What If

Quite often, for me at least, the questions of What If had been relegated to the pregnancy and/or time of the loss. It wasn’t until last weekend that the What Ifs made the change to life after loss.

It was Sunday, and we were at the grocery store. It was late in the day, and we should have known better. There were kids and babies everywhere. And pushing many of them, the parents who were more concerned with what was on their phone than the human being in their cart (yes, I realize this is judgmental, and at the same time, if you look around, you may just realize it is also true). It wasn’t until we were in line that I heard it. Five words that crushed me: “Hi, I’m Sally, Janie’s mom…”

That’s when it hit me: What If I’m never able to say that phrase? And it wasn’t just me. Earlier in the day, Double A said to me, I’m not sure what I’m more sad about, the notion of what actually happened to us, or the idea that I may have to give up my dream of having (living) kids.

Of course we don’t know what lies ahead in our quest for family. At this point trying again seems out of the question, although we have promised to meet with our doctor and have a “conversation” during my 6-week after check up (I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that subject later). Before we lost our twins, I had it in my head that somehow, some way, we would get our family. Maybe by conceiving “naturally” (read: by any means possible) and/or by adopting. Now, I’m not so sure.

Trying to readjust to the possibility of this new reality, is another layer of the grieving process. Now there are all of the questions that swirl in my head and haunt me, some related to having biological kids, including, but definitely not limited to: What If I never know the joys of a healthy, full-term pregnancy? What If my only experiences with pregnancy and labor are ones that end in tragedy? What If I never get to feel the kicks and full movement? What If I never experience breast-feeding? And then those that are related to having kids in general: What if I miss out on the middle of the night snuggling and bonding? What if I never hear the words, Hey Mom? If I’m never woken up in the middle of the night? Thrown up on? Or any of the other things that many parents would complain about? (again judging, yet I’ll stand by it) Not to mention all of the What Ifs as they continue to grow and mature. The firsts, the stories, the conversations, inside jokes and moments.

What If I never get to see what features of Double A and mine our children would get outside of seeing our twins with Double A’s lips on our son, and my nose on our daughter? Of course I know if we are lucky enough to adopt, our children will pick up plenty of traits from us. But what if we don’t get that option? And I don’t want anyone to confuse these questions with not being grateful for the possibility of adopting. It is rather a forced change of expectations.

We are, and have been since we “went live” in February, working with our adoption agency, in the hopes that we could become parents that way. But the fact remains, in spite of what our best-intentioned family and friends tell us, no one can promise us it is going to happen. Even our agency is realistic on this, and won’t promise “it will happen” for anyone. How can they? Truth is, no one knows.

The challenge for today, and each day moving forward, is to push past the What Ifs, and focus on doing whatever we can to spread the word, make connections and try to make it happen. Right now that seems like a somewhat impossible challenge. I just hope we have the strength—and courage—to do so. Because in the end, we really need to be able to say those five words.

Before and After and In Between

Saturday is Double A and my 5th wedding anniversary. Typically, we spend the evening reliving our wedding weekend. We start with dinner at the pizza place where our family and friends gathered to start the festivities with the rehearsal dinner. We sit and go through night and the Oh, remember when… stories, bringing back some of our happiest memories. From there we head over to “Reni,” where we got married. We walk through the lobby, up to where the cocktail reception was held, and over to the ballroom, pointing out details, and who was standing where, when, and doing what. We have a drink (or two) at the hotel bar, and are usually joined by two of the hotel folks who helped us plan for and celebrate that big day. They not only remember us, they remember the date and the details. I was so looking forward to going back this year and sharing the big news, something they’ve asked us about every year since. But now, I’m not sure what we’ll do, as we’re not in the mood for celebrating.

A lot has happened these past 5 years, and don’t get me wrong, a lot of good stuff has taken place too. What really hit me though, was when we were at my parents’ house before the twins’ funeral, and I saw a photo montage they had on the wall of our wedding. I looked at this happy, beaming couple, who were without a care in the world. Who had no clue as to what they would be forced to endure. And I was both jealous of, and saddened for, them.

In these past two weeks, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in front of my computer. And during my space out moments, when the photo screen saver comes on, I see a visual pictorial of our life together. I see the young, carefree, lively versions of ourselves and the knowing, hardened and something missing versions. Two completely different people living within the same bodies. Truth be told, most people wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the two. But I know us better. I can see it in our eyes. In our smiles. In the wrinkles and grays that seem more than just age. Where the sparkle isn’t there and the expressions forced. I’m not sure which pictures are harder to look at. I ache for us, and I wish I had a way to protect or provide comfort at every dark moment that has, and continues to happen.

I know we’re not alone, that most people experience highs and lows over their lifetime. It’s part of the human existence, I suppose. Some are just lucky to not experience the lowest of the lows, time and time again.

Over the past five years, there is a positive constant throughout this land of the loss in which we live…each other. I am so grateful to have Double A by my side at every step along the way. He is my rock. And not because he doesn’t cry or show his emotions, but because he does. Sure, a lot of the time he feels as though he has to be strong for me, to protect me. And I hope and wish that I give that same strength back to him. But each step of the way, no matter what is happening, we are there, together. I know that this is sometimes rare, and appreciate that—and Double A—more than I’ll ever be able to express.

Outside these Walls

I went back to work on Monday. Not because I wanted to, or was ready to. And quite frankly, not because work was making me either. It’s just that I don’t know what else to do. My mind is not on work. Quite frankly, I don’t know where my mind is, but I don’t think staying home by myself would be good for me either.

The mornings and nights continue to be the hardest as they seem to be when the realization hits home the most. Sometimes just being at home triggers me. I walk up the stairs and down the hall and lose it. Perhaps it is passing the two memory boxes containing their tiny knit hats, footprints and measurements—all that are physically left of our twins—that sit in our second bedroom waiting for us to do something with them. Maybe it is passing Double A’s office which was supposed to be transformed into their room (and those who came before them). Or maybe it is just the quiet of a house that continues to be without our children. Probably a combination, and together they seem to nail me every time. Sometimes being at home seems just as hard as facing the outside world.

Sunday was tough on both of us. And Sunday night was horrible for me. The crying turned into sobbing, and the sobbing became an uncontrollable, ongoing mess. Double A and I were both dreading Monday morning. Neither of us wanted to go to work and face the world. And while being home brings its own demons, we are protected from the world around us. After poor nights sleep on both our parts, Monday came all too quickly, as has each morning since. We stumble around with puffy eyes, trying to get ourselves to look somewhat presentable (read: showered and dressed in clean clothes) and out the door. Truth be told, Double A is doing a better job at this than me.

My 15 minute commute feels like hours. I rush out of the parking lot to the building, and up the back stairs in an effort to try and avoid seeing anyone I know. Once at the office, I sit behind my closed door, mostly staring at my computer and to-do list while fighting off, or more common, wiping away the bouts of tears. The marketing and events I do just seem of such little importance right now. My coworkers don’t know what to say or how to be around me. And I don’t blame them. I don’t know what to say or do around others, let alone myself. In fact, it seems like each time I try to speak to someone, I turn to tears instead.

While I’ve always been an emotional person, it appears that my emotions haven officially taken over my mind and my body. The pain so strong. The sadness so real. And the heartache so heavy. This is not the life I signed up for, and I hate having to figure out how to navigate this world again. Sometimes do overs are just not necessary.

Sitting in Filth

I want to run. I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside. Not only are these the lyrics to a great U2 song, they also capture our mindset right now. There’s this incredible urge to run away. To move. To start fresh and get the hell out of dodge. Away from life as we know it. We’ve thought about it. Given serious thought to it, actually. But in the end, we realize we can’t run because it isn’t like we can just take off the pain and sadness like a dirty shirt and leave them behind. I’ve written about feeling like this before in my Mother’s Day post. There is no running. No hiding. Just living in it. The pain. The hurt and the sadness.

This is something we discussed with our therapist this week. How the only way you can get through something of this magnitude is to sit with it. To feel it. To own it. That until you do, it’ll just stay with you and continue to build. But the thing is, I don’t want to do any of those things. I’ve done it. All of those things. And I don’t want to do it again. I don’t want to do any of this again. But at this point, it isn’t my choice.

Most days, the pain is unbearable. There is the feeling of that all-too-tight blanket that encompasses me to the point where I think I can’t breathe. And it comes out of nowhere. I can be fine (read: not crying) one moment, and in the next, hysterical. Sometimes there’s a trigger, but often it just is. This is not a place I want to live.

I don’t want to continue to see and feel the physical aftermaths. The continued bleeding. To be forced to take quick from the waist down showers. To see droplets of milk coming out of my breasts and smell the sour milk that remains. I don’t want to wear double sports bras 24/7 until the milk that came in for our babies who aren’t here goes away. Sure this part will soon pass, but for the time being, it is an awful daily reminder.

I wake each morning, and live for that brief nanosecond before the realization kicks in. But it always does, and WHAM does it hit. This is not how I want to start each day. And every night ends the same way. Just after Double A kisses me goodnight and I turn over to try and get some much-needed rest, I get only deep emptiness and tears instead. Every day. Every night. This is not living.

Our therapist promises us that we won’t always feel like this. That it will get better. That we won’t always be so sad. So hurt. She reminded us of where we were after loss #4, and how far we came. I told her I’m not so sure this time. It is hard to imagine that we’ll ever be able to recover from this one. And the truth is, I don’t know that we WILL ever recover fully. This is an experience that will always be with us and will always haunt us.

Right now, the wounds are fresh, and the reminders everywhere. From the reality of what happened, to the babies and pregnant women that seem to be coming out of the woodwork. At this point, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through one breath to the next. I just know that I have to keep breathing. I’d like to think that there is still some hope in me, but right now I can’t put my focus there. Because right now, I have to put all of my energy in surviving this life.

Our Life on the DVR

In light of all of the heavy, long posts as of late, I thought I’d share this. The other night Double A and I were talking about how we didn’t feel up to watching the debate (yes, we know the election is important, so very important, but timing…) and it went something like this:

Me: What do we have on the DVR that we can watch?

Double A: Walking Dead. Grimm. Hell on Wheels. (all Double A’s shows, btw…)

Me: Isn’t that our life right now? Why can’t we resemble Parenthood?

Things We’re Not Supposed to Say

I’ve already talked about all of the feelings of guilt and questions that arise during and after loss. There’s more to it though. There are all of the thoughts, feelings and questions that pop in your mind that you’re “not supposed to think, not supposed to say.” The ones that most people won’t talk about or admit to. These are not thoughts I’m necessarily proud of (not that there’s much control), but in the interest of using Will CarryOn as a truthful and honest forum and resource for others, I think it is important to share even “those” kind of thoughts.

There’s a certain amount (read: quite a bit) of shame involved in loss. Again, I know that I didn’t do anything, but the mere fact stands that 5 pregnancies and 7 babies later, we have no children in our home. Something my body is doing—or isn’t doing—is factoring in here, regardless of what the doctors say and the testing shows. And yet, we keep trying. Determination, or cruelty to ourselves and our babies?

I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve apologized to our babies for not being able to take them to term, for not being able to give them the life we had imagined…even though it is out of my control. I cradled baby #4, and then our twins last week, sobbing as I told them over, and over again, I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. Truth is, I was trying to tell that to myself and Double A too.

There’s the unwarranted shame or embarrassment of people—even our closest family and friends—finding out that this happened to us…again. I’m not quite sure how to explain this one, as I know that everyone’s hearts are broken alongside ours. Yet at the same time, it is hard for me to not think that people either feel sorry for and pity us, and/or look at us and think, when are they going to stop trying? When are they going to learn? I remember after our fourth loss asking my mom to tell my grandma that it was nothing I did wrong. Not that I thought she’d think it was my fault, but because she was constantly telling me to be careful. I needed her to know that I was. I realize many of these thoughts are irrational, but they are there nonetheless.

There’s the bargaining that Double A and I did: If you save our baby, I promise I will… Or I won’t… Or I’ll give up… And the trade-offs: Take me. Take an old person who has had the opportunity to enjoy a full life. Take a sick person. Take a bad person. And then the worst, take someone else’s baby, not ours. No one deserves to lose their child, yet in the moment, it doesn’t matter who, just as long as it isn’t our baby, our babies. Not now. Not again.

There’s the anger. (And yes, I realize I’m going basically outlining the DABDA stages of grief here). Double A talked about his anger toward God or whatever higher power is supposedly out there, and it is one we both share. I remember going through each painful contraction and crying and yelling out, Oh God!, but then realizing that I couldn’t say that since I didn’t believe. That if there was a God, I wouldn’t be going through to this. How could this being, who is supposed to watch over us, allow this to happen to us time and time again? How could our relatives who have passed on, and are supposed to be watching over us, allow this to happen to us time and time again? How could my body fail me and do this to us? Why can’t the doctors do anything to stop the contractions? To save our babies? How come modern medicine doesn’t have the answers? The list goes on and on.

Some days I feel sorry for Double A, thinking if he had married someone else, perhaps he’d have his kids at home with him by now. That he wouldn’t have had to experience this much heartache. I shared this “shouldn’t be said out loud” thought with him, as he’s shared his own versions with me. He reassured me that he while he didn’t want the heartache, he wouldn’t trade me for anything. Of course I knew this, but sometimes my mind plays tricks on me, and I just want to protect the person that means the most to me.

I’m sure I’ve had other “unspeakable” thoughts. And I’m sure more are to come. And I pretty sure I’m not alone (please feel free to share). I’m grateful that all of these things I’m not supposed to think or say, I can share with Double A (and to this community). And I’m grateful that he can, and does, say his back to me. Going through this is hard enough, but it would be added pressure to feel like I needed to censor my thoughts from the person I’m closest to for the sake of being P.C.

Keep Moving Forward

With our previous loss, Double A and I made sure we showered and got dressed every day, and left the house. Some times it was just to walk to the corner Star.bucks. Other times it was for a much-needed drink. But mostly it was to keep us amongst the living. That was what we knew, and so that is what we are following this time around. The days blur together, in spite of seemingly dragging on. Since coming home last Wednesday, we have run countless, meaningless errands and found excuses to get out of the house, although I couldn’t tell you where we’ve been or what we’ve done.

Sunday night came way too fast, and yesterday Double A had to go back to work. Not because he wanted to, or was ready to, but because he had just recently started this job less than a month ago. That said, his new bosses and company have been extremely kind and understanding, and are providing him the flexibility to work from home. My work, having been with us through losses #3 and #4, has been great as well. I stopped in yesterday before anyone was there to pick up materials to attempt to work from home. In and out in less than 20 minutes, I only ran into one person who made the obvious glance at my belly, having seen me last week in my first out-in-the-open yes, I am pregnant maternity top. Now the work is here, and while I’m not getting a ton done, I am making some strides and appreciate being able to do so under the anonymity of being at home.

Last night’s Am.bien must have finally kicked in because I woke this morning at 7:30 and Double A was already gone. It was a tough morning, compounded by the quiet of being home alone. Double A had come home yesterday by 1:00, and I knew the same would apply for today. But there was no stopping the blanket of sadness that enveloped me. The tears would come on out of nowhere, as if someone was controlling my water works from an undisclosed location. Sometimes they’d hit long and hard, and other times a brief deluge. In between, I pulled it together and got some work done. Small victories.

I finally forced myself to take the still-dreaded shower with the goal of running to Tar.get, the grocery store, and to gas up the car. Teary mission accomplished, and off I went. I was already dreading going to my favorite super store, as I knew I’d be forced to navigate around the in-your-face kids’ section front and center of the store. But I wasn’t expecting this. You know who goes to Tar.get during a Tuesday afternoon? Moms and their babies. Nannies and their toddlers. And while I’m sure there were other people there, it was as if everyone but these two groups were being grayed out. It took everything I had not to lose it in the center aisle. And, I had to stop myself from going up to each and every one of them and shouting, DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?!? Have I really turned into that person? No, I didn’t go up to them, so I am not that person. Again, small victories.

Our therapist keeps telling us we’re in survival mode right now, and I guess that’s the only way to describe it. It isn’t a time to think, or do, or make decisions. It’s just a time to be. To be sad. To be numb. To be angry. And sometimes to not know where the fuck you are and what the hell is going on.