A few months ago, my mother asked if I were planning to use pictures of Kate for our Christmas card. "I can't" I replied "It was really hard for me to see pictures of everyone else's kids each year." My mother quietly repressed a sigh. "Jane," she paused. "Do you think you'll ever be able to let some of these feelings go?"
Let it go? I was tempted to launch into my 'once infertile, always infertile" speech, but I remembered we already had that conversation earlier that morning. I mentioned that one of my blogger friends had a spontaneous pregnancy after her first pregnancy was achieved after her 5th IVF transfer.
"So she's fertile." My mother interrupted
"Well, no." I countered. "The spontaneous pregnancy doesn't erase the multiple failed transfers and the years of heartbreak."
"But she conceived without intervention" My mother stood her ground "So everything works. She's fertile."
I was not going to let her have the last word. "It's like how Shroedinger's Cat is considered to be both alive and dead. She is simultaneously both infertile and fertile." I really don't understand Shroedinger's experiment, but I figured it would successfully end the argument. It seemed to work, so I decided to follow with a more vivid explanation.
"It was especially hard as both of my miscarriages were right before Christmas. Looking at pictures of other people's children reminded me of what I wanted, but didn't have and may never have. I was reminded that I was falling further behind as their kids aged each year. I felt regret that we didn't start trying for a family earlier. I felt confronted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future all at once."
"So, are you ever going to be able to let it go?"
No, I can't let it go, but I have eased up a little bit. It started at the pool one day. I realised that I still carried a lot of resentment toward Lena, as if it were my default position. One day, we had both brought our babies to swim practice and the image of the two strollers side by side softened me. Even though our path to parenthood was quite different, we were in this together. I friended her on Face.book, so I could add her to a closed group for new parents. In turn, she gave me some sleep training tips.
During my trip back east, we got together with my mother's side of the family, which included my recovering heroin addict cousin, his former heroin addict girlfriend and their almost year old son. I received the news about their pregnancy right after my fourth failed transfer. The one considered 'A New Hope' as it was with a grade 1 known euploid embryo. I wasn't so much jealous, as I was resentful. As I was researching recurrent implantation failure and trying to figure out the strategery for the fifth transfer 'The Kitchen Sink' I figured why not start shooting heroin? I had not seen this cousin in over 16 years. He was just a 17 year old kid at our last encounter and now he was a 33 year old father. Although I still remain somewhat skeptical, it really seems that fatherhood has had a positive influence in his life and he has been clean for nearly two years. He appears to be a dedicated father and as he was explaining baby sleep patterns and sleep regressions to my other cousin, I realised I could actually ask his for advice. "Oh, we had no idea what we were getting into." he explained "We spent the first few nights Googling everything we could" "So did we" I admitted "Seriously?" he asked. Seriously. I'm sure they had additional challenges as I imagine their baby was withdrawaling from methadone.
Finally, I renounced my jealousy over Myrtle's so called textbook perfect vaginal birth. Myrtle shared that her memories of her daughter's birth will always be tarnished by the fact that both her nurses were encouraging her to push as if she had to poop. Over and over again she heard those words. "Pretend you're trying to take a big poop!" "Push like you're really constipated!" As Myrtle was terrified that she would actually poop during the delivery, she twice asked the nurses to cease using that reference, but it was to no avail. I may be forever branded by my Caesarean scar, but at least there was no reference to deification when Kate entered the world.
I had been feeling that I had to confront my bitter feelings for all the pregnancy announcements encountered while I was infertile, in a similar way that an alcoholic goes through step nine and has to apologise to all the people he wronged. However, there is some resentment that I just can't let go. My cousin and her "souvenir" from her vacation in Hawaii, when she was so "relaxed." I just can't get past the fact that someone who endured all those bull shit lines while she was infertile, would turn around and use them to explain her spontaneous conception. Yet, a few weeks ago I noticed that she shared a link to an New York Times article entitled "Don't Ask Me When I'm Going to Have Kids" which discussed the hidden epidemic of infertility. I felt so proud of her for taking the courageous step to come out with her infertility experience. I also felt satisfied that she was proving my point. Five years after IVF led her to her firstborn and after a spontaneous conception, she still couldn't let it go.
Meanwhile, I still didn't have a decision about what to do with our Christmas cards. I finally designed our birth announcements, but I was feeling cheap and/or lazy about doing two mass mailings. "Maybe you can just mail a generic Christmas card with the birth announcements." suggested Co-worker, although it seemed to be the same as having a baby picture Christmas card. "Why don't we just take a year off from sending Christmas cards?" I reluctantly agreed that it seemed like the best option. Yet every time I opened a card that was sent to us, I felt guilty and disappointed, but I'm trying to let it go.