We are back from our third conference of the DCN, a meeting for people and their children who used donor conception (egg, s.perm, double, emb.ryo, you name it) to have their children. We picked up the babies from s's parents who kindly looked after them for us - we were so excited to go get them we were practically skipping down the street to get them and bring them home for bedtime.
We gave them their bottles, sang our special favourite lullabies, had a final cuddle and left them to settle.
We closed the door and I burst into tears. Big heaving heavy tears of total and utter relief to be where we are right this minute. and not where we were two, or even one April ago.
Two Aprils ago we were at the same conference, only we were there on the brink of starting treatment. We had no idea how to go about choosing a donor, everything felt so overwhelming and unknown and utterly, utterly terrifying.
There were so many logistics to consider, all the treatment - how would I feel? would it make me sick or nightmarishly hormonal? would I be able to handle it with work? how long might it take and would it work at all? How could we choose a donor? how could we make such an enormous decision with so many long-term implications that we had no idea how to predict.
And then - would I miscarry? Would something horrible happen to the babies? Would they be born early or ill? Would we be able to care for them?
One April ago we didn't go to the conference because I was on bed rest, waiting anxiously for A&P to arrive.
Looking back on it now inside of all that practical worry, peeking out behind the fears about all the physical things that could go wrong, was a deep and dark worry - about what the babies would be like... would they be 'normal'? and truly... would we really both know how to love them and be with them?
At the conference there are discussion groups based on your situation, and this afternoon in the 's.perm donation general discussion' I was one of only two people in the room who already had children. Everyone else was there exactly as we were two years ago - poised at the end of a diving board with a drop of unknown length and depth.
I tried my best to be useful to them - as others were to us to years ago - and answered questions about what the treatments felt like emotionally and physically, how we dealt with our clinic etc.
But rather than driving home as we had two years ago deeply emotional and unsettled, we drove home to our babies. Our gorgeous wonderful incredible little people who would not exist in the world if it weren't for the fact that we had to use a donor.
How could we change anything about what brought us to this point without changing the marvellous people they are and will be?
I hope I helped the other people there today understand that feeling but I also know there's know way they could truly get the feeling until they get here where we are on the other side. How I hope to see them in a year or two having crossed the boundary.
We have lots more challenges to come, I know. There was a panel of 9-12 year old DC young people speaking today who were so inspiring and gorgeous and also sobering in terms of thinking about the feelings and issues our kids will face.
Yet I can't put into words the abiding and almost debilitating relief of being past so many of the scariest of the unknowns, and getting to revel in the joy of getting on with being a parent.
[and if there is anyone still reading this, please do say hello!]