Saturday, September 17, 2011

Failure. Ongoing.

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.


  1. I'm right there with you. Except that I'm paying a butt load of money for IVF and so far I'm still not pregnant either. I can totally relate to the feeling of failure. Getting and staying pregnant is the only thing in my life that I haven't been able to get just by working hard. It's been very humbling and frustrating.

    Oh, and my favorite diagnosis for infertility is hostile cervix. Just what you want, a cervix that is hostile right??

  2. I love you Brooke. I love your wit and incredible writing style and all things that make you what you are. Except, I hate this part of life. No one can say a thing because it all started with baby loss and led to that feeling of constant failure. No advice to give. No mantras to chant.

    I understand that feeling of failure, too. It seems that pregnancy is the one thing I couldn't just put my mind to and magically release a living baby at the end of it all. I don't know how. I guess it's something that just happens?! I still can't grasp it myself. Losing Andrew was my greatest failure in life, too. Oh, and I'm also a terribly swimmer.

  3. Oh Brookester, I am so sorry this has been so hard. I fell like we as BLM's should get a free pass to use on anything we wish. Like, we just got the shit kicked out of us, so I am using my free pass to win a million dollars. Or to get that big promotion that I ALWAYS WANTED. Or to lose 25lbs without even trying. Because I lost my baby, and so I deserve to get "something" out of this. For free. Without trying. Just because. And of course, I think 100% of us would actually use that free pass to get pregnant easily again, without even trying, and have a live, fat, wriggling baby come out of us 9 months later. No fuss, no muss. Free pass.
    I don't know who I need to write a strongly worded letter to in order to get that free pass. So, I guess for now we don't get one. Sucky, eh?
    I wish there was something I can say, but everything I think of would sounds lame, and cliched, and totally unhelpful. So just know that I am thinking of you, and will send "pregnancy vibes" your way (I would say "pray", but I don't really pray. But, I will do the non-religious equivalent just for you).
    Oh, and I totally hear you on the Henry VIII thing! When I lost love I went through this phase of reading Phillipa Gregory books all based on Henry VIII and all of his unfortunate wives who lost their heads at his whim. Heck, and even his mistresses who were married to other people were pressured to provide him with illegitimate heirs! Those were crazy times.
    Anyways, I know TTC can suck big time (understatement, anyone?), so I will just send you hugs, and support.

  4. That feeling of failure is so heavy...I wish you did not have to carry such a burden. I know it all too well. We dealt with "unexplained infertility" before our IVF cycle that worked giving me my boys for far too short a time. I am so sorry you are experiencing something similar. Nothing I can say will make it any better...but do not stop looking for a way. Keep asking questions and pushing for answers. There may be some solution, and I wish it could take away the feeling of failure (but to be honest it probably won't) but it could possibly make your dreams come true. I know I said possibly... We both know there are no guarantees.

    Hang in there the best you can...I know it is hard!

  5. What an emotive and amazing piece of writing this is. And what an amazing woman you are. I had happy AND sad tears reading this.
    First, mother guilt. It never goes away.
    The 'unexplained infertility' (which is the term thrown at us, just means 'no idea really') is frustrating. I used to say, 'if I had some diagnosis I could deal with it, cause then I'd know what we're working with here'. It's so frustrating. All of it.
    One of the things that I truly believed worked for me was acupuncture. I saw a woman who specialised in womens health/fertility/IVF support. I know you're not on IVF.
    Oh, and the advise people used to give us, especially 'just relax'. Yeah right!
    I feel for you. I know where you're at. I'm sorry Eliza isn't here. I'm sorry that your parents don't have their granddaughter. And I'm sure a thousand people will say you're not a failure and on that I'll chime in too. You're not. I really wish you lots of pregnancy luck and will send prayers to the fertility Gods. I hope the wait isn't too much longer. xo

  6. I was totally researching IVF in Turkey and other countries (waaaaayyyy cheaper and a dude from John Hopkins medical school actually runs it, they call it ivf-cations-in case you were wondering), before we'd even tried the iui, because I'm crazy and scary similar to you in a lot of ways (even the swim team, I sucked at flip turns, but I was pretty good at softball.)

    I was so mad at my body for taking Olivia from us, and then not getting pregnant again easily, it was betraying us all over again. And that made my pregnancy so much harder, because I didn't trust my body to give us a healthy baby. But I'm not sure how you can trust it when you've been through an experience like ours.

    I am so sorry you are going through this. It sucks, I know. But I really do believe that come next spring/early summer, I'm going to be visiting you in the hospital holding Eliza's baby brother or sister. You will get there. And these struggles? Totally freaking suck. But you do appreciate it so much more, when it finally does happen. Not that you need another reason to appreciate it, but, yeah. I like your plan for a pregnancy guarantee, except the strict diet part :)

  7. I agree that this is a great piece of writing. Love the doctor's notes about your uterus.

    It took me almost a year to get pregnant with my last baby, and it was excruciating, and no one could tell us why. I got the RELAX advice all the damn time (soooo not helpful)-- even from my doctor.

    I am so sorry you're dealing with this, and I hope no one says "have fun trying" because that's the second most annoying comment after RELAX.

  8. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Excellently written. I so hope for a good outcome for you.

  9. God I wish I could say something, ANYTHING, to make this easier.

    I know how scary this feels. Hold tight. We are here to hold you up through the scariest of these days...

    I send you much love. And words from Coach Taylor, that seem terribly inadequate for this particular pain, but still so meaningful and poignant nonetheless:

  10. Hello Brooke- it's my first time reading your blog. I am so sorry Eliza is not here with you! What crap on a platter for us. And sever up with a side of more crap after the loss is just ugh!!!! I know our pain, yours and mine. You made me laugh and that is a feat these days. I will be reading.

  11. I read this post this morning then had to save it, think about it, and am just coming back to write my comment now. I still feel ill prepared.

    I know just want you mean about Henry VIII, and providing an heir. And you will, you'll provide David with a child, and Eliza with a brother or a sister. I fucking hate that it's so hard to ttc and grieve at the same time, because inevitable the two are intertwined while ttc a rainbow. We should totally have a free pass.

    It's also eternally frustrating to be a type A perfectionist and not be able to "fix" this.

    Ps. I could also be disciplined with a stern word, or even worse: "You disappointed me". eeeeek!

  12. oh god. everything you just wrote. especially: '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.' That's just how I felt too.

    Sending hugs xxxx

  13. After I went back to work after losing Cale, a very dumb woman said to me in such a nonchalant tone, "don't worry - you'll get pregnant again - at least you can have more kids". thanks. now leave my office. and never talk to me again. ever.

    I almost didn't want to comment here. I was (and still am) worried you'll read this and just think "she doesn't understand - she did get pregnant soon after her loss" and you're right - I don't understand. So I hope I don't come off as pretentious.

    I don't at all regret my timing with Finley and am so incredibly grateful for him, BUT. . .I have wondered if getting pregnant again, the time I did, made grieving for Cale harder, not easier. Sure people will say it's nice to have something to hope for and be excited about in the midst of your grief, which is true, but I sometimes felt like it forced me to split my focus. I've been missing Cale and struggling a bit more than I expected AFTER the year mark and I wonder if it's just all these thoughts/grief issues that I never really dealt with while pregnant with Finn.

    But that certainly isn't worth all the frustration and pain you are enduring. And I hate that you are. And I hope you don't read this thinking "oh sweet, I get to grieve "better" since I'm not pregnant" because I don't think that's the case. We're all unfortunately already pretty damn good at grieving.

    I guess I'd rather comment than not just to say I'm sorry. I'm so sorry and I truly, genuinely, eagerly wish nothing but good things for you from here on out. For the rest of your life. And then some.

    PS - I would also like there to be much more strict guidelines on how to get pregnant - or who can for that matter. Too many dumb bitches getting knocked up. it. drives. me. nuts.

  14. YES YES YES and YES!!! Holy fuck YES! You know where I am at and you know where I come from so I get this and I agree one million percent(except the part about you being a failure because I PROMISE you are not).
    I'll tell you this.. you are gonna continue to get the platitudes from people who haven't a fucking clue as to what it is like to deal with fertility issues. They can all eat shit. Sometimes you even have to tell them.. but maybe in different terms.
    But still, I REALLY wish more people would learn that platitudes are like knives.. they hurt and they cause a deeper divide between the people they involve. Like a deep chasm where fertility and infertility stare at each other between the divide. I hate being on the losing side of that chasm... but I am SO proud of you for calling this out, for speaking your mind and for having strength.. even if you think you don't.
    I wish there were magic words, though I know better. I offer support though.. and a really good set of listening ears.

  15. It took me 10 months of trying to finally get pregnant again after losing my daughter. I too, was SURE it was going to happen right away, like it seemed was the case for everyone else I knew (in real-life, and blog-world). I have no real advice, but I know how frsutrating it is, and just wanted you to know that there's hope :)

  16. I know I probably can't say too much on the level of ttc right now since I just got pregnant, but I understand from ttc Liam because it took us over 2 years to get pregnant with him. I hated that my body was failing me. I wanted so badly to have some kind of guidelines like you said, although it seems some people can be very unhealthy and do everything you hear is bad and they get pregnant no problem.
    I guess I was just curious with you guys ttc if your dr. would recommend you guys trying Clomid or another drug to help, or if he'd prefer you try longer before resulting to that.
    I really hope things work out soon for you guys:)

  17. Goodness Brooke, so much of this rang so true for me. Yes, it did happen relatively quickly for us (we found out we were pregnant just after the 7 month anniversary) but the months leading up to that time were hard - so I can only imagine how hard this is for you.
    I have been back to read this post a few times. It really was very close to home.
    I want to send you all my love and support and a huge dose of luck as well.

  18. I hate being "that guy", and I'm not going to tell you to relax, but have you had your tubes checked? That was my problem. Every test they ran showed I was in perfect working order so they sent me for this medievel toture procedure to check if my tubes were blocked. Sure enough they were like 10 times the normal size (pretty disgusting) and were full of goo. Therefore they would not allow the little sperms to make it to my perfectly cabable eggs. I didn't see you mention that (and if you had this procedure, you would have mentioned it!), so I thought I would throw it out there for you.
    I have made the decision to forgo any future pregnancy attempts. So if you ever think to yourself you are not a strong person you should think differently. I just can't do it. DB is not excited about it either.

  19. Hi Brooke. I read your blog and I think I've commented once in the past. You are an amazing writer who is funny and eloquent and emotionally-on-point. My son was born pre-term at 23 weeks in April 2010 and passed away. In December 2010 I had a missed miscarriage which led to my 2nd d&c because my body apparently likes to hold onto things like placenta and such but my cervix is incompetent. Sounds like an oxymoron to me. The miscarriage was a blow that I hadn't expected (I hesitate to mention it because I know plenty of women, past myself included, who would just love to get pregnant and would punch another woman in the face who seemed to complain about anything since she could get pregnant again). I definitely got many comments from family members who said "Well, at least you know you can get pregnant again". Terrible terribleness.

    Through all of this I felt a sense of failure for my son especially and then a separate huge well of failure for my husband. I also had a separate account of failure for my in-laws who don't have other grandchildren and I was their "great hope" to finally experience that phase of life. It's like I found every possible way to hate myself and did and still do in many ways. It's just so fucking unfair, as others have said. It made me wish to be more selfish and to be only truly concerned about myself so that I didn't have these other competing feelings of failure happening in regards to everyone else in my life. If only it really felt like it was all about me, me, me.

    I don't want to offer any words of encouragement. I wish for you something different. You are strong and I so admire you for returning to work and trying to be "normal" even in the depth of your grieving for Eliza. I was unable to and ditched my teaching job at a high school.

    Take care

  20. Oh, Brooke. I want to say something wise about the value of failure, but I really just hate that you are struggling with TTC while coping with missing Eliza. The loss adds an urgency to TTC, I think, that makes it extra hard when you're looking for two blue lines and not seeing them.

    Hoping hard for you.

  21. I'm glad you are able to express these feelings because they are the lament of every woman who has lost a baby or never even got the chance to experience pregnancy when she wanted so badly to be pregnant. I can relate to feeling so guilty when I couldn't get pregnant or stay pregnant. I felt so angry at my brother when he and his wife conceived the first time they tried and I always perceived it as them being more perfect in my mom's eyes although that probably wasn't true. Plus, it really drove me crazy when people would say stop thinking about it...Really, because it's the only thing I ever thought about. Here's hoping for brighter days for you and David.

  22. (((hugs))) I can so relate. I succeeded at everything in my life (that I wanted to succeed at, anyway) except this one damned thing. And it still eats at me sometimes, no matter how hard I try to remember all the other good stuff in my life. Particularly disappointing my parents. They would have been fabulous grandparents.

    I feel like I'm not really the one to offer you reassurances here (being the cautionary tale myself)(in fact, I debated whether I should comment on this post at all). I will never say, "It will happen" to anyone, because I know that for some of us, it just doesn't. But am hoping for you, & sending you lots of cyber(((hugs))) & other good vibes! : )

  23. Yes, that's how I feel too. Thank you for saying it so well. I don't want to face my daughter's first birthday in December like this, childless AND not pregnant. I just want to do this one thing - get pregnant again and make a healthy baby. Nothing else seems to matter any more. Good thing I found 25-cent pregnancy tests on Amazon or my compulsive need to pee on a stick every day would be bankrupting us...

  24. mmmhmmm, yes. it's so shitty. it's such a precise little miracle that makes a baby, isn't it? i'm astonished by it over and over again. everything has to be just right, JUST RIGHT, in order for magic to occur. and it's shitty, because magic DID occur, and it should have worked and then, in the end, it didn't. in the end we lost. there's nothing remotely relaxing about ttc, there's nothing remotely sexy about baby sex. maybe the first time in a cycle is fun, but i dunno, i'm a bit older than you and i tell ya, i'm so over sex by the end of that ttc window.

    hang in there, sweetness. we're all pulling for you and that's got to count for something, somewhere, to whomever makes magic happen.