(The third in an occasional series about pregnancy and chronic illness.)
A lot of the discussion in the first two installments of this series on pregnancy and chronic illness deals with what happens once children enter our lives: How do we be the parents we want to be with bodies that do not cooperate? In the ever-evolving dialogue of Can vs Should, it is an essential topic, one we need to keep picking back up.
But today I am thinking about the tricky terrain that comes before a baby, the decisions and risk analyses and variables we must weigh when figuring out how it is we will become parents.
For some women, infertility or infertility as a result of other existing illness is the issue. For others, being able to conceive children may not be a problem but due to high-risk medical situations, carrying them is. For others, it is a combination of both.
Regardless of the reasons why things don’t happen quickly, there is still the waiting game, the period of time between when you first realize things will not be easy or quick and when you actually have a child, whether through adoption, IVF, gestational carriers, etc.
Now, I do not claim to be a veteran in these matters and like many aspects of daily life, there are some conversations that will remain offline. Already there are many, many writers and bloggers who speak compellingly about infertility, adoption, and other options. But what I do know is that just like there are so many universals to living with chronic illness, there are many universals to this experience no matter where women are in this wait or why it is they are waiting, namely:
Every decision is deeply personal and should be respected, not judged. In the end, it is your family and your child’s future that matters, not what other people say or think (if only it were that easy!) And of course, the same applies to decisions to not have children after all--only you can truly know what is the best choice.
Each person’s situation is unique and cannot be applied to other couples with other sets of variables (for better or worse). Even women with the same diagnoses can have very different outcomes and different priorities going into things, so do your research and talk to everyone you can, but remember that what works for some people may not be the best fit for you. And that's okay.
I also think that sometimes the hardest part of the waiting game is interacting with other people who might not know the whole situation or might not know what to do or say. It’s a shifting landscape for everyone involved:
If we want to talk about it, we will. If we don’t bring it up or deflect the conversation, take that cue from us.
Don’t think because we don’t want to talk about this particular aspect of life that we don’t want to talk, or get phone calls, or be the same people we were.
There is a difference between listening to us and advising us. When we want to fill you in but are not yet ready or interested in feedback, respect that. If we’ve brought you into these kinds of discussions it is because we value and respect your thoughts, but know there is a time and a place for your take on the situation. Sometimes we need to figure out how we feel about things before we can productively process what others think or feel. (I'm sounding a bit demanding here, aren't I? Rest assured these are the same expectations I have for myself and my own personal conversations about this.)
What you may see as a positive may represent a loss to us, or vice versa. What may seem difficult or not ideal to you might just be wonderful news to us. Everyone involved has a right to his/her emotions, but it’s important to remember (or even expect) that there is no guarantee we will respond in the same way.
Please don’t think that people in this waiting period don’t want to hear about other children (or pregnancies), or spend time with other children. Our lives are undeniably richer because of the children already in them, and nothing going on in our lives could take away from that. I can’t speak for anyone but myself but the way I see it, there is no defined quota of babies or good news out there so your good news is just that—good news. It has nothing to do with my situation or my potential to have a family. Why would I begrudge someone else for having the very thing I know is so worth having? So no weirdness or walking around on eggshells, please!
Like I said, I’m certainly not an expert or veteran in all of this, and I know many of you have seen and experienced much more. If you have other considerations, suggestions, or general words of wisdom for everyone involved in this, please leave a comment.
(Editor's update: I forgot to mention that the best thing you can ask for are these words: "We're here for you and support you in whatever decision you make." Fortunately, this is is something I've heard often.)
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A totally unrelated PS--Notice the new look at A Chronic Dose? Many thanks to Pink Dezine!