Back in 2011, I joined a mindfulness-based meditation group for those living with infertility. Grey and I were recently diagnosed and I knew that if I was going to make it through this experience with my sanity somewhat intact I was going to need help. Our group leader, Carol Knoph, is a fellow ALIer who resolved through adoption. Following her son's birth, she decided to train with Ali Domar in mind/body medicine for fertility and then started teaching courses to couples living with infertility/RPL in the Seattle area. It was through Carol that I met Dee and many of the tools I learned from this course I still practice daily. Needless to say, I'm still grateful for all her help and support.
It was from Carol that I first heard "if you want to be a parent, you will be." As someone newly diagnosed with infertility, both Grey and I took great comfort from this mantra. It helped calm the panic that would arise after each BFN and it gave me the courage to dive head-first into fertility treatments. Later on, after our losses, this mantra supported me again as I began to explore adoption. In short, it became a rallying cry of sorts. Something that I could use to support others who were also struggling on this journey.
But it wasn't until recently that I began to see the heartache this mantra could cause.
Yesterday, S.I.F. wrote a powerful post about the myth behind wanting something enough. If you haven't read this yet, I really encourage you to click over and read not only the post but also the comments section. For the most part, I found myself readily nodding along. And then I came to the quote she posted from the discussion on Facebook and I froze.
"I am empathetic to all of these concerns and difficulties. However, it is my belief that if you want to be a parent you will find a way. I am the momma of six one of whom is adopted."As S.I.F. dissected this comment and how it belittled those who made the decision to resolve by ending their journey towards parenthood, I found the tears readily flowing while I nodded along again. The whole time, I was chastising myself thinking "how could I have been so short-sighted?"
In July 2012, I was convinced Grey and my journey to parenthood was over for the time being. Following our third failed round of IVF, I knew my sanity could not survive another round of fertility treatments on the assumption of "bad luck." In addition, we had just learned that no adoption agency would work with us because we were considering relocating for our careers. "Get settled and we'll talk" was what we were told, usually followed by "You're still young! Don't worry you have time." It was during this period that I first picked up Sweet Grapes based on the recommendation by Lori Lavender Luz. After finishing the book in a couple of days, I turned to other resources, both blogs and Pamela Tsigdino's memoir Silent Sorority. What I quickly learned was that the decision to live "childfree" (which is actually a misnomer as people who chose this way to resolve have children in their lives in some way) were not simply giving up on their dreams of parenthood. Instead they were making a decision to live and to live well. But most importantly, their decision to get off the infertility rollercoaster was not because they didn't want children enough. Far from it: they loved their families so much that they refused to sacrifice them and themselves in an effort to chase a ghost. Needless to say, I still learn from these women who write about their experiences and insights. It was because of them that I knew one day I would resolve, but that I would resolve to live a full life, regardless of whether I succeeded in becoming a parent.
The truth is, as much as I wish each f you resolve by achieving parenthood, I also know that this isn't always the reality. Even for some who are open to adoption and expanding their family through this process, the reality is that simply going down this road will not guarantee success. Everyone's story is different and we all have obstacles that we will face differently in life. The any of us can hope for is to make decisions that will lead to outcomes that we can be at peace with.
Here's where I'm struggling. There is power in mantras, yet there doesn't seem to be one that applies universally for anyone on this journey. I know that early on in this journey I wasn't ready to hear "one day you will resolve and move forward from all of this." Similarly, I would never dream of telling someone who knows that adoption will not be their road to resolution that "if you want to be a parent, you will be." In short, the mantras that have helped me, calling me to rally I know will cause others so much pain. But I hesitate to cease using them altogether as I know that sometimes these simple phrases are the only source of light in the darkness.
Grey and I had a very long discussion about all of this yesterday. He was fast to point out that every mantra or rallying cry used for any trauma in life will inadvertently exclude a subset of the population (think anti-pink ribbons and the IV League, which is a support group for women living with stage 4 breast cancer). The thing is, though, the easy solution of stopping the mantras doesn't necessarily resolve this. By no means am I supporting the use of platitudes or simplified answers to the complexities of life, but I also know the power of mantras and how they've gotten me through these otherwise impossible moments.
Needless to say, my mind is still spinning from all of this. I wish the answer was clear, that there was one thing I knew I could always say or do to ease the pain caused by infertility/loss. Hell, I wish I had the cure for infertility and RPL; that I could ensure anyone who wanted to be a parent could be.