Grief Glitches

I’ve noticed over the last two years that grief has molded and changed me in so many ways. It took over a year for me to see for most of them, and I’m sure I still don’t realize all of them. Grief causes you respond so differently to things you normally wouldn’t get upset about, or even things you ordinarily would have been happy about.

There’s the obvious ones for us loss parents, like eye rolling and getting upset over yet another pregnancy announcement. Then the less obvious, like slamming a door in your husband’s face because he didn’t buy the right brand of almond milk.

But we both know it’s not about the almond milk. It’s not even really about the pregnancy announcement is it?

It’s a grief glitch. Instead of responding rationally, grief steps in and says things like, “Look at her so glowing and pregnant and happy. Aren’t you just so sad and mad that you don’t have that?” Or even, “Doesn’t your husband not buying the right thing remind you of that other time that things didn’t go right? You know, when you planned to bring your baby home from the hospital, and then didn’t.”

Now if you’re anything like me, you probably think these things, and a million other worse thoughts, then end up feeling like the absolute worst person in the entire world. The guilt of a grieving parent is completely unparalleled.

But it’s time to talk about grace. First of all, it’s not really you who is coming up with those thoughts. It’s your grief. Right before you could open your mouth and respond in a rational way, grief jumped in front of you and said “Don’t worry, I got this!” Then did way more harm than good.

Eventually you’ll find a way back to rationale. You may even be able to pull the reins back on your grief and tell it to hang on a second, because it’s being a little overzealous about almond milk right now. Yes, it’s always going to be there in the back of your mind, but it won’t always be like this.

In the mean time, give yourself some grace. Ask yourself in those moments what you’re really upset about, then tend to that. Don’t start stoking the fire without figuring out what you’re actually burning first.


Dear Aria,

(This letter was drafted in October of 2016, but was not immediately published. I wanted to wait until we were ready to share the news we were planning to grow our family before sharing this letter. As our countdown to IVF gets closer and closer, it finally feels like the right time.)

Dear Aria,

I went to the doctor today, and for the first time since the day you were born nine months ago, I was told it was safe for me to become pregnant again. It was really overwhelming to hear that my body had finally recovered. To be honest, those were the words I really wanted to hear, but they brought so many unexpected emotions. The biggest was guilt, and an overwhelming desire to run to you and explain myself.

Sweet girl, I want you to know that no matter how many babies grow in my womb, you will always be equally loved. Your place in this family will never disappear, and you will always belong. A million babies would never be able to replace you, for you were uniquely made, and rarer than the most flawless of diamonds. Your life will always hold great value.

We aren’t choosing to have another baby to take your place. It isn’t because you aren’t enough for us. You are more than enough. But your Dad and I both share a feeling I often refer to as “empty arms syndrome.” My body grew you, my motherly instincts developed and intensified with every passing day. Your Dad put together your crib, and helped hang pictures in your nursery. We prepared for you, hoped for you, and prayed for you. We talked about all the things we wanted to do with you, our sweet firstborn baby girl. We created a lifetime of hopes and dreams. We envisioned our future as parents and all the wonderful opportunities parenthood would bring.

Then, our plans changed in ways we never imagined. When you left this world, all of our hopes and dreams remained but held so much emptiness. We wanted a baby to hold, but all we had left were memories and heartache.

We are choosing to have another baby because our hopes of parenting a child on this earth still remain. We have so much love to give, and so much energy for changing diapers, fussy temper tantrums, and late nights spent rocking a sleepy baby. We had always known you were going to be the first of several little “rosebuds”, so in some way this is still a part of the plan.

This decision is not without guilt, both for you, and for our future child. I ache because I don’t want you to have to share my love with anyone else. I don’t want you to feel left out, or like you aren’t as important to us anymore. But I think about your future sibling and I feel guilty that he or she will be born into a home that has seen so much heartache. I can’t say I’m going to be the mom who walks through pregnancy without fear. I’m already a nervous wreck. But I do know that those nerves come from a place of deep love, and an overwhelming desire to protect my child. In some ways, I think the path you have placed us on will allow us to give your siblings a love we never would have known before we had you.

As long as I live, you will live within me. This is not moving on, nor is it leaving you behind. You will always be along for the ride.

And the sweetest part of all is that deep down, I know you wouldn’t let your siblings pass through heavens gate’s on their way to us without showering them with kisses and hugs. So I want to thank you in advance for loving them first.

All my love,

Next Steps: Preparing for the start of our IVF journey.

We’ve gotten a few questions from people wondering whats next on the agenda following the exciting news that we won a free IVF cycle with CNY Fertility.

As with all things related to fertility treatments, there’s a lot of “hurry up and wait.” We need to have an initial consult with the doctors there in order to go over the details of our journey thus far, so that we can create a plan for IVF that suits us. Our consult is set for the end of March, which was actually quite lucky! They had a cancellation, and if it weren’t for that we would have had to wait until the end of May! I’m looking at the next month as an opportunity to fully clean up my diet, get back in shape, and focus on preparing my heart and soul for the road ahead.

If you’re not familiar with IVF, I’ll go ahead and give you a little breakdown. We start our round of IVF with the egg retrieval phase. I will be given daily hormone injections to stimulate my ovaries to mature as many eggs as possible, which is quite different from a natural cycle where a woman would only produce one egg at a time. In order to retrieve the eggs, I will be placed under anesthesia and the doctor will perform a procedure which will extract them from my ovaries. Once they are collected, they will be sent to the lab. Then each of my eggs will be injected with a single sperm cell from my husband in a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Then we wait a few days as the embryos grow in a warm, nurturing environment.

Right now, we are heavily considering preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). If we go this route, our embryos will be biopsied on their fifth day of development, and frozen while we await the results of that testing. PGS will then tell us the gender of each embryo along with information about our embryo’s chromosomes. We will be able to know which have normal chromosome development and which have an abnormality such as Trisomy 13 or 18, which are both fatal. Most miscarriages and many later term/infant losses are caused by chromosomal defects, and our hope is that PGS could potentially spare us from further heartbreak should we go that route. I want to make it clear that we aren’t doing this just avoid a special needs child, and I’m absolutely not shaming anyone who chooses PGS for this reason. It is a deeply personal decision and one that we do not take lightly. We simply do not wish to bury another child, and having the opportunity to even marginally decrease that chance is obviously very appealing.

However, I will also say that Aria’s CCAM diagnosis was not genetic in any way and while PGS wouldn’t have prevented or detected Aria’s defect, we have been assured many times that this type of defect is random and not caused by any environmental factors. It just happened, and it should not happen to us twice.

If we do end up choosing PGS, we will begin medication to prepare my body to transfer a thawed embryo once those results are received. The rest will remain frozen for future use. If we don’t choose PGS, it is our clinic’s protocol to do what is called a “fresh transfer”, where all but one of the embryos are frozen and we do an embryo transfer in the same cycle as our egg retrieval.

Once the transfer happens, we will hopefully be on our way to a successful, healthy pregnancy! If the first transferred embryo doesn’t take, then we will try again by transferring one of our reserved embryos.

This process will take place over the course of approximately 2-3 months (hopefully) and I’m really praying that we will have completed our IVF cycle by the end of June. But I make no promises! This infertility stuff can be quite complex and unpredictable.

I’ve been so open throughout this journey and quite frankly, I know we wouldn’t have won this cycle if it weren’t for all the wonderful supporters from around the globe who took the time to nominate us. So my heart strongly feels that I should share each step of this process as we go through it. But that would also mean announcing a potential pregnancy right at the start, which brings a lot of fear for me too. So I’m still not sure, and am asking that you understand if updates are sparse or vague as we move forward. One way or another I promise you’ll be included in this next chapter!

Wish us luck!

A HUGE announcement!

In case you missed it on Instagram or Facebook this week, we have HUGE news on the infertility front.

Yesterday, I came across a giveaway for a FREE IVF cycle. It was from a clinic that someone in my loss support group had mentioned to me months ago. I knew it was such a long shot, but we entered the contest. Then so many wonderful people supported us by posting videos to nominate us!

And I am still in complete shock as I type this, we won!

I was with my best friend when I got the news and I instantly burst into tears and screamed, “Oh my God!! We won!” We hugged each other so tight while ugly crying. Just a few days before we were hugging while sobbing because our last round of IUI failed, and now things have totally changed.

I quickly FaceTimed Brian, and he was completely speechless as I gave him the news. He was totally shocked, and tears filled his eyes as the news sank in. All he could say was, “Wow.”

Fast forward to this morning…

I was grumpy for a moment when I woke up. I actually thought that I had dreamt about this winning this IVF cycle. As the sleep cleared from my eyes and I came to my senses, I remembered that this is REAL LIFE! And then I cried again. I still cannot believe it. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing this is. We are forever indebted to all of you for supporting us, and CNY for making our dreams a reality.

Infertility after loss has been the absolute cruelest thing I have ever had to endure. As much as I hate to admit this, I was beginning to lose hope. In the blink of an eye, our prayers have been answered and hope has flooded every inch of my body. That light at the end of the tunnel that was quickly vanishing from sight has suddenly flooded everything around me, and all I see is light. Life feels full and wonderful.

The thing I love most is that Aria feels so present in this. I can’t thank her enough, I know she’s been guiding us every step of the way.

I cannot wait to begin this next chapter. It’s time to have a sibling for Aria.

Infertility: 2, Us: 0

Here’s the thing about doing rounds of fertility treatments back to back, it gives an instant rebound of hope and purpose after the first round fails. However, when the second one also fails it’s rapid fire disappointment.

And that’s where we are right now. I had so much hope for this round. Stronger meds and better numbers all seemed like things were lining up for a positive result but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Yesterday was spent considering our next steps. Our original plan was that our 3rd round of IUI would be completed with stronger meds, and I was comfortable with that. However, as the reality of two failed rounds and the costs associated with them sank in, I’m now very hesitant to move forward with another IUI. Our insurance provider doesn’t cover fertility treatments so we’ve been paying all of our medical bills 100% out of pocket. A third round of IUI with stronger medication is literally 3x the cost of one of our last treatment cycles, and it only nominally improves the success rate. Naturally my biggest fear is that we would throw all that money toward that IUI and still fail, then be that much more in the hole before moving to IVF.

So we changed gears a bit and started discussing IVF as a potential next step. It made me so hopeful. The success rates are so much more positive when compared to IUI, and my doctor has said several times that we are excellent candidates for IVF. But as I studied the cost sheet, I realized once again that none of this would be back and white. It’s never simple.

I told a friend of mine yesterday that I felt like I was being asked to buy a baby. It’s ridiculous how little fertility coverage most Americans have, and how much the costs associated with fertility treatments are. Then you add in the emotional and physical costs and it’s almost too much.

But then you think, “What if it works?”

I used to think people were crazy to spend so much on fertility treatments, but it’s impossible to put a price tag on your children. I would have paid absolutely anything to save Aria.

When I think about the moment Aria’s sibling is born, and hearing those first cries as I hold a living, breathing baby in my arms, fifteen thousand dollars feels like such a small price to pay.

But it isn’t. And that’s the hard part.

But I refuse to accept that this is it for us. I don’t even know how to process that kind of a reality. My mothering spirit has been so conflicted from the moment I said goodbye to Aria and she needs purpose again.

I’m not sure where we are going from here. But we’re not giving up. I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

The comeback kids.

People love a comeback story. They love it when the underdog ends up on top, and gets what they’ve been fighting for all along. It’s the stuff movies like Rudy and Rocky are made of. So after Aria was born, people were extremely quick to ask me when we were going to have another baby. I was asked that question several times before we even said goodbye to Aria’s body at the hospital.

But I didn’t want another baby. I wanted this one. I wanted Aria.

However, as my longing for the experience of raising children on earth began to overwhelm me, I came around and decided we would try again. People loved that decision. Their faces often lit up with excitement. They couldn’t wait for us to get our happy ending.

This is where things get really messy. Infertility, loss after loss, and a failed fertility treatment cycle have made for a really crappy comeback story. Most days it feels like we’re even further from redemption now than we were the day Aria died. Society and all of their expectations of what life after loss should look like makes it hard to not feel like a total failure. I’ve watched almost every mom in my infant loss support network go on to have a healthy baby, and yet I’m still waiting. People have distanced themselves from us, some because they no longer wanted to support the weight of our grief. Some because they assume the space will be helpful to us in some way. Some just grew weary of our lack of a happy ending.

“She’s still so sad.”

Indeed I am. My daughter died.

But if you could see our lives the way we do on the good days, you would see so much more.

So what exactly is our comeback story? What makes our story full of redemption?

A husband and wife that have weathered countless storms together, and grown stronger despite them. Two parents whose love for their daughter has refused to be negated by death. A father who still gets up each day and provides for his family despite wanting nothing more than to lay in bed and cry. A mother who speaks openly and publicly about her daughter, despite social stigmas that constantly whisper that she should stay silent.

We go out and explore new places. We learn new things. We build relationships. We laugh. We play. We live.

And at the heart of it all, there’s a sweet baby girl in heaven whose sick body has been fully healed. She’s safe. She’s free.

There’s still a lot of heartache in our story, but to deny the parts of it that have been redeemed is to ignore so much of the goodness our lives hold. We’re still a comeback story, and it’s only the beginning.

Infertility 1, Us 0

It’s official, our first round of fertility treatments has failed.

I tried so hard not to get my hopes up, and remind myself that it can take several tries for it to work, if it’s going to work for you. But I was encouraged by my doctors who looked at all our labs and felt that this protocol would likely lead to a pregnancy for us. Although they did make sure to remind us that it could take more than one round. As our first round progressed, and everything continued to look good, I let hope take root in my heart and grow like a weed. “This could be it!” I thought over and over again.

I instantly began to cry as I listened to the nurse’s message on my phone. “It’s negative. I’m sorry.” All of my hopes and dreams slipping away as quickly as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought about the date that I had hoped would become my due date, the day before my next birthday. I thought about the trip we’re taking in the spring, and how I hoped it would become a babymoon. I thought about the empty nursery upstairs that would remain empty even longer. It just wasn’t meant to be. At least not yet.

I despise the rollercoaster that infertility takes you on. The hope and anticipation, then crushing devastation as it all comes crashing down as you hold yet another negative pregnancy test in your hands. Add that to our already difficult journey with bereaved parenthood, and it’s downright miserable.

Of course, there is still hope. We talked to my doctor, who said she would have liked for me to respond a little better to one of my meds, so we’re changing the dosage and hoping that’s the boost I need. If not, there’s other options for the round after that.

Of course, that all sounds promising if that was all there was to worry about, but it feels like flushing money down the drain when a cycle fails. Especially since most American health insurance providers cover 0% of infertility treatments. But I’ll keep my soapbox in the closet, and save that speech for another time.

Here’s to more meds that make me extremely hormonal, shots expertly administered by my husband, and more needle pokes than I can count! Bring it on, round two! We’ll be seeing you soon.