Monday, March 5, 2012

the love of my sister

a couple weeks ago on my favorite local mountain...

I never thought I would look down and see this view ever again.  It has taken me to be almost 30 weeks along in this pregnancy to be able to write about my experience....not about the pregnancy, per say, but the loooooooong part leading up to it.  The most difficult part.  I anguished over whether I would really want to and whether I really should write about it, in such a public forum as this.  In the end I always came back to my core belief that it is so much easier to connect if you are coming from a place of honesty in your own very RAW . HUMAN . EXPERIENCE.  I have carefully written these words to be able to share...but I hope that I haven't divulged too much.  Let's consider this the essay, not the novel of our story...  because there is way more detail I would have included if it was a novel and if I wasn't considering my husband's much more private way of being.  I think he wishes I was more like that sometimes.

For the last three years I have been living a very full vibrant life... and at the very same time....I've been on a desperately lonesome road.

Ok - there, I said it.

It has to be said up front that I felt a special connection with Jeff through all that time of disappointment, a sense of being "in it" together, but it's just different for women.  Different for me, anyway.  I was hoping at some point Jeff's contentedness with this wonderful gift of ASTRID we already had would be enough for me, too.

The loneliness set in when I felt shame that it was not so easy for me to get pregnant.  Even though talking with other women and friends with infertility issues was comforting, you still have the problem and no amount of talking was going to solve it.  There were times over these last few years when people I didn't know, or didn't know me well enough would make statements about Astrid "needing" a sibling, or boldly asking when we were having our next child, or interject their silly ideas of what we should do or what we were doing wrong...  This happened especially around Astrid's two year mark.  At the beginning these comments struck me right at my core and wounded me right on the spot...sometimes not able to make it to a safe and secure place (my home or most of the time it was my car) to be able to "feel" it and cry.  After a while these sort of comments started to make me very angry.  They made me angry because I couldn't change anything, and they made me angry because I was too emotionally frail to help them understand.  They made me angry because, simply put, it wasn't their business.  They had no idea of knowing this, but their 'small talk', was a very BIG problem in my life that when brought to the surface at a time I wasn't expecting would send me off in a sad direction I wasn't planning...and would ruin all my plans of enjoying myself in the way I had set out to do.

To back track a little, I grew up in a family of four children in Houlton, Maine.  I had cousins with the relative closeness of siblings.  We were and are a very close knit group.  When I married Jeff I didn't know what our exact plans would be for a family.  It wasn't until two weeks before Dad died in January 2004 that it became crystal clear to me that I wanted children of my own, and Jeff was game.  It took us three years to get Astrid brewing.  It was a long road, but nothing compared to the three since Astrid was born.

I had an uneventful (dare I say - although some of you will probably cringe....joyful....since it was something that we wanted and had looked forward to for quite some time) pregnancy and birth with Astrid.  It was all so easy (well, except the nursing the first three months).  About 8 months after Astrid was born we agreed that Astrid needed a sibling to walk the world with.  We tried the same easy procedure (IUI) that we used in conceiving Astrid since it had worked the first time.  It worked again and we were elated!  It seemed that we were going to get exactly what we wanted.  Children 18 months apart!  Bam!  Done!  Nope.

I miscarried at 11 weeks.  We've had two other miscarriages since then, as well...and just not a lot of luck in between.  Years of doing IUIs, trying different doctors, and taking fertility meds month after month to no avail. I know most of it is because we didn't get started early.  Maybe I hit my fertility prime in my twenties... I reveled in the travel, adventurousness and the footloose and fancy free spirit I was able to be at that time in my life, and I wouldn't change a thing. This realization doesn't make it any easier to deal with great disappointment in the now.

Last year at this time I got my near daily call from my sister, her three lively kids playing in the background...  I don't even think she said hello, she just sort of involuntarily blurted "You know I'd have a baby for you, right?"  I didn't respond right away, but I remember feeling like she was throwing me a lifeline.  After all the tearful calls day after day, and her inability to do anything about my reality... I realized why she called to tell me this.  It was all she could offer.....and it was a BIG one.  I can't remember what I said through the tears, but it was a beautiful moment between my sister and me... and she was 3,000 miles away, but at that moment she was in my living room with me, her arms wrapped tightly around my frame.

When I got off the phone I was so mad at myself for feeling like I drove my sister to the only thing she could offer as a solution - her uterus and her fertility.  This was, hands down, the most selfless act of love anyone has ever presented to me, and it came from my only sister.  I felt guilty that I would in a million years consider this as a possibility.  My mind raced for days, weeks...even months after our call.  I kept revisiting it... thinking of all the things that could be beautiful about it, but mostly all the things that could go wrong.  Of course, there is no way in hell my husband or hers would ever go for this, anyway, right?

In the end, over lots of talks with Jeff (who thought the idea was out-of-this-world-crazy) I realized my very close relationship with my sister, her health and well being was not worth what I thought would be too great a risk.

We got lucky again when we went to Spokane for the same procedure (IUI) a few months later in early May, but I immediately started having lower back pain and knew something was wrong....we lost it a few weeks later in June... We had the attitude that with a miscarriage, there was at least a possibility that we could still have one more child.  So just after healing from that last miscarriage (and D&C) we shot me up with the fertility drugs one last time - and I got pregnant with this one!  LUCKY LUCKY pregnancy #5.  We have only about 10 weeks until the due date.  I still feel we can't fully celebrate until his/her birth, but it feels great to be 3/4 of the way there ~ and according to the Doc everything looks great.
(ahem, please excuse all the dead heads in the background!!!)  This was taken at 27 weeks on Valentine's Day....A self portrait I took for my Mom and my sister to see my new boots!


Summer Nicklasson said...

Sister, I am so proud of your bravery in writing this. It feels good to read, not only because it's a journey I am going through myself, but because it makes me know you better. I am happy for your lucky #5 and will say prayers for a happy and healthy baby...BOY? Whooppee! Good job, Ebeth. You are a beautiful and brave person and your words will help others feel less lonely on such a difficult road. Cheers!

Julie Brackett said...

I'm so touched by reading this. So many women have trouble conceiving and people can be so rude about it! So, we sit in our cone of silence and suffer. I am so glad that you were able to complete your family! Huzzah!

Maria Carns said...

I am so happy for you, Jeff & Astrid. I knew it was you I saw going into the grocery store as I was rushing out and I noticed the "belly" and thought..."Oh, I think that was Elizabeth and she is pregnant - how cool!" God Bless...

Johnathan Bardsley said...

Yes! Thanks for sharing Elizabeth.

Monique said...

This is so touching that it brought tears to my eyes. Although we've been intermittently in touch over the years, I'd often wondered about these (your) delicate issues of family. A new life seems as fragile as the woman's soul that carries it...

Your journey has been special, albeit rocky. We too suffered bumps in our later start, leaving indelible marks yet deepening the love for the little beauties.

I'm so excited to see your little baby bump and am sending lots of love and hugs as you cherish the anticipation in the next 10 weeks!