Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sandboxes and support

Several weeks ago, when all was well, my BF asked if my father-in-law, a retired carpenter if he would build them a sandbox for their two kids, ages 3 and 6.  She knows he loves working on anything with wood.  (Aren't I lucky to have a carpenter for a father in law? I think it's awesome!)

While building the sandbox, I'm sure it wasn't ever far from his mind that he wishes he was building this for his own grandkids, something he may never get to see as D is an only child.  It makes me sad to think of him, thinking about this.  It reminds me that our infertility isn't just our loss, it's theirs too.

Father-in-law doesn't like the finishing part of projects.  So, the plan was to deliver it unfinished to them.  I'm sure he figured would be easy enough for them to sand it and stain it.

Knowing these friends, I knew that they probably wouldn't do that because they are busy and not that handy.  And once the kids saw the box, I know they would be so excited that I'm sure they wouldn't want to wait until Mom and Dad were able to get the supplies to do this, and then get it done.

I decided that I could finish the sandbox.  I'm a pretty good painter (of walls and furniture etc.), and I have all of the supplies.   I like doing things like this, and hadn't done anything in months.  I like the feeling of accomplishment that I get from seeing something go from unfinished to looking great.

When I told D that I was going to do this, he was surprised.  I knew what he was thinking, even though he didn't say it.  "Why the heck are you going to put yourself through that?"  I kind of wondered the same thing, but decided that I would try not to think about what it was that I was finishing, and just look at it as a project and a way to help a friend.

My BF and her husband invited us over for dinner.   They had also invited D's parents to thank them, but they couldn't make it.

They've made other offers which we haven't accepted over the past couple of weeks.  While we didn't feel completely emotionally ready for it, we decided to go anyways.   The plan was to drop off the sandbox and have a nice meal, then hopefully head home before their kids needed to go to bed.

When we arrived the kids and their parents were equally thrilled with the sandbox.   D's Dad really did a great job, and the finishing came out beautifully.  They were very appreciative for it, thanking us many times and telling us how great it looked.  I'm sure they were laying it on extra thick, to boost our spirits, yet their praise and gratefulness also felt genuine. 

We had a nice meal, and watched the kids play outside in their new sandbox.  They didn't care that it was chilly cold outside. They were having so much fun.  It was nice in a way, because it gave us a chance to have more adult only talk.

While they were outside, BF brought up the flowers that we sent to our friend's mother.  I think she was a bit baffled by it too.  I told her that I thought it was a bit weird, that we didn't send flowers to anyone else's parent who has been sick, including to her father who had a heart attack this year.   She said that she thought this could be different because her spouse had died a year ago.  She thought that this was a part of that decision.  I said I thought it was nice, and I hadn't thought of it that way.

I told her that also kind of confused about it.   I said that I know she is going through a hard time, but it just made me feel a little funny.  That after everything D and I had been through, recently that for some reason it just stung a little bit.   She said she thought about that too.

She asked me if I had talked to any of our other friends.  I said just one, and another had left a message.  She seemed surprised.   I said that I had received a couple of nice texts right after everything happened, but I thought they might have connected with me again afterwards.

She said she talked to one of the friends  a couple of weeks ago, and she said she was going to call (she's the one who left the message).  I get the impression that the purpose of their call was to commiserate about what had happened to me, and plan what they were going to say.

Our conversation ended as dinner preparations got underway and the kids came inside.  

The kids played with D and I, climbing all over us.  Sitting on our laps.  The little boy, 3 stayed on D's lap for probably a half an hour.  Seeing that was one of those bittersweet moments, as I'm sure you can imagine.  It makes my heart swell.  When your heart is full of holes though, everything just ends up leaking out.   We have so much love for these kids (and their parents), that it is hard to turn away from them. We want to be a part of their lives, but holy shit was that hard. 

After dinner we were all sitting around.  I was starting to feel like it was time to go home. I was feeling sad and tired.  The kids and men were watching baseball videos on the laptop.  BF and I were sitting on a couch, quietly talking.

BF asked about the upcoming weekend with friends.  I said that before all of this happened, that I was really looking forward to it, but I'm not sure anymore.   I told her that my feelings were hurt that noone reached out more than they did.  

In a quiet, choked up voice, I told her a lot of what I was thinking, things that came easily to mind because I had written the letter.  She sat on the other end of couch, agreeing with me, wiping the tears from under her glasses.   I was a bit uncomfortable with other people in the room, but it seemed like everyone was just zoned in to what they were doing.   It never occurred to me to ask to talk to her in another room.

She listened and I was grateful.  I told her a lot of things.  I think the letter really helped me present my thoughts to her.    I told her that I don't know if everyone is just talking about this amongst themselves, forgetting that no one is talking to us about it?  She agreed that, yes this was probably happening.

She asked what she could do.  She suggested that she could reach out again to them and suggest that I was now ready for contact.  I said yes, that would be good.

She said she hopes that we know that they were trying to be there for  us.  That she didn't know what to do.  That she thought about buying flowers, and doing other things.  That nothing seemed to be adequate (she meant this in the way that this loss is so big).  I told her that I could feel her trying, and that I was grateful for it.

I told her that I know that at our age, not a lot of people have experienced loss.  That if something happens to an older person, that their support group has experience with it.  In that moment, just saying the word loss made my tears go from puddles in my eyes to streams down my face.

I told her that I feel like people don't realize that this isn't just a miscarriage.  I could get past that a lot easier, but this was... and then my voice cut out.  If I had kept talking it would have just become a loud sobs.  I didn't want to draw the attention of everyone in the room.   All I could do was gesture with my hands, things stacking up.   She said for me,  "this is a compound loss".   She's a social worker and knows the terminology.  I shook my head yes.

I cry again just thinking about those words.  Compound loss.  That has been our last six years.

I said that I'm at a point where I don't have much emotional energy left.  That I know some friends are just for casual fun, but some are supposed to be more.  That I thought that these were some of my 'more' friends.   That if they aren't my 'more' friends than I just need to know, so I don't build resentment towards them.

I told her that this is not a problem that is unique to them.  I reminded her about the conversation that I had with my sister this year.   I said that we knew embarking on this past cycle, that this could be really hard on us.  That we purposely opened our circle up a bit wider, to fill more people in on what was going on, because we knew if we got more bad news that we would need more support this time.

I told her that I need less kid talk if we do this weekend.  Not an absence of kid talk, I don't expect that, just less.  She suggested that we don't need to do the weekend, or we could focus on smaller groups.

I told her that in a way I would view the weekend as a bit of a test.  That if there wasn't more sensitivity that maybe it will be time for me to step away from the group for a couple of years.  I regretted almost instantly saying this part.  It was too much, but at this point stopping my emotions was like trying to use tinfoil to cover up an impending volcanic eruption.

I told her I knew that this anger could be just the grief talking.  She reassured me that my concerns were real.  That she thinks it is that people don't know what to do, not that they don't care.   I told her I wasn't expecting much more from them, just maybe another message.  I don't know.  Something.

I apologized for dumping this all on her.  But honestly, I felt bad for the awkwardness and the timing, but not for the information.

I thanked her for listening.   I gave her a hug and she cried more.   I know she feels some of our sadness.  And while I never want my friends to hurt, knowing this is somehow a big comfort.

It was time to go home.  By now I'm sure the men knew something was going on, if not from our quiet words,  but from our red puffy faces.  They knew, but they didn't say anything.

We got in the car and as we rounded the corner from their house, I started sobbing.

I worried and stewed about the events of the evening into the early hours of the morning.  Replaying the conversation in my mind.  Wondering if I said too much or if it was inappropriate.   This brought on a huge headache and a nice dose of insomnia.  Somehow at 3:00 am,  I even managed to break out in hives all over my hands and wrists.  Grief spots.  That's a new one for me.

Regarding the letter, I appreciate your continued support and really I appreciated hearing your honest opinions.

Two things are themes from the comments.  First, that I can't pretend that this is not an issue for me anymore.  I've been using that strategy for six years and it's not working anymore.  Secondly, that sending a blanket letter may not be the best approach because I have different relationships with each one of them.

I know that writing letter and reading your comments really helped me.  It helped me to clarify my thoughts, allowing me to have the conversation last night.  While it wan't perfect, I think it was a huge step in the right direction.  My hope is that my BF will take this information, and help me spread the word.

I'm thinking now that I don't hear from them in a meaningful way, over the next few days, I may decide to cancel the weekend. That will be their message to me about what kind of friendship they are able to have, and want to have with me.  I will let them know it's because we are still grieving and aren't feeling up for company.

Re-reading this post has made me feel much more grateful for my BF.  I sent her a thank you email and told her how I appreciated her and everything she has done to support us through this journey over the years.


  1. First off thank you for your sweet comment. Our situations are different but grief is grief and loss is loss so the pain is equally handicapping and heartbreaking. 2nd, I think you are AWESOME for finishing the sandbox. Sometimes forcing myself to do something for another person's child/baby in a sad/odd way helps me heal-maybe I feel like I am looking "lady infertility" in the eyes defiantely, letting her know the battle isn't over. Lastly, I am so happy you got to open up with your friend (and the letter prepared you to say things clearly). Compound lost is just that. Miscarriages and losses suck and I think at each "point" in pregnancy it gets nastier. The fact you saw a heartbeat makes this compound loss even more sad :( We are here for you!! If you get a chance, can you send my your address? My email is hollybenson10 at yahoo .com. I hope this weekend is super super fun/refreshing and healing for you sweet friend.

    1. I never thought of it that way - looking at lady infertility defiantly. I like it. It takes me from a position of "what infertility did to me"/victim to survivor and fighter. That is good stuff. I am going to use that - starting tomorrow when I babysit my friend's kids for a couple of hours.

  2. I'm very glad that BF could bear witness to the magnitude of your pain and your loss. I hope there are others in the group who can do the same. What you are going through is unimaginable. And for some, it's preferable not to imagine it, or hear about it. But I would hope that for others, they can help you hold this ocean of grief.

  3. Good for you, Julia. I'm catching up on blogs and agreed with many of the others… a group email may not be the best way to share, even though the letter seems pretty great to me. Each relationship is different though. I'm so glad that you got some time to chat with your friend and it sounds like you got a lot of things that needed to be said out in the open. I'm hoping that she'll come through for you and prompt the others to reach out.

    Thinking of you and hoping time will begin to heal your many wounds. Much love.

  4. Both you and your FIL are wonderful people for making that sandbox.
    And I'm so glad you BF was there to listen and understand. It's great that you have a friend who can take such a conversation. I hope she can reach your other friends and get them to reach out, too.

  5. I am so glad you had a long chat with your BF. It makes such a difference to cry with someone, to know that they really have heard you.

    And I apologise for not responding to your previous post about your letter the instant I read it. What with time zone differences, I was worried it would be too late, because my response too was "don't send it." But the fact that you could say it (rather than send as an email) to your friend, in a way that is personal to your specific relationship, was wonderful. Writing things out first so often helps our face-to-face relationships. And I think you're inspiring me to write a blogpost about friendships and support. I've had one brewing for a long time ...

  6. I'm glad you were able to have this talk with your friend. I know it's so hard when close friends don't respond in the way that we want, but I'm glad you were able to give her specifics. I feel like this was a step in the right direction for you, and hopefully a turning point with your friends.

  7. One small step at a time leads to healing. Looks like you are surrounding by such caring people that will be with you through this.

  8. You are amazing for finishing the sandbox. No words can express how amazing. Triumphant you. I love your BF---she also sounds amazing. God, I am glad you have her. You're doing so well, handling everything with as much grace as possible, allowing yourself your pain, honoring yourself in the moment. I hope this is a turning point in your group of friends, but if not, I know that you have the strength to do whatever you need to do to take good care of yourself. ~theunexpectedtrip

  9. I'm so glad you were able to have such an honest conversation with your BF. She sounds like such a kind woman. The fact that you finished that sandbox is beautiful. You're stronger than you think. I don't know why we have been challenged with infertility, but you my dear were built to last. I know that your happy moments are coming soon. xoxo


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