By Janet Stouder Glaze
Six months ago, I started planning to get through my 45th birthday. I’ve hated celebrating this day for the past 5 years. I’ve miscarried twice, but never got pregnant again and every subsequent birthday was my reminder of failure and my looming fertility expiration date. My fight to hold onto a fleeting faith left me emotionally exhausted and beyond tired. I desperately needed this year to be different.
To feel something different would mean I would need to do something different but had no idea how to start. I stumbled across a post that slapped me into reality when I read, “Women born in 1973 turn 45 in 2018 and, if they wanted to be moms, this is the age that statistically women are considered to be no-longer able to bear a child.” Nice punch in the gut. It was finally time to let go of misguided hope. But how do you walk away from a dream you’ve had your entire life and embrace an identity I avoided like the plague…becoming a childless woman.
However, living the rest of my life as a consolation prize was worse than accepting defeat. Taking that first step and dipping my toes into the reality that my worst fear had already come true, was the scariest thing I’d ever done. I had previously embraced IUIs, IVF, daily shots, surgeries, pills and invasive medical procedures like a champ… this was different.
I also didn’t realize the agony that I had been wallowing through for the past five years actually had a name… grief. This “thing” hijacked my life. For someone who would radiate joy, loved life and celebrating even half-birthdays…. I shut down. I distanced myself from family and friends (especially with kiddos) and dramatically purged and altered Facebook news feed settings. My marriage…hurt and I’d never felt more alone. So…I started counseling, managed my depression, balanced hormones and lost 30 pounds. But it wasn’t enough…
To feel different, do different.
So…I had a crazy idea and reached out to my dear friend and amazing photographer, Nadine Rodriguez. She and I shared ideas about a fun, sassy, lighthearted photo shoot to commemorate a new chapter of my life opening – at the same time acknowledging this huge door of a dream closing. I was tired of being sad and stalked by a big huge black cloud. It was important to me to have a photo capturing this time of my life, where I was desperately trying to embrace a future I didn’t want… and this birthday with grace and dignity.
We decided on an “afternoon tea” theme to incorporate the idea that my “cup still overflows”. I also wanted to include a subtle way to honor my littles and their brief existence in my womb – so my sweet mom had a wonderful idea and gave me two tiny teacup ornaments for this special tribute.
Serendipitously, by the time Nadine and I arrived at the park two hours late from crazy LA traffic… the sun was just starting to set behind the trees, painting a most beautiful stage for us. It started out just as I planned, and we were both giggling as she moved around me with her camera.
However, the weight of my emotions finally caught up. My thoughts shifted to the reality of what I was trying to do and what would never be. I could not stop the tears. Grief is real and often shows up at most inconvenient times.
However, I experienced a moment that had a profound impact on me. As I was looking back towards the tree line, I saw a “blurred motion” of children playing hide and seek behind the trees and heard an “echo” of them laughing. Even though it’s hard to fully describe… It was in that very moment I knew my boys were OK and that I would be OK. It was closure I didn’t know I needed and something I will never forget.
What it might have been like.
I got another crazy idea as I was sharing with Nadine about what had just happened. We shifted gears to create a “miscarriage shadow photo” by posing as if I was holding hands with my kids at the age they would have been today (ages 4 & 5). It was the first time I ever felt like a real mom and could imagine what it might’ve been like to reach out and hold my kiddos hands – before that day I had never thought about the two of them as siblings, much less brothers playing together. This photo brings me such peace and, in a way, validates my experience of loss. I was pregnant twice and therefore I am a mom…just not able to experience motherhood in this lifetime.
Time stops for no one.
My birthday is now four short days away and happens to fall during the same week that IVF turns 40. I have nothing profound to say or incredible revelations to share ending this post. It still sucks. I still cry, although not as often and I still avoid anything baby-related. For the most part, my head has accepted that I will never birth my own babies… my heart still aches to hold them. However, “seeing and hearing” my boys was the best early birthday present. I will be forever grateful for that beautiful gift of peace.
This incredible guest post is by Janet Stouder Glaze, a California girl who now calls East Texas home. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram: @mywhatisbeautiful16