the five stages of grief

Over the weekend I found myself mourning the family we will likely never have. I’ve been in this place before, but not like I have lately. Up until now, unless I was speaking with one of our lawyers, I didn’t think about it. I had buried the thought of our frozen embabies so deep in my head. I didn’t talk much about having additional children because I know it only brings pain into my heart.  Yet, when we gathered with our neighbors over the weekend, I found myself smack dab in the middle of this conversation. Maybe it’s my fault for even bringing up that Cora was an IVF baby, maybe it’s my husbands fault for being a social butterfly and just being an honest and open human being. Regardless, I found myself in a friends kitchen while I listened to Irwin tell our story and tried to distract my mind.

Stage One: Denial.

I remember exactly where I was when we found out – both times. The first time was one of those “it can’t be us” moments. After all, we found out while we watched the news. We hadn’t heard anything from the clinic so it definitely didn’t affect our precious embryos they had collected just one month earlier, right? And then I remember walking in the door after work and Irwin telling me we got “the letter” from University Hospitals. We hadn’t even opened the envelope, but we knew. I called the clinic right away and our fears were confirmed, our embryos had been effected. They didn’t have answers, but they were investigating. I remember in that moment and for weeks after thinking ours were fine. They had to be fine. Just because every embryo in the tank they had tested was non-viable didn’t mean that ours were.

Stage Two: Anger.

This phase started to creep in around the middle of June, when we started speaking with lawyers. We were unsure that we wanted to pursue legal action, mostly because I was already pregnant and that is what the goal was with our IVF cycle – a healthy baby and pregnancy. Once we started meeting with lawyers, I began getting angry. I wanted {and still want to most days} take down University Hospitals. Not the doctors or nurses, but the hospital itself. I was angry that there was so. much. negligence. involving the fertility program. The clinic doesn’t take on new patients in December to clean and maintenance the facility, so why did this happen so shortly after their yearly maintenance? If they knew this was going on {which they did} why didn’t they take steps to correct it immediately? Why were we never informed they were having issues, but contacted multiple times during our cycle to make sure we knew the fee of $9800 would be due prior to our egg retrieval?

Stage Three: Bargaining.

This is the only phase that I haven’t really felt myself sit in. I’ve had passing thoughts of wishing we would’ve transferred more than one embryo, but nothing that has been a lasting thought. I really do think this is because of my successful pregnancy, and the fact that Cora is so perfect. If we wouldn’t have achieved a pregnancy, like so many others that were affected, I think I would be feeling this stage more. And that brings me to where I currently sit:

Stage Four: Depression.

I hate that word. Sad? Sure. But depressed? That is a whole new level of sadness. One that I equate with numbness. One that I didn’t think I felt until recently. I’m not depressed about the beautiful life I’ve created with Irwin. I’m not depressed about having a baby and losing a lot of my freedom. I’m not depressed about my mom-bod. But I am depressed about the thought that my dreams of having that big family are somewhat shattered. I’m numb to the thought of having to go through another round of IVF. Of being poked 100 more times. Of spending tens of thousands of dollars on one more shot at possibly having another baby. Of knowing our lawsuit may not do anything but put a band-aid on the situation instead of totally changing the way fertility clinics operate.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to get to stage five. But today is not that day.

Today, I mourn the family we painstakingly created, only to have it taken away before I even got to call them by name. Today, I rejoice in the blessing that is my daughter and knowing that one more week could’ve been the difference between our biggest blessing ever and total heartbreak. Today, I cry for all of us who are going through this nightmare. And today, I hope that in the midst of all this, we can bring about change and more regulation for the fertility industry. I hope that we can embrace our families, whether we feel they are complete or not. And I hope that someday, all of us can get to Stage Five.

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Hannah

Hello! My name is Hannah. Born and raised in the CLE where I still reside with my husband, our daughter Cora, and our two dogs. Professionally, I work in the event industry as the director of events for a local venue and also as an event designer and florist for my own company, Hannah Caraballo Designs. I have a personal history with infertility and mentor those who are walking through their own fertility journey. I am an enneagram four. I hate wearing shoes and socks. I love boating, baking, gardening, a glass of good red wine, and spending time with my family.

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