Monday, April 23, 2018

Motherhood Is a Choice: Part 1

Some days, I wonder about my choice to become a mother.

It was not a choice made lightly.

And in truth - I didn't entirely make the choice when it comes down to it.

In what may have seemed a natural next step, my husband and I started trying to have children not long after we were married. We were both approaching thirty, and neither of us wanted to wait much longer before welcoming babies into our otherwise entrenched and comfortable lives.

Who knew getting pregnant would become the greatest hurdle of our marriage?

After several pregnancy tests - and months of no menstrual cycles - my doctor finally sent me to a specialist to see what might be happening with my inability to conceive. A very short appointment with my gynaecologist revealed that I likely was suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - one of the leading causes of infertility in women. Further testing confirmed this diagnosis.

I was thrown into a tailspin. While on one hand, this news explained all KINDS of medical abnormalities I'd suffered with since puberty, on the other hand, it revealed a whole new set of potential struggles to come. I was at high risk for infertility - perhaps as high as 40%. I was also at high risk for miscarrying any successful pregnancies. Along with these issues came the news that my weight problems were entirely the result of insulin resistance - my body was simply unable to properly convert carbohydrates into simple sugars for energy. Instead - wait for it - every carb I was eating was being stored as fat. The doctor explained by saying, "For you, eating carbs is like taking heroin. You will never be satisfied by them, but your body will crave them constantly."

Hooray for me.

The list included other wonderful physical consequences, such as male pattern hair growth (and loss), higher risk of diabetes, irregular menstruation - the list went on ad infinitum, it seemed.

This news led to me taking nearly a year off work for stress leave. While it was great to finally have explanations for so much in my life, it also brought me a sense of futility. What was the point in trying to lose weight or get pregnant, if my body was so inherently set against my success in either venture?

Fast forward three years, and we had now gone through the process of preparing to adopt a baby. I didn't feel like making my body a lab experiment through use of fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization. We both felt that so many children needed a good home, and we were more than prepared to be that forever family. We subjected ourselves to police record checks and fingerprinting, spent two weekends training for our PRIDE certification, and then willingly invited a psychologist into our home for several months to determine whether or not we would make fit parents.

I had never felt so useless or powerless. How was it that my ovaries' inability to function meant that I clearly was also unfit to be a mother without jumping through exorbitant hoops and proving my mettle to all and sundry?

Then it happened. I started getting pregnant.

In 2010, I was pregnant three times.

The first time, I didn't realize I was pregnant until I miscarried. It was perhaps the most numbing day of my life. January 2010 was a roller-coaster of shock, tears, and loss. I didn't even know how to grieve. How does one miss a child who never was?

After this, we put our adoption plans on hold. I finally knew I could get pregnant; it followed that it would be easier on every level to have our own biological child.

Time passed. Weeks turned to months. I didn't get pregnant again. We resumed our adoption process and attended yet another information session with Family and Children's Services. It was disheartening, to say the least.

I'll never forget the night that Ian and I sat on our front porch, drinking beer, and trying to come up with reasons why we should adopt a child.

The best we could decide was that a child would mean someone to care for us when we got old. Even we knew this wasn't a good enough reason. It would be no end of unfair to take a child - already unwanted by his or her birth parents - and bring him or her into our lives halfheartedly.

After that night, I made the decision that I would not pursue adoption. I also decided that I was finished with trying to conceive my own child.

When my young niece Adelaide - who had been praying with the fervency of childlike faith for "Aunt Ned's baby" for months - asked me when I was getting my baby, I perhaps unwisely told her that I wasn't going to have a baby anymore. She looked at me sadly, unconvinced by my words.

Later that summer, I went on a cruise to Canada and New England with my mother. It was a time of reflection and circumscription. A time of making hard choices about what my life as a woman without children would be like. I recall visiting a famous pet shop in Bar Harbor and purchasing a gift to give my mom for her birthday. It was a garden ornament with the caption, "What do you mean the dog IS my grandchild?" It seemed clever and fitting in the moment.

I did give my mother that ornament. But on that same day in August, I also told my mom what I would soon confirm: I was quite sure I was pregnant again.

- To be continued - 

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