When Family isn’t Free

My daughter has a best friend that has been around for longer than she can remember.  They have a special, funny little world that they have had to take online, since we moved away.  But sweetly, and defying odds and expectations, the distance has not separated them.  They are BFF’s in the shared heart necklace sense of the word.  O’s little sister has honorary status as a BF (just one F short of full fledged forever), and her cousins have been grudgingly granted status as BFC’s (that’s Best Friend Cousins to you.) If that conjures thoughts of Sister Wives to you, you’re not alone. (as in, me too;)  O and H have been working on a master plan for their life their last two Skype dates.  It was apparently deemed complete today, as my daughter ripped it “just a little, to make it seem old mommy,” and squirreled it away into her secretest faux treasure chest.  And what does this list contain?  Well, I really couldn’t explain it to you any better than my kidlink, so I will type a full and unabridged (and “un”spell checked) version for you below, complete with original illustrations:

H & O’s (badly spelled) and well thought out master plan:
PA (Plan A): earning money
PB (Plan B): geting a job
PC (Plan C): geting more money
PD (Plan D): geting a car
PE (Plan E): geting a house
PF (Plan F): saving up cash
PG (Plan G): fashin contest
Ph (Plan E): Dog shoe (*show)
Pi (Plan I): get a casle
Pj (Plan J): Be prinsesis


O’s dad reports that she was crushed to realize that all those extra letters mean “in case the first plan doesn’t work out.”  I am terribly pleased H isn’t putting all her eggs in one basket.  Which brings me to two points.  One, my own plan A for life required some literal eggs in the basket, if you know what I mean.  If you don’t, let me share my daughter’s version with you.

“So, mommy, it’s like this”… (we like to summarize a lot of things this way.  And by we, I mean H, when she gets into “telling me how it is” mode.)

….”Daddy’s got shrimp that have to swim to the eggs, but they maybe just don’t like yours, or can’t find them.  Or *squint*, you’re just out?”

And that’s it, in a nutshell.  I’m just out, for reasons no one can explain.  And by no one, I mean doctors and specialists. The only thing I know for sure is it is definitive. H is not a product of my eggs or daddy’s “shrimp.”  She is a special gift whose story I may tell another day, or leave alone for her.  But she was unexpected, and did not come, as J.M. Barrie would say “fresh from God.”  Each year of her growth is a little neon light flashing “one more year without.”  Not because she isn’t our sunshine, but because of her.  She has no built in playmate, no long term safety net.  She has no sibling to call her own, just as we have never had the private experience of “expecting” to call our own.  This loss is a leaden, heavy thing that presses down on our lives, sometimes with more weight than others.  Time does not diminish it.  It is apart from the experience of being a parent.  I am a parent, but I long for the experience of “expecting” a child.  Of bringing all my years of waiting to a close. Which brings me to point number two.  Expecting.

When I was in 5th grade, I have a clear memory of sitting in the back of a school assembly, and fixating on some (random) woman and her baby, and wondering what would happen if I just grabbed that baby and ran out the door.  I was the same age as H is now.  10.  And I had a baby radar that superseded all other desires.  I was crazy for barbies and my little ponies, for drying elmer’s glue on my hand and peeling it off, and for microwaved cheese.  But none of these pleasures came close to my over-riding passion for tiny toes and feather soft hair.  I dreamed of babies, the way H dreams of dragons and castles.  But at least in her list, there is a fall back plan.  Plan E: Get a house.  Maybe the castle won’t work out.  But hey! There’s always the car & the house.  And the possibility of a dog show or fashion show, to drum up extra cash;)  H is practical.  We just got hot water for the first time in 4 months.  We walk everywhere.  She gets to see the dentist after the rent is paid.  She knows all about Plan B.  She gets that you need cash if you want the castle.  It is a theme. She is a wiser 10 year old than I was.  When I was 10, this was my list:

PA: Have babies.

PB: Adopt babies.

I just read a really great post by a man who experienced years of infertility with his wife, and summarized it into ten words.  And it made me think of H’s list.  There are two things I would have liked to warn my 10 year old self, so I could have prepared for Plan J.  The inability to make a baby is a very real possibility, and the ability to beg, borrow or steal one is not.  You may laugh or scoff at this, but I am not joking.  Contrary to messages prevalent in popular culture, the following is NOT true:  adoption is not easy, and most people who have failed to get pregnant do NOT get pregnant the minute they do try and adopt.  Do NOT tell this story to anyone who know who struggles with this particular sadness.

When you are 10, 20 is old and 30 is ancient.  Which means that, at the ripe old age of 35, I am decrepit.  I am feeling it.  I don’t even need the 10 year old me as a mirror.  I understand now what a mid-life crisis is.  It is looking back and realizing that you don’t have a castle, or a house, or a car, or a baby.  And that even if you were willing to throw over the first three for the latter, it probably wouldn’t be enough.  It isn’t enough.  The years have pooled into a particular moment in which you realize that “that” thing you dreamed of all you life probably won’t happen.

It’s not the post I read that resonates in particular, it is all the comments below. The women who have put themselves through Plan B (clomid), C (fertility treatments), D (donor eggs), E (2nd and 3rd rounds of donor eggs), F (failed adoptions), and are now trembling at G, so very angry at all the people around them that glowingly succeed with Plan A.

I get this.  It is perhaps a dirty little secret, but I’ll just let it out.  When you were dreaming of boys and swatch watches, I was dreaming of babies.  When you were getting on birth control and worrying about your weight, I was dreaming of babies.  When you were dreaming of white weddings and an Italian honeymoon, I was dreaming of babies.  I know, you wanted them too.  But did you want them with the passion and singularity I did?  And so yes, irrational and petty as it is, I am angry that it all came so easy to you.  It changes nothing, but you should know how it feels.  And don’t ever expect that I, or anyone else floating around in this little raft with me, will move on or get over it.  We are painters that didn’t get to paint, and musicians who do not get to sing.  We despair.  And listen up, 10 year old me.  We are not, as my husband likes to say, Brangelina.  We cannot afford the adoptions.  It’s not because we don’t want to.  These dreams, as my own 10 year old has figured out, require cash. Ironically, I suppose, I “shared” a cute little image on Facebook today, in which cheery little stick people declare that “the best things in life are free.” One of them, of course, is family.  Which I guess makes me a fraud of sorts, because family isn’t free for everybody.

I wrote a post yesterday about a family who got news that their very young, very loved little girl will not be with them much longer.  Plan A is not going as planned.  I would like to assign some cosmic meaning to it, but I can’t. God doesn’t love them less or you more. If Plan A or even Plan B went, and continues to go, as planned for you, please tremble carefully there, with the gratitude and respect it demands.  I know your life isn’t perfect.  But be kind with those around you who cannot reach the shore.  It is exhausting.  All I can do is hope that in 25 years, H will still feel about O the way she does now.  “She’s my sister, right mom?  We’re close as sisters, she and I.”  That may be as close she gets.   I hope they have some cash-but if not, at least they can share an umbrella.