My husband and I halted at the door of the doctor’s office. We took a deep breath. Two years before it was where we had found out that our first miscarriage was underway. As we had sat trying to decide whether I should have a natural miscarriage or go to the hospital for a D&C, we watched smiling women holding fuzzy photos of their babies. Our miracle pregnancy was ending in tragedy while those around us were rejoicing.
This time, I was five months pregnant with twins through IVF. The faces of the women were different, but they were, too, were smiling and had their own fuzzy photos. The week before, even we had seen the twins during a gender ultrasound. As a sign of what we imagined was to come over the next eighteen years, they kicked and pounded each other in my belly; the technician said they were some of the most active babies she’d seen. We were ready to trust the pregnancy, to trust that we would be holding Jackson and Grace in four short months. To believe we were finally, finally, normal. It was an odd sensation.
Thirty minutes later we were sitting across from a specialist who was telling us we needed to go to the hospital—now. “Now?” I remember thinking, “but it’s Good Friday. Easter is in two days.” I was starting to go into shock.
At 1 am the following morning, I was having an emergency D&E to remove my precious babies before severe preeclampsia killed me. After years of battling infertility, we had lost this fight to something completely unrelated.
Each week when I was pregnant, I took a picture of myself holding two blueberries, then kiwi, then lemons. ‘This is the size of the babies!’ I’d text my husband. I HATE the fruit section now.
After their deaths, I wrote about their loss and how infertility affected me deeply. I had changed; no one knew how much. Everyone knew Mother’s Day would be hard for me, that my sister-in-law’s pregnancy announcement would sting. What they didn’t realize was the struggle of everyday life.
This was what I wrote about the million little heartbreaks…
–The Grocery Store. Each week when I was pregnant, I took a picture of myself holding two blueberries, then kiwi, then lemons. “This is the size of the babies!” I’d text my husband. I HATE the fruit section now. And the parking spot reserved for expectant and new mothers—give me a break. How about a spot for someone who doesn’t want to get out of the car because inside are women with babies? I’d park in the last spot if I could carry my babies to the store. And the August 1 expiration date on the cream cheese? That’s when my babies were due.
–Advertisements. I wanted to buy a magazine to try some new recipes. Something to get my mind off the fact that two weeks ago I was craving grapefruit and everyone thought it was adorable. But the recipes I wanted to try were labeled “for busy moms.” That wasn’t me. In fact, a glance at the magazines told me I couldn’t have the latest haircut, wardrobe, or electronics. They were all for mothers.
—Intuition. I can’t tell you how many times during our fertility treatments that I KNEW something. I KNEW a different method would work. I KNEW the twins were the miracle everyone had been waiting for. I was wrong. None of it was true. There is no more trusting an instinct or intuition or a voice I think is my gut. And not just where babies are concerned. It has saturated every part of my life from religion to making decisions at work. It’s a strange way to live.
—Conversations. At our age, conversations center around kids. Instead, people ask about my job.
“How’s work?” They think they’re distracting me. That it will help to talk about other things. But I’m SO sick of that question I want to scream when I hear it. For five glorious months, people asked how I was doing, how the babies were doing, how we were preparing, etc. Each time, I lit up inside. They were NORMAL questions. And for the first time in my life I was the one getting to answer them. Now we’re back to “How’s work?” I want to scream.
—Being a Woman. You know all those posts where the husband talks glowingly about his beautiful wife who is an AMAZING mom? Or a picture that husbands put up of their wife and daughter that says “my girls.” Or the way a man is protective of his pregnant wife. The way he tends to her, kisses her cheek, looks at her? I don’t have any of that. I truly feel/felt at my core that I was none of those: the wife who deserved to be kissed on the cheek or be protected.
—Friends. I have dozens of people blocked on social media because seeing their ultrasounds, baby bumps, and newborns is gut-wrenching. And that’s just online. The idea of women having real-life friends to go through pregnancy and baby-raising with happens all around me. Yet now each outing with a friend is riddled with suspicion. Why did she look at her husband that way? Why didn’t she order a drink? Is she about to tell us she’s pregnant? It’s inevitable and I know I’ll smile and congratulate them, then go home, block them on Facebook, and cry all night.
–The Future. In my deepest sorrow, I thought about the fact that eventually, one of us will die leaving the other alone. The person left behind will most likely die alone. If family comes, it will only be for the end. There will be no child to remember how funny we could be or a favorite recipe I cooked or my love for gardening. And, because we will die alone, I will not be able to have cherished pets to comfort me in my last days because I fear there will be no one to care for them when I am gone.
…now each outing with a friend is riddled with suspicion. Why did she look at her husband that way? Why didn’t she order a drink? Is she about to tell us she’s pregnant? It’s inevitable and I know I’ll smile and congratulate them, then go home, block them on Facebook, and cry all night.
One year has passed since I wrote this list of heartbreaks. We tried one more cycle, which didn’t work. That was our final straw. People kept telling us we would know when to stop trying, and after six years we did. It’s not that the lack of desire went away. It was the realization that I came so close to dying and we couldn’t keep putting my life or the life of more babies at risk.
We have healed and we haven’t. We can talk about other things, which is refreshing. But we’re about to spend this Sunday visiting a natural burial ground to try to find a place for our babies’ ashes. It’s something we haven’t been able to deal with until now.
In truth, we are still trying to build a family: we’re on the path to adoption. It might work, it might not. People get big smiles when we tell them that we’ve signed with agencies. There are exclamations about God’s will and the virtues of adoption and how there is a baby waiting for us. We smile politely but are careful not to agree.
We don’t know what the future will hold. There may not be a baby for us. If there is, we will love him or her beyond measure. But we have changed. This journey has taken its toll. For now, we’re working on finding joy in other things life has to offer—on pets and careers. And, slowly, on putting back together the million little pieces of our hearts.
Deborah Metzger is the founder and artistic director of Paragon Studios, an acting and musical theatre training facility in Pittsburgh, PA. In addition to teaching, she directs and performs on stage. She also enjoys gardening, writing, and fostering kittens for shelter. She and her husband, Scott, share their home with four spoiled pets— three cats and a dog.
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