Mourning the amalgamation

Today I experienced my first baby-#2 pregnancy announcement  since we have (kind of) agreed on our tentative plan. I had assumed that baby-#2 stuff was bugging me before because I didn’t know when I could have that myself and that therefore when I did know, it would stop bugging me. Turns out I was wrong.

As I digested the announcement, I tried to pay close attention to how I was feeling. In successive, and sometimes overlapping, waves I recognized joy (for the person), anger, frustration, incredulity and eventually grief washing over me. In the past I would have chastised myself for these emotions: who am I to feel anger or grief over the joy of others, especially when I haven’t actually been denied that experience myself? Normally I would berate myself for my selfishness and force myself to move past the unacceptable emotions.

Today I did neither of those things. My new focus is on being honest with myself, on listening to what my body, mind and heart are trying to tell me, and on be accepting of whatever that might be. Today I brought that mindset to my reaction.

Instead of judging myself harshly for my feelings I was honest about them, and then I became curious. Why was I feeling all of these things? Why does learning of others’ success in building their families still conjure a negative reaction in me? Why does it prompt me to grieve over my own situation when I am more sure now than I’ve been in months that I’ll probably have that some day too?

What I came to understand from my soul searching is that my sadness about building my family is not just about when and how it happens. While I do lament the fact that our children will not be as close in age as I’d once hoped and I will forever mourn the chance to try to conceive without crushing anxiety, there is something else I’m grieving, something that was just as dear to my heart as either of those dreams.

The greif I felt today when I read that pregnancy announcement was inspired by the lose of another dream, one that is so basic I hardly realized I’d had to let it go. It was my dream of the contented, conflict free partnership forging tirelessly ahead, united in their desire to bring life into the world once again.

Of course I know that no relationship is always happy nor can they be entirely devoid of conflict. But I did hope to have a partner who wanted to build his family in the same way I always had. I did dream of approaching the idea of a second child with equal measures of excitement and expectation. I never imagined that building my family would require struggle and loss followed by strife and conflict and finally dictated by negotiation and compromise. I never dreamed my partner and I would approach having another baby with as much fear and trepidation as enthusiasm or joy. I always assumed we’d be so blissfully happy with the first child that having another would be seen as nothing but a blessing.

For us, in our lives, having another baby is a financial and emotional uncertainty. We’re not sure we can make it work, in any sense of the word. Not only do the fiscal responsibilities threaten to overwhelm us, but the emotional obligations do as well. I never expected it would be this hard. I never thought we’d struggle with it all this much.

When I see other families celebrating a pregnancy that will result in children less than two or three years apart I feel jealousy. I’m envious that they can make it work financially, that the woman can probably stay at home or makes enough to afford child care. I’m jealous that their relationship is strong enough to withstand the turbulence of two young children, that they have such confidence in their own foundation so as to entrust it with such an incredible and precious weight. I’m incredulous that their addition didn’t require negotiation or anger or anxiety or resentment. I’m apprehensive that they are strong enough to face the uncertain future with the grace, determination and resolve they are projecting.

It’s true that Mi.Vida and I are on the way to a decision, one we’ll both agree on. But it won’t be what either of us wants, not really. It won’t be born organically of our mutual desire to have another child. Our plan will have been painstakingly crafted over months of turmoil and ambivalence. It will be agreed upon because there is no other choice but to agree upon it. It won’t be in any way organic or natural; instead it will be an amalgamation of our wants and needs, welded together in an attempt to create the impossible union of our divergent dreams. While it will be mutually accepted it will never be celebrated by either of us, separately or together.

In the end I’ll probably get the family I’ve always wanted, at least some version of it. In the end I’ll probably have everything I need to be happy. Mi.Vida would argue that it’s the result that matters, not the circumstances under which that result was achieved. For him, I’m sure that’s the case and I accept that. But for me, it’s more complicated and there will be a part of me that is forever saddened that my family was forced into existence rather than born of two people’s unquestioned love for each other and their pure and unadulterated desire to build a family.

7 responses

  1. Wow — a really powerful post. There was so much to digest here. I think what was most illuminating was the complexity of what you realized you felt once you stopped berating yourself for having the feelings and instead acknowledged them and explored them.

  2. have you ever discussed – before you even had Isa – how many kids each of you wanted and how far apart you wanted them to be? Were you both in agreement and then one of you changed point of view or plans?

    • When Mi.Vida and I first met he said he didn’t think he wanted kids. He was my first boyfriend and he was only 24 so I hoped he would change his mind. He seemed so mature and self aware that I was sure he would eventually realize it was something he wanted.

      Unfortunately it was never as simple as that. We actually went to couple counseling about three years into our relationship because I wanted to start having kids and he still wasn’t sure if he wanted them or was ready. After four sessions we decided on a timeline that was much like this one, much longer than I wanted to wait and earlier than he wanted to start.

      I naively thought that once we had our first kid he’d realize how much he loved being a father and would decide he wanted more kids. I basically believed I could change him. Actually, I didn’t think I could change him, as he didn’t seem to sure of how he felt at the time. It was more I believed I could convince him of what he wanted, or that just by exposing him to parenthood he would realize what he wanted – and that family would be it.

      We both thought long and hard about ending our relationship because of our different views on family building. We broke up over it once, but it lasted less than a day. That was when we decided to go to couples counseling to figure it out. Sometimes I wonder if we made a mistake staying together. We loved each other. We still do, but I wonder if we’re just too different to ever be truly happy with each other. At the time when we were deciding to stay together I did so because I couldn’t imagine life without him. I also truly believed I might never find anyone else to love, or who would love me (making it to 25 without a significant other will do that to you). I also realized that if I started all over again at 28 I’d be losing just as much of my dream as I would if I stayed with him, maybe more. It didn’t seem worth the sacrifice of not having him in my life just because we didn’t have the same ideas about family, if leaving him meant I’d almost surely not get to have the family I wanted anyway.

      The reality is I assumed the best possible outcome would happen. And it didn’t. And I need to come to terms with that. I love my partner. I don’t regret staying with him. I just wish things were easier between us, for both of our sakes.

      • That’s tough. But – at least he’s been honest with you – always. My first husband always told me he wanted a family, kids. In reality, he did everything to avoid having them – up to almost not having sex. Like, ever. But he kept telling me he wanted kids.

        After 10 years together, we split up. I was 29 at the time (yeah, I was 19 when I married him), also terrified I won’t find anyone else, terrified of losing the person I loved – and the person I grew so close with (10 years is a loooong time).

        Funny thing, I found out he married a woman with a child (not his) 6 months later. Actually, not funny. I still don’t get this.

        So I can relate to your anguish. I spent years and years hoping he would change. But – in my situation – I had reasons to doubt that he loved me at all, on top of child-related conflict.

        You guys love each other. You worked it through the first time around. Even though he never wanted to have kids, he went along with this idea (if not as fast as you wanted). He must really care for you – to do that, despite his own beliefs and wants. So it’s worth working on this relationship. It is sad that things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like, but at least you know what he really thinks. And you know he wants to make you happy – he just needs time.

        I always thought I’d have my first kid by 24, second – by 30. I am 32 and expecting my first. But – I had the time to build my career and have financial security that is very helpful now when it comes to actually raising this child I am carrying.

        I always try to find a reason why things happened the way they did. My new husband is awesome – and I wouldn’t be with him if I left my husband #1 any earlier. I wouldn’t be able – financially – to give what I can right now to my children. I even think that I wouldn’t have been ready to have a baby earlier – the way I feel ready now, emotionally. I changed a lot over the past years, since the divorce.

        Anyway… I’m rambling, try to cheer you up and help you see the brighter side of things. I am sure you guys will figure it out. You’ve been through a lot together. You can do it.

  3. This post has haunted me all day. I think you have hit upon a universal truth that everyone in the ALI community can relate to in some way: for all of us, in some way, there is a loss of a dream. Keiko’s post about the loss of the dream of announcing to her husband and family that she was expecting comes to mind here. You put into words so brilliantly your own loss of your dream: that family-building would be an easily agreed-upon process which would strengthen your love and bond with your partner.

  4. I too mourn the way my family has been created. It’s not the product of compromise with my partner, but with infertility – accepting that I just don’t get the dream I had of my two children.

    In a way, it’s easier to accept, because there’s no one to blame. Our infertility just IS. Harder when it’s a person who’s got the roadblocks; there’s so much space for resentment and anger and pain and loneliness. I’m really sorry.

    I do like the idea that you can focus on the end result, though, that at SOME point you can move on from family building and all the emotion associated with it and just… well… live your life. At least, that’s my own focus as I work through my grief.

    Hugs.

    xoxo

  5. One thing I’ll add here, just quickly (this is less about you … because this post is beautiful and powerful), is that the addition may actually require more negotiation and anxiety than you think … it certainly did, EVERY time, for us. I’m going to write a post about windows this week, I think … about looking in, thinking we know what’s happening … and really knowing very little at all. Even what we tell others is almost always incomplete. You are being so open and honest about your struggle with Mi.Vida to plan this … I don’t know many other people who really confront the complexity of family planning in this honest, raw, open way.

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