Whether ’tis nobler

I like to blow things up with my mind.

Sometimes I joke that the most important stuff in my brain actually resides in the little electronic gadget I usually carry in my pocket. Like lies, a good joke is only made the more effective when based in truth. Due in part maybe to some inherited genes (thank you, Mom’s side of the family!), aggravated perhaps by time lost in the imagined worlds of science fiction, there are many details of life for which I have terrible recall.

It can be a problem … there are certain things I really need to be able to remember. My pda helps me out a lot. But I can’t run everything through it. So a while back I did some reading on techniques to improve memory.

When I stumbled upon one particular technique, I knew that this was a tool promising to lift much sweat from a weary life. And make me laugh, to boot.

The goal is to create a memorable mental image from unmemorable but important events. The strategy is to pause in the moment of doing “the thing” and pretend to make it explode.

Man is this fun. I clean up after running a group on Tuesday night and (a) make sure the water pitchers are filled and in the fridge (BOOM); (b) put the money in the safe (BOOM), (c) spin the combination lock (BOOM); turn off the lights and check that each room is locked (BOOM) (BOOM) (BOOM). Giggle.

When I remember to do this (ay, there’s the rub), I can usually ride home unplagued by doubts about whether I did such and such.

Ana Lisa and I are in the midst of juggling way more bits of information than my brain can usually retain as we try to come to a big decision: To breed or not to breed.

It’s a really big choice for us. Before we had Javid, we spent many years relaxed in the idea that we might never even to try to have kids. When we thought about having a child, we also worried that we might have a child who required a lot more attention even than a regular kid. Ironic, wot?

Both the thought that we might not have kids and the worry that we might have a child with special needs arose from the recognition that we are for the most part quite happy with the life we have. Despite our frequent mutual vexation (see previous post), we generally dig each other. We already have two (furry) little boys. Our personal and work lives are both challenging and rewarding.

We haven’t always felt that we would need to procreate to generate.

We are also still mourning the Wee Boy. Javid was born less than a year ago, and died just this past April. He is still very much in our thoughts, in ways both wonderful and terrible. Although a number of months have now passed, we notice that we still get tired easily, and seem to be experiencing some extended impact of the long adrenaline rush that was his brief life.

On top of all that, we hear from the doctors that there would be some risks to a subsequent pregnancy. Although so much is not yet understood about preeclampsia, the severity of Ana Lisa’s case means she’s more likely to get it again. That in itself is scary enough; people die or are permanently disabled from seizures and strokes brought on by the condition.

They would monitor her very, very closely, of course. With care, the doctors tell us the likelihood of something happening to Ana Lisa is pretty low.

When the preeclampsia might rear it’s ugly head is the other concern. We’re told the chance of having another 24-week baby is about 4 percent. The risk increases every week from there, but no one can tell us (because apparently they don’t know) how quickly. In other words, there’s a fairly high chance that we might have another preemie. What’s not clear is the likelihood that the birth would happen pre-28 weeks, say, when both short- and long-term risks for the baby are much higher.

Besides exploding things with my mind, I also really like to chop stuff up. Ninety percent of the fun of cooking for me is flailing about with a big blade. (Am I starting to sound sort of freaky?)

Not five minutes ago I was going to work on an avocado, which is always great. SLICE through the shell and soft flesh then a quick twist o’ the bodkin around the circumference and it falls into two pieces, one with the seed. CHOP into the seed, pull it away, then bang the knife on the side of the trash can to make the seed drop off. Avocado + knife = yummy entertainment.

Today my trusty blade slipped right through the seed and into the side of my finger. A small cut, it barely bled. But I sure didn’t see it coming.

The decision to breed is a knife that can cut in so many directions. We know from experience now one of the excruciating possibilities. But there are others, and some of them scare us more even than what Javid (and we) went through. Something happening to Ana Lisa. A child who lives but whose days are full of suffering.

The flesh is heir to a thousand natural shocks. What’s that joke about the definition of a conservative? Oh yes, a liberal who’s been mugged once. There is no question that we are, at the moment, a bit gun shy.

Neither of us have any desire to revisit the mugger in the dark alley that was this last year. It doesn’t take much, a picture or just thinking about a particular stage of Javid’s time in the hospital, to make us cry or, seriously, hyperventilate. The clearest sign that this was a traumatic experience is that it requires no memory enhancements to recall. No electronics or explosives are needed. All the little bits carry their own boom.

Given all this, one part of us is amazed that anyone in this situation would ever decide to go again. But the same doctors who’ve warned us of the risks also tell of many parents who “pull the trigger.” (Sorry, as soon as I wrote “gun shy” I knew that was going to slip in eventually. Just be glad there’ve been no cracks so far about shooting blanks. Oh, now look what you’ve gone and made me do…)

Serious face, serious face.

It sounds like it works out for the large majority of people who do make such a decision. Others aren’t so lucky. How then to decide?

Of the shocks we faced during Javid’s life, not all cut toward the negative. Who knew, for example, that such a scrawny little chicken baby could grow into a lovely, connecting boy? Certainly it was our first experience with the parent-child bond. What an amazing thing that is! I used to talk about learning Spanish as the hardest thing I’d ever done, but one that enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined. The “hardest thing” category has a new, undisputed champion. But it is indisputably true as well that Javid enriched us and somehow, despite how much it hurts, continues to do so.

Another shock was the wonderful connection we felt to people through Javid. As if they needed to, friends and family showed us in new and marvelous ways what amazing people they are. And around them emerged all these others who we had not known but now can not imagine being without. Having Javid taught us deep lessons about the fundamental kindness of most people. It is instruction we hope not to unlearn.

Choosing not to have a child would be the beginning of yet another grieving process. Never having parented before, we found that we loved having a baby boy, and being his mommy and daddy. But choosing to find other ways to connect with the world, we know from years of experience, would also have many joys.

Deciding to have another go at the parenting gig both thrills and scares us senseless. Another wee one could never replace the Wee One. We remind ourselves, however, that we had no idea before Javid was born how much we would end up caring about him, and do think about what that might be like to experience again. But have we mentioned that it scares us!

Despite the examples above (and unlike our dear neighbors, who are the sweetest gun nuts we know) we usually avoid weapon imagery. So how’s this instead? See, there’s this big ring on the ground and we’re standing next to it, hat in hand. And as we wrestle with whether to throw it in or not, we wonder. With this decision, what dreams may come?

That is the question.

4 Responses to “Whether ’tis nobler”

  1. Matt, Chan, Addyson, and Aeron Says:

    How wonderful that we get to come here and visit with you again! I love the new site and love the entries thus far. You are in our thoughts and prayers so often even to this day. We think about sweet Javid often. Can’t wait to visit more often and see how your decision-making on whether to try or not to try continues. Tremendously hard decision is just an understatement. We love you!

  2. Christy Says:

    Tony, I’ve been enjoying reading your site (as my too-limited time permits) and this was such a poignant post I just had to comment. It’s so natural to be terrified in your situation, particularly Ana Lisa (no offense to you big daddy) but having to go through both the physical and emotional ordeal.. I can’t imagine. When John & I lost our baby, I thought I’d never want another child. Or more succinctly, I was still too raw to even think about it, but 6 months later, surprise, the decision was out of our hands. We celebrated Georgia’s 4th birthday today and I can’t imagine life without her. Whether or not you and Ana Lisa have another baby, you’ve still had the incredible experience of being parents to Javid. And I imagine countless children of all ages have been and continue to be made better for the experience of knowing you both. I am pleased to call you neighbors and honored to think of you as friends.