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Healing the Heartache of Infertility
by Lynne Delaney
My husband and I are standing in a field of tall wildflowers. Nearby we see a teenage girl with long blonde hair and a serene, kind of dreamy look. She smiles and beckons us over to admire a bush with vibrant lavender-colored petals. We exchange a glance, a shared expression of awe that this is our daughter…
It was just a dream. It was 2007. We had no children. We weren’t even thinking about them. But as we compared notes about our dream-world adventures from the night before, as is our daily breakfast ritual, our daughter in the wildflowers beckoned to us from a future that hadn’t even taken seed in our imagination.
Three years later, the ticking of the biological countdown had grown deafening. It was time to face our ambivalence about having children before we lost the opportunity altogether. The inner world, our spiritual side, urged us on with more dreams about our family-to-be.
All the signs seemed to be pointing towards an easy and magical journey of giving birth and parenthood. But the path wasn’t as straight as it appeared. It was a gut-twisting detour through all of the pain, labor, heartache and grieving that is hidden behind such banal-sounding words as “miscarriage” and “infertility.”
Along the way we discovered scores of other women (and men) who’ve had a similar experience and quietly bear its weight. We questioned our faith in our dreams and signs. But ultimately we looked a deeper truth in the eye – that perhaps our true path was the unexpected direction.
I am staring at a sun veiled by soft clouds. Encapsulated within the sun are two crescent moons, one on each side, and each in its own little bubble. Suddenly the bubbles begin to divide and split, over and over again until the sun is filled with little orbs…
It was late January 2010. I awoke from that dream and knew I was pregnant. I tried to picture where my egg was on its travels. Was it in transit from the fallopian tube to the uterus? We had starting trying to have children only a couple of weeks earlier.
We’d both had vivid dreams in which our dream daughter told us that we’d get pregnant right away and that she would be born later that year, on October 10.
Everything was unfolding as foretold. I felt butterflies in my stomach, in the pre-dawn darkness, when I took a home pregnancy test. I was surprised when a cross appeared in the circle. Positive. I slipped back into bed and whispered to my husband that the dream had come true. For the moment, all was pure bliss.
There are two dream daughters actually. My husband and I have both dreamed of them frequently. In the dream world, they are introduced to us by my beloved deceased Grandfather. They tell us their names. Sometimes they are older, sometimes younger, but they are always recognizable and have distinct personalities.
People around us in the waking world, the “real world,” without knowing about our dream daughters, affirm what the dreams say. Friends, family and strangers tell us they feel we will have two daughters. Some sense that I am pregnant. All of them confirm the signs in some fashion or other.
So I had no reason to dread that first trip to the doctor. I peed in a cup and waited for the analysis to tell me what I already knew. Ten minutes started to stretch into an eternity. A nurse practitioner came in the room and told me that the test was negative. It felt like her words came out in slow motion as blood drained from my face.
“This is common for first pregnancies,” she said, trying to console me. But I felt like screaming. Instead I went out and bought two more home pregnancy tests. There had to be a mistake. But the tests confirmed what the nurse practitioner had said. I was not pregnant anymore.
I felt mad, betrayed that the magical moment of conceiving on the first try was lost. Now I had to face a miscarriage. At the time the word had little meaning for me. I just knew I had to get it out. I held my hands over my uterus and said, “If you have to come out, please start now.” A few minutes later, it began.
Light bleeding soon became heavier. Then came severe lower back pain and intense cramping. I sat on the toilet and pushed out chunks of bloody tissue. It was horrifying, and I was alone.
I finally called my husband to tell him the sad news. He came home from work early and we had a long cry together as we felt the psychological grief tantamount to the death of a loved one. We held a little vigil and said goodbye to the little spirit who’d tried to come through as our child.
There is a Victorian era painting of a sad-looking girl with long blonde hair wearing a fancy white dress. She is sitting with her hands in her lap, holding a little present in red wrapping paper tied with a bow. Something about her sadness creates an uneasy feeling…
It was nearly October 2010, the time when we once thought we’d be celebrating the birth of our daughter.
I was nine weeks pregnant and feeling hopeful again. The shattered expectations were simply a reminder not to get too caught up in the timing and exact details of life.
My husband and I weren’t going to tell anyone we were pregnant. Just in case. But at a family reunion people said that I was glowing. They guessed the reason and soon glasses were raised in toast. To the new parents! To the new grandparents!
At night my husband and I had dreams of our children more than ever. It began to feel like it was really going to happen. But then there was the sad girl with the red present and another chilling dream about a trapdoor falling open under me. I hoped that I was processing the past, not glimpsing the future. A bad feeling haunted me and seemed to mock my enthusiasm.
There was a baby on the ultrasound; amazing proof that this was more than a dream. But the technician was poker-faced. I felt a tremor of fear. “The heartbeat’s too slow… I’m sorry,” she said. The baby wasn’t growing. It could take up to a month to die, I was told. I staggered out of the center, devastated. Numb.
I knew I couldn’t carry around a dying baby inside of me for a whole month. Again I held my hands over it and said, “It’s time to start…” Within minutes I began to cramp and bleed. That lasted three days. And then the labor started. There was no midwife with me, no medicinal support, no preparation for what was to come.
My contractions started 10 minutes apart but were soon occurring every minute. For 12 hours there was excruciating pain. I felt I couldn’t breathe, like my insides were being torn apart as I pushed out large masses of blood and tissue. My husband tended to me, anguishing over my suffering. When it was finally over I was exhausted physically and emotionally, but I had no little one to hold, just empty space. My uterus was quivering for two days after that. Something did not feel right.
We held a little ceremony for our dead baby with candles, sage, flowers, prayers and tears. When we finished I felt something move inside me. I ran to the bathroom and screamed as the fetus came splashing out into the toilet. There was a tiny form in a bubble connected to the placenta sac. It was amazing and horrible at the same time. We wondered if we should fish it out and bury it or just flush it away. In our emotional distress, we flushed.
I had at least five miscarriages. Some were akin to a heavy period, others were essentially giving birth. But each one was a heartbreak.
“Welcome to the club,” a friend of mine sighed after I confided in her about my ordeals. I soon discovered a huge, underground “community” of women who have had miscarriages. In fact, some statistics suggest that over a half-million miscarriages occur every year in the U.S. alone.
In the past, when women had told me they’d had a miscarriage I’d brushed it off, but now I know that the word is just a euphemism that can’t convey all of the pain and sadness of the real event.
“Miscarriage” makes it sound as though you’ve had a little tumble off a bicycle, or accidentally dropped something rather than having a little being, a precious dream, ripped out of you.
How do you explain how vividly real it seemed while you were carrying the pregnancy and visualizing what this child would be, how they would grow, go to school, live, fall in love? How do you express the physical and emotional investment involved when there is no little child to show for it? Now, when a fellow club-member shares their story, I know they have lost a part of themselves, their future and their precious baby.
It took me months of emotional healing before I was ready to try again. My husband was shaken up too. But when you’re on the treadmill of trying to have a baby, you are all in.
We turned to the methods that resonated best with us: herbal medicine, Reiki, acupuncture. I knew several women who’d gotten pregnant after acupuncture treatments. But I was not destined to duplicate their success.
We turned to fertility clinics. I had blood test, clomid, IUIs, IVF treatments. “You’ve got the eggs of a 29 year old!” one doctor told me. In fact, none of the tests could pinpoint anything “wrong” with my husband and I fertility-wise. Everything was healthy and viable. It just wasn’t working to completion. With the promises and prestige of some of the top fertility doctors in the land, hope revived within me.
But it was only a different kind of nightmare. It was a fulltime job of drugs, self-administered shots, egg retrieval procedures, blood tests and ultrasounds. The drugs were too intense for me and gave me severe heart palpitations and dizziness. I was in the 1% who had an allergic reaction to the medicine to the point where it could lead to a heart attack. I also had a bad reaction to the anesthesia.
The eggs were successfully fertilized and implanted but they didn’t stay. In December 2012, the doctors offered another round of egg harvesting and implantation, but my husband did not want to see me go through all of it again. My body was exhausted and my hormones completely off-kilter. In my mind I wanted to continue, but I agreed that I couldn’t go on.
Then I got pregnant. A few months after stopping the fertility treatments we’d pulled off a miracle on our own. This had to be it, we thought. Surely we would not have gone through all that misery and despair only to be let down once again?
I made it to 12 weeks this time, the longest I’d gone. But when I went in for my ultrasound, there was no heartbeat. This time the fetus did not even respond to my prayer of releasement. I had to go to the hospital and have a D&C. That was the end of my miscarriages and the beginning of some serious soul searching.
My husband and I agreed to take a year off from thinking about getting pregnant. We needed to regroup, to heal and take measure of all that had happened. Through Reiki, massage and meditation, I released all of the pain and expectations of expanding our family. We mourned and cried. We had to let go of feelings of guilt and sadness for not bringing grandchildren into the world for our parents.
Eventually we started asking ourselves some questions about why we wanted children in the first place. Was it only because it was on the list of things couples are supposed to do, according to society? Were we really that fired up and committed to the idea in our hearts?
We came full circle and examined our original ambivalence with clear eyes. If we really wanted children we would have looked into adoption more seriously, but we didn’t. Neither of us felt like some of our friends who were very excited about having children for a long time before they even started a family.
It was a little scary admitting to ourselves that we have other life goals that we are more passionate about than parenthood, as if we were breaking the rules somehow, but it also felt right and true. We were finally able to see that ours was a different path all along.
It is night time. I am next to a small mystical pond with water like glass and a beautiful fine mist of other-worldly colors rising from the surface. The stars are out and a crescent moon hangs low on the horizon, like a cradle. The scene is stunning and peaceful. I look at the moon and somehow intuitively know that this place is a gift from our dream daughter. She is sending me healing energy. I start to cry because the intensity of the moment is so overwhelming.
My husband and I have moved through grief and learned how to become more present to our feelings. We’ve learned that we have everything we need with each other and inside of ourselves. In letting our dream daughters go, we found healing and realized that our children would come through other means and other people.
Our life is full of work, creative projects and our beloved pets. We are surrounded by many friends and family, including godsons, nieces and nephews. Thus there are many opportunities to offer guidance, love, respect and support.
We are still parents in the dream-world where our daughters are always waiting…
Lynne Delaney is a Conscious Living Advisor & Reiki Master. Her Reiki treatments combine intuitive energy work and crystals.
She offers private sessions in spiritual guidance, intuitive tarot, and hypnotherapy. Group sessions include table-tipping and transfiguration. To make an appointment, contact Lynne at (508) 241-3048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.metaphysical-path.com
Lynne is also the editor of her husband's new novel Pieces of Eight.