The Shadow of Grieving Reflected in Infertility
Riding the wave of emotions, from one crest to the crashing of that wave on the beach, to the next rising crest, the days following my period and subsequent negative (second) pregnancy test, were all about those tumultuous sensations. It stunned me to realize, in a lot of ways, that the roller coaster ride of infertility (of the results of a negative pregnancy test, the experience of a loss/miscarriage) can be likened to the 5 stages of grief. Dramatic much? Not really, unfortunately. Let me explain.Denial
The first stage of grief is denial. And for me, on the days leading up to my initial pregnancy test, I subconsciously and consciously chose to ignore the warning signs that my period was on its way. I felt crampy, but thought...“Oh, maybe this is implantation!” I was moody, but thought, “My hormones are out of whack because something truly good is happening.” I was exhausted, but that was nothing new. Even when I started to spot, I STILL tried to convince myself that I was pregnant. Looking back, I realize I was denying reality because my heart and mind didn’t want to admit that these signs meant my period was on its way. According to Julie Axelrod’s article entitled, The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss*, “denial is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the loss, numbing us to our emotions. We block out the words and hide from the facts.”
And that’s exactly what I did; I hid from my truth; I hid from what was happening to me because I so badly wanted to believe I was pregnant.
When reality started to set in both the first and second time around (or when I finally let it), so did my anger, which is the second stage of grief. I was SO incredibly mad. I was pissed that I wasn’t pregnant AGAIN, but even more so with the realization that we would never get pregnant the “natural way.” We would never just have a wonderful night of sex and take an at home UPT to discover we were pregnant.
Pregnancy for us would never happen the way I always imagined...the way society and the mediat “taught” me expect it would happen. All these thoughts were running through my head and I was fuming. My face was as red as the angry emoji. I wasn’t mad at anyone specific, after all, whose fault was it really? I was just enraged at the universe and couldn’t stop asking it questions like, “why aren’t I pregnant? What did I do to deserve this?” I was so furious, I even went so far as to think, “how are some people parents and we aren’t?” It wasn’t pretty or comfortable to be so terrifically angry, and I’m not proud of some of my thoughts, but hey, this is my truth, my place where I say what it was, not what I would have wanted it to be. This is what I felt and what I thought and I think I needed to process it exactly as I did so that I could move forward.
Which brings me to bargaining, the third stage of grief. Now oftentimes, this stage brings about feelings of guilt, but for me, I didn’t feel guilty then, nor do I feel guilty now. As you may recall from my previous blogs, I have tried to do everything I could to have successful cycles (and what I had hoped would become a pregnancy). I have eaten and continue to eat healthier than I ever have (minus a big mac and donut, here and there), I cut out caffeine and alcohol, and I even let myself rest and sleep when I felt I really needed it. I have done and continue to do all these things because I wanted to control what I could in a situation that otherwise feels out of my control, but when I realized my actions didn’t really seem to matter, that’s when the serious bargaining began. I spoke to my God and begged. I repeated, over and over again, “please God, let me get pregnant. Please just help me fulfill that dream. I’ll never ask for anything again if you just bring me my little miracle.”
And when that didn’t happen, boy oh boy did I feel depressed, the fourth stage of grief. I was so incredibly sad, even beyond heartbroken. I let myself cry and cry and cry until I didn’t have any more tears left in the tank. During this stage that I started to isolate a bit. I just wanted to be alone, even needed to be alone. Alone with my thoughts. I just needed the time to process what was, or in this case, what wasn’t happening to me and my body. I had to come to terms with it and I had to do that on my own time; in my own way. Friends asked me to join them for dinner dates, but I just couldn’t. I just needed to be home, in my safe place, with my boys so I could allow myself to heal the way I needed to heal. I needed time to feed my soul, so to speak, and my goodness, did that feel good. The weekend after our first negative pregnancy test, Dan and I had a much-needed date night on Friday and then Saturday, we ran errands and had “date night in” where we cooked dinner together, enjoyed a nice bottle of wine (yes, I let myself splurge) and held a movie marathon. It was exactly what I needed and I’m so glad I allowed myself that time, as hard as it was to turn down invitations from friends.
As I sit here, writing this entry, I feel better, not 100%, but definitely better. I suppose I reached the fifth and final stage of grief, acceptance. The acceptance may not be complete, but I’ve come to grips with the fact that this is the path I have to be on to be the mommy I’m longing to be. I have to keep going, as hard as it is, because becoming a parent with Dan, is everything to me. And you bet I will do everything I can to achieve that dream.
*Read Julie Axelrod's full article here.
About Justine Houle- "Where’s the F%&$#!ing Stork?!"
Justine Houle loves a great pair of shoes, and her boys Dan (husband) and Ralph (a very handsome pup hailing from Tennessee which must be where he gets his southern charm). She began her career in childcare and then joined the RMA of CT team in 2011 as a Patient Coordinator. She's served several roles in the organization since then but most recently as the Marketing Operations Coordinator. She is well known for her impeccable style - and recently became an independent stylist for Stella and Dot. On the weekends, she can be found tooling around with her boys in Fairfield, CT where she grew up and currently resides.