Phantom Pain

“Do you have any children,” a woman asked me yesterday.

“Yes, a daughter. She’s four and a half.”

“Do you want any more?”

“Yes, but I’m not able to.”

“Oh. How long did you try for?”

Thus went a tiny conversation I had yesterday. A small snippet. But a big question, which I answered truthfully.

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I will not have another baby and I’m coming to terms with that. I’m doing my best to move on and usually I’m OK. But lately I’ve tried to remember what it felt like to be pregnant and I can’t quite conjure it. I know that I wanted to do it again, but what would it have been like? I can bring up faint memories of the baby under my skin, those first few flutters I felt at week 17, when my husband could barely feel no matter how hard I pressed his hand to my stomach. My memories of being pregnant are becoming similar to that – no matter how hard I press my memory, I have only flutters. Phantoms. 

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I realized this afternoon that I have a phantom pain for my memories of that time when I was pregnant. I didn’t know it would only be one time, so I cling to what I think I can remember.

I’ve lost weight and one week when I stepped on the scale, I thought, “Oh, this is the weight I was when I went to my first doctor’s appointment at nine weeks.” I wore plaid pants and a carnelian shirt. At that appointment I saw something on the monitor that had to be pointed out many times – the smallest speck on a screen that produced whooshing noises when amplified via air waves.

I can’t even find pictures of myself pregnant. I emailed one or two to two friends but the archive folder shows them as stripped. I know a few exist, from baby showers and what-not, but I don’t have ready access to those images. I know it happened. I have proof in my house and on my skin. I have all of the proof anyone would ever need, but I can’t quite remember how I got there.

That’s the Plan

Folks, here it is. The piece I wrote and read at Listen to Your Mother. It comes from two years of carrying a secret that I am just starting to share. The process has been scary for me. While I am an outgoing person and have a blog, I remain fairly private except with a handful of very close friends. Even then, they (and my family) will attest it can be like pulling teeth for me to share what’s on my mind or in my heart. I know, I know – the irony is that I help people communicate for a living and have a difficult time with it myself.

I would also like to credit Melanie Blodgett of You Are My Fave, who bravely wrote her piece, “Reality,” more than one year ago. It really stuck with me. It still does. I commented on her story and she actually sent me a message, and let me re-post her piece.

Since I shared this with hundreds of people on Mother’s Day and have promised it here for a while, here is my piece for LTYM:

3rd Annual LTYM: Madison Marquis, courtesy of Ann Imig

“That’s the Plan”

I’m sick of feeling pregnant. Because I’m not, and that’s making me sick. The cure for not being pregnant? Don’t tell me, because I’ve tried it all, including sickness-inducing fertility medicine. That? Yep, tried it. What about this? Uh-huh. But have you considered? Absolutely.

My medical diagnosis? Secondary infertility. My personal diagnosis: infertile mother. My personal and medical outlook: uncertain.

But let me back up. Because the “secondary” part of my diagnosis is because there’s a gorgeous three-year-old that runs around my house – she of red, curly hair, brown eyes, and a smile laced with dimples. For her my heart beats and all is well.

Yet, here I stand, unable to produce pink lines on a pregnancy test. Instead, all I get is red spots on my underpants, a reminder of my almost-but-not-quite attempt at curing my diagnosis. Two years have passed. Two years of no baby, no pregnancy to bitch about, no additional stretch marks, and no reason to open the 18 boxes of baby clothes and toys in the basement.

As each month passes, I vacillate between anger, disbelief and indifference. As each month passes, more calculating, calendar watching and hope comes into play.

What is often so maddening is that I thought I had the perfect prescription for becoming pregnant, as evidenced by my child: you go to South America for 10 days, eat random pig parts on a grill, drink Malbec and espresso until your toes curl, and come home pregnant. Simple enough, right? I attempted another vacation conception while in Japan, but the sake and seaweed, combined with that many time zones, didn’t motivate the magic to happen.

As each month passes, I lightly respond to my daughter’s request for a brother or sister. “We’re working on it.” As each month passes, more and more people ask “if we plan on having more kids.” I answer, “that’s the plan.” As each month passes, acquaintances who run into me look furtively at my already full figure, and briefly wonder, “is she yet?” The answer to that, we know, is “no.”

As each month passes, I struggle with living two realities: one, the mother so happy with her family trinity; the other, sad, rejected, and lost in a dream of baby sighs, baby smell, baby cuddles, and giving birth again with Stevie Wonder playing in the background.

So I ask you: when I mention my family of three, hoping for four, please look at me and say, “your family is perfect.”  When I mention that it may just be the three of us, please look at me and say, “your family is perfect.” When I seem hopeful or sad, please look at me and say, “your family is perfect.” When I evade your questions or overshare, please look at me and say, “I hear you.”

When I dig deep I realize that as much as I want another baby, another being, I want another chance at being a mother. My first attempt was so fraught with struggle at the beginning – an impossibly long labor and delivery, a baby who refused to nurse, a visit to the hospital when she was days old, and the deepest, darkest drop off a cliff, masked in the dulcet overtures of “the baby blues.”

I’m looking for a cure. I’m looking for ways outside of the longing, the expectation, the absolute loneliness of this diagnosis. But ultimately I want remission. I want to beat my sentence, come out triumphantly, baby in my arms, my heart and family complete.

Melanie Blodgett, of You Are My Fave

MD’s note: I’ve been reading Melanie Blodgett’s blog, You Are My Fave, for some time. She’s an event designer and posts tidbits she runs across that she finds appealing on her blog. She also writes for Babble. Melanie recently posted a very personal account and it was a story that really struck me because of its honesty. I commented on her blog, and to my surprise, she emailed me back. In our exchange, I asked if I could post what she wrote, since I think many readers here can relate to her words. If you get a chance, check out her blog, where you can find the original post:

reality

May 5, 2011 //

While I don’t usually get personal on this blog, please indulge me for one day. I’ve mentioned that Ryan and are in the middle of a waiting game. One of the things we’ve been waiting for the longest is a baby. We’ve slowly come to realize that we are indeed infertile and it has become very much part of our everyday reality.

In my discussions with other women who have gone through the same thing, so many of them have told me, “I didn’t tell anyone about our infertility until after I was pregnant in fear that they wouldn’t understand. I wish I had had someone to talk to. I wish I had shared it sooner.”

This struggle is lonely for many. At the beginning, part of me was inclined to want to run and hide from it. Another part of me – because of many of you – wanted to seek out and identify with others who are experiencing what I am experiencing.

Thankfully, I have been able to lay some of my burdens on trusted and understanding loved ones and, as a result, feel some of the weight lifted. I believe in the power of sharing one another’s burdens. Because I have gained strength in being the recipient of a lot of support, I have felt that I need to do all that I can to help those going through the same thing.

I have started writing about my experience. I’ve joined the team of bloggers at Babble’s Being Pregnant blog.  This is an open forum where bloggers discuss all matters family, pregnancy, infertility, and mamahood. Many people may not choose to share something so personal but, because of the positives, I’ve felt strongly that this is the right decision for me.  Here are links to my first posts:

Hello, my name is Melanie and my husband and I are infertile
We need a cheering section
Ten things not to say to anyone suffering with Infertility EVER
What TO say

YAMF isn’t going to become Pregnancy Watch 2011. But I will link to my Being Pregnant posts a few times a month and you can feel free to read them if you’d like.

I’m going to take off early for the weekend, we’re going on a trip to NYC for a little getaway. But I’ll be back on Tuesday with the best birthday week ever. Thanks for reading.

Love,

Melanie.

Blog at WordPress.com.

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