healing week: choose your own adventure

This week, we’re covering the topic of healing in the ALI world, specifically within the context of parenting.

I’m going to talk about… not healing. Sort of.

In the back of my fridge on the top right shelf, there is a small white box. It’s the leftover box from our injectables round, the one that worked. It expired six months ago. I’ve cleaned the fridge out a few times since then, taking the box out at looking at it for a moment. I tried to donate it to someone who might be able to use it but I never found anyone before it expired. Then I considered throwing it away a few times, but… I didn’t. I put it back. So it’s still there.

There are a lot of ways in which I feel like I’ve healed from our experience with infertility. I’m starting to take better control of my health and making choices about food and exercise when before I felt very much like my body was broken and there was nothing I could do, no agency for me to have any say in how my body functioned. I’m learning to think positively about myself, both physically and emotionally, because I have two small women in my life and they’ll learn to love themselves first and foremost from me.

On top of that, going through a somewhat “high risk” but otherwise enjoyable pregnancy gave me enough of a taste of what to expect that I don’t think I’ll be as nervous the next time around. Maybe I will, who knows, but where I was counting down the days for each little developmental milestone (the babies are girls! the babies can hear sounds! the babies have hair! the babies are the size of bananas!), the next time I’ll probably forget exactly how many weeks I am. I’ve done the newborn thing too, and with two at once; this time around if all goes well one baby shouldn’t be a big deal, right? I’ll be that relaxed second-time mom everyone talks about.

But.

I have a lot of stress about family planning. We want another, and I go as far as to boldly talk about “when” we have a third child rather than “if.” I fully embrace the denial of hoping that we’ll easily get pregnant this next time if I can tame my PCOS with some weight loss and control over my insulin resistance. But do I want to start soon? Do I want to start (finally, for the first time in my life) properly taking charge of my health, only to have to put that on hold for a year or more in the pursuit of pregnancy and another child? Or do I want to wait until I get myself into the sort of shape I really want, only to… get pregnant? And what if I can’t– what if we risk waiting too long?

It’s true that infertility leaves behind scars, and healing is the process of fading the scars but knowing they’ll always be there and moving forward anyways. I understand that, and I hope to get there someday. But it’s also true that I’m not done actively participating in my own reproduction yet, and I don’t see how I could even possibly begin to really, truly heal when I’m still diving right back in.

I always wanted a big family like the one I grew up in. I’m the oldest of five children, and decided I wanted to have four of my own. But man… I’m so, so, so glad to have had twins, because the thought of having to be pregnant twice just to have two kids exhausts me and I wonder if I’d even get to three if I had to do it at least three times. My husband and I talked about our plan for four and definitely downgraded to three, with a distant “maybe” on a fourth, but some days I feel like I just want that third child to show up in a basket on our doorstep like Harry Potter because I really, really do not want to surrender my body, mind and spirit to the pursuit of another pregnancy right now. (Even thinking like this makes me feel so incredibly guilty because wow, there are a whole lot of women out there with a string of past pregnancies that exceeds the number of living children in their homes and I should just think about that for a moment before complaining.) And the one thing that keeps me from totally checking out and settling comfortably into life with two kids is the vision of us, twenty years into the future at a family dinner, with… just four people at the table. That was never my dream. I want more than that.

Do you remember those “choose your own adventure” books?

“‘Oh no!’ cried Jenny. ‘I think we’re lost!'”

To go north and try to find the camp, turn to page 86. To go back to the lake, turn to page 121.

Then you stick your finger in the page and carefully peek to be sure you didn’t just pick the path where you get eaten to the bone by fire ants (that actually happened in one of my choose your own adventure books once… gross). If you flip back fast enough, it didn’t count, right?

Well. You can’t do that in life. So I don’t know whether to turn to page 34 because I decided to try for our next kid now (“Oh no, your house is too small! Better email that real estate agent back and tell him you are ready to start looking. Call a house painter and be prepared to still lose 100k in your home’s value!”), turn to page 87 to focus on taking better care of myself for a while and waiting until we’re really ready to take on the challenge of the potential for more treatments, a pregnancy and a newborn (“Whoops, you waited too long! You’re already in perimenopause”), or just turn to page 154 (“You only have two kids and they both go off to college at the same time so suddenly your house is empty and you are miserable and you get fat again anyways, so”).

So, healing. When will I get there? Until we’re ready to abandon the pursuit of fertility because we don’t need it anymore, any choice we make feels like a grim concession that strips away my agency and hands it straight to the infertility monster. So I don’t know.

Just joining in? Read our previous Healing Week posts by Josey and Chandra.

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IMG_6389Jules is a former toddler teacher and nanny who turned her Master’s degree in early childhood into a full-time gig as a stay-at-home mom to twin toddlers. She blogs about her parenting philosophy (which she hopes is crunchy but accessible), her quest for better health and daily life with her husband, dog and two funny little girls at Two Pink Tulips.

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