away from home

Airports always make me feel so anonymous,  like I could disappear forever and no one would be the wiser. I annoy myself by clinging to my husband. I used to fly alone all the time, but I really don’t think I could do so now. The panic attacks have become so much more frequent.

I am nervous to see my in-laws. I tried to clean myself up a bit yesterday, lopping off a bunch of my hair (it was down to my ass) and touching up my bangs. I look like someone hacked it off with a pocket knife–really, it’s that bad. I’m not as vain as I was in my 20s, but this makes me self conscious as it is so extreme. Ah, c’est la vie. I cannot go to a regular hair salon; social anxiety makes it impossible to keep up the idle chit-chat that the hairdresser expects you to indulge her in.

California, the place of dreams. I’m only there a couple of days and my expectations may be too grandiose but I have been feeling suffocated in Olympia, where every little aspect of my life reminds me of Molly. I need this break.

Airport selfie:

agoraphobia, again

I haven’t felt like talking. The world is strange and violent so I stay in my house. I’m familiar with the cold grip of agoraphobia and I know from experience that the longer you sequester yourself in the perceived safety of home and head, the harder it is to step back out onto the streets of an town plagued with indifference towards you. The more time you take on your break from humanity, the harder it is to forge new connections. But right now, idgaf. Right now, I’m not leaving.

new cycle

Cycle day one, and I sit here stupid and unsure if I have the energy to keep going along this path. Maybe I’ll get pregnant again but if I could not produce a chromosomally normal baby at 36, I’m probably fooling myself to think it could happen at 39. I’m not sure if losing another baby would destroy me. I kind of think it might.

My husband and I were married in 2012 and decided we wanted a family the next year. I spent another year tapering down on my medication dosages in order to have a healthy pregnancy. My doctor didn’t know what she was doing, but I didn’t know that then. We later learned from a specialist that the meds I dropped were shown to be really safe during pregnancy, and the meds I took instead were associated with birth defects. Whack an entire year off of my fertility, who cares.

The medication I was on when I was pregnant with Molly would not cause a chromosomal disorder, though. It was nobody’s fault. We started trying to conceive in November of 2014. We got pregnant the first try. Looking back, I see how naive we were and I can’t stand it. I really thought we would have a baby. We moved to a two bedroom in a theoretically nicer neighborhood.

I will never have that innocence back. I will never have a pregnancy not fraught with waves of panic and the terror of losing something so incredibly precious. This makes me bitter and hard and I rail against it but I will still never never never.

2017 now, and I’m still here longing. My husband aches, too. And here, we are all alone.

losing ground

Today was better than yesterday. In a moment of weakness, I allowed myself regular coffee instead of decaf and the taste of it was so pleasing that I remembered why I’m still fighting. I know there are still things around me that I find irresistible and thrilling. When my husband opens his eyes first thing as I lie lonely and watchful at his side before the sun rises. When the cat curls into me as I waste time writing instead of living and I allow myself to indulge and just be in the moment of nothing without the heaviness of guilt. Although I loved Molly, I must admit she haunts me terribly. I don’t cast blame on her memory–those are the most precious memories I have.

My cycles are off and my period is late per ovulation tracking. As much as I long to feel another child growing inside me, I am petrified to be pregnant again. To have another ultrasound with an impassive technician avoiding my gaze like it’s poison. To listen to the phlebotomist prattle on while giving me yet another blood draw. I’ve grown to hate my doctors with the passion of a lunatic and cannot listen to yet another fake-sympathetic voice utter the phrase, “incompatible with life”. I am longing for a bleed to clean me out because I’m more familiar with the emptiness. Deep inside, I know I have set myself on a path to madness but I cannot stand to lose this battle. My therapist told me once that maybe my anger was blocking my ability to conceive and carry. I kind of hate her for that.

the mission

I can’t stop trying to have a baby, even though I feel like shit all the time and my mental illness rages unchecked by the limited medications I can take that are safe for pregnancy. I feel like if I give up, it will be one more thing bipolar disorder has taken from me. And that makes me angry, me, who was once young and hopeful and smart with a future full of possibilities. I never thought I’d end up pushing 40 and disability class and childless.

My mind is slow today, please forgive me. I woke up with that familiar sense of dread. The first thought in my head was, please God, I can’t do this. I went through my morning routine feeling like I was moving through molasses. Since my bout with serotonin syndrome, my body cannot handle any but the tiniest doses of antidepressants and it’s not enough to keep my demons at bay. My psychiatrist suggested looking into transcranial magnetic stimulation but preliminary Google searches make it sound like hocus pocus. I’ve done the depression thing before, I know to exercise and eat well and take my meds and I’m doing that anyways in hopes that it will appease the angry uterus gods. My bag of tricks is empty; I’m not sure anything can help me other than having a healthy baby.

So, I do what I can and what I can afford, which is not much. I track my ovulation and my husband and I time intercourse as best as a middle-aged couple can manage. I take stupid expensive supplements to help my egg quality, as two confirmed chromosomal pregnancy losses points to that as the problem. Part of me believes in miracles but I kind of only believe that they happen to other people.

I keep going, I stay strong. For right now, that’s all I’ve got.

flashback, but no time has passed

I haven’t changed my clothes in days. My ridiculously long hair is clumpy and oily, trailing down my back in a mess of tangles. I don’t recognize myself on the few occasions I put on make up. There’s really no reason to bother anymore. I cover my shadowy eyes with large sunglasses so no one can tell I’m crying.

April 2015. A dilation and evacuation pregnancy termination is a brutal procedure. I’ve always been fervently pro-choice, and ending the life of my very sick baby girl in order to save her from suffering did not go against my value system. Still, none of the activism I’d participated in as a student had prepared me for a second trimester abortion of a much-wanted pregnancy. I loved Molly, and here I was saying goodbye way too soon.

The hospital in my town is Catholic and the local clinic did not perform later term procedures, so I had to have my termination done at an abortion clinic in Tacoma. I was apprehensive upon seeing the facility with it’s well-weathered exterior that was begging to be painted and freshened up. As it was, it looked like…a shack. My husband walked me past the protesters–me, visibly pregnant at 18 weeks, shaking like a leaf. We were buzzed in and immediately whisked into a private waiting room and I was given a Valium. The women in the main waiting room were ending unwanted first trimester pregnancies. Many of them were alone. I felt guilty, because how could I compare their suffering to my own? Some of them must have been broken too. When I sat down in the private waiting room, I started sobbing hysterically. The staff was kind, which in a way made me feel worse.

A D&E is a two or three day procedure, depending on how far along you are. Mine was two days. The first day, they place laminaria sticks in your cervix to soften and dilate it. These are made of seaweed, or can be synthetic (my clinic used the synthetic ones, so they don’t need to use as many). This can reportedly be extremely painful and my clinic put me under twilight anesthesia. I also received an injection to stop Molly’s heart. I don’t remember a thing except waking up with horrible cramps. I was terrified.

The clinic wanted me to stay at a hotel nearby in case I went into labor. When I demurred, they agreed to let me go home since we weren’t that far away.

That night, the pain was terrible. I felt like someone was stabbing my lady parts, over and over again. They had prescribed painkillers, but I misunderstood–they had said not to eat or drink anything after midnight, so I didn’t think I was allowed to take the pills. I sobbed all night, unable to believe that this was happening to me when I so recently had been so happy.

The second day, I woke up and fought the urge to stay home with every cell in my body. But there was no choice. I had to go back.

They gave me Cytotec to dissolve in my cheeks to soften my cervix. We sat in the private waiting room, my body wracked with rhythmic cramping and we watched COPS, which I hate. Geoff was given coffee, but I still couldn’t eat or drink. I remember wishing that he would turn down the coffee as a show of solidarity, but…ehhh. I had the Valium, so I suppose it balanced out.

Finally, I was taken back to the room. I lay on a metal table and was again given twilight anesthesia. The nurse asked me if I had any pets. I asked when they were going to start and they told me they’d finished. They had scraped me empty. Molly was gone.

And these two days feel like a lifetime ago and these two days feel like yesterday. And those two days changed me and now I have a spanking new soul I haven’t become accustomed to yet and these two days left me damaged and I don’t know if I’ll ever. feel. better. again. .

present

Two AM finds me broken, the way it always has and always will. Next to me, my husband breathes deeply and easily and I find solace in the rhythm of his slumber. My own breathing is shallow and strained. I hate how the panic starts even before I wake. I don’t stand a chance.

My grief is buried beneath the shadows in my eyes. I try to conceal my damaged heart from the good people of this town, to spare them from the sorrow and rage I carry every fucking day. I speak of it to no one and they ignore me anyway. I’ve come to terms with this. Besides my loving husband, I am alone.

It’s ten days past ovulation and I know I failed again this month and there’ll be no reason to test. I know the bleeding will start in the next three days and I will be brittle and hard for awhile until the depression sets in. I’ll call my psychiatrist and we’ll adjust my medication again. And again, it won’t help because how could it fight off these demons?

After my termination for medical reasons, I tried for fourteen months to achieve another pregnancy. Every month ended with me staring at a negative home pregnancy test. You’ll get pregnant again, they told me. Molly’s diagnosis was a fluke. They only had false hope to offer, I know that now. 

My next two pregnancies were miscarriages. I had testing done on the last and they found another chromosomal defect (trisomy 4). I don’t think that in the past two and a half years I’ve produced a single chromosomally normal egg. Sigh. C’est la vie. I’ll soldier on despite, keep fighting until it destroys me. Then, with my partner by my side, I’ll pick up the pieces. Without my tenacity, there would be nothing left.