Parenting After Infertility
I saw the first signs of fall yesterday. One tree, of so many green, that has the flaming colors of autumn. Orange, yellow and even a tinge of red.
Seeing the hint allowed me to enjoy the gorgeous weather of the summer in a more delicious way. The colors, the temperature, the breeze, the lack of a jacket; the pieces of summer that mean the most to me.
I am honored and privileged to know quite a few of my Fertile Yoga students for many years. Many of them are mothers now. And I know their babies. Some of them I watch turn into children, toddling about.
Do they enjoy their children more than moms and dads who don’t struggle with infertility?
Do they appreciate precious moments more?
Do they sigh over the milestones with a view to the past in their minds?
Do they love their children more?
Do they enjoy colic?
Do they enjoy cleaning up diapers when a baby is sick more?
So maybe the answer to the earlier questions needs a qualifier.
Yes, we have a different sense of parenthood when we are aware that it almost didn’t happen. Most things that we struggle with, we do appreciate more.
Do we love our children more?
Do we want more for our children?
Do we appreciate some moments in a different way?
A resounding yes.
And do we feel guilt?
For not appreciating every single moment because it’s what we wanted so much, so who are we to complain?
A simple way to put it, perhaps, but there is guilt that we heap on ourselves for being moms and dads.
Somehow what we expect is that because infertility came and stayed for a while that we will never be tired parents. Or exhausted parents. Or disgusted parents. Or resentful parents. Or parents who simply want 13 seconds to ourselves.
Fertile Yoga Parenting Truths: Glory and Exhaustion
And, oh, my Fertile Yoga students who have become parents will tell you this: once these wanted, desired babies get here, you will still get tired. And overdone. And overwhelmed.
You will simply be a parent. Infertility or not.
Once our babies, our children, arrive, we become parents.
In all its glory and exhaustion.
No guilt, moms and dads out there, who are feeling exhausted. You earned the right to feel tired.
When our children arrive, we feel those changes seismically. We see the season behind us and know that time has passed and we have become who we wanted to become.
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Grandchildren. What’s up with that? I just spent time with one of my closest friends and her children. And her grandchildren. How on earth did that happen? Five minutes ago, her children were 6, 10, and 12.
Now they’re adults and one of them has two children of her own. Lovely children. One of my best friends has grandchildren. I watch my friend with her grandchildren and know how lucky she is. She gets to play with them, care for them and about them and return them to their mother at the end of the day. They are her grandchildren, not her children.
I did not have a mother pining for grandchildren, thank goodness. Or if I did, I never knew it. If I’ve never thanked you Mom, about not pressuring me, thank you. There was enough pressure about having infertility problems without feeling more from my parents and the rest of my family. My thanks to my sisters as well about really, really wanting to be aunts but not pushing when my husband and I were struggling to conceive.
Families perpetuate themselves by having children. An obvious statement, really. Family traits and tendencies are continued, some intended and good and some not, by having children. When the children come into our lives biologically, you see your aunt’s nose, you hear your grandfather’s laugh, you see echoes of a mother’s tenderness, or a father’s blue eyes.
Having or not having grandchildren was not something that ever entered my consciousness when I was trying to conceive. They weren’t ever part of the reason that I was so distressed about not conceiving. I was unable to see that far when the much more immediate future seemed so unyielding.
A friend remind me that infertility was not a life or death problem as cancer or other diseases were, her statement created a shift in my outlook. I realized how literally she was seeing that phrase. In fact, infertility can very much be a death. A death to perpetuating a family, a death to the future generations. It was the first time I thought about grandchildren and not having them. I thought more mournfully of my mother, grandchildless.
Infertility is life and death. The inability to bring life to a child, creating a new family, a new generation is a death. Sounds grim. Feels grim too sometimes. The ability to bring a new family into being is bringing life. Less grim. Life and death.
My vision became grandchildren. Looking farther than just what I was immersed in helped me see the forest and not just the trees. Seeing farther opened the possibility of a child coming into my life in unexpected ways.
I was able to see the life in the life and death of infertility.
Today is my husband's 55th birthday. Which makes him older than my father was when he died. Astonishing to think about. I've been good. I haven't made him go for a stress test or see a cardiologist (he has no heart disease in his family, which is what my Dad died of). It's been a long enough time since my father died that I don't project it on my husband anymore. Or at least not too often.
It is interesting to see the connections the brain makes. What one thinks about as it moves in and out of the past, present and future. The grandchildren that my father didn't get to meet, that he didn't even know about. The grandfather that they didn't get to meet, but only hear about second and third hand.
What infertility takes away and the unexpected gifts that are also offered. The loss that we are sure we are going to continue to feel. That sense, that absolutely knowing sometimes, that this will never work. The dread of not making our parents into grandparents. The understanding that we ourselves will not be grandparents either. Our families, our genes will not be continuing on, nor our heritages or lineage.
Except when it works. I know you know that it will never work. You will never become pregnant. Except that so often, so incredibly frequently, we do become pregnant. Treatment works, cycles succeed, we do become pregnant. We do have babies. Our families do continue. Our parents become grandparents, we become parents, our sisters and brothers become aunts and uncles and often, we watch our children play with their cousins.
Why are we in treatment? Because it works. Very often. Very frequently. It works. And we become parents.
For no other reason than it's my husband's birthday and he is now older than my father was when he died and that it's the second to last day of 2010, I offer up a wish for all of us.
That this is the year we become parents.