Putting My Head Under Water
I will no longer keep my head above water.
"What is going on here," you might wonder, "does this mean Isabell is loosing it - she can't keep up with her life anymore?"
Not at all....
I have decided to wo-man up and put my head under water: finally learning how to master the freestyle/front crawl stroke. It turns out that swimming freestyle is really hard to do while keeping your head above water. If you swim, try it - it's miserable.
"Wait a minute," you might wonder. "Are you telling me you can't swim?"
Actually, I can swim, but only in the past four or so years have I been able to muster up the courage to experiment with letting water rise above my chin line while in the pool, and it wasn't easy.
You see, when others dreamed of snorkeling and the peaceful environs of the underwater world, imagining myself under water would make my heart rate go up.
Know the feeling of dread deep in your stomach weeks before an event? That feeling that you just can’t shake and that seems to get stronger the closer you get to the event?
Well, that’s exactly how I have felt these past weeks, in anticipation of a date that everybody around me seems to be super excited about: Mother’s Day.
Who doesn't like Mother’s day?
Moms are awesome – and I personally think that my mom is just beyond fabulous. I also love to honor my mother-in-law who has given me the gift of my absolutely amazing husband David. Plus, I know so many women whom I dearly love and admire who are mothers – and this is a day to celebrate them.
So what makes me dread this day?
It’s simple, and I am sure millions of women who experienced what I did can relate.
You see, when you're in your 40s and trying to be a mom, things don't always go so smoothly.
I actually have fond memories of mother’s day growing up in Germany. One year, when I was a little kid of maybe seven or eight years, I remember making breakfast for my mom, with my dad’s help, arranging the table and putting some fresh cut flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. I sneaked into my parent’s bedroom to wake my mom up with a kiss and a self-made card, and I remember her beaming smile as she embraced me in the special hug that we can only get from our parents.
Writing this, I can feel the tears well up.
In December 2014, David and I started consulting with a fertility clinic about growing our family. We had been married for three years, two of them separated while I was living in Germany, and getting pregnant just wasn’t happening for us. I was 39 at the time and full of hope that this process will work for us.
Two and a half years later, here I am, mother's day looming upon me - and no child in my arms.
Mother’s Day 2015, the first after our initial consult in December 2014, was filled with yearning for a child, but also with hope. I needed surgery in March of 2015 before we could even start the process of fertility treatments. Everything went well, thanks to a great surgeon, and we were getting ready to start our first IUI (intrauterine insemination – think sophisticated turkey baster and loads of crazy-making hormones).
Three IUIs later, I finally got pregnant in December of 2015.
We were elated – alas, at our 10-week check-up, our baby’s heartbeat was gone. Two weeks later, I was in the hospital for a scheduled D&C. The miscarriage was caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
Mother’s Day 2016 was hard. We went to a baseball game that day, and seeing all these families with little babies was painful – and then there was the hope that this might soon be me.
Fast forward: two unsuccessful IVF egg retrievals – both times, the one embryo tested positive for chromosomal abnormalities.
Finally, in March 2017, the good news: our two embryos of the third IVF egg retrieval tested negative for any abnormalities.
Transfer was scheduled for mid-April.
I started hoping for a mother’s day filled with the promise of a new life growing inside of me.
Two weeks after transfer, when the phone call came in the afternoon of my early-morning pregnancy test, my hopes shattered again. HCG values were lower than expected. Four days later, they were even lower.
Another miscarriage - and more broken dreams.
So what will I do this mother's day?
Honestly, I don’t know. I remain amazed how much my heart can stretch to accommodate the hopes and dreams as well as the disappointments, sadness, and anger.
So if you are a mom, go ahead – revel in the attention that you so very well deserve. Mother’s Day is a special day that should be cherished and celebrated by those who can.
As for me, I will need that day to feel my grief for the children I lost, who will never come up to my bedside and wake me up with flowers or a self-made card. And I need to face the possibility that I might not be privileged to experience that in my lifetime.
So for me, Mother’s Day offers a sobering opportunity to practice gratitude in the face of deep sorrow and unimaginable loss – and brunch, lunch, or dinner with flowers and beautiful greeting cards and toasts to the amazing jobs that moms do every single day doesn’t really fit into that.
However, when I will be calling my mom this Sunday, who lives an ocean away, I will celebrate her, as I still, 42 years later, need her to be a pillar of strength and comfort for me. And that is what being a mom is about - and I can toast to that.
In the true fashion of a renaissance woman (or frau), lots of things interest me, and I am writing about them here.