The calendar tells me it’s been eleven years since you’ve left this earth. It tells me that you’ve had eleven heavenly birthdays with Jesus. Yet to my heart it feels just like yesterday. Your death it forever shaped me. Your death taught me that not all babies come home. Your death taught me that you were to beautiful for earth and that Heaven needed you more.
You Lucia made me a mom and you will always be my son. Even though my heart wasn’t ready God knew I was strong enough to become the mother of an Angel. My womb became your tomb. And my heart knows that you were not alone when your heart took its last beat. You were in my womb surrounded by love, you were comforted, and when the news broke, a little bit of me died with you. The words “I’m sorry there is no heart beat,” broke me in more ways than I care to describe. I wanted your short life to matter so I donated your body to science. Some good had to come out of your death and if you could help others I was all for it.
To this day we do not know why you died. You were genetically perfect. Your organs were as they should be, it’s just for some reason only known to God your heart stopped. Not having a why is a hard pill to swallow, yet I have faith that one day God will tell me the why.
For now my heart often wonders what would my eleven year old son be like today. Would he love books and video games like his dad. Or would he be full of adventure and talkative like his Mama. Did you get my curls or your dad’s jet black hair. Would you have your dad’s Jewish features or freckles like mine. I often wonder what you’re laugh would sound like. The land of what it is a place to get lost in, but I know I cannot dwell here forever. So on your birthday I let my mind drift and stay a bit. Because Lucia I was always wonder who you would have been.
Some ask me how I can carry on without you and I often say; “the moment I was born my name was written in the book of Heaven. God, he has promised me eternity. And when I die I will finally get to Mother my children. Not for a short time like on earth, but for all of eternity. God’s promise is what keeps me going.”
Happy Birthday Lucia! Love you forever and always my son. Until we meet again. ❤️
I am no stranger to therapy. I am the queen of acting happy when my world is falling apart. For years my coping mechanism was stuffing my feelings in my back pocket and acting like nothing happened. This worked, until it didn’t. One day my pocket got a hole in it and my feelings fell to the floor. Every bit of my brokenness was laying in front of me, staring me in the eye and asking me to deal with it. The dealing was the hard part.
In mid April we found out that our forth and final embryo transfer did not take. We got a negative blood pregnancy test. One moment I was fine. The next I was eating sour gummy candy while crying in my bath tub. I felt defeated. I felt cheated. I was angry and frustrated that everyone else got their miracle but me. I shared my feelings with my dad and in a brief moment I realized why I am the way that I am. I am the product of his parenting.
He said to me “you do not have time for feelings. Stop it. Get yourself together and get your head in the game. Feelings trip you up. Stop it.” I heard those words a million times during my childhood. If I fell of my bike, my dad would tell me “stop crying. We don’t have time for crying.” If someone hurt my feelings at school he’d tell “you are better than them. They are trying to mess with you. Get yourself together and get back in the game.” My Dad viewed feelings as a weakness. He wanted me to be tough, driven and successful. In his eyes the successful did not feel. They instead stuffed it down, put on a happy face, and marched forward.
My Dad thought he was doing me a favor, but instead he unintentionally set me up for disaster. When the disaster came he again went into his pep talk of “we don’t have time for this, get your head in the game.” Time was something I needed. I needed time to just sit in my emotions. Time to get comfortable with the fact that I didn’t have to always be strong. Strength comes from within, it grows when we face our emotions. Therapy, therapy is what righted my course. In that small office I heard the words “AJ you can have bad days too.”
In those sessions I learned that I can take off the mask, I can share what’s on my mind and those that love me will accept the mess. I learned that it’s ok to say no. That it’s ok to put myself first. That it’s ok to feel everything that makes us uncomfortable. That it’s ok to set boundaries, to take a moment to just be and to breathe in the beauty that’s around me. That it’s ok to wave your white flag and take a nap. Naps are self care after all. Rest restores the mind, the body, and soul. It’s also ok to just be a hot mess who eats gummy bears while crying in the bathtub. No one can tell you how to process your feelings. They are yours and yours alone and only you know how to handle them.
Sometimes we loose our spark. We feel overwhelmed with defeat. It’s hard watching other people get the miracle you so desperately begged God for. God knows your journey and he knows what is to come. It’s ok to feel those feelings, they are valid and no one can tell you otherwise. Your spark is not lost. It just got smaller. Remember all it takes is one tiny spark to light the whole damn fire. Your spark will light a blaze and one day that blaze will lead someone out of the darkness. When you rise, be the blaze. Be the hand that says come as you are and be the voice they need to hear.
National Infertility Awareness Week hit differently this year. It came in quietly and then started to sting like a thousands wasps hitting my skin. TikTok was full of stories of hope and happy endings. No matter how fast I scrolled the next video would be a “I beat infertility story.” A story that I would normally cling to as evidence that my turn was coming. As evidence that God grants miracles to the weary. I’d hold their testimony like a blazing torch against the darkness. Except the darkness never broke and my miracle was not granted. God provided a way, yet he held back on the miracle.
On April 17th we were filled with so much hope and in my gut I knew our transfer took. We woke up early and drove to Mayo for our blood test. On the way home I ignored my phone. I wanted to stay in this blissful state of hope. I wanted to continue living in the land of my gut was right. One notification from the Mayo Clinic app ripped us from that land, our beta was less than 0.05, we were not pregnant. Our forth and final transfer had failed. We are the other side of infertility, the side that doesn’t get the miracle that they so desperately prayed for.
This side doesn’t get much attention as broken hearts do not create hope. If you are out of embryos and funds, you are cleared to the side to make way for the deep pockets of the hopeful. IVF is an industry just like any other, selling hope one cycle at a time. It’s a billion dollar business with little to no price regulations. Success stories sell hope and hope + success = profit. To anyone in the outside looking in I am just a mark in the failure column. Yet I am more than a mark in the failure column, I am the story of persistence, strength, and unwavering faith.
We focus so much on the positive outcomes that we forget about the grieving couples. We forgot about the couples stuck in the land of what ifs. We don’t want to discuss the couples who received subpar care or those that didn’t even get to the starting line due to BMI. IVF is not widely regulated and clinics can set their standard, because success is everything to them. Some clinics only take easy cases and turn away the complicated messes like myself. On paper I am a mess. I have complicated anatomy, endometriosis, adenomyosis, with a side of diminished ovarian reserve. I require more care than most clinics want to provide. If you don’t fit the clinics mold of quick and easy cycles you are pushed to the side to find a different clinic.
Mayo was my holy grail. A clinic that was willing to take the extra steps and loaded the deck so I’d have a better chance at success. Mayo was my 4th fertility clinic and the 1st to order an MRI. That MRI is what lead to the diagnosis of endo and adenomyosis. I had excision surgery in October to remove stage IV endo from my body and started a Lupron Depot protocol to prepare for a frozen embryo transfer. Transfer day came in February and we quickly learned that the lab somehow thawed the lower grade embryo instead of our higher grade embryo. I didn’t make a stink, I went with the flow and ok’d the transfer of the wrong embryo. I didn’t want to mess with fate and I felt that fate was a foot that day. We found out on March 4th the transfer failed and we were set for a WTF meeting on the 9th.
I met with a different doctor that day. One I hadn’t seen before. Mayo has a team approach and they supposedly discuss each case at length during lunch so everyone is familiar with all patients. This doctor wasn’t familiar with my case. I had asked for Lupron Depot, he told me it wasn’t necessary. He actually laughed at some of my questions and concerns. When I mentioned vaginal progesterone, he went on to tell me it wasn’t necessary and research doesn’t support it. When I mentioned the other doctor ok’d it he said “oh oh ok, I will write the order then.” I moved forward with the protocol because I assumed he had spoken to the other doctors that were handling my case.
On April 8th we transferred our last remaining embryo and on April 17th we found out it failed. I got a little tipsy that night and fired of an email with a list of concerns as I cried in my bathtub. I’m not proud of it, but it happens. Dr. K responded to my email that Monday and I ignored the response. I had a WTF appointment set for Tuesday and I was still debating whether or not I was going to log on to it. Early Tuesday morning I got an email from billing and that email lead me to open Dr. K’s response. Anger started to boil within me as I read the fist two paragraphs. Fuckery was a foot and I wasn’t having it, not today, not now, not ever.
The doctor I spoke to back in March told Jay and I Lupron Depot was not necessary, Dr. K said it absolutely was and recommended it for future transfers. The reason it wasn’t used this time around was because the doctor told his team that I refused the medication as I wanted to move quickly. Now I’m not an expert but “refused” and “not necessary” are two very different things. I didn’t refuse the medication, I asked about it and I asked for it. He said it wasn’t necessary so I assume he spoke to Dr. K, so I didn’t question it. I went forward on his word. All I know is if my WTF appointment had been handled by Dr. K we’d be on a different path right now. It just sucks that one doctor took it upon himself to make a decision that affected my care and compromised the outcome of my transfer.
It’s taking everything in me to get out of the land of what if’s. To get out of the land of should have, would have, and could have. I cannot go back to March 9, 2021 to advocate for myself and ask questions. As much as I want to I can’t. All I can do is move forward one very slow step at a time. I have to reimagine what this life will look like. One thing I do know is, I cannot imagine this life without children. I have so much love and patience to give to a child. My heart was made to mother. Somehow someway we will complete our family and that child will be so very loved. What’s getting me through the darkness is planning for the child I never imagined. Adventure is still out there and I know in my heart that one day we will have a pint sized sidekick by our side.
Right now I have to believe that God does not turn his back on the weary and that he heard my prayers. He heard every word, yet there was a miscommunication and my miracle got stuck somewhere in the space time continuum. Or just maybe my miracle went to someone who needed it more than I did.
Last Saturday I attended the Holy Spirit retreat at my church. I went into this retreat with zero expectations and walked out of the retreat with a group of women that I now call my friends. Somewhere between the teaching and the discussion I felt moved, moved to create a podcast. God put me through struggle so that I could one day use those struggles as a testimony of his love. I’m our moments of darkness God does not leave us, he digs in deeper than ever and guides his children to the light. The struggle is where our purpose is birthed and where new life is breathed into our tired bodies. The struggle gives us Strength and it allows us to stand tall in our faith. Without the seasons of struggle, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.
Over the years I have let people in and shared my testimony. Somehow someway my words were what they needed to hear and little by little they too were able to stand tall in their faith. I am so grateful that my story has helped others and it will continue to help others so long as I have the breath to say the words, I will raise them up to my King and help others to stand tall in their faith.
So come along with me as I share my story, my story of breaking, healing, and shining each week.
A few weeks back I was sitting in a park sipping on a berry white mocha with a dear friend when she brought up the fact that I no longer write about Charlie. She asked me “Do you not love him anymore AJ? Do you not miss him anymore?” The thing about loss is we never stop loving or missing someone. There are moments where I wish he would just pop up and start spewing advice that I don’t think I need. Charlie will always be apart of me and there is no removing him from my story. Charlie showed me and taught me what love was. He allowed me to put faith into another human being, he allowed me to move in a space that I didn’t even understand. The greatest lessons, those lessons came after his death. Ruin is a gift, it allows us to travel the road of transformation.
Earlier in the summer I sat at my sister’s kitchen table playing connect four with Sophia. As I dropped my black checker in the slot, I studied her face, how excited she was, how she knew she was about to win (I let her win), and about how Charlie would give anything to be here. I quickly wiped my tears away so she wouldn’t see and plopped the checker in the slot. It had been three years since I played a game of connect four and I could have sworn Charlie was in the room with us. I thought about Charlie as I held my nephew in my arms, about how he got cheated out of holding his brother Coleman’s babies and of how those babies got cheated out of an uncle.
Life it is unfair, there is no way around that fact, life is not kind to the soul. Some of us have to travel roads littered with loss, while others travel road littered with promise and certainty. I will take the harder road, because on that road I am living, as in truly living. Uncertainty reminds me to live in each moment, to breath in each moment, and to appreciate each day I am allowed to face the sun. No ones tomorrow is promised, all of us are ticking clocks and only fate knows when the last hand will strike. Almost dying taught me to live this way, to live in the here and now and to travel on the road less taken. Losing Lucia taught me that it was ok to be angry with God and it also reminded me that God knows what he is doing.
God does not desert us in the muck of our lives, he stays the course and sees that we come out of the muck changed. Losing Lucia prepare me for losing my second pregnancy. This time I was not angry, in it I found hope. The doctors were wrong. I have hope. Hope, that my body can and will support a growing pregnancy. It was a genetic accident, two sperm fertilized one egg and it just wasn’t meant to be. I walked away from this with faith that my 3rd time and Jay’s 2nd time will be the charm.
Charming, that is one word to describe Charlie, he had his quirks and his skills, but in the end he was charming. He took a broken woman and loved her back to health. In away I think Charlie knew that fate was not on his side and that he was preparing me to be another man’s wife. He died loving me and for that I am forever grateful. Charlie taught me to believe in love again and he reminded me of how to love someone. I had to learn how to love myself before I could love another person. I had to heal myself before I could even think about helping someone else heal. I had to just be, to just be in the moment and love being alone with the person in the mirror.
Love, I never lost her she was always there waiting in he shadows and when I was ready I opened my heart. Fate had a hand, an opportunity to love fell into my inbox on Veteran’s Day. That one email lead me to Jay, a man that I love and understand with all of my heart. His ability to be raw and open is what captured my heart. He is not perfect, then again no buddy is, yet he was exactly what I needed. Jay slipped a silver band on my finger in a motel swimming pool, in that moment his eyes were brimming with love and fear. We all fear what we cannot see, or touch or know, yet in those moments of fear we let the light and love shine through. In those moments we become our best selves and open our hearts to those around us.
Charlie is always with me and a part of my heart will always belong to him. Even thou he is dead, Charlie is still teaching me from the grave. Every now and then I look up at the stars and whisper the constellations to a man I cannot see. That man will be honored when I marry Jay, when we give our future child the middle name Rae, when I take Sophia to Paris and each day that I live the best life possible. Charlie would want me to be happy. Charlie would want me to live a life outside of the shadow of grief and to have the love that he never got to have. An I am doing just that, I am fine with the fact that change is constant and that I cannot control fate. I am deeply in love, I am hopeful, and I am present in this life.