Sometimes mourning is a matryoshka: while you think you have to elaborate one, a smaller, more subtle, less showy one appears inside.
A very common matryoshka bereavement occurs when a diagnosis of loss of fertility is made before the loss of a child.
When knowing about infertility has put the couple and their expectation of parenthood in crisis.
There are many taboos surrounding these couples’ stories. Stories that all seem the same, because they are labeled as “infertility stories”, stories that the world does not want to hear (like the stories of perinatal bereavement, let alone when they happen together …).
Stories that everyone wants to solve as soon as possible, and so on with the carousel of advice remedies options cures, physical and mental (you know, the head has its weight, they continue to tell our women, especially women, as per tradition).
We think that dismantling the taboos and offering authentic support to all the components of this matryoshka mourning could help people, couples, to relate to their problem in a more conscious, effective and healthy way.
We are interested in the well-being of people, we are interested in everyone finding their own possible path, poised between dream and reality.
We are also interested in that ordinary people stop feeding taboos with disinformation and solutionism.
We have tried to describe how a couple is diagnosed with infertility. At the first great bereavement, which can undermine identity and even personal value, if not properly supported.
Claudia Ravaldi and Letizia Giorgini (the text is the result of a work carried out on hundreds of testimonies from various couples we have met over the years, from shared stories that we have been lucky enough to hear).
If you can dream it you can do it!
“We were engaged, we decided to live together, we caught a fish, a cat or a dog, we are happy like this.
We tell each other.
And for a while, it’s really true.
Then, suddenly, we feel that something is still missing to make our happiness megagalactic .
Let’s look for what.
We inevitably change perspective.
Sometimes, in unison, looking into each other’s eyes, we realize together.
Sometimes one of us arrives before the other, and hatches that fragment of happiness a little, before realizing if it is shared.
It is. We understand it.
A small figure full of promise appears on the horizon (on our horizon!) .
Here’s what it was.
We miss a child.
And there it is, as soon as it is realized it is already in our thoughts: before reaching the belly it was already born in the head and in the heart.
The child is born of desire, they say.
And we already have an exponential number of them: suddenly we think of signing her up for a dance class, or of rejoicing seeing him on the pitch when he scores the first goal.
We want it to be a certain way, but we also want it not to be a certain other way.
For example, and we tell each other before bursting out laughing, we fear that he will take the big nose from his paternal grandmother or the crooked feet of his uncle.
It is no longer enough for us to be “Tizia and Caio”, the eternal boyfriends: we want to hear ourselves called mum or dad.
Among other things, it has been a while since those around us have been asking (or rather investigating) when we will become a “family”.
And so we decide, hopeful and incredulous, to cheer on that sketch of a dream that we have dreamed of in two: from now on, go ahead!
The first month we already hope for it, the head has left a long time ago and we would like the body to proceed with the same zeal, but we know that sometimes it takes a little time and then we wait for the second, the third and already we begin to worry a little, while everyone around “reassures us”: “We have to try for a year, then let’s see if there is any problem. But for sure there isn’t.”
“Isn’t there? Are you sure?” “You’ll see, Nannini had it at 54 ….”
“Ok, Nannini. Ok, one year. Ok, they’re safe.”
But it doesn’t come.
“Could it be my fault?” “Maybe it will be stress, everyone says that stress affects conception. I need to stop going to the gym, maybe I get too tired. I like the gym. Oh well, it’s for our dream. “
I feel a strange fear snaking.
It’s like a set of fears. Some I don’t really understand. Others are exchanged between us.
I’m afraid this dream is becoming a problem.
I’m afraid my desire isn’t as strong as hers.
Could it be that we don’t want it enough? Could it be that one of the two is not actually dreaming properly?
I’m scared. We are afraid.
In a liquid way, it is an indistinct fear that however contaminates our days and prevents us from being lucid.
At first we decide not to think about it for a while, about fear, and the fear of fear, then comes the moment of the first explosion.
Here comes yet another menstrual flow.
There comes a wave of deep hatred, like a lava flow, covers me, and he, and our dream, and ravenous, extends to the dreams being fulfilled and already fulfilled by others. Friends, relatives, even the VIPs who show triumphal bellies in glossy magazines.
It covers us.
Let’s take a lapillus of courage (sometimes hatred is an effective push towards acts of heroism).
We go to an expert to make all the “necessary” checks.
I am ashamed. I don’t want to be here. You look at me, you cannot decipher me, you are lost, I frighten you and a little pain. A crack has opened between us.
You say no. But I see it in your awkward gaze, I hear it between the words “it’s okay even if it’s just the two of us”.
No. It’s not enough for me anymore, just the two of us. Or maybe yes. But that would mean changing your dream.
And then they tell us, technically blameless and with rubber faces (who knows why the people who give bad news have rubber faces? I never understood ..)
Are there any problems.
Between us and our dream.
And we look at each other, we are each other’s raft, and each other’s castaway.
And we become two gigantic, clumsy, desperate, incredulous why.
We who, we were really very sure, very sure, have so much love to give, so much so that we were already there on the sidelines to encourage him or under the stage to see her do the pirouettes in that pink skirt and the perfect bun?
If you can dream it, you can do it! I don’t know what’s going to happen. “
The diagnosis of infertility affects the teeth, like all bad diagnoses, which have long courses, complex therapies and uncertain outcomes.
Couples live by why, like all people exposed to trauma, for days, for months. All of these because they become so noisy in the head that you have to make even more noise not to hear them. And then it happens to scream and get angry, and often you can not do it with others if not with those around you.
In the ideal story “and they lived happily ever after” the two manage to mutually strengthen each other, to overcome difficult moments, to put aside the family dreams that they have had for thirty years to find a different and fully satisfying parenting space.
Or, after many and many attempts, they finally manage to have their child dreamed of for so long, that now you didn’t even hope for it anymore.
True stories, be it Disney, or the Brothers Grimm, are more complicated. The variables are endless. The end of the story is not obvious, until the last page it can change. And it is precisely this “suspension”, this not being able to know what will happen and when, and at what price, the supreme test of resilience for infertile parents.
In true stories, anger against destiny, against those useless ovaries, against those stoned spermatozoids, the guilt towards oneself for not being able to fulfill the only wish that you would really want to be fulfilled, and that every day it seems to us the only possible one that is worth living for. In real stories comes the blame towards the other for not being able to give him a “real family”, and the list of sacrifices that must be made to make the dream come true. And the pain arrives, so deep and so deep that it seems elusive.
Yet it is a misunderstood experience, which is liquidated with a “there are so many alternative solutions today” and a “poor things, yet they would be very good parents!”.
And this taboo situation is a real mourning.
From which to start again.
To understand in what order to put desires back, how to handle them, and what is the best way to make this story, our family story.