Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Mama Who Won't Be

Ever since I began pondering my life as a (future) mother, I have said that I would like to have a biological child and an adopted child. I had thought that I would get married, get pregnant as soon as we wanted me to, have a full 9 months (really 10)of "root beer floats and bliss" (as the kick-ass Dr. Nancy Snyderman said this morning on the Today Show), squeeze out a fat, happy baby, take him or her home and go about my merry way of motherhood. Eventually, once we had seen the glory of our dreams of biological progeny realized, I'd set about saving the world, one orphan at a time. (And yes, that's what I thought adoption was: giving a loving home to an abandoned orphan. Turns out that's not really what is going on in U.S. adoptions these days - it's more of a brave, strong birthmother making the hardest choice in the world for the good of her little baby and giving loving waiting families the gift of their dreams. But I digress.) I've known for a long time that I could love a non-biological child as my own, without reservation, and my plan seemed failproof - the best of both worlds. That's the mama I wanted to be.

Then I actually got married and eventually became pregnant (a little later than we had hoped), and, well, beginning at week 15, the shit hit the fan. You know the rest of that chapter: fatal prognosis after prognosis, hospitalization, pre-eclampsia, H.E.L.L.P. syndrome, Becca, NICU, therapy, isolation, rehospitalizations, special needs and (a teaser for an upcoming post) the cutest ballerina in the world.

Well, once your plans go awry, or at least once my plans go awry, it becomes exponentially more important for those plans to get back on course somehow, anyhow. We knew that we wanted another child, and that desire has become increasingly, well, desperate over the past 2 years as we have tried to conceive again. We want another child. I want to be pregnant. I want to be fat and waddley and to have showers (and not cancel them) and eat and celebrate and do everything pregnant women get to do without expecting my child to die. I want it. Even with my risks, even with the complication of already having a child with special needs, even with my going back to work. I want it even more than I ever wanted to be pregnant before Becca. So we've tried and tried and tried and tried, and this time we even tried by doing intrauterine insemination (IUI). If I couldn't be the mama I originally hoped to be, I could be this mama. I so wanted to be this mama.

I'm not. Nothing seems to be working. We won't do IVF (for a variety of reason, not the least of which is the cost). We could do more rounds of IUI, though with each round, I get closer to the point at which the medicines have been documented to raise a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. We could continue to push my body to do what we want it to do, even though what would be considered a success could very easily turn out to be extremely dangerous to my body. Put it that way, and I can completely understand why my body might be protesting. The body's self-preservation instinct is very strong, and we women's bodies in particular are very, very smart. My sense is that it's time to stop pushing and acknowledge the fact(? liklihood?) that I won't be that mama, either.

But still, our family is not complete.* As a friend said a few months ago when I was feeling guilty about grieving my infertility when I am already a mother and have a child, "You can't explain it. You just know when your family is complete. And yours isn't." It's not. And I have a lot of grief around my inability to conceive, the liklihood that I will never again have the moment of peeing on a stick and seeing the double lines (Lord knows I've peed on enough sticks over the past 2 years and only seen one line), that I will never feel a child moving inside me again (and never be able to feel it from the outside, either - Becca was too small for such shenanigans), that I will never breastfeed a child, that I will never have that painful and exhilirating moment of realization that labor is actually beginning, that I'll never deliver a baby and hold him or her in the delivery room (or anytime in the child's first 3.5 weeks of life), etc., etc. I could go on, but I think you get the drift. I'm grieving the loss of this potential pregnancy, but I'm also having to revisit the grief surrounding Becca's pregnancy and early arrival. To be perfectly honest, it sucks. There's just something so wrong about someone who has spent nearly her entire life taking care of other people's chilren not being able to have her own healthy child. It's just wrong.

But life is wrong. Shoulds and shouldn'ts don't really seem to count for anything. To quote another brilliant friend with too much experience in the hard knocks of life, "You get what you get." You deal with the cards you're dealt, and you (eventually) move on.

But life is also funny sometimes. You may see where this is going, but flashback with me to my original vision of motherhood. I wanted a biological child. Check. Then I wanted to adopt a child. Hmmm...could we possibly eventually end up with a check there, too? Maybe I will get what I wanted in the first place after all? We're really just beginning to survey our options concerning our family, but adoption is certainly on the table. Or maybe it's across the room, and we're gazing curiously at it. We'll see. We've still got a lot of grieving and discerning to do, but we'll see.

So all of that is to say, this isn't the road that I had hoped to travel, if you will. But I'm still holding out hope that the road we are on will turn out to have been exactly what we wanted after all, albeit with a whole darn lot of ugly and frustrating construction along the way. Right now we may be seeing through the mirror dimly, and in the end our family will turn out be even more amazing and blessed than I had ever before imagined. I might know the mama I won't be, but I've yet to see the mama I will be. I hear her life is pretty awesome, too.

*John takes issue with this term. He says that it implies that our family is incomplete, like having one child isn't a complete family and that Becca isn't enough. I certainly see his point, but I can't come up with a better way to express what I'm feeling, that I just know that our family needs to and will grow. Maybe that's a better way to put it.


  1. I may have told you before, or maybe I didn't, but our plan was to have two boys close together. Obviously our path had a few twists and turns and a lot of heartache when we found what life had planned for us was not necessarily what we thought we wanted. Fast forward a couple of years and we find ourselves with two boys, close together. I still mourn our baby girl, but I can now have the hindsight of knowing if we had our Aubrie we would not have our Tyler, and what a blessing all three of our babies are in their own right. I hope ten years from now you can look back over lost and detoured dreams and know with certainty that the road took you where you were supposed to be... Even when the road really sucks.

  2. Nancy, I understand so much of what you're saying about grieving life not going the way you had anticipated. First with Mike being born seriously ill, then my marriage which I thought was rock-solid crumbling, then Mike passing this year. But God does have a plan for your family, and I know it's a good one. Sometimes things that seem like disappointments are turned into blessings :) I have seen it time and time again. Prayers for you! and hugs too...

  3. Mackenzie Leonard LoberAugust 8, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    "There's just something so wrong about someone who has spent nearly her entire life taking care of other people's children not being able to have her own healthy child. It's just wrong."
    Oh Nancy, I swear I could've written these words myself. Although I can't know the journey you and John have walked through Becca's issues and infertility, I so relate to knowing that your journey to motherhood is very different than you ever envisioned. As my hubby and I look down the road to IVF, egg and sperm donors, foregoing breastfeeding, and lots of other abnormal things that will be part of our journey to a family, I echo your sentiments about having cared for children my whole life and wishing we could just "try" and then conceive our own healthy baby, like the rest of the world seems to. Regardless, I know that our journey, and yours, have been ordained by God, and that the families He has for us will be more perfect than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. Here's to the mamas we WILL be.

  4. You said it just how I would say it. I want that do-over, that second pregnancy, that second child. My first is still very young, but my husband is adamant that we are only having one.

    So, I hope that your grief will bring something and someone beautiful into your life. My hopes for you are part of my hopes for me.