So I’m completely obsessed by the new television show, This Is Us. It, in my estimation, perfectly blends the human state: laughter through tears. Without completely spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it yet, one of the first tragedies of the show was the loss of one of the triplets expected by a thoroughly charming young couple. But the parents are so simultaneously amazing and flawed that you somehow don’t end up a total basket case at the end of the episode. As wrong as some people may feel about this, I understand the sense of loss that the mother felt. (Even though I’m an incredibly butch and masculine guy.) We’ve lost eleven of fourteen embryos so far, and we’re waiting for next week to find out if we’re having twins – or if we’ve lost one more. I know that many would not consider the flushing of eleven masses of molecules the same thing as losing a baby at birth, but I can’t help but think about what might have been with those eleven embryos. I know that in the Mendelian sense they were obviously not meant to be, but my spirit still dares to dream who they might have been.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know that I’ve been obsessing about twins – and that’s largely because of how long and arduous this journey has already been. My husband and I want two children, and will continue to work toward that even if we don’t have twins this time around. And regardless of what the ultrasound shows next week, we will absolutely be overjoyed even if we’re blessed with just one baby. But those “even if” and “just” phrases are problematic. The two of us went out for a romantic dinner tonight to talk: how do we not lessen the joy of seeing our child for the first time during the ultrasound because we’re looking for someone who may not be there? We agreed that first and foremost, we need to dig deep and find the strength to go through the surrogacy process again if we need to. And we need to somehow not let the joy of the moment be tainted by any potential disappointment. Plus we don’t want to jinx the ultrasound with negative energy. Talk about a mind-f*ck.
I remember, when I first met my husband, how the lyrics of a Michele LeGrand song kept echoing in my mind.
“If I had changed a single day
What went amiss or went astray
I may have never found my way to you.”
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was a homeless teenager – so I have a lot to regret. But if I hadn’t gone through those experiences, I may have never met my husband. So I choose not to regret my past.
Years later, my husband was working as the director of music at a church and desperately needed someone to take a position in his handbell choir. So despite my total lack of musical talent or sense of rhythm (have you ever heard traditional Asian music?), I gave in to his pleading. But it didn’t take me long to become bitter over my surrender, because the handbell choir was learning to play Brahm’s Requiem. Hard doesn’t begin to cover the difficulty of that piece (especially for an Asian without a speck of musical talent: not all of us come out of the womb with a piano or violin). I spent many weeks being angry and frustrated, not helped at all by the REALLY irritating woman next to me who kept spastically jerking her head to cue me. The performance was, of course, practically ruined because I had some of the loudest bells. (I was like an organ grinder’s monkey wildly waving my bells at random moments: at the end I forgot that I had the last note, muttered “shit” to myself louder than I realized in the silent church, and fumbled for the bell.) For some reason however, even after all the pain and anger, it’s now one of my favorite pieces of music. Who would have thought a requiem could be so inexpressibly beautiful. I mean, it’s something played at a memorial service – not exactly the happiest of times! Yeah, I know: that’s pretty effed up.
Because of all of this, it seems to me that part of how we don’t taint the joy of the moment during the ultrasound next week is by accepting the pain of the journey so far. It may not be the same thing, but it for me is analogous to the resiliency that my husband’s parents showed when they lost a child. My husband is their third child, and who knows what might have happened if they gave up after they lost their second daughter. I’m very glad they didn’t. So this weekend, I’ll be accepting the loss of our eleven what-might-have-beens, and looking forward to our ultrasound next week. Here’s to my husband’s lost sister, to miscarried children, and the what-will-be’s. Amen.