Infertility: Observations from a New Grandma

Hi! I’m Melanie and Nick is my oldest child. He asked me if I would consider writing a piece for his and Brittany’s blog, Bottles & Banter, about watching a child struggle with infertility. I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions, right kids? Ya. Don’t answer that. Please.

Infertility: A Family Struggle | Bottles & Banter

The whole family at Nick and Brittany’s wedding.

As I thought of what I would write, I recalled that I had written a letter to my son when he turned 16. If you’d like, you can give it a read here.

I am certain that you’ve heard time and again that when a child is hurt, that their parent hurts too. Maybe even more. (Cue the violins because isn’t this the place where children start to roll their eyes and settle in for the long, familiar story?) But wait any way; it’s too soon to talk about this part.

If you’ve read the letter, you know how much I love my son and about my hope for his future success and happiness. Maybe you’ve even deduced that the letter was written at just about the time that he was starting to date Brittany. We (his father Brian and I) had known Brittany because the two had “group dated” for Homecoming their sophomore year in high school. They went off to college together (at THE Ohio State University – Go Bucks!) and holy smokes! They were placed in the same dormitory and lived just doors apart on the same floor! What if they didn’t get along? What if they more than got along, if you know what I mean. We went to college, too. But by the 2nd quarter of their freshman year in college, we knew that Nicolas and Brittany were going to get married. We couldn’t have been happier!

Life was moving exactly according to plan. Nick and Brittany graduated (on time – 4 years – we are still super happy about that!) with Honors! They announced that they were moving to Chicago and we were okay with that. They got real jobs with real money and real benefits and we loved that, too! Over time, we were growing impatient with Nick, wondering when he was finally going to pop the question and ask Brittany to be an official member of our family! He totally did just 6 years ago this past month! On the 50th yard line at Ohio Stadium! Yes, he is by far more of a romantic than his father. But I digress. Life is still going according to plan and we are still very happy.

How It’s Supposed To Be

Infertility: A Family Struggle | Bottles & Banter

We didn’t want the kids to have children right away. We never said anything, one way or the other. But we wanted them to live a full life of travel, adventure and exploration. We assumed that they’d know when it was the right time. I didn’t think that we were the sort of people who would be pushy about being grandparents. Brian and I had decided for ourselves when it was time and I really thought I wasn’t going to be “one of those mother-in-laws” who tapped on her watch, reminding my children that their clock was ticking too. But after a few years, I have to admit that I was starting to think about it, even dream about it, and I liked the idea of being a Nana.

I’d laugh along with the kids during family weddings, baby showers, Christmas and other gatherings, trying to predict who would be the first to ask the question. I didn’t play along, though, as there was a drinking game associated with the question and I don’t like to drink shots anymore. It seemed that with every gathering and with the passage of time, there were more shots because more people seemed to think they needed to know about my children’s reproductive plans. Yes, I laughed along but I also began to see the hurt in my kids’ eyes while they fended off the inquiries and the fake laughter became more obvious to me. I also saw my son getting pissed.

We Hadn’t Considered Infertility as a Possibility

You’ve read Nick’s piece on infertility, so you know about their journey. I didn’t anticipate that this would be the pain when I warned him so many years earlier that there would be challenges. Infertility was not in the plan. We never even thought about it. We just took for granted that “it” would happen “when” they wanted it. And so this was going to be their challenge. It makes it seem pretty innocuous calling it a challenge, right? But I saw the pain.

Brian and I, along with Brittany’s parents, were waiting and worrying and waiting and worrying, as only parents can do. Our stress was different, for certain. But it was stressful nonetheless.

I’m not one for keeping struggles private. It’s not like I want the whole world to know woe is me. But I also know that, for the most part, the reason people don’t mind their own business is because they truly care. And our family and friends who are family do care. For a while (probably longer than healthy) Nick and Brittany didn’t want anyone to know that they were trying to have a baby. But eventually, they needed to talk about their struggles with infertility. They needed the care and concern of the family. The secret was becoming the burden. They were starting to look and sound like the stereo-typical self-absorbed twenty-somethings who weren’t fulfilling their obligation to the world. You know, to grow the population. I want you to know that I don’t mean any of that. I’m being sarcastic – but not the thinly veiled hostility kind of sarcasm – but the sarcastic voice that screams your worst fear in your own head. The voice that wrongly assumes when you hear the question of “why aren’t you and Brittany pregnant yet?” that you’re certain that’s what people mean. Ultimately, it seemed to me, Nick and Brittany, were becoming angry because people cared to ask.

Coming Out of the Infertility Closet

I offered to tell “our side” of the family so that people could share in their pain and be empathetic. And Nick agreed to let me do this for them. Thankfully. Our family and friends who are family were amazing. They discreetly offered support and asked questions. But soon, Nick and Brittany were sharing their story openly. Well. They kind of had to anyway. It’s kind of hard to hide the suitcase of medicines and cold packs. If you’re involved in your own journey you know what the cold packs are treating. Jeez. Even TSA had to be told. Because once the burden was lifted, Nick and Brittany got back to living, which included traveling. A lot of travel. With boxes of syringes and bottles of liquid gold. Sometimes, infertility can have it’s comedic moments. Travel is one of those moments.

But that’s not to say it became easier. Brittany and Nick endured the testing, the prodding, the scoping and the escapes to the “private” room where everyone knows what you’re doing. Infertility wasn’t easy on us either. Brian and I, along with Brittany’s parents, were waiting and worrying and waiting and worrying, as only parents can do. Our stress was different, for certain. But it was stressful nonetheless. We are the folks who never want their children to suffer or hurt or otherwise be disappointed, even if it is a part of life. And we want to be Nana and Papa.

And so the news came that the second round of IVF was going to go forward! We shared the daily news and casually discussed the ‘process’ of retrieving eggs and checking every day to see if they were growing and viable, as though we were talking about flowers growing in a greenhouse. Actually, it wasn’t casual at all. It’s just that we were becoming so familiar with the terminology of infertility and the order in which fertility treatment occurs that we sounded almost professional and dangerously close to sounding rather sterile (pun?). But believe me when I say how grateful we are that Nick and Brittany have had the wonderful care and treatment that has made the gift of having a child possible.

Finally!

The news of a baby coming in June 2016 was met with overwhelming joy! We have cherished every bit of news about the pregnancy and we are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little girl. I have to admit that I am often moved to tears when I hear my own son talk about his daughter as he gives us updates from every ultra-sound and every exam. That little girl already has him wrapped around her tiny fingers. Of course, she’ll be a little princess and she’ll be the sparkle in all of our eyes.

And as his child is soon to be born, Nick will more fully understand Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children. We received this passage when he was born and I paraphrased it in that letter I wrote to him as he turned 16. We give them life. We give them love. We send them forth in the world.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Thank you, Nicolas and Brittany, for giving so much of yourselves to bring our little princess into our lives.

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