I like the clarity a new year promotes – an opportunity to look ahead and say “here’s what I would like this year to look like.” (For me) it’s difficult to separate everyday happenings from my perspective and have that kind of regular foresight into my future. So I enjoy the opportunity to think about resolutions but more generally, I like the chance to consider what part I might play in shaping the next year of my life.
Since this blog has been around for a while, I thought I’d review previous years’ posts.
2014 – “rules” for 2014, which are interesting to look back on now that I’ve quit my job and wholly embraced my introvert tendencies
2013 – I listed three “classical” resolutions then four things that were realistic accomplishments for the year. Interestingly, the four “realistic” things really happened.
2012 – all about school. It was the year of the Comp Exam and my mind was firmly fixed on getting that degree done.
2011 – No real post. I think that year was just kind of a “survive” kinda year.
2010 – difficult to review because it was a recap of 2009 and ended up being almost a letter to my future self. We had a rough year in 2009.
2009 – I might actually recycle most of 2009’s resolution list. I kind of love reading posts from this time. It was before the Ectopic (note the capital E) which, in retrospect, significantly changed my outlook on my entire life. Interesting that it’s taken six years to get back to the same kind of mental space…
I’ve got a one-word resolution for 2015. I plan on using it as my north star, as a way to make decisions, overcome obstacles, and let go of the things that plague me in the wee hours of the morning.
The word is PARENT.
I want to see the close of 2015 with Hubs and I as parents. Whether we are parenting foster kids, adopted kids, or miracle babies, PARENT is the name of the game this year. It’s been a terrible long road and I expect it will continue to be incredibly difficult. But that’s my goal, that’s my guiding principle, and that’s the thing I’m going to spend emotion on. I’m going positive, full-bore, meaningful.
I’ve upped my intake of reading materials from folks who are dealing with infertility, medical interventions, and adoption. Hubs calls this “Matrixing” – essentially collecting a huge amount of information in a very short amount of time.
Certainly I’ve also spent a lot of time reading fact-based information, reports from private, non-profit, and government entities on the trifecta mentioned above. This is good info, and it rarely includes any information about what it’s like to start down the road of “alternate methods” of having a family of more than two.
So I’m just thinking out loud, here, sharing my own story of what it’s like to be looking at this from our unique perspective. Everyone’s story is different; I’ve gained a lot from reading about the paths others have taken, from their stories. Here’s a bit about mine (ours) at the moment.
Recently I read an illuminating post by Hannah Bunker, where she details the related yet distinct challenges of barrenness vs. childlessness. Barrenness is a physical inability to bear children. Bunker’s point, a meaningful one for me, is that no matter how you end up with children, this physical inability has deep-seated emotional weight. It’s the body failing at one of its basic functions.
Medical interventions sometimes allay infertility, but not completely. IVF for infertility is akin to insulin treatment for diabetes; it addresses the symptoms but not the body’s failure to do what it’s meant to do. And infertility treatments often fail; Bunker is speaking to the distinction between a body that is medically infertile or unable to conceive/be pregnant naturally (where medical interventions help) and a body that is barren, unable to bear offspring at all, under any circumstances (where medical interventions are useless).
Adoptive families speak to the distinction of “being pregnant” and “having kids” when they discuss adoption, post-adoption, and how adoption experiences intersect with infertility struggles. The same theme occurs everywhere: “I have no words for how incredibly grateful I am that we are no longer childless. AND there will never be a day that I do not grieve my inability to bear children.”
This thought, repeated over and over again in the first-hand accounts I’ve read, resonates deeply with me and our situation. Since last summer Hubs and I have spent a lot of time in thought and discussion regarding our childlessness. We both want kids and we both want a pregnancy. Separating those two wants was a huge part of our discussions in 2013 – we knew they were distinct yet related priorities.
It was difficult. We struggled (still struggle) with how to prioritize those wants. We had to (have to) separate a lifetime of thinking of those things – being pregnant and having kids – as the same thing.
I say prioritize because that’s another piece of the landscape that I’ve read about over and over again – the ways folks prioritize the “having kids” and “being pregnant” goals. Adoption meets the “having kids” need. Medical intervention meets the “being pregnant” need.
I’ve only encountered a handful of folks who are only concerned with having kids (ie: adoption only). I have yet to read a blog, article, or comments by someone who is only interested in “pregnancy” (ie: surrogacy, I guess?). The point I’m trying to make is that we are not alone in struggling to separate the two things as we plan for the future. I suppose this is why defining priorities, as hard as it is, becomes useful.
There are those who can’t or won’t participate in medical interventions; they tend to start with adoption. Most, though, seem to begin dealing with infertility via medical intervention (MI). For a lucky bunch, MI works swiftly and well and thus meets the needs for both “being pregnant” and “having kids”. Everyone entering the realm of alternative family-making hopes this is them. For many it’s not.
If “being pregnant” is the priority, working through multiple rounds of MI is often the story. These folks may never move to adoption. For them, having kids is absolutely linked to being pregnant. Here there are considerations like what type of MI treatment to start with (shots, IUI, IVF), self or donated eggs/sperm, how often to try, when to stop.
And for some, having kids is synonymous with passing on genes. That’s another part of the priorities equation that shapes decisions. This one adds surrogacy to the many MI decisions that must be made.
Those who prioritize “having kids” tend to end up adopting, eventually. Medical intervention is only a means to an end for the “having kids” crowd. So if MI doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t) those folks explore other ways to have kids. Adoption involves considerations like domestic or international, ethnicity, age, gender, sibling groups (?), health issues, etc…
Ultimately, all these groups want a family. It’s the path they take to get there (directed by their priorities) that dictates what decisions they will make and how their experiences differ.
There’s another priority, of course, that doesn’t often get mentioned in the anecdotal world – that of mental health and the well-being of a couple’s relationship as they move through the “alt family” landscape. All alternative processes take a huge toll on those who experience them. Financial, mental, emotional well-being are all challenged and affected. “Well-being” as a priority almost always includes decisions about boundaries, about how much is too much, about when to stop.
Sometimes it includes the decision to accept childlessness.
This part of the process doesn’t get mentioned for a reason. It’s the scariest, the most lonely, the most terrifying outcome of all when starting down the “alt family” road. A finite, life-long NO KIDS, after weathering the storm of every possible alternative to having kids, is intensely frightening.
But after watching (and reading about) so many folks wrecking themselves on the “kids no matter what” priority, childlessness isn’t quite as scary as it once was for us. Decades filled with emotional turmoil, financial instability, and sheer desperation doesn’t seem like a great option.
It’s a lot to consider. We’ve talked and talked, marinated, investigated, ruminated, explored, probed, questioned. There have been a few hard conversations, some frightening realizations. And we’re at a point where our priorities are straight. We have a map.
Hubs was working with a new group a few weeks ago. One of the guys was a wise old sage who had a solution for everything. Hubs and I both really enjoyed this guy’s advice, mostly because it was so terrible.
For instance, he suggested that a surefire cure to infertility is to get into a huge fight with your partner and then have make-up relations. Boom. Biological issues solved.
That wasn’t the best one, though. The best one was how to deal with a feverish baby. When Hubs was recounting the story I was like, “don’t tell me! It’s a hot tottie!” He gave me a funny look and then told me “kinda, but not really.”
The cure for baby-with-fever, according to wise man: bath the child in rubbing alcohol. RUBBING ALCOHOL.
Another way of saying that is I hope to be a mother; I guess I’m just thinking of all the other options we’ve got waiting on the sidelines that could make that happen.
Really, I know I can be a mother. We can adopt; I know there are many kids waiting for a family. We can do surrogacy, we might just find a baby on a sidewalk somewhere (it’s Mexas, anything can happen).
Being a mom is not something I ever thought I’d want so terribly. I just thought it would come to me easily, which is why this wanting is so alien to me. I didn’t grow up thinking my whole life would revolve around making and raising kids. But the fact that it’s not an effortless thing makes me think otherwise sometimes. When we had a choice, I might have been able to take or leave it. I’m not really sure I’d actually be all that good at it. When uninhibited choice kind of goes out of it, the way I think about it changes. But I digress.
Basically, I know that if I really work at it, I can be a mother. I don’t have to hope for it. I can make it happen by sheer force of will. And “being a mother” doesn’t touch on how much I want to share this with my husband.
What I really hope for is the opportunity to spend a year preparing for an infant. I want quiet moments where we talk or sing to a child that isn’t named yet. I want to hold my best friend’s hand while we listen to a quick, muffled heartbeat months before we meet the person it belongs to. I want to fold tiny clothes, watch Hubs attempt to assemble furniture, guess at a personality, dream about a future. I hope to stay awake in sleepless, uncomfortable, but panic-free nights. I want the kind of physical exhaustion that only means someday soon we get to meet our child, and I get to watch my husband hold his child in his arms and whisper its name, and we both cry a little because it finally happened.