I often have people ask us how we kept going when cycle after cycle failed. I never really know how to answer that question.
Infertility is filled with so many intimate emotions, desires, superstitions and fears that it would be impossible to give a simple answer without sharing the details of some of the things we did to grieve the losses.
In the chapter “Burial, Resurrection and IVF”, after failing several IUIs and FETs, and one GIFT procedure we found ourselves facing our first IVF.
This excerpt hopefully gives some insight into how we grieved the losses of the embryos that never made it, so that we could move on.
I am haunted by the twelve embryos we lost. I had hoped Dr. Kid might perform some miracle with the last of the embryos Dr. Mel had frozen, but it was simply not to be. The plastic Petri dishes blanketed by the pictures we took of the tiny rice creations are tiny coffins we haven’t buried. Lisa has just read a book on fertility loss and grieving,
and although I’m reluctant to go along with it, I agree we need to find a way to say good-bye to them.
We light some candles and say some prayers from the grieving book. In a small pile are the pictures of Lisa holding the Petri dishes, as well as the photos of that precious potential life when there was still hope that they were growing in her womb. I didn’t realize how many “welcome home, baby” signs I’d made after each embryo transfer. Lisa’s tears spot the signs, streaking the alternating blue and pink letters blending them into a purple-black bruised color.
We finish the ceremony in the backyard rose garden. I had planted the roses on our fifth wedding anniversary. Each bush is a different color and type, to reflect how each year we have grown together in different ways.
I dig a small hole and gently place the pictures, Petri dishes, and signs into it. After a brief good-bye, Lisa is sobbing. I move to comfort her, when I fall to my knees. My heart is in my throat, and I can’t even breathe as crying overtakes me. I fight the tears, but am weighed down. I’m in a real-life version of that nightmare where I want to run, want to get away from something that is darkening my world, but its gravitational pull is too powerful.“I really want to be a father,” I blubber, embarrassed by my lack of self-control.
Lisa kneels down in the rose garden with me. We just rock each other as we cry. I worry I’m making this harder on her, but I notice her face is calm, almost serene as she closes her eyes. We sway like two palm trees being moved by a steady wind. I look past her through the blur of tears and see the spirits of the lives we lost running around the yard. Are they looking for us? Do I hear their tearful cries asking why they aren’t in my arms? I want to reach out to them, hold them, and tell them everything will be all right. But I have to let them go. They are only an illusion.
A few days later, I’m doing some yard work, and the roses are in full bloom. The petals of those rose blooms house the souls of our unborn babies, and I can hear them whisper, “Daddy, we’re okay.”
The cycle of life will go on.