I'm struggling with the sense of failure.
I know it's not true. But I can't quite shake the feeling that I'm failing.
I've never failed at anything before. At least, not anything important.
I mean, there was high school swim team, at which my skills were mediocre at best. And I look terrible in a swim cap. So I ultimately decided to resign from the team and concentrate my energies elsewhere (in this case, on starring in the spring play). Take your failure, learn from it, focus on something else. I never wanted to be an Olympic swimmer, so this was not a big deal.
My parents never pressured me about grades or extracurricular activities. But they didn't have to. I wanted to impress my teachers. I wanted to make my parents proud of me. I was the kind of kid who could be disciplined with nothing more than a "We're very disappointed in you" speech.
I'm most definitely NOT one of those people who's good at everything. I'm a terrible cook, for example, and I'm very lazy about filing important documents at home (I prefer to simple pile them up on top of our file cabinet, waiting for my non-existent secretary to take care of them. I'm not athletic or really very coordinated at all (I would rather study for a test than play softball). But I've always been told, "You can do anything you put your mind to" and I've always believed that to be basically true. I taught myself to sew. I taught myself to make diaper cakes. I taught myself how to teach ancient Greek poetry this semester. I'm not the world's greatest seamstress or crafter or professor of ancient Greek poetry, but I managed to maintain a certain level of confidence in my ability to handle problems and tackle new things. I know my strengths and weaknesses, but I figure that as long as I can consult the internet or phone a friend, I can manage to accomplish almost anything I decide to do.
I had this plan, see? And it was a really good plan. (And I know I've written about this before and maybe you're rolling your eyes and thinking OMG can't she get OVER that already? No. I can't. I loved my plan.) It was a plan that demonstrated that I was a hard worker, that I was smart, that I had my priorities clearly defined. The plan was simple: finish my degree and get pregnant by the time I was 30. It made perfect sense, professionally and personally and biologically. David and I spent our twenties dating, getting married, going to graduate school, scraping by on our meager salaries, and saving enough money to do some traveling.
I was so ready, so excited for the next chapter. Welcome, thirties! Baby now on board. Time to get a real job. Save a little more money. Buy a hybrid car. Invest in a jogging stroller and an organic crib mattress. Put away our passports and spend more time visiting family. I was SO ready to have a baby. Mentally, emotionally, financially, physically. I was healthy. I was thrilled. I was ready.
And then I failed to have a healthy baby. For reasons no one can explain.
One of the first books I read after losing Eliza was Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. It's about her experience with the stillbirth of her son, Pudding. A year and a month later, she gives birth to Pudding's little brother. The book ends with her having managed to create a happy life for herself, even with the pain of losing a child.
That's it, I thought, That's the only way to survive this. I've got to have something else to look forward to. I've got to get pregnant again.
I was sure that my story would echo Elizabeth McCracken's. After all, we had so many other things in common! I was confident that before long I'd be trying to manage the complicated anxiety and hope of a new pregnancy after a loss. At my doctor's advice, we waited three months. And then we started trying again.
Six months later: Fail. Again, for reasons no one can explain. Everything checks out completely fine for both of us.
Not that I want something to be wrong, but come on! Give me something I can work with! Give me something I can fix and I swear I will fix it! What can I do more? better? Because I'll do it. Really I will. Whatever it takes.
I've heard of women being diagnosed with an "incompetent cervix." (There's perhaps no diagnosis more cruel for those of us with perfectionist tendencies.) Although I certainly question the competency of my body, with the frustration I feel right now, based on the apparently ideal conditions of my internal organs, I wonder if my diagnosis should be more like "Uncooperative Uterus." Note in my medical file: Uterus uninterested in housing fetus. Kind of a bitch. Prefers to do its own thing, regardless of Brain and Heart's desire to have baby. Perhaps Uterus is involved federal government conspiracy to boost economy with tampon sales on monthly basis? Warrants further investigation...
Note: I don't ACTUALLY believe my doctor actually uses my medical file as a place for speculating about government conspiracy theories. Reason #543 that I did not go to med school: Creative journaling not allowed in patient files.
Seriously, though, I freaking hate that my body is failing me in this way, for no good reason, when it's willing to do pretty much everything I ask. Get up early. Stay up late. Digest delicious cheeses. Exercise without pain. Sleep at night. Fit into my old clothes. Downward dog. Warrior 2. Mountain pose. Bicep curls. Tricep dips. Walk three flights of stairs to my office. If it's not unhealthy, why does it fail at This. One. Thing.?
David's coaching career is coming in handy these days, because he's now the King of the Pep Talk at our house. However, I had to cut him off last night because I swear to God that if one person gives me the "Any given month there's only about a 20% chance you'll get pregnant" speech, I will scream and tell them to go to hell. Even if it's my husband. Or my doctor. Or a very kind, very old nun.
Maybe the one bright spot in this whole freaking mess is how much I love David and how he's being so sweet and supportive and optimistic and reasonable and all of the things I need him to be. (Seriously, he just walked in from doing yard work and kissed me and said, "You know I think you're really great, right?" I could not make this shit up.)
The problem? By being so great, he almost makes it even worse--this sense that I've failed him, too. When I lost Eliza, I failed him. And every month, I fail again.
I know he would argue with me, I know he'd insist that's not true. But there is this super creepy, anti-feminist, wife-of-Henry-VIII voice inside my head that is in a near panic about my wifely duty to provide my husband with heirs and holy shit you guys, she is freaking me out.
And speaking of heirs, then there's my parents. You know, just the two people I've been actively trying NOT to disappoint since I was, oh, about four years old. The only two people who were, if possible, slightly MORE excited about this baby than we were. I hate that I lost their grandbaby. It's almost like a separate grief, different from my sadness about Eliza--my sadness that my mom doesn't get to do all the fun grandma stuff.
Of course it makes sense that my parents are disappointed that they lost their only grandchild. Who wouldn't be? I know they're not upset with me in any way whatsoever. I know that. It's just that sometimes that line becomes blurry and I feel like I'm the reason for their disappointment. It was me. I let everybody down. I couldn't keep her safe. I haven't gotten pregnant again. And I don't know why. Nobody can tell me what to do.
I wish that in order to get pregnant, you had to follow totally strict dietary guidelines. And you had to exercise for a set amount of time every single day. And you had to take a lot of medicines, and they had to be taken at certain times during the day, some with food, some without. And I wish you also had to do a lot of paperwork. Like a shitload of paperwork. And it had to be written legibly in black or blue ink. And you had to cite all your sources in MLA format and include a writing sample and defend your ideas to a committee of professors over the course of two hours. THEN they would declare you Pregnant.
Because that I could do.
I could get pregnant if that's all it took. I could do all of those tasks without fail. I would establish that I am qualified and committed and competent and well-prepared. I wouldn't disappoint anybody, including myself.
Instead, it turns out that the way to have a baby is to have sex with your husband. The absurdity! What kind of world IS this? Pregnancy should not just be a random side effect of having an attractive partner. Somebody need to do something about this, because pregnancy is far too dangerous and scary and too big of a deal to be the result of simply having sex. Also, in our case: It's not WORKING!
I never want to discuss TTC because there's always someone who will offer the ancient, well-meant, unbelievably irritating advice: "Just relax." OMG that's so HELPFUL! Thanks! I wonder why I hadn't THOUGHT of that? You know, considering I have been doing enough google research to get myself an honorary medical school degree. Also, you know what I do when I relax? I watch Awkward and I shop online and I eat M&Ms. As far as I know, that kind of behavior is also known as Abstinence, and I am pretty sure immaculate conception is not a pregnancy option for me these days.
Or someone will say to me, "Have you tried...?" Yes. Yes, I have tried it. If it involves taking vitamins, drinking tea, peeing on sticks, taking temperatures, eating certain foods, trying every freaking day, trying every other day, doing yoga, being intentionally optimistic, visualizing what I want my ovaries to do, taking a vacation and trying to distract myself, having a fully monitored cycle so I could pay hundreds of dollars to look at my ovaries and follicles doing exactly what they are supposed to do except for MAKE A BABY, overthinking it, not overthinking it, standing on my motherfucking head (pardon my French). Yes, I have tried it.
And what has it gotten me? Not pregnant. Six months of Failure.
So now I sit here, with the one year anniversary of Eliza's death already looming over me. The weather is getting cooler, December is quickly approaching. And what do I have to show for it? I've lost a year of my life. To grief and sorrow and the greatest pain I've ever known. Losing Eliza was the single greatest failure of my life.
And every month, I fail again.