At the end of the race, there are almost always bananas.
At the end of the rainbow, there is supposed to be a pot of gold.
At the end of a journey, a destination.
And at the end of the five stages of grief, there lies acceptance.
I don’t know that I’ve ever grieved heartily and with enough awareness as an adult to really notice any given stage of grief. Not until yesterday… when in less than 24 hours I managed to go from stage 1 (blissful denial) to rapid vacillation between stages 2, 3, and 4 in a torrent of tears and snot (so much snot) before I finally settled into a puffy-eyed, rosy lipped (my lips get very bright pink when I cry a lot) depression.
So, what happened, exactly? We’ll do it stage by stage.
I had a lovely time on Sunday night, the night before the embryo transfer. My cousin-in-law Megan had her second annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis fundraiser at UPaint and Party in Wausau. Almost everyone painted a gorgeous picture of a lovely little bird silhouetted against a bright sky flying from it’s cage. My painting somehow got a dementor in it, but I still had a blast. It was nothing but fun and I was in good spirits about Monday’s transfer. Yes, I only had three embryos, but it could be great! That was three chances — making for a potential family of five humans and my sweet Curly girl to boot. I was good.
Even Monday morning, though nervous and stressed about heading out the door a bit late, I was still making The Jerk-based jokes with my family.
And that’s all I need…
We arrived in Madison a mere 4 minutes late for our scheduled appointment. Big thanks to the state of Wisconsin for upping our speed limits to 70 mph — big help yesterday. The nurse brought us back to the procedure area, same as before, and began to collect vitals, provide information, prep us with our gowns and caps and booties and all that… and I noticed that all the while, she kept saying “the embryo.” Part of me assumed it was because they were planning to just transfer one, which was always the goal. A much darker part of me knew what it really meant though.
There was only one embryo left. Two of the three we had, the three I had been banking on, had stopped developing. Just stopped. We were going to transfer only one because we had only one.
And that one? Not even ideal. Not sure on the details… and this image means pretty much nothing to me (no wonder they call it a ball of cells, eh?) so I can’t exactly glean anything from that, but something about it not being as developed as it should have been — an early blast instead of a mature/late/something one. I don’t know. It was hard to hear the embryologist over the buzzing in my ears that always comes when I start trying to hold back tears.
I was so unbelievably, inconsolably (even by Valium) sad. And angry. ONE?!?! After ALL THAT?! After all we had been through, all the thousands of dollars and hundreds of injections and ultrasounds and trips and tears and everything… just one. One shot. One sub-par shot.
But we did SO much. We’ve been through SO FREAKING MUCH. And so many people who do NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, but get it on once or twice have babies all the dang time. ALL THE TIME. Why are they special? Why am I not? Why are they so obnoxiously #blessed and is #cursed even a thing?! Because I obviously am. What’s wrong with me that even with thousands and thousands of dollars of medical intervention this is still the best I can do??? One.
And if that one doesn’t work? There’s nothing in the freezer to try again. Nothing. We have to start over from zero. Physically, emotionally, financially from zero. Do it alll over again. And I know I’m too close, and I know this isn’t where we are yet, but I can’t. I shouldn’t have to! I don’t want to!! It’s not FAIR!!! (Which is truly the worst thing you can say as an adult because by this point in my life I am well aware that life is not fair and nobody every said it would be.)
But it only takes one. One is enough. One is better than zero and I’ve prayed and hoped and begged and done everything right. Everything I could do. I would do anything — hasn’t what I’ve done so far proven that? Wouldn’t we be good parents? Don’t we deserve a family?
Even just this weekend, the priest talked about the little boy who made a miracle happen by bringing Jesus his meager loaves and fishes. I’ve brought him mine, haven’t I? With everything I have done, all that I’ve been through… it’s time for our miracle now, isn’t it?
And there it is… the little embryo between the two air bubbles.
Or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, this actually could be a print out of an ultrasound from a cow and I’d be none the wiser. But that has to be good, right? That you can see where it is? Inside me? Please, I’ll do anything to keep it there, to make it grow, to let it be life.
But then again, it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s out of my hands and come next Wednesday, when we can finally test, this will all be over. Yes, pregnancy is a possibility. But really? If after all that, we were left with one embryo. Just the one, just hanging in there, is it really very likely that we’ll be pregnant at all? I have lost my hopefulness, my optimism. The best of it, the stuff on the inside. I have to keep saying to everyone, “Oh yes! It’s very exciting! We could be pregnant right now– not too much longer ’til we find out! Keeping our fingers crossed!!” When really, I know otherwise. I know, you know? And the best news of all — my attitude will not change anything and if ONE MORE MOTHER EFFING PERSON TELLS ME OTHERWISE I AM GOING TO FREAKING LOSE IT. (Oops… that bit might have been anger again.) You cannot visualize or positive energy or pray or wish or hope yourself into pregnancy. It’s biology. And my biology hasn’t really felt like cooperating so far. It is what it is (sorry, Aimee — I know you hate that phrase, but isn’t it the best depressive phrase kind of ever?) and I am where I am and what’s done is done and it’ll all be over soon.
Back and forth and back and forth, sometimes anger, sometimes bargaining, sometimes depression over a frightening number of cycles since yesterday afternoon. And then sometime this morning, as I chatted with my friend Marie (Seth, if we ever do have a baby, her middle name (or even his middle name, to be honest) is going to have to be Marie — fair warning) about normal things, the things we chat about all the time, and I felt my funk start to lift just a bit I started thinking about what acceptance might actually mean. And I realized that Seth’s Aunt Becky had kind of already set me up for it a while ago, believe it or not. Probably on purpose too. She’s super wise and all knowing like that. Like Dumbledore. A doctor even, the good kind, PhD-style like me. Her PhD isn’t actually in theology, although as a self-taught theologian she’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself.
A few weeks back she sent me a link to this article about the prayer of relinquishment:
The Prayer of Relinquishment by Catherine Marshall
Maybe I’m really late to the game and this is old news for everybody else, but in this moment, I’m so crazy grateful to Aunt Becky, PhD, for sharing it with me and I can’t recommend reading the whole thing enough if you’re in any capacity inclined toward spirituality. It’s so good.
This is the crux of it all, at least to me and right now:
“…it says, ‘This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.’ Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope.
Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do.”
So as Catherine Marshall says Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne said once upon a time… why should I doubt the goodness of God?
I wear my bracelet all the time, the one that says “Always.” as a reminder that God is good. Always. No matter what. Why would this moment be any different? Pregnant or not, my life will go on. Pregnant or not, Seth and I will still love each other and we’re really lucky to have that. Pregnant or not, our little family will continue to flourish and decide what to do from there. All I can do right now is accept what is to come, relinquish the notion that I have any control over it, and carry on for the next several days until we have an actual answer to which I can react.
Yes, it’s hard. So so so hard. But as Melissa told me last night, even Jesus got angry. Why shouldn’t I? God gave me all these emotions and I’m free to feel them. They’re not wrong. They’re normal. And this is so hard. It’s no wonder that I feel angry and sad and depressed and worried and even hungry at times. (So so hungry.) We feel things. It’s what we do.
So stages of grief and all that aside… we had an embryo (i.e. the embryo) transferred to my uterus yesterday. At present, it’s a little ball of cells floating in space and the hope is that it will eventually implant into the uterine lining, effectively establishing a viable pregnancy. I don’t know how likely that is or is not. All I know is that on August 5th, we’ll do a blood test for HCG — a pregnancy test (not the pee on a stick kind). A negative is the real thing. Negative = negative. A positive could still be a false positive though, so if we do get a positive result, we have to do another blood test two days later on August 7th to look for rising levels of HCG, which will effectively confirm the positive result. It would be lovely to think that maybe I could look for signs and symptoms of pregnancy in the interim, but with the hormone overload my body is currently going through, I already have just about all of them and there’s no way any sign of actual pregnancy could be differentiated from the craziness happening in my body baby or no… so we wait.
Wait and accept and relinquish and let that little bit of hope in because that’s pretty much all we can do.