"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Friday, May 2, 2014

What's in a number?

My second favorite thing my OB has ever said to me is, "statistics are for populations."  (My most favorite quote is something I've written about before, "this will always be part of your family story.")

Yes, statistics are for populations.  Although airplanes are one of our safest modes of transportation, if one of your family members was on the missing Malaysian airplane, they'd still feel pretty darn deadly to you. 

Apparently, autism rates have now skyrocketed to 1 in 88.  What a statistic. 
Until that statistic is your child, your family, your reality. 

Some say 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage, others say 1 in 5.  Either way, this is a heartache that touches many of us in a very real way.  Two-thirds of these losses occur due to chromosomal abnormality. 

One third of women over 35 have fertility problems. 
Fertility rapidly declines after age 37. 
1 in 2500 pregnancies have Trisomy 18. 

We say, what are the chances?  In wonder, in awe, in disappointment, in horror... that's a phrase I think most of us have said many times before. 

What are the chances... that your first pregnancy will be uneventful and healthy, your second will die of trisomy 18 at 16 weeks gestation, your third will be an early first trimester miscarriage, your fourth a trisomy 13, your fifth will also have a heartbeat only to die a few weeks later unexplained, and your sixth will be a blighted ovum.  I'm not sure exactly how the additive odds work, but I'd estimate the chances of this series of events are one in the millions. 

And yet, as I am that chance, that one in millions, it's a lot more than just a statistic, just a number. 

The truth is, it doesn't matter what the chances are.  It doesn't matter what the statistics say.  When your nursery is empty, when your family feels incomplete, the statistics do nothing to prepare you, or comfort your heart. 

Our adoption journey stumbles upon similarly confusing calculations.  What are the chances that someone who we haven't told will know we've adopted our second child?  What factors make that more risky?  How conspicuous will my family become?  ...Do I really care about any of that?

Statistics are for populations.
(Subtext here, you are not a population.  You are a human being; a unique family unit.)

My reality, well, ... it is, what it is.  Sometimes I hate that phrase (too), but could truer words be said?  My family's reality is one of fun-loving, adventuresome, comfortable days along an occasionally bumpy path of medical complexity. 

I can't find a support group for my journey, it's unique and I feel ever strongly that each of ours is.  I recently read a fertility blog where the woman wrote, "no one is talking about donor embryo IVF."  Actually, I happen to have a friend doing that.  We talked about it over dinner, just last week.  But I can guarantee you that there is no one talking about her story, her unique life circumstances, on blogs or support groups out there.  No one is talking about my story, but me.  Because I am one in millions.  You are one in millions.  There's not another like you. 

Isn't our uniqueness what makes this whole thing so hard?  If only, someone could relate.

Yet, isn't our uniqueness what makes life so beautiful? 

My partner and I, we are doing things our way, for our family.  For me, that's the epitome of the American dream.  Isn't that what we all live, work, and pray for? 

No, I am not in complete control.  This is not how I imagined it would look.  No, this is not what I expected.  I continue to come back to those grounding truths.  But, that doesn't make it bad.  That doesn't make it undesirable.  Those small pieces of our reality don't define me or my family.  They simply call for a greater resolve in me to live well.  Not by accident, but on purpose. 

To get up and purposefully, mindfully, appreciate the beauty.  To make this life beautiful even when parts of it aren't obviously so on their own.  To not be defined by that which I struggle with. 

As I trot towards my thirty-fifth birthday and weigh the incalculable odds surrounding a possible seventh pregnancy attempt, I vow to worry less about what the chances are, and more about what my current self and family unit truly want and need.

I suspect, I have only one chance at creating and enjoying an abundant family life, and odds are good that if I focus on that, I'll be just fine.