A couple weeks ago, a friend was over and asked innocently, "So whatcha guys doing for the holidays?" You know what my response was? "FUCK the holidays." Yep, it flew right out of my mouth just like that. Wow Emily...Tell us how you really feel!
In my defense, we had just left an outdoor restaurant and as we waited for the check, I sat watching a beautiful family of 3 generations of women having a great evening together...the cutest blonde little sisters playing on an outdoor playground, the mother taking pics of every little move they made, and the grandma with the biggest smile I have ever seen in my life.
I tried my best to see this as the beautiful spectacle is actually was, but inside I was pissed....not only that we don't have our own children, but also that I don't have a mother and my children will never know their grandmother. What was a perfect dinner at our favorite restaurant, turned into a stream of tears as we paid our check. I pouted all the way to our car and then home to our empty house with non-existent family. I proceeded to drink a ridiculous amount of white wine, because why not? I'm not pregnant! This was a fact reaffirmed loud and clear throughout the evening by my horrendous menstrual cramps as well. I was having a serious case of "The grass is greener."
The real truth? The grass isn't always greener. I am being reminded lately that even when we see what might seem like the "perfect life" we have no idea what obstacles people may be facing. Everyone gets dealt their own set of circumstances, and I have always kind of felt like infertility is just "our thing" that we've been given to deal with. Outside of infertility, we shouldn't complain. I have the MOST amazing husband in the world. He has a good job with a great deal of autonomy. I have a job where I can choose my own schedule, drive less than a mile to work, and have zero responsibility outside of work hours. We have a beautiful home, can afford healthy food, have access to medical care, and we actually wake up with smiles on our faces most days. In the whole scheme of things, we have it pretty good.
Recently, during my shift at the LIVESTRONG Foundation (where I've been volunteering for almost 5 years) I began a little project that impacted me deeply. If you aren't familiar with LIVESTRONG, feel free to watch this short and very inspiring manifesto...
I have seen that video 20 times, and it still gets me every time. Oh, and just for the record, I personally don't give a shit about Lance Armstrong's personal life or anything he's done outside of creating this amazing organization.
But anyhoo, back to the project. Every year we hold the LIVESTRONG Challenge, which is a race that brings those affected by cancer together and raises $ for cancer programs. We have blank race bib cards that read "In Memory Of", "In Honor Of", and "I'm A Survivor." Anyone can fill these out and safety pin them to their shirts during the race.
This year, we asked people to donate their race bib cards back to us, and I was given the task of reading through ALL of them, in order to make a giant wall mosaic in our headquarter office....
Being exposed to this sort of heartbreak regularly is a continual reminder of how good we actually have it. To be clear, I'm not saying that infertility is any less painful emotionally than cancer. Infertility is a disease in it's own right; Full of disappointments, scary test results and procedures, medical bills, intense pain and suffering, and it can last for years on end, crushing whatever dreams you thought you had for the future. In fact, I've talked to people who've had both cancer AND infertility, and some of them say that infertility was actually harder to deal with. Does that surprise you? Honestly, it doesn't surprise me one bit.
However, how would I feel if I or my husband were handed a life threatening set of circumstances tomorrow? I've known a couple fellow bloggers who have experienced this in the midst of their struggle to conceive. Bethany at An Anchor to My Soul received news that her hubby had testicular cancer right in the middle of trying for a baby, and needless to say procreating became a little less important in the immediate future once that happened.
Just today, I was reading Jennifer's blog "You Must Believe There Are Miracles" and the story of her sister and brother-in-law. Her sister recently gave birth at 20 weeks after complications, to a premature baby who didn't survive, and her brother-in-law had to come to her hospital from a different hospital, because he was undergoing chemo and radiation for his own brain cancer at the time it all happened. I cannot even FATHOM how truly difficult this must be for them. Please stop by and give Jennifer words of love and support if you can.
One thing is for certain; When someone is dealt a second blow like cancer or unexpected tragedy, suddenly infertility doesn't seem like the end of the world anymore. All one cares about is the safety of their spouse or family member over all else.
There is a new show on Showtime called "Time of Death" that explores chronic and end stage disease...
Maybe I'm weird, but I find this stuff therapeutic. Could be that my mom, dad, step-dad and grandmother all had cancer. It's somehow comforting to know the process of dying and grieving is very similar for most people who experience this sort of thing. Or maybe even more than that, it just gives me a healthy serving of humble pie and adjusts my world view with a clearer sense of perspective.
If you have any interest in checking it out and don't have Showtime, they were nice enough to upload the first episode on YouTube...
Every time I see something like this, in real life or on tv, it makes me even more thankful for the life I have now, even if it's not perfect according to my own plan. I wake up thanking God for all we do have a little more loudly. It's when we get comfortable and just EXPECT all of the good things we already have that our attitude begins to take a turn for the worse. Well I, for one, don't need God or the universe or fate to ask me, "You thought it was hard then? How about now?"
I don't want to be that person that only gains a better perspective once I'm handed an even harder trial to deal with. I don't want to look back on the last 2.5 years as wasted time, living my life on complete hold, and asking myself what good I did in the world....or more importantly how many happy memories I created with my husband. I don't want November to be remembered as the month we lost two pregnancies in a row. We will be celebrating 8 wonderful years of marriage this month, and I am not going to let infertility steal that milestone from us!
In the end, if it's not in the cards to have a biological child of our own, that very hard realization will never be crushing enough to change the fact that we share a truly rare kind of love that many people do not EVER get to experience in life. That being said, I'm reeeallly going to try my best from now on to be less focused on what we don't have YET and more focused on what we do have. It can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.
So ask me again what I'm doing for the holidays? I'm going to put up my Christmas tree and enjoy it damnit! I am going to enjoy every single second being married and healthy and blessed with a life that is already fulfilling beyond words.