I am continuing to read this absolutely wonderful book, Knocked up, knocked down by Monica Murphy Lemoine. It speaks to me on so many levels that I need to slow myself down in order to digest my feelings, lest I just glance over them and keep on devouring page after page. She inspires me to write about similar thoughts and me-too's that I don't want to forget, but at the same time I don't want to put the book down and write...so much for compulsory therapy :)
She writes about being left behind by her pregnant friends, due at the same time as her, when she lost her baby at 8 months gestation due to hydrops fetalis (fetal heart failure). Here's the excerpt:
"Nina and Carrie (...) would-in all likelihood-go on to have their babies, and continue to have a special, new-mommy friendship together. Without me, that is. (...) There was simply no end to the possible ways in which I could be left behind."
For some reason, this left me thinking about the feeling of being "left behind" when unable to conceive, or when miscarrying, or when having a stillborn baby. We all know what I am talking about. Your friends go on having babies, some conceiving on the first try, others on their second or third try, and nobody but you has any problems carrying the pregnancy to term. Their babies are born within days of your due date, the date when you were supposed to have the baby that you miscarried. By the time you have the third failed IVF, their babies are already one year old and cruising. Heck, they are talking already and you are still struggling to conceive. In the meantime, you miscarry the second time and they are pregnant with number two, safely around 32 weeks, blooming and happy.
Life is happening for them. They are raising families, and are fulfilled, fertile, reproductively prosperous, financially comfortable, educating their children on how to say bye-bye and how to use a spoon. Is life happening for you? Hard to tell, since you are sucked in the middle of a grey vacuum of depression and emotional exhaustion, no end in sight, and frankly if this is life, it sucks. On top of that, you have to figure out how to pay for your next IVF and you don't have time to contemplate the meaning of life too much because you are working two jobs, instead of being off on mat leave like you thought you would be by now, changing poopy diapers and watching your baby crawl on the kitchen floor.
Not to mention that you are lonely, and that is not helping the feeling of being left behind. The other ladies your age are talking about their babies, attending baby showers, lending each other baby bouncers and sharing tips on how to deal with teething. They try to include you. They shower you with sympathy. They do not have any intention to harm you with their successful lives, and they would like to see you join the ranks, but the truth is that you have less and less in common with them, you and your childless life and your blanket of grief. A sore thumb in the middle of this lively bunch of cheer and fertility.
I don't really have that much in the way of solutions to this situation. All I can say is that I have been there so much that it has become part of who I am. Even though I have joined the ranks of parents, I still feel very acutely that fear of being left behind by life. What does that even mean though? Left behind by what? Whose life am I racing to keep up with? Is that what we are supposed to do, keep up? Why? Thwarted desire is not the same thing as failure.
Anyway, if you do find yourself there, this is what I found helpful:
1. have an ally. A good spouse, a therapist, a friend going through similar stuff. Several allies are even better. Complain to the ally but don't complain so much that you wear him/her out. That is why several allies are better than one. By the way, feel free to wear out your therapist, that is what you pay her for.
2. belong to some group, just so that you don't feel completely alone. A volleyball team, a quilting club, anything. Involve yourself in some sort of group project, preferably something relatively simple that you enjoy, to feel like you belong to some extent.
3. feel alone. Feel the depth of that aloneness. Feel the emptiness of it. Feel the weariness that it brings. Become familiar to it to such an extent that you recognize instantly and you can immediately say "that's that alone feeling again". That way it will not take you by surprise at a baby shower or some other social function where somebody announces a pregnancy.
4. either avoid completely baby related stuff (like baby showers for instance, or other people's children born around the time yours should have been born) or choose to expose yourself to baby-situations so often that you become de-sensitised. I chose the second one because of my job, which involves being present at deliveries and following babies as they grow. I had no other choice than to quit my job (but given that I needed money for another IVF, that was not a choice). It is easiest if you take a stand one way or the other. There is a middle way, but then you perpetually have to keep choosing your stand. I chose to force myself to grin and bear it, and I became so good at it that it was only lately that I realized I had completely turned off any feeling towards newborns and babies in general. When this has changed (recently) I realized that as soon as I did not need to be numb anymore, my brain turned the numbness off. I now love holding babies and want to smell and hug and caress their soft heads and generally experience a flood of feelings towards them that I had previously been completely cut off from.
5. life has not offered you the baby yet. But that does not mean that you will be left behind by life. Something good will be offered in the end. Perhaps that something good is a baby, as it usually is. Or perhaps it will be a fantastic marriage. Or a very successful career, where you feel you have made a meaningful contribution to the world. You might not feel like you belong in that particular pack of women, but you definitely belong in the human race.
6. make new friends. Find people that you have stuff in common with. Having a miscarriage or infertility is a bit like moving to a new city: you have to make a new life. A life that will suit you best.
I want to write more on this topic, because I have struggled with it for years, and I have thought a lot about it. I am having trouble organizing everything into coherent information though, and it might help if people write specific instances in which they felt alone or left behind, or some personal experiences with the topic, in order to jog my memory and bring out exactly what I felt at that time. I am pretty sure that we have all felt similarly at one point or another (raising the question of how alone are we, really?).