It’s been a little over 4 weeks since I learned that L, my embryo recipient, is pregnant. It was hard to get the news–the hardest part of this entire process so far, no doubt. Seeing the photo of those two pink lines shook loose a mix of emotions: I was happy for L&J, but profoundly sad. I couldn’t really explain why–after all, I didn’t want more children, and I didn’t feel possessive over the embryos. I was happy to give them to someone who could use them.
But there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience that is indisputable: there is no rulebook for how to feel. Every emotion — sadness, grief, disappointment, anxiety, fear — is valid. The only thing assured is that your feelings will change, and then they’ll change again, and again.
As the weeks passed, the sadness I felt after hearing the news began to wane, but it never fully disappeared. Even four weeks later, with L a little over 8 weeks pregnant, I still felt a tiny nugget of pain, burrowed deep in my brain. I was uncomfortable, and odd in a way I couldn’t really explain. The best I can do is to label it the “General Oogyness” of knowing that a lot of unknown emotion lay ahead: my genetic child would be gestated, and would be raised and loved by someone other than me. It wasn’t huge or overpowering. Just a nagging little parasite of sadness.
I tucked that weirdness away in a back corner of my brain. I wasn’t ignoring it; I acknowledged its presence, but there was nothing I could do about it. I hoped someday it would shrink, or go away completely.
Two days ago, on November 18 at 7:30am, I was neck-deep in our typical weekday morning shitshow when my phone dinged with a text message from L. She was at her ultrasound appointment to check baby’s progress; one week earlier, baby’s growth had been four days behind where it should’ve been. I wasn’t worried; these things happen all the time, and turn out fine. Come on, I have a 3-year-old who started out as a 13 beta!
Which is why the words on my phone screen came as a shock:
The baby had no heartbeat.
My breath caught in my throat. As expected, this news too caused a big reaction, a complex one. If I think of all those feelings as a pie chart, here’s how I would break it down.
First: 60% anger. I was so pissed that the universe could be this unfair. That after 4+ years of trying, and finally getting a positive pregnancy test, it would all be taken away from L&J in an instant.
20% sadness, for my friend L, having to endure the grief and agony that comes with a loss. I thought about how high their hopes were, and how that hope was dashed, the recovery from which would be excruciating.
Then came the guilt, making up about 18%. My god, the guilt. I gave them an embryo that broke their hearts. An embryo that couldn’t finish the job. In car salesman terms, I’d sold them a lemon. I suck.
Then, one more emotion, rounding out that last 2%. An emotion I’m scared to admit, but this blog is about keeping it real. I’m going to be honest about this.
I felt a minuscule sliver of relief. Not relief that she’d miscarried and was no longer pregnant — nothing like that. I was relieved for me to no longer feel that unsettling “oogyness” that had plagued me for a month. This news meant it would dissipate; not forever, but for just a little while. I could enjoy a short reprieve from a small, yet not at all enjoyable, amount of pain.
Then I felt even more guilt. I not only “sold” them a lemon, upon learning the news about the miscarriage, I was selfishly thinking of myself, even though what they were enduring was so much worse. I am a horrible human being.
But just as I was convincing myself I was the devil reborn, the very next feeling I had was impatience. Impatience for them to try again, to thaw the next embryo and give it another go. (Understanding of course that you can’t rush these things; grieving is necessary and your body needs a break, too.)
The simple fact I was impatient for their next attempt reassured me that I’m not Satan. I’m just normal. Or as normal as you can be when you willingly gift your baby starter kits to someone else.
I check in with L daily, to see how she’s doing. She scheduled a D&C; she didn’t think she could handle the wait, nor the actual experience of passing the “products of conception.” I don’t think I could either. I’ve heard too many war stories from friends who endured miscarriage. There are some things you just can’t un-see.
I thought back to my dark days, when our fertility treatments were one disaster after another. Days after our failed fresh cycle, my husband wrote me a letter and left it for me to find. I can’t remember it all, but one particular section stuck with me, and always brings a smile to my face.
The day after she learned of the miscarriage, L and I were texting back and forth. She is doing a great job of staying positive, keeping her sense of humor. I typed out a little inspiration, based on my husband’s letter years ago:
“When we had our failed cycle Nathan left me a note. It said that he wasn’t as upset as I was because he knew in his heart of hearts that we were going to be parents someday. Just not that day. He made a joke about the embryo we’d transferred being the next Hitler, or Bieber. I couldn’t help but laugh.”
I was a little worried she might not take it the way I intended. She texted back quickly.
“Omg. That made me laugh so hard. I read it to J.”
It reminded me once again why we chose L&J in the first place: because they’re like us. They laugh through it when life deals them a shitty hand. That was always our strategy, too. And eventually, just like us, they’ll get their winning hand.