back to Barcelona

and so we come full circle…back to a place that i dreamt of before i ever visited, a city whose name alone inspires waves of warmth and nostalgia…Barcelona.

five years ago i called it home, that magical realm of Gaudi and Miro, that candyland of art and architecture, music, food, football and people…the wonderful Catalan people.  five years ago, i wandered it’s streets and breathed in its inspiration. in a little flat on a little street far from the throngs of tourists that pack las Ramblas, i lived days rich in laughter and friendship and joy.  this is what i wrote about my Barcelona home:

the buildings, like the people, prefer the close company of others. they stand in long lines, pressed together for blocks and practically lean across the narrow roads (as if to politely debate some point with the line of buildings across from them.) fronts of apartment buildings and single family homes mingle with shopfronts….farmacia, locutorio, peliculas… from the windows of 2nd and 3rd floor flats, sounds floats down. an argument: a woman’s voice running loud and fast at someone unseen, opera: an italian tenor adding a soundtrack to this street named for a spanish tenor. on the thin sidewalks, men and women of all ages navigate past each other, past parked cars and motorbikes. some are smoking, some laughing, some walking slowly with the aid of a friend or grandchild’s arm. many are carrying long, blond batons of bread under their arms… benign, delicious swords.

this is my neighborhood, and every day it delivers some new sensual delight. Catalan is everywhere….on the lips of the capped men entering the bakery, “¡Bon Dia!” and on the blue and white Xmas lights that hang across the street and wish everyone “Bones Festes”  (Christmas 2008)

oh, how i loved it there.  and then another love arrived in the form of Froggy.  in a tiny green car she came to me, exhausted but smiling after eleven hours of driving and two countries crossed.  those days are all a blur now, so many happy hours spent in that little flat on that little Catalan street with my sweet Parisian girl.  even then, giddy with the delicious newness of it all, we began to dream about our future family.

i don’t think either of us could have imagined that we’d be returning to Barcelona on our quest to have that family, but here we are, just a few weeks from a 90 minute flight into BCN. half a month until we are back to where we started.

if you happen to speak French (or be a google-translate adept), you might have read on Froggy’s blog that we made our last trip to Belgium about three weeks ago.  we had one remaining straw of sperm from little sun’s donor, and even though my hormone levels had suggested a even lower than usual chance of success, we chose to go ahead with one last insemination.  we had already cancelled two cycles, and after my miscarriage last year, we were feeling desperate to move forward.  as we predicted, the cycle was a bust.  originally, we’d discussed IVF as our next move, but we had a lot of concerns about taking that step.  we weren’t sure how we could come up with the money, and i worried about trying to take unexplained time off work on at least three separate days.  since all reproductive assistance is illegal here, no doctor is willing to risk writing a sick day for lesbian patients who need to travel abroad.  in addition to the three trips to Belgium, there was the problem of finding a gynecologist who would agree to work with us…to do the monitoring that is necessary on a heavily stimulated cycle.  our doctor had already said that she couldn’t do it, and after previously spending six months looking for a gynecologist who would agree to work with lesbians, we knew this wouldn’t be an easy task.  there was also the issue of the medication….nearly three solid years of being on heavy hormones (including my pregnancy with little sun) has been hard on me both physically and emotionally, and in the wake of little sun’s death, i seem even more affected by them than usual.  and if all that weren’t enough, there was no guarantee that i would even have viable embryos from that first round of IVF.  all those worries kept building up, and i began to feel paralyzed.  how would we ever find a way to have a living child?

and then by chance, i stumbled onto a site that talked about embryo donation in Spain.  i read how couples would donate leftover embryos from their own IVF cycles (sometimes done with donor eggs and/or donor sperm), and patients who had problems with egg quality (as i think i might) could receive these embryos.  the cost for one FET cycle with donor embryos is much less than IVF in Belgium, and the success rates are astounding…even in women well over 40.  instead of needing a milk crate full of medications, i’d just need to take estrogen to build my endometrium and progesterone to make it receptive to the embryos.  Froggy and i both agreed that this was the next step, so we contacted a clinic to get more information.  in their email they proposed another treatment, shared egg donation.  it’s the same as embryo donation in that we would get two blastocysts, but in the egg donation program, we would be using the eggs of a young female donor and sperm from their sperm bank.  the donors are almost certainly Catalan and/or Spanish, and as Froggy said on her blog, that’s not something that displeases us.  we would do a fresh cycle instead of a frozen one, and our embryos would be unique to us instead of part of a batch created from an infertile couple. the shared donor program costs a bit more than embryo donation, but it feels worth it.  knowing that our next children could come from the generosity and altruism of two young people in Barcelona fills me with such warmth and awe.

and so in a little over a week, Froggy and i will be flying back into BCN for our first appointment.  i am nervous and excited and more than a little scared.  letting go of my dream of having another biological child has been a bumpy process.  it feels like a different , less vicious kind of grief, but it is grief nonetheless.  mostly it is knowing that i will never see something of little sun in one of his siblings. but i also ask myself again and again if it will make a difference in how much i love my future child(ren).  i owe it to them to be sure.  then i think of Froggy and of how much she loves little sun…how she is as lost without him as i am.  no parent could love a child more than she loves our little boy.  and i look around me at the people who mean the most to me, the ones who have stayed and battled the storms, and i realized that few of them share biological ties with me.  DNA holds no sway over the heart, i know this is true.

as with so many things in life, Saint-Exupéry’s the Little Prince has the answers:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you– the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember. (The Little Prince, Chapter 21, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

“To me, you will be unique in all the world. “

the last time we flew into the airport in Barcelona, i was six months pregnant with little sun.  as our plane descended, the city came into view, and one particular landmark caught my eye…it was almost impossible to miss:

Sagrada Familia, the place Froggy and i had visited on our second day together.  when i looked through the small, oval airplane window and saw Gaudi’s basilica standing tall in the center of that city i still dream of, that place i still miss, i began to cry.  it felt as if i were coming home and bringing my little family with me.

now we are returning in search of our own “sagrada familia”. sometime soon we will be on a plane flying back from BCN, hopefully carrying another soon-to-be-baby back with us….finally bringing little sun’s brother or sister home.  i only wish he were with us on this journey.

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20 thoughts on “back to Barcelona

  1. Mama, Interrupted

    I’m so pleased that you have another option. It must be hard giving up your dream of a biological child, and especially knowing that s/he will not be a genetic sibling to Little Sun… I can’t imagine how hard. But as you said, that’s not what’s really important. Little Sun is just as much Froggy’s as yours. (And the great thing about donor eggs is that your age really doesn’t matter at all!)

    Wishing you both loads of luck. Have a wonderful time in Barcelona. x

    Reply
  2. pepibebe

    Oh good luck, good luck with your baby making trip to Barcelona!
    I too struggled so hard at the thought of not using the same donor as our two lost babies (MC’s at 12 weeks). Not only was it the fact that he is my wife’s brother, but also that giving up on having a child with him seemed to mean grieving the loss of the other babies all over again. But circumstances demanded that we choose someone new and we are fortunate that my wife has a distant cousin who lives in our country and city, is lovely and has agreed to be our new donor. So this baby will still have a blood link to my wife, even if a tenuous one from most people’s perspective.

    Reply
    1. le petit soleil Post author

      i know exactly what you mean about grieving the loss of the other babies. at the end of the day, it will be the love and care that we give our children that will make us a family. much luck to you and your wife on your own journey towards parenthood. i hope that by next year, we’ll both have our hands full of new life.

      Reply
  3. conceptionallychallenged

    Wonderful Barcelona. I lived there for a few years. I loved the Christmas lights, and Gaudi, of course. Hope the trip brings good memories (along with the sad ones) and a sibling for your Little Sun, even if they may not be genetically related, they will have the same parents loving them so much.
    Also, I’m appalled that assisted reproduction is illegal where you live. It is hard enough that we have to go through this, that we often have to pay loads of money for it… legal issues really shouldn’t be added on top of all that.
    I wish you the best of luck.

    Reply
    1. le petit soleil Post author

      ah, a fellow expat who knows the wonders of Barcelona. i’m so sorry that we share the much sadder connection of lost children. like your girls, my little sun had a celestial name…also one steeped in mythology. the day before his funeral, we stood out on our balcony and saw two shooting stars. in her entire life in Paris, Froggy had never seen a shooting star, so it felt very significant. we took it as a sign from our little boy (who had a twin who didn’t make it past the first trimester), and after reading your blog, i think your girls were telling you something with those stars.

      thank you for your good wishes. i’m sending you so many back.

      Reply
      1. conceptionallychallenged

        The shooting stars are so special! I’m so glad you both got to see them, and I’m sure it was a sign from your Little Sun. I didn’t know he’d had a twin brother, but that makes the double shooting star even more significant.
        Thanks for your good wishes! I so much hope that the trip to Barcelona will bring you the wonderful gift of a baby to keep.

    1. le petit soleil Post author

      i’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to figure out how to respond to your compliment, but all i’ve come up with is thank you. :) and thank you for continuing to read my sporadic posts.

      Reply
  4. Isa

    I am so happy that you have his option! The family I know raising kids from donor embryos is as bonded and beautiful as any other. I hope Barcelona makes the whole process a relief from your other tries. It is the best place I can think of to do such a thing.

    Reply
    1. le petit soleil Post author

      oh, Isa, thank you for this. i vacillate between excitement and panic, and it really helps to be reminded of other families that have been created this way. i think i know the family you’re talking about, and they are indeed bonded and beautiful…. an inspiration, really. even though i don’t always acknowledge your comments (words are so hard for me these days…even simple ones), i am touched by and so appreciative of your continued presence in my little cyberworld. <3 to you and your girls.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Sagrada Família i la nostra | Un Jour, Mon Fils

  6. suzanne

    I told my mother yesterday about this option in Spain. It’s truly amazing, and I hope for a beautiful little one for you and froggy within the near future. My fingers are crossed for you, my friend. xoxo

    Reply
  7. marchisfordaffodils

    When I try to think about how M is like Anja or connected to her, it always ends up having to do less with what they share by biology and more with what they share as part of a story…they are connected by love and want and need and grief and sorrow and immense joy…I honestly don’t know how to tell anymore if M looks like Anja and would never know what other traits they might have shared…but they are connected by a bond so tight, so strong that it almost scares me sometimes. It is fierce and it is beautiful. I know you are grieving the loss of the biological connection and that makes so much sense to me, but the connection we share in our families – as I know you also know – is about so, so much more. Something about going to Barcelona sounds so…right – at the same time as it is still so very wrong, because of course, little sun should be here and you should not be without him – but…I hope it is a beautiful trip, with beautiful results…a beautiful little baby brother or sister for your beautiful little sun.

    Reply
  8. Seraf

    This is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time. I’ve missed you. I wish you luck on your journey.

    Reply

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