Monday, October 29, 2007

lowered expectations

I don't consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.

-- Leonard Cohen

In an uncharacteristic burst of activity, the clinic has finished reviewing all the surrogate's medical records. Except for one minor issue that threatens to tank the whole enterprise, everything looks perfectly fine and the transfer is tentatively scheduled for the end of January. I'm not particularly encouraged.

I know that even if there's a positive pregnancy test (like last time), and fantasticly high, doubling betas (like last time), and a very strong heartbeat (like last time), and a "perfect" 12-week ultrasound (like last time), there's still an excellent chance that we won't end up with even one live baby (like last time). Given the number of things that can and do go wrong, I wonder if I'm masochistically setting myself up for another round of pain.

And, on a somewhat different, yet equally, dreary topic: how am I ever going to make things right with my family? I can't bear the thought of seeing either my stepbrother's little girl, who was born within a week or so of when, in a more just world, the twins would have been born, or my other stepbrother's baby (I don't even know if it's a boy or a girl) who was born this summer. I can't really ask my family to exclude my stepbrothers from family gatherings or to celebrate each occasion twice, which leaves me feeling sorry for myself and very alone.

For example, my niece Mattea had her second birthday party this weekend and, for obvious reasons, I wasn't invited to the family celebration. I did go to the subsequent kids' party, which was consisted of six very well-behaved two and three-year olds eating a Jack-O-Lantern cake and playing pin-the-hat-on-the-witch, but, somehow, it wasn't quite the same.

And I'm trying not to even think about how depressing Thanksgiving (which has always been a big family holiday) is going to be. What would you do in a situation like this? What have you done to heal these kind of rifts?

edited to add: I probably wasn't very clear. If I asked to be invited, I'm sure that my family would be happy to have me present at various occasions. The problem is that I don't want to see my stepbrothers and I don't want to see their children. Even just considering seeing them causes me an astounding amount of pain. Right now, I can't imagine getting to the point where I could tolerate hearing anyone talk about my stepbrothers' children, let alone actually being in the same room as them.


Suz said...

My sister got pregnant just as we learned that IVF was the only option for us. She had her baby right after we failed our first try. This will not help much, but I couldn't heal the family rift until I had the boys and could start healing myself. Until that happened, it just needed to be. Painful, that.

vixanne wigg said...

Juat going to be totally honest here. I couldn't until I had Baby Wigg. I don't think that's very big of me, and I don't think it's very encouraging. But it's the truth.

The winter (and fall and spring and summer) of my discontent, I skipped Thanksgiving.

Eva said...

I think that just takes time. And, you know, decency on their end.

Yes, trying does open up the possibility of loss, but it also opens up the possibility of having what you really want.

Wabi said...

Niobe, apologies, but I can't quite remember: Did you self exclude yourself from family events after the twins died?

If that's the case, getting re-invited seems pretty easy. Not FUN, but relatively easy. You tell your stepbrothers you are sorry for any hurt your immense grief inadvertently caused them in the past year. Say you miss them. Say you want to meet their children now.

If possible, I would try to arrange a quick first meeting outside of the realm of an actual holiday, because it is going to be awkward and weird when you all lay eyes on each other after everything that went down. Best to do it when 30 other relatives aren't gathered around the table filming you on their cell phones.

I should add that this is the way I'd do it if the stepbrothers in question were relatively normal, nice guys. If they have not-so-great personality issues, then that makes it a whole lot more complicated!

Amelie said...

Is there anyone with understanding for your grief at these family gatherings, or do they all think you should be "over it" long ago? In the latter case, I'd strongly consider not going -- it might make you feel worse than being alone at home, but that is something you have to decide. Is there a chance of spending Thanksgiving with L's family?
If there is understanding, especially by your stepbrothers, could they help in mentioning that it is ok that you're not overwhelmed with joy and want to hold their babies (or whatever it is you'd rather not do) -- in case someone says you should, complains that you're not happy for them etc.?

DD said...

No matter why the decision to not attend in the past, I consider it rather crass not to invite you even if they know you may not attend. This is your family afterall.

However, I'm not one to offer much advice. Each of Mr. DD's niece's babies have been born on or around due dates for myself and I am very emotionally distant from them now compared to what I was. Maybe if they would rach back out, I would try again, but they haven't and that hurts nearly as much as what caused the rift in the first place.

Julia said...

I named my blog partly in anticipation of having to risk things again, to remind myself that I must. Of course I had no idea how many new and fun challenges would come up along the way.
I am sure that it would help if your family was kinder and gentler than they have the history of being. It is hard for me to imagine anyone not understanding why it is hard for you to see the "shadow" baby. This Thanksgiving is going to be tough. Here's hoping next one is better.

niobe said...

Wabi: I'm sure I could arrange to have myself invited. The problem is that I really *don't* want to see my stepbrothers and I really, really *don't* want to see their children.

Amelie: Unfortunately, L doesn't really have a family Thanksgiving that we could go to. His mother is dead and he's not at all close to his father.

niobe said...

Julia: It really wouldn't matter how supportive my family was. It wouldn't change the cold hard facts. And, at least right now, I can't imagine ever feeling okay about seeing my stepbrothers' children or, for that matter, my stepbrothers.

Becky said...

You cannot fault yourself for your feelings.

thirtysomething said...

You are right to feel the way you feel, I think. Normal human emotions and you musn't blame yourself. I am thinking of you during this emotional time of holidays and family gatherings. I can't imagine how hard it must be.

Wabi said...

Ok, I'm posting AGAIN after reading the other comments so far, which were not there when I started typing my response! I am obviously not a fast typer ...

I stand by what I wrote as a good way to repair the family rift on the other side of it. As for your side? That's tougher. I think a new baby certainly lights up your life, but it doesn't take away one bit of mess made when the last ones left. And I think you can find a way to get back with your family in a way that helps you, even without having a new baby. (Standard caveat here: family in question has to be a nice one, not a destructive, disfunctional circus of idiots.)

I went through this same thing with my family. MY SIL had my niece Scamp all of six days after I ended my pregnancy due to the diagnosis of a fatal genetic disorder and a placenta problem. So I know the rage that comes with contemplating the injustice and inequality of why others get what we don't. I know about avoiding seeing the baby, and others taking offense at that. I also know how ridiculous their anger seems, in light of your own loss.

But when I finally got up my courage and went to see my new niece, it was not what I expected at all. I didn't grow hysterical for my own loss, or want to throw the baby down the stairs in murderous, vengeful rage. I found it was easy to hold a grudge against a baby I'd never seen before, but difficult to do it with one I knew. By spending time with her in spite of my grief, my niece became herself, not a symbol of my lost child anymore. And that helped me in the long run much, much more than avoiding my SIL and her family had helped me.

Obviously everyone is different. But I just wanted to give an example of how you could possibly feel less disconnected with your family now rather than later, no matter what happens with the surrogate in the future.

Aurelia said...

Well, at first I was avoiding every child who might remind me, and then I realized that a neighbour's baby would be born soon and I would end up accidentally seeing them mom & baby all the time. And the first time would be the worst.

So I marched up to her door, present in hand, and said I was here to visit. And I held her baby and cried hysterically. It was awful.

But the next time, it wasn't bad. And while I'll never be close to the kid, it's almost painless now.

Have you thought about trying to do this with one step-brother at a time, and kid, just alone, not in front of loads of family? Just because someday you might run into them somewhere, or you might want to be included in a big family holiday.

And getting it over with is not the most fun way to do it, but it might help you deal with the long term family issues.

Zee said...

I guess I'm not the right person to give advice on this, because my way of dealing is to avoid, avoid, avoid. I've cut several friends completely out of my life, but fortunately, no one in my immediate family has produced a child in many years now. And VB's family (including his hyper-fertile sister) lives 4000 miles away, so there's very little opportunity to see them.

So what I'd say is: avoid until you're ready to stop avoiding. It really comes down to doing what you need to do to protect yourself.

And good news about the surrogate process moving along. Even if you're not prepared to be optimistic about it at this point, it sounds like things are going in a good direction.

Tash said...

Hoo boy, am dealing with this EXACT question here. So I'm just reading along in the comments section, wondering how I can avoid the upcoming Holidays without seeing a baby that lives about 5 mi. away (so far I've done exceptionally well!). I guess my attitude at present is: if you're not ready, you're not ready. Email and phone are lovely because you don't have to SEE anyone, don't have to leave the confines of your home/cave, no one can see you crumble or flip them off. If you're ready to start up, I suggest dipping toes in the water via some other form of communication rather than just showing up.

In the meantime, I've figured out a way to get out of family/baby thanksgiving (there always seems to be someone out there who's willing to open up this holiday to friends), but Christmas is a real conundrum. I was hoping to travel ON THE DAY so as to avoid everything including my own tree/house, but now Mr. ABF's job may torpedo that option. Am seriously thinking of going to Iowa, sleeping in someone's storefront HQs, and working on a campaign for the 1/3 caucus. Anyone else?

Cate said...

I say if you don't feel ready then don't go. Because not only would you feel awkward and sad but your family will feel that way too. People can pick up on these things pretty easily.

Amelie said...

I'm sorry that this is not an alternative, Niobe.
Your additions made me think that, while your stepbrothers have probably done something to earn your anger, the children haven't. They were just born at the wrong time for you, when it hurt most. This is just an observation, I don't know if there is anything to do about it.

niobe said...

Amelie: My stepbrothers and their wives have done absolutely nothing wrong either.

In fact, one of them was the most supportive person in my entire family. He and his wife sent me a note when the first twin died and sent me another very nice note when the other twin died. They even telephoned me shortly after I got home from the hospital, though I didn't take the call because I couldn't deal with it.

I've sent them a couple of presents for their little girl and, at my request, they haven't sent thank-you notes, because even that level of interaction hurts too much.

This is about my feelings -- it's completely unrelated to anything they've done.

Ruby said...

I went through my pregnancy (due 4 days apart) with someone who delivered a full term, healthy bouncing baby boy. I knew I shouldn't have but I couldn't even look at her once I lost my daughter. I tried to be nice (she would try to bring her baby around me) but couldn't bring myself to have anything to do with either of them.

This didn't change until well after I delivered my live Little One. I really tried but you can't change what you feel.

Beruriah said...

What to advise? I've never had a rift with a family member like you've described. The asses I don't want to see deserve not to be seen but I won't be able to avoid it much longer and thankfully they're too old to have any young children anyway.

My thought would be to listen to Aurelia's opinion. But I remember you went to a party over the summer that overwhelmed you, and made the tensions worse. If you really can't do it, you really can't. Still, I'm leaning towards saying you have to face them eventually, and will you really be more prepared then than now? Maybe you need to face them, and to make that a part of facing your grief.

Amelie said...

I see. I'm so sorry, Niobe. I hope time will help you to heal, bit by bit. And of course I hope that you will have a healthy, living baby soon.

ms. G said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with needing more time for this. Yes, eventually, you will probably have to face it, but why now, if you feel this much anxiety over it?

For the stepbrother/wife who were supportive, I would probably be honest. If you can get those 2 to go alone with it, for the rest of the family I might be tempted to make up fantastic lies about how you and L already made these other plans on those particular dates, including Thanksgiving. Especially for you folks, who, for your previous descriptions would just make you feel worse for not going if they knew the truth. Now, before anyone says, yeah, but how to truly get out of family things, especially Thanksgiving with just "other plans" excuses, I say to them, you are adults, you can spend "family time" any damn way you please, and also, it can be good to do things differently than "tradition" just for fun. Family doesn't understand that? Too bad.

ms. G said...

Okay, I made 400 typing errors in that comment. sorry, hope you knew what I meant.

meg said...

I'm not the best person to comment on this one, as you know how much I avoid the family stuff.

My family lives 3,000 miles away, but I have avoided them as much as possible. My sister had her little boy 6 weeks after the twins died. I have never seen him and it hurts unbelievably to hear about him, and my other nieces and nephews.

I avoid all holidays. I find them hard to deal with (I wasn't really into them to begin with) and I am a firm believer that I don't want to subject people to my misery. And as I can't guarantee that I won't get upset at some point in the visit, then it's easier for me to just stay away.

But, this is me. And I'm not the best example of how to deal with this and also how to make things right with the family. I hope you can figure out a way to do so though.

Magpie said...

On the other note...I hope everything works out with this surrogate.

Christine said...

i don't know what i would do. i want to say it will all be ok, that the sadness will dissipate. but i can't. instead i offer my (virtual) shoulder to lean on.

take care.

Kami said...

My sister conceived her second son about 4 months after we lost ours. She gave birth 2 years ago and we have yet to have a successful pregnancy. I didn't see her son until he was over 6 months old. Brad and I learned to enjoy our holidays by ourselves. Child free friends invited us, but that didn't seem right either.

Now that my nephew is two and no longer a baby, he is easier to be around, but I will still excuse myself from family get togethers (or any other occasion) if it gets too hard. I still don't go to their birthday parties. Partly because they are both right around the time our son was born, but their friends bring siblings and there is just way too much "mommy talk" going around.

I think you should do what you need to do to protect yourself and make the best of it. I have found holidays with just Brad and me can be very enjoyable. I hope you find a solution that works for you.

slouching mom said...

do you see friends with babies? in other words, is this about your stepbrothers being part of your family, or is it about not wanting to see people with babies more generally?

(if they love you, really love you, then i would hope that they understand.)

frumiousb said...

I've gotten to the point where I can deal with pregnant people, but not babies. I don't know when I'll be able to deal with babies. I spent the wedding of a friend in tears because I happened to get seated next to a woman with a baby who was the age that Sophie could have been.

I'm not beating myself up about it, although I do not have the problem of having to deal with it in my immediate family. I'm still standing, and I consider that amazing enough. Asking me to deal with babies is just too much.

p.s. I think that your mother is obnoxious for not understanding that you need to have the choice. My mother would have done the same thing, since she was obsessed with being the perfect hostess for family. Still obnoxious.

Rebecca said...

Compassion from them, I think. I dunno.

You're welcome to come to sunny Britain for Thanksgiving and forget the whole thing ;)

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