Fighting the fear of forgetting.

I told Brian recently that I felt like I was starting to leave Aria behind. Despite his accurate rebuttal that I could never, and would never move on from her, I can’t help but feel the mama guilt from time to time.

I hate that sometimes I’ll get so caught up in life that I realize I haven’t cried in weeks. It makes me feel like I’m forgetting, because crying feels like grieving, and grieving feels like remembering.

I used to say I couldn’t wait to get to the part where things wouldn’t hurt so bad, and now that I’m here, I regret wishing for this because it makes me feel like I’m neglecting Aria’s memory.

I’m not “over it” or “moving on” but the waves of grief come fewer and farther between these days. It’s extremely bittersweet for me.

Now that we’re investing so much of our energy into preparing for IVF, and potentially bringing home another baby, I’m so concerned that we are leaving Aria in the dust. All I want to do is scoop my sweet firstborn into my arms and hold her tight. Instead, I hold her legacy in my heart and keep pressing forward. I know it’s what she wants me to do. At least, that’s what I’m really hoping.

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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,
Mom

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.

Dear Aria: A letter to our baby girl on her second birthday in heaven.

Sweet Aria,

If I could sneak into heaven today, I would do it bright and early. I’d tip toe into your room and kneel alongside your bed. I would pause for a moment as you slept, and take in the sight of you, my perfect sleeping angel. I’d brush the wisps of hair from your eyes, and whisper, “good morning, birthday girl!”

But today I will whisper from afar, and pray that you can hear me.

“Good Morning, birthday girl.”

Two. Sweet girl, today you are two. In the blink of an eye, two full years have passed since we first held you in our arms. Two years since you took those big beautiful breaths, showing us just how strong and brave you are.

I could spend hours repeating how much I miss you and wish you were here, yet deep down I know that you wouldn’t wish for that. Today is a day to celebrate. Today is about giving thanks for the gift that was and is your brief and perfect life.

So today there will be cake, there will be the Rose family birthday song, there will be birthday candles in remembrance of you. There will be joy, there will be laughter, and most of all, there will be love.

I hope you have the most wonderful second birthday in heaven sweet baby. I hope all of your wishes come true. I hope you have a belly full of birthday cake, and a heart that knows just how much you are loved.

We miss you. We wish you were here.

Happy Birthday, Aria.

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018.

It’s officially that time of year. We’ve swapped out our Christmas greetings with, “Happy New Year!” Shelves are being stocked with 2018 calendars, and there’s talk of New Years resolutions everywhere you look.

Last year, as we rang in 2017, we were so hopeful that this year would be one of redemption. We had been praying that we would be blessed with a sibling for Aria for a few months before the new year, and it felt like our time was coming. But month after month went by, winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer, and still no baby. Then one doctor’s appointment turned into ten, and test after test showed nothing conclusive. We were confused, they were confused, so my doctor made a shot in the dark, which led to me holding a positive pregnancy test on an early August morning. And then that turned into me in my doctor’s office hearing things like “I’m sorry.” And “this happens all the time.” As I struggled to cope with the reality that we had miscarried.

But we did as we’ve had to do with every single heartbreak in the last two years, we dried our tears, held onto each others hands, and kept going. We found new doctors, better doctors, who ran even more tests. We talked about options, started saving, and came up with a plan. So as we welcome 2018, we are embarking on another adventure. Hopefully one thousand steps closer to growing our family once again.

And as hopeful as we are, I will admit that the spending the last year fighting infertility has been hard. So unbelievably hard. But we’re pushing back as much as we can.

We also have a project of a different kind that we’ll be unveiling this summer, and are so anxiously excited to share it. I wish I could say more about it, so I could fill this paragraph with more detailed anticipatory statements, but it’s going to be good. So very good. And I can’t wait for you to see it.

Of course, the real big day for us isn’t actually New Years Day. It’s January 2nd. Aria’s birthday. This coming year, she would have been turning two. I’m even less ready for it this year than I was last year. It doesn’t get any easier, or simpler, or less agonizing. I can’t stop thinking about all that we’re missing now. Her hair would be so long, because I know I would have refused to cut a single centimeter of those gorgeous dark locks. She’d be communicating, and bossing us around, and likely giving validity to the term, “the terrible twos.” But we’d love it all, and sweet Aria would be loving us back tenfold. She’d be blossoming, and growing, and thriving more and more each day.

God, I miss her.

All in all, 2017 has been quite a challenge. But there’s been such an undeniable bright spot in it, Lana. Our sweet dog who also turns two in January. She came to us at the start of this year and has made every hardship much more bearable. 2017 also gave Brian a very unexpected work trip to Disneyland, which I was able to tag along for, so with the combination of those things I suppose I can’t say it was the worst year.

But 2018 will be a better year. At least that’s what I’m hoping.