Hello again. It’s been several weeks since I posted. There are some very simple explanations for this, as well as reasons which are harder to articulate.
My July was spent with family. First in Chicago, visiting my mom, my sister, my niece and nephews, both my grandparents, and some extended family; then driving cross-country to Seattle with my dad. In our current socio-political environment personal travel is viewed with a lot of judgement. While I definitely fall into a less rigid segment of quarantiners, it was a tough decision choosing to go home. I wondered constantly if I was being irresponsible or putting lives and loved ones at risk. In the end, my family agreed to let our love trump our fear. So, after months of nothing but pictures, phone calls, and FaceTime, I finally got to give hugs, share meals, and spend time with those people who fill up my soul and remind me who I am and where I come from.
I celebrated my nephew’s 6th birthday, painted his face to look like a fox, and shared his cake, littered with fun-fetti and complete with blue icing. I sat with my mom on the first anniversary of my Grammie’s passing. I read the Sunday lesson with my Papa and ate dinner with my Nana. I comforted my dad after he put his cat to sleep and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking with my sister. I was THERE. I was PRESENT. I was HOME.
A lot of people live near their loved ones and have been able to do this all along despite the pandemic. I don’t, and it has unquestionably affected my mental health. My family feeds my spirit in a way that no one else can. When I am with my niece and nephews, I feel grounded in the current moment and can think of nothing else. When I spend time with my sister, I feel seen in a way that even my husband cannot achieve. My mom gives the best hugs in the world – I could live inside her hugs. My dad and I share such similar energy and dispositions that we could as easily talk for hours as sit in comfortable silence. There were moments at home when I felt so overcome with emotion, I thought I might burst, as if the love I felt was too much for my body to hold inside. And leaving broke my heart. I will not endure 6 months away again.
The night before my departure, as I was putting my oldest nephew to sleep, he asked why he gets to see his grandparents so frequently, but not me. I explained that his grandparents live close by, while I live far away and have to take a plane to see him. I said because of Covid, people have not been able to take planes as frequently as the they used to. Then he told me a week of visiting was not long enough, and we both cried, and I was filled with rage and frustration at this virus for its continued disruption of my life, as well as a deep, deep sadness for everything it has taken from me.
My trip home is the simple explanation for why I haven’t posted. I simply didn’t want to take time away from my family to write. Here’s the more difficult one: this week was supposed to be the embryo transfer into our surrogate, or gestational carrier (GC). But like so many of my family building plans, things have not proceeded according to schedule. For health reasons of her own, last week our GC had to pull out of the agreement. The only good news is that the embryo itself had not been thawed and remains safe and frozen here in Seattle.
So much of what I’ve blogged about until this point is in the past, so I’ve had time to process my feelings. I’ve been able to look at my reactions with distance and compassion and find words or metaphors to describe the experiences. But my surrogacy journey is happening now. My mind is occupied with it, and it’s not always easy to determine how I feel about it. Excited and hopeful? Yes. But also detached and cautious. And now, sad, and disappointed.
With recurrent miscarriage, you learn to mistrust hope and temper excitement. There are many steps between deciding to use a gestational carrier and an eventual delivery, so I’d been careful not to let my enthusiasm go too far. I didn’t want to be disappointed again. However, my attempts at emotional preservation were completely futile. Despite my better judgement, I was getting excited. Surrogacy didn’t rely on my misbehaving uterus – already the odds seemed in my favor. So, in equal parts pragmatism and optimism, I drove a car full of hand-me-down baby supplies back from Chicago with my dad. I talked openly and freely about the surrogacy process, our GC, and our transfer. I even pre-wrote a blog post about the transfer (this one, which I obviously edited…) As hard as it was to engage in a process which I’m inherently separate from, I was hopeful it would all work out.
And yet, when my fertility clinic called me to let me know the transfer was cancelled, my first thought was, “Of course it is. Why would I have expected anything else?” I nearly started laughing.
Then I got overwhelmingly angry. Not at my GC, who was dealing with her diagnosis, but with God, and Fate, and the Universe in general. “Seriously,” I thought, “am I just not supposed to be a mother?!”
That said, this loss – and it is a loss – feels different from my miscarriages. Although there was nothing I could have done differently during my pregnancies, I still felt guilty and culpable after every loss. I don’t with this. Our cancelled transfer is plain old bad luck. I am not responsible. Interestingly, to my husband, the differences we not so pronounced. He felt equally upset about our own losses, as the loss of this opportunity. He reminded me that there is a great deal of space between being “fine” and being “devastated” and that I still needed to practice self-compassion and self-care.
So, after the news the last week I did the following: First, I made myself a pan of brownies and ate it all myself. Second, I repainted my bathroom cabinets. Whenever I experience loss and feel out of control, I develop an urgent need (compulsion?) to make forward progress in another area of my life. This time it was home remodeling. Third, I binged on some TV and movie favorites – re-watched Fleabag and made repeat viewings of Call Me By Your Name. Lastly, I drank Champagne. I had been saving the bubbles to toast a successful transfer on Thursday. Instead, I toasted myself, my husband, our marriage, and our continued perseverance. We haven’t found our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow yet, but we’re still looking for it.