Monday, November 22, 2010

Email to My In-Laws: Preparing for Our Visit

I'm sending this today to my in-laws. Warning: it's very long but felt so, so good to write and was a letter about a year-long in the making:

Dear In-Laws [insert names here],

I wanted to personally write in anticipation of the holiday and our time together, and to let you know what's been going on with us, and in particular how it's affected me mostly and how I feel you can help. I apologize in advance for the length but it's been something I've been drafting in my head for awhile now, so please bear with me! I decided to write this because I realize that what B and I are going through is not an easy thing for us to process, and much harder sometimes for loved ones to process. And by writing, I think it may allow you time and space to actually process this without having us bombard you with this without you knowing how to react.

Infertility is not often something people know much about and because it still seems rather taboo, people aren't sure how to ask or talk about it. I hope I can shed light on some of this. If you weren't sure, this is how infertility is defined if under 35: trying to conceive unsuccessfully for 1 year or if the woman has had several miscarriages.

We've been trying to conceive for almost 3 years now. The enormity of this 3 year milestone has been an incredible one for me. On top of that, this Thanksgiving will mark one year that we experienced our first miscarriage. And it's been hard for me to face that my best friend is about to have her 2nd baby in Dec, when I thought we were going to be on similar paths. Or that our nephew just turned 3 and I thought our children would be closer in age to him.

Infertility can be a continual grieving process. Each passing month is a grief in in of itself. It's a grief that isn't named and isn't obvious to others, with no rituals, making it difficult to navigate the emotions around it. Someone recently shared with me an excerpt from Laura Bush's biography that was helpful to me:

For some years now, the wedding invitations that had once crowded the mailbox had been replaced by shower invites and pink-or-blue-beribboned baby announcements. I bought onesies or rattles, wrapped them in yellow paper, and delivered them to friends. I had done it with a happy wistfulness, believing that someday my time, my baby, would come. George and I had hoped that I would be pregnant by the end of his congressional run. Then we hoped it would be by the time his own father announced his presidential run, then by the presidential primaries, the convention, the general election. But each milestone came and went. The calendar advanced, and there was no baby.

The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.”

But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives.

Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?- Laura Bush

I think you know that we had another miscarriage in May followed by my fibroid surgery in August, which they thought might have been the cause. We actually just experienced another miscarriage late last week, though this time, we were able to conceive naturally, which felt like a small victory. Still, we've never been able to make it past the 6 week mark when you can usually hear a heartbeat. And twice I've had to actually get a shot to dissolve the pregnancy because it was developing abnormally, they think in my tubes - that's what happened last Thanksgiving and that is what happened this past Friday.

I say all of this for a couple of reasons:
  1. I haven't felt like "me" for awhile now. You may have noticed (especially [FIL’s name here] who emails the most) that I've been pretty silent and unresponsive. I've been very sad. I haven't been to be aloof or unloving; I just haven't been 'me'. I've had a hard time returning phone calls or reaching out to others or even going to church. I've been getting help. I'm seeing a counselor who specializes in infertility and I've been attending a support group. I've also found an online community and have met some amazing people from around the world who have become my friends, all of whom are going through similar experiences.
  2. I've had mixed emotions about Thanksgiving. It's been very hard for me to go on about my life 'as normal', let alone as a celebration and occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas can actually accentuate my sadness. I'm not sure how I will react this week, but if I can't really laugh or if I'm spending more time than normal in my room or have gone for a run, it's because sadness has hit me and I need to retreat or outlet.
  3. I've asked B if we can skip the 'what we're thankful for' at Thanksgiving this year. It can be hard for me sometimes to feel even sadder that I have trouble seeing past this one thing that we don't have yet, even among our many, many blessings. I have a hard time when all I covet from my neighbor are their children! So, I hope you're ok if we skip this part of Thanksgiving this year.
I also want you to know that this is how you can best help me:
  • I need love, support & empathy most of all - things like - I'm sorry you're going through this, this must be hard for you, is there anything you need right now, I love you - those are all helpful things to say - most of all listening and caring.
  • I'm ok talking about it, in fact, it feels like an elephant in the room if loved ones aren't asking me about how I'm feeling. It can make me feel even more alone when I'm not asked. I may get sad talking about it, and that's ok. I'm ok with crying as long as you are. Or I may actually feel in control. But I do appreciate being asked.
  • I need distractions too! I'm looking forward to playing games - App.les to App.les? :) or watching a movie together or things like that
  • Hugs & prayers feel good too
I actually do think I'm doing better. The last couple of months were especially hard with the upcoming milestones and holidays but last week, I resolved myself to get back to "me" and to try to live life again the way we are intended to - with joy & gusto. So far so good since my resolve on Thurs but I know that the grief of infertility is always lurking somewhere nearby and I never know when it will hit.

All this said, B has handled this much differently than I have. He's much more patient, trusting that our time will happen with proper care & help in whatever way that is meant to be for us. I worry more sometimes about how he has to deal with me! But I'll let him talk about this.

Thank you so much for reading this & understanding. I know you must be going through your own thoughts and whirlwind around this, particularly as hopeful future grandparents and of course, as people who love us.

We really look forward to your visit and being able to share the love we all have for each other!



  1. This is absolutely, positively perfect. I hope they respond well.


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  2. Perfect letter! Hope they respond well and can give you all the support and understanding you need.

  3. beautiful put!!!! I hope you are able to have a great visit!!!

  4. this is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this. Ironically, I just wrote a post today about my in law's and they way they deal with my IF.
    I hope they can take in what you are trying to say and that you are surrounded by love and support this thanksgiving.

  5. Gorgeous, GORGEOUS post! You wrote your heart so simply and eloquently. I am hoping that you receive the response you want - but just by the way you wrote the letter and talk about them in it, I think you will.

    This was a wonderful way to set the stage for the holidays - not justifying, not making excuses, not excluding (all of which I tend to do) but by laying it all out there and asking for inclusion. My goodness, I am going to try to remember this post. I am thankful for YOU and for you writing this and sharing it here.

  6. Great great letter....very touching...I bet it will bring you all closer.

  7. So courageous of you to send this. I can't imagine sending something so open to my in-laws at this point, but I know it would be great if I could. If they're the kind of people you're willing to send this to, I feel confident they will also be loving and supportive, though not perfect, I'm sure.

  8. What a wonderful letter and a great way to put both them and you at ease. I hope a great Thanksgiving results. I'm praying for you! Lots of hugs & prayers!

  9. Wow--it's great that you have such an open relationship with them. I hope that this facilitates an easier visit for you.

  10. What an honest and well thought out letter. You are so thoughtful to write them a letter so that they have time to manage their emotions before talking to you face to face. I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Hugs and prayers your way!

  11. What a beautiful and eloquent letter. My heart goes out to you. I can't imagine the courage and strength it took to write and send this to your in-laws. I hope they receive it well.

    I will be thinking of you this Thanksgiving and I hope you are able to weather the difficult emotions that the holidays can bring at times.

    I am thankful for you and that you shared this letter with us.

  12. You have done a great job. I'm sure they will understand.

  13. I thought this was a lovely letter, though I do think it's more than a bit selfish to ask your family to refrain from their tradition of talking about what they're thankful for, which is at the crux of the holiday itself. It's one thing to ask that they be gentle with and understanding of you, but to take away something that's the very essence of the reason you're gathered together? That's overboard. Maybe someone else at that table- who is fighting his or her own battle, as we all are- needs that sense of tradition and gratitude for his or her own reasons.

  14. Wow - what a tremendous letter that you put together not only for them, but for all other infertiles struggling with what to say.

    I hope your letter was well received and that you found some joyful moments in your time together.


  15. Fantastic letter, I hope the response is just as good as the letter is. Thanks so much for your comment over at my blog, it is much appreciated.

  16. Amazing letter. You poured your heart out. I hope they read it and understand and that your Thanksgiving was a happy, supportive one.