You would have been turning sweet sixteen right about now.
Although you may have been a boy, so I wouldn’t be calling you sweet (handsome perhaps, whispered, lest anyone hear).
In my dreams I imagined calling you strong, resilient, compassionate, confident – regardless of your gender. In my dreams I imagined calling you my child.
I will never know.
You, the very thought of you, makes this woman who would have been your mother feel so old. So much has happened since.
You were conceived in a test tube on our first IVF cycle – after those failed insemination cycles and all that ‘trying’ (as if you’re not quite sure it’s the sex thing that should do the trick) – with all the hormones, blood tests and injections – it was serious business.
How lucky we thought we were to have ‘success’ the first time around.
Unlike the second, third, fourth, fifth…..ninth times that followed.
I know exactly when you were conceived, a couple of days shy of my 30th birthday. I celebrated sober and nervously.
I went in for the egg ‘pick-up’ (nothing sexy about it – I always called it the ‘eggstraction’). Hubby went separately into that little room at the clinic for his solo effort.
You started life as one of ten eggs – three were ‘immature’ and another two didn’t show much interest in being fertilized.
You (when you were still an egg), were injected with your would-be-Dad’s sperm that had to be spun around in some fancy machine to sort out the ‘good ones’ from the ‘baddies’.
We waited. Five eggs fertilized. But only three seemed to want to grow.
And then two days later, on the eve of my birthday, the scientist showed us a photo of you – a three-day old embryo, along with the other two embryos that would accompany you into my uterus (note: much prefer womb).
Or so I thought. You ended up in the wrong place. The other two??
The doctor reassured us he put you safely where you were supposed to go. He was chatty, jovial, as I lay mute and motionless on a theatre bed, legs in stirrups, dressed in that highly-attractive hospital garb, all dignity lost while being probed with a piece of tube resembling spaghetti.
The embryo transfer was over. And so we waited.
We waited, that cruel, cruel wait of approximately 336 hours. In those last 1640 minutes I went to the toilet a staggering 22 times with nerves and nausea. But I didn’t get an answer.
The first test was inconclusive. Another excruciating wait. 2895 minutes, 173,700 seconds give or take.
The sad part is I can’t really recall how great it felt – there’s been too much time, too much heartache since. Ironic that what I remember most is relief.
I know I ignored the sharp pain on my right side a few days after our wonderful news, and prepared for the party we’d planned for my 30th birthday.
I celebrated like I’ve never celebrated, sober on lemonade and like there was a wonderful tomorrow. Only there wasn’t.
The scan was supposed to be this most magical of moments when I saw you up on the screen for the first time – just a dot, or double dots. We didn’t really consider the prospect of triplets.
But there was nothing on that screen – no sign of you – where were you?
She didn’t say anything – she searched the silence for the right words to say in the wrong situation and couldn’t find any. So she said nothing.
When she finally delivered the news with a ‘Sorry’, I felt myself curl up in a sad little sac as if taking a foetal position might transform me back into the warmth and security of my own mother’s womb (not uterus) rather than face the emptiness of my own.
Where were you?
They stuck me away in this little lunch-cum-storeroom, shutting away the sorrow, out of sight and mind, until the doctor was free to see me. No doubt the consultation room was too busy and the treatment room too sterile for the gush of grief and all the tissues it took to soak it up. We, after hubby rushed to my side, were the failures, safely closeted away from all the hope in the hearts of those sitting, naively, in the waiting room. Only they couldn’t cocoon us from the pain.
It was the worst day of my life.
We waited, 72 more hours, 2160 more minutes or so, until I almost fainted getting to the toilet after a night of pain and tears and no sleep, and decided it was about time I got to the hospital.
The next few hours are a blur, like I was a character in this mawkish melodrama, one of those tragic hospital soapies, in which everything is an emergency, only my ectopic pregnancy was a real emergency, and I was really losing you – not to mention my right tube.
And then I woke up from surgery and you were gone, but I dreamt I heard babies crying in that mixed up time when you are waking up from an anesthetic, only the cries were real because they’d stuck me in the maternity ward. Without a baby. Without you.
It was 13 years later, as I cuddled our Little Yang, stroked his soft, downy head, that I finally realized you aren’t gone, not really. Of course I’ve thought of you often over the years, grieved you, missed you.
But it was only then, that I realized you had been transmuted, somehow, into the life of Little Yang. Loss into gain. Alchemy, magic. I cried, sad, happy tears.
Had you been born, sixteen years ago, we might still have adopted our precious Miss Yin (although unlikely), but there is no way we would have waited out the long and painful process to adopt Little Yang if you had been born our child that long time ago.
And as I cradled our Little Yang on the 13th anniversary of what was the worst day of my life, I couldn’t think of anything worse than not having him. Of not having our Miss Yin.
Not even, not having you.
And so now, as I think of you turning sweet (or handsome) sixteen, I see your smile in our little boy and in our not-so-little-anymore girl.
I experience the joy you would have brought us, in the joy they bring us every (well most) days.
I don’t cry, but I do remember.
Linking up for FYBF, With Some Grace.
(PS – I know I am just one of many, many women who experience pregnancy loss. If you are one, I’m thinking of you. And I apologise that many of you have read parts of my infertility story before, thanks for indulging me in remembering).