"Here, Moxie," my mom said to me as we stood in her bathroom primping for our grown-ups only double-date,"try this razor. It's the best damned thing ever. Look – it's motorized!"
I lathered up with the powder-fresh shaving cream and took the buzzing razor from her. I took a couple of passes with it, then stroked my skin to see if the blade was, in fact, the best damned thing ever. "Oooh, silky schmooove!"
"See? I told you! But don't you know you're supposed to shave down and not up?" she demonstrated.
"Nah, shaving up works better for me. I always seem to have little stubblies left if I shave down." I paused, suddenly realizing the absurdity of this conversation between women. "Isn't this the type of lesson that a father has with his teenage son, and not one that a mother has with her 31-year old daughter?," I said with a giggle.
Laughing, she said, "What better way to have some mother-daughter bonding than by standing in the mirror shaving our beards?"
It's been a long time. I started 2010 trying to regain my confidence, throwing myself face-first into one bloggy project or another in an attempt to dust the past two years off of my skinned knees and bruised heart.
You'll never hear me say those projects were wastes of time. You helped me raise a table sponsorship for Parenthood for Me's First Annual Family Building Dinner and Silent Auction. Nearly 100 of you participated in the Winter round of Sock It to Me. I can take some comfort in the fact that I helped some of you, even if only marginally.
Still, I find myself feeling empty, and the absence of writing here echoes the void. Words usually flow like rivers from my fingers, but lately I've felt used up, dried out, and somewhat forgotten. 3 sets of intended parents, 4 fresh transfers, 1 negative cycle, 3 chemical pregnancies, an indefinite wait with an indefinite green light…I'm no where closer to having a baby as a surrogate than I was when I started this blog 2.5 years ago. I'm tired.
Recently, (out of concern, not criticism), my mom asked, "How can you keep putting yourself through this? Don't you ever just feel like giving up?"
Truthfully speaking, I do sometimes feeling giving up, but I just can't.
I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out just why it is that I doggedly keep pursing surrogacy despite all of my setbacks. I've overcome my infertility. I don't think anyone would blame me if I packed up my baggage with the travel tags that read LAND OF IF and chucked them under the box of assorted Christmas decorations in the garage. But no – the box that I keep looking at is the one filled with maternity clothes, and it's in my closet instead of the garage. Inside are hopes and looking at it hurts. But that, my friends, is why I am a surrogate. Kristi – my IM – was able to crystallize what I could feel but could not verbalize for myself: if it still hurts, then it isn't over…when the pain is done, so are you.
What IF I can't heal?
And then, everything made sense: completing another surrogacy is as much about healing myself as it is helping someone else. If I'm not helping, or at least not actively trying to help, then it feels as if my own healing process has stopped. I've always felt a heavy sense of survivor's guilt. I fell on the
light end on the wide spectrum of infertility. Why should I have gotten off so easy when others have been through infinitely worse? Is part of my drive to be a surrogate an effort to absolve myself of this guilt (which I know is undeserved, but still…). If it is, then
What IF that makes me selfish?
What IF, after everything, I can't help someone via surrogacy?
What IF I come to a place where I feel I have to give up?
What if I can't carry the emotional weight anymore?
What IF I can't handle another loss?
What IF I want to give up and put away the baggage once and for all?
THAT makes me selfish, right? Just casually putting my infertility away and saying, "No more, thank you," when I know that there is someone out there who needs the fertility that I do have as a surrogate?
I think I think too much.
Whatever personal healing I hope to get from being a surrogate still makes up only a minute fraction of my overall motivation. For me, surrogacy has always been about paying it forward. We were lucky, and I know that. Had Frank and I needed
to pursue surrogacy, I can only hope that someone would have wanted to
help us in the way I want to help others. Like I said before – I'm past my personal battle with infertility. Well, even if infertility is still playing mindgames with me, I'm at least past the technical aspects of trying to build my family. But there are the reminders – the polycystic ovaries, jacked up cycles, weight issues, and wonky hormones which say hi in the form of a 5:00 shadow every two days. And that is the heart of why I'm a surrogate – someone with PCOS or any number of other causes of infertility is out there right now consulting with Dr. Google:
"What IF I need a surrogate?"
Because she's out there, I can't give up. I care about her too much to give up. And then I think,
What IF everyone cared as much as I did?
Of course, I don't think you have to give your body over as a surrogate and take on voluntary infertility to show that you care. You show that you care just by stopping long enough to read. But what IF we got the right people to care enough to put their thoughts into actions?
What IF policymakers Resolved to help ensure adequate coverage for infertility treatments?
What IF "regular people" understood, or at least tried to?
What IF we didn't feel like we had to hide?
Perhaps there wouldn't be as many of us wondering What If…?
I think about my life and course that it's taken and the decisions I've made and why I've made them. I know I can't be alone in thinking about alternate realities and questioning if we had it all to do over again, would we do it the same way? I think I've come far enough past my personal struggles to see the ways in which infertility has changed me for the better. I'd never say that I'm grateful for infertility, but I am appreciative of the lessons I've learned from dealing with it on behalf of myself and others. Still, I can't help but wonder,
What if I could trade it all in? What if I could exchange the PCOS and the heartache for easy conceptions and blithe unawareness?
About this question, I am sure of the answer:
Not by the hairs of my chinny-chin-chin.
There is one less couple asking What IF? because of me, and God-willing, there will be another in the coming year.
If you haven't already, please be sure to read others' What IF posts.