My last 2 posts have been a little on the heavier side, so I had planned on something a little lighter this week. I strive to give you a balance of content here, encompassing the spectrum of the fertility journey – from healthy recipes to exercise tips to motivation to keep you inspired – all the way to managing your stress and keeping the faith on what is easily one of the most trying experiences of anyone’s life.
It’s all news you can use on this complicated path of fertility.
After 2 posts about “heavier” stuff – fueling your soul and trying to keep the joy in your life in the face of incredible pain – it was time for something uplifting. Maybe a recipe of one of the fun meals I’ve been eating lately. After 2 weeks of decadence on vacation, I was really happy with my food choices last week and was eager to share more about that with you.
But then life happened.
A friend of a friend – who happened to be one of my doulas – passed away suddenly last week. The United States continued to be ripped at the seams, this time only 3 hours from me in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. And then Sunday evening, I saw distressing news in my Facebook feed.
A good friend of mine, who was 35 weeks pregnant, lost her baby.
It was a sobering reminder of how brutal and gut-wrenching this journey really is.
I had spoken with her via text and Facebook message earlier in the week. I offered to stop by her house with some baby things to pass on. You see, she had already named her baby boy Charlie, which is also my son’s name. Her baby was to be the proud new owner of “Charlie” bibs, burp cloths, t-shirts and a diaper changing pad.
Instead, baby Charlie’s nursery sits, ready for action but will not be used.
She’d told me she wasn’t sure when I could come by. She was having some complications and had a doctor appointment the next day. After that she’d know more about her schedule. The doctors were thinking that due to the complications it would be best to deliver the baby. She said that over the weekend she might be home, or she’d possibly be at the hospital waiting for something to happen, or maybe she’d be keeping vigil in the NICU.
The next day she messaged me. She was going to the hospital for 24/7 monitoring. She was stressed and worried. Like any halfway-decent friend or fertility coach, I told her that the doctors knew what they were doing, and that they had her best interest and her baby’s best interest at heart. I was sure everything would be fine.
Until Sunday night.
I’ve been haunted all week by this news, not just in the face of my well-intentioned but ill-fated reminder that “Baby Charlie knew the way,” but by the overwhelming reminder of just how much is at stake on this path.
If I’ve learned one thing in the 2 years I’ve been coaching, it’s that women will go to great lengths to make their motherhood dreams come true.
I know women who’ve done up to 10 rounds of IVF, none of which led to a pregnancy. I know women who’ve traveled to other countries, even halfway around the world, to be treated at a specific clinic or by a specific doctor.
I’ve seen women take a myriad of medications and supplements, looking for the miracle cocktail that will bring them their baby.
I’ve seen couples spend thousands of dollars on treatments, medications, consultations, travel and other expenses, long before they even get pregnant.
I’ve seen disturbing posts in fertility support groups on Facebook, that have led to potential suicide posts being reported to Facebook administrators (thankfully, this has not happened in my group).
I’ve also been made keenly aware that procreating, which people have been doing since the beginning of time, has evolved into a highly complex operation, with doctors, clinics, attorneys, egg and sperm banks, social workers, psychologists and other professional stork-bringers all involved in aiding and abetting those who are desperate to make their parenthood dreams come true.
Women are getting lean, getting fit, eating better, sleeping more, popping pills, chilling out, getting poked, pricked with needles, and shelling out lots of money, all in search of just the right combination of modern medicine and ancient holistic practices that will help them conceive.
Many of them do conceive. And many of them don’t. And of the many that do, some of them lose their babies, either in the earliest stages of life, like me, or, like my friend, when they’re on the cusp of being born.
If baby Charlie wasn’t meant to live in this life, why was he able to grow for 35 weeks, building his parents’ and big brother’s anticipation and excitement with each passing week?
Why, after previous devastating losses, was this family being dealt yet another blow at the hands of the fertility and pregnancy journey?
Instead of delivering fun Charlie-themed baby items, why am I going to their house to deliver food as part of the meal train one of their friends set up because they’re too devastated to think about cooking for themselves?
How is this family, or any family facing the worst pain imaginable – the loss of a child – supposed to be able to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives, with this gaping hole in their hearts? After the wait for baby Charlie to be conceived, followed by the extreme joy and then the massive heartbreak, will they be able to try again? Will they want to?
How much should they, or anyone struggling with fertility, be expected to endure?
Why do some babies make it and others don’t? I was born prematurely, at 31 weeks, and was given a grim prognosis. I was likely to die, and if I didn’t die, I was predicted to be blind and/or severely mentally disabled. Why did I survive in 1970 but Baby Charlie didn’t in 2017?
With all the advances in science, medicine and technology, there are still so many mysteries surrounding fertility, pregnancy and birth.
I salute all of you who continue to show up and walk this path. To persist when all you want to do is hide under the covers from the world. To never give up on your dream. It takes strength, nerves of steel, resilience and perseverance. It is not for the faint of heart.
With a heavy heart, I’ll put my Charlie baby items away. Maybe someday I’ll find somebody else to pass them along to.
Next week, a recipe. I promise.
This post is also available in: Arabic