Monday, December 26, 2011

mixed blessings

Happy Feast of St. Stephen, everyone. If Good King Wenceslas is not already your favorite Christmas(-ish) carol, get on that, OK?

A few years ago - OK, in college, senior year I believe, which is...eight years ago now - a very wise and emotionally fraught friend of mine ended an angst-ridden debate with the statement, "Sometimes the best we can hope for is mixed motives." His words summed up our whole debate, and so much about the human condition. We had pondered that sometimes we know we have a selfish reason for doing an apparently generous thing - unrequited romantic interest, say - which is really a motive we should be mortifying. But a rational, detached analysis would say that that thing is the right thing to do anyway. But even if we're sure that detached analysis would say, "Go for it," isn't that still a rationalization for the motive that's really impelling us forward? My friend's point cut through all that navel-gazing. We're fallen; we're weak; we can't always sort ourselves out to purity of intention and the mortification of all our selfish desires before it's come time to act. Sometimes the best we can do is choose the best action available, even if tainted by our selfish motives, and be as honest with ourselves as we can about what we're up to.

I think that bit of wisdom has something to teach me in this context, as well - so thank you, again, to my friend, for so many words of wisdom and irreplaceable friendship - mediated through the bonds of all us fallen people.

Yesterday, as you all know, was Christmas Day. On that day, my SIL gave birth to her sixth child - a "surprise" baby to the best of my knowledge. She is 39. He has Down's Syndrome. Hers has to be the best possible family into which that little boy might be born; faithful, generous-hearted parents, and five older brothers and sisters who are already doting and a little over-protective - he will be the apple of all their eye. (And he's a beautiful baby. I've only seen a picture of him sleeping, but had I not been told he had Down's, I would not have known - he looks perfectly healthy.) I have skipped every baptism I was invited to attend this year, and (very dramatically, as you may recall) turned down one invitation to be a godmother at the eleventh hour. I remember there was a time in my life when I was jealous of all my friends who had been asked to be godparents - I wanted to be a godmother. I haven't wanted that in a long time, and for some time now, obviously, I've avoided baptisms altogether. But my SIL asked us to be this little boy's godparents. I thought we'd dodged that bullet, since she's had five other children and my husband and his sister are so close. Of course, I can't refuse to be the child's godmother, because he has Down's Syndrome. I could roll out all the evidence in the world that I've been avoiding baptisms for a year or more - it won't matter. She was crazy stoned on morphine when she called yesterday. So I said yes.

And our IRL IF friends' adopted child was born, I believe, on the 23rd. Their 48-hour waiting period was over the 25th, and now they have to spend another week and a half in the state before the paperwork is finalized - which has the collateral benefit of being a good chance for them to bond with the baby without the pressures of work, family visits, holiday obligations, and so forth. It may be the last vacation they take for a while! When they come back, they'll be no longer the other half of our infertile foursome, but a complete and united family.

And of course there are births and pregnancy announcements in the blogosphere as well - blessings and sources of joy, to be sure, but burdens to carry, in their way, as well.

In some way, I know, I can accept the sufferings that come with being on the other side of these events and announcements, and make efforts simply to be a friend to those who have been so blessed. But I also can't change the fact that these things are bittersweet, for me, at best. With the blessings of those around me, I have lost, if not more than they have gained, at least far more than I have gained from these changes in their lives.

As I noted in a comment on someone else's blog (TCIE's, I believe) recently, I can talk to my husband about our lives, pray about my future, and for a little while hold onto a fragile peace in the knowledge that God has something special planned for us - something so particular it fits with His allowing us to carry the cross of childlessness, likely for the rest of our lives. And then I hear another pregnancy announcement; another baby is born; my life is forced, again, to contort around the receipt by others of blessings I was hoping to enjoy, but will not have. It's that tension, perhaps, that makes for the keenest unhappiness. JellyBelly's infertile island would be a great mercy, but doesn't appear to be forthcoming. At least, not for me. (Perhaps, like those who make a pact to marry if they're still both single at whatever age, those couples who are still ttc could make an agreement to retire together to some remote, child-free locale if we are all still barren at some future date? It would be a little something to look forward to.)

So, here's to the rapidly impending close of 2011, with its blessings, and crosses, and blessings that are crosses. Here's hoping 2012 is joyous - maybe for everyone, this time.


  1. If only the island actually existed!

    I hope and pray that 2012 is so much better for us infertiles. 2011 was a tough, tough year.

  2. I always knew I admired you, your strength, and your intelligence. Now that I know you studied at a place I thought I would be spending 4 years (even buying the sweatshirt on my college visit... talk about counting your chickens... then again, I also decorated an entire "nursery" the month before my 1st surgery... you'd think I'd have learned my lesson...) I admire you even more :) You are a beautiful and smart woman who can accomplish wonderful things. Don't you ever forget that.
    Plus - I think it cruel and unusual punishment to have to get AF LATE on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But at least God gave us each other to ease the pain, right?

    Praying for you as always, and here's to 2012 being full of blessings.

  3. Sending up a prayer to heaven on your behalf. Your writing exudes your sadness and my heart roams for the "right" words to say. I second your hopes for 2012 to be full of blessing.
    dee dee

  4. No matter the child, its always hard to rejoice or celebrate with others when your own arms are empty. Pregnant people are everywhere ... they are all I see ... they are all I know.
    I'll be praying for you in the new year!

  5. These words you wrote "I can talk to my husband about our lives, pray about my future, and for a little while hold onto a fragile peace in the knowledge that God has something special planned for us - something so particular it fits with His allowing us to carry the cross of childlessness, likely for the rest of our lives." ......sounds like something I have felt/thought many times. Next you commented on how those feeling change when someone announces another pg or has had a baby. I know I am going to carry the cross of childlessness forever and on the most part I can carry that cross...but I'm human and I am there are many times...I find being childless is more than I can handle.

    Praying for you and for the rest of us who are working hard at carrying our crosses above our heads for Christ. I hope 2012 is another year full of blessings too.

  6. I hear your insights here so loud and clear. Wish I could reach past the digital divide and spend a day with you...

  7. An infertile island would be a mercy. I think it's that "tension" you speak of when others receive blessings and you must change your life around it that was the hardest part for me. I could ponder and pray with my husband about what God was calling us to and had times when I was happy to embrace that, but when I heard of another pregnancy, I felt the pain again, and magnified.

    Prayers for you and yours. Here's to 2012.