Friday, January 12, 2018

Grieving My Dog & Questioning Fertility Clinics

I haven't logged on lately because I have been grieving the loss of my dog. I know it can be hard for some people to hear about pet loss so I put this post's subject in the title. I talk about my dog in the first part and infertility in the last two parts, if you want to skip the beginning.

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Like everyone's dog is, my dog was the best. I loved her and we had the greatest time together. So when it came to the end of her life, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. It was peaceful. It was dignified. It was the right time. I have a lot of comfort knowing she is no longer sick and in pain. Yet, despite all these things, it still sucks and I am sad. I really miss her.

She actually lived over four times longer than the prognosis she was given. We had time to prepare mentally and emotionally, and we had time to spoil her and make the most of every day together. Still... She is now gone and her absence is glaringly obvious. I'm still in my old habits of going to pick up her water bowl at night or checking the couch to see if she's there.

I would like to write a tribute to her, but I think it will take some time for me to write something worthy of her. For now, I'll just tell you a little bit about her.

I had wanted a dog for years but couldn't afford to care for one, so I waited. Then my husband and I started dating. Almost immediately, I informed him of my dog dream/plan. He was doubtful; unlike my dog-loving family, it's not what he was raised with. Well, we got married and just a year and a half later, we got a dog! Hahahaha. I knew I would "win." ;) And my husband was very quickly wrapped around her little finger/paw. He loved that dog and cared for her in ways I could have never predicted.

We got her before we tried to have kids, so she was with me every day of the traumatic ordeal that was my experience with infertility. And she was really with me. Her fur absorbed so many of my tears. She would always do something goofy and make me laugh. And on the days where I had zero energy and motivation, she would just sit with me for hours. God, I loved that dog.

She filled my empty arms.

Yet, although I am sad, I am also truly comforted and at peace. Her health had been declining quickly over the last several weeks, and she was extremely uncomfortable in her last couple of days. It was time. Her spirit was strong, but her body was worn out. We used an at-home service so she could be where she was most comfortable. A doctor and two assistants came to our house. They were wonderful, total strangers that were a part of a very intimate moment of our lives. My husband took the day off work, and we were both with her the entire time.

I've never had my own dog before, so this was my first time with everything. I wasn't sure how/if I was going to be able to handle it, but I was determined. She was with me through everything; I wasn't going to leave her when she needed me most. And like I said earlier, it was very peaceful and dignified. From the beginning of her life to the end, we were blessed with so many caring and talented professionals: vets, vet techs, trainers, the place where we boarded her when we went out of town. Everyone who met her loved her, and she loved everyone she met.

So I am very, very thankful.

*****

Here is the part where infertility comes in.
(Because infertility has a weird way of making itself a part of so many life experiences...)

The at-home service that I used gave me a folder as they left. I looked inside and it was full of information about grief and resources for support. My first thought, which I yelled out loud, was WHERE WAS MY FOLDER ABOUT GRIEF FROM MY FERTILITY CLINIC??

Seriously. Wtf. A lot of IUIs do not result in pregnancy. Most rounds of IVF do not result in pregnancy. Basically, a whole lot of fucking people do not leave the fertility clinic with the hoped for result. And we are just left out in the world--hurting, confused, and unsupported. We are left to fend for ourselves, to process on our own what we just experienced, and to figure out how to live again since, even though infertility can definitely kill your spirit, it is not actually fatal.

I want to start campaigning for After Care programs at fertility clinics. I think it's completely messed up that this isn't standard procedure. I am keeping this idea in the back of my head for after I move. There are fertility clinics where I am going, and I am seriously considering visiting them and pitching my idea. (If anyone else reading likes this idea too and does anything like it in their area of the world, I would love to hear about your process and the responses you get.)

I had the rare positive experience with my fertility clinic, but even they didn't have an After Care program. There was just the final appointment where the doctor and I talked about why the last round hadn't resulted in pregnancy. She was honest that my odds were slim and asked if I was interested in exploring other options (egg donor, embryo adoption, and adoption). I told her no, that I was exhausted, and that I couldn't do it anymore but I'd come back to her if I ever felt differently because I really did trust her. She said she was sorry that I didn't get pregnant, and I told her I always appreciated her honesty and her bedside manner. She complimented me on my clarity and strength. And that was it. Nothing else. No more appointments. No follow-up phone call. No folder full of resources and information about grief.

Really, fertility industry, an After Care folder is hardly difficult or expensive to put together.

Just a few of the things included in the folder given to me after my dog passed away:

  • a handout that describes what normal grief looks and feels like (physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually)
  • a handout with five suggestions for your daily routine that help you "bring yourself back" after grief (their words, not mine)
  • a handout describing different professionals that can help with grief after losing a pet (psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, clergy members, hotlines, and website forums)
  • a list of local and online pet loss support groups
    AND
  • a whole dang booklet called Your Guide to Pet Loss that includes topics like Common Feelings After Pet Loss, Factors That Can Complicate Grief, and Taking Care of You.

I am in shock. This seems like a no-brainer. Why is there no After Care offered at fertility clinics??

*****

In closing, I will share the "ten inalienable rights after the death of a special companion animal" written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt in his book When Your Pet Dies: A guide to mourning, remembering, and healing that were printed in the guide booklet given to me. I think you will find these ten rights quite applicable to recovering from infertility. 


  1. You have the right to grieve.
  2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
  3. You have the right to feel a variety of emotions.
  4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
  5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts."
  6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
  7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
  8. You have the right to search for meaning.
  9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
  10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

💜 💜 💜  

17 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. I know, I have lost my beloved Wolf I few years ago.

    And I couldn't agree more.. where is the After Care from Fertility clinics when all the treatments fail? I didn't get anything at all either...

    sending you a big hug across the Atlantic.

    Klara

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    1. Thank you Klara. Since losing my dog, I have thought of you and your Wolf often. <3

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  2. Such a good idea. So strange it's not already done!
    Sending condolences and much care for the loss of your beloved dog.

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  3. Only other dog owners/dog lovers can relate to the loss of a dog. I had a dog for sixteen years (I grew up with her) and no exaggeration, she was the love of my life. Twenty years later I still dream about her. I cried the other day at a memory I have of smacking her snout so hard I nearly broke her teeth after she'd run away into traffic. I was terrified she's be killed (I must've been 15 at the time). Lately I've been regretful that no one told me some basic training stuff like reward them if they come back to you after running away: my parents taught me to smack her, the idiots. Anyway I digress: what I'm saying is, that dog is always on my mind twenty years later. I dream about her a lot (more than my mum who also died). She slept with me and I adored her beyond possibility. She almost died of parvovirus when she was little and I remember my mum sobbing on the phone to the vet (the adoration is NOT restricted to us childfree/less!). The house was in mourning. She rallied, and we had her for a long time after that. My mum was very soft with her and when she died (my mum), the dog really felt it. I can wax on for hours about how empathetic and intelligent dogs are (ours had an extensive vocabulary of words she knew). But I don't bother if someone has never owned a dog. My husband just doesn't get it, for example. So I say to you: I am so, so sorry for your sad loss.
    And a big yeah to After Care for clinic patients! I was dropped like a hot potato from mine after I failed treatment and didn't puruse donor egg. For clinics here, the offer of a donor egg is seen as a fix-all; again, this proves that the alternative (no baby) is not considered at all.

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    1. Thank you for sharing some of your memories about your dog. I think my dog will be like your dog-- I think I will think about her for the rest of my life. She had such a funny personality and she was so, so loving.

      The fact that no clinics have any After Care shows me that the fertility industry overall does not care about its patients; it only cares about positive pregnancy tests. Very infuriating.

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  4. I am so, so sorry for your loss. Especially as your dog was there for you throughout the roughest times, that loss is amplified. She sounds amazing and like she had a great life all the way up until the end she got to experience at home with her parents.

    Um, I'm with you. TOTALLY with you. There should 100% be an After Care program with fertility clinics! I was planning to go to the hospital-based one that I was involved with most and talk with their counselor, because I always wanted to be a part of a panel for "what happens after if I don't get pregnant?" I think it's important to be introduced early to alternative options and the childfree resolution so that it's NOT such a stigmatized, horror-story type future for people going through treatment. I think your idea is BRILLIANT. I would be willing to give it a go in my neck of the woods (Western NY). I think it's important, too, and a conversation to start having with patients before it's fully "over" so it's not as much as a sucker punch. That said, I don't know how willing I would have been to listen to someone who had come out the other side without parenting and seemed okay with it, especially at the height of BabyMania, but I think it would be so good, so healthy, so not "We'll get you pregnant, absolutely, all you need to do is just KEEP GOING until you DROP."

    Again, I'm sorry for the loss of your sweet pup. Thinking of you and sending you love!

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    1. Thank you. She did have a great life. That seems to be how my friends and family have consoled me, by reassuring me that she lived the most wonderful life with my husband and me.

      PLEASE let me know how you are received by fertility clinics and/or panel discussions! My email is infertilephoenix at g mail dot com. If we all come at this from our different parts of the world, maybe we can effect some real change!!

      (And "keep going until you drop" is so true. I went until I absolutely couldn't anymore. One of my friends kept going and going and going. I began to recognize the ghostly, vacant look in her eyes when I would see her in pictures. I ached for her, but she wouldn't stop and it sure as hell wasn't my place to say anything to her about her own experience. Anyway, she is now pregnant. She definitely has a little more life in her eyes now, but I still think she needs time to recover and heal from infertility.)

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  5. I am so sorry about your dog. The loss of my dog when I was a preschooler was my first experience with death, & I remember it vividly. I have never had another pet, but all of us are madly in love with the puppy our nephew got last year and I know that when the time comes (hopefully many years for now), there are going to be a lot of broken hearts in the family...! :(

    And you make an EXCELLENT point about the lack of aftercare at fertility clinics!! Personally, I had nothing. Get back on the horse, call us when you get your period and we can start again, etc. etc. Any support that I got while I was in treatment was entirely the result of my own efforts & research. :p And I very much doubt things have changed much in the 15+ years since then.

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    1. Thank you for your condolences. I can barely believe the pet loss industry is more in tune to grief than the infertility industry. There is something quite gross about the lack of After Care at fertility clinics.

      Honestly, the worst part was my fertility clinic did have a counselor. But she was AWFUL. She had no business being employed by them. She was fertile, but unlike my counselor that I loved who was also fertile, this woman had no clue how hurtful and condescending her comments and suggestions were. Plus, you had to return to the scene of the crime (the fertility clinic) in order to see her. Does no one think these things through???

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  6. Oh, dear Phoenix, I am so sorry! I got tears in my eyes when reading this. On the one hand I am glad you had such a wonderful four-legged companion during the toughest years. On the other hand it is so hard to lose your beloved dog. Thinking of you!

    That folder though... I love those ten rights! I do think it would have helped me to get such a brochure because I had so much insecurity about grief. I was sometimes scared what I was going through wasn't "normal"...

    Yes, it seems obvious, doesn't it? Of course something like this should be handed out to patients after their last treatment if it wasn't successful. I didn't get anything like it from "my" clinic either. I am wondering whether I should suggest it to them, too.

    I might actually refer to this topic on my own blog, if you don't mind?

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    1. Thank you for reading about my beloved dog. I am happy to share what a loving support she was during my darkest years. I swear she waited until I was okay before she passed. How else did she outlive her aggressive cancer for more than a year when she was given three months to live?

      When I sensed she was getting more uncomfortable, I told her: "I'm going to be okay now. You did your job and I will never be able to thank you enough. You don't need to worry about me and you don't need to suffer. I am going to be okay." After our talk, her health rapidly declined. I really believe she was holding on because of me. But she saw me at my absolute worst; she saw me how no one else saw me--the days when my husband was at work and I was all alone at home and I just couldn't handle my situation AT ALL. She knew how bad I was. So I had to explicitly tell her that I was going to be okay. Well that, and I reassured her she wasn't going to miss anything fun--that I was going back to school and my husband was going back to work. Talk about a dog that had a fear of missing out... ;) I love her.

      Yes! Please! Share, refer to, and use my idea in your part of the world. I'm not going to trademark Infertility After Care and try to make money off the idea haha. I just want women like us to receive the support they DESERVE. (I didn't even know I was grieving until I found this little corner of the blogosphere and started reading and learning from everyone's blogs.)

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    2. What a sweet story. It does sound like she actually waited and indeed understood when you told her that you were going to be okay <3. In all the sadness, this is beautiful, too.

      I'll let you know when I post something on After Care by infertility clinics!

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  7. I am sorry for your loss. Although I have never had a pet, I can totally understand how much support that gentle soul gave you. I am a infertility professional and couldn't agree more on your thought that an after care is essential after Infertility treatments.

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    1. Thank you. <3 Please let me know if you start or hear of any clinic starting an After Care program. I think such a service is long overdue.

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  8. I am so sorry you lost your dog. Pets really are part of our family, and they leave a huge hole when they go.

    It is shocking though, isn't it, that vets care more for people after losses or the end of their involvement with you as a client, than fertility clinics do. Shocking, yet not surprising. Sigh!

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    1. Thank you Mali. It has definitely been tough adjusting to her absence.

      Exactly!! My vet was so kind and caring. Not that my fertility doctor wasn't (she was), but my vet knew the obvious--I was dealing with a major loss--and gave me information to help me grieve and process. The fertility clinic seemed to have missed this major fact and provided no support after I ended treatments.

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