This week has been on my calendar for five years. It seems fitting that the convergence of so many number 9s should also bring with it the merging of the twins' actual age and their adjusted age. Prematurity brings with it not only a whole host of issues--both physical for the child and emotional for the parents--but it brings about two ways of examining age. Neonatologists and pediatricians use both the actual age (the date of birth) and the adjusted age (how old they would be if they had been born near their due date) to examine milestones and chart growth.
And while doctors disagree on the age in which premature infants catch up, our neonatologist held out the idea of September 2009. By that point, she told us, their actual age and adjusted age would be thrown out the window and we'd only look at their development based on their actual age since they would most likely be indistinguishable from their peers who were born full-term.
Except that isn't exactly true.
But as I learned on our journey to create them, not everything goes according to plan and often reality looks very different from the dream world we mentally create when building our families.
I was recently reading Iris Waichler's book, Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster, and came to the chapter on parenting after infertility. While it may seem as if infertility has to end after you have your child in your home, the reality is that if we learned anything from the Wizard of Oz, it is that the journey changes you. How you get there is important and we bring with us all of the good and bad baggage from the experience.
Dorothy couldn't simply go home after meeting the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Lion and have life go on as it was prior to her adventure. Going to Oz changed her. And going to the Land of If changes parents. In some cases, it's for the better. I am definitely more patient, more flexible, and more empathetic after infertility. But I'm also more fearful, more anxious, and less trusting that all will be fine after infertility and that is perhaps why the date has been so strong ingrained in my head. Prior to experiencing it, I truly thought that prematurity, like infertility, had an end-date. There was a gate through which a person passed where they ceased to be infertile or ceased to be premature. And that simply isn't the case.
Waichler begins with some sound advice in the chapter: find others who have been in a similar situation. Which doesn't mean that you should pepper your playgroup solely with children conceived via fertility treatments or who entered the family via adoption nor should you start a cooperative preschool as an extension of RESOLVE. But it is important to have those relationships--to have a core group of parents to turn to who will understand the baggage you're bringing into observing milestones or preparing for future events.
While these friendships would ideally be found through face-to-face contact, those without a support group in their area can still connect with other parents via the Internet. After all, many of those infertility blogs turn into parenting after infertility blogs.
Waichler also gives the advice of connecting the newly acquired skills and viewpoints gained during infertility to parenting. The patience learned during each two week wait can be applied to getting through those sleepless weeks--knowing that even things that seem endless have a light at the end of the tunnel. That learning how to be assertive during treatments or the adoption process can still be utilized during parenting.
But her best advice comes at dismissing all the promises we make to ourselves when we're bargaining with the universe for parenthood. All the ways we thought we'd be as parents, and going easy on ourselves when these fantasies don't come true.
Because, after all, as I've been reminded this week, fantasies are important because they are the receptacles of our hope, but we also need to pay attention to reality too. And reality is that we are celebrating the meshing of birthdates with chocolate chip cookies, friends, and that acquired skill of rolling with things.
Hold My Hope: a gorgeous post about family building while parenting after infertility and how the two elements play off of one another emotionally.
Life from Here: a post about the unique situations that come up parenting after adoption.
Unwellness: a post well down the line of taking a child to college.
Weebles Wobblog: a beautiful post about growing together as a family.
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of almost 2000 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is currently on bookshelves (May, 2009). She is the keeper of the IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week) list which is currently open for September.
More from health