Left Behind

Early on, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it change me.  There are no guarantees that life will be easy, after all.  Sometimes struggle is just part of the deal.

 

And for a little while, I even believed it.  I took the blows as best I could and then picked myself up and started again.  I would prevail; I just knew it.  Together, my husband and I could conquer anything.

 

I put my energy into feigning some version of normal.  I met up with friends for coffee, dinner, and movies.  I talked on the phone, wrote long and detailed emails, and remembered every birthday.

 

I tried.  I wanted to ensure that everything would remain the same.

 

But I was suffering in silence.  Sure, a few very close friends knew about the miscarriages, but I was reluctant to burden them with my constant thoughts and fears.  I talked about it when they asked but, for the most part, I remained quiet.

 

I did the asking.  And when they began to have first, second, and third babies, I asked about the babies.  I bought gifts, oohed at the appropriate moments, and held those babies close.  I snuggled them close as if they were my own.

 

I soaked it up.

 

It was a cool, December afternoon when I paid a visit to the newest baby born to someone in my friendship circle.  The sun cast a warm glow through the crack in the chestnut colored blinds.  I sat, huddled into the far corner of the oversized white sofa, snuggling her baby girl tight.  With wide eyes and an open mouth, she considered me with curiosity.  After struggling to free her tiny pink hand from the swaddle, her arm shot up toward my hand, as if she wanted to make contact.

 

While my friend regaled me with stories of her birth, I sat quietly and stared at her little girl.  It would be impossible not to smile in the face of such beauty, miracle, and little.  With a tight grip reserved for fire fighters and new babies, she clamped her warm hand around my little finger and held on for dear life.

 

I was in awe of her, as I was with every new baby that entered my life.  I could have held her for hours.  When she began to fuss, I walked her around the house to give her mommy just a little more time.  And then I left them to bond and find their way together.

 

I took a deep cleansing breath as I stepped out into the sunlight; new babies are good for the soul.  The colors seemed just a bit brighter as I scanned the landscape along the walkway and back to my car.

 

It wasn’t until I got into the car and bucked my seatbelt that my emotions caught up with me.  One moment I was aglow with love and the scent of a new baby, I could still feel the weight of her in my arms.  The next I was a sobbing mess.

 

I sat there for what seemed like hours, crying into my steering wheel.  Wishing, wanting, and being left behind yet again left me feeling lost and alone, no matter how hard my friends tried.  I cried for my losses, I cried for my shattered dreams, and I cried for the friendships I wasn’t sure I would be able to maintain.

 

With mascara stained cheeks, I finally found the strength to drive away.  I made my way home in a daze, not thinking or feeling, just driving.

 

It was then I realized that I had changed.  My friends were moving forward with their loves, expanding their families and starting new adventures.  But I was stuck in limbo, left behind and full of frustration, anxiety, and great sadness.  I was unable to connect because the aftermath was too emotionally taxing.

 

I stayed in touch as much as I could, and attended outings when I felt strong enough to socialize.  But, for a long time, I often chose to isolate.  I read hundreds of books, watched the same movies ten times over, and exercised my feelings away.  I waited for my time to come.

 

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, infertility changed me.  It left me hollow, anxious, and alone.

 

It left me feeling…

 

Left behind.

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Empty

I was bleary eyed, exhausted, and hysterical when I walked into the office that morning.  It was a cool but sunny January morning.  Truly, I had no idea what I was walking into.

 

Just two days before, I was told that my pregnancy had ended.  I was 13 weeks pregnant, and ready to tell the world.  It didn’t occur to me, not even for one second, that I would be telling a much different story.

 

Or hanging my head in shame and self-doubt, and avoiding the world for a while.

 

I gripped onto my husband’s arm and spoke in whispers that morning.  Words seemed nearly impossible to form as I struggled to make sense of what happened.  What is it something I had eaten?  Did I exercise too much?  Not enough?  How did I get there?

 

An unfamiliar doctor entered the room.  In a cold demeanor she outlined the procedure without making eye contact.  She was clinical, short on words, and ready to get it over with.

 

When she left the room for a moment, I sobbed to my husband.  My baby deserved better.  I wanted my real doctor; I couldn’t handle this substitute.

 

Within minutes she returned to administer the Valium.  I slipped into a drug-induced state of partial alertness, aware of sounds and sights but not feeling much of anything.  I stared helplessly into my husband’s eyes as I willed the moment to pass.

 

The low hum of the machine echoed through my soul as it sucked the lost life from my womb.  Would I ever be able to escape that sound?  Would it remain with me for years to come?

 

And then…it was over.

 

Time seemed to slow down as I limped my way back to the car.  Although the Valium had yet to completely wear off, my senses were heightened.  Conversations between strangers in the elevator sounded far too loud.  The sun beaming through the catwalk windows threatened to blind me.  The scent of the musty parking garage turned my stomach.  I was powerless to escape any of it.

 

And then…I was left to heal.

 

For days I existed on tea and toast as I watched the world go by from the safety of my home.  I begged the phone to stop ringing, slept in minutes, and cried often.  My body healed slowly, growing a little bit stronger each day.

 

Eventually, I rejoined the world.

 

I dressed with care that first day back to work.  Black on black with just a pop of color from under my sweater.  I wanted to hide any evidence of the loss that seemed to follow me everywhere I went.  With careful precision I applied eyeliner, eye shadow, and mascara.  Would makeup hide the pain that enveloped my soul?

 

I slipped into my office and collapsed onto the couch intended for my clients, a ghost of my former self.  I scanned my desk for paperwork and stared down the blinking phone.  The voicemail would have to wait for another day.  For a day when other people’s problems seemed more pressing.  Would that day ever come?

 

I trudged through that day, allowing busywork to free my mind from self-defeat for a while.  When the sun began to set and the familiar voices of co-workers faded away for the day, I made my way back to my car.

 

I drove home in silence, watching the scenery pass me by.  As I pulled into my brick lined driveway and looked up at the darkened house, it finally hit me.  It wasn’t sadness, anger, or helplessness that I felt each moment of the day.  It wasn’t longing, guilt, or desperation.

 

I felt empty.  Like the dark house with closed shutters that stood before me, not a light on to indicate signs of life, laughter, or family and full of things that couldn’t be seen from the outside.

 

Empty.

 

I just felt empty.