Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's now or never

Three years ago, I was feeling a sense of urgency. My husband and I had a lovely home and I was doing well in graduate school. My proposal received funding and I was well on my way to finishing my dissertation research that I had started three years prior. But something in my life was missing...that something was children. Fast forward to now...I have two beautiful children and am the happiest I have ever been. However, I still feel there is still something unfinished in my life. This is the disseration that I started three years ago.

I must give a little background. My husband (who I from now on call "Ebo") and I married in 1999 after four years of dating. He is the love of my life and I have never doubted for a second the decision I made to marry him. Coming from me, this means a lot - I doubt everything. But when we got married, we knew we were going to have problems when we decided to have children. Ebo has a genetic condition that prevents us from conceiving a child without some major intervention. We knew the extent of this problem well before we decided to get married, but when I was in my early twenties, having kids was the last thing on my mind. I didn't think the concept of "infertility" was such a big deal. I couldn't imagine the inability to have children would consume my life and take over my identity. Yet three years later, we were on the baby bandwagon and both our lives were forever changed.

Looking back, it probably was the birth of my goddaughter that started the baby "itch." As my friends and I started graduating from college and graduate school, I attended a "wave" of weddings, beginning with mine. A couple of years later, the baby announcements started appearing in my mailbox. Photo creations from Shutterfly adorned with pink booties, blue rattles, or yellow ducks. When my best friend told me she was pregnant, I was elated because I knew this baby was going to be big part of my life. And then when I held her in my arms for the first time, I experienced both joy and sadness at the same time. Joy because this wonderful creature captured my heart. Sadness because I thought I would never experience this kind of joy as a parent.

Not that I didn't have a lot going for me at the time. Though I had become wary of leaving a career in elementary education to go to graduate school and persue a doctorate, I was doing quite well in my studies. I had started a pilot study in South America investigating the lives of families with children with disabilities. I was working on my grant, which would eventually be funded by the National Science Foundation. Ebo and I had a nice house in the 'burbs (I detest the suburbs, but it was a good investment). Up until that point, Ebo and I both knew we wanted kids, but we knew that to have them it would take some major sacrifice on both our parts. So after my goddaughter's birth, I went into major research mode. Ebo and I were not sure we wanted to go through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), which was our only option to have a child that was biologically related to both of us. So we spent our time and resources looking into adoption. However, a series of events (which I will probably get into in future posts) led us to the office of a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and the birth of our daughter in 2004 (who I will refer to as Sassy Girl).

Even if you forget the IVF, my pregnancy with Sassy Girl was anything but "normal." Right before I started injections for the procedure, I found out that the National Science Foundation funded my research. This meant I had to get my qualifying exams finished so I could start my research. After I found out I was pregnant in February 2004, I had to haul major ass in getting my papers done. The day of my quals, I was three months pregnant, plagued with morning sickness, and nervous as hell that my committee would know I was going to have a baby. You see, even though it is not totally unheard of for a graduate student to be pregnant, it is certainly not a preferred step in the Ph.D. process. I wasn't going to tell anyone until my exams were finished and they handed me a Master's Degree. In the end, they were very supportive and very happy that there would be a new "member" to the department.

15 weeks pregnant, I traveled to Ecuador to start my research. My plan was to be gone for three months and return to the US in my third trimester. I got myself a great OBGYN in Quito and armed myself with every pregnancy book on the planet. I thought I was doing everything right. Then all hell broke loose in my 25th week...I fell down the stairs and bruised my tailbone. All was fine with the baby, but I decided to make a short trip back home to check-in with my doctor in the States. After a precautionary ultrasound, they found that Sassy Girl was not growing as she should and my blood pressure was getting higher. I had pre-eclamsia and I was not going back to Ecuador. I was going to the hospital. Long story short (again, you will hear it in future posts) my little peanut Sassy Girl was born eight weeks early, weighing only 2 pounds, 7 ounces.

Mothering a preemie and writing a dissertation are two activities that aren't easy to do together. Constant worry about Sassy Girl's health and development seemed more important than my data. I eventually returned to the field (with Sassy Girl and Ebo) in 2005 and finished the bulk of my research, but I still had to write the damn dissertation. Furthermore, wanting my family to grow (and knowing that I couldn't do it "naturally") was always on my mind. After long discussions, Ebo and I decided that though we were so thankful to have Sassy Girl, IVF was not an option for us anymore. We started the adoption process the fall of 2005 thinking it would take a couple of years for us to have another baby. But after a series of pitfalls, surprises, and rash decisions (all material for future posts), our son (Destructo Boy) came home to us in November 2006. We now had two children under the age of three. And the dissertation remains unfinished.

Which brings me to my blog. I am making my story public, but I am writing this journal mainly for my own benefit. As I look at my data and try to write, all of this other "stuff" takes over my thoughts - being a good mother, keeping my kids healthy, the importance of my work. A fellow graduate student once told me "Don't get it right; get it written." However, I can't seem to muster up the energy or motivation to do either. But I have to finish, if not for myself, for Sassy Girl and Destructo Boy. I hope that I can use this blog to organize all this stuff so I can finish what I started six years ago. It's now or never.