Then I did something I have never done before in my life. I walked back into the house, poured two fingers of scotch and took it back to the chair in the garden. Every time The Empty and The Ache boiled up trying to engulf me, I took a sip. It is a scary thing to fully realize what turns some people to drink. The burning sensation of the scotch matched the feeling in my throat, pushing it back. I needed to calm down, I needed time to process. Pick them apart -- The Ache and The Empty. Dissect each one. They were so unfamiliar, too overwhelming.
Was I angry? Angry because yet another person came before me? Angry for being told this way? Angry for feeling humiliated and crying in public? Angry for being locked out of my friend’s life? Angry for not being trusted? Angry for being told that I wasn’t hopeful enough?
The honest answer is yes. However none of it was strong enough to cause my reaction, my total shutdown. Anger was there, but it wasn’t the key.
How about Guilt? Did I feel guilty because I didn’t jump up and down and squeal when I heard her great news? Guilty because I didn’t tell her sooner how my IVF went? Guilty because I didn’t push going to the RE sooner? Guilty because I waited for surgery? Guilty because I didn’t reveal MY true feelings to save HERS?
I have some guilt, but it’s mostly internal things about what I COULDA SHOULDA done to move things along quicker when I was younger. But even these arguments break down because the time I waited gave extra time to MrBeep to fully come on board and really want a family with me. I would rather have his extraordinary 100% support at 37, 38, 39, 40 than have 30% at 35. So no. The big empty ache was not guilt.
Shame? Shame about my situation? Shame over my reaction? Shame at feeling this way and not keeping my shit under control?
I do feel ashamed sometimes. A bit. I’m 40, maybe I’m too old to be a good mom. I never wanted to be some tired old hag. And there are children starving in remote countries while I am shelling out a fortune that could be feeding them instead. But we all know the truth is you can’t take the whole weight of the world on your shoulders along with IF. I have to finish working on this, my heart’s desire before I can give my heart to another cause. I think overall I reacted well. I am very, very happy for her – said so, acted so. The truth is I was very worried she would realize how much she wanted a family when it was too late for her. She is 39 and for some people it can be tough, if not impossible. I’m glad she didn’t have any problems conceiving. Given our earlier conversations, I suspect it took them 1-3 months. I would never wish the pain, the grief that is infertility on ANYONE. I was ashamed at being overwhelmed, but I knew it was not the reason for being overwhelmed.
Bitterness? Oh my god. Am I bitter? Have I reached that horrible stage? Has my heart truly blackened to that degree?
This is a place I fear. I thought long and hard about this one. What does bitterness truly feel like? What precisely is it? Intense hatred, rancor, resentment. Feelings of malice and spite so intense as to overcome all of the goodness and joy in my heart. That is bitterness to me. I am NOT THAT. Not now, hopefully not ever.
Jealousy or Envy? Could I be jealous of my friend? Have I let my desire to have what I want trump what I feel for another person who I love? Do I think I deserve it more than her? Would I have the audacity to believe something like that?
This is an interesting thing to think hard about. We all say that we are jealous sometimes at a surface level, but if you dig down…are you really? Does envy mean that you want what they actually have? Something so strong, if you had the power you would take it away and keep it for yourself? I thought about this and realized…No. I don’t want what she has. I don’t want to be Her. I don’t want Her life. I don’t want Her husband. I don’t want Her baby. I want MY baby, OUR baby. I want MY life with MY husband to include a family and if it can’t be MINE on MY terms…then I don’t want it at all. I’m not trying to sound harsh. I am not speaking for everyone. I am expressing my own personal truth.
In my heart, in my head, it has always been impossible for me to be jealous of other pregnant women because babies are not a limited supply item. We don’t all get to stick our hands in a jar and pull out a marble. If a girl comes up with a red marble, she gets and baby leaving fewer chances in the jar left for me. There is no magic being that decides who gets one and who doesn’t. Anyone’s success in getting pregnant and having a child is completely separate and independent of mine. I will admit to a feeling of longing, wondering if it will ever happen for me. That longing is not jealousy or envy and for me it is certainly not The Ache or The Empty.
Fear? Worry? Will this ruin my relationship with MrBeep? What will go wrong next? How many more months can my sanity take? Will I go through all this only to realize it will NEVER work? Or that it worked but then having to suffer loss after loss? When should I give up? Will I still be here no farther on the journey another year from now?
As I went through the myriad of swirling feelings that accompany fear and worry, admitting just how scared I was to fail in the end, to lose my dream, The Ache started to release it’s strangling grip on my throat. The fear and worry build up over time, trying to consume. I want this thing, I do, but I also don’t want it to take away my joy. I am so scared in the end to live with regret or pain. I don’t want every friend with a family to avoid me. I don’t want to see families or children and feel a sense of loss each time. Those tiny little bites will eventually eat away your soul.
Truth is I can see no way to remove fear from my mind. No magic elixir to make me stop worrying about the future. All I can do is stand and look fear straight in the eye. See it for what it is, it’s dark shape, and try my best not to let it steal me away in the night, leaving an empty shell in my place. I will use them, they will not use me. I choose to use fear and worry as tools to make smarter choices that either take me to my goal or let me know when it’s clearly time to change the game. I do not choose to give my life away to fear. I do not choose to be consumed with worry. With that realization, The Ache faded to something small, still there, but not engulfing me.
The Big Emptiness in my chest was still there as I considered sorrow. Here was MY truth and I was gripped with an overwhelming sense of sadness. I thought through it for a long time and finally recognized it’s cause. It was TIME. When I looked at M I plainly saw the physical reality of 7 months flash by in a second. I felt more sorrow from her comments about knowing I was going to be pregnant soon and we would absolutely have our kids play together some day. I had the same conversations with another good friend. We talked about how wonderful it would be to be pregnant at the same time, have our kids play together, etc. Her son is now 8 months old. Add that to her pregnancy and it was over 17 months ago. I was empty and sad that so much time has flown by. I have poured out so much of my soul only to have gone no where with less chance of success. It saddened me more to think another year from now I could be in the same situation, a friend telling me how they knew it would happen for me and how my time was next. How long must I stay in the recurring nightmare? I also knew how sad I was to watch every year my statistical chances slipping away. When I started this at 36, the chances for my clinic/age group for IVF were 49%. At 38 they slipped to 39%. At my next birthday (in 4 months) I will be in the group 41-42 where the general population’ chances list at 14%. Being this age, still in this place is really fucking hard.
I have heard all the stories from friends of how they knew of a woman who got pregnant at 42, her doctor gave them no chance to get pregnant on their own, etc. I always tell them, “I know these stories are meant to give me hope, but the TRUTH is you only hear publically the story of the ones that worked. The ten-people-in-a-hundred. You don’t hear about the ninety others who wanted the same thing and tried their best but instead endured heartache and problems and sometimes, ultimately the loss of their dreams. Those people suffer privately. You don’t get babies because you deserve them or because it makes a good story. It is largely luck and circumstance and dna.” I do always end by telling them I appreciate their love, their understanding and all the good thoughts and prayers. Those mean more than a thousand stories.
Then it came to me. My Big Emptiness represented the loss of hope. I thought through the pain and sorrow. Was I overcome? Was I too sad at my prospects? Was it time to give up? Hope starts out as a bright shimmering light that slowly, eventually dulls and finally fades until it is gone. Was it entirely gone? Sitting in my garden, the wind beginning to blow the wind chimes from our wedding sang to me. The sound hit my ears and woke me from my contemplation. I knew I was not done on my path. I knew I still have reasons to be optimistic, I still want to TRY. I am not giving up yet. I choose to SEE HOPE still in my journey.
To be completed in the next post, including my views on your comments - in Part 4.