Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life, Death, and What to be Happy About

I feel that I am existing in a swirl of life and death. I have talked about the cycle of life before, and infertility's place in it. But these days the deaths seem to be catching up with the births and it's time to get philosophical again.

In one week about a month ago, a good friend had a major fertility setback, and another friend died of cancer. I felt like a boulder-sized paperweight had squashed me flat. I felt so terrible for both of them. In neither case was there anything I could do; sometimes even crafts can't right the wrong. In neither case did the catastrophe really have anything to do with me. My codependent self yearned to take responsibility for Making it All Better, but there was absolutely nothing to do.

In reference to the infertility pain, especially, I thought through my grief, "Whom can I ask advice from here? Who would know the best thing for me to do to help?" The answer, it turned out, was me. I remembered back to the advice I'd given other people about dealing with an infertile me. Support the person who is in pain. Write to her. Let her know you're behind her no matter what. So I did that. And then a few days later I awoke one night with a gasp: I had forgotten something. The rest of that advice was to keep your distance if you're pregnant. Let her set the tone and pace of the communication. Once you're displayed your support, get the hell out of the picture, because your presence cannot do anything but hurt. This realization, now that I was on the other side, sliced me to the core.

And so I finally sat down and came to the conclusion that there's nothing I can do to anaesthetize the world at large. Pain is out there. There's nothing more I can do about it.

That was a biggie. It was humbling, and it felt like a great defeat.

It made me rethink this blog.

"Achieving Conceiving." I used to think that once a couple conceived a child, all the hard stuff would be over. I was right in terms of how it feels to go through the world and see pregnant women and babies abounding. It's a whole lot better now. Not only do I not wince at the sight, but I get treated like royalty. People are extra solicitous and respectful of me. I've become very very special to a world of strangers.

What I didn't know when I started and named the blog was that conceiving does not equal having a baby (I learned about miscarriage from my friend Laughing4Heir). The physical rigor of pregnancy also surprised me, as did the fact that a lot of my existence became dictated by disabling nausea and fatigue. I also learned post-conception about what it's like to move to the other end of the infertility boat: the side where you aren't fighting for life, but your comrades on the other end are. There was plenty of stuff to say, but I resisted writing about it all; the infertility community doesn't want to hear about pregnancy experiences.

But I looked back at my blog through a lawyer's eyes and was glad to note that I'd put a tag line on the blog, in addition to the name. "Chronicling the Journey to the Light at the End of the Canal." Whew. Fine print that would allow me to continue my writing, even though I'd already achieved/conceived. But could I do it? What would my internal feeling-protecting censors let me say?

Let's review this entry so far:

1) New life abounds and fresh death abounds.
2) No matter what I do, I cannot protect everyone from pain.
3) My blog's focus must shift from discussing conception to discussing the rest of the pregnancy journey. Lots more needs to be said.

Enter Iona.

Iona Kathleen Bailey is my twin brother's new baby girl. She is sixteen days old today. I love her more than anything. I look at her and cannot wait for her to wake the hell up (she's a sleepy baby), grow, delight us with getting to know her, and become our future. I can't fathom that my little bitty brother helped make a new person with our family's DNA in it. I can't wait to see a mixture of him and his wife at work.

At Thanksgiving dinner, my stepfather said that he was thankful for Iona and the cousins I'll be producing for her soon. He said that the births of these babies gave him perspective on dealing with his own mom's final days. Me, when I heard that Mrs. Bollyky passed away, I pled with her son: please tell me that she knew I was pregnant. He reassured me that she knew.

Turns out that the world needs babies. Babies are the only thing that can counteract death. They are essential. As a former infertile woman, I need to acknowledge that. My desire to protect my infertile friends and readers from pain may be noble, but it's never going to shield them entirely. In the meantime, the rest of us need to hear about the babies. Just like we need to reproduce, as I've discussed ad nauseum, we need our loved ones to reproduce. We need an infusion of life wherever it comes from. As Iona teaches me, babies fill you with an automatic love and joy, hope and expectation.

So this light, this blog, is coming out from under the bushel. I owe it to you, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to our two wonderful, kick-happy buns in the oven.

Let this Christmas season be about life.


Anonymous said...

You wrote that right when I needed to read that.

good going, sister.


Not Your Aunt Bea said...

Having had a few sad weeks past me, I can tell you that made me feel lighthearted and renewed were the smiles, laughter, and sheer silliness of my girls. The ability of kids to live in the present and enjoy thisveryminute is good medicine.

DAVs said...

I know I sent you an email, but I felt the need the post. Some of your readers will know that is me you're talking about...and I want them to know that your presence doesn't make me hurt. It only makes me yearn, from the bottom of my toenails, to be celebrating with you, rather than just for you.
I will never tire of hearing from you, and I will repeatedly wrap myself in your hug blanket and think of the love it represents.

Laughing4Heir said...

I do think that bringing a new life into this world is about the most optimistic, hopeful thing someone can do. After 9/11, when I fell rapidly into a depression, all I could focus on was despair. And then it hit me one day: humans, even in the most desparing situations, still willingly make babies. If people in desperate situations have hope enough to bring a baby into the world, who am I to despair? (Granted, it still took months and therapy to move out of my depression, but it was a helpful realization.)