Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
I am in a slump. It was hard to write those first words. They've been nestled deep inside me all morning. You think to yourself: anything I put in this blog will live on forever. People can find them months from now. But at the same time, haven't we all had our blue periods? What is the shame in admitting it?
On one hand, nothing is wrong. I touched base with my old therapist. How is Josh? He's fine. He has a new job. How are the twins? They're doing great. They just started preschool. Your family? Everyone is fine--my sister just got married. Melissa, I'm trying to figure out the problem. Adding to our family. Oh.
And, of course, I feel guilty for being consumed with this all over again. Not least of all because some of my closest friends--both online and off--have true problems. Have hardcore, no-way-your-heart-could-get-over-that problems.
"At least." This is one of those "at least" situations. I was speaking to one of my best friends a few days ago and she said, "at least you have a great husband." And I tell Josh, "at least we have the twins." At least is a diminishing sort of phrase. It is impossible to feel good about dealing with your problems when you've diminished them into crumbs beneath the table. When you've crumbled them until they are barely recognizable as a situation at all simply because you feel too guilty that you have so many "at leasts" in your back pocket. At least we have a home. At least we have our health. At least I have a great family. At least we live under a democratic government.
So I am not dealing with this diminished problem. Instead, I am dealing with my blue period.
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home
I am preaching to the choir, but it is really hard to see others doing for free what you need to pay tens of thousands to do. And it is harder still to think about how all of that money goes towards a chance rather than a given. We were discussing how we would feel this time with those negative beta phone calls and whereas the first time around, I felt this gutting sadness; this frustration. This time, I told Josh, I would feel a blinding rage. Just discussing the hypothetical possibility, I could feel my entire body tensing as if the rage were an actual organ inside my body, twisting itself up to spring into action.
I would hate myself for having the body that takes away opportunities from the twins.
Everyone experiences angst with the decision to have another child: how will our world change; can I do sleeplessness again; how will I deal with children of two separate ages.
But separate from all of that is the thought that we could try and fail. We could try and spend thousands of dollars and walk away with nothing. We could walk away now and buy a single-family home and give the twins camp and vacations. We could give up the life we've built for ourselves and take on a different one in order to have it all or we could keep this life and accept that we can't have it all.
When I think about walking away, I get this image in my head of a dysfunctional, 1950's family. I am dressed in this full skirt and fitted blouse with an apron around my waist. Josh is across from me at the kitchen table wearing a suit with a loosened tie. The twins are grown up and dressed nicely. And everything is grey. There is this film over the whole scene. We are all acutely aware that someone is missing and the anger at the table is all directed at me. For letting down the family. They all understand on one level; you can only do so much with reality. But on another level, there is the fact that every decision is always a decision.
When I think about staying with my dream, I get this sensation of claustrophobia in this townhouse that already feels cramped with their four-year-old bodies. Except, with this scene, it's not really an image per se. It's more of this feeling of pressure, of being squeezed from all angles. Unable to breathe. Feeling like these is no out: that I am completely lost as I boost everyone else up.
The whole thought just makes me tired.
And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
Nothing has changed in the last year. Financially, we're pretty much where we were. Fertilitywise, we're where we were. But where my dream felt floaty and exciting and attainable a year ago, it now feels unsafe. Unstable. And I'm not sure if it's me or if it's the dream.
There is this uneasiness when I look at the dream lately. I read this book during high school, The Fifth Child, by Doris Lessing. It is about a middle class couple who have four children and this idyllic life. You would think that they couldn't get by as well as they do--but somehow, they're making it. And then, they decide to have a fifth child. This fifth child is violent and unloving and hated by the siblings. He is simply difficult to love. He doesn't bring more happiness into the home. He sucks it all away.
And while I know life is not a piece of fiction, that the story is more in line with what happens when we make assumptions and how we love, it is hard to divorce it from my mind when the dream is already wrought with so many gatekeepers, all with their hands outstretched for payment. That part of my dream is just ugly--the lack of romance, the lack of unknown. It isn't a soft whisper. Trying again after assisted conception is like an angry shout. You loudly know what to expect.
And speaking of books, this has been turning over and over in my mind for days. When my grandmother brought me to the lunch table, she didn't cry that her granddaughter was such a great mother. She was in tears because she thought I was so smart. And the feminist in me, the tiny small version of a feminist in me, wondered how she saw me with my graduate degree and work. I always thought that some of that stuff seemed like such a waste, especially in light of the strong sense of family that was instilled in me since birth. Was I the American Dream she didn't get to achieve because it couldn't have happened this way in her time period (not perhaps writing, but being a mother and paving your own career)? Is my life right now my version of the American Dream? And how do I not know the answer?
but it's all right,
it's all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think
of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong
You just don't think that you're going to be infertile. We get these images of family in our head before we've ever tried to conceive. I was speaking to someone without children and she was going on about the big family she wants to have. And while all may go according to plan, I wanted to say to her: what if.
What if you hate parenthood and don't want to go through another babyhood? What if your partner hates parenthood? What if you can't afford the number of children you want? What if you simply can't produce them?
Then you are stuck like me: with the children who should be here free-floating around your head asking why they aren't here.
You're not here because everything is out of whack.
So override it. You did it once before. You could at least try again.
But if I try and fail, it means the twins get nothing and you're still not here. There are routes that are more of a sure thing, but still. Something has to give.
Aren't I worth that?
Yes. You are really worth everything in the world.
It's just that you never expect that you're going to be infertile when you're skipping back down the aisle at your wedding, your heart literally traveling out of your chest like a released balloon.
And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above
my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying
I think about it all the time. When we were on the Staten Island Ferry, I was staring at a swath of the ChickieNob's pink pants between her father's jean-clad legs. She was standing at the railing, waving to the statue. And I was thinking about my great-grandmother.
She came to Ellis Island twice. The first time, she came over and said, "feh" to America and went home. Isn't that a crazy story? So many people were trying to get out of the pogroms and she went back to Europe because she just didn't like America. That's the sort of stock I'm from. Opinionated, passionate women. We know what we like and we know how to make ourselves happy. Or, perhaps, she simply wasn't ready to let go of the dream she had inside her head of a life in Europe--a life in her home. Perhaps getting to remain at home was her third child.
She came back a second time and settled here and had four children. And they each had multiple children and multiple children. I have a very large family. And I'm not doing too poorly myself. Two children. In my grandmother's nursing home, we felt like a loud, raucous crew. Preschool twins running around the lobby. A woman said to me later in the day: "you must have your hands full."
So why do I feel like all of Ellis Island was jeering at me as I went past on the ferry?
I feel like my relatives were all saying, "this is the generation we went through everything to produce? Seriously, we escaped the pogroms and concentration camps for this girl who is writing the longest post in the world about having a third child? Just do it. Or don't do it. But thinking this deeply about life isn't going to make the chicken soup, if you know what I mean."
Get over it.
But this is the only life I get to live. I don't want to have any regrets. I want to do it "right."
A soft quotes--I am well aware that right changes from day to day, minute to minute.
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
and sing an American tune
The point is that we can't know. We just have to dive in and do it. Or we have to assume and stay away. But you can't test out most of the important things in life. We took a leap of faith the first time that all would work out. We can take a leap of faith again.
I would like to think that even if there is quite a bit of navel gazing that my elderly relatives would never understand ("who has time for this much thinking?") that my generation was worth the struggle. This time period in Judaism--between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur--is this time of deep reflection. Where you do take stock in your life, decide what you are leaving behind in the past year and what you are taking with you. It is a time of deep apologies--not only to others--but to ourselves.
And this anxiety has come to a fever pitch as I go into Yom Kippur tonight. It feels like a decision must be made now even though I know, in reality, that nothing needs to be decided. I could literally sit on this decision for years. I could make it today and then remake it again two months from now and remake it again two months after that. Even the final word won't truly be the final word unless my heart deems it so.
Oh, and it's alright,
it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest
It is possible, I've heard, that you can change your dream. You can adapt to anything. These are just the growing pains of holding a dream away from your heart and examining it closely. Dreams don't like to be separated from the body; they howl. They cry. Just like something else I can think of as a comparison.
And the fact is that I do feel blessed. I can write without qualifiers, without belittling the blessing in the same breath. I have a lot of blessings and this decision is not the hardest one I've ever had to make. In writing it out, it seems silly to think of it as monumental in my life. There is a lightness and release in putting it into words and holding it away from yourself; even if it howls in protest. It is sort of the same feeling of love that can come hand in hand with the frustration of an inconsolable baby.
I apologize if you're reading this and thinking, like my ancestors in line at Ellis Island, "lady, you don't have problems. Let me show you this tattoo on my arm and then you'll understand problems."
And they're right.
And they're wrong.
And I apologize too--to you--for any times that I have inadvertently hurt you this year. For any times I have not been there for you. For any times you wrote and received no answer. For any times I was sloppy in my wording. For any times that you read a post and walked away with your heart hurting--I had a lot of fears about that with this particular post. For any times that you felt overlooked. For any times that I couldn't give what you needed.
For all these things.
I am not writing this because I'm seeking an answer; I know that the answer has to come from this house and that no one else's thoughts should be considered. Beyond the small echoes of people affected around us, we're the only person who will be living out our choices, after all. I was writing this to get it off my chest. To go into Yom Kippur with my heart weighing 10 ounces rather than the three or four pounds of baggage I've been lugging about.
I'm sorry if I go quiet for a few days. I am feeling very quiet. This time of year does that. It's hard to have to look at your whole year, look at all of your choices, look at all of the words you said. And own them.