It’s been more than four years since I started writing here. Enough time that I can look back to what our lives were like the first time around, before we were in the car headed home with a newborn.
Lately I’ve been thinking about a post I wrote around Christmas 2014 and how much of what I wrote then still applies to our lives now, despite everything that has changed in that time:
In general, holidays are hard for those who have lost a loved one or are grieving, but for some reason most people seem surprised that it would be the same for those with infertility. Although we have not lost a loved one in the usual sense, there is a similar void in our lives that is impossible to ignore throughout the surrounding celebrations. But instead of time ‘healing all wounds,’ this pain has cut deeper with every year that passes, and each Christmas hurts more than the last.
The holiday season is full of painful reminders that we are infertile in a fertile world. Every December Christmas cards pour into our mailboxes with photos of happy families and updates of new babies or pregnancies. The majority of Christmas traditions that I love so much all revolve around children. Then, at the center of all the celebrations, we focus on the birth of a baby. The words behind nearly every seasonal hymn– or sometimes just the sight of a quiet nativity scene– feel like a punch to the stomach. Getting through the holiday season is now more an act of survival than reflection, peace, gratefulness, or enjoyment…
We passed this Christmas by being dragged through the motions by our families, while inwardly we focused on the surrogacy process in order to avoid hurting too badly. We’re hoping that this past Christmas was the last one that we’ll celebrate without having a child of our own, but this is not the first time we have held onto that hope… nor is it the second, or even the third. Christmas 2011 was meant to be our last just-the-two-of-us Christmas, and now every one that follows serves as another reminder of how incomplete our family of two feels and just how much time has passed since we first felt that way.December 28, 2014
A year ago, Ross helped me pick out a small polar bear, which I’ve been carrying with me, just like I carried a Paddington Bear while we waited for Ross. It’s been with us for all of our fertility appointments, every weekend away, and each holiday– a physical reminder of our embryo and the potential of the baby we are currently fighting for.
Knowing the gender of our embryo has made the wait harder in many ways. We’re better able to imagine that child and our life with them– but we remain barred from both. This Christmas there is someone out there who is missing from our family, a void that we’ve lived with since first getting the call. But it’s not as easy as scheduling an embryo transfer in order to give that child a chance at life, and the reality is that we don’t know if this child is “for keeps” yet. We will carry it in our hearts for all this time and still the chance of a failed transfer is high– maybe as much or more than 40%.
Tomorrow morning I am scheduled for my next blood draw, the beginning of my third IVF cycle. If the results confirm ovulation, I can start 2 weeks of daily Lupron injections before adding in my stimulation injections and ending with an egg retrieval in the latter part of January. Last week I spent nearly an hour scheduling the delivery of all the needles, alcohol swabs, and medication I’ll need over the next month. The only hurdle left was to run everything through insurance to determine whether any of it would be covered. Saturday we expected to receive everything, but instead, nothing showed up. It was never sent, and the fertility pharmacy never called to inform me or tell me why. Without that box, I will not be able to start my injections, and because of the timing of Christmas, this cycle will likely be canceled– again.
Coming to that realization, now the sixth time we’ve had to cancel a cycle, was devastating. Defeated and fighting back tears on Sunday morning, I started to process yet another delay, wondering whether this is a sign that I will never hold that child in my arms in this life. That maybe we’re meant to give up and start the process of acceptance so we can heal in whatever way possible, rather than continuing to leave this wound open. We keep pushing on and keep hitting road block after road block: at the clinic, with the surrogacy process, from our insurance. The obstacles feel endless. I’m heartbroken, and I’m angry. I don’t know how to keep finding the strength to do this.
The last few months have been especially difficult, even without the grief of infertility and stress of the surrogacy process. For as much as I think I can shield Ross from the effects, he is often far more perceptive than I give him credit for. Recently he surprised me one morning when he paused while eating breakfast and asked, “This is a hard time, huh?” And it is. Every day is so hard, but I don’t want him to carry that too.
In the meantime, despite the pain of this season, I am so grateful for the distraction of watching Ross experience the wonders of the holiday. We didn’t have that before and it changes everything. Throughout December, we have been opening daily windows of his Paw Patrol advent calendar from my mom. Every window reveals a new little toy– sometimes one of the dogs or another animal, sometimes a tiny tree or snowman. It’s the first thing he wanted to do each morning when he woke up as we counted down to Christmas. Then, on Sunday, the day I was faced with the possibility of canceling our cycle, he opened the last gift before the final one on Christmas Eve: a polar bear.
There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of you and wish you were here.