Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Infertility

I tried. I wanted to give our daughter a living sibling. But I have had enough. Enough of disappointment. Enough of fear. Enough of thinking another baby will solve all our problems. Enough of being told our daughter needs a sibling so she won't be "selfish". Enough of worrying about giving ourselves more heartache. Enough of feeling pressured to produce a socially acceptable family. Enough of trying to produce a human shield against disapproval, judgement, inadequacy, isolation, loneliness, grief. Enough of thinking there is only one path to happiness.

If only.
I wouldn't want anyone to think we are "giving up" on our dreams. Sometimes dreams evolve. Sometimes other things become important. We could have taken one of the options our fertility doctor was offering. Admittedly, the chances of ending up with a child were low. But the chance was there. We could have put our bodies and our hearts and our relationship and our daughter and our bank account through that. But there are costs to doing that and I don't mean the money. Knowing myself, and what I need to be healthy and happy, I have considered those costs. I am worn out with considering them. Parenthood is a burden of love, but a burden nonetheless. I think people whose children die before them, at any age from any cause, know this in the fullest way possible.

When you need fertility treatments and you don't end up with a baby, people think you probably didn't want it badly enough, or maybe if you just relaxed it would happen, or why don't you try to appreciate the child you do have, or maybe you should "just adopt" or any of the myriad other hurtful things people say. We live in a culture that says if you just try hard enough, if you want something badly enough, you will have whatever you want. Especially if it was meant to be.

If babies grew on trees, we would definitely google that orchard and be having that conversation. But they don't so we're having this one. And I think the path we have followed, the way we explored all our options, had those difficult conversations, challenged our own thinking and feelings about why we were trying to have another baby, was definitely worth where we are today. I still don't have complete peace of mind but that's because one of my children is dead. I do think I have more peace of mind than I would have if I had continued to believe we need to add another child to our family. I feel I have a greater chance of true peace, of having a fulfilling life, on the path I'm on now.

I want to do more than survive the death of my baby. I want to thrive. The tools exist inside me. I need to stop giving attention, energy, resources to external distractions. For many people whose babies were stillborn, the desire for another baby is not a distraction, it is what they want and need to do for their own happiness and they should be supported on that journey. What I need is to keep surviving, hoping, learning and growing.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Livvy

A few weeks ago, we adopted a dog. We had talked vaguely about getting a dog for a long time but I couldn't picture adding the inconvenience and mess of a dog to our lives. Then recently something changed in me and I thought, well, maybe. Maybe it won't be so messy and inconvenient. Or maybe that stuff just doesn't really matter when compared to adding some love to our lives and helping an animal in need. We started looking and within a few days, we found Livvy.


Sometimes it feels like she found us. She's a wonderful dog, very relaxed and mellow most of the time. She has a bit of a protective instinct and will sometimes bark at perceived threats but she seems to be learning that we don't need protecting. We have some general information about her history. She's a 5 year old lab retriever/Hungarian kuvasz mix and she's much bigger than the "medium sized" dog we were originally looking for! Her previous owners were an older couple and sadly the husband died and I guess the wife couldn't take care of her anymore. I'm sure she was very much loved and that her loss was added to the loss the family was already going through. The new name we gave her is similar to her previous name because I wanted to honour that past connection. She is a little overweight and needs to lose 10 kg but other than that the vet has given her a clean bill of health. 

When we first found out our application had been approved by the SPCA, I was ecstatic. There had been some doubt we would get this dog, another family had applied, so when our doubts were suddenly erased, it was thrilling. Then we brought her home and an emotional crash came. I was filled with remorse and guilt. These feelings were completely unexpected. A dog, the right dog, should add happiness to your life, so why was I feeling a terrible sense of fear and loss?

It was my idea to pursue getting a dog and so for the first week I asked myself, Why did I do this? Why did we add this vulnerable creature to our already complicated lives? What if something happens to her and we are plunged into more sadness? It will be awful and it will be all my fault.

Change is more difficult for me since my son died. Particularly if I know something would not have happened if he had lived. If he had lived, would we have gotten a dog? Probably not. Who knows. With change, I have difficulty accepting it right away because I feel it's wrong, it shouldn't be happening, he should just be here. I continue to live in two timelines - the one where he lives, and this one.

After the first week, these feelings of regret eased, then passed. Now I can't imagine our lives without Livvy. Every day more of her personality is revealed to us. She's starting to lose some weight (she needs to lose it slowly) and we can see more of her playfulness coming out.



Our daughter loves her and is learning about dog care. She has always been a respectful and compassionate child, so she and Livvy are perfect for each other. This is not a surrogate sibling for her. A dog is not a replacement for anything. No person or animal can ever replace someone who is missing. It is an addition, happiness alongside sadness.


I'm grateful to the Vancouver SPCA for all their help. They obviously care very much about the animals in their care and want to find the best match between families and pets. We went back the other day to return a collar they had loaned us and to donate some dog food. They recognized Livvy right away despite the number of animals that must pass through their doors and their hearts every week. It was a chance to say thanks and to show them how well Livvy is doing.

It's not easy taking a risk for happiness when you've already lost so much, but right now I can say, we couldn't be happier.