I am here. I’ve arrived, some would say. After much perseverance, a lot of heart ache, much hand wringing, and more twists and turns than I thought our journey would take, I am a mother to two boys, both with the help of ART. I still have a hard time wrapping my head and heart around this new life. Just this morning, I was feeding baby boy, and as I was looking at him, I had this strange (but familiar) out of body experience that is like a dream where I am watching myself move through this life and for a few seconds it does not feel like it is actually happening. Only, I never wake up, or come to, and the dream does not evaporate.
I still carry with me the wounds of my infertility. They feel below the surface now, but not buried and not scarred over. The struggle of this journey to #2 is a part of who I am and it is something that will never leave me. Oh, I expect it to recede over time, much as the gut-wrenching grief over the loss of my brother did, but I can call the grief forward with a mere thought and the same will be true of my infertility. So, yes, I may be on the other side in that I have completed my family, but it really is two sides of the same coin. Being infertile will never be teased out of my being a mother.
But, what has changed is not being defined by my infertility. While in the throes of treatment and even when we stepped away, it felt like I was broken, inadequate, searching, lost. I could not get away from the unquenchable desire to continue down a path to number two, several paths even, just to fill that void, quell the beast of longing and yearning. And, undoubtedly, I am healed and I am content. I am also an infertility survivor.
Since I see infertility as the disease it was finally recognized to be, I feel like even though there is no known cure, one can survive it. That doesn’t necessarily mean having children, as for some coming to terms with not having children or not having the desired number of children is also a way to survive it. Eventually, all infertiles have to make peace with their disease or it will win. And, by winning, I mean it will take from us more than just our right to have a child. It can turn us into shells of ourselves, failures in our own eyes, because that is how we define lack of success. I will not be defined by my infertility any more than I am define by being an adult adoptee or an adult who survived a childhood tragedy or a woman who no longer has an appendix or a gall bladder. It is part of who I am but it is not me.
New motherhood is just as sweet, if not sweeter, this time around. It is a delicate act, mothering a newborn and an almost 6 year old and I do find myself chastising my older son more than I wish I had to. In fact, I feel like I’ve lost a bit of my connection with him even though I fight hard to carve out even a few minutes of alone time with him and make sure to check in with him about how he is feeling. I apologize a lot because I am not perfect and I know I am harder on him that a situation may warrant.
As for baby boy, I am alone with him from 8:30 – 2:30 every day and again overnight from 1AM – 7AM. I try to anticipate and meet his needs quickly and savor our quiet wakeful moments when he looks deeply at me. I feel like his thought bubble would say, “Oh, here comes the nice lady who will feed me (or change me) and make it all better”. He is the embodiment of my longing.
I try not to sweat the small stuff, but as a Type A personality that’s just not going to happen. Maybe I am a little less manic about getting things done, but, just a skosh. I mean, as a SAHM, some things must get done. I am efficient, I’ll say that much, and I can get a dozen things done in a half an hour if I have my hands free. And, getting things done allows me to relax better when he is awake.
And, there are moments now of such completeness it catches my breath. Just the simple occasion of having all four of us in our bed, watching TV, laughing or chatting while I’m feeding baby, or having my son bring his Legos into our room to build just so he can be with the baby and me, it validates in spades all that we went through to get here.
It is not for me to say when others should stop treatment. I always had this vague worry about stopping one cycle short. Then, as we had diminishing returns with each own egg cycle, I knew our end was near and I knew when we’d come to it. And, when our donor egg cycle failed, I knew we’d come to the end of the line with ART (not knowing that we’d return to it 2 1/2 years later). I couldn’t have known then what I know now but I did have glimpses of it in others and I did have inklings of what I knew it would feel like if we could just get here. If you are in the thick of it, I will you to keep moving forward. If you know your time has come to stop treatments may your heart be quiet knowing you did your very best. What more can we ask of ourselves?
This post is all over the board, I see that, but so am I. I am reconciling and weaving together that which I fought so hard for with that which I now have. There is a coming together and intertwining of my selves. A zippering up, so to speak. It is a work in progress, but there is progress.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”