I used to be one of those people who browsed blogs about dealing with reproductive issues* and then logged off thinking (among other, more charitable things), “Yeesh, sucks to be them. IVF / egg donation / embryo donation? Sure, a great option for some. But I’m glad it’s not me!”
Well… now here I am.
Dealing with fertility issues kind of destroys your ability to be smug.
Which is probably a good thing. The fact is, none of us knows the future. Anything can happen. We can find ourselves at any number of crossroads where we are forced to make decisions we never imagined we would make. That’s reality.
If this is the harshest season of my life, I will consider myself a very blessed person. That’s not to downplay how bad these past four years have sucked sometimes. But if you look around, if you take a random sample of human beings, a lot of them are going through things we can’t imagine right now.
So try to tread gently if you can.
I wouldn’t consciously choose to go through what we’ve been through. But I’m glad this season of my life has knocked a lot of the “smug” out of me. I’m glad for the way it’s increased my ability to feel empathy for others, and for how shatteringly grateful I will be when we finally do have kids. It’s not something I will ever take for granted, not for a moment. I can imagine people who get pregnant easily — maybe too easily — might resent their kids sometimes. Us? After we walked through fire to get them, they will never have a doubt in their minds that they were deeply wanted, and neither will we.
Another problem with having kids too easily is the risk parents might treat their child as a “mini-me” — an extension of their ego. I know this is a danger for me, because I have an ego that can get out of control sometimes. (Not that I’ve won any Nobel Prize or anything, but let’s just say I tend to overcompensate for not feeling as comfortable in my own skin — as inherently lovable — as I would like to, and as I believe people should.)
Using gamete donors takes a lot of the wind out of that, because it’s not even my genetics. Sure, my husband and I will raise the kids. But they will be their own unique beings. They would have been even if we were the genetic parents. But this kind of puts an underline under it.
They will be kids. Curious, playful, naturally sweet, full of potential. My job is not to try to make them into anything but to support them as their unique humanity emerges. What they may be one day is not up to me, and in any given moment, it is not important. What is important is the quality of the attention, guidance, and love I get them in every given moment. The rest will take care of itself.
* Most people call them ‘infertility blogs,’ but most of the bloggers end up having kids, which doesn’t sound like infertility so much as delayed or alternative fertility. And even the people who end up choosing to be childfree may have been fertile if they had chosen to try other options. Basically, you can’t prove a negative. So calling it ‘infertility’ kind of sticks in my craw. Am I all alone on that?
By the way, the reason I browsed fertility-related blogs even before I had my own issues was because I was an egg donor, and I wanted to understand the other side.
Now I am the other side. Now — believe me — I understand.