When does life or love begin?

My last post left off in July, 2009, but I felt like switching gears for this posting….

I am a liberally minded woman.  I vote democratic, and I guess that’s relevant because of all of the right winged tea party nuts that hijacked that Grand Old Party, many of which have since uttered and tried to impose their archaic opinions about a problem that was already solved.

I am pro choice.  I have never had an abortion, but should I have needed to have one for any thoughtful reason, I likely would have.  I support any woman’s right to choose, although I do tend to judge a woman I know who professes to be a devout Catholic and has had two abortions. I mean, how can she support that church so completely and still abort?  Talk about making a choice.  Anyway….

I am struck by the question as to when life begins, something some politicians have recently tried to weigh in on, because as I type this, now 2 days after my 12th retrieval, I have 3 embryos that have 4 cells, the exact right amount.  By Monday, I will know how many blastocysts we have to freeze.  (Blastocysts refer to the level of cells and growth that an embryo should be by day 5 of its existence.)

There is a lot of discussion in the fertility world as to when the best time is to put embryos in, but I’ve heard 3 top doctors indicate if they don’t survive outside in the lab until day 5, then they’re not going to survive inside the woman’s uterus, and with these doctors’ guidance, I made the decision that we should grow them to day 5 before freezing, so we know what we’re legitimately working with come late January.  If they don’t all make it to day 5, then we will freeze less than 3.

(Saturday I was supposed to get an update on the embryos, hopefully the news that they had now reached 8 cells, but either someone at the lab or my least favorite nurse at the doctor’s office dropped the administrative ball, and missed the window of getting the embryologists to send an update.  I got this voice-mail from the nurse, who I’ve had words with before, during which I had to remind her as to the sensitivity of her job, I mean, really, anyone who is in a fertility office is under duress and she should act accordingly – that I would have to wait until Monday for a report, and my shoulders immediately raised, as if I was ready for a fight.  Fortunately, I had gone to the spiritual healer that morning and was able to remind myself to breathe, that how these embryos were growing would in no way be altered by my knowledge; that I’d already done everything I could.)

(As mentioned in the last post, we opted to freeze because I have had grade A embryos in the past that haven’t attached, and we suspect that my body needs a break from the magical poison Follistim before the embryos will attach. Plus, I am on a highly demanding project right now, and have to create the right mental & physical space to be ready to accept these embryos.)

Anyway, what I want to express is how much I already love these embryos, and they don’t even have a heartbeat yet.  While their actual DNA doesn’t really take over until week 3, they were made with the DNA of my husband and me, and they are Finley’s brother or sister. They were made out of love, out of want, out of a desire to be parents so strong that we have done more than what over 99% of parents out there do, just in order to get them to be 4 cells.  But I already love them, speak to them, and we even have names picked out for our next children.

(Well – actually – we’re settled on the girl’s name; Craig has issues with the boy’s name that I love so much, but I know that I will eventually win the battle on this one or we will agree on an even better name.  Clearly, with these embryos still in a lab in Tarzana, there is no need for us to rush the baby naming.)

Even when I am doing the stimulation, when I am shooting myself up with 2 – 4 shots a night, I will rub low on my belly where my ovaries are, and speak to my ovaries with care. I will tell my ovaries that they’re doing a great job. I will encourage my follicles to grow.  I will close my eyes and wait for the pink or blue energy waves that sometimes come over me to visit so I know that my spirit babies are on their way.

Most people would suggest 4-cell embryos are not alive. And they’re right; it’s only the beginning of life, and without hearing a heartbeat (something we can hear with the most advanced technology at week 5), they’re not really even chemically alive.  More-over, they don’t have a chance at life until they’re inside a woman’s body, mine, in this case, at which point little by little they grow into babies, before they are born, and legitimately – alive.

In olden times, before people understood biology and human beginnings, people believed that babies just started out as miniature humans, and that they just they grew bigger and bigger over time. These were called homunculus.

Now we know of course that there are developmental stages. I, for instance, learned the hard way with my son Finley that the lungs don’t develop until after the 30th week.

I write all of this for two reasons.

First, it was on my mind.  I’ve thought about it and joked about it with people a lot.  If you’re trying to get pregnant, and you’re trying to get pregnant to the degree that I am, then you know every step of the way what is happening inside of you (or in the lab). And you end up loving the IDEA of the baby every step of the way, even before they are 4 cells.

Secondly, I had already known Friday morning that I was going to write this for my next post, and then a tragedy occurred in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.   A man walked into a school and killed 20 6 and 7 year old children, and 6 of the courageous adults who tried to protect the children.

I have wept multiple times thinking of those sweet little children, their voices small and their eyes big and their lives only just beginning, murdered.  It is brutal and makes me question my faith in humanity.

I also think of the parents.

Parents who filled those children’s lunch boxes that morning.

Parents who had Christmas and Hanukah gifts already wrapped; parents who were looking forward to watching Jessica or Jack or Olivia or Noah open up their train or doll or coloring book or football.

Parents who might have made their child go to school that morning, even if the child might have had the sniffles.

Parents who rushed to work that morning and didn’t wake up their child to hug him goodbye.

Those parents, whose arms will now ache for their children.  Who will wake up from their sleeping pill induced sleep wondering if it was a nightmare, before realizing that it really did happen.

And I ask, as a parent to a son I didn’t get to know very long, but who I knew so completely and loved so deeply, will these parents miss their children more than I miss Finley because they knew their children longer, and therefore loved them more?

Is it reasonable that I, a bereaved parent, sense that I know what they’re feeling?

Dreams are crushed, period.

But while dreams are equally crushed, there are more ‘things’ that these parents fell in love with:

The sleepy look in their son’s eyes when he tried to stay awake

The sound of her giggling

Their little voices as they sang the Happy Birthday song

And all of those unique, endearing, beloved qualities that made these children who they were; their DNA

I wonder this question aloud because I have on so many occasions battled with others who tried to compare their losses to mine, something I’ll get into in more detail, later, but to summarize – I used to believe that the person who miscarries at 8 weeks does not have the same sadness that I have at having met my son and held his hand, before he died.

But what if that mother struggled with fertility, too, and therefore fell in love with the idea of her baby even before she heard the heartbeat?  Does her pain hurt as much when she didn’t have as long to know her fetus?  Can I judge when I’m already in love with the likely now more than 8 cell organisms that are growing in petri dishes in Tarzana? Would a parent of one of those precious little children in Connecticut take issue with me relating to them as a fellow bereaved parent, when I never got to see my child’s eyes or hear my child’s laugh or watch him walk?  Are they luckier than me because they did get to experience all of those firsts, before losing them?

I think it is human nature to compare our-selves to others.  And even in the movie “The Rabbit Hole” – a movie about parents whose 6 year old son dies, and the aftermath of what this does to them as individuals and as a couple, Nicole Kidman’s character takes issue with her mother, who lost her son / Kidman’s character’s brother at about 30, due to a drug overdose, relating to her pain.

Is it fair that Dianne Wiest’s character tries to relate to her daughter, the bereaved mother of a 6-year old, as she herself is a bereaved mother of a 30-year old?

At this link below is a scene during which Kidman’s character talks to her mother, played by Wiest, about the pain of being a bereaved parent.


When life begins is one question. When love begins is another. Still – these are questions that can only be answered by the individuals faced with loss and painful decisions in which no politicians should play any part.

And as far as the parents in Connecticut whose hearts are broken, whose arms ache, and whose dreams are crushed, my wish is that eventually they might find a way to continue their relationships with their children on a spiritual level, whether with dolphins or butterflies or deer; that even though the most heinous act was inflicted on those poor and innocent children, that they might one day find a way to ‘crawl out from under (their pain) and carry (it) like a brick in (their) pocket’.

6 thoughts on “When does life or love begin?

  1. This is truly beautiful and thought provoking. I love what you said about when life begins vs when love begins…so true…for many love begins way before “life” may begin however people decide that…
    As a woman who suffered multiple miscarriages (one being at 14 weeks) and now as a mama of two beautiful boys 3 1/2 a d 1 1/2… Loss is loss. Pain is pain. My first miscarriage was tortuous. I can’t even fathom the pain of your loss of your son you held I your arms. And now Connecticut…. My heart aches and my heart races at the thought of what these parents are experiencing. I’ve shed many tears-even while putting my baby to sleep thinking about a mommy who doesn’t get to do that anymore. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching. And I tell you what, it’s not the pain, the heartache I felt experiencing my miscarriage….it’s a pit of pain at the thought of losing one of my boys…it’s different and it’s intense. So maybe there are varying degrees of pain in loss… Not to discount one over another…but maybe different. Nobody should ever discount anyone’s pain… No matter when the loss….for that may be the only most horrifying thing one has experienced…whether it be in utero, at day one, at year 6, at year 30… I guess it’s all relative… I pray for you that finleys brother/and or sister chooses you soon…and lets you feel the healing that is to come.

  2. I agree with Chelsea. Loss is loss. Pain is pain. Love is love. Someone in your same situation might not feel love for cells in a petri dish. They may not allow themselves to, or they may not need to. No one can put a “price” or a length on love. Your 1 day with Finley could equal the 2000+ days the parents in CT had. I don’t think anyone has the right to judge the differences.
    Someone posted something on FB yesterday that I thought was extremely profound. She said “the day I became a mother g-d sewed my heart to the heart of all mothers.”
    As a mother, the parents pain in CT is my pain. And your love for those little cells and your prayers to the universe and to your body are my love and prayers also. xo

  3. When does life or love begin?
    Your words are so open and honest and direct. I believe love begins and
    there is no stopping it ….the feelings of love you are experiencing for those 3 beatuiful embryos is beautiful and the energy of your love must go to them…
    This blog is nakedly beautiful and honest..
    Continue your great job, Lorraine.

  4. Beautiful post, Lorraine. Each time i read your words about Finley, my thoughts go to my daughter who took her last breaths in my arms, Olivia’s twin, who’s fate I had worried so much about during the weeks before their births. I miss her everyday, my beautiful Isabel. I can’t see twin girls without imagining what the two girls would have looked like together, through the years, all the stages. I think of Jonah’s twin brother who didn’t survive in-utero, but who’s little body I delivered. We didn’t name him, but in my mind I call him Luca. I miss him too.

    The 20 babies in Newtown… I can’t stop crying. I can think of no greater pain. Your words about this tragic event are just right, and I do think our empathy and compassion are greater due to what we’ve lost. I suppose, it’s cruel, but I believe our loss and pain make us more human. It kills part of us off, as well. But in the human race, we are more connected to others. Vicky, above, said it so beautifully… The pain in CT is our pain, our loss. I think, even more so because we’ve lost babies. Also, like Vicki, your wishes and dreams are mine. With love for you and your embryos…

    • Stacey – thank you for your beautiful post. I of course knew about Isabel, but I never knew about Luca. Thank you for sharing that in this forum. I really appreciate all of your support, and your prayers, which are actually palpable.

      You wrote, “…our loss and pain make us more human. It kills part of us off, as well.” I think that’s very beautiful, and tragically true.

      In ’13 I would love you to expound upon the grave loss you’ve experienced, and what it is really like to see twin girls and wonder, “what if?”; what it has been like for you to give birth to a little person that doesn’t get to live (twice); if your daughter knew you were supposed to have twins again, and how / whether you explained that Jonah’s brother wasn’t coming home…. I – and I’m sure others – would also love to know all of the fears that I suspect went along with your pregnancy with Jonah, and whether you’ll talk about Isabel to Olivia. I, for instance, feel certain that we’ll talk about Finley to his brother and sister, one day….

      Your words and support honor me, other parents, and those beautiful little angelic souls.

      Lots of love to you.

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