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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

B'shert (Children Mentioned)

We have a word in Hebrew--b'shert--and what it literally means is that it was fate. It was meant to be. People usually use it to discuss their soul mate--the person they were meant to marry--but read enough infertility or adoption blogs and you'll see the same thought popping up when it comes to children. The child you ultimately parent is the child you were meant to have.

And I love this idea. I love the idea that the waiting was worth it. That it was all a process to bring you to the child you were meant to have in your life. It makes the whole journey worth it because it was all part of the whole--you had to go through that heartbreak, you had to go through those treatments, you had to go through those anxious nights waiting to get your referral, you had to go through all the failed cycles before you realized third party reproduction was the path you needed to take. All those things led you to the person you were meant to hold at night after a bad dream and put bandaids on her knees after a fall. To quote Ben Folds: "Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here." The child who made you a parent is the child you needed to wait for in order to become a parent.

You can't hurry love.

No, you just have to wait.

She said, Love don't come easy.

It's a game of give and take.

The only place where I begin to trip over this idea concerns loss. How does loss fit into the bigger picture? When a spouse dies and a person remarries, no one dismisses that first husband or wife by saying, "their death needed to happen in order to bring this person to their b'shert." And no one would even say that about a child who had lived for a short period of time: "oh, sweetie, it had to happen in order to bring you to your new child." Somehow, we know this would not be appropriate or helpful. But people often use this idea to explain pregnancy loss.

"If you hadn't gone through all of that (pregnancy loss is usually reduced to the word "that" in these cases), you never would have met this child that you were meant to have." And I can't accept that. I see the two events as completely unconnected because I must in order to not reduce the loss. Am I grateful for the children I have? Of course. I could not imagine my world without them. But I also miss and mourn the children who weren't born without believing that they needed to die in order to bring me to the twins. Their lives are completely separate--not small stepping stones to bring me to my b'sherts. They are like the first spouse who dies--b'shert in and of himself/herself. Death and the loss of a b'shert creates a space for fate to step in once again and create destiny.

You can't hurry love.

No, you just have to wait.

You got to trust, give it time.

No matter how long it takes.

To paraphrase Eytan Fox, I'm trying to convince the convinced. You all know that words like "it was meant to happen" do not comfort when it comes to loss. They prickle and they stick in your mind like a cactus needle even months after they're spoken. It is impossible to see how a person's death--whether they were born yet or not--was necessary in order to bring about another step on your journey. It's a very self-focused point of view: that others only exist insofar as how they affect my path. But how to convince the unconvinced that these words hurt terribly? That while you are either still waiting or are eternally grateful for the children you have, you miss the others along the way: the IVF cycles that didn't take, the miscarriages, the late losses, the adoption reversals, the surrogates who fell through.

How long must I wait?

How much more can I take?

Before loneliness will cause my heart;

Heart to break?

No, I can't bear to live my life alone.

I grow impatient for a love to call my own.

But when I feel that I, I can't go on

These precious words keeps me hangin on.

And back to the original thought: b'shert. If it is truly destiny, I can accept that I can't hurry it along. It will happen when it is meant to happen and the only thing I can do is to keep plugging away so that I'm keeping all paths open to chance. And it's that part of the idea that things are meant to be that I love. That makes the waiting bearable even when it feels so heavy that it may crush me beneath its weight. Beneath its wait.

With help from the great Diana Ross (and Mr. Ben Folds)


Anonymous said...

Tears as I finished reading this post. I just found your website, having suffered my third loss this past Friday, a newly-discovered sufferer of secondary infertility (what a sterile name for such a painful condition). Thank you for giving me hope tonight.

Katherine said...

When we found out we were pregnant for the second time, I tried to make peace with our first loss by thinking that, though we wouldn't have chosen it, we had to lose the first to have the second. Then we lost the second and now we wait and look foward to one day holding our child. I'm sure that child will be meant to be in our family, but not at the expense of any that come before it... it's just the way it will be. I agree (or hope) that one doesn't have to be lost to have the other, but that it does often create the space for fate to step in, as you put it. And I agree that it's very hurtful when people say such things, because we wanted and would have been thrilled to have any and all of the babies we conceive.

Anonymous said...

In my church we consider lost babies to be our treasures in heaven, there to await our arrival.

What treasure could be better than a baby?

Not that the losses aren't still hard for me. God knows they are.

Thalia said...

I don't think this helps at all. And in fact it's contradictory to gd's promise to humanity. If everything is pre-destined, then we have no free will, which means that gd is playing dice with us. Which is not the deal. We have free will, which means that everything is not pre-ordained, and a loss is a loss is a loss. Is it b'shert that some people never get to have a child? Surely not.

Anonymous said...

That song has new meaning for me today. I might just have to go out and get that CD so I can remind myself. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Thalia, but I take it a step further. I'm sorry to always be the one to throw the cold water on everyone's happy spirituality fest but the fact is that whenever you start to engage is any talk of "fate", "destiny", "god's will", "bashert" etc, you going down the path where the obvious contradiction is that bad things happen to good people all the time and by logic, if there is a diety, that too is their "fate", "bashert" etc, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that god is either (a) arbitrary and cruel, or (b) utterly impotent. Take your pick. To me, getting away from all of the preordained sh*t about deities, fates, destinies and inevitabilities is much more optimistic and life affirming. We ARE in control of our lives. We DO have choices to make. And even when faced with disappointments, we still have the strength and power to make a difference and try again to solve our problems without resorting to supernatural beliefs or wondering why we "deserve" gods disfavor. Humanitarianism is the true spirituality!

TeamWinks said...

I was told once that when you are the most uncomfortable, you grow the most. I think I was thirty steps beyond uncomfotrable when I miscarried TWICE TWINS. I stepped out of the experience, humble, crawling, but stronger.

The Town Criers said...

Except that the term b'shert doesn't preclude free will. It's still your choice whether you take the person into your life (and no, Thalia, situations aren't b'shert because the term b'shert literally refers to a soul mate). And not every pairing in this world is considered b'shert: it's more a commentary on the perfect fit between two people.

And certainly, when you're speaking about a child that you brought into your life, it is a concept that fits as well. People can have multiple soul mates (spouses and children)--and this person was meant to be in your life.

It's not an idea everyone needs to accept, but it is a common idea in the adoption world and I grew up hearing this concept my whole life. As I've been reading books on adoption, the idea has popped up in each one. And I personally like the idea of a child meant to be with you. If I didn't, I would simply listen to the idea and move on from it. My only question is where loss fits into this larger picture since people twist this idea to explain loss. And I like to think of the two ideas as completely separate. I don't believe that anyone needs to be lost in order for another person to come into your life.

Anonymous said...

Here's my take:

I don't like the idea of fate, destiny, reasons for things, etc etc.

But it does often strike me that if *this* bad thing hadn't happened, then *this* good thing wouldn't have. And it gives me a sense of peace about the bad things (although only in hindsight, of course). You don't need to believe in fate for this.

But I think it does apply to second spouses, extra children that were only had because one was lost, and pregnancy loss as well. It applies equally.

But I don't think you should say it *to* someone, or at least not in those terms, because it will sound diminishing. The idea is more - isn't it funny the twists and turns life takes, and the unexpected beauty you find on paths you would never have voluntarily taken.

As for whether it helps me *during* the journey, well, sometimes, yes. I've had the thought that someday, when we're happy again - in something, don't know what yet - we'll have to admit that, gosh, we wouldn't be here if we hadn't been there first. That's a nice thought.


Anonymous said...

Clarification from the Jew: To the Town Criers: please google the term "bashert" for origins. It is yiddish, derived from German. It does NOT mean "soul mate". It means "destiny" or "fate" or "god's intention" or "in gods hands" etc. Among religious jews it is equally correct usage to say something like "getting fired was bashert" as it is to say "yesterday, I met my bashert". Yes, when mixing English and Yiddish, people will use the same word as an adjective or as a noun. In the contemporary lexicon it has become associated with one's intended marriage partner because that idea is romantically appealing and religious jews use the term in this way as well. But it is certainly inaccurate to say that it literally means "soul mate" because it does not.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post. Very thoughtful and very helpful for me right now. I am very thankful for your writing and for my choice to sit down right now and read you blog. Thank you!

mandolyn said...

Spirituality and religion are things that I have a hard time with in the realm of infertility. All of the "explanations" don't really do much for me. I hated hearing about "God's will" and that "it was meant to happen" and "everything has a reason, you know" after I had my miscarriage. I don't believe that baby had to die in order for me to be pregnant now. I can't. The concept just doesn't fit. I feel like there are people who think that all the pain of infertility goes away with a successful pregnancy, but it doesn't, not in my world. Because if the pain went away, if I rationalized that it had to happen in order for this child to be born, then I dishonor the child that I lost. For me to be accepting, they can't be related. I struggle now with being happy about milestones with my current pregnancy- it's as if I'm afraid that I'll forget about the first. (Even though I know that won't happen.)

I did have a dream a week or so ago that soothed that worry. It was about a week after what would have been the baby's birthday. My husband and I were suddenly joined by a toddler in a hallway. I picked him up and instantly knew he was my son. He looked like his daddy and I knew that he was the baby we'd lost. It was surreal- I was aware that I was dreaming and sensed how special the meeting was. We took turns holding him and my husband asked him if he was helping to watch over his little sister- he just smiled at us. I woke up feeling more peaceful than I have in a long, long time. (My husband has had one gender dream each pregnancy- according to him, the first was a boy, and the current one is a girl. No official word yet, but he's convinced.) That baby didn't leave us to somehow pave the way for a new baby, he's not some kind of stepping stone or passageway. In my eyes, he was as meant to be as every baby in the world is. For the most part, I'm okay with there not being a good reason for the miscarriage. Nothing is to blame, nobody is at fault, there is no inspiring reason for our tragedy to leave everyone with a soothed heart and a warm smile.

That's how it works in MandolynLand, anyway.

Bobby and Ivy said...

I have a very strong sense of spirituality and a strong hold on my faith. That being said, nothing can rock your faith like infertility and pregnancy loss. It kills you faith, brings you down to a level that you never thought possible. But I also believe that we are given paths to follow. It is our choice which path we go down. I had the choice to go through invasive treatments. I was there in the office. I had the meds in my cabinet. But last minute, thanks to a timely cyst, I chose another path. And I believe it was the right path for me.
We absolutely have free will. We absolutely have choices to make. Some will be good and some will be bad, some will lead to nowhere. But out there, waiting, is the right choice for each and every person. I consider that to be B'shert. Who we marry is a choice. And we can certainly screw that up. Which way we go in the infertility world is a choice. For some, the right choice is IVF. For others, it's adoption. Still for more, it's waiting to see what God has planned. The choice to adopt was my B'shert. It was my right choice, my fate.

As for the pregnancy loss. Well, I had no choice in that. I would never wish that on anyone. But I could choose what to do with my grief. I think that is where B'shert comes into loss. We can either let the grief consume us or we can let it help us on to the next fork in the road. We can decide to continue on the road to family, or take a break. We can choose another cycle of IVF or IUI, or we can choose adoption. It's the choice that brings us to our B'shert. Even in the deepest of greif, we always have a road to follow.

the_road_less_travelled said...

Well glad to know I wasn't the only one crying. I can can accept the concept of what's meant to be, but how crushing it would be if being alone and childless was meant to be for me. I was talking to the man with whom I had an affair. He's said many times if only I had met you. I told him, well if you had, maybe you would not have been a father, because there's no telling if I will ever be a mother. No, come to think of it I guess I can't accept "it was meant to be", more like "it's what it is". The hard part is dealing with it and learning how to be joyful again.

Chantelle said...

I read a great book recently with these themes. It's called "The Time Traveller's Wife". Has anyone else read it? It deals with the idea of fate, life and death, waiting and also multiple pregnancy losses. It was an unexpected find and I really recommend it.
P.S. It was a bestseller so others recommend it as well!

Dee said...

I am extremely uncomfortable with the "it was meant to be" idea that surrounds adoption, because actually it wasn't meant to be be. The child I will love, adore, and proudly parent to the best of my abilities was meant to be with her birth family. For whatever reason that we will most likely never know, they couldn't keep her with them. And that really sucks for her and her birth family.

I'm sure I'll be dilerious (how the hell do you spell that?) with joy to have her in our lives and I probably won't be able to imagine my life without her. But do I think some higher power is plucking a little girl who seems to like animals and music away from a family in China because she's a perfect fit for my family? Nope. I think that attitude is dismissive of the loss suffered by both her and her birth family.

I think the CCAA does a great job matching babies with families, but I'm pretty sure we will love whoever we are matched with.