In my article earlier this week, I wrote about our first cycle of actively trying to conceive. It is a challenging process, and it comes with all kinds of stressors for a couple. Lloyd and I had made a commitment early after losing Patrick that we would become closer through this, not drift apart. Turns out that sometimes you have to actively choose that every day, and sometimes more than once a day.
One of my favorite children’s books—and the first book I read to Patrick in utero—We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury) took on new meaning after Patrick died. With each part of the bear hunt adventure, the family discovers something they have to overcome and chant, “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it!” Because of Lloyd’s work schedule, we knew we would treasure our weekends as a family. Lloyd and I decided that each Saturday we were going to take Patrick on a bear hunt adventure.
When Patrick died, it would have been easy to set aside the bear hunt. Instead, we found that these weekly adventures were important to our “going through” grief. We went ahead and got the family membership to the Museum of Fine Arts, and each weekend I planned some activity for us to do—something to look forward to, force us out of the house, spend time together, and work on faking it till we make it. Most of the time, even if we’ve forced ourselves out of the house, we end up having fun.
We’ve gone to a Red Sox game. We’ve picked strawberries. We’ve gone to vintage car shows. We’ve gone to the zoo (where sadly, they had no bears!). We’ve gone to a botanical garden. We’ve had ice cream for dinner. We’ve done household projects. We’ve gone to Six Flags. We’ve taken thousands of photographs. Each weekend we commit to at least one adventure, big or small.
Along with our adventures, we started the “Onesie Project.” This is our attempt to hold onto hope and constantly envision ourselves with a healthy baby coming home in our arms. It’s either a spectacular idea, or we’re tempting fate. I’m not a superstitious person, so I’m sticking with it being a spectacular idea. At each of our adventures, we buy a onesie. (If for some reason we do not ever bring home a healthy baby, we’ll have a nice collection of onesies to donate or gift to someone.) We’ve been to a few places where they don’t have souvenir onesies, so we’ll try to find a children’s book or something else that we can buy and hold onto. At the Botanical Garden, we got Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, which we thought was a perfect souvenir. This onesie project has helped us cope by having us hold onto hope, but also allowing us to do something we probably would have done if Patrick had lived. When you lose a child, you lose your vision of the rest of your life too. So, any way you can grasp some of that vision and keep it, the more likely you’ll be able to hold onto hope.
My encouragement to you this month, while on your own TTC journey, or even pregnant or parenting after loss, cling to your partner and allow your partner to cling to you. I want to validate that choosing to prioritize your relationship is not always easy; it is a constant choice. Make the time to do things together as a couple, as a family. Make memories. You really will cherish those times.
What have you and your partner been able to do to strengthen your relationship and hope while TTC?