this time would be easier to get through. I would give anything even just to be able to rest my hand on my belly and feel his reassuring movement. He is in our lives, but he is not a part of them; there is a huge difference. Right now we are orbiting in different circles, sometimes coming in closer contact, but never fully touching. I feel the weight of our separation from him even more now that we are grieving the loss of Kyle’s mom, and if you think that it shouldn’t hurt, please try sending your child away from you for 9 months with only second-hand updates to get you through. Perhaps this pain won’t last forever, but neither does the pain from a broken leg. The difference is that I am constantly told that this time should not be painful for me since someday it will end. No one says that to someone who has just broken a part of their body, however temporary the break.