september 2012 – monthly theme post – guilt & grieving

Building a family is about more than just living with and loving babies and children who grow up into bigger people. It’s also about adding another generation, passing on traditions, names, stories & a unique family culture– one that’s ingrained in your own experiences growing up or one that you create. It’s about building a legacy. For some, the dream of having children is also about giving your partner a child, making your parents into grandparents, extending a bloodline, passing on a unique gender or racial experience to someone else… but infertility throws a wrench into this plan. Sometimes, in the quest to have a baby, you’ll have to give up a piece of your dream. That dream may be about family spacing, how many children you want to have, how much money you plan to have saved before having a child (because you’ve spent it all on testing, and failed procedures, and procedures that finally worked, and adoption, and in the meantime you took a different job closer to home because you had to sell your car, etc ad nauseam) and part of that dream might be having a child who is physically related to you and your family, or who is around long enough in your parents’ lifetime to remember them.

My husband and I lost an irreplaceable piece of our vision for family building on July 16th, 2010, when Husband slowly laid his father’s lifeless hand back down on the hospital bed. Or maybe it was lost eight hours before that, when a sympathetic doctor sat across a table from us, calmly saying words like “multiple organ failure” and “no chance of recovery” and “make him as comfortable as possible.”

My father in law’s name was David. David was 74 and had been relatively active and healthy, even after a nearly ten-year stint caring for Husband’s mother as she slowly descended into confusion and dementia in her fifties and sixties. He took good care of himself. David went to the doctor once a week to see a nutritionist and check his blood pressure– it was part of his routine. He went out to eat, went to concerts, spent time with friends.

It was only a stomach ache, at first. Just a bug. Honestly, we’ll never really know what went wrong. He was gone in less than a week.

I know “our” infertility is really my infertility: my insufficient eggs, my crappy hormones. I understand that this isn’t my fault and it was never predictable or preventable, it’s just my body. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel, sometimes, like I robbed David, who I loved dearly, from ever meeting his granddaughters because I couldn’t seem to manage to get pregnant when we first started trying. (I’ve done the math– we started trying in December of 2008, five months after our wedding. Had we conceived then, D would have had ten months WITH his granddaughters. Compared to the almost two years it’s been since his death and all that’s happened, those ten months would have made all the difference.) Even worse, my girls will never know their Papa David as a real person; he’ll be a character in family stories to them and nothing more. This guilty feeling is hard to share with my fertile friends, because while every single person I have ever met will say to me, “That’s ridiculous– you can’t put that on yourself!”, my IF friends will also quietly add, “but I get it”– and that last part is what makes all the difference. Infertility leaves a scar and it’s not always “just” psychological or mental. Sometimes it comes down to unfortunate logistics.

What did you lose? What do you grieve?

There’s plenty to consider when revisiting your personal grief and guilt over infertility and loss, but here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • What was your vision of family building?
  • What got lost– or, more accurately, what did IF and/or loss take away from you?
  • Did your loss evolve over time into something else?
  • How do you balance grief and guilt?
  • How supportive were other people of your need to go through a grieving process? Did you feel like you could talk about it?

You can, of course, write about whatever you’d like. I think we’re going to see some real diversity in people’s experiences here– grief opens so many wounds and impacts us all in such different ways.

I know this is a heavy one. Take some time to think about it, mull it over, and submit it by Wednesday, September 19th at midnight. The full list of links will be posted on Thursday, September 20th. Fill out the form below to submit your post.



  1. I was worried my parents would be gone before I had children. My dad has been in the hospital a few times over the last 8 years and when I told her about my first pregnancy my mom said she didn’t think she’d live to see grandkids. My dad has a grandchild he’s never met through my half-sister. While I wanted to have kids for me, I couldn’t help but feel pressure to have them before my parents passed. So they could enjoy my babies them as much as I hoped to enjoy them. They didn’t put that pressure on me (thank goodness!), I did. I told them I was pregnant with G before I was ready because my husband and I were going on a trip to Mexico and I couldn’t stand the thought of something happening to either of them while we were gone and not know I was pregnant again. My parents are still alive, but I totally get where you’re coming from. I know I would feel that guilt if my parents or in-laws had passed before G was born.

    It’s interesting that “Guilt and Grieving” this is the monthly theme post. I just started a post this morning one on why I’m grieving the (mostly after) birth experience I didn’t get. I’ll have to get on that so I can share it. I think it’s going to be a longish post.

    • Thanks for this comment, Emma. I wasn’t sure what to write about (or how to write it) as my blog is not anonymous and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings with what I had to say about the lack of support I got for grieving various aspects of the journey. I had *not* considered the guilt and grief I felt over my birth experience as part of that, but this comment has given me some focus. 🙂

  2. I just wanted to let you girls know about the big ‘ole UGLY cry I had tonight writing my post.

    The UGLY cry dudes!

    I get the feeling this post is going to have a bunch of girls clogging up their keyboards with tears in the next few nights.


  1. […] the monthly theme for September – Guilt and Grieving. There are so many directions to take this topic in, and we hope you find one that helps you […]

  2. […] post is part of PAIL’s monthly theme posts on guilt, loss and […]

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  5. […] is my contribution to PAIL‘s monthly theme post. This month’s is about guilt and grieving that which infertility and loss have […]

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