I am now into my fifth week away from Facebook. I have had to log on to manage my business page, and have occasionally caught someone’s good or bad news. I’ve sent a message or two in response, but that’s it. Some people have been kind enough to contact me, and I have tried to get back to them, I have set aside an afternoon to catch up on all my emails today, which will be nice. I like to have all my loose ends tied up at the beginning of the week. I have been writing, glorious, glorious writing, working on the PhD, discussing my ideas with my supervisor, happily ensconced in books and feeling relaxed and deliciously free.
I’ve thought over this week’s blog post a lot, there’s so much I want to say, but gathering it all together and making it cohesive and understandable is so difficult. I suppose, really, that is how my life is at the minute. Things are slowly resolving themselves without me forcing or controlling them, there are good days and bad days. This is not an easy decision. Everything seems to come back around to the question: do we try again, or do we accept childlessness. Everything I am doing in my every day life is viewed through the decision: I am walking the dog and smelling that gorgeous heavy summer hedgerow small and feeling relaxed and happy and thinking ‘yes, if every day was this, if I was going home to a book and my writing and not having the anxiety of IVF, pregnancy, children, yes, I could do this’. I am walking the dog and smelling that gorgeous heavy summer hedgerow small and feeling relaxed and happy and thinking ‘I would have loved to have walked down here with Matilda, I would loved to have fed a carrot to the horses and picked her up and held her on my hip. I would love that chance again. Maybe the next one is the one.’
More and more it is the acceptance of childlessness that is becoming the norm. I feel I am grieving for the decision. I am grieving for the choice I am making. But I am not set in stone, yet. It’s very difficult because now I see how much my husband is set against it. How much he doesn’t want to do it. So what choice do I have, really? Chris hasn’t made the decision for me, he’s just got there first. He is just saying what we are both feeling, he has answered his own question, I am taking time to answer mine. It was me that opened the dialogue initially, when, putting a plan in place and dates for the next cycle, I couldn’t feel any excitement at all about it. I felt resentment and frustration and fear and sadness about it. I looked at my academic studies and my writing and felt unhappy at how I would have to change everything to accommodate this cycle that probably wouldn’t work, resentment for the endless guidance and counselling we’d need to go through because things had changed and it was no longer straightforward. That the next cycle was even more complicated and draining, because our bodies seem to be resisting. I realised I was thinking about what I had to give up to continue, rather than what I had to gain if we continued.
If I could go back to the weeks when things started to become worrying with my pregnancy, when she moved less, when I felt that niggling feeling that things were not right. If I could go back and shout and shout to be heard, instead of accepting what the staff were saying was right. If I could give her her breath in that operating theatre, when she tried to breathe, if I could just give her the chance to breathe, I would. I would give everything up, to have her back. I would give up writing, academia, I would give my life. I still wish I had died, rather than her. But I can’t imagine doing that for the chance of another baby, I guess that is the salve of the unknown. I don’t know the ‘next baby’ though I have their bouncy chair and reusable nappies waiting for them in my wardrobe, ready to feel that love again, I don’t know who they are, and I have no love for them. Just an idea and a memory of love, so It is difficult to imagine wanting to give up the life I have worked so bloody, bloody hard for to have them in my life.
And realistically, our time has run out. Or is close to running out. Research shows that, for some reason, after the fifth cycle of IVF the chances of success start to drop rapidly. Add to this my age – 38 (39 in March) with a low ovarian reserve and only one ovary. Most clinics won’t automatically treat you once to reach forty. Barrier, barrier, barrier. That’s what it feels like; an enormous steeple chase with a bloody knackered old horse. There are people that I know that have had children later in life, and the experience has enriched them and there will be people who will keep telling me not to lose hope and not to ‘give up’. This isn’t giving up. I am not someone who gives up easily. But sometimes, the challenge is to accept, create something different and make that as viable and as valuable as any other choice.
My dad is sixty five next week. That’s a big birthday. He is in great health, he recently had a big prostate operation and recovered, he is physically fit, he has a small holding with chickens and a huge veg plot, they are proudly self sufficient. But he is less robust than he was. He looks like my granddad, he sleeps for hours in his old-man-easy-chair, has the telly on far too loud. He is loving his retirement, he plays bowls and is in a debating club, my mum and dad are discovering the joys of lunch time menus, they walk, they build stuff together, little projects. Could I imagine them with a fifteen year old child instead of their life? No. My mum can’t even cope with my dog. And that’s what I would be asking Chris to give up – our child would be fifteen when Chris was sixty five.
So the choice hangs. I think Chris probably would do another round for me, but wouldn’t want to. And that’s a whole mess of resentment just waiting to happen if we have a miscarriage or another stillbirth, or when parenthood becomes trying and frustrating, which it will, there would be this statement hanging over us ‘I never wanted to do this’.
This week I made quite a big step. I have decluttered the bedroom. My house is full to the brim of clutter. I haven’t thrown anything away, it seems, since we started trying for a baby, or at least since we lost Matilda. I think I may have had my life on hold, I think I might have been in stasis waiting for the next baby. For weeks after we lost Matilda I thought the phone might ring to say they’d made this huge mistake. That she would be coming home after all. Even though I had held her and sat with her body, and put her in the ground. I still felt like someone was going to phone and tell me it was a mistake, they’d given me the wrong baby, someone else was going to have to suffer this instead. I think I have been waiting for her to come back to me, perhaps in another pregnancy. And like a good host I have kept her things ready for the ghost baby that will arrive, surely, at some point. It’s just a numbers game, after all. Now I feel like I am waking up, coming out of this strange dream place and realising that i cannot stay here, the Miss Havisham of the stillbirth world, waiting for my life to begin.
In my decluttering I took the box of positive pregnancy sticks from the last miscarriages and threw them away, just like that. They were in an old wooden jewellery box that looked too much like a coffin, that went too. As did clinic literature, though I kept receipts to remind myself how much we spent, how committed I was (last cycle £6000) and the bedroom is bare and clean and normal now. I am starting on the spare room next, I am making it my office, where I will produce beautiful writing.
But then, oh, then come the dreams. Nights and nights of feeling the baby move, and waking up with my hand there searching for my bump. Nights and nights of waking up crying, panicked ready to shout that ‘the baby isn’t moving’. Nights of waking and searching for her little body in the bed, because I’ve lost her. And waking up certain that we have to try again because to imagine never feeling a baby move inside me again, never seeing the positive pregnancy test, never seeing that heartbeat on the scan, the moon on the sea that is an ultrasound, never feeling a life inside me again, that emptiness, it is too hard. It hurts too much and i am sure it will kill me. I have not emptied the baby stuff drawers in the bedroom. I am not there yet.