We'd been married about five years when we decide to try to conceive. This was, actually, a master plan. While my husband and I were still dating I went to my friend Julie's sister's wedding shower and she shared her master plan for marriage. I thought Holly was about as cool as it got, so I paid attention to every word she said, and logged it in my head like gold.
Later, my husband liked the five year plan: play for five, then settle down.
And it's true: for five years we played...and played...and played.
One day, it felt like time.
Let's have a baby.
Only it didn't at all work out that way. I've gone through it before, the infertility saga, a la Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The latest installment I haven't shared because...well, I am still processing. I want to, though, because sharing is what got me through infertility, and I feel like sharing might help someone else. So I'm working my way up to it.
But at the beginning, I was scared, ashamed, overwhelmed, confused. Oh the jokes about how we must not be doing it right abounded. Ha freaking ha. Nobody I knew dealt with an inability to conceive. My sister got pregnant simply by thinking about it and it seemed everybody I knew was the same. Where could I turn?
At the time, a newish Web site called iVillage was just gaining momentum. They had acquired a site called ParentsPlace which hosted a fantastic forum for people trying to conceive and those having trouble conceiving. A lot of us didn't admit, yet, to infertility. I was adopted by twin sisters and introduced to their circle, who welcomed me with open arms. Eventually, I became a board leader, and even more eventually, I moved on to the Infertility Forum, where a sadly large number of my new friends still were.
We were simultaneously happy to be with one another even while we grieved at multiple failures and losses. A grief cycle compressed into 30 days. You live that way. For years. Talk about PTSD.
The upside is that a number of us became close and a decade later are still good friends. In some way, we have all created families. Two remained childfree, not by choice, but by chance, and have moved forward. Several adopted. Others of us managed to conceive and make it to a live birth. When you go through infertility, you learn two lines don't make a baby.
The other thing that infertility teaches you is that nothing is a sure thing and there are no happily ever afters. Those of us who bonded as Bitter Infertile Women knew that life doesn't always go as planned, and you have to make a way within it anyway. We know you have to take your happy times and enjoy them, and deal with the rest.
One mom, a good friend, one who has been there through thick and thin, has proved that and more.
When her precious, wanted more than you can describe son finally arrived, we all exclaimed over his beauty. He is seriously one of the most beautiful children you have ever seen. And smart, too. At a get-together one time, her son wowed Patience with his ability to sit at the window and count cars. Patience, a little younger, was still trying to figure out colors, and this kid was using addition to quickly figure out a sum of vehicles.
"I like Elmo," Patience said.
"That makes 22!" M cried triumphantly. Patience looked impressed.
Still, set them side by side, and something was different, beyond personalities.
Before M was even 2, my friend began wondering aloud, "Is this normal?"
We all went back and forth between, "kids are so different" and "follow your gut."
She did. And it wasn't too much longer (in my time, time outside the testing track) that she got a Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) diagnosis. In layman's terms, that's autism, high functioning autism. It's a spectrum, you know.
She hit the ground running, gathering treatments and information like a pro. We all said, "He's so lucky to have a mom like you!"
She said, "What do you mean? I'm his mom! It's my job!"
But we all knew she was extraordinary.
That's why, when one day she was saying, "I'm tired of other parents not getting it. Telling me my son needs discipline, telling me how to parent, acting like we have some communicable disease..." I told her, "You ought to write a book."
And do you know...she did.
She wrote an awesome book. In fact, it was so great, I offered to publish it.
Now, that book---a moving story about a boy with autism, told from his sister's point of view, and full of real information about autism, including a resource section in the back---is out.
And she started a blog.
She just began, it's new. But she's chronicling---as I have long encouraged her to do, because her writing is fresh, honest, true and emotional, even if she thinks it's not good, it is---her journey into autism. Edited to say, no, actually, it's about their journey through and beyond autism.
If you know anyone who is touched by autism---and seriously, most of us do know more than one---and even if you don't, check out her blog.
And if you want, buy her book.
We can all talk about motherhood as we wish. It is a different experience for each of us.
I have to say, though, in all honesty, whenever I get too far into my own case of pity---replete with Whine, Cheese, and Violins---I remember how Gina is as a mom. In my lowest time, when I was worried about moving from one child to two, she donated countless hours of friendly shoulder and advice.
She is practical, on top of it, creative, remembers to laugh, occasionally tired and frustrated, but at the end of the day, loving. Her kids know they are loved.
She's a mom. And she gives us all a lot to think about.
Also, if I may be so bold, here are some other wonderful old pals (just a few who happen to blog):
Syd at Forever Young
Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor at Breastfeeding 1-2-3
Mamacate, whose description is so rockin' I have to share it:
A blog to serve the needs of the infertile lesbian fiber arts breastfeeding parents of twins community, particularly those who are left-leaning democrats employed in research and education. Don't all comment at once, we don't want to crash the server.
Are you even close to that cool?
And who says online friendships aren't real!
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert