Thursday, July 24, 2008

At A Loss for Words

Recently one of my clients confided in me that she and her husband are trying to have a baby and are suffering from infertility. She just finished yet another attempt at IVF that didn't even yield a single egg worthy of extraction. She is 38 years old. She told me she confided in me because she thought I was an inspiration given all that we went through to get Joey and Lyra.

Problem is, I feel like I can offer no inspiration whatsoever. I refuse to give advice to people on this subject, and I refuse to fall prey to all of the cliches.

I refuse to say "Don't give up," because I gave up.

I refuse to say "Just keep on trying," because I stopped trying. And continuing to try in the face of such monumental odds is devastating to a woman's self-esteem, pocket book and sanity.

I refuse to say "Just relax and it will happen," because that is positively the most un-relaxing comment ever and it used to drive me crazy when people would say that to me. And besides, it doesn't work.

I refuse to say "Adopt and then you'll get pregnant," because despite a few "I know someone" stories and Charlotte's miraculous conception in Sex and the City, this does not happen nearly as often as people think. You never hear about the thousands of parents who do adopt and don't get pregnant.

And I refuse to say, "oh a donor egg / adopted baby / adopted embryo will feel just like your baby," because I didn't believe this when I was going through my infertility and adoption issues. (I believe it now, but when you are in the throes of infertility, this is not a great comfort.)

The only thing I can say for sure is that the right baby finds you at the right time. But somehow I feel this is less than adequate. Have any of you been through this with friends? When you've finally crossed over the great divide from want-to-be parent to an actual parent and you've still got friends on the other side? And what do you say?

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Our Children, Ourselves

I was watching The View on ABC this morning, and they featured a number of guests addressing the subject of plastic surgery. It was a combination of both individuals and doctors sharing their experiences.

I was particularly struck by a mother and young daughter who were on the show. The daughter had had a couple of procedures. One was breast reduction. The other was liposuction. And, she was addressing how she has a deviated septum and expects one day to have surgery to correct her nose.

There was some debate about such a young person having elective cosmetic surgery, which is a whole topic unto itself.

What really struck me from the segment was a comment made to the effect that what matters most is that it be the child's decision and not that of the parent. Of course the parent is there to support them and seek out competent medical care. But, at the end of the day, elective cosmetic surgery is not something a young person should do to please a parent.

This holds true, in general, way beyond any discussion re: plastic surgery.

As a parent, and perhaps in particular, as a later parent, we want so much for our children. Certainly any parent's goal is a happy, healthy child, but as a 35+ mom, I wonder if we are even more inclined to want our children to reach their best because we are further ahead in our lives and have potentially succeeded at careers or on other levels?

We have to be sure not to impose our wants or desires on our children, however tempting it may be.

While we've lived more of life than younger parents, our children will make their own mistakes, as they should. We can't protect them on every level, nor do we want to live through them.

Seeing who they will become is part of the thrill, certainly as we nurture and provide for them along the way. But, especially as they get older, their decisions will be their own. And, we may or may not be in agreement with them.

I can only imagine it will get harder on that level as Seth matures. I hope I can continue to be a voice of reason and strength as he further develops his own character and personality. I'm immensely curious to see what direction life takes him, and I'm grateful to be along for the ride.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Phases of Life

My dad is turning 90 in September, and my sister and I are in discussion about planning a surprise party for him. Nothing super elaborate or large, but something special, heartfelt and memorable for all involved.

Last night, I attended a wedding for a third cousin with my dad. There I saw relatives many of whom I haven't seen in years or perhaps never met. My dad is one of 7, so there's quite a number of them on both his mother's and father's side. But, he only has one sibling living at present, a brother in Florida.

It got me thinking about the cycle of life. I am so grateful for my dad. I lost my mom over 10 years ago, and have blogged about that. And, I often wonder how long he will live (not that I want to think negatively). He has had a number of health challenges over the last few years in particular, and his age is catching up with him. I never viewed him as old. Age wasn't a factor. He's my dad, and that's what counts.

Looking at him now makes me all the more conscious of the passsge of time, and the phases we all go through.

At the wedding last night I sat next to a cousin in her 50s who was talking about aches 'n pains she never had before. And, how with each decade of life, comes wisdom and body changes. We do our best to help ourselves, but we can't control the entirety of our health.

Seeing the couple get married and knowing they're about to start their lives together, makes you realize the sweetness of life. Another couple there, cousins of my dad, said they are married over 50 years, and two beautiful sets of grandchildren were also parttaking in the wedding festivities last night.

It was so nice to be together for a happy occasion. For a while there, funerals seemed all too prevalent in my family, as I lost uncles and aunts, seemingly in clusters.

I have always found it hard to accept that losing loved ones is part of life.

When I spoke to my husband last night after getting home from the wedding (he & my son didn't attend), another phase of life presented itself and made me smile. I asked him how things went with him and my son while I was out with my dad. I had left them at our community pool, and they had dinner out.

He proceeded to tell me what a little daredevil Seth is becoming in the water. How after I left, Seth asked him over 'n over again to throw him over his shoulder into the water. And, how he and a little friend wanted to jump into the pool backwards before the lifeguard stopped them out of concern for their safety.

I my son is practically doing backflips, and my dad has his moments of struggling to walk steadily.

Aging is surely not easy, though it happens to the best of us.

I am so grateful to have an energetic spirit like Seth in my life, and hope that my dad will continue to enjoy him as well and share stories from his childhood. Maybe it will take him back to his days of youth, and I can see that spark in his eye. He, too, was once Seth's age, and the years have flown by.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

One Great Child

I was at the pool over the holiday weekend, and someone from my community, who I don't know, spotted Seth in the pool and asked if he was my only one?

I found myself feeling defensive. Not just for myself as a mom, but protective in a sense for Seth. I quickly and thoughtfully responded, "Why do people say only one? As if he's not enough. I prefer to think of it as I am the mom to 'one great child.'"

I asked if he had any children. He took a moment, and interestingly responded, "I have one great child."

I laughed. He smiled.

It got me thinking. Why is it that one of the most common questions from complete strangers is, is he your only one? And, it often feels like it's said with a grain of sadness, as if the child is deprived.

Where did the phrase Only Child come from to begin with?

In my circle of "later mom" friends, there are many with one child. And, we don't think of ourselves or our children as lacking. I am grateful for my one son.

I know there are many discussions re: the pros and cons of being an only child. And, there are those of the school of thought that a child should have a sibling to grow up and old with. Especially so if they are conscious of their own mortality as a later mom. But, in my book, there is no guarantee siblings will be close, and I don't feel any more pressure as a later mom. It's not just blood that cements a relationship through the years.

I have many friends, for whatever reason, who are only children, and none are sad. They are cool, accomplished women, with a strong circle of friends who they cherish, perhaps even more so because they don't have a sibling. Most are close to extended family members as well. Each has successfully made their way in the world, despite having grown up as an only child.

It is a very personal decision to have children to begin with. And, on top of it, how many you would like to raise is another oh so personal question.

Newsweek recently ran a thought-provoking article entitled "Who Says Kids Make You Happy?" by Lorraine Ali. It's worth a read.

Some couples or individuals choose to live a child-free existance altogether. Does that make them selfish? Some might say. But, who is to say?

So, whether you choose to parent one child or more or none at all, there is more than one way to live a fulfilled life.

I have no doubt my son will grow into a happy adult who will find his personal path. And, despite being raised with no siblings, he will not want. He knows he is loved, and that is the most important thing a "later" or any parent can provide.

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