After two live births, three second trimester losses, and a miscarriage, I decided to have my tubes tied at the age of 36.
With no real explanation for the deaths of so many children, with the diagnosis of PTSD, and with the distinct feeling that I was missing out on too much with my two boys on earth, I accepted the doctor’s advice to undergo the procedure a week before Thanksgiving.
It was my last loss.
But there was no sense of relief. No sense of peace. It was just another death; the death of a dream life I would never experience on this side of the universe.
The death of plans and hopes and desires that would never be realized.
The death of who I used to be.
The death of a woman who still always kept that slice of hope in her back pocket that maybe – somehow – she could bring another baby into the world someday.
I wrestled with a myriad of emotions, grief being chief among them but also guilt. Some women were not able to have one child. Some were not able to have children.
Here I had two healthy, perfect boys and it was still such an excruciating decision – God, I must be the most selfish human being on the planet.
Despair, restlessness, and anger; oh, the anger. Creeping restlessly out of every crack and pore in my existence until it just became its own limb, stitched awkwardly into the healthy folds of my life.
There are other options beyond bearing my own biological children, of course. And I’m at a point now where I’m open to and very excited about them.
In defense of my reaction to losing the possibility of a natural, full-term birth, however, I must convey the emotional trauma that is being the mother of recurrent, unexplained losses.
It is fear. Endless fear.
When I was pregnant with my children after that first catastrophic loss at 27 weeks, I was terrified to move, to breathe.
I’d watch other pregnant women pick up their toddlers or a bag of groceries, and my heart would drop. Don’t they know how dangerous that is?!
But then, it’s not, when it’s not. I experienced four pregnancies this way. One of them survived to term and is alive today.
It is rage. Endless rage.
Rage at the injustice, at the ‘why me’, at the complete lack of control to do anything about it.
Rage at doctors. They did what they could.
Rage at society. They don’t understand.
Rage at my inner circle. They just don’t know what to say.
Rage at myself.
You are broken.
It is guilt. Endless guilt.
Why couldn’t I do it? What was so wrong with me, so different, from everyone else? If only I hadn’t eaten that, touched that, picked that up, taken different vitamins, drank more water, prayed harder, wanted it more… If only.
And if only.
And if only.
It is sadness. Endless sadness.
I just really wanted my babies to come home. I just loved them. I just wanted to mother them and watch them grow. If I cut back all the words and all the books and all the experts and all the self-help, that is what is left.
I just wanted them. But they died.
And I’m sad.
The last loss ended something in me but it also created something new. It ended the hopes and the maybes but it created a scar on my soul that can’t really be articulated. If you know, you know.
It ended the monthly purchasing of home pregnancy tests and the casual perusal of nursery bedding on Pinterest, but it created an ache so deep and so wide that there are times I swear I can physically feel it swallowing me whole.
The last loss brought closure for my anxieties and my wishing and my (possibly irrational) optimism, but it’s only the beginning of a new strain of grief, one which I will adapt to and learn to weave into my flesh and bones like all the grief before it.
But it’s a strain so powerful that it almost dwarfs all pain before it, and makes all the grief until now feel more like just practice for the big game.
Maybe in time I will feel at peace. I hope I will.
Today, I close my eyes, I let myself feel it all, I smile, I cry, I write it all down.
And I hang on.