Remembering Sandy Hook and the Gift of Infertility
Today is the seventh anniversary of Sandy Hook, Newtown. 12.14.12.
I never know what to call it. Do you?
Is it the shooting?
The mass murder?
Maybe it doesn’t make any difference what we call it. The truth is that we still haven't found the words that make sense, that accurately convey the devastation, horror, and death that visited our small Connecticut town that day. The horror that the families faced with the deaths of their little ones is impossible to imagine, making it the entire reason we acknowledge the pain to this day and beyond. The shock that we felt as a community still resonates, as it should.
We were all visited by death that day. It was a brutal loss of innocence hammered thin by the countless killing events that have since happened. Since 2012, the year of the Sandy Hook tragedy, guns have been used to perpetrate violence in a school setting in the United States over one hundred and eighty times.
An Intimate Story of Sandy Hook
After 2012, one survivor would soon become a patient at RMA of Connecticut and ultimately, a dear friend of mine. She pulled herself through the emotional turmoil of Sandy Hook, only to struggle to become pregnant on the other side.
She was the 1 in 8 to have infertility come knocking at her door.
She was personally affected by Newtown. Not in the general, shell-shocked way the rest of us were affected. Not in the just proximal way that those of us who live close by, where it was our backyard, were affected. Not in the intimately private way that those who lost a child or a family member that day were affected.
She was affected because she was there, in the school that very day. She experienced the horror—the smells, the sights, the sounds—the reality of that day. She escaped death that day by the narrowest of margins and to some extent, by sheer luck.
Her best friend didn't have the same luck. She didn’t escape. She died that day, doing her best to protect the children she was there to teach.
That is the simplest version of her story at Sandy Hook, Connecticut. She has given me permission to share this with you so you can see what else was almost lost that day. It is her story though, so I won’t go into the details any more than I have.
This is neither a story of the phoenix rising from the ashes, nor is it a story that makes sense of the chaotic, brutal deaths of innocent children. This isn’t the silver lining or upside of the horror of that day. The lives lost, their voices only living on as echoes in the hearts of their families and friends, aren’t redeemed by any story, no matter how happy an ending it might have.
And there is a happy ending with not one but two children now, after infertility. A beautiful, spirited, happy family whose parents know just how blessed they are to have these children to hold, teach, comfort, and love.
Had my beautiful, new friend died that day at Sandy Hook, this family never would have existed. It would have been more loss, another family that didn’t continue and expand, a love story never experienced. Thankfully, that’s not the case.
Infertility, An Unexpected Blessing
This is a blessing for us all. It’s a story that in the end brings joy and even relief. We at RMA of Connecticut have been blessed to know her and to help her and her husband.
She says that she is grateful for her infertility, because through it, she got to know all of us. Through her infertility, she began to heal from the death and destruction of 12/14/12. For her, the healing that took place was within the compassionate and loving arms of the RMA of Connecticut family. Shaun Williams, MD, Linda Connolly, RN, Elaine Malin, MTCM, LAc are three members of the RMA of Connecticut family that created an experience where she was protected, cared for and loved. Where she could cry, demand, ask questions, and find a limitless reserve to fill her up.
It would be selfish to say that I feel grateful about knowing her, as it was through the sadness of infertility. I can say, though, that I feel so grateful and thankful and blessed that she came into our offices and into our lives.
A situation like this makes me reflective. There are few stories in addition to this one that remind me of the intense, yet fragile, connections we all make with one another through the experience of infertility. When we help build families, especially in a case like this, I’m humbled by the importance of the work we are privileged to do.
So, to our patients, I speak for all of us at RMA of Connecticut when I say this: Thank you for being the strong, beautiful women and men that we have gotten to know. For teaching us the truest meaning of these two words—resiliency and strength. And thank you for the delight of seeing you and your partner and your glorious children, your happiness, and the continuation of life.
RMA of Connecticut has been thankful to have received a precious gift from Newtown in the guise of this beautiful woman, her husband, and their children.
We continue to send love to the families from Sandy Hook who will never see their children, sisters, friends, and loved ones again.
The Privilege of Time
On the third anniversary of Sandy Hook, I texted her, as I often do. There was no way to be in Newtown and not think of her. She was so happy to hear that I was in “The Hook,” the local term for Sandy Hook, I could hear the smile in her voice. If I had time while I was there, she suggested that I go to the angel rock behind one of the churches. While it wasn’t a hidden memorial, it also wasn’t exactly publicized or generally known about.
Of course, we had time. And if we hadn’t? We would have made time.
That’s one of the important lessons I’ve learned from the tragedy of Newtown, from this beloved person. I have the privilege of time. With that privilege, I have a responsibility to use the time that I have to be kind. To be loving. To never forget the innocent that lost their lives that day.
Bill, my husband, and I walked hand in hand to angel rock. I bowed my head, closing my eyes, and prayed for the lives lost that day, years earlier. I prayed for the families that were forever disrupted, for the generations not to come, and for the nonredeemable devastation that had been perpetrated.
I said a silent, tearful thank you for the strong, beautiful woman that I had gotten to know. The one who sent me there. When I opened my eyes, and we turned to leave, I received a tangible gift as well. There, sitting on a bench, was a ceramic heart that I could hold in my hands. It was supposed to be found by someone like me. Someone who needed it.
To this day, there are unexpected gifts like that all over Newtown, in honor of those who died. These gifts may be twinkling in a tree, or waiting patiently on a park bench. They are there, also to honor those who survived that day, going on to defy death by having their own special children.
One added lesson learned about the privilege of time came about by discovering that the angel memorial no longer resides in that sacred space. It’s moved on to find a more permanent home elsewhere. We only got to experience the memorial in that setting because we didn’t put it off for another time. The privilege and gift of time and love and life.
I ended my prayer at the memorial that day, the way that I always do, with “Peace, shanti, peace, shanti, peace.”
May we all find peace, shanti, peace, shanti, peace.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.