Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em.
So look – I’m not a Kenny Rogers fan, but as I have tried to find the right words to process my emotions and describe where I am right now, this is the only way that felt right. And if you hum along, well, then you are right here with me.
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
I’ve also been putting off writing this post for weeks. Because last Sunday was Mother’s Day, and let’s be fair, it’s smart to put a little distance between a day that celebrates motherhood and “sad sack” Kristin coming in hot like a Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial here to ruin your fucking day.
Here it is. The reality. MY REALITY. The garbage hand that I’ve been dealt. In the last 18 months I have had 3 (THREE) miscarriages and 2 chemical pregnancies. For those who aren’t familiar with that term, a chemical pregnancy is basically when you pee on a stick one day and it says you’re pregnant then you pee on another stick a few days later and it says you’re not.
I am about 2 weeks past my third miscarriage at 10 weeks and subsequent D&C. While I am, of course, devastated and heartbroken, I am not surprised. With our track record, we always knew that there was a higher chance of a bad outcome than a healthy baby. But we also knew that if this didn’t work, we were going to fold. We just don’t have the cards to make this happen. We are weary from loss and disappointment. We are exhausted from this fruitless endeavor. Eighteen months. Five miserable failures. Looking back on the struggles of these last few years, and looking forward to what I want my life to feel like, I wanted to share a few of my final thoughts as I take advice from Kenny – know when to fold, know when to hold, know when to walk away and know when to run.
I still have resentment.
I resent getting dealt such a shitty hand when it comes to building a family. I hate that I’m a statistic. To suffer one miscarriage is awful. To face it repeatedly, consecutively, and without reason, is unthinkable. And I hate that every pregnant woman I see and every announcement I read feels like death by a million paper cuts. Statistics say that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage and that 1 percent of women suffer from 3 or more miscarriages. Me being “the one percent” means that there are scores of other women who pee on a stick, rub their belly and in nine months meet their perfect baby without a second thought. They are fortunate. Me? Not so much. But someone has to be “the one.”
What I have found to really sting lately is the casual conversations that inevitably find their way towards families and babies. Where I’ll hear someone say “the pregnancy is going perfectly, and you know, you hear all of these horror stories…” Oh. How I resent that it is incumbent upon me to remain cool and breezy when the words, innocent as they are, feel so painful and callous. And because it’s just small talk, they may even chuckle while they say the words “horror stories.” As if the stories are far-fetched urban legends. Something that they only heard happened to their husband’s, second-cousin’s, best friend’s, college roommate. Something that rarely ever happens “in real life.” Funny how such a benign statement can so quickly boil my blood. In that moment it takes every ounce of strength I have not to grab that person, slam them up against the wall, and scream “I AM THE HORROR STORIES MOTHERFUCKER. SHOW SOME GODDAMN RESPECT.”
Of course I would never actually do any of that. And the good news is that my feelings of resentment are becoming increasingly rare and fleeting. Because at the end of the day their ignorance is their blessing. I remind myself that they don’t even know how exponentially lucky they are to be able to say those things; to feel comfortable and safe in their pregnancy. I am “the one percent” and that is my burden to bear. The emotional baggage is mine to sift through. I really resent the extra work but I can do it. I just wish I didn’t have to.
I am resilient.
The irony in all of this is that Brian and I agreed back in February that we were done trying. And then in March I saw two fucking pink lines. You know what Universe? Screw you. To be fair, I knew I was pregnant in the week before I missed my period. After so many positives, I knew the signs. But it still took me until I was a week late before I could bring myself to take a pregnancy test. When I saw those lines I was not happy or excited. I was terrified. I know where this path could lead. I know the danger of hoping that this is the time it works. So I took myself for a walk and during that walk I adopted a new mantra for myself.
“This has happened before and it did not kill you. It did not break you. You survived before and whatever the outcome, you will make it through this too.”
I have repeated that to myself every day since that walk. And here I am. Again. Sad but not broken. In pain but also at peace. After nearly a decade of working to build a family and the torment of the last 18 months, even I am impressed at the way I have been able to pick up the pieces and redirect my energy towards the things that are positive and productive. I. Am. A. Bad. Bitch. That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.
I have only one regret.
I have spent considerable time accepting this is the end. Saying it out loud hurts but also makes it real. For example: you won’t see any Facebook announcements from us about a baby coming in 2021. We won’t have that moment where we surprise Meredith with the news of Mommy having a baby brother or sister in her belly. No “promoted to Big Sister” t-shirts for us. I’ll never take a picture of Mere kissing my big pregnant belly. Those things just aren’t in the cards for our little trio.
And the thing that guts me every time I have a quiet moment to reflect on this decision is the fact that Mere would make the most AMAZING big sister. I know I make a lot of jokes about her sass and attitude but the truth is she has an incredible capacity for love. She feels big feelings. She cares so deeply. You can see how natural it is for her just by watching her or talking to her. She wants to take care of the people she loves. It is clear that she sees it as her duty and her privilege to love and protect her family. I mean she has made her imaginary friends out to be her brothers and sisters. Ooof. Talk about a dagger to the heart.
Despite all the trauma and pain that I have endured through all this, Mere missing out on a sibling is the only thing that I still cry about. And I usually only cry when I’m alone. Driving in my car. Trying to wrap my head around all of these failed attempts and what it means for my only little girl. Because like I said – the most amazing big sister ever.
It will forever be the only regret I have in this life – not being able to give her that.
In the end…
I feel obligated to share all about the ups and downs because so many issues facing women are discussed in darkened circles. In secret. With the expectation and the pressure to show no weakness, no pain, no discontent, no matter the situation. And when it comes to our breasts, vaginas, uteruses, ovaries – forget about it. We are conditioned to think that no one needs nor wants to hear about it. Ladies – you know this to be trash. Our stories and experiences are our bonds. We are stronger when we share together.
So I am encouraged to see more women coming out and very publicly sharing their stories – celebrities and us regular folk alike. Awareness of these situations, the need for proper care, and the destruction of a damaging stigma are so important. But I would love to also challenge us to go even further. Embrace awareness but also discuss closure – in whatever form it may take. Since this started, I have Googled “recurrent miscarriage” and “consecutive loss” a lot. I have found many stories of women who struggled with infertility. Those stories were incredibly comforting in my time of need. But more often than not they also included an editor’s note. And that note would say “Sally Smith (or insert woman’s name here) eventually went on to have a healthy baby.” Well that is wonderful for Sally Smith. But what about those of us who don’t get the happy ending we picture? Where are the stories where perseverance cannot conquer adversity? Ones where our heroine does not triumph in the end? I could only find a handful of articles in which the author had to come to terms with loss and no rainbow baby. Those experiences are harder to read about but just as important. Because the moral of my story isn’t “if you want it badly enough and if you work hard enough, you can achieve it.” It is finding peace and acceptance with the fact that my body is either unwilling or unable to do what I am asking it to do.
I never liked failure and I’m no quitter. So accepting this hand and making this decision has been particularly challenging for me. It goes against every fiber of my Type A personality. But this is my hand. This is my story. And it’s time. Instead of continuing to shackle my mind, body, and spirit to this pursuit that has consumed me for the better part of a decade, I’m going to put my cards down on the table and excuse myself with as much grace and swagger as I have within me.
I will walk away from this gamble. I will put down this burden. I will release these hopes and dreams. Because they say that when one door closes, another one opens. Well, this door has closed and here I am ready and waiting for the next door to appear so that I can step through to something new and great. Reveal thyself door – I’m ready.