Wisdom//

The Pain of Hope

"I’ve come to believe that hope (and strength) come from not knowing exactly to do, or what to expect, and choosing to move forward anyway."

Gita Kulinitch Studio / Shutterstock
Gita Kulinitch Studio / Shutterstock

When someone you love, and in my case, someone you built your life around dies, it’s incredibly hard, but it’s also incredibly final. In the case of a pregnancy loss, the loss of that pregnancy and the hope you had for the future child you briefly carried, is final, but how do you know when you’re at the end of your journey to parenthood? When do you become the person other people think is crazy for still trying? How do you know when it’s time to say, “This just isn’t meant to be for us?” The lack of finality disturbs me.

I feel lost. I’ve been lost before, so I know I will find a way through this, but our pregnancy loss has made me feel disoriented and unstable in a way that the loss of my mother didn’t.

On August 19 after nearly three years spent in different stages of trying, we learned our embryo, gender unknown but affectionately referred to as Karl, did not make it. In the words of our doctor, “There is evidence that there was a pregnancy at some point, but not anymore.” I was so confident that I was indeed pregnant, that I left my crying husband at home and went to Walgreens to get my own pregnancy test. I figured they probably just confused my results with some other woman (for whom I had a great deal of sympathy). Within 48 hours of being told I was no longer pregnant; I would take four additional tests just to be sure. I was so confident in a combination of God, science, and my own abilities that there was just no way I wasn’t pregnant — except that I wasn’t.

Acceptance eventually came in the form of horrifying physical pain. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sick in my life. I laid down on our bathroom floor as all the time, energy, prayers, and money we poured into this process literally poured out of me. The pain was so severe that I didn’t even have the energy to grieve.

Today, four months later, I’m mostly confused. I’m confused by my inability to get what I want. I’m confused by the fact that the science didn’t work. I’m confused by the fact that after all I’ve been through, I still want this. 

Ask anyone in my life and I’m pretty sure they will tell you that I did everything I could to create a “successful outcome.” I did all the research, found the fanciest doctors, fought with the insurance companies, drove insane distances to procure medications with horrible side effects, and even let my acupuncturist electrocute my uterus (I am not kidding, and I have the pictures to prove it). I did all the things, and still didn’t get what I wanted, and I am struggling to make sense of that. 

After strategically organizing my life around this one thing for three years, I am unmoored. I grasp for distractions to replace the sense of purpose this process previously provided.  And as the weeks have passed and the reality of this most recent loss has begun to sink in, I’ve decided that, unfortunately, this is just life. Life is often painful and cruel and confusing and uncertain and horribly unfair, but I’ve also come to realize there is still beauty in trying, and in struggling. Sometimes we just don’t get what we want or what we (or even others) think we deserve. No one is going to give me a medal for the medical appointments, for the shots, for the anxiety and depression that came with all of these medications, or for the physical and mental anguish that I am managing today, and yet I still feel like it was worthwhile to try.

In trying, especially when you know that you are likely to fail, you learn what it really means to have hope. When you struggle, you find out what vulnerability looks like, and you grow in ways you didn’t know you needed to. I certainly have. I’ve learned that I cannot control everything by simply doing the right things, and I’m beginning to separate effort from outcome. Most importantly, I am *starting* to believe that you don’t always need to know your way out, or what’s next, in order to have hope. Hope is a choice. I did not get what I so desperately wanted, and I do not know what’s next for us, but I’ve come to believe that hope (and strength) come from not knowing exactly to do, or what to expect, and choosing to move forward anyway.

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