The Ache for More

I help people become parents.  It’s part of my job.  Even if I am not directly representing them, but am instead working with their chosen donor or gestational carrier (surrogate), I am still helping people become parents.  Every day.

I always knew I wanted children – to be a mom.   My husband and I are beyond blessed (I know, I know, that word #blessed gets thrown around too casually and I know it’s annoying – but the truth is we are blessed) with our two amazing boys who keep me laughing, frustrated, exhausted, and in awe every second of every day.  And we WORKED to make those babies.  It didn’t come easy. It wasn’t a nice Pinot and a romp in the hay, and I openly admit I sort of secretly despise everyone who has become pregnant after a nice Pinot and a romp in the hay.

Two kids is a lot.  Two kids who were born 20 minutes apart is A LOT.  Two boys born 20 minutes apart make my head spin sometimes.  They are healthy and happy, and, to me, perfect.  But I want another.   My uterus aches for another.   When I see pregnant women and newborns, I know in my heart and soul there is another child out there for us.  For all four of us.  Getting everyone else on board  might be the biggest issue (especially my one son who declares “I will NOT share you with ANYONE ELSE MAMA!”).

There are also these thing called age and economy and finances and selfishness.  Are we being selfish by wanting more? Shouldn’t, after everything my husband and I have gone through, shouldn’t these two beauties be enough? Can we even afford, both physically and financially, to add to our family? I’m going to be 41 next May. My husband is nine years older.  We both married “later in life” – I was 33 and he was 41 (scary, isn’t it, being considered “later”).  We both had our own life experiences. I was widowed at age 28, and he enjoyed his bachelorhood as long as he could.  We wanted to enjoy each other before having kids, even though we both knew we had to get started sooner rather than later.   This is also the curse of being an assisted reproductive law attorney – I can feel my eggs aging and my husband’s sperm  declining. And that meant we had to get while the getting was good.

People – friends and family – keep asking when I am going to clean out the garage and sell or donate the cribs and the strollers and toys and baby clothes.  It’s time, they say. It’s just taking up space, they say. It would be dangerous to have kids now (you know, being so old and all), they say. Why risk having a child with a health issue when you have beautiful and healthy kids at home? You can barely handle the two you have, with work and life and everything else.  It’s time to clean out the garage, they say. Repeatedly.

But it isn’t time.  Because I am not ready.  I would like to think there is one more baby out there (one that my husband is scared will turn into two) who I can love and take for walks and wear strapped to me while I work.  A baby I can sing to and rock and cuddle with.  A baby who will be adored by two big brothers.  A baby who I believe will complete this already beautiful family we have made.

And that brings me back to age.  When I started in my field, I remember thinking “why on earth would a 45, 48, 50, 55, 60 year old think having a baby is a good idea? How unfair to those kids!” And, in some instances, I readily admit I am uncomfortable with those of “advanced age” having babies.   It’s just funny how I am now so close to the age I once had as my “do not cross” limit.   I don’t feel too old to be a mother to a newborn.

The reality is that I know I am a more stable, rational, empathetic, and in tune mother than I would have been in my 20’s.   In my 20’s I was too busy reading Melody Beattie and the 12 and 12 and recovery literature and trying to control my boyfriend/then fiancé/then first husband’s addictions.  My middle name was co-dependent.  A child would have likely been traumatized by my efforts to get my shit together.

Sure, I would have been younger and thinner, but I don’t know that it would have made me a better mom.  And don’t misread what I am saying.  My friends who had kids in their 20’s? They are FANTASTIC parents.  I look up to them.   Their kids are in college or graduating college and doing amazing things in this world.  And they are now enjoying empty nests while my husband and I are discussing public vs private school and saving for college and HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT TWO SMALL HUMANS COST SO MUCH?!

My reality is that because we had to do IVF to conceive, we have frozen embryos remaining.  And, I could likely make peace with being “just” a mother of two if those little ones weren’t on ice right now.   But they are there.  In limbo.  Waiting to be claimed.  And every year we pay to keep them stored and every year we say we have to make a decision one way or the other.  I always said 40 was my cut off. I didn’t want to be pregnant past 40. Now that I am 40, I have added a few years.  If the doctors say I am healthy enough to carry a pregnancy, it’s something I want to try.  There isn’t guarantee these embryos will thaw or even implant or even result in a pregnancy. The good news is that my eggs were retrieved when I was 34 – just shy of my 35th birthday.

So, this is the struggle.  The question that lingers every day.  The ache that I feel.   It doesn’t make sense to most of the people in my life.  It doesn’t seem “smart” or “responsible” or “prudent.”  I wonder how supportive they will be if we do decide to try again.  And I ask myself constantly, do we serve ourselves fully by always being prudent and/or responsible?  Or, am I just trying to convince myself that despite age and finances and every day life issues, this is a good idea?  It’s all just a big muddle in my head.

What I know for certain is that when I am working, and my iTunes gets to the song “Apron Strings,” I burst into tears.  Every.  Time.

And I’ll be perfect in my way

When you cry I will be there

I’ll sing to you and comb your hair

All your troubles I will share


For apron strings, can be used for other things

Than what they’re meant for and

You’d be happy wrapped in my apron strings

You’d be happy wrapped in my apron strings

~ Everything But The Girl – Apron Strings

The ache is what gets me.  And, looking at my beautiful boys (all three of them), I can’t help but wonder how a new life would do wonders for all of us.  Even at 3 a.m. when it’s feeding time.

You can also find Mamalawmadingdong on Facebook.  There, I share some of the daily grind happenings.

The Gingerbread Men Ice Cream Sandwiches – aka, Grief in the Frozen Novelty Aisle

For much of my relationship with Greg, we lived in different states.  I was in CA finishing up  college and grad school, and he was in CO furthering his software/tech industry career.  We did our best to see each other monthly and always during the holidays.  He would come out for Thanksgiving, or on the years that he was with his family, I would head out shortly thereafter.   If we weren’t together for Christmas, we were always together from December 26 through the New Year.   The way we often rang in the start of the holiday season was with my favorite Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwiches.  They came out every Thanksgiving to all the chain grocery stores and stayed through the end of January.   Oftentimes, I stocked up, so my stash would last at least through Valentine’s Day.   I don’t remember who made them, and they were probably mostly made of things we can’t pronounce, but they were soft gingerbread cookies sandwiched together with vanilla ice cream.  And, they were damn delicious.  I ate them during finals; I ate them writing papers; I ate them whenever I wanted to feel like I was eating Christmas.

If Greg was in CA, they were in my freezer.  If I was in CO, they were in Greg’s freezer.   No matter what was happening in life, those gingerbread men made everything better.   They were, in many ways, a holiday glue.   When things were amazing and we couldn’t love each other any better, we had those treats.  When things were not so great,  and we did things that hurt each other, or we made choices that caused pain to the other, those treats gave us common ground again.   When things were bad, they were a sugary sweet peace pipe that meant all was forgiven.

When the first holiday season rolled around after Greg died, I wanted nothing to do with it.   I was staying with my parents and my mom is like me.  She goes all out for Christmas (I wonder where I got it from).   I dreaded the decorations, the tree, the lights, the joy.   I had no Fa La La La La spirit in me.  I looked more like the Grinch or Scrooge, and I would have happily moved into a dark cave and hibernated until January 15 if it was an option.   So, come the first of December, when my mom started to get rolling on the house transformation, I boogied to the local Ralph’s to see if I could eat my feelings.  I knew that a Gingerbread Man Ice Cream Sandwich (or 6 or 12 or the entire stock) would help me regulate the knots in my stomach.   When I got to the frozen novelty aisle where they had been stocked for as long as I could remember, and I saw none, I knew there had to be a mistake.  Perhaps they were being spotlighted in an end of aisle display.   No dice.   I went back to the frozen section and saw a clerk stocking shelves.  I asked her where the gingerbread men were, and she had no idea what I was talking about.   Wondering how she had ever made it this far in life and the frozen section without knowing about them, I asked if she could ask the store manager.   She came back and informed me that the store manager said they weren’t getting any.   This simply could not be true, so I demanded that the store manager come to the aisle so I could show him where they had been displayed every  end of November – end of January since I could remember, and I asked WHY THEY WERE NOT THERE.   The manager then told me what was the absolute last thing I needed to hear.   He told me that they weren’t making the gingerbread ice cream treats anymore,  and they would not be getting any.  EVER.

And, with that, I felt the wind knocked out of me.  I was freezing – more freezing than you should be after standing in the frozen foods section for 10 minutes.  Then, out of the depth of my being, it started.   The waterworks.  The sobbing.  The uncontrolled babble of a crazy in grief person.  I dropped to my knees, while the clerk and manager just looked at each other,  and then the manager pulled out his walkie talkie.  Then, other customers were there. Then a security guard.  All of this at the grocery store in my hometown where I had been shopping with my mom since pretty much birth.   After what seemed like an hour of me blathering on about gingerbread men, the manager and security guard asked if I thought I might be able to walk outside.  I said no.  So, they asked if they could call anyone, and I gave them my parents’ home number.   A few minutes later, my dear father came in, looking concerned and sad, and sat down beside me, explaining to the lookie loos and the store personnel that I had suffered a pretty significant loss and the holidays  were going to be hard and if they could all just give me a minute, we would be on our way.

It doesn’t take much to know this wasn’t really about gingerbread men ice cream sandwiches (but hell if I don’t miss them like crazy every year).   It was about love and loss and the finality that comes with knowing the life you had isn’t the life you have any more.   It was grief.  It was having to look at the past – the good, the bad, and the ugly and knowing that I had to deal with all of it, if I wanted any chance at any sort of future.   It was coming to terms with the fact that I had to find a way to make a new path for myself out of the unfamiliar.   That Greg and the Gingerbread Men ice cream sandwiches weren’t coming back, and I had to find a way to come to terms with that.

Since that lovely day at Ralph’s (that I am surprised did not make it into the daily crime/goings on log of the local paper, The Daily Pilot), I have managed to still enjoy gingerbread men ice cream sandwiches, just in a different way.  I have baked my own gingerbread men and slathered some vanilla bean ice cream in between.  I have taken the store bought gingerbread cookies and done the same thing.  And, they taste pretty darn good.  Of course, it’s not the same as the original, but I have learned it doesn’t have to be.  It’s different, but in a good way.  The memory of the old treat remains, but it isn’t painful anymore.  It doesn’t render me a sobbing mess in the middle of a grocery store with security on my heels.     It’s been the same with my life.  I’ve had to make adjustments since Greg has been gone.  I had to find a new path.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t remember Greg.   It doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him.  The difference between then and now is that I can look back now and not be consumed with the gut wrenching sadness I had for so long.   I have let love in again – and it’s made me whole.

In looking for some new gingerbread men ice cream sandwiches,   I have taken some turns that have led me to the  wonderful life I have now, with love and laughter and  a husband that prefers brownies over gingerbread,  and little boys that love gingerbread cookies just as much as their mama.   And, when one of my sons cries when he realizes he bit off and ate the head of his beloved gingerbread pal, I can hug him and kiss him and  giggle at the power of DNA.

Please “like” my page on Facebook and join the conversations there!