There’s a letter on my dining room table. A single page form letter that has arrived in January for the past six years. It’s sitting there, innocuously tucked amoung the bills, waiting for a response. Every year I reply in the same way, with a check and a groan and a dream. This year will be different.
The letter, so innocently sitting there, is a letter from a storage facility. A Reproductive Storage Facility that holds what we one day hoped, would allow us to have another child. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. That it would require multiple medical procedures, lots of luck and plenty of money – not to mention a surrogate – but paying that bill every year allowed us to hold onto our dream. The dream of being the family we envisioned. The dream of being parents to more than one. The dream of a time when my health and our finances would be strong enough that we could create another biological child and, every year when that letter arrives we weigh our options against those dreams.
I always wanted a big family. Being an only child I dreamed of belonging to something more inclusive than my tiny group of three. I imagined Thanksgiving family football games, boisterous Christmas dinners and annoying, yet charming, family singsongs. I wished for confidants that were more than friends, peers with features that mirrored my own. I wanted to be part of a team. To share a legacy with others. I stared wistfully at the extended family of Steve Carell’s character in Dan in Real Life and idealized a family like the one in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. I knew it was impossible for my own childhood but I held on to the idea for the family I would create. I may not be able to have siblings or first cousins, but my children would. I would just have to recast the fantasy with myself as the matriarch.
I was told I couldn’t have more children at the same time I was told I was told I was dying. I didn’t have the opportunity to morn the lost possible future amidst the chaos of the immediate present. Because a pregnancy would almost definitely kill me, Sean – in the most final way possible – took care of our birth control issue, but not before storing what he’d lose in case what lay ahead wasn’t as dire as we were being led to believe. We prayed a future for me was possible and held on to the hope another child might be as well. We paid that storage fee every year feeding that possibility.
When the letter came this year it felt different to me. It no longer held the siren song of a family of four. It just looked like an incredibly expensive bill with no realistic purpose. My health is good but it fluctuates. I don’t have the strength or energy I’d like. I worry I’m not able to give enough to the child I do have, let alone to care for another. And if I’m being honest, no matter how much I’d like to, it would be impossible for me to keep up with two kids without full time help. I don’t want to take from the child I do have to give to one I think I should have. We hold our own with one. We manage. We’re happy. I’m stable. Why can’t I be satisfied with that?
There are times in life when you have to let go. Where holding too tightly to one thing makes it impossible to move on to another. Sometimes you have to close a door, no matter how much you wish it could stay open.
I fixated on the idea of another child so clearly I manifested a person I felt was missing. I have a name, a face, a sense of who she’d be. I realize I could have easily had a pack of boys but, for some reason, I feel it’s a daugther that would have arrived. When I think about her my heart breaks. As if I’ve left her on a shelf somewhere. This person that belongs to me that I’ve neglected to claim. I know she’s not real but the idea of her found it’s way so deeply into my heart it got into my head. I realize now it’s unhealthy to keep holding on and the time has come to let go. Even if we could afford IVF, egg extraction, a full time night nurse/live in nanny AND keep up our current lifestyle with two children, would I even want to go back at this point? Do I want a newborn again? Could I handle six more years of diapers and potty training and mindless, random day filling? I’m just at the point where I can get excited about my career again. I want to reconnect with my ambition. I dream of a house of my own. I miss travelling. I want to show Loch the world. And, frankly, I need to be alive for all that to happen. Maybe I’ve spent too long dreaming of the “perfect” family I’ve been unable to see my family is already perfect.
I’ve been there, present and involved, for every aspect of of my son’s life. We’re incredibly close. What I’ve been able to do for him, the time I’m able to give him, has been a blessing to us both. I don’t want to keep thinking about what could have been, staring at my friend’s other children wistfully. I want to accept that as much as I would have loved another child, it’s not in the cards for me. My life – my current life – is amazing. It’s a wonderful, glorious gift and it’s time to embrace that and let go of the rest.
So, this year we will not be sending a check. This year we will sign the “cryopreserved disposition consent” form. I will say good bye to the chance of any more biological children, the hope of a sibling for Loch and my desire for a house filled with voices. I will accept I am an only child with an only child and relinquish my dreams of the past to better enjoy the reality of the present.
With two signatures, a notary and a stamp our tiny family will move forward.
The first thing we’ll do is start shopping for dogs.