Sifting through my jewelry box for a pair of earrings the other day, I noticed a piece of cardstock sticking out from the disorganized pile of necklaces and earrings that got tangled in transport when we moved and that I’m still sorting out. I managed to separate the cardstock, which had a necklace attached to it. Ah, yes. I remembered this necklace well.
Arthur and I had decided to plan a trip that fell after our IVF cycle last year. We figured that if the cycle worked, we could celebrate being pregnant, and if it didn’t, we’d have something fun planned to help with the aftermath. The weekend that worked also happened to coincide with my 31st birthday. On the way home from our trip, we had made plans to stop in the city on the way home to eat supper and Arthur offered to take me to a little fair-trade shop carrying items by women artisans from around the world there that I always enjoyed.
I was in a wonderful, surprisingly relaxed mood. I had an ultrasound scheduled the next day to check the progress of my pregnancy, I was feeling great, and since it was my birthday, I even had a little bit of gift money I could spend. I looked over scarves, earrings, and purses. What caught my eye, however, was a blue, white, and orange pendant made from china with a silver chain on an upper shelf. I read the card that explained a bit about the necklace and the artist, smiled, and knew I had found the piece I wanted.
About a week and a half later, everything went south, and the necklace went into my jewelry box, forgotten.
It’s not a secret that I’ve been struggling to deal with everything that happened over the last eight months, and really, the past three years. It’s why I’ve been slow or absent with blogging or responding to people lately. That I’ve so keenly felt the dissonance and sadness has been a surprise to me. While I certainly said all the right things – that it would probably take awhile to resolve the infertility even after having a child, that I was just grateful to have my daughter at all, and so on and so forth – it’s shocked me how much I have left to sort through emotionally. I think, deep down, despite all my protestations to the contrary, I did expect having a living child to heal most of the wounds caused by infertility and loss.
Instead, I still struggle with pregnancy announcements. Ultrasound photos that I’m not prepared for have a tendency to send me into intense and unpleasant flashbacks of all those ultrasounds I had with E, concerned voices noting the size of my SCH or the lack of amniotic fluid. Watching women having uncomplicated pregnancies go about the wonderful business of decorating their nurseries, shopping for maternity clothes and joining in the chatter about symptoms have me sighing wistfully and feeling a distinct pang of jealousy.
Since I finally left the hospital with my daughter, I tried mightily to cultivate an outwardly positive attitude about all things pregnancy and childbearing, to smile and be genuinely okay. When that failed, I played more vicious rounds of the pain olympics than I’d care to admit, applied as much guilt as possible to cajole myself out of the grief, and told myself it was time to suck it up. Unsurprisingly, all this achieved was a deeper hole. That’s what led me to search for earrings: another effort to lift the sadness by going through the motions of normalcy.
The necklace is from Japan, made from a shard of pottery pulled out of the wreckage from the 2011 tsunami. The card reads “Beauty from Brokenness” and states “As each colorful shard is transformed into a beautiful treasure, so too are lives being filled with renewed dignity, beauty and hope for their future”.
My world wasn’t rocked by anything as traumatic as that tsunami, but there’s no denying the pain. I stared at the pendant for awhile, recognizing that as beautiful as it is, the piece of pottery it once belonged to is still shattered. Nothing will put that back together.
In a culture that expects grief to be over within weeks of a trauma, that frowns on the expression of that grief, that disenfranchises the grief of miscarriage and infertility, that promises wholeness with enough work, I’m realizing that this simply isn’t the case for me. Making my peace and coming to acceptance is going to be the work of years. Nothing will put my life back together the way it once existed.
There are so many things I’m grieving right now. Some are losses that will reverberate over a long time, such as my miscarriages. Some are more petty, such as my the maternity photo shoot I had looked forward to throughout most of infertility and had to cancel. I’m beginning to understand that in the end, I can’t cajole myself out of that grief. I can’t refuse to feel it. I can’t ignore it or pretend I wasn’t changed by it. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t reason or guilt or force it to go away.
In the end, I hold out the hope that perhaps, like the pottery in my necklace, there will be something new created that is beautiful in its own right. To do that, however, means kneeling in the mud, carefully picking out the shards. It means not trying to fit the pieces back into place, disguising the cracks, and pretending it is whole and unaltered. It means acknowledging the brokenness.
Want to read more Microblog Mondays posts? Head over to Stirrup Queens. Thanks to Mel for hosting and originating.