Thankful Thursday

I’ve got a lot of thoughts brewing for prospective posts that need a bit of refinement, so I’ll take an opportunity to walk down the sunny side of the street and count a couple of blessings.  (Maybe this will become a regular thing, who knows?)

Blessing Number 1:  After many years of a self-imposed laryngitis of the soul, I’m finally getting my voice back.

Writing here and guest blogging on LWOB has been an incredibly freeing exercise. I’ve realized that when I process everything internally it ultimately skews my perception in such a way that I misread the signs of life and end up taking a wrong turn into Crazy Town. Getting things out of my head and onto paper puts some distance between me and the inner-ramblings of my mind, so I can course correct.

As one of those people who needs to time to get their thoughts together,  I have great admiration for people who can say what’s on their mind, at the proper time, and are able to do so with tact and grace. I want that presence of mind, so exploring my wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings here is helping me better articulate them in my daily life. (So, yay me!)

I am also truly touched by the responses I’ve received here and at LWOB.  Thank you for your supportive and encouraging words.  Many of you have helped me when I needed it most, so it is even more humbling to hear that something I have written has spoken to your experience or helped you in some way.  It leaves me thanking God for the courage and inspiration to share.  It’s a comfort not to feel so alone, which leads me to the next blessing.

Blessing Number 2: I’ve found wonderful communities of support both online and offline .

My upbringing was Christian, so I am trained to believe there are reasons for where we are in our lives (although I have been struggling with the validity of that belief lately). 

The one time I can undoubtedly say I was in the right place at the right time was after I lost my first husband.  When he died, I was 36 years-old. I worked at an organization where four other widowed women were among my co-workers.  Of the four, three of them had lost their husbands in their 30’s.

This was an incredible gift for me.  It was a very powerful reminder that I was not the only person to have this experience. Without their presence, I could have very easily curled up into a ball of self-pity and isolated myself from the world, thinking that nobody could possibly understand what I was going through.  Instead, the mere fact of these women –who were living, breathing proof that I wasn’t unique –left me without any excuses to needlessly hold on to the “why me’s?”  They also served as examples that this storm could be weathered.  It helped me realize that I would, eventually, move on.

Since then life has brought a more struggles, all of which have been very isolating in their own way:  stepmotherhood, pregnancy loss, and childlessness not by choice are all clubs that no one dreams of joining.  They also are not issues anyone outside the ranks of their membership wants to discuss.  Who wants to hear a women talk about the ambiguity she feels towards her husband’s children, the agony of never even getting to hold a baby she desperately wanted, or the suffering that comes with a dream unfulfilled?  It’s all very depressing stuff.

Honestly, I find that people who have never been through any of these situations are much more receptive to hearing about my first husband’s death. For whatever reason, it is easier for them to relate to that struggle over the others.  Since I am remarried, I think that maybe they feel that it is a success story.  Of course, they fail to see that the “happily-ever-after” has been bumpy and any discussion of our challenges are usually met with avoidence (miscarriage is a depressing subject), platitudes (being a stepmother is simple, just be nice and the kids will like you), or problem solving (have you considered adoption, IVF, etc?).  Is it any wonder that I’m having a hard time finding peace?

I think it goes without saying that it is difficult for women in these situations to find a place in their immediate circles where they can voice their pain and feel understood.  We live in foreign lands that are hard to comprehend unless you have been there.

I feel extremely lucky that there are communities out there that allow women discuss their struggles openly without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. There are bloggers, writers, and groups in all the arenas in which I struggle (and arena is the perfect word, because there are days when I feel like a gladiator when facing down my grief).  These resources have been a tremendous help.  I’ve shared links to many on this site. 

While we all have different paths, we share the same fundamental pain that brings us together.  And, while I may not be in the same place as the others, I choose to learn from everyone. I may not hear the lessons the first time (or the second or third time), but at some point they speak to me.  Each one gets me closer to a place of healing and reminds me I am not alone.  And for that, I am extremely grateful.

If you wish to share any resources not listed here that help you, please feel free to leave them in the comments section of the post.  

Wishing you love & peace!

Still Small Voices Are Usually Right

Today, I had to rise and shine at an ungodly hour to get myself down to the hospital breast cancer center for a lovely, early-morning diagnostic mammogram. Just the way every woman wants to start her day, eh?  (Rest assured, all I have are a few benign-looking cysts – this post, thankfully, is not about that.)

There, within the tastefully-appointed inner sanctum of the “no men allowed” waiting room, I sat in anticipation of my tests. The cotton examination cape that I’d be given to wear draped softly around me. It felt like a bed sheet. The image of being back in bed relaxed me temporarily enough for a small, quiet voice inside me to say, “You’re angry.”

I sat up a little straighter in an effort to shake it off. I didn’t feel angry. In fact, I felt incredibly calm given the circumstances.

Later, when the radiologist had determined that what they found on the mammogram justified an ultrasound, I found myself on my side on an examination table watching blobs on a screen. This, of course, brought back memories of the handful of ultrasounds I had during my second pregnancy, and the joy Hubs and I felt seeing that small flickering light.  That flicker indicated a strong heartbeat.  That flicker gave us a false sense of security that the pregnancy would go well and everything would be o.k. This morning’s ultrasound also brought back the pain I felt the day that light was no longer present.  As I pushed back the memory and willed myself into an equally unpleasant present, the voice returned, “You’re angry.”

“Fine,” I thought, “I’ll concede, but at the moment there are other fish to fry.” The appointment continued, doctors were consulted and everyone was all smiles. “Nothing to worry about,” they said. “But come back in six months, so we can keep an eye on you.” So, you know, I have that to look forward to.

After being squished, mushed, poked, prodded, and gelled, I was back in my car and headed to work.  Grateful for the positive news, but still not feeling quite relieved.  The voice came back to remind me of unfinished business, “You’re angry.”

Now I was really annoyed, especially because the little voice was right. I am angry. I’m angry I did not get the life I imagined, the motherhood I crave.  I’m angry because the closest relationship I’ll ever have to motherhood is one that is so totally lopsided at the moment that it hurts me almost daily. I’m angry at others who get to have what they want easily. I’m angry because there are others like me who struggle and don’t get their happy endings.  What is so wrong with wanting to be a mother?  Why should it be denied to anyone? Nothing is clear. Nothing makes sense.  So yes, little voice, I am angry, but what do you suggest I do about it?

“Allow yourself to be angry,” the voice replied.

I don’t think I ever considered that before. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever felt entitled to be. Whenever I would begin to get angry, there was always someone there to remind me that others were hurting too, that it wasn’t quite the time or place, or that it was being directed at the wrong person or thing. Maybe it is time to be angry.

The question is “How?” Obviously I can’t walk around pissed off at the World and lashing out at everyone in it.  There’s got to be a constructive way to get it out, to channel it.

Maybe if I listen closely enough, my inner voice will offer more insight. Hopefully, it’ll happen before six months from now.

Late in Life Babies are a Rich Woman’s Game

God, I hate going to the OB/GYN. 

After my last miscarriage in 2010, I avoided going just because I couldn’t bear to be in the same room with a bunch of pregnant women.  There they sit: all glowing, cooing, comparing notes and blissfully unaware of the storm of emotions welling up inside that quiet 40-something woman sitting along with them fighting back her tears and mourning her losses.  Then, of course, there was the inevitable face off with the clueless medical assistant who didn’t think to look at my medical records to see that I was there for a post miscarriage visit who asked “have you ever been pregnant?” 

Today, I got back in the game and went to a new office and a new doctor in hopes of a fresh start.  Once again, I was sitting in the lobby with pregnant women and their husbands with the choice of Baby or Parenting magazine to occupy my time. ( I think I am going to found and create Childless Mother magazine, just so people like me have something to read at the OB/GYN!  Think of stories I could write: Why You’re Not Good Enough to Bear Children – Take Our Fun Quiz!; She May Be Pregnant, But You Can Have a Margarita: 10 Ways to Console Yourself… the possibilities are endless.)  Other than fueling my sick, self-depreciating sense of humor, I made it through this part.

Then came the part where I had to tell my sad, pathetic story to the doctor. ( I just love crying in front of people I’ve just met. Don’t you?)  I must say I am glad that she was extremely sympathetic and, thankfully, frank with me.  After reviewing my medical records, she said what I expected to hear.  At my age, healthy pregnancies are not impossible, but not common.  Chromosomal abnormalities are extremely likely making miscarriage risk high.  I can conceive. I show no other signs of being unable to carry.  I present no other risk factors.  My eggs are just, well, old.

She told me the surer bet is egg donation, which – much like adoption – is a $30 to $40k investment.  Money I do not have either way you look at it.  

In communicating with Hubs, we both realized that this is one of life’s crueler games.  Men have the capacity produce healthy sperm in their more mature years, but the woman’s contribution to the party is finite.  The eggs have a shelf life. 

I hate to be negative here, but starting that magazine is looking very attractive to me now.   Perhaps the advertising revenues for it will buy me a baby.  Then I could be on the cover (just like Oprah) beaming proudly holding my baby with the headline, “Crossing Over: Our Final Issue.”

I really wish I could end this on a more positive note.  I’ve actually felt much more at peace lately, but today is emotionally messy.  I am brokenhearted and confused.  Where do I go from here?  How do you move on when the sure bet turns into a long shot?  I’ve dreamed, hoped, and planned on being a mom throughout my life.  I never counted on the alternative.   I always had hope, but now I’m not sure.

I think I need a margarita.