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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Comments

  1. I can imagine it would be difficult to impossible to feel truly “healed” after infertility while still building one’s family. Particularly for someone in your shoes who is likely to face the same challenges in having additional children that she faced in becoming a parent in the first place. As a friend of mine once said, when it comes to having children, the difference between one and two (or, in your case, the difference between two and three) is somehow not as great as the difference between zero and one. But there is no resolution when you are still in the trenches.

    I also have twin toddlers, now almost 15 months old, but I am in a different emotional/mental space than the one you describe because I know that I am really and truly DONE with family building. (My husband and I would’ve been content with one child and now have two.) I do think that feeling healed from infertility is easier once you are done battling through it.

  2. Ugh, I hear ya on this. I am also the oldest of 5 and wanted 4, and my husband wanted 3. Now we’re in the “thank God we have 1 but MAYBE we’ll get lucky and have 2?” stage. It’s so frickin hard. We’re TTC again now that I got my period back, but in reality I don’t WANT to be pregnant again yet (it feels SO wrong to even say/type that). If I miraculously did, we’ve adjust and it’d be awesome, but in reality, I want to get healthier, we’re broke, and I don’t love being pregnant so I’m not excited about that part of it…BUT…I worry that if we wait and we never get pregnant, did we prevent that one cycle that would have been our next kid? So we try…we try even though it’s not the right time. IF is such a mindfuck. 😛

  3. I feel like I can relate to so much of this post! I am 35 weeks pregnant with baby #2 who was somehow “naturally” conceived after IVF #3 failed. And I definitely spent some days of this pregnancy thinking about how I have absolutely no desire to be pregnant again. I think I mostly felt like that when I was pounding out the miles on the treadmill. Running is challenging enough, running with a huge belly and extra weight is just about no fun at all. I waver between the anticipation of “when” we get pregnant with #3 and praying that I have the time to get my body back before it happens. And, I too, walk around saying “when” now instead of “if”. My poor husband looks at me like I’m a crazy person when I start talking about trying again (he’s all, “aren’t you still pregnant?”). BUT, my AMH is terrible for someone “so young” and I know the reality is that either we are intentional about trying for baby #3 or we may not have the chance and I’ve always want more than 2. (and, yes, all of this makes me sound so incredibly selfish). Anyways, thank you for this post and your honesty!!

  4. Oh, I so hear you on this. I had to giggle at the one pregnancy just to get one baby bit – and I realize why I am so fucking tired. I am on pregnancy number 4 and I have one living child and I hope it will be two come October. I wanted four, but I cannot fathom putting myself through this whole wringer twice more. I just don’t think I have it in me. But I do have one frozen embryo and our story won’t be complete without giving that embryo a shot at life.

    So, I feel you. I am healing, but I am not healed. I am still vulnerable to this journey, part of my story still unwritten and wavering in the balance,and it won’t be complete without the end of that story.

  5. Wow yah, this just smacked me square in the nose – such a huge part of my healing is knowing my pain is behind me. Our family is complete, I *can* move into a space of healing. I can’t imagine living in that in-between full of gratitude for the child(ren) we have but not feeling like our family is yet complete. Great post.

  6. I think this is so true for so many of us. I think healing happens in bits and pieces, and right now, I’m feeling rather healed. But if we decide we want a third (and we think right now that we do), I’ll be back where I was last summer after I’d healed from the experience to get Matthew, and then dove right back into the misery that is IF. Our quest for #3 will be difficult just knowing that we only have 5 embryos to work with – and then we’re done. I have to treat this pregnancy as my last because it very well could be – and where will I be in regards to healing then? It’s so tricky. Some days feel great (most days actually) and some days I’m reminded that I can’t just decide, like normal people, to have another baby if I want.

    I hear you on the fear of being done with just the twins because of that whole issue of them leaving the nest at the same time. I think that’s rough. We always said that if we had twins first, we’d go for a third just to avoid that scenario. My heart could not take that.

    I so hope you get your third. I really think you will.

    This is a fantastic post! All of you have posted fabulously different perspectives, and I love it!

  7. Oh I totally feel this. It’s weird to me, since I have this baby around the house now, that I’m considering if there will ever be another baby or even attempts at one, let alone the two more I’d imagined. It’s a very strange limbo and I hope we will find our way out of it eventually. Good luck healing when the time comes that your family is complete! Lovely post.

  8. “any choice we make feels like a grim concession that strips away my agency and hands it straight to the infertility monster” THIS. Great post.

  9. sometimes I wonder if I am in my current head space because sub consciously deep down I think maybe I am done. I lost my dream for a big family a few years ago and turning 35 last month didn’t do my reproduction any favours!! I feel like I am at the point of this will never happen naturally, ever. And I don’t know how to go through the whole process of IVF again. I don’t have any frozen back ups. For us its the whole shebang and it scares me to go back to that old person whose life was inexplicably centred around babies. . All I can hear in the back of my head is a tick tick tick and if I give into it I am screwed. Healing is such an ongoing process. So, perhaps for now I am healed by TTC #1 but I am not healed by the thought of #2. Ergo, will I ever be healed? Right now in this moment I am happy, so I’ll take that as being on the right path to healing.

  10. Oh I hear you on this!! So often I say ‘when #2 is here’ ‘when the kids share a room’ or whatever it might be… assuming… but not knowing. Scary and something I don’t even want to think about because deep down I know damn well there may not be a #2 but I am not ready to let that dream go, no where close. We are in the ready to try for #2 as soon as AF returns stage right now and I have a zillion emotions going through me about the whole thing right now. I don’t know how it will all feel when our family is ‘complete’ but now I am just focusing on if our family even will ever feel that way. Scary stuff this IF business.

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  1. […] sure to go back and read the healing posts written by: Josey, Chandra, Julie, and SRB if you haven’t already done […]

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