Monday, March 01, 2010

Processing


It's probably pretty obvious to anybody with much life experience at all, but I'll say it anyway. When we experience major losses in our lives, we don't get over it all at once. It is a long, long process reconciling what we wanted with what we got, our dreams with our realities. Sometimes the process stalls and we forget about it or maybe even think we're done with it. And then it kicks up again and we grind through more days of feeling unsettled and trying to understand.

I do think that's probably just about universal. That's one reason why I wrote the "we" and the "us" there. The other reason is that loss is also extremely personal. It's hard to jump in and just say, "This is what I'm going through." First person plural kind of eases the entry.

For me, one big ongoing loss-adjustment process is (duh, surprise) infertility.

Really, after 15 years, yeah, it still is. Sorry. Not over it.

It is true that I no longer have that raw, horrible, need-a-baby, why-am-I-not-good-enough pain. Thank God. The adoption of my perfectly paradoxical, beautiful and challenging first son in 1999 cured that. Big step, big big big step.

I don't even have the exciting spur of baby hunger. I don't see babies and think there are more for me, somewhere in the world. A lot of times I'm not even dying to hold them. I mean, I will, and I like them. But I don't want more kids. Four is a great number for me. I am delighted with the family Dr. G. and I have labored to build. I love it that no one wears diapers at our house these days. I eagerly anticipate having all my kids in school and gaining a few precious hours of my own for writing or errands or maybe a Master's degree.

I am not often embittered now by the mystifying women's ritual of sharing (sometimes gory and horrible) birth stories. The stupid comments ("Do you run a group home?" or "Don't you ever wish you had your own kids?") roll off me. The nursing nazis don't really get to me anymore. Even intentional slights from people who think they know how to push my buttons -- not that there are a lot, but I have seen them -- meh. Maybe because I know I have walked through fire for my kids, I don't have adoption insecurity these days.

The thing that is under my skin now: I've thought a lot about it, and I think it is pure biological clock. I'll be 36 next month. Many, many women my age who have never given birth get this restlessness about it. Normal. It's just that a lot of them don't have four kids.

I have beautiful, amazing nieces and nephews who share bits of my genetic material, and they tug at my heart in a way that I never anticipated. The way my nephew's hair bends in the back just like mine, the creamy pink of his sister's cheek, the something about the eyes of my brother's daughter or the dark blonde color of her little pageboy -- these things just give me a twinge of longing. Some extended family members have been working on scanning old pictures, several from the 1970s. I was a really, really cute baby (and so was G) and it is a darned shame for the aesthetic quality of the general population of human children, for both of us to be the end of the genetic line.

When we decided to abandon infertility treatments in favor of adoption at the end of 1998, I decided that it just didn't matter if my kids looked like me, if I saw traces of my interests and talents in them. Well, maybe I was wrong. It matters, a little. Maybe it is ok for me to just say, it makes me kind of sad.

And I feel like I can say that without taking anything away from the amazing, beautiful, smart, funny, fun kids God has given me. I remember talking to my OB/GYN in Salt Lake when my big boys were little. She was having a baby at 41 and joked with me that that would probably happen to me. At the time, it sounded pretty good. I thought maybe I would have the gorgeous rainbow of kids I was starting to gather up, and still get the pregnancy, childbirth, genetic continuation thing, too -- just a little later.

But now I think my window is closing. Not that it has to. But if I had another child, if I used some of the advanced treatments I eschewed before, it would just be selfish. It wouldn't be because I want to give something to that child. It would be just my own wanting to have a certain experience, to see a little me. Not to mention, I most often feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew with my four, and I really would like to have my youngest be my little Z, graduating from high school when I am only in my early 50s and letting me explore and accomplish some other things.

So I am really thinking about purposefully saying we are done, getting off the roller coaster permanently, taking care of the issues that incapacitate me physically a couple of days each month and give me emotional problems for about 20% of my life. That is a lot of life to give up for a dream that isn't really happening. I think there's more for me to do than just cope.

And that's where I am in the process, 15 years later.

9 comments:

Braden said...

Dear Ana, that was a very poignant post. You made me laugh (at the right times) and my eyes are misty at the end. I don't have any great things to say except that I think you and Glenny are both amazing people that we love very much and always will. For what it's worth, you left a special mark on our family and our kids. I have a feeling that you've done that a lot, everywhere you've gone. I'm not saying that makes it all better, or that it should, but I just want you to know that.
Keep processing and I'm glad you posted this.

Denise said...

I can't pretend to know what it's like, and if I say "I understand," it's only because I understand the desire to see yourself reflected in your children.

My daughter has my hands. Perfect miniatures of my own. And I love it. I'm sorry that you won't have that, and I think it's okay for you to feel sorry, too.

You will see many things that your children will get from you, they just won't be genetic things. But you will pass on your knowledge, your skills, your attitude, your beliefs, your love, and they will reflect you.

I know it's not the same. But it's still amazing. ((hugs))

annie said...

That was quite open and honest. Wow! I won't pretend to understand your feelings, but I appreciate your honesty and thoughts. I hope I'm never one of those people that says such insensitive things and I love that you and G have "labored to build" your family. Some of us go through labor and others LABOR, truly, to build a family and my only hope is that we can all feel the devotion and acceptance of our children that God has given to us. Thanks for the great post. :o)

D said...

Raw and moving. I think there are losses in life we'll never get over, despite how long time lapses, our acceptance of our circumstances, and moving on with our lives. That's okay and normal because it's part of the human experience.

Rachel said...

thank you, and I love you!

Joe said...

Dear Ana,

I was very moved by your reflections on infertility. It brought me back about 12 years when we were at your parents' house. Glenny and I went for a long walk along the Jordan River. He talked about that "raw" longing for a baby that you described in your post. That was the exact time that Brandy was pregnant with Taylor.

You talked about that bio-clock driven door closing on you. As I am growing older, I am forced to realize that many of my life-long dreams are not going to come true. None of them are as painful as yours, but I think I am learning a lesson that may be of some comfort to you and Glenny. If we fight the good fight, as you have, we will have our reward---in this life and in the life to come.

Ana said...

Just wanted to say thanks, thanks, thanks to my dear friends and family for your comments. You are all wonderful!

wendy said...

Thank you for this post. I felt like I had written it myself. I just turned 36 and have 8 kids, all adopted. I wouldn't change/trade my kids for anything. But I always thought I'd still get to experience pregnancy/birth and having a child that looked like my husband and myself. And yet, time is swiftly passing and I have enough on my plate as it is. But there is still a teeny little twinge of pain on occasion that I will never get that experience.

Anyway, thank you!

:::k-laa::: said...

You don't know me. I know you through a friend of a friend. I follow your blog for many reasons but mostly because you are so... real. Your truth inspires me.

You wrote: "I think there's more for me to do than just cope."

My life is likely 180 degrees different than yours but you don't know how much that sentence rings true for me at this point in my life. Thanks for articulating and sharing. :)