I’ve spent far too much time already, trying to create a title for this post

so I’ll just get to ‘er.

One afternoon in August this past summer, I spent two blissful hours lazily paddling myself between the buoys at Clear Lake State Park, soaking up some properly SPF-protected sunlight and enjoying the day. On the shoreline, two little girls, maybe four or five years of age, were building a sandcastle. They were so cute, as little kids almost always are, dressed in bright-colored swimsuits, but they found themselves plagued by one particularly persistent seagull who hoped, I guess, for some stray potato chips or cookie crumbs. This sinister seagull brought out a rather mean streak in these girls, and they took turns chasing it away, with big dramatic arm gestures and ear-piercing shrieks of “Go away you stupid seagull!” I’m not sure what event instigated their mother intervening, but after a few such encounters the mom came down from her shaded spot and, without any evidence to support her statement, apparently told the girls this seagull was a mama seagull, and to be nice to it.  I know this because I saw the mom walk away and one little girl, the one with blonde hair and bright pink suit, spoke so I could hear. “That’s a mama seagull, so we have to be nice to it,” she told her companion, all reverence, all seriousness. The other girl observed the seagull with a sudden calmness, a sense of Okay-edness – and the seagull was transformed from frustrating scavenger to something beautiful, something more.

That scene struck me so distinctly – the transformation of these little girls in light of a seagull’s fictitious (as far as I could tell) motherhood – the way the status of mother changed the girls’ reaction. I thought it sweet, and a testament to what good mothers they must have.

I’ve recently received some not-so-startling medical news, but disconcerting nonetheless. It seems I have some form of the same condition many women in my family has that can cause infertility. We do not know, yet, how severe my condition is, and won’t know until a series of tests and doctors appointments occur, but by the end of October we will have some idea if having a child naturally is part of our future.

Since Friday when I discovered this news I have been alternately disconcerted and distraught. My happy reflex, which seems to kick in for me no matter what, my own sense of okayedness, has not jumped into it’s proper spot, reminding me to let go and let God and there are people dying in Darfur for God’s sake and a whole world of children out there needing parents…no, it is missing. To be honest, at some points I’ve felt fairly incapacitated by this knowledge, forcing myself to just focus on one task at a time. It took me nearly an hour to peel fifteen apples for homemade applesauce; on Sunday I left my purse in the grocery cart at the store. Absentminded would be an understatement, describing me.

It would be easy, I think, for you, for me – for everyone I know and love, to chalk these emotions up to being completely and entirely natural, given the news and the long wait ahead of me. A potential diagnosis of infertility should devastate any normal woman, right? It would be entirely understandable if it incapacitated me.

But, I don’t think that’s it, no. I think what’s upsetting me even more than this news, this news I waited for every year I have my annual gynecological exam and that finally came, is the fierce and frightening sense of self-preservation it inspired. While my doctor rattled on about referring me to a fertility specialist, and drugs, and procedures I kept thinking I don’t want to go through a high-risk pregnancy – I simply don’t want to. And that’s what waits for me almost certainly, if I can have children – a high-risk, highly monitored pregnancy. And I don’t want the fertility drugs, or the fertility specialist, or nine months of living on the edge of certainty. Even more base is the small rise of hope that fluttered to my chest upon diagnosis, a flutter that proferred finally feeling good, all of the time. Oh, I don’t feel bad, normally – but there is one week a month (and, male readers, ((if I have male readers? )), you may want to stop reading now) where I feel like I am dying, where I am convinced nobody in the course of human history has ever felt as badly as I do. And so this dark, nasty little part of me is screaming, begging me to say screw the kids completely, have one of the possible surgeries, and finally feel as great as I am capable of feeling.

It turns out, I don’t like this about myself.  S. and I have been open for a couple of months now to having a child, without all the charting and graphing and etcetera, and to have the possibility ripped away from me so quickly – to replace that possibility with doctors and drugs and treatments – well, it makes me mad.  It makes me feel hopeless.  Regardless of the severity of my condition, and my doctor seemed to consider it moderately severe at least, S. and I will be forced to make decisions much more quickly than we would have preferred – decisions like how badly do we want a baby, and what, precisely, are we willing to put my body and our relationship through, in order to have one?

In thinking this through and talking with S. I was reminded of the little girls on the beach, and their swift change in attitude for a mama seagull. With my family history I never considered motherhood an absolute in my life, but I couldn’t imagine what I would feel like when pushed into the vague gray area of an infertility treatable by extreme measures. And I could never have imagined this sort of extreme self-protection rearing its ugly head – placing my health above bringing a child into the world. I watched Steel Magnolias way too many times to imagine this kind of response.  I do think it’s the surprising character trait that’s so paralyzing me, rather than the medical information – I don’t like myself much right now.

I told S. I was going to blog about this and he said he wasn’t surprised. Writing is one way to make sense of things for me (that and long walks) but I know I could journal and keep it private but, I don’t want to. I believe in the personal relating to the public, and particularly concerning womens’ health. So when I know what’s going on, I will post it here – and I will talk about the decision-making process as S. and I experience it. You can read or not, at your leisure – there will certainly be plenty else happening here at everythinginbetween in the meantime. 

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12 Responses to I’ve spent far too much time already, trying to create a title for this post

  1. Fence says:

    There is also the possibility that subconsciously you are protecting yourself from the disappointment by this “self-preservation” feeling.

    That being said I think that the self-preservation feeling is entirely natural and understandable.

  2. Katie says:

    Courtney, I’m sad for your news, and will be thinking about it and praying for you. It’s kind of bizarre, but one of my friends wanted to adopt so badly that she’s been saving since she’s been single. They recently got pregnant on accident and she’s sort of disappointed about it! The way she wanted to adopt so badly made me assume she was told that she couldn’t have children naturally, but that wasn’t the case at all.

    Anyway, this may be premature and insensitive but I think adoption is beautiful and you would have such a loving home to offer. I believe that being a mother is a quality that many women can possess, whether they have children of their own or not. Poignant story about the seagull. I’ll remember that.

  3. Stefanie says:

    Courtney so sorry for your news. You have lots of thinking and decisions ahead of you but you and S have such a strong relationship, I know whatever you decide will be for the best.

  4. Dorothy W. says:

    Oh, Courtney, I’m sorry to hear this. You’ve written about wanting a child in the past, and so I can only imagine how complicated it is to process this new information (and lack of information). I know what you mean about the “happy reflex” — I have it too and experienced something like it when I got diagnosed last summer with Graves. Perhaps it’s better that this reflex isn’t happening this time, to let you deal with it more directly right away? I don’t know. But at any rate, please post on the subject whenever you feel like it — we’ll be here!

  5. LK says:

    Well, Courtney, I don’t know quite what to say, except that, as a single childless woman who is past the (safe) child-bearing age, I can understand the complexity of your feelings. Not that I’m in a relationship or even sure that I really want kids — but I don’t like the feeling that my options are closed.

  6. Hannah says:

    Hi Courtney, I’ve been lurking for ages and wanted to say I have PCOS (not sure if that’s what you have too) and was told at age 17 that it might be difficult for me to have kids – I’m 27 now. I’m unsure if I want children anyway, but I guess that might be partly because I know it could be tough. Yeah, that’s my self-protection instinct kicking in – it’s a very strong instinct and I genuinely feel you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I personally DO think you and your health are more important than a putative child. Please don’t dislike yourself for feeling that way! Steel Magnolias always made me cross, quite honestly.

    I believe the need to be a mother varies from person to person and even with circumstance. If, on finding out that it might be very difficult, painful and expensive to have a child, you reassess your desire to have one, I’d say that sounds perfectly sensible – whatever decision you end up making. Anyway, you’re very brave to talk about this – please know that you have my very best wishes. (PS I’ve spent about half an hour drafting this because it’s such an emotive subject. All I wanted to express was fellow-feeling and support – hope that’s how it came out!)

  7. Courtney says:

    Fence,
    I think you are absolutely right…definitely some self-preservation kicking in!
    Katie – adoption is definitely a possibility – I really need to think about how important motherhood is to me, and in what way, as well.
    Stefanie, thanks for the kind words!
    Dorothy – you know, I thought about you with the graves when I wrote about this! The way you handled the diagnosis was so graceful, and the way you took care of your body inspiring. I am trying to follow your example.
    LK – that really is what infuriates me, too, I think! My doctor kept prattling on about how I was already thirty, and how bad that was, and I was just so pissed! I’m at a point where suddenly I feel like I have the whole world at my feet, and I’m being lectured about not having a baby yet
    Hannah -first of all, welcome! And thank you so much for de-lurking. I’ll share more about my diagnosis when it is definitive but in the meantime, I feel you, sister. And I think you hit the nail right on the head – the complications make it okay to reassess how important motherhood is to one. And your post came across beautifully – it is an emotive subject but one I think should be discussed anyway! Thanks again for posting!

  8. Emily Barton says:

    Motherhood, I’ve learned, comes in many, many different forms and can be experienced through all kinds of wonderful relationships. I’m sure, because you’re ultimately someone who listens to your body and your needs, you will make whatever decisions are best for you and S., and we’ll all be here to share the journey with you.

  9. Dorothy W. says:

    Thank you Courtney! I’m not sure my endocrinologist would agree I’ve been taking care of my body … but what does she know? 🙂

  10. yogamum says:

    I’m jumping in late here just to say — hugs! And that I think your ambivalence is perfectly normal. And Emily is so right — motherhood comes in many forms.

  11. auntjone says:

    I admire you for NOT jumping on the I-must-get-pregnant-come-hell-or-high-water bandwagon when faced with the news that conception may be difficult or impossible. I applaud you for NOT wanting to endure a high risk pregnancy. Best of luck with whatever you choose, and remember, you don’t HAVE to be a mother. Society puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on women to reproduce so go with your gut and do what is best for you and S.

  12. Kerryn says:

    And I’ve spent far too long thinking of a response to this post.

    Having been there myself, I feel for you and understand the way self-protection instinct does kick in. My reaction was similar — I didn’t want the medical intervention that would result in a high risk pregnancy even though both D and I desperately wanted children. I just wasn’t prepared to do that to myself or to my relationship, especially when the outcome wasn’t “guaranteed”. I think I’m at the point where I am completely comfortable with that decision but there are moments, when I look at my siblings’ children, that I start wondering why me and regretting that I didn’t ignore my doctor, when she told me at the age of 30, that there was plenty of time yet. Those moments are coming less often as I learn to be happy with what I do have.

    Be kind to yourself and know that the reaction you are having is not abnormal. (And if you want to, feel free to email me).

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