Of all places to find philosophical inspiration for living with PKU, I came across this profound quote while visiting my local gym the other day.
Charles Swindoll, the author of this quote, is an evangelical pastor who I had never heard of prior to seeing this quote and subsequently Googling his name. Clearly, the owner of my gym was trying to speak to the mental strength it takes to improve one’s physique, but anyone who reads this passage will likely apply it to their own personal situation.
As such, when I read this quote, I immediately think about my struggle to start a family. Growing up with PKU, I’ve always felt – even at a very young age – that successfully having children would be THE biggest accomplishment of my life. That is because I have always had a keen understanding of the great effort and sacrifice it would take to return to a restricted diet. I knew that mental toughness and fortitude would be paramount for getting me through. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I realized a host of external factors – items beyond my control – could also sabotage the success I so greatly desired.
I started to feel that despite any level of confidence I had in my own ability to stay on-diet, I could not embark in a high-risk pregnancy without a top-notch team. I found that some of the same support systems that were put in place to aid in my PKU care were also some of my biggest hurdles. For example, my husband and I were told we should “seriously consider adoption,” because birth defects were pretty much guaranteed. And on a separate occasion, after being accused of “cheating” on my blood work, I realized some professionals would rather point the finger than consider the possibility that process improvements might be necessary. Clearly, I am having difficulty trusting the experts I will undoubtedly rely on most during a high-risk pregnancy. I’ve struggled with this reality for some time now…even placed a moratorium of sorts on any deliberate move I might make towards returning to a controlled PKU diet. Reading this quote at the gym though has led me to think about my situation with a little more optimism. Rather than saying, “I don’t know where to go from here,” I’m now in the position to say “okay (*deep breath*), let’s think rationally and clearly about our options…there has to be another way.”
Perhaps I need to redefine what I mean by “successfully having children.” Even though the suggestion cut deep on an emotional level, maybe I do need to take a second look at adoption or foster care. Does it matter to me and my husband that our children be a reflection of who we are genetically, or can we learn to love another child who is in need a good home? Or maybe thinking rationally means recognizing that we’ll become parents when the time is right. Even when it seems co-workers, friends and family members are all starting families, perhaps our turn is just around the corner…when some other opportunity arises.
Reading Swindoll’s quote hasn’t exactly changed my life or provided me with all the answers, but it does help put things into perspective. I’m not going to settle for a less-than-desirable situation or passively accept the way things are. Instead, I must use my drive…my attitude…to find another way.