convergence

I’ve tried to start this post so many times in my head, yet I never knew how to write it. My thoughts and emotions are sometimes so muddled and at other points so very clear. Still the words never come to the surface with much clarity or eloquence. I tried once.

Maybe I feel compelled to try again since I’ve been thinking about a comment on my last post about stillbirth from the lovely Kami at The Other Side (formerly Are We There Yet). Kami has always written with candor about her journey to motherhood through the use of donor eggs after years of failed treatment (read this from one side, and this from the other, for example). On the time between the birth and death of her son Ernest at 27 weeks, and the birth of her Little Butterfly nearly four years later, Kami wrote:

“…I now believe the nearly four years from his birth to LB’s birth took a greater toll on my life than his actual death. That was the worst single experience and certainly had an impact on the next 3.5 years, but I think if I could have conceived easily I wouldn’t have gone a little crazy like I did.  Do you think this is true for you?”

Kami, I’m so glad you asked. Because quite honestly the answer is a resounding yes

Now before anyone jumps, lest they think I intended to replace my dead baby or in any way diminish the pain and anguish of losing any child, hear me out. This is not a competition of who hurts worse, of which pain must seem more unbearable. This is not to suggest even for a moment that having a child in any way diminishes the loss of another different child, or that a new baby could ever replace the one who died. (The deadbabymamas and readers over at glow in the woods and elsewhere have written so eloquently about these issues in this post and others.) 

Nothing could ever fill the massive hole left in your heart from losing a much wanted and beloved child. Ever. Period. 

What I mean is simply that my grief experience is affected by my life experience. When grieving you tend to feel other unresolved losses, which become inextricably linked, distinct yet intertwined. Life experience converges, joining together to create a whole that is different than the sum of its parts.

Three years ago, I was about 4 weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. The intense joy that followed was sadly fleeting. I think about that precious time with my son and all the hopes and dreams we had for our family. I think how old he’d be now and wonder what he’d look like, what he’d sound like, what would make him laugh. I wonder would he have M’s eyes, or my lips? I think how we never got to know him, since our dream was stolen when he was taken from us at 21 weeks.

Two years later, I recognized that grieving our son and my subsequent infertility were individual unique processes, yet each affected the other. I realized that I had been consumed by grief after his death, and since then the rest of my life had been subsumed by my struggle with infertility.

As I’ve said before, the only thing that helped me through those dark days was the belief that we would try again. We would try to pick up the pieces shattered and scattered by our grief and look towards the future, united with purpose and determination. Yet that hope also became my curse…

February will mark three years since our son’s death, nearly five years since we embarked on our unfruitful journey to bring home a baby, and seven years of facing infertility.

While I never believed for an instant that having another child would erase his death, I did hope it would help heal my poor heart of infertility. The fact that we have been unable to have another child, that I now grieve my fertility with finality, makes me long for my son in a whole different way. I don’t know if it’s deeper or worse, that doesn’t even matter. The point is that as universal as grief is, it’s different for everyone too.

Even with compassion, I cannot fathom the loss that others have experienced. To lose a baby at full term or after the NICU or disease is incomprehensible to me. Women among us lose a child yet must find their way back from anguish to parent living children. Some delicately deal with a grieving child and find a way to explain the concept of death to a young one expecting a sibling on the way. I cannot know what that is like, but can only imagine how difficult that must be. These mothers not only grieve their lost babies, but must find strength to parent other children. And they knew what they were missing along the way.

I can only know my own experience, my own heart.

Just as a woman who has never once been pregnant feels a whole other depth to her infertility, or someone who has suffered multiple losses experiences pregnancy through a different lens, my persistent infertility adds another dimension to my grief experience.

So in answer to Kami’s question, yes, I would absolutely feel differently if I’d been able to have another child. For me, these two losses — the death of my son and the loss of every chance we had for another child — while unique and separate, are inextricably intertwined. Sometimes I feel the distinct longing for my little boy. Sometimes I long for the children we could have had in the time he’s been gone. That I have neither makes me grieve both in a way that is deeper than the anguish I feel over either one alone, I think. 

My family will never be complete without our son. Yet in my heart, I know that if I had been able to have another baby, to carry a child to term and hold a newborn in my arms, that would have undoubtedly helped to heal my heart, spirit, mind and body that has been broken by infertility. That love and joy may have helped to heal the gaping wound in my heart left by his absence. Of course that will always run deep. No balm can heal that wound entirely — there is no cure for that kind of loss. But that is not the point. 

As I wrote to Kami, there is something about being a barren, childless, grieving mother that makes me feel like not a mother at all. And this is my loss at its fullest.

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~ by luna on October 18, 2008.

28 Responses to “convergence”

  1. Luna, this is beautiful, wonderful, and so so well said.

    I once wrote a rather convoluted post about this subject — how intertwined infertility and neonatal death are to me — but I think the sum is the same: when the death happens on the journey, grief takes on a whole new meaning, a whole new dimension. I know full well that a subsequent child will not make me “happy again” per se, but it does seem (looking around here) that it restores quite a bit of faith and hope in the universe. And women who are denied that? How do they eventually settle on joy? (Or do they?)

    I relate to this post a lot more than you might think. Grief is horrible all by itself — to have to wrap it up in the wrappings of infertility is devastating. It’s not just having your dreams unfulfilled, it’s like being tortured on the way. Thinking of you Luna.

  2. Beautiful post, and well said.
    Lots of love to you hun.

  3. How to restore the stolen? You can’t. I call this time the years that the locusts ate. And I hope, somehow,that we will get this back.

  4. Painfully beautiful. I don’t know what else to say.

  5. Oh Luna, what a beautifully, honest post. I don’t have anything profound to say, but I just wanted you to know I’m here, reading along and sharing in your journey.

  6. Thank you for this.

  7. I first read this post yesterday and needed to think about my response. It stunned me with the raw emotion, provocative thinking and rich imagery. It reads with the same impact and more today as I contemplate further the ideas and feeling contained here.

    The phrase “persistent infertility” among others truly resonated for me. This line helped me understand better my own heart: “my persistent infertility adds another dimension to my grief experience.”

    Your writing is powerful on many levels. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  8. Luna, I am listening and trying to open my heart to your truthful and honest descriptions of the details of grief. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful heart and your experience with us – you are building compassion in this world.

  9. A mother never forgets the losses. Yes, conceiving quickly definitely helps her pick up the pieces and move on. I just loved how these lines capture the essence of the post.

    “Just as a woman who has never once been pregnant feels a whole other depth to her infertility, or someone who has suffered multiple losses experiences pregnancy through a different lens, my persistent infertility adds another dimension to my grief experience.”

  10. I was just thinking about writing my own version of a post like this. Obviously different, because I do have two children, but containing the same notion of a subsequent child restoring faith in the universe and world.

    This is a stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking post, Luna. I cannot know your own pain, pain that encompasses infertility, a lost baby and no children, but I can surmise it has not been an easy thing in the slightest. XO.

  11. You write so beautifully it is hard to comment without being clumsy.
    I think the loss of parenthood, of the milestones, of being a parent and developing in all sorts of ways I can’t even imagine hurts so badly. Of course no one would or could replace a lost child with another but I think that the other dreams would start to be fulfilled (with a continued sense of loss for sure) but never getting to do any of these things adds up too.

  12. Oh sorry, me again, I meant to say how lovely your comment was.

  13. This is so hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Luna. In the small way that I can, I understand. Thinking of you always.

  14. This is too emotional for me to really be able to put together a comment that justifies what you deserve, but know that you wrote it amazingly well and you’ve really got me sitting here, thinking, wondering.

  15. I’m sorry I didn’t comment earlier. I wanted to read the comments and didn’t have time. It is beautifully written. It is hard to capture that feeling in words without disregarding other people’s experiences. You did it perfectly.

  16. Thanks for this. We all have these layers of experience… one over the other. They are all unique separate but in combination create something different than what would have been if there had been some other combination, some other order some other twist. Even if the outcome is the same the way we got there makes it different.

  17. Luna luna

    This is a beautiful post. It is something I have been trying to come to terms with too…. the uniqueness of the double grief of infant loss and infertility. The difficulty of not wanting to compare grief but resenting others using my enormous loss as a cave in which they can hear their own cry of pain echo a little louder. There are some things that are worse than other things. And a double grief carries a more weight than a single greif.

    Your last line almost broke my heart.

    Much love – I am thinking of you.

    love Barb

  18. This is a beautifully written post about an agonizing experience. Thank you for writing like this, Luna. You are so right in that we’ve all been devastated in our own way, it doesn’t have to be a competition to understand each others’ losses. I’m so sorry about yours.

  19. Your post is so eloquent (as usual), your words brought forth in me a deep, trembling sigh, complete with little tears in the corners of my eyes. It is in moments like this that the phrase “life isn’t fair” really comes to life. God I’m sorry luna.

  20. Luna, this is simply beautiful. How odd it feels to say that about something that I wish you’d never had to write. Much love.

    Allison

  21. Luna,

    I’m so touched by the depth of this post, and by how true it feels. My losses have been different from yours. Just as you can’t imagine losing a child after birth, I can’t imagine losing a pregnancy at 21 weeks, or 15 weeks, or even at a point after I heard the heartbeat or felt it moving. For me, the pregnancy losses are not only entwined with the infertility; they are one and the same. But when I look back on my first miscarriage, my only child concieved through the act of love rather than the labors of science, my grief is not entirely based on what I lost at that moment, but what I have been unable to find since then. When we lost our first pregnancy, we were full of hope, almost giddy with the prospect that we actually could concieve a child (it had taken us 9 months, which seemed like a long time back then). I ached and grieved, but, looking back now, my grief seemed so naive, so innocent. I had no idea how badly I could hurt.

    My first baby would be turning three at Christmas this year. And there is no question that the hurt would be so much less if there were a younger child in my arms right now.

    I know you’ll never stop loving your lost baby boy. And that’s probably the way things should be. But I hope and pray that, sometime soon, your grief will make your joy at having a child in your arms that much richer.

  22. Thank you for this profoundly insightful and moving post, Luna. As Carrie has already said, it is hard to comment without sounding clumsy. And so I will just say that you are in my thoughts. Your sensitive and heartfelt thoughts on this incredibly difficult topic will remain with me for a long time.

  23. absolutely beautiful and brought tears to my eyes (both times I read it). thank you, thank you for your honesty.

  24. […] months. I’ll spare you the details, you’ve read it all before. It left me grieving on so many levels I couldn’t even separate them. 2008 came on the heels of an even worse year or two. Really bad […]

  25. […] your grieving process?” I actually wrote about this when I first read the book, and again here. While no child could ever replace another, I think my inability to conceive another child before […]

  26. Words can not express how thankful I am for this post and your blog. I’m so glad I found it. I struggled with IF for 3 years before we concieved our first and only son last Feb.(2 surgeries and 6 IF cycles). My uterus ruptured on Sept. 18th and we lost our son Jacob at 34wks. I also lost my uterus in the process. It has been 6 wks now since we lost our son and our fertility. You put into words what I have been struggling with and have not been able to find words for…it has been sooooo overwhelming to grieve both of these and yet its almost impossible to seperate them. Thank-you

  27. […] boy, further shedding the notion that I would ever become a mama. Later that summer I reflected on the convergence of grief – i.e., how the loss of our son and my persistent infertility, though distinct, were […]

  28. […] over four years ago, I wrote about how my inability to become a mother added another layer of complexity to my grief. Along with our son, I grieved everything infertility stole from me — e.g., the children we […]

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