Sugar and spice and sympathy

 photo by  Katrina Y

photo by Katrina Y

Conceived after an 8-year battle with infertility, Melissa's baby Evelyn was born prematurely after a spontaneous complete placental abruption on August 15, 2016. We welcome her today as a guest writer: "Adapting to our new normal means taking each day as it comes, hand-in-hand..."

Standing in front of the card section of my local grocery store, I find myself staring slack-jawed at the copious rows of colorful, upbeat options. One of my friends just had a baby. I want to be stronger than I feel, but my shoulders are slumped and I know I must look defeated.

I raise my arm to pull a card down from the shelf but it just falls limply to my side. I try again, getting so far as to ease a card from its plastic sheath before sliding it back down again.

Congratulations on your new baby!
Sugar and spice and everything nice
A sweet baby girl brings joy and happiness
Your life is about to change!
Worth the wait.

Worth the wait. And oh, wasn’t she. After eight torturous years of trying, wishing, and hoping, she was certainly worth it all and then some. And she’s gone. Forever.

When Evelyn arrived and passed the following day, we got plenty of cards.

In sympathy
You are in our thoughts and prayers
When someone you love becomes a memory
Wishing you peace and comfort
Our heartfelt condolences
Thinking of you
So sorry for your loss

Though our hearts bleed as we read them, each one is cherished. They are markers of a life lived and lost.

Your life is about to change.

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In the time since Evelyn’s passing, ten babies have been born to our friends. Several more have announced pregnancies. Some their first, some their 2nd. I look at the beautiful faces of those sweet, precious babies—happy, healthy, growing, and alive, blissfully alive, toothless grins, all—and not one of them is Evelyn. They never will be.

As I stand in front of that card section—trying to be the friend I know my friends wish I could be—I realize amidst shaking hands and unsteady heartbeat that I can’t do this. I can’t bring myself to select, pay for, and send that card. Besides, what on earth would I write inside? I feel anxious just thinking about it. My baby was sugar and spice and everything nice, a sweet baby girl who brought us so much joy and happiness. Her birth indeed fully changed our lives. Her death is what has changed us the most.

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Infertility: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy. Not fertile; unproductive; sterile; barren. —Merriam-Webster

Infertility takes your self-worth; self-confidence; femininity; masculinity; hopes and dreams; sanity; your belief that good things happen if you just try hard enough, long enough, want it badly enough and can somehow find the funds to pay for what it is that you so desire, for as many times as it takes, for as long as it takes. It chews us up, spits us right back out and stomps on us with big, oversized workman’s boots. Then it sets fire to us for good measure, over and over and over again.

When you’ve battled infertility for years and finally conceive, life seems like it’s finally coming together. Your jubilation knows no bounds. You have fears, of course, because your journey has taught you to be wary until it feels safe to let out that breath you’ve been holding for far too long. Maybe that time comes. Maybe it doesn’t. You find a way to trust, to believe, that this is really, truly happening, despite everything: the anxiety, the fear, the countless rounds of treatments, the years and dollars spent worrying about and preparing for the next cycle and the next and the next.

None of that matters now. All that matters is the baby growing in your belly. You smile in defiance of the pervasive fear that the other shoe has yet to drop, because hope has found you.

When that long-awaited miracle dies, you’re already drained from the immense effort it took to conceive. Now, somehow, you must begin life as a bereaved parent—all-encompassing, exhaustive work.

Miracles aren’t supposed to die. And yet, ours did.

However broken we may feel—however heavy our hearts, however empty our arms and wombs, however uncomfortably quiet our homes, and however undeserving we are that this is now our life—our children are our children. And our life is about to change. It must.

 

If you've dealt with infertility in any form along with loss, how have you found your way forward? Or have you? Where are you in your journey now? Are you resolved, galvanized, reconciled? How are you doing?