Thoughts on Fertility and Grief

I have not used this space to talk much about the fertility component of my adoption journey. I don’t know, it seemed so intensely personal, and frankly looking back I don’t think I really spent much time really working through the grief of it all. Moving forward with my adoption of Hope allowed me to frankly, not have to deal with it head on.

As a single adoptive mom, I didn’t get too many questions about infertility. I got a few; I answered them, but unlike I imagine some couples get, I wasn’t subjected to much inquiry on the subject.

The blogosphere has many, many wonderful writers who write about their experiences with pregnancies, fertility struggles and body betrayal. I would read a few; MyPerfectBreakdown is one of my favorites. Mostly, though, I would skip some posts about this aspect of the struggle because it would force me to feel things that I wasn’t sure I wanted to feel.

Other bloggers seemed to give the impression that the placement and finalization of the child seemed to fill the hole left by the fertility struggle. I think it was really about the outcome and not the journey; I am sure the residual feelings of loss probably lurk somewhere in there. I was happy to buy into the “filled hole” theory though; it was just a nice easy canoe trip on the Denial River.

This weekend I realized that my life as it is right this minute, all the great, the good, the bad, the profound and the ugly, hasn’t filled the hole left by the loss of my fertility.

I’m not sure what’s worse, the loss itself or the realization that I’d deflected and/or buried the hurt and grief the way I did.

Someone close to me announced her pregnancy recently. I was overjoyed, but the tears I shed were rooted in the reminder that my body could not do that thing; the thing that it was especially designed to do and that I just did not know how sad I was that I couldn’t do it. For every one tear of joy I shed, I must’ve shed 5 for my loss.

The emotion shook me.

I have only been pregnant once, and I miscarried before I even knew I was pregnant. I remember the weekend it happened nearly 20 years ago, being sad that I didn’t know, and I couldn’t do anything to protect or save it. I also remember being grateful that I would not be tied to the idiotic, drag of a guy who fathered the child. We broke up a year or so later, and I was relieved to be rid of him for the rest of my life. I chalked up the miscarriage to divine intervention, buried the other emotions and moved on.

I was ambitious. Getting a dog, The Furry One, was an extraordinary commitment for me, I couldn’t imagine having a baby by myself. That didn’t fit into my plan to get my graduate degrees or create the career I wanted. I thought I would eventually meet Mr. Right and we would have children.

I had a lot of reproductive organ problems along the way, and my doctors often would comment about my chances; urging me to not wait if I wanted to do things since I might already be high risk for a number of reasons.

I didn’t want to try to have a child alone.

Then, three years ago, during a routine colonoscopy, my gastroenterologist saw something weird. He sent me to an oncologist. A week later, the oncologist told me I needed surgery right away, that it would majorly invasive, that I needed to make plans for the next six months for the possible fight of my life. He told me this was really serious.

A few weeks later, I woke up from a nap in my hospital bed (where I stayed for a week) to see one of my surgeons to run in excitedly and announce that the mass they found, that they were sure was malignant, was in fact non-cancerous.

That moment still makes me cry about the Holy Homeboy’s grace and mercy. I still get emotional about how everyone on my medical team had seemed so grim in the hours and days leading up to just after the surgery and how after the path report came back…it was a miracle.

That day in my life will always be remembered as the time when I doubled down on my faith and changed course. My new life began that moment. It is my testimony.

After a lengthy recovery, I turned my attention to finishing my doctorate and to think about what I wanted my 40s to look like. I wanted to be a mom, so I figured it was time to go ask some questions.

Primary care doc gave me the sad face, and referred me to the reproductive specialist. We dutifully shipped all the records over, and I went to the consultation by myself.

More tests.

More tests.

Then he gave me the sad face; it was so sad, one of the saddest moments of my life. It just wasn’t going to happen. He quantified the chances. Even though I believe in miracles, I didn’t know if I could handle if a miracle wasn’t in the cards. I cried.

I cried buckets that day in his office. No one but me and him in his office. He came over to give me a hug and some tissues. He sat with me for 20 minutes as I sobbed. He knew that I didn’t have anyone in the waiting room to comfort me.

It was one of the loneliest moments of my life.

I thought about surrogacy, but it was so complicated and so expensive.

I knew I always wanted to adopt, but it wasn’t something I talked about a lot, so not many people knew it had always been a part of my personal plan. It was shocking to most. Gosh, did I get lectures from all corners of my life.

“You don’t know anything about kids.”

“You never even talked about kids or adopting.”

“Have you tried….or How do you know you won’t get a really effed up kid?”

“Can you really do this by yourself?”

“But don’t you want your own/real kids?”

“You are so awesome for doing that…I couldn’t do it.”

All of this on top of the grief about the loss of fertility that I dared not talk to anyone about; jeesch look how the adoption conversation was going. Why on earth would I share that my body had so utterly betrayed me that I remained shocked six months after finding out. Hell, the betrayal still deeply hurts; I just got pretty good at burying it and reminding myself that I don’t really like babies all that much (that’s true, but I imagine having my own would’ve been different).

The grief all just bubbled to the top so quickly upon hearing such happy news this weekend. But, I dare not speak about my mixed emotions out loud. I cried on Elihu’s shoulder about it this weekend; he responded that the Holy Homeboy is still the miracle working business. I felt like it was a chastisement of my lack of faith rather than an encouragement that maybe I should try to have a biological child if I wanted. And again, I felt alone since my partner just didn’t get it.

No one wants to be Debbie Downer during one of the happiest times of life. So, I’ll do my best to suppress the grief. Maybe I’ll run walk more. Maybe I’ll get back to skimming parenting books. Maybe I’ll spend some time looking at algebra and grammar worksheets on Pinterest for my 9th grader. Maybe I’ll just be emotionally detached in some ways and plaster on a smile, which is about 40% accurate, and just try really hard to forget that I’m furious with my body for failing me. Maybe I’ll remind myself that I really wasn’t ever into infants anyway.

And in the dark quiet of the middle of the night, maybe I’ll admit to myself that my beautiful daughter Hope doesn’t fill the hole that my failed body created. She’s an amazing addition to my life, and I can imagine that she is probably in many ways like what any birth daughter might’ve been like. But in those wacky teen moments like when she tells me she listed me as “stepmom” on FB because there wasn’t an “adoptive mom” option, I will fix myself a dark and stormy cocktail, grab my hanky and step into my walk in closet with my favorite stool and have a good cry.

And when I’m done, I’ll will wipe my tears (again), straighten my back, put on a smile and soldier on.

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted tween a few years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2016. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

17 responses to “Thoughts on Fertility and Grief

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    Don’t suppress your grief you are entitled to it. I hear you completely when I was in my 20s the doctor told me point blank I had a better chance of getting struck by lightening then getting pregnant and not miscarrying. Talk to others who struggle with this so the hole hurts less. Yes I still cry when my sister tells me she is trying for child number 2 and I try so hard not to get angry after all it isn’t her fault I got the defective genes but yeah it hurts. It is sort of like a death, you never get over it you only get through it. Give yourself space and try to refocus but yep it stinks and I am sorry.

  • theskyandback

    I am tearing up reading this post. Thank you for sharing your story so openly and honestly. Grief is really sneaky like that — it’s the king of the sucker punch. It happens to me, too –I’ll think I’m totally fine, and then some random song comes on or something, and all of a sudden I’m sobbing for my mom or my miscarried babies. I think writing about it here like you did is a great way to begin expressing your grief.

    And jeez, kids are such Bs sometimes! “Stepmom” — just stop it with that, Hope!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I tell people that grief is the nastiest of the feelings because so many other emotions are bound up in it. It’s messy and it like to jump out at you like the boogey-man. Grief sucks arse.

      Yeah, the stepmom thing was hard. First time she’s ever pulled back from calling me just “mom.” Started not to ask about it and just let it go, but I asked and got that explanation. Not sure what’s triggering the new need to categorize me, but the timing really hurt. Sigh…c’est le vie.

  • Maria

    Thank you for sharing this…i can’t have bio kids despite lots of trying and I am so thankful for my beautiful adopted daughter, but there is still a pang of sadness at pregnant women or some random reminder and all that I feel i missed out on.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      It’s been interesting to read how most people don’t write about the grief of the struggle after adoption. I mean, to some degree it doesn’t matter if having children was the end goal, but there’s something really sad about feeling like your own body screwed you and your partner over. I hoped it would go away, but it didn’t. 😦 Hang in there sister. You’re not alone.

  • TAO

    Hugs…never let anyone tell you that because you adopted – you don’t have a right to feel that loss, mom still feels it – perhaps in a different way than before, but she still feels the loss when something triggers it …

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      I’ve never let them, because I never trusted them to allow me to feel in the first place. Not sure that’s an even worse commentary than telling and risking the rejection.

      Grief does evolve. It doesn’t go away, but it evolves, much like our ability to cope with it evolves. Maybe giving it some air here will help me get to another level of coping. I hope so. Thanks as always.

  • WinterMommy

    Thank you so much for sharing, ABM. I understand that empty hole feeling. I feel guilty when I look at our beautiful children and yet cry every single month I see the evidence that once again we have not conceived. Thank you for making it clear that I am not the only one who still is extremely grateful and blessed by the presence and love they have for their child, but still grieving for what hasn’t happened.

  • DeCaf

    I’m sorry. I’m looking into adoption out of the foster care system and I’m terrified that I’ll regret not trying more. I’m not at the point where doctors are telling me it’s impossible, they’re telling me to change or add additional medications.

  • Caitlin

    Oh, I’m so, so sorry. Your grief is real, and you are totally justified to feel that way. I hope that time brings peace, and a deepened connection with Hope.

  • lyra211

    This was a beautiful post — infertility is such a complicated journey, no matter how you resolve it. Heck, even though we got pregnant on our own after being told we’d have to do IVF, I *still* get a pang when I see bubbly happy pregnant women, or hear my friends talk about how they’re pregnant again and they “weren’t even trying.”

    My current baby, whom I’m very grateful for, is not and will never be my first baby who died in the middle of the 2nd trimester — I’m still allowed to mourn that baby. Hope, whom you’re very grateful for, is not and will never be the biological child that you so badly wanted — you’re still allowed to mourn that biological child.

  • Instant Mama

    I am so loving that you were able to blog about this. I wish it wasn’t your reality, but facing it and giving the grief you feel the light of day is the healthiest thing you can do. Obviously not everyone can handle your grief. Those who assume an adopted child can take the place of any other child (or dream of a child) have obviously never been where you are. Missing and grieving for the way things “should” have been does not make you ungrateful for the way things are. I think you’ve come to accept this in your daughter (except for the stepmom thing – ouch) where you know that her grief about her bio parents not parenting her has no bearing on the fact that she loves you now. It’s the same here. Missing the way things should have gone doesn’t mean you don’t live your daughter or that you wish she had never come into your life. A hole created by someone, even someone who only lived in our hopes for the future, can never be filled by another. We can still be happy and live wonderful lives, but I am certain that my life is fuller now than it was before I grieved the loss of my (foster) daughter. No one will ever take her place, but life is so much deeper and meaningful because I faced that grief, and admitted it was real and alive and around for keeps. I hope this is the beginning of this journey for you. And just because someone tries to throw your grief away and call it…whatever it is they call it, just move on. You are a beautiful woman, and you have the right to grieve the affects of sin in your life. Keep facing it – I’m sure you won’t regret it. Blessings to you!

  • momto3sugars

    Love reading your blog! You are NOT a Debbie Downer! You are so honest and REAL! Huge hugs and thanks for telling your real story. Not the fairy tale one! And, feel free to cry whenever you want! It’s healthy!

  • Meredith at My Pink Champagne Life

    Your grief is so real and though I don’t have words that will make it better, I just wanted you to know you are a miracle. I’m so sorry for the grief you feel, blessings and hugs:))

  • thecommonostrich

    Nothing really ever fills that hole. As much as I love Chick, being infertile left an indelible mark. Having a child (through treatments or adoption) does make that mark go away.

    I’ve thought a lot about grief over the last year – A LOT. The greater sadness, I think, is that we’re so reticent to share it. Keeping grief to ourselves makes it harder to heal. It makes us feel more alone at a time when we need love and support most.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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