Two events have affected me more than any others in my life. The first was becoming pregnant, feeling a living being developing inside me, and beginning to transition into the role of mother. The second was losing a parent. I experienced both in 2017.
After a year of testing and treatments with two different clinics and no answers, my husband and I conceived our son through in vitro fertilization. As part of the process, I had given myself carefully timed injections of hormones and endocrine stimulants several times a day, taken pills and applied topical medications, undergone a number of ultrasounds and blood draws, received weekly acupuncture treatments, made frequent three-hour round trips to the office of our reproductive endocrinology group, and been placed under general anesthesia while a doctor retrieved my eggs so they could be fertilized and chromosomally profiled.
On June 7, one of our two healthy blastocysts was transferred back into my body, and we waited to see what would happen. My parents came to visit the next day. For the following four days, amidst the lake time and sight-seeing and family meals, we dreamed about the baby that might be, the speculative new addition to our family.
I learned I was pregnant on Saturday, June 17, the day before Father’s Day. We had discussed waiting a few days to tell anyone, until the pregnancy had been confirmed by a blood test, but by that evening, I could no longer contain my excitement. I called my parents’ house and when my mom answered, I asked if I could talk to my dad. I told him I had a Father’s Day gift for him and went on to share the news that he would be a grandfather. He was overjoyed.
Exactly one month after the embryo transfer, on July 7, I showed my dad the first ultrasound images of his grandson from our appointment the day before. As my medical team had been looking at and measuring the fetus in my womb, my dad’s medical team had been removing his breathing tube, according to his wishes, hopeful that he would be able to breathe on his own again. But when my mom and I arrived at the ICU the next morning, it was clear that he was struggling too much despite the help of a BiPAP machine. So shortly after showing him the ultrasound pictures, I said my final goodbyes to my father and sat by his side as he breathed his last breath.
The past six months have been punctuated by frequent moments of profound joy and sadness. Life has never felt so bitter or so sweet. Of course, I’ve done other things this year. I visited friends in DC and Nebraska and went to Chattanooga to cheer on another friend as she competed in a half Ironman. I traveled with my husband to his native Greece, where I met many of his extended family members, witnessed beautiful sunsets, and explored ancient ruins and archaeological sites. (Unfortunately, I also suffered through very high temperatures and pregnancy-related nausea on that trip — not a good combination.) I attended four weddings and celebrated a number of birthdays. I served on the boards of two non-profit organizations, transported foster dogs for a rescue group, made recruiting phone calls for my alma mater’s admissions office, and mentored an undergraduate student who wants to attend law school. My husband started a business. I launched this blog. But these adventures, happenings, and projects seem less significant in comparison to the near-simultaneous experiences of becoming a mother and losing a father.
I always look forward to the New Year. It’s a nice opportunity to reflect on what has been, revisit good memories and accomplishments, lay the bad things to rest, commit ourselves to new intentions, and make a fresh start. A year ago, I resolved to do two things. The first was a couple’s resolution to go hiking with my husband at least once a month, exploring a new location each time. We stuck with this until about September, when the physical challenges and discomforts of pregnancy began to make true hiking difficult for me. I’ve continued to go on weekend walks at local parks, though, and I think I did pretty well with this resolution considering the circumstances. My second resolution for 2017 was to get something published. Although I reworked essays and poems and researched publication opportunities in the first part of the year, the events of the spring and summer dampened my ambition for this resolution. But I suppose I’ve been self-publishing my work through this website all year, and that’s a start.
I’m taking a different approach to new year’s resolutions this year. Rather than setting concrete goals and striving for big accomplishments, I’m recommitting myself to living in the moment, going with the flow, and treating myself and others with patience and compassion. I aim to be open to everything my future son can teach me as I set aside my own goals for a while to devote myself to caring for him and guiding him into the world. I resolve to embrace life’s impermanence rather than fear it, and to allow my parenthood journey to reinvigorate my sense of wonder.
I’m wishing you all peace, joy, and love in the new year. If 2017 was a difficult year for you, I hope 2018 is a better one. Whatever you do next year, I hope you’ll keep your heart and mind open and resist any pull toward cynicism or despair. There is good even in the dark times, and there is always hope for brighter days.
Happy New Year,