Thursday, January 27, 2011

Catching up with my Rambling Thoughts: The Urge to Have a Baby

I must apologize for my absence. The last few months have been a whirlwind and despite my best intentions, I seem to have neglected one of my favorite things: this little blog of mine. Infertility related topics are on my mind daily, but I just haven't been able to sit down and write something compelling.

Not writing has now filled me with a million thoughts and for better or for worse, here's the latest installment from my disjunctive mind:

While enjoying a pile of magazines at Gate 32 on my way to LA, I read a really interesting piece in ELLE written by Corrie Pikul, titled "The Clock-Watcher." (February 2011) In it, Pikul talks about how confused she feels about not feeling a natural pull/desire to have kids and whether that's indicative of a woman who doesn't really want any kids.

'For huge cataclysmic life decisions, like getting married or having a baby, I think people do want to be taken over by a feeling. Otherwise, how do you ever figure it out? If you don't have that part of yourself that irrationally wants to go ahead with this, how do you make decisions?' 
asks psychologist Daphne de Marneffe, PhD. 

It got me thinking, did I ever truly feel that urge or did it turn into an obsession only once I found out I couldn't have a baby the old fashioned way?

I must admit I was never one of those kids who dreamt of her wedding day, of the white picket fence, the dog and the two gorgeous kids bounding across freshly cut grass. Having found the love of my life, getting married felt like a natural progression. Today, I couldn't imagine my life without him, but marriage itself is still not what validates our bond.

So when we decided to try to conceive, I don't recall any urges per se. Similarly to getting married, it was a natural progression of our relationship. We had moved out of the city because the underlying expectation was to start a family. That's what people do, right?

Don't get me wrong, being a mother is truly the most rewarding experience -- the clich├ęs about parenthood are unfortunately truly, so I'll spare you. But this article has lingered with me for the last week. How much of our lives do we actually owe to undeniable desires and how much of it is just us letting the river carry us to the next big ocean?

There's nothing like coming face to face (or should I say ass-cheek?) with a 1 1/2" needle filled with a thick oil to make you think whether having a child is truly something you want to do. (Infertility treatments take commitment and test every aspect of your identity and relationships.) And yet, every time I said, "That's it! I'm done with this shit!" I found myself begging for more. Could we save some more money for the next attempt? Could I find some strength buried deep down inside of me to do this all over again? What if the next cycle is the one we've been waiting for?

What is it that drives us to take on such torture month after month if not for a genuine urge to have a child?

Many times my husband offered that we stop trying; that we had each other and perhaps that should just be enough. I know it hurt his feelings when I told him that was not an option. Having a child would be the only way to complete the circle and that I needed to experience motherhood in what ever form it came in.

A cost-benefit approach was never discussed, because, I believed at the time, that becoming a mother was the ultimate way to define myself as a woman and a wife.

It's probably a good thing that we don't make pros and cons lists for all the big decisions of our lives, otherwise, we'd probably be left devoid of what makes life meaningful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Article, a Friend: Two Stories of Hope via Third-party Reproduction

I've often talked about the close bond that form despite the great challenges that we face in the infertile community. Some of those bonds break past the anonymity of chat rooms/blogs and flourish into real life friendships. Well, such a friendship was formed between my friend Sunshine and me.

Whether it's the years of trying, the losses or the countless invasive procedures, each of our journeys are painful and emotionally debilitating ones. Well, of everyone I know, my friend Sunshine has been through hell. Pure, unforgiving hell. You only have to glance at her infertility journey recap page to get the picture.

Beyond the numbers and figures, I see the true image of a determined soul who never completely gave into despair and always fought through the blizzard (both figuratively and literally) to finally hold two babies in her arms.

This last chapter of her IF journey introduced us to one other pivotal character -- a gestational carrier named Kelly. She has proven to be the most benevolent and dedicated carrier one could hope for. I read each of Sunshine's entries with great interest and admiration. The decision and experience of going through a gestational carrier was a very rewarding one, and one that has resulted in the births of twins.

I feel the need to point out that not all experiences with carriers are as affable and yield such exceptional outcomes. Stories of carriers who take the money and vanish; carriers who sue the parents to get the child back; carriers who smoke and drink during the pregnancy. Like all diverged paths to parenthood, the one of third-party reproduction can be fraught with challenges.

There must have been something in the infertile air, because on the same weekend that Sunshine announced that her little miracles were finally here, I came across this article in The New York Times Magazine: "Meet the Twiblings" by Melanie Therstrom.

After undergoing infertility treatments, Therstrom and her husband decided to turn to third-party reproduction options. They opted for an egg donor and for the embryos (donor egg + Therstrom's husband's sperm) to be transferred to two gestational carriers. The babies were born just days apart. It is a fascinating and thought provoking journey. And like all infertility stories, there were many expressions of the loss of hope, the coping mechanisms and the retrospective look on the journey that resonated with me and I believe will resonate with you as well -- the common threads that connect us all.

Here, a few highlights from the article:

"For many couples, the most crushing aspect of fertility treatment is not all the early morning blood-draws but the haunting feeling that the universe is telling them that their union is not — in a spiritual, as well as a biological, sense — fruitful."

"We were careful to refer to the fetuses as the “drafts” rather than our chosen names to remind ourselves that they were notes toward the children we wanted, but if they died, they were just beginnings like all the embryos had been, and we would start again."

"Plan A — making babies with the tools you have around the house, as they say, the fun, free tools — faded into the background, and Plan B became foreground. I can count the ways Plan B is a less-desirable way to have children — the route seems to take you off the edge of the world and into the land of scrolly dragons. But when you actually go there, the map shifts. The brain’s ability to rewrite — to destinize, as it were — the birth story and turn a barn into a manger is so powerful that Plan B, all its unsexiness notwithstanding, became the best plan, because Plan B created the children that we have and are convinced we had to have."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Follow Friday

I knew when I made the decision to start a weekly "Follow Friday" entry -- featuring fellow blogger entries that resonated with me -- that I would find myself in a bind. Too many of you are fantastic writers and so eloquently describe the various emotional stages you're experiencing. 

So, I'm not going to limit myself (or you, dear readers) to just one entry. I'm going to feature as many as I'd like. I will attempt to summarize the entries and share some of my favorite quotes/passages. 

After that, my hope is that you link back, read the full entries and comment. 


Jess at "A little blog about the big Infertility"-- "Sharing":

After TTC for the last 5 years, Jess and her husband have decided to pursue embryo adoption. With this decision, she has written a beautiful letter to her loved about about the decision, in which she highlights her hopes, the complexities of their decision, and addresses head the pain of infertility, but that in the end they are resolute and hopeful.

"Be sad with us and be happy with us, but don't pity us. [...] We do get sad sometimes, but there is always joy in our lives. [...]  The road to our inner peace will be paved with or without children, but I do believe they are on their way -- eventually."

Jessica at "Waiting for a baby bump" -- "Separated from the wolf pack":

In this entry, she talks about feeling left behind, specifically by her friends who have moved on to motherhood, and how those friends are still supporting one another through teething and breastfeeding issues, while not taking the time to acknowledge Jessica's pain. I think this post, poignantly written, will hit home with so many of you. 

"They've had their babies, they are mommies and I am not part of the mommy club. I feel like I am in Jr. High all over again and it makes me want to puke. I am wiser (a little wiser), older (much older) and less likely to get my feathers ruffled by stupid comments about IF, but the ignoring, I can't take it anymore. I know, I know, they probably don't know what to say, or don't want to bring it up or talk about their kids for fear upsetting me... nice and thoughtful they all must be, but I don't think so. I really think that I have been forgotten. In fact I know that I have been forgotten. I am the odd-woman out and the fact that most of them, whom I have known for over 20 years, have no idea how to relate to the woman who can't get her ass over the infertility fence before their kids go off to college."

Sloper at "Park Slope Purgatory" --  "Unblocked; or things I didn't accomplish before I turned 30":

Sloper, like many of us, made of list of things she wanted to accomplish by the time she turned 30. Some milestones seem so far away until you turn the corner and realize you've only checked off a few (at best) of those items from your list. Sloper's list included having a baby, which she's undergoing treatment for, and getting published. She has found a new drive to pursue this dream. Like so many of us, along with the death of hope, infertility robs us of our aspirations. I applaud Sloper for focusing back on herself and her dreams, and not letting IF take everything away from her. 

"And yesterday, for the first time in ever, I thought to myself that maybe it would be okay if I couldn't have a baby soon. Maybe I still have other dreams I can pursue. Maybe I'm still young enough not to throw in the towel on everything. [...] I want to fight for it. I have the will to win at something again and the need that's maybe strong enough to overcome the fear."