What is Thanksgiving without a requisite post about being thankful?
We're told in grade school that the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower had a crap winter. They arrived in December and by the end of the first year, almost half the original group had died. The ones who survived did so with the help of the Native Americans. The fall harvest was plentiful, and they sat down together--Pilgrims and Native Americans--for a giant feast to celebrate and offer thanks for getting through their first year on American soil.
At our Thanksgiving dinner, we go around the table and everyone says something for which they are thankful. And you have to be pretty much the coldest person in the world not to be able to state something for which you're fortunate. I don't need a holiday mandated by the American government in order to look at my life and know that even on my worst days, I'm still doing a hell of a lot better than a large swath of fellow Americans. I have many reasons to be thankful and it goes as basic as that I love everyone that I am eating dinner with this Thursday. And having that many people in your life that you love makes one drop down on their knees in gratitude.
But being thankful wasn't really what I wanted to talk about.
Family holidays can suck when you're infertile. You're being told to focus on what you have, when what you don't have keeps popping back into your head like a massive white elephant trundling through your mental rooms no matter how hard you try to leave it behind for the day. And you have to endure the questions. And you have to watch your relatives fawn over a sibling's child. And at the same time, you're beating yourself up because you are supposed to be feeling GRATEFUL damnit--and the best you can muster is that you feel grateful that your insurance covers three IUIs when there are poor Stirrup Queens out there who have to pay out-of-pocket for every damn insemination. And even when you're happy and sitting around with people you love and savouring that slice of pie, there's a piece of your heart that is missing. And it all just feels off. Because you are desperately missing someone who should be there.
I think I love the myth of Thanksgiving because it mirrors so much the infertile experience. The Pilgrims arrive in winter, dumbfounded to discover that life was not going to go as they thought. And they endured a lot. And they had to reach out to others for help when they thought they wouldn't need to ask for help. And in the fall, they are just grateful because they made it to the other side. They're not grateful because they conquered the world. Their accomplishment is simple--survival. But it's so much more than that because of what they endured to reach that meal.
And I don't see that meal as the time that you're holding your child necessarily. I see that time as the moment when you make it through the cold winter and the hot summer and the loss and the heartache and the confusion and the doubt. And you're on the other side. You're at peace. And that peace can come at any point in the process. You may be living child-free or you're starting the adoption process or you're hand is on the swelling stomach of your surrogate or you're bringing your child home from the hospital. And none of it was how you thought it would go. But you don't hate the journey. You embrace it and thank the people who helped you get to the other side.
And in that perfect peace, you just feel grateful. You accomplished something that is, on one hand, so simple and on the other, this amazing feat. And in a journey marked by so much doubt and darkness, it is the moment when you can finally breathe. When you're standing back in the light.
Enjoy the meal tomorrow even if you're still toiling through the winter and summer. It's okay to still be in those seasons because it's all part of the journey that you need to go through in order to get to the fall. You don't need to hurry through them to make a point or because anyone else is telling you that you should be grateful. You'll get there when you're ready.