I have always known that there was intense suffering and pain in this world. Throughout high school and college, a good part of my time was spent volunteering, which gave me the opportunity to sit and talk to people during their most difficult times. I have done outreach with the homeless population in New York City, assisted women who were dying in Calcutta, played with orphans in Tijuana and even counseled men with addictions who had been incarcerated on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My whole life I have felt a real responsibility to hear people’s stories as they navigate the most arduous terrains of their personal journeys. I always felt that listening to their stories made them feel less alone, and that it was the least I could do. Now, reflecting on some of the most painful parts of my own journey, I hope to reach out to people going through similar situations so that they feel less alone.
Growing up, I remember hearing how my mom had five miscarriages between me and my brother, who is 8 years younger than me. My mom never really talked about it. My parents both felt that my brother and I were miracles and they were so grateful for us. Yet, “miscarriage” was a word that always brought me fear and anxiety. Although the issue my mom had with her uterus was not genetic, somehow I still worried that what she went through could be a possibility for me as well. It was a potential reality I didn’t want to face. In my early twenties I was certain I could never emotionally survive a miscarriage if one came my way. I was also sure I could somehow strategize my life to avoid miscarriages. If only we could find a way to strategize the pain and heartache out of our lives!
In the past two years I have had four miscarriages. Some have been worse than others, but it goes without saying that they all have been low points in my husband’s and my journey. Due to my diagnosis of a translocation (see “Our Journey” post), 94% of our pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Needless to say, something I was certain I could somehow avoid became a very real and steady presence for me, a great source of anxiety in my daily life. My diagnosis of the translocation was devastating, but after three consecutive miscarriages, I was glad to finally have some answers. Stress and uncertainty are a major part of the world of infertility treatments. Yet, hope is just as present. A miscarriage is the antithesis of hope.
To know you have a life growing inside of you that is no longer “viable” is devastating. In my case, to know you have a life inside of you that is struggling to survive, but most likely will not make it, is heart wrenching. Especially since nothing I can do can help, and I just have to wait for it all to end. By my fourth miscarriage, I felt like my body was just a hospice for what were once potential lives. Like in grieving for a lost loved one, I certainly grieved for each pregnancy lost. When my doctor called me and told me told me that all 12 IVF embryos weren’t viable, I grieved for them too, even though they were never actually implanted.
Every time the doctor tells me that I am pregnant, or that we have embryos growing, I feel like it is a little piece of my husband and me now out there in the universe. I feel there exists a little life, with a lifetime of potential. Though I am always aware of the odds working against me, I feel like where there is life, there is hope. When there is no longer life or when I know life is no longer thriving, all hope is lost. And I myself feel just that– lost. While I am waiting for the miscarriage to come, I mostly disengage with my surrounding world, except for participating in what is necessary. When it arrives, I take a few days to grieve and keep my feet up. I take time to feel sad. I cry. I drink chocolate milkshakes. I don’t talk to anyone for a while because there is nothing to say and nothing that can be said to make me feel better. Nothing. If I could make time freeze during these periods so I could let the suffering pass and then unfreeze time when I am ready to face the world, I would.
I am just one woman amongst many who have had similar experiences. My heart breaks when I read the blogs of other women who have gone through this, and in some cases, so much more. I am amazed by the grace and the strength of these women to keep going. I am amazed by the strength of my mother, now that I have a deeper understanding of what she went through. Quite frankly, I am amazed at my own strength. The 22 year old Casey would have predicted the present-day Casey to spontaneously combust at having to handle all of this. But I am still here. We somehow all are still here, no matter where our journeys have taken us. That wisdom first came to me long ago when I volunteered, witnessing all of the incredible survivors living through insurmountable crisis. I am grateful for the grace and the strength that have carried me through. And I pray that life’s most difficult paths will continue to grant me wisdom.