Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What If?

Given that the title of my blog is all about the big 'ifs' in life (and especially my big 'if), I found Stirrup Queen's Project IF fitting for me, like a well-worn shoe. I have mulled over the possibilities of different outcomes both in the present and the future so many times over that that well-worn shoe no longer has a sole. In fact I found this project so incredibly difficult simply because I had to narrow it down. My mind is full of what ifs.  But the one that stood out for me the clearest was one that I am still living.

As many of you know, I lost my Father in February. While my husband and uncle were there in the hospital to help me make the big decisions-whether to continue life saving measures or not, I was alone in that there were no other siblings there to shoulder the same burden. Surrounded by people at his service, I ultimately was the only one who made arrangements, the only one to utter the word 'Dad' on that day. So, it got me to thinking about my son.

What if my son, as possibly an only child for good, is left in the same shoes I was in just a few months ago- standing alongside others during my and my husband's passing, but ultimately alone?

I am an only child also as a result of infertility, conceived also after 5 years, so I well know what it's like to be surrounded by loved ones at such a time in life but to not have a single person who is truly standing anywhere near my shoes, who shares my history, my roots, parented by the same people. Given some of the complications of my childhood and now my position with my parents later in life, I carry a weight that is unique to me alone and I have honestly many times resented that there was never another shoulder to help carry it. What if my son also resents this?

I am truly part of the sandwich generation-caring for a new baby as I look after my disabled Mother and it's exhausting.  While I will do my best to avoid creating the same pitfalls for my son that I've recently stumbled over, I wonder: What if he is the only one who can care for us in our elder years? What if he is the only one to make the hard decisions as I reach the end of my days? What if he is the only one standing there in my hospital room wishing he had just one sibling standing beside him?

What if he is the only one?

I will never question how immensly lucky I am that he is here with us. I could have just as easily asked the question: what if I lived in a time when ART didn't exist? I can't begin to imagine that alternate reality. Well, I guess I could; I would just have to imagine life before he existed and yet still there was the possibility.  But now that he is here, I look out over my experience as an only child and ache to think that he might find a table of three at Thanksgiving just as lonely as I did, that he might create an imaginary sibling as I did, that he might resent the quiet in his house and all of his unshared toys as I did. These things spell luxuries to some, but it always spelled loneliness for me.

Although I am never under the delusion that just because you have a sibling means you'll be the best of buddies, but to have someone out there in the world who shares a similar history must be of some comfort. I want him to have that. Perhaps even as an only child he will, for I was never surrounded by family, even extended, and I will make sure he is. But just the possibility alone that he might be the only one saddens me for him...and me. And although nowhere near the sadness the 'what if I never have even one child' gave me, it is still painful enough to remind me that infertility is still alive and breathing in my house.

And yet, what if he is not the only one?

Once upon a time, I questioned whether I would ever have a child. Doubted it, even. And it happened. Beyond my wildest dreams and after many years of treatment, it happened. My son is proof for me that despite dashed hope, despite doubts, miracles do occur in this world. Sometimes we just take a longer, harder path to find them. So what if I do get a second miracle? Yes, the odds are still low, but they're still there.  I now believe in it more because I have seen what dreams coming true look like. My son is hope restored for me.  And if he is an only child for good? So be it. I'll still count myself among the lucky. The 'holy s%$& I just won the friggin' lottery' lucky, and that's quite enough for me.

For more info on infertility and infertility awareness week, go to Resolve's website and learn more!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Letter to the Fertile World

(I will be posting this on my regular family blog and facebook for the fertile world to see!)

In light of National Infertility Awareness week (April 24th-May 1st), I wanted an opportunity to describe what infertility is to those who have been lucky enough to walk outside its shadow; what it is like when every fiber of your body has ached for a child for years on end only to realize that it may always remain a dream unfulfilled. My words will most likely seem over-dramatic and yet will still underplay what infertility is to the millions of people who have experienced it.

What Infertility is...

Infertility is the deafening quiet of an empty house, the hollow 'extra' room that has echoed with a silence only your heart can hear.
Infertility is combing over your family tree and wondering whether your branch will end with you.
Infertility is walking past a children's clothing store and strollers, seeing a mother with her baby, hearing the song of children's laughter, all with your heart in your throat.
Infertility is not being able to plan or even know what the future may hold, turning it all into 'if' rather than 'when'.
Infertility is the family picture you get in the mail at Christmas and the knowledge that if you sent one out, all you would see is who is missing.
Infertility is the death of what could have been, and what may never be, ushering a grief you must re-experience. Every. Single. Month.
Infertility is a box of used needles, a bruised abdomen, an emptied bank account. And two weeks later, despite all that, it is yet another single line on the test stick.
Infertility is the cold rush of immense guilt as you cry tears of sadness rather than joy over a loved one's pregnancy.
Infertility is avoiding get-togethers, holidays-it is your life on hold so that you may not have to walk into another unexpected announcement or mask the utter devastation life keeps handing you.
Infertility is exhausting.
Infertility is innocence lost as you now learn to always expect the next fall.
Infertility is the deepest understanding that life is not fair.
Infertility is your heart's desire always on hold.
Infertility is the same longing others have-to feed, love and nurture your child, to feel their breath on your cheek, hear their cry in the next room, to see them grow and be a part of the world, and to know that all of this may never take place.
Infertility is not a sisterhood I signed up for, but nevertheless one that gave me amazing friendships with some of the strongest women I've ever met, ones who are still standing, still fighting.
Infertility is a silent loss, one that is so rarely recognized for what it is.
Infertility is NOT a choice.
Infertility is a theif for if you are lucky enough to finally be with child, it is with a trepidation that leaves you at first whispering your good news rather than shouting it from the rooftops, leaving the pregnancy journal empty for fear of jinxing your immense fortune.
Infertility is a crisis I lived through for almost 5 years that in the end made me stronger than what I was before, more understanding. Infertility made me a better friend, wife, and now, mother.
Infertility is something that will always be a part of who I am, in my heart, in every breath I take, and when I hold my child, no matter how far I appear to walk away from it.

And yet still, infertility is something I would have lived through a thousand times over to bring my baby boy home.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back Story

There was unfortunately a back story to my Dad's service, one that threatened to overshadow the day. I posted about it on my password protected blog.  If you haven't already gotten a link to that, email me at redrivershel at gmail dot com.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fond Farewell

I said my final farewell to my Father who we laid to rest at a National VA cemetery yesterday. It was a very small affair as my Father, despite his unquenchable thirst for social contact with acquaintances, had unfortunately alienated himself from closer friends and family in the last dozen or so years. Nevertheless, I didn't feel as if it took away from the moments that we all shared to say goodbye.

I had to say that the Air Force honor guard that opened my Father's service was breathtaking.  Two of the soldiers did a flag fold while another played taps on a bugle in the distance. Most eyes were filled with tears.  At the finale, one of the soldiers presented me with the flag. This may sound a bit cheesy, but during that moment my heart was so full of pride for my country and for my Father and for the young, nervous soldiers standing before me. At once I felt lucky to be American (not that I hadn't before, despite our marred reputation worldwide). I know my Father loved this country and it was nothing less than an honorable tribute to a wonderful man.

My Father had requested no funeral, so instead I led the way in telling a synopsis of his life story and myriad stories from friends and family who couldn't make it all the while I stood behind a triad podium decorated with pictures, flowers, belt buckles and his gorgeous urn.  Mr. S added a few stories before everyone congregated at the front. In short, it was as beautiful of a short service as I could have planned.

Most people followed us back to our house about 40 minutes away where we served beer and English food (bangers and mash) as a tribute to my Father's love for England and his time stationed there (and his English heritage).  I spent much of those first moments letting G meet family and friends, showing a video tribute I made, and telling stories with my Uncle (dad's brother) who is the last surviving sibling of 13 (and no, that's not a typo and obviously someone wasn't infertile).  All in all, it was a perfect, cloudless spring day, a day my Father would have loved. It was a good day.  It was a day of tears and stories and laughter and memories and good times. It was a day I will never forget.

Farewell Daddy. I hope you are nothing less than honored by our farewell. Until we meet again...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Straddling the Fence

In reading someone else's blog detailing 'one year ago our ICSI baby was conceived', I realized that it's been over a month since G's one year ICSI conception year since he was created. I had always looked forward to posting about it, to celebrating it, but it came in the midst of my Dad's hospitalization and just days before he passed away. I also neglected to take G's 3 month picture at that time as well.  All of this is understandable, but leaves me with a sadness that time is passing all too quickly and as a result of life's stressors, many moments seem to be slipping through my fingers all too easily.

It seems just yesterday that G was sitting in a petrie dish as one of my 'rockstars'.  And yet, it seems simultaneously light years away. The pain of treatment and living IF on a day-to-day basis is both distant and fresh. My mind and heart and focus are so filled with new motherhood, that sometimes I forget all it took to get here and then I read over my old blog entries, talk to my IF sisters and recall with sharp lazer point detail every emotion that flooded me as the nurse read my negative beta with a matter-of-factness that still sickens me. I am straddling this world and that and now I truly believe that it can be done.

The healing can begin, but will never be done. After our Good Morning America appearance, a surprising thing happened. While I braced myself for some silly, senseless comments, in turn I found myself in three different situations where not only did people start talking about their friend's experiences with infertility (without any of that, "and then they got pregnant right after they adopted" garbage), but they more notably started talking about miscarriage. Sadly, almost every single woman in every small group I spoke with had a personal story to share. But it seemed almost cathartic for each and every one of them and they all concluded that it was too hushed of a topic. And in sharing my own story, I found it more difficult to speak than I had anticipated.  I found that during the interview as well. No matter how much my attention may be diverted, no matter how far away from treatment I walk, it is still a part of me, living and breathing. But it makes me hold my beautiful child that much tighter knowing that if I hadn't have fought, I would never have been so blessed.