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
- 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.
- You have the right to grieve.
- You have the right to talk about your grief.
- You have the right to feel a variety of emotions.
- You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
- You have the right to experience "griefbursts."
- You have the right to make use of ritual.
- You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
- You have the right to search for meaning.
- You have the right to treasure your memories.
- You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.
💜 💜 💜