Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kidding Around

One of the biggest decisions one ever makes in life is whether to have children.  Obviously, sometimes it happens without planning and choice, and sometimes it doesn't work for those who make the decision and give it their best effort (which has to be frustrating but kind of fun to keep trying!).  I'm sure people have wondered where Brian and I were on that issue, and how that has had a role in my grieving.

We were that couple -- which I think is getting more and more common these days -- that always said, "Maybe someday, but not right now."  We hadn't really had any serious talks about when "someday" would be.  It just seemed like every day, week, month, and year wasn't the right time yet.  We always had things going on, things to do, places to go, wine to drink, trips to take, etc.  It wasn't an option that had been foreclosed in our minds, but neither was it anywhere near the forefront of our thoughts.  We were, you could say, perpetually living in year one of the "five year plan."

Only once in my life was I sad, rather than relieved, to get that very private monthly signal that life could continue as normal -- the first time it happened after Brian died, it was like he died all over again.  I have to admit, I was hoping against hope that my birth control would suddenly fail me for the first time in...well, I don't want to say how long exactly, but a lot of years.  I wanted some miracle little red-headed baby boy, some living legacy to remind me of him, some way to experience a living, breathing embodiment of him and to feel like I could still hold him and have a life with him in a way.  I felt angry and cheated that he never really got to make the decision whether or not to have kids; his life was taken before we made our final decision.

On the other hand, pregnancy is (I'm told) an incredibly difficult thing, and it's not as though raising a child is a cakewalk either.  It certainly would have been incredibly challenging to go through that all by myself, when my emotions were already barely under control and when I could barely manage to get through life the way it was.  I actually wonder, if I had somehow been with child, if I could have carried it to term successfully.  I suspect not, and that would have been absolutely devastating.  If I had, I'm sure there would be emotional and psychological difficulties beyond those faced by all parents, or even all single parents -- I'm afraid I would have relied on the baby too much for my own emotional needs instead of parenting the way I should have.  There's also no doubt that pregnancy and a child would have drastically altered the course of my life, and I wouldn't be in Austin, Texas writing this right now.  

The craziest thought I ever had about this was something that, weirdly enough, I thought about at the hospital right after I found out Brian's fate.  I seriously considered asking the doctor if it was possible to harvest some sperm of his so that I could keep that option alive.  However, I didn't.  I was embarrassed about it, I felt weird even thinking that way, and most of all, I didn't want to ask and then be told that it was not a possibility for some reason.  I couldn't handle any more disappointment or closed doors at that time.  I just thought, "Well, if it's meant to be, this will be the month the pill fails me."  And it was not meant to be.  I guess I see that now.

I have to say, although I was devastated to realize the last chance I had for carrying Brian's child was gone, I'm glad there was no little "accidental miracle" in my womb now.  If I sit and think about the opportunity Brian lost, and the world lost, by his not passing on his genes to future world inhabitants, I still do feel sadness, anger, a sense of betrayal by fate/God, and even a twinge of regret or second-guessing.  Yet, my feelings the other way are stronger now.  It took a while to feel that way, but now I can say that it worked out better to have that crushing disappointment at the time.  If I had Brian's child, I'd probably still be practicing law in Iowa, probably living in a house that was meant to be purchased by a young family from Kansas.  I wouldn't have met a lot of the people that fate intended me to meet, and I wouldn't have followed my gut and my heart to try out a new place and a new career -- things I really needed for my own personal growth.

Grieving provides a lot of lessons about how Life's plans (capitalization is intentional there) and an individual's plans are often at odds.  Sometimes it is a really big and bitter pill to swallow and it takes several attempts.  Sometimes the aftertaste is terrible, and you're pissed off that you had to take that goddamn pill to begin with, and you still have terrible flashbacks and memories of trying to get it down.  But it's better to deal with it that way than to sweep the pills under the rug.

Not having children with Brian was a bitter, difficult truth.  It was life snatching away an opportunity from the both of us, as well as our families and those hypothetical gingers we might have created.  Now, however, I realize it was the way things had to be, and it was a blessing that I have the freedom to find the next path I need to take.

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