When I was living in extreme poverty I saw people with cable, with new winter coats, with swimming pools and vacations- but it didn't hurt so bad, because I knew I could live without that. They weren't necessary for me to be happy. And I knew that if I really wanted those things, that one day there was always the possibility that I could have them too.
When I saw family members working for minimum wage, struggling through the pain of poverty and depression, choosing to turn to the bottle or to drugs- I chose not to life that life. I chose to go to college, to keep trying for a life where we didn't live in debt from pay check to pay check. I'm still in debt, but we aren't living on the edge. I am the first person in my family to earn a college degree. I chose not to give in and start drinking, I chose not to turn to drugs. I am the first to live my life by my own choosing, and not by circumstance. I worked my way through my final year of high school when my mother committed herself to a psychiatric ward, I worked my way through college while my father belittled me and told me to drop out to I could get a full time job- I chose to not give up. So many in my family gave up in high school, they settled for working in gas stations or as footers, becoming mothers and fathers at 18 or younger- I chose not to. I saw the life my parents lived, and I did not want that life. And I was damned if I believed that was the only way.
When I lived in a broken home, when I was abused and depressed, I saw every day that there were people who didn't live like I did. I had friends who did live like me, and friends that didn't. I was envious of the ones who didn't go through what I did- but it didn't hurt as badly as it could, because I acknowledged that this is my life. I knew I survived without a loving and stable home, and I would continue, even if things never got better. It wouldn't have been the life I chose, but it would have been my life as I knew it. I knew that one day I would have my own family, my own life, and the type of life I lived was up to me. I chose to live in a home where there was love, I chose a husband who wouldn't belittle me or beat me, who didn't drink or do drugs, I chose a life I had always dreamed of. My extended family is still not what I had dreamed it would be, and I still envy the people who have a father in their life, and a mother who is all there. But, I have half of my dream come true, I have a husband who loves me and would never hurt our children the way my parents hurt me.
But I never imagined there would be no children. I have survived these past few years on sheer determination- because I knew I would become a mother, somehow. I never once thought, "I've survived without children this long, so I know I can survive living child-free if it comes down to it." Never once. Because on this subject, I know, I would not be content. Survive, maybe, but be content with my life... never.
With infertility and losses, every day, you have to come face to face with what you don't have- the one thing in life that you don't even know if you will ever have. I go to the store, I see women with their children fussing. I see women clinging to their babies in the shelter, trying to do the right thing. I hear them laughing outside my living room window. Yelling down the street at the park. I see facebo.ok updates, cards in the mail, on the television, magazines... I remember at the winter holidays that it's time once again to go to the toy section. I pass all the children, screaming in a tantrum and laughing with happiness. Our cart is one of the few that is childless. Our hearts heavy with sadness and confusion and longing.
Every day I am reminded of what I do not have. I am reminded that I may never have it. I've fought this battle for a long time, I've been through a lot. I can not find solace in my age, in my possibilities, in science, in faith. There is no solace here. There is no resolution. There isn't even any strength left on most days. Almost three years of waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
This year, for the first time, there is no waiting. There is no hoping.
There are just memories of what almost was, but wasn't.
While part of me relishes in the idea of being free for a short while, part of me withers. It grows more bitter, and angry, and sad. My heart both sighs with relief, and with longing.
I keep reminding myself that one day, somehow, I will be a mother. But the longer this path continues, the quieter that reminder gets. The winter of my life grows colder, and colder, just like the weather outside my house. Except, the weather outside, I know it will change. I know that come spring, the sun will shine again. I'm not sure that I can say the same for this winter of my soul anymore.
The thing about this grieving, is that you can not turn it off. It comes at you from all sides, sometimes ebbing and sometimes flowing freely, even when you least expect it. It carries with it the weight of a thousand winters. The ice that encases your heart, you know it may one day melt. But it does so slowly, as brief stints of sunshine break through, but then obscure almost as quickly. It melts so slowly, that at times, you doubt it's thinning at all. Eventually you begin to doubt the very sunshine. How can it exist when everything around you is still frozen, your heart still layered in this frigid ice? What is happiness amidst such grief? You know it's there, but some days, you just can't feel it.
Every day you are reminded of the life you've never had.
The life you haven't had yet.
And it is that little clarifyer that many of us unfortunately end up struggling with.
When we turn our "when we have children" into "if we have children".
Some days, when we've had too many reminders, it's easy to let go of faith.
And sometimes, we have no choice. We have to, for our own salvation. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we might never become parents, even if we end up screaming at the top of our lungs at the thought. It doesn't make anyone weak for acknowledging that they might not survive this the way they hoped they would. For some of us, it's being realistic. For some of us, it's the first step to finally healing, to finally resolving our infertility. For others of us, it's a necessary consideration. It's hard to move on to another option when you're still caught in the snares of, "well, if we just try this", "one more cycle"... It's hard to consider that even adoption is not a guarantee, that it can take years to adopt... more waiting, more money, more turmoil and uncertainty. It's hard to face these things, and even harder when people come at you left and right, and tell you that you shouldn't "give up", they tell you to buck up because they or someone they know went through this longer than you, went through more pain and spent more money, and it worked for them- that is not always what we need to hear. Sometimes we just need to hear, "It's okay. Whatever you decide we will support you."
Sometimes in life, we have limited choices. Sometimes our choices are made for us. Sometimes external factors play into what we do, and sometimes internal factors kick in. We each have our own limits, our own clarifiers for our decision making processes. We each know how much more our hearts can take before breaking. It doesn't make us weak, it certainly doesn't make us quitters.
Most people don't understand the full extent of what I've been through in my life. Even I am just now beginning to realize just how much damage, and just how much resistance, my life has given me. But in this struggle, facing it every day, it has taken a toll that I never imagined possible. My body, my mind, my heart, have been heavily taxed. My options are starting to dwindle. No matter what, the only thing I'm guaranteed here, is more time waiting for the sun to shine. More time wondering if I'll ever feel the sun again. Wondering when exactly enough, is enough. And if I've already passed the limit, or if I only think I have. When, or even if, this ice will finally melt.