Monday, February 21, 2011

Family Day 2011

It's Monday, but dh & I are enjoying a lazy day at home. It's a long weekend for us -- a relatively new (and most welcome!) phenomenon for us in Ontario during the dreary month of February. And while I will happily enjoy any day off that the powers that be see fit to bestow upon us, it still rankles that this one has been labelled "Family Day." I'm sure I'm not the only person in this province whose family situation doesn't quite fit the socially approved ideal of a mom, dad & 2.2 kids and who wishes the politicians who invented this holiday had come up with a different name. Even without the angst about my family situation (or lack thereof, depending on how you want to define "family"), to me, "Family Day" smacks of politics, of pandering to the "family values" crowd. (Right now, case in point, I'm watching the suppertime news, with each of the three political leaders preaching about what they will do for Ontario's "families." Ugh.)

I did a quick Google News search, & was heartened to see I'm not the only one who thinks the name needs something to be desired. As the Toronto Sun says, "Great holiday. Name needs work."

"This is a small thing, but it's a powerful recognition of our priorities," [Ontario Premier Dalton] McGuinty told reporters at the time. "There is nothing more valuable to families than time together."

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?

With nine brothers and sisters, and four adult children, his family can field a football team and have one left to ride the bench.

Not everyone is so lucky.
Family Day #1 2008
Family Day #2 2009

Family Day #3 2010

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So, being that I have the day off, I tuned into Oprah this afternoon. I doubt that Oprah knows that it's "Family Day" in Ontario (as well as Alberta), but -- as if to rub salt into the wound -- her special guests today included Celine Dion (with several lovingly photographed segments featuring her new twins), as well as a family of SEXTUPLETS from Columbus, Ohio (the mom previously lost twins to premature labour). The sextuplets went home with $250,000 in store credit from their local Wal-Mart, and Mom & Dad got a belated honeymoon in Vegas in the best suite at Caesar's Palace, with front-row seats to Celine's new show there.

I've probably written about this before, but I have a love-hate relationship with Celine. I'm not a particular fan of her singing. Both the music & her personality are a little over the top for my tastes. I find myself cringing at her willingness to share every last detail of her personal life. She was going through infertility treatment at the same time I was -- and I remember standing in line for my ultrasound at the clinic, hearing one of her songs on the radio, & muttering to the woman in line next to me, "I'll bet SHE doesn't have to line up at her clinic at 7 a.m. with her butt hanging out the back of a gown."

And yet, I think she's genuine -- there's nothing artificial about her. She's Canadian : ) and there is no doubt that she loves her family (and she has a LOT of extended family to love!). And if all her oversharing about her desire to have children, her many IVFs, her miscarriage, brings some level of infertility awareness to a few more people in this world, I guess that's a good thing.

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We've been in our house almost 21 years. Katie's been gone almost 13 years, & we're coming up to the 10-year mark of our decision to stop infertility treatment.

During all this time, our spare bedroom has stood as a kind of symbol of our thwarted plans & dreams -- of how our life sort of screeched to a standstill for awhile (& is still sometimes struggling to get back up to full speed). It's the smallest bedroom in the house (the third is our office/junkroom) & the one we had designated for the nursery (it was the baby's room for the previous owners, too). We never did much with it after we moved in, because we were expecting to decorate for a baby, sooner of later.

But it's been years since we (more or less) accepted that it wasn't going to be the baby's room, & still haven't done much with it.

The room is furnished with our very first bed (double mattress & boxspring on a frame, no headboard), and a cheapo, particleboard chest of drawers & night table that dh had in his student apartment. There's not much room for much more. The bedspread on the bed was the very first one that was on the bed (courtesy of dh's aunts) when we arrived home from our honeymoon -- an embroidered organza over taffeta confection that was still pretty, but increasingly becoming shredded.

For the longest time, I've been wanting to do something with that room. I thought that finding a new bedspread would be a good start -- but I haven't been able to find one that I liked -- at least, at a price that I liked. I wasn't going to spend more on a bedspread for the spare bedroom than I would spend on my own room.

Yesterday, we went to the mall & I went to investigate the white sale at one of the department stores. I stumbled onto a bedding set that I finally thought would do the trick. Comforter, bedskirt & pillow shams. Not the greatest quality, but good enough, for the amount of use it will get (we don't get a lot of overnight guests). Best of all: it was originally just $79.99 (a price I would have thought quite reasonable in any case), but it was marked down to $39.99. AND it was a scratch & save weekend, so I got an extra 10% off on top of that. All told, my new bedding set cost about $40, including taxes. Not bad!!

Dh helped me to move the mattress off the boxspring & put on the bedskirt, then make up the rest of the bed. We still need new furniture (again, nothing expensive, but I think we can do better than what we have), lamps & curtains/valance, but it's a start.

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To end off, a meaningful quote (brought to my attention by another childless-not-by-choice friend):
"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin -- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." ~ Fr. Alfred D'Souza

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Odds & ends

Mrs. Spit had a beautiful post earlier today about the garden she's created for her son Gabriel, and the recent purchases she's made to include and honour her four other miscarried babies there.

I didn't want to say so in my comments there, but her post reminded me of a garden stone I saw a few years ago in a Hallmark store. The inscription?
"We tried. It died."
It cracked me up -- not only as a succinct explanation for my lack of a green thumb, but also my lack of offspring. Imagine the looks on people's faces if we provided THAT as a response for the "do you have kids? why not?" questions!! (OK, I have a warped sense of humour...)

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Another one of my work colleagues left us recently to take early retirement (and boy, I am I jealous...!!). She sent out a mass farewell e-mail that ended in a striking quote, & I Googled it to find the source (Sarah Ban Breathnach):
"When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present -- love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure -- the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth."
I think that's going up with the others on my sidebar. ; )

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The Toronto Star published a story today about a new, time-limited exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum (affectionately known by locals as "the ROM," pronounced "rom"): the mummified remains of a 2,000-year-old Egyptian baby, which has not been publicly displayed since the 1950s.

One sentence in particular struck me:
"According to the ROM, the well-preserved shroud’s colourful symbols and images speak of parental love and show the baby being embraced by the jackal god Anubis while a grieving parent makes offerings to its spirit."
Plus ca change...

I encourage you to watch the video attached to the story. It brought tears to my eyes -- not so much the sight of the mummies themselves, touching as they are, but the Egyptologist's comments about how common it was for the ancient Egyptians to lose a child, and their belief in the afterlife and in maintaining an ongoing relationship with the dead. I think we (not so much we, who have lost children, but we, the general public today) have a lot to learn from them!

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I recently went into my closet to look for one of my infertility books. (Yes, I keep my infertility in the closet -- both literally and figuratively, lol). I got rid of a LOT of my infertility & pregnancy books years ago -- donated them to our pregnancy loss support group -- but I did keep some favourites stored in a plastic carton in my closet, including my "souvenir" copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

I didn't expect to find the well-worn folder containing ALL my temp charts -- months & months worth. Or a fat stack of pamphlets I collected at an IVF seminar I attended, organized by a local infertility support group. I honestly thought I had tossed this stuff eons ago.

I threw the pamphlets into the recycling bin, & had dh shred the temp charts. I tend to be a packrat, but I honestly didn't feel the slightest pang as I heard the shredder whirring.

I did, however, feel a pang when I pulled my treatment diaries -- stuffed with receipts from our RE's office and other paraphernalia -- out of the box. I haven't looked at them in years. Those, I'm not prepared to part with yet (maybe ever).

It occurred to me that while I wrote in great detail about my pregnancy with Katie & its immediate aftermath, I haven't written a whole lot about what came afterward -- our struggle through infertility treatment. And I'm fast approaching the 10-year mark of when we made the decision to stop treatment & continue to live childless/free. It occurred to me that there was probably fodder for a post or two (or 10, lol) in there.

So the diaries are sitting with my other reading material in a pile beside my bed. One of these days, I'll get up the nerve to delve into that part of my past once again & share some of it with you. (One of these days...)

February 8th: The beginning & the end...

It's February 8th again. And although the date doesn't have quite the same power over me that it once did, I can't help but pause for a moment and think about it.

February 8th, 1998: my "LMP date," forever associated in my memory as the beginning of my pregnancy with Katie. 13 years. Yes, we're hitting the teens now (eek).

This was the day my life changed (although of course I didn't know it at the time). The day my roller coaster ride began.

It was the beginning of something wonderful: a baby, the future unfolding as we hoped it would, as it should.

It was the beginning of something incredibly tragic and sad: the loss of a baby, hopes & dreams shattered and crushed.

I knew (once I knew the significance of the date) that it was the beginning of the end of my old, pre-pregnancy self.

I just didn't know it would be the beginning of the end of my dreams of a family, too.

In many ways, my life is very much the same as it was on February 7, 1998. And in many ways, it most certainly is very different. Just not "different" in the way I envisioned it in the spring of 1998, or before that, or even for awhile afterwards.

I imagine there are many people out there who haven't lost a baby or been through infertility, whose lives are also much different today than they were or had imagined in February 1998 -- for the better in some ways, for the worse in others. Life is like that.

But that doesn't mean that you ever stop wondering, at least once in awhile, why it had to be this way, and how different things might have been, if only...

February 8, 2010

February 8, 2009

February 8, 2008