Since the decision to stop chasing the dream of pregnancy and motherhood in my close to mid-forties, I’ve done a whole lot of… Well, I have not done much of anything really.
The weekend that I made my decision, I did what any well-adjusted, mature adult would do: I drank. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t get fall down, stumble drunk or submerge myself into a month of lost weekends, but I have been enjoying beer, wine and other spirits a little more often instead of yielding to moderation in deference to my dwindling fertility. I’ve also been eating. I’ve enjoyed pastries, fried food, and chocolate… all the fun stuff that I have normally shied away from while trying to keep my body in prime baby shape. Then, of course, I’ve been partaking in more than my fair share of caffeine. I have to say that Hubs has been enjoying my little dalliance into the land of things once forbidden, but tighter fitting pants are telling it’s time to stop. I’ve had my hoorah; it’s not going to fill the baby-sized holes in my heart. I must go back to moderation and self-care, only this time without the baby in mind. Now it’s just for me.
M-day weekend was actually quite relaxing. It was just Hubs, my in-laws, and me. We went out to dinner on Saturday night and sat around Sunday playing cards and talking. It was all very low key, which was just fine with me. I did make the mistake of pulling out some old photographs of Hubs and Skid. I had an idea for a project for a relative and was looking for some very specific photographs. They were photographs I knew well. I’d been through them before. Studying every line of Skid’s adorable little face as an infant, a toddler, and so on, yearning for some connection to memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me. These were taken long before I came into the picture, so they often leave me feeling like I’m on the outside looking in.
Pulling out shot after adorable shot got me feeling sadder and sadder with each view. Finally, I came across one picture of a toddler Skid crouched down next to Hubs feeding some ducks. The look on Hubs face in this picture reduced me to tears. He looked like a quintessential dad: loving and gentle, yet protective. A little voice inside of me said, “I really wanted a child with this man.” In one quick second, any questions I might of have had about my mad, mad rush to get pregnant one more time evaporated. It was not because I was selfish. It wasn’t because I wanted something I couldn’t have just because others could. I truly wanted a child with my husband. It was all at once reassuring and heartbreaking.
Which leaves me to my current status of doing little to not much, instead I’ve been paying attention to the signs around me, the pain I feel, and when and where I’m at peace. I’m noting where work needs to be done and the expectations that I had for my life, myself, and my family that need to be released. I’m not ready to dive headlong into any self-improvement projects, nor do I feel the need to go rushing in and try to “fix” the aches and pains of my stepfamily. Tackling what seems logical at this point may not be right in the long run. I don’t want to chase any red herrings. For now, I’m content to just observe and feel – as painful as the feelings may be.
I did something similar to this just before my first husband “K” and I got married. About a month or so after our engagement, K asked me to accompany him an annual visit to his cardiologist. Since the appointment was on a Monday in Boston, he decided we’d make a long weekend of it. We stayed at a hotel, attended a concert, and ate one of our favorite restaurants, all in all a very fun weekend. When Monday rolled around I thought nothing of this “routine” appointment. The day was a lot of “hurry up and wait.” By the time we got into the exam room, I was ready to go home. For my benefit the doctor provided a lot more supporting detail in this visit than I suspect that he normally would have. He stated the current size of the K’s aortic tear and where the “trigger point” would be for when it was time for him to get it repaired. At that visit he was looking good, and it would not be for a while, but for good measure he went over the potential risks of undergoing such a surgery. I don’t recall what all of them were, but words like “death” and “permanent paralysis” stuck out in my mind.
When we left the office, the narrow corridors felt like they were closing in on me. I sped down the hall to get to the much airier space of the building that held the banks of elevators. I could not get enough air into my lungs. When K caught up to me, he took me by the shoulders and found a space of wall that I could lean against. “I know that was hard,” he told me, “but you need to know what might happen. I want you to understand what you’re getting into.” K was always a wise one. He knew he had to show me, not just tell me the hard truth. It was the only way for it to sink in.
I spent the next day puttering around our duplex apartment. I was in between jobs, so I had the luxury of time. I could absorb the news from the day before without any distractions. I carried a notebook and a pen with me all day, and wrote down anything that came to my mind that would help me prepare for whatever my future was to bring me. Some were practical things as simple as compiling a list of local hotels and restaurants near the hospital to creating a phone tree for friends and family to keep updated on during the surgery and recovery. I made list of things we would need to bring to the hospital should the time come. Things to keep me occupied. Things to keep K’s spirits up. I listed who I would need around me for support. Other notes were reminders that took into account my shortcomings during times of stress, “Remember, it’s not just you. Focus on others.” The notes went on throughout the day. In the six years before we got the trigger point, the list was added to here and there. But the original list from that day is what I referred to most when the time came for the surgery. It kept me focused and sane during one of the most stressful times of my life. It allowed me to have reserves of strength I would not have had otherwise. Reserves I called upon after he died. I don’t think I would have gotten through if I had not taken the time for myself to really think things through.
I feel like this newest chapter in my life requires the same approach. This is not something to go lightly into. I don’t feel that I need to reassure myself with reasons why it is better not have a child, because frankly many of the standard reasons either don’t exist or don’t outweigh my heart’s desire at the moment (and I’m not sure if they ever will). I won’t throw myself into hobbies or classes or make plans for long, luxurious trips because neither the money nor time is just not there, but I am earmarking possibilities for the future. Right now is just for being still and letting life speak to me. Like the song says, “After you done all you can, you just stand.”