Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Extensions aweigh

A'weighing on my heart.

I'm supposed to be doing my Honours project this year. But between the death of my beloved Grampies and the heartbreak and hormonal flux of infertility and treatments for same I have not been doing much.

All my data is collected and I have a half a lit review but on the 29th of July I saw that I could still withdraw from the project (until the 3rd of August) without a fail on my record and I brightened. My supervisor didn't think that was a good idea though, she thought it would be better if I applied for an extension and so I let the 3rd go by without withdrawing and today I had a meeting with my supervisor (who is one of the most beautiful people I know) and the honours coordinator (also a beautiful person). And they were so kind to me and understanding and supportive while I was nervous and anxiety-sick and crying. My supervisor knows everything that's happened so far and the meeting was to present my case to the coordinator. So I spent the morning relating the awfulness that this year has been. And I felt like complete crap doing so and have spent the rest of the day fighting back tears and feeling generally shite. I've spent as much time as possible in bed since last Friday. Sleeping and hiding and hurting.

Over the past 8 years lots of shit has gone down in my life and through it all I've managed to stay on track with my studies. I have had a baby, a crazy relationship, moved house 5 times, disentangled from my crazy ex and done the consent orders thing with him, met my DH, gotten married and blended our families and survived it all. Survived while getting an A average in a Behavioural Neuroscience degree and making it into psychology honours.

But this year, with the grief and the conception problems, I have not managed. And for me that feels dreadful. I thought I would be ok, I thought I could manage it all. But I haven't and I'm not and I don't even want to -> motivation = 0. I am a slug slowly oozing through the mess of life with as little effort as possible and leaving a big slimy trail of tears and snot behind me. So I have been granted an extension and I now need to document the mess and try to plan out a timetable of milestones to show that I can actually finish the project. Blerck. I don't even want to do that.

And I am feeling weird about discussing my pain.

There are distinctly different types of trying to conceive grief and that they ought not be confused or thought to be at all comparative. I frequent an assisted conception area on the internet and there's a 'comparing griefs' vibe there sometimes. I want to write down my thoughts on this - my thoughts as a person who has had a child but is facing the prospect of not having a child with my husband (in no particular order).

1. BFN-grief ... All of us get this grief, it's the generic one-size-fits-all sadness that strikes us down with every sad peestick and every drop of blood that ought not be. This is a particularly sucky painfully acute grief that strikes sharply and then dissipates as the hope of the next cycle takes hold. Because we all get hopeful in our heart-of-hearts. Even the cynics.

2. I-may-not-ever-have-a-child-grief ... This grief belongs only to those who have never had a child and are scared about it never happening. It's huge and terrible and encompasses more than feelings about children, it swallows up feelings about living and leaving things behind and passing things on and traditions broken. It's a chronic, relentless grief and is only assuaged by parenthood.

3. I-may-not-have-a-child-with-this man/woman ... This is a unique grief for those of us who have had a child with one partner but are having problems TTCing with a current partner. This is a totally different pain than the other two. And it deserves a special mention within the bounds of secondary infertility.

4. Dead-baby-grief ... the pain of due-dates that ought to be but weren't, of dirth dates, of conception dates, of discovered-misses. Never assuaged, hole-in-the heart grief.

5. Our-family-isn't-finished grief ... this is the grief you get when you've had a child or children but it feels like someone is missing from your family. Someone who is definitely supposed to be there. This grief is tangible; it's the echo that the child-to-come leaves in your house following the others around. It's the stored baby clothes and cot, it's the maternity-wear all boxed up but stored for next time. This grief has it's own place and it is painful, just like the rest. And the children one does have don't make up for this grief - just like when your Dad dies, still having your Mum doesn't make the losing-Dad-pain any better.

These griefs are not the same and cannot be compared. They are completely different and ALL are grief. They should not be mistaken for each other and none of them ought to be dismissed. I see too much dismissing and too much competition. And that makes me sad.

Number 3 and number 5 are my griefs now. I have a child but not with the Big Guy. The child I have is fathered by someone I do not respect and do not really like very much. I fell pregnant because I was confused about where I was in my irregular cycle and I kept the Little Guy on board because abortion is not for me. I love the Little Guy completely and would be totally broken-hearted, torn at the seams without him. But now I find myself ensconced in a beautiful relationship with the man of my dreams. Our marriage is strong and healthy, I adore and respect this man and I deeply wish to have his baby. I want so much to have a child and stay with it's father. I want to experience a child with a man who actively wants one with me and who will be an active father. I want our child. And our child hasn't come yet and may not come at all, which kills me.


  1. Ms. Kafoops...could not have been better said...and could not have been said with any more sensitivity.

    It is not the prospect of being childless, but the prospect of being childless with this man, that is affecting you so.

    What I have come to realize is that the PhD is more in our hands than having the baby. So focus on the more realizable dream for the time being.

    Good Luck. I am still left with the data collection....

  2. I couldn't read and not comment - very eloquently written and I am sorry that you are in so much pain and grief. I hope that you find your motivation for your PhD - you have done so much already. and I hope that it is not long before you get that long awaited bub.

  3. You write so beautifully. I am so sorry for all of your losses, it sucks to have any, but to have so many in such a short time, I am amazed how functional you seem. I cannot imagine trying to forge ahead with the degree, but I also cannot imagine stopping if you are close to the end and have such supportive mentors.

    As for grief, oh yeah, I call it nested grief sometimes, with losses inside losses, lost opportunities, identity, futures....

    Wishing you healing and gentleness, and for your dreams to come true.


  4. We are living parallel lives....I was finishing my PhD a few years ago and going through a nasty divorce, which left me financially strapped and stressed to the limit. No kids in the mix at that time. Somehow I eeked through and then met my husband, who is the greatest man on earth (for me) and we wanted to have kids right away...and can't. Severe MFI. Super great. I have since rearranged my career path and priorities to do whatever it takes to get pregnant. I wonder every day if that's the right thing to do, and it causes so much angst, but it seems right.

    Thanks for your breakdown of infertile's hard enough that fertile friends and family (and perfect strangers) can't relate, but even amongst infertile folks there is some disconnect. It's hard not to "compare" yourself or your story to others', and really hard when others achieve success when they started from the same point. I guess, nobody said it would be easy.

    I hope this helps a little: I have known a handful of people who took time off from their graduate studies and later returned to successfully complete them. Their reasons ranged from complete mental breakdown (1 year absence) to political campaigning (4 months off). It can be done! There's no shame in taking back time you need for yourself and your family, when you know you just don't have enough to give to your studies right now.

  5. Yo. I think you outline various forms of grief beautifully. Ding ding ding! You're right - I hadn't thought of it this way, that there are different varietals of grief like that - which can be felt simultaneously or intermittently (like different wines from Napa Valley, but not nearly as fun). That other commenter's "nested grief" concept I think is a also a nice visual, and makes me think of those Russian dolls inside of other Russian dolls.

    Ahhh, complicated. I think regarding your honors project, I wish I had an eloquent tidbit to say about that. My mother would say: "take as much time as you need, honey, and your motivation to finish will come when it's supposed to." Maybe there's a bit of truth in that, who knows.


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