Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude 2.0

'Tis the be thankful (I know what you were thinking). A few months ago, I wrote about my deep appreciation for my Lifelines along this perilous journey. On this day - a day for which I am desperately trying to do my part in preserving the gratitude that seems to be slipping into the abyss of door busters and early-bird savings - I will seek to expand on the thankfulness that seven months later has instilled in me. And hopefully perpetuate the grand defense of the turkey. 

So, to begin the belaboring of food-related puns...let's dig in!

I am thankful for this blog and for all of you out there reading it. I have vented, whined, lamented, hoped, and observed. I have found a peace of mind and a soothing of heart here in Internet-land. Admittedly, this whole thing started for purely selfish reasons, but I know it's grown beyond my own healing.  I am so thankful for and humbled by the mutual support and camaraderie flowering from each post.

I am thankful for "alternative" medicine, this whole new world that has opened up avenues of health for body and mind.

I am thankful that my body is responding to treatment - whether it be Western, Eastern, or au naturale, by body is responding and normalizing.  At this point, it is only a matter of time and routine to get us to our goal.

I am thankful I know my body. If I have learned anything along the way these past 2 1/2 years, it is how to read my body.  It is how to pay attention.  And it is knowing the effect outside elements have on my body - good or bad.  I've said it many times, but it is SO important that I will continue to preach this: Learn how your body works.  Know what is normal for you.  Pay attention when normal interferes with basic functions.  Speak up when what you know - through your own research and intuition - is not being properly addressed by medicine. Be your own health advocate. Do not be afraid to try, fail, try again, fail again, and continue to explore new things until something adjusts normal into the basic function that has eluded you.

I am thankful for financial security.  Without it we would never have been able to pursue any kind of treatment.  We would be in the dark about our obstacles. It is a travesty that couples in our position need to spend so much emotional currency on the stress of money, but it is where the healthcare system of our society sits at this point.  Parity is rare to non-existent when it comes to fertility treatment.  Jeff and I are fortunate to be in a position where we have managed to scrape by paying out-of-pocket for my fertility specialist and for weekly acupuncture and periodic naturopath appointments.  I am tempted to ask why we have to in the first place, but just being able to is enough to make me grateful.

And in that vein, I am thankful to have a job that offers me the flexibility to be able to go to the appointments I've needed to go to. To be an emotional and hormonal wreck (at times). To take a break every now and then to focus on my personal crises.  This has been a support system in and of itself.

I am thankful for humor and perspective.  Coming (nearly - the saga continues) full circle, looking back, and anticipating the future, my heart has only been able to heal - scarred though it may be - because of the love and support of those around me.  But also because of those lighter moments of laughing at the completely absurd nature of human fertility, conception, and pro-creation. To my dear friends who keep me smiling (you know who you are), you have saved me time and again.

I am thankful for me.  All narcissistic undertones aside - and fully recognizing the role others have played in my survival - I have been through hell.  I may not have climbed completely out yet (call it the shallowest circle) but I'm still going strong.  Human beings are incredible creatures, and I find it perfectly acceptable to acknowledge when we've been particularly resilient. I was reminded of this by watching a Good Morning America update on the condition of Robin Roberts - a woman whose seemingly immeasurable strength beautifully exudes through her spirit.  Here is what she said: "We're all a little stronger - just a little bit stronger - than we think we are.  And that is all we need." We tend to overlook our abilities to thrive, but I will take this moment to admit I am both proud of and surprised at my own fortitude. 

And finally, I am thankful for traditions - for good food and beautiful family, for the Macy's parade providing the day's soundtrack, for wishbone breaking and watching "Christmas Vacation" after Thanksgiving dinner, for "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," for mom's carrots and pumpkin pie drowned in Cool Whip, for holding out and not turning on the Christmas music until Friday -  for all of those things that remind me why I keep fighting.   Viva la Turkey-day!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are We There Yet and Fa-La-La-ing

So many times along this journey, I’ve had to stop and simply ask “why?”  But probably not the why most people would think.  It’s not “why hasn’t this worked out the way we planned,” but rather “why am I putting myself through this physical hell?” and “why is this emotional and psychological turmoil worth it?” and “why should I keep playing the waiting game month after eternally long month?”

I’m a great believer in experiential living, in the idea that what we expose ourselves to greatly shapes who we are, who we will become, and what we ultimately value as essential parts making up the whole of what we call life. (Excuse me while I wax philosophical.)

So when I ask myself why I want to be a mother, why I am trying so hard to create a family, I turn to the experiences of my life.  And when I experience something that adds another layer to living, I remind myself that this is why I want to have a child.

Let’s back up a bit.  My husband and I recently embarked on an epic journey – a 10-day road trip to and through the American Southwest.  We drove anywhere from six to ten hours a day and slept in hotels running the gamut of dated and cheesy to plush and upscale. We saw friends, family, and the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon.  We took interstates and back roads and listened to every CD in my collection. And we created a jewel in the expanding treasure chest of our lives together.

Now, I am no stranger to such trekking.  My parents enriched my and my sister’s lives exponentially with every summer they packed us up in the truck (small though it was, and smaller though it seemed to get) and herded our little family in a general direction. These two-week trips took us all over the western United States.  We hit the big ones – Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Grand Canyon. And we stumbled upon the more obscure – Dinosaur National Monument (VERY cool for the budding post-Jurassic Park paleontologist), the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival (quite fascinating and extremely gross to the 6- and 10-year-olds), and serene Flathead Lake (soul food for an introspective and moody adolescent who decided to pick up a camera one day). 

But we also experienced the countless in-between moments – driving across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats at sunset, our feet hanging out the open truck window; or trying to guess the mileage between points A and B along the incredibly sparse and surprisingly long straight-stretches between Reno and Vegas; or escaping the flash flood at that KOA in South Dakota, taking shelter in the Twilight Zone rec room above the campground office; or the record Arizona heat toasting our bread before we had time to make the sandwiches; and especially the countless inside jokes we still laugh at from time to time (“Slow down!” and “Let me out!” come to mind).

All this is to say our little road trip a few weeks ago was the beginning of a new generation of Americana on the road, or two-week treasures that continue to add immeasurable joy to my life.  Everyone deserves to feel the nurturing effect of a family road trip.  And I so want to pass on this small legacy to a family of my own.  I want to pack up my kids every summer and show them not only this great country, but also the passing moments that build and sustain memories and photo albums. I suspect that my parents look back on those trips as fondly as I do, and I know something will be absent from the experience of my life if I am not able to someday do the same. I want to know that a new generation will someday look back and remember the inside jokes and even the nostalgic frustration of sharing that small backseat with your little sister for hours and miles on end.  That is why I want to be a mother.

Let’s back up even further. There is a minor phenomenon circulating Facebook world these days – it is the “30 Days of What I’m Thankful for in November” phenomenon. And as I’ve seen friends post their thoughts each morning, I have noticed, without exception so far, that every beatitude comes down, at its core, to family. When you’ve gotten lucky in family, what else is there, really? And here is yet again, another bittersweetness for me.  My childhood was filled with family, and the older I get the more thankful I am for that – and for them. I want to create a life that will one day look back and be so grateful for its family and for the life its parents have crafted and nurtured and pined for. What greater way to honor your family than to reflect that love – that pumpkin-spice, cinnamon-stick, hot-chocolate comfort – onto your own children. Pay it forward (can I use that cliché) and create a new generation of happy, grateful human beings who will want to emanate life and love around them. That is why I want to be a mother.

And let’s go forward a bit. As the Christmas-themed commercials begin to permeate the airwaves, hop-scotching right over Thanksgiving and stealing the turkey’s thunder, what about that Holy Grail of holidays? I would be in denial if I didn’t admit that my heart breaks at the thought of yet another childless Christmas. As my friends, cousins and in-laws make plans for their families – scheduling that first photo session with an ornament-strewn backdrop, or buying tickets for The Nutcracker, or standing in line for Santa at the mall, or bundling up their little ones for that icy hike through the tree farm – as those simple, perfect moments begin to play out, I’m still counting the days of my cycle and budgeting for ovulation kits and weekly acupuncture appointments. I’m remembering that nine short (yet oh so long) months ago, we expected we’d be celebrating Baby’s First Christmas too. I’m imagining and planning out what we might do “when we have a kid.” (Our agenda is so full of plans for that hypothetical – we’ve had two and a half years of it – that our children won’t have a free moment for the first five years of their lives.)

So it comes back to these experiences – to living life interestingly. To knowing that my children will have full lives and all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with – if only we can achieve that final blessing. All in all, I’ve led a very rich 29 years and 2 months. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is not meant to be spent in solitude. And life also should not end. Now, I’m not advocating immortality. But we should live on through the imprint we make on those we leave behind. It is my strong desire to leave my imprint on my child, as my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, have left theirs on me. I want to create a life of happiness, fulfillment, opportunity, and pristine experience for someone new to this world. That is why I want to – need to – be a mother.