Here’s the biggest thing I wasn’t prepared for when it comes to pregnancy after infertility. Sometimes, while pregnant, you get depressed. You worry, you cry, you panic. That I was prepared for. But the self-loathing and shame that can result from those worries and tears and panics? Not so much. I’m not going to lie. I’m a total mess right now. And, I think it’s been made worse by the fact that I haven’t felt like I could write it here. I haven’t felt I could express it anywhere. Not to friends, not to my husband, not to my therapist. I hate myself and who I am right now, and not the least of which because I know I should be better, I should cope better, I should be grateful.
This little man’s been breech at every. single. visit. since the NT scan at 13-some weeks. I was proud of myself for not worrying too much about it, because I knew it wasn’t a cause for concern until some far off, distant “later.” It appears later is here. Or, so it would seem from the simple one-page letter I unexpectedly got in the mail on Saturday telling me the date and time of my c-section. The date and time of my son’s birth.
Since “the letter” I’ve been a disaster. I cried for most of the rest of Saturday, managing to haul myself out for a few hours that night for a going away party for one of my closest friends here who will be moving to the other side of the country in a few short days. Sunday I struggled to hold it together, but was still mostly in a daze. Monday found me losing all composure throughout my morning ultrasound, non-stress test, and consult, and going through the motions of the rest of my workday, only to come home and snap. I stayed awake long enough to do my 7:20pm lovenox injection, before going to sleep without dinner, without stopping the tears, without emerging from the darkness that had become my new mode of being. I do remember my husband begging me to reassure him that I wasn’t thinking of “doing anything stupid” before I stumbled up to bed. I remember waking 12 hours later, remembering the look in his eyes as he asked it, and starting to cry again.
I feel trapped between two worlds right now. The “what should be’s” and the “what is,” the “I know better’s” and the “I’m tired of knowing better’s,” the “gratefulness” and the “jealousy.”
When I try to be rational, I eek out the following:
- Holy shit I’m pregnant. Really, REALLY pregnant. Like, I may very well get to meet this child pregnant.
- There is a nursery. In our house.
- You’ve got bigger things to worry about. Like him surviving you coming off your meds. Like him surviving. Period.
- The method of his delivery doesn’t matter, just that he gets here safely.
- Seriously, read the above, you know better you fucking twat.
But, 99% of the time my thoughts are more of the variety of:
- I’m tired of being understanding. I’m tired of accepting what life throw’s at me.
- I’m done with being the minority. The 1.5% of births from IVF in the country. The 2-4% of the general population with antiphospholipid syndrome. The 1-3% of women who have scheduled C-sections due to a breech presentation. The list goes on. I’m a walking, talking ball of “This is SO UNFAIR!” right now.
- I’m over surgery. The C-section will be my 6th in 4 years. Everyone assumes I’m upset because I’m “scared” of surgery. No, I know surgery intimately by this point. There is no fear there. Just a lot of anger. And, a lot of knowledge of what recovery will look like and physically and mentally feel like (especially given how much my body detests analgesics).
- I’m sad I’ll never get to experience what my mom did to bring me into this world. The only labor pains I’ll ever know are those that accompanied my three miscarriages. I’ll never have the chance to turn that pain to a positive in my mind. I needed that chance, I’ve been longing for that chance.
- I feel robbed. It’s not so much that I feel vaginal delivery is “normal,” but it’s certainly less invasive. My child was conceived in a petri dish, this pregnancy has been sustained by tons and tons of drugs, procedures, and doctor’s visits, and now the birth will be more of the same. It will be a timed transaction – place, date, and time preset by the convenience of my medical providers. It will be another procedure written in my calendar.
- I’m sick of an entirely new set of reminders from the fertile masses that I’m different. Each well-meaning moron that tells me, “Labor isn’t what it’s cracked up to be,” or “you can always VBAC with your next one,” or “it won’t matter once he’s in your arms,” leads me one step closer to homicide. I knew I would kick labor’s ass, and I’ve been longing for the opportunity to for 5 years. I have the pain tolerance of an ox, and I’m ready to have it come into play when something positive can come from it. And, speaking of “the next child” just reminds me that may likely never happen.
- While I’m not scared of surgery, I am scared of the possible health implications. Since I continually win the medical complication lottery (seriously, who gets diagnosed with 6 different diseases/conditions all before they’re 30?), I find myself certain that this C will result in endometriosis adhesions growing out of my uterus. Yes, it happens. Or that major abdominal surgery will set off my clotting disorder. Or my yet-to-be-determined spondyloarthritic disease. Or that, when you’re as infertile as I am, more scarring in the uterine cavity is never a good thing. Especially when the combo of endometriosis and a clotting issue mean you’re in for a lot more laparoscopies down the road.
- I’m frustrated that this birth feels like just another in a long line of confrontations with unhelpful, risk-averse, blanket statement doctors. I haven’t seen an MD since February, and my case hasn’t been looked at in all that time. (And, clearly, a lot has changed since then.) Yet, the NPs and midwives continue this game of telephone. Gathering my questions, presenting them to “some doctor” (one who may or may not have ever met me), and then coming back in the room and poorly communicating their answers. For 6 months I’ve been told it would be dangerous for me to remain pregnant past 39 weeks, but now that they must schedule a c-section it’s been scheduled for nearly 40 weeks. The NPs helpful response? “Well, we’d sure like to do it sooner, but we don’t have any surgical availability.” After one doctor told me in February that my lovenox was the only thing sustaining this pregnancy, now they’re taking me off of it without a second thought on Monday. No discussions, no explanations, just a simple, “Your chart says for you to stop at 36 weeks.” And, to my question of whether or not we could try an external cephalic version to flip him? The friendly nurse replies, “Absolutely not. Not with your history!” Oddly, that’s not remotely OK, but delaying delivery and taking me off my meds is totally fine. This is not how I pictured my end of pregnancy care.
- And, I’m angry that this is the end of the line. I want to meet him more than anything, but I’m not ready to be once again un-pregnant. Aside from the fact that I have physically felt the best I have felt in 10 years during this pregnancy, I’m also not ready to let go of him. Especially since I’ve wasted so much time lately hating each kick that reminds me he is breech. Especially since the medical system has been the only one to weigh in on when he arrives.
Clearly, one list is much longer than the other, but that doesn’t mean that the first list isn’t on my mind. It is. Constantly. And, it’s why I’m such a mess. Where do I get off feeling like I have any right to be upset over a c-section? I know better. I mean, I know better women than I who just lost wanted pregnancies, who failed yet another cycle, who’ve moved on to a life sans children, who’ve suffered more heartache and pain than anyone should ever endure. Yet these past few days have sunk me lower than I’ve been since the death of my mother.
I have no answers. This is hard. And overwhelming. And terrifying. The risks are so high, and the territory so uncharted. For me, infertility always had an element of misery. Misery’s not all bad. It unites the community, it can make the highs feel higher, it can be powerful and reaffirming to let it wash over you. But, I’m so frightened to be spending these last few weeks of pregnancy in misery. What does it say about me? What does it mean about my ability to successfully parent? What does it foretell about the future if I can’t ever get past these few final road bumps? I’ve often bought in to the normative language that the ALI and PAIL communities frequently use – the phrases “finding a resolution to infertility” and “living after resolution to infertility.” I doubt the accuracy of those phrases now. I doubt that resolution will ever be possible.