What you don’t know, might hurt you(r embryo)
Plants all have small levels of toxins that can be fine for grown people but could harm fetuses — particularly at the embryo stage. One example? Potatoes. Apparently, those have been known to cause neural malformations in animal fetuses. The author even mentioned that Ireland, with its high potato consumption, has some of the highest levels of defects like spina bifida.
Some doctors (or maybe all of them, I don’t know) think that nausea is an attempt by the body to protect the embryo at the critical stage of organ development, when toxins could most harm the child. Which lends some credence to the old wives’ tale that more nausea is a good sign.
Specifically, the book said that women who experienced higher levels of nausea had fewer miscarriages than those who didn’t.
I wasn’t crying just because I favored baked potatoes during most of the pregnancies. But also because I had very little morning sickness for most of them. Even when I did have it, it didn’t last too long. Or maybe I just wasn’t pregnant long enough to notice.
It’s me, isn’t it?
Either way, I suddenly — and admittedly, ridiculously — felt like a failure for not being queasy enough.
It just felt like the universe once again pointing out that I wasn’t doing it right. Or that I’m just not physically right. And so I fail at one of the most basic imperatives of life: the ability to reproduce.
It’s more guilt and more shame. It’s more wondering what, exactly, is missing in me that I can’t carry a child to term. What keeps me from making a viable embryo and/or sustaining one past the sixth week?
Besides queasiness, apparently.
The thing about infertility is that there’s always one more thing to find out that you’ve probably screwed up or failed to do: eating potatoes, forgetting to take baby aspirin, ingredients in some of your favorite foods that might be linked to increased miscarriages, and so, so many more.
And that is, perhaps, one of the worst things about miscarriage. Beyond the sense of loss, beyond the potential lack of children it portends, there’s this suspicion that it’s your fault. Your failing. That there’s something lacking in you, as a would-be mother, that keeps these would-be children from being born.
How much more, o uterus?
I’m not sure how much more I can take of this, honestly.
There was the obvious blow each of the times we were told the embryo had stopped developing. The fifth time perhaps being the worst, since we’d finally seen a heartbeat two weeks before.
And then there was the blow of learning that I would have had a son. (Made somehow more poignant by the fact that people have argued with me for years that I could not, in fact, be sure that I would have a boy. But all of my cousins have had only boys. Just like the generation before that was exclusively girls.)
Thinking back on all that, I wonder if I even want to try again. Am I really up for another heartbreak? Because probability isn’t in our favor here.
But I’m not sure I’m completely ready to give up either. Part of me is fixated on this weird “half a dozen tries” thing. Apparently, my brain considers stopping after five tries to be quitting but after six as logical.
As much as one part of me is ready to never have to worry about miscarriage again, another part still isn’t ready to give up on the idea of having a child. Even if it involves jabbing myself with a needle.
I’m ready to be done with the heartache, but I’m not ready to be done going after the reward. Perhaps it’s just my innate, Type-A stubbornness that demands I don’t quit.
If not us, then who?
Or perhaps it’s the horror of the idea of Tim’s brother (the one I not so affectionately, but nevertheless aptly call a waste of skin) might be the only one to reproduce. That, after all our hard work of rehabbing our lives and finances, his brother — an addict, a liar, a thief, a manipulator, abuser and more — may have given my in-laws the one gift they truly want: a grandchild. That we’ll never be able to compete with that.
Yes, it’s not a competition, but also, it is. Especially in their inability to see their other son as anything but want they wish he were: rehabbed, a good father, a good person, someone who can/will/deserves/genuinely tries to get ahead in life. In short, someone who is no longer a thief, addict, liar, manipulator, abuser, etc.
I suspect a lot of infertile couples have at least one relative who generates similar thoughts.
Housing vs grandchild
There’s this knot in the pit of my stomach sometimes. It’s the idea that we’ve failed — that I’ve failed — on some level by not being able to give them the ultimate joy. The one thing that truly matters.
Yes, yes, we saved them from becoming homeless. But what’s a roof compared with a grandchild? (Especially if they pay rent.)
In fact, Tim sometimes worries that they might move to Indiana to be closer to their grandson, despite the horrendous effects it’d have on their health. I poo-poo him. Especially since his brother tends to live off the goodwill — aka rent free on the couches — of his friends or girlfriend of the moment.
Still, as they go back to visit more often, I’ll admit to a small but creeping sense of doubt.
What if we (and and the accompanying the promise of financial security) aren’t enough to hold them here? What if they consider a child to be worth more than common sense and overall health?
Could I blame them? Yes, probably. But weirdly, I’d also blame myself for not being good enough to keep them here by producing offspring. It wouldn’t be true — but it would feel true. Sometimes that’s worse.
Obviously, I don’t want a child just because it creates joy in my mom’s and in-laws’ lives. I want a child for the joy he’d bring into ours. I want to see an adorable, squirming mass of id develop into a real person, to look at that person and know… well, that whatever was wrong was my fault. But the good stuff too!
Failure is an option
That said, my sanity is kicking in. By which I mean my instinct for mental self-preservation.
I’ve started thinking of our lives as being definitively childless. That we either won’t try again or, more likely, that the sixth attempt will be no more successful than the past five.
I realize that we would certainly have more options. We could travel more, and we’d definitely have a better shot at financial security. It’d mean no more worrying whether Tim and I still have too much to work on in our own relationship. And no more struggle against self-doubt about keeping up with a kid in and around our chronic conditions.
So part of me thinks perhaps it’s better that we don’t try at all. Or that I accept the outcome of the sixth try ahead of time. (Please no one else tell me about all the times you knew someone who had X miscarriages, but the [X+1] was the trick. I know you mean well. But as my own story fails to follow that narrative, the anecdotes just add to the suspicion of personal failing.)
Tim is concerned about my current attitude. He says if I’m already that negative, maybe we shouldn’t bother with another attempt. Part of me agrees. But the other part resounds with the emptiness of a life without children.
Not that you have to have children to have a fulfilling, happy life. But the suspicion is that we do.
Of course, if childlessness is our fate, then I’ll learn to live with it. I’ll learn to be happy. After all, I know that kids aren’t all there is to adulthood. And there are plenty of positives to focus on. We’ll have more freedom and certainly more money. I’ll make my peace with it.
And then I’ll cry as we load the stroller and crib (yard sale coups during the second pregnancy) into the car to take to Goodwill. Currently, they sit in the garage, and every time I see the dust on them, I get sad.
We’re out of options
Of course, biological kids ain’t the only game in town. But the others don’t work for our circumstances.
Traditional adoption is out. Partially because no one in her right mind would choose a couple with chronic health problems over healthy people. Not to mention that we can’t afford $12,000 (or more) just to secure a baby. Well, we probably could, but I’m not going to start out in that kind of deficit — especially given our already strained finances.
I figured we could fall back on foster care. There are plenty of kids who need homes and love, and we have both. But then we realized that Tim’s pain management regimen (beyond Cymbalta) would disqualify us. Assuming we could even take the heartache of kids potentially coming and going.
So apparently foster care, much like my pregnancies, simply isn’t viable.
Coming full (weepy) circle
And so I’m at a stage where I read accusations in everything involving pregnancy. Where the mention of morning sickness makes me ashamed.
Because just when I think I’m coming to terms with being wholly infertile — of being someone who miscarries at every turn — something sets me off. Something once again makes me question my worth and my failings.
And I’m afraid that this is how I’m going to live my life. Being hit out of the blue with a wave of grief from some little detail or remark. It’s like PTSD. (And I speak from experience.) There will probably always be triggers. You do your best to avoid them, but sometimes the smallest thing brings it all rushing back.
It’s all part of the mourning process. It’s all something I need to just ride out.
On the other hand, What to Expect When You’re Expecting says nothing about potatoes. So maybe it’s the book’s fault.
What’s the weirdest thing that ever made you cry? Also, am I right that most people dealing with infertility have these random outbursts or struggles?