Run, Run, Runaway

I’m back! I think. I’m alive! Sort of.

After a too long hiatus of sorts, I’m back on the blog.  My life was thrown into chaos between health, family, and work that I had no time to devote to it.  I’m trying to find the words to even describe everything I haven’t been able express in the time I haven’t been blogging.  But I will say this,  it’s pent up. I realized it after taking a long overdue (I’m talking years) visit to my massage therapist.  I went to see him to address some neck pain I was experiencing and he was stunned at how tight my neck and shoulder muscles were.  It took him 45 minutes to even loosen the muscles before even wanted to touch my neck.  “All the thoughts that are unexpressed and all the words unspoken, that’s where they go,” I mused half to him, half to myself.

So here I sit at my keyboard trying to get some of it out.

It’s been over two years since I realized that pursuing pregnancy in my 40’s was unwise.  A decision that was backed up by my body presenting me with an autoimmune-based arthritis over a year later.  But even now the emptiness I feel because of not being able to be a “mom,” still brings me to my knees unexpectedly. I thought I’d be stronger.  I thought I’d find a surrogate that could fill the baby-shaped hole in my heart.  Something that could lighten the weight of my empty arms.  But it’s still there.

I feel alone in this.  While my husband understands, there is a part of him that cannot possibly understand because he has children.

Recently, friends of ours who have battled infertility for years found something that worked and are expecting a child early next year.  I’m thrilled for them, but also feeling left behind.  They’ve crossed over.

Another friend, a former sister-in-arms, is now on baby number three and is now doing everything she swore she wouldn’t when she was struggling.

And to add to that, another younger couple in our small group of intimates just announced their pregnancy.

Smash, Bang, Boom… all sorts of unresolved grief has now just made it’s presence known in a BIG way.  Everyone is crossing over and I feel isolated and alone.

I’m struggling with this. Wondering why God said, “N0.” Especially when I witness everyone else seemingly getting their, “Yes.”

For the past two years I have been fighting against it. Trying to turn the lemons into lemonade. Trying to find a source of fulfillment.  Trying to give back.  Trying to re-channel my grief… and failing.  Throwing energy into church. Throwing way too much energy into work. Trying to financially hold my family together. Encouraging Hubs to get this parenting act together. Some of this is done out of necessity, some out of hope, and some out of sheer desperation.  But I’m coming to a breaking point. I’m tired.  And I’m angry.  I want to disappear.

It occurs to me that I don’t even have a sense of me any more. Where did I go? Did I miss something? Was I too concerned that my grief was so prolonged that I tried to bypass acceptance completely? Or is my grief, anger and pain about this a security blanket?

All I know is this: something is missing in my heart. I watch friends who are moms interacting with their children and my arms ache to hold the children I’ve lost. I see my pregnant friends in celebration, doing all the things I dreamed of doing when I first found out I was pregnant, and I yearn to have that experience. I see my MIL gush with pride over my two-year-old nephew and I feel so disconnected from that side of the family, because I couldn’t give her a grandchild. I see my Skid acting so distant from me, and wonder if I had been able to give him a brother or a sister if it would have made us feel more connected to each other.

I’m left wondering if this ever goes away. Wondering that if in my mad scramble not to become the woman who holds onto to her grief too long, I’ve in reality prolonged this. All I know is that I cannot stand it anymore. I’m tired of falling apart every time someone announces a pregnancy. (Yeah, I’m looking at you Kate Middleton.)

I need to step away from trying to find fulfillment in helping others and start helping myself.  It’s like the drill you hear before take off.  I need to put my air mask on first before I can assist others.

It’s time to stop running and face this grief head on.

 

 

 

 

Aside

When Seeking Prayers for Strength, Avoid the Interweb.

This has been a tough year, and yesterday was no exception.  While I’ve been struggling with giving up my Mommy hopes, there has been a pregnancy that’s been running parallel to my situation.  And yesterday, the baby arrived.  I did not think that I would take it as badly as I did.  But, “Whoop, there it is.”

2012 has been the “Year of Tears” for me.  Especially since my doctor confirmed that, at my age, chances are slim for a healthy natural pregnancy.  “Egg donation, surrogate, or adoption are more viable options,”  said the learned doctor.  And since Hubs and I don’t have the resources of  say a Bill and Guiliana,  I’ve had to try to cope with the loss of that dream while still grieving my two previous pregnancy losses.  This is not something that is easy to “settle into.”  Letting go of a lifelong expectation – a dream of which I THOUGHT was my calling – has been a tough, draining journey.  Not one day has gone by where I haven’t shed tears.

It is a process.  I am all at once trying to renew my faith and find a new purpose while grieving and yearning for what cannot be.  I feel both forsaken and blessed at the same time.  My emotions rotate on axes of  surrender and rage, peace and sorrow, grief and hope.  If you get them all whirling fast enough, you’ll see a blending together that translated into the hot mess that was me after yesterday’s birth announcement.

So last I night I went in search of some sort of comforting prayer to give me strength on the one place I probably shouldn’t: the Internet.  In search results for “prayers for strength, childlessness,” I received a number of results that referred to “the curse of childlessness.”  Really???  A curse is what you call it?  Sure, that’s how it feels sometimes, but think about what that implies!

This is only amplified by a few run ins with equally insensitive messages received from unexpected places recently.  Such as the trip to the Christian bookstore in search of a keepsake gift for the baby in question.  As I searched the shelves, I came across one of those frames for the birth certificate that read, “We prayed for blessing and God gave us you.”   That was enough to send me out of the store in tears.  Then earlier this week, someone posted a baby picture that was met with the comment, “A reward for a life well-lived for Jesus.”   So if I was “this is a sign” kind of woman, all this would have me conclude that the fact my prayers were not answered on the baby front means I have not lived my life well, and therefore I am cursed not to have a child of my own.  Really? Ugh.

Well, I refuse to believe that.  Despite my at times grouchy exterior and my propensity to bitch like there is no tomorrow when really riled up, I’ve always had faith and hope.  I’ve never let any of what has happened to me – including losing my first husband or my babies – shake my belief in the goodness of God.  So when I hear or see things like that I get very upset.  So now, fueled by this fire,  I’m taking matters into my own hands with my own prayer(done my way):

This Childless Woman’s Prayer

Blessed Lord,

I am hurting, and you know why

I’m not asking you to change the situation

Nor am I blaming anyone (and that includes myself)

What?   O.K., you caught me in a lie.  I sometimes do blame myself.  You’re right. I shouldn’t.

I know this is just one of mountains in life that I am destined to climb, but I can’t do it alone.

Thank you so much for what I do have in this life

I apologize for sometimes failing to recognize it.

This is especially true when Skid or Hubs don’t replace the toilet paper rolls or “forget” to hang up towels they’ve used,  and… What?  You’re right.  I digress.

What I mean to say is help me to remember to take joy in my blessings.  As much as I grumble about living with messy boys, I love the stuffing out them.

I know getting rid of this emptiness in my heart is a process.

I ask that you grant me the strength and the patience to get through.

This is especially true when dealing with others who just don’t get it  (You know who I’m talking about, and it includes those who write really stupid things on the Intertubes)

Give me the courage to forgive and love these people just the same.

And thank you for blessing me with the restraint to prevents me from slapping them silly.   That would be bad. Wouldn’t it? Give me a sign if it’s NOT bad.  Nothing? O.K.  Thought not.  Moving on.

I know that deep down, this is all part of what I need to go through in order to be the person you created me to be.

And I pray you give me the wisdom to recognize the opportunities in my path.

But I am going to slip up Lord, because the Mommy dream in a strong one.

It’s hard watching others who are blessed with it and not ache so badly for a child of my own.

I need courage to step away from what I thought should be to be closer to who You need me to be.

I told you before K died, ” I can tell You what I want, but it’s Your will not mine.”

So you know I’m willing.  I just need an assist to know and do what is Your plan for me.

And if that somehow includes someone who calls me Mom, then that’s cool too.  I won’t complain either way.  What?  You’re right.  Who am I kidding? 

Thanks again for all Your blessings.

Amen.

 

Still Standing

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.”

Thankful Thursday: Short, Sweet, and Fragrant Edition

If I’ve been conspicuously silent lately it’s because I’m getting ready for a trip (1/4 of the trip is for pleasure, the rest is business) and working on a really cool project that has actually got me looking forward to Mother’s Day (miracle of miracles!). The details really cannot be divulged about either, but hopefully I can share in the future . So I will make today’s Thankful Thursday short and sweet.

This week’s blessing is an incredibly touching gesture made by Hubs this weekend.  He was taking advantage of a rare Saturday off and became inspired while working in the yard. When he came in from his work, he sat me down and said, “I have an idea that I’d like to propose to you.” You could say my interest was piqued; but it wasn’t. I knew how badly he wanted to see “The Avengers” that weekend, so I assumed that whatever plans he had in mind included a trip to the movie theater. I was wrong.  Instead, he said, “I’ve been thinking and I realized that I haven’t done anything to remember our babies, so what I’d like to do is plant two special colored Azaleas in the yard to memorialize them.  What do you think?”  

Of course I loved it, and agreed to it immediately. So now, among our row of fledgling red and white Azaleas in the back yard, two pink ones sit side-by-side in memory of Baby A and Baby M.

I’m incredibly thankful for my sweet, loving Hubs!

More Skin to Shed

Today I’m feeling more than frustrated.  I don’t think I can find the words to express how frustrating it is to have strong parental instincts when you don’t have children of your own.  As a stepmom, one of my biggest struggles is learning when to rein it in.  

Hubs and I have different parenting styles.  I’m more structured and focused down the road.  He’s flexible and in the moment.  If we had a child of our own, these differing perspectives might be extremely fruitful together: a Yin and Yang of parenthood.   However, given that Skid is not mine; I’m discovering that my ideas on parenting are often best left to myself.

Just this morning, we clashed over a common problem in our household: leaving things to the very last minute.  It doesn’t matter if it’s permission forms that need to be signed, school supplies needed for a project, or event entry fees, it more than likely comes to Hubs attention at zero hour.  Last night the problem reared its head more than once.  At 7:00 PM cups were needed for a class party the next day.  Then at 11:00 PM, permission slips AND donations were needed for a fund raiser at school. 

My mind wandered back to the last time this happened.  Skid wanted to try out for the basketball team.  Hubs was informed he’d have to fill out insurance paperwork and write out a check for physicals at 10:30 the night before they were due. I quickly scanned to papers and found out we would have to purchase an insurance policy and dig out immunization records to complete everything. We didn’t have the name of who to write a check to and neither of us had cash to cover the fee.  Needless to say, we were left scrambling to get it done.  Hubs was understandably upset.

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The Fork in Road Has Egg on It

Two weeks before my forty-(garble) birthday, Hubs and I had dinner with another couple, visiting relatives from out of town. The discussion led to family, which unavoidably veered into the subject of my BIL and his wife’s pregnancy and that crashed head-on into, “When are the two of you going to have kids of your own?”  I quietly explained our situation and mentioned our pregnancy losses.  I tried to make light of it to avoid bringing the party down.  “Old eggs,” I lamely joked.

A look of confusion crossed the face of one of our dinner companions. “You’re not old,” she replied, “You are my age, right?”  (She is in her mid-30s, so bless her.)  When I told her my age, she said, “Well, you certainly don’t look like it.”   While the thank-you was the first thing that sprang from my lips, my mind mused, “If I were your age, I’d have younger eggs.”

Last week, I found myself bristling at the onslaught of “29 again?” jokes that each birthday inevitably brings.  Every time I heard one, there was a groan deep down inside of me saying, “I wish. Twenty-nine year-old eggs would work.” 

What’s with all the egg on the brain?   Two months ago, I got the news that egg donation is the recommend course of action for me if I want to have baby. It is an option I cannot afford.  (Chalk that one down next to adoption.) 

 Every month I find myself standing at the same fork in the road.  My choices:

  • Persistence  –  Pray that there is a good egg left in there
  • Acceptance – Move on and try to find fulfillment elsewhere

Each month I’ve chosen persistence, but at the same time contemplated preparing myself for the alternative.  Like someone who is trying to quit a bad habit, I keep telling myself, “Just one more. This is the last month.  If nothing happens, we’ll stop.”  Then, I run into the same fork and am forced to make the same choice. 

However this month, my fevered, egg-obsessed mind has been searching for signs.  I am sad to say I’ve found them in the form of statistics. At my age, I have a 1-3% chance of concieving naturally. Around same odds as winning the lottery, and I imagine about the same odds of finding anything that I’m looking for in my purse on the first try. (Among those who beat the odds, one in 33 will have a fetus with a chormosomal disorder  and one in 49 will have a child with Downs syndrome.)  It’s sobering.  It’s sad.  I’m standing here – feeling bereft and broken, contemplating fairness and faith.

I always told myself that the final true road was yet to be determined; that it would either take an act of nature or an act of will, but deep, deep down I held a glimmer of hope that my persistence would be rewarded. That hopefulness has got me feeling a little foolish now.  [Insert the “egg on your face” pun here.]

Would I like a miracle to happen?  Who wouldn’t?  It is likely to?  They don’t call them miracles for nothing.  I think it’s time to head down the other path.  The road ahead is long and difficult, and the destination is not quite as concrete as the other road.  For now I’ll rest here and spend a little time with my dream.  It’s  an old friend, so I won’t rush our goodbyes.

I probably should also take this opportunity to clean out my purse.

Haunted by Heartbreak

Have you ever visited a placed that was claimed to be haunted? Very often it is said that deceased entities will haunt places that are the source of their personal pain and suffering.  Places where traumatic, often violent, acts occurred such as prisons or old gun-slinging towns are said to be extremely haunted.  For whatever reasons, spirits are bound to these places – unable to move ahead and doomed to repeat their fates again and again.

I’m not quite sure if I believe in ghosts per se.  But I think there is something to that particular theory of haunting, because I think haunting can reside in people.  It’s not necessarily a matter of being haunted by a spirit, but by our memories.  I have a few that haunt me.  And when they do, they are vivid and visceral.

One specter is from two years ago today.  The day it was confirmed that Baby M’s heart had stopped beating.  I went to the doctor alone. Hubs was out of town for work.  I had started bleeding the night before.  I was at the doctor’s office before the doors were unlocked.  Even thinking about it brings back the rush of anxiety.  I remember the lighting inside examination room, the crinkle of paper underneath me, the unsettling quiet demeanor of the usually talkative ultrasound technician as she searched in vain for the little flicker of white light that would reassure me that everything was okay, and the sound – the ungodly guttural cry – I made when she told me she could not find it.  The room echoed with it.  It was the sound of my heart breaking.

I’m haunted by this not just on the anniversary of M’s fly-away date, but it also will revisit at the most random times: while watching a commercial that shows a mom cuddling with her toddler, listening to a pregnant woman who is standing in line front me at the coffee shop babble on about her pregnancy while ordering her decaf, or even just driving to work.  The memory shakes me.

I don’t ever want to forget, but I’m hoping that over time the memory will lose its power and the heartbreak will move on.  That it won’t hurt as much or feel as real.  But for now, my heart remains haunted.

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