Living With Grief

Five Years

Exponential (of an increase): becoming more and more rapid

We, in the baby loss community, are skilled at coming up with ways to torture ourselves. A friend, for example, calculated the number of weeks of her life that she’s been pregnant, without a baby at the end of it. It totalled more than a year. I held off for a couple of days, but then I did my own maths: 41 weeks. Pretty much the same amount of time that’s required for a full-term pregnancy. Bit of a cruel finding, that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time recently, about how I now refuse to think in terms of “maybe, this time next year”: been there, done that, not got the baby. Instead, I’ve decided to give it five years. I am giving myself a lustrum to have a baby, before I stop and reassess matters once again.

Lustrum (noun): A rare literary word that means a period of five years

  • 5 years feels doable
  • 5 years takes me to age 40

Why does it matter?

Because I need to know where this ends.

There is so much heartache and so much fear, that comes with every pregnancy loss. And the grief from each subsequent loss is not a linear function, it’s disproportionately increasing, it’s an exponential loss factor.

This is how I see it (apologies if my mathematical lingo/ post-it note diagram etc is off):

Post-it note ponderings

If baby loss was remotely linear (the purple line), ‘just’ incrementally more difficult each time, I think I could perhaps find the baby loss journey more bearable. But I don’t think I’m on that line, I’m on the red one, where it gets significantly harder each time. And the worst bit? That red loss line tends to infinity. Therein lies the crux of the matter: there is an infinite amount of hurt and fear, at play here.

The dotted lines on the x-axis I’ve marked are arbitrary, for diagrammatic purposes, to show the passage of time. The key point, is that you could hit the exponential curve at any time. The infinite pain line. Some people hit it after one loss, they never want to try to conceive again. Others keep going and going.

Which one am I?

Well, when you tell me so-and-so had 10 miscarriages and then had a healthy baby, that to me is not a story of hope, but one of fear. I do not picture the happy baby at the end, I feel the weight of each of the individual losses. I think they have far more resilience, than I. They have not hit their exponential curve, their breaking point. So my loss line intuitively feels a lot steeper than theirs (or my resilience / pain threshold is shallower, however you want to think about it). But I can also see how people get to that point. I can see how we could keep going and going too, because we are not people who will want to give up on a dream.

But that is why the lustrum matters, because there is potential for an infinite amount of pain, so you do need to think about when to stop. Despite all the trauma of what’s been and the fear of what’s to come, I know I will regret if we didn’t try again. So I need a manageable goal. Something that keeps me moving forward, despite the fear of the infinite pain line, but which equally doesn’t put too finite a time on the end point (contrary to the end goal of having a baby, I need to incorporate time for the expectation of more losses).

Cue the five years.

The lustrum gives me a really bizarre sense of hope, for we are still in our first lustrum. We started trying for a baby in 2017 and in that time, I have been pregnant three times. Our initial lustrum therefore ends in September 2022, but by then, I’ll be in a new lustrum (I already am in an overlapping one), the one that ends when I’m aged 40.

In the initial lustrum that’s passed since 2017 (so far, roughly 188 weeks), I have been pregnant 22% of the time (41 weeks). Let’s call that one-fifth. So having five years, to have one baby, one nine-month pregnancy, feels achievable. Heck, I almost feel as if I’m on schedule. I mean, I’m not, but let’s just go with it.

Look, you’ve gotta take your hope where you can find it. Yes, it’s ludicrous that I need to think in terms of five year periods, when most people can have a baby the same or following year. But ‘most people’ aren’t a concern when I’m in my own private illogical challenge. I am not most people. I am probably better at maths than most people, but not as good at making full-term babies, ha! So, it’s one diagrammatic step at a time. One healthy full-term baby, before I’m 40. Please and thank you.

P.S. I wonder what happens to the loss diagram after you’ve had a healthy baby? Does it reset (James still says “if we can have one (healthy) baby, we can have two”) or do you pick up where you left off? Personally, I can’t see how you can return to the beginning. I imagine, it would be a small step backwards, towards the origin, but the exponential curve will still loom ahead. We know too much.

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(1) Comment

  1. Melanie says:

    The lustrum (what a wonderful word a I had never heard it before!) sounds like an excellent idea. Most things in life are easier to cope with when a timeframe exists. And a self- imposed one has the benefit of being autonomous. I hope you won’t be too hard on yourself though, and hold yourself to it in all circumstances xxx

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