Sunday, May 26, 2013

Birthday Weekend

May is hard for me. Every date is linked to 2010 and a countdown to the 27th. Dates that are littered with hopes, fears, anticipations, decisions, and naivety that accompanied the upcoming birth of our child. It's tremendously difficult; some days, damned near impossible, not to look back and ask the unanswerable question, "What if?" 
I try to avoid that path whenever possible, because there is no easy way back to the present. It's a long, twisty, winding road full of regret, pain, decisions made without the ironic clarity of hindsight. Whether or not something could have been done differently to alter the devastating events of the 27th is irrelevant. It happened. I got sick, lost my vision, and gave birth to Emeline Joy on the same day. The trauma and tragedy I endured will forever be inexplicably tied to the most joyous event of my life. 
Very soon we will be celebrating her 3rd birthday. The birthday that has been her favorite topic of conversation since last November when my nephew celebrated his 6th, and she declared that her Grammy would make pink cupcakes for her birthday. 6 months of birthday talk, leading to her memorization of the order every single loved ones birthday, so she knew that after we celebrated Aunt Maura's birthday, THEN came hers. Her delight in celebrating birthdays is contagious and is a much needed reminder for me. 
Tomorrow family and friends will gather in honor of Emeline. And while we celebrate Emy's & my dad's birthdays, I will be celebrating our journey and my indescribable gratitude that she is my daughter, and I am here to celebrate another year of being her mom. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mother's Day - Three Days later. . .

When I walked in to my therapist's office this afternoon I was a little unsure of why I had kept the appointment. It's always such a struggle to arrange transportation and unless I am feeling out of whack or on the verge of crisis, I don't always see the need for the added stress that struggle inevitably brings. Plus, lately I have been doing really well. I am adjusting to life outside of teaching and am quite content with my new role as a stay-at-home mom. However because I had to cancel the last 3 out of 4 appointments  due to unavoidable circumstantial I decided that I'd make this one work and go. As always, I am glad I took the time for myself and my mental well-being, because whoa boy, did I need it today.

Normally, I go into these sessions with an idea of what I want to talk about - struggles with motherhood, communication issues with my husband, day to day anxiety and inadequacy I feel about my vision loss, struggles with identity, stress, yada-yada-yada - I traditionally have an array of topics at my disposal to discuss. Today none of these pressures running rampant in my brain ready to get out. What was there was something else entirely. Something I was unaware of the impact it was having on me until she asked me how my mother's day had been.

That's right. Mother's Day.

For women who have struggled with infertility Mother's Day is the most heart-wrenching of holidays.  It's right up there with baby showers and first birthday parties. Events that those who long to have children, deeply dread and attempt to avoid at all costs.  While cases can be made for Halloween and Christmas, in my experience Mother's Day is the hardest of them all.  An entire day devoted to honoring the one thing that despite every imaginable effort, you cannot become - hello alienation and self-pity! It's a day that in years past, made me want to close the blinds, draw the covers over my head, and allow myself to release the gut-wrenching sobs that represent every "baby that almost was."

5 years ago - Mother's Day of 2008 was spent in a clinic where a team of highly trained fertility specialists transferred two embryos from a laboratory to my uterus. The hope and promise of this procedure taking place on such a sacred day was not lost on anyone present. I remember holding hands with the nurse and her saying that this was a good sign, an omen, and that she felt very strongly that today would be the day, I'd finally conceive. I too thought that perhaps this was the moment that would erase the pain and longing I was consumed with the past few Mother's Days (not to mention every day in between). Two weeks and two negative pregnancy tests later, we both realized we were wrong.

I just celebrated my third Mother's Day as a mother to an almost 3 year old, Emeline Joy. It was wonderful. She woke me up by tickling my neck and saying in her delightful sing-song voice, "Mommy, it's sunshiny out today!" Josh made me coffee and eggs; my mother in-law took everybody out of the house to Lowe's so I could enjoy a bath and a mid-morning nap. Then we spent the afternoon celebrating with my family at my parent's house. To top off a wonderful day, my husband became a magician and got Emy to fall asleep before 9 PM so he and I could enjoy watching TV uninterrupted. It was a day full of peace, love, and family. And not a single tear from my kid all day long. Perfect.

But when my therapist asked about my Mother's Day, after relaying the anecdote of how Emy woke me up, my face darkened, and my sadness became evident. Pressing me to elaborate, I talked about a nagging anxiety I'd been feeling since Sunday. A nagging anxiety that has woken me up in the middle of night in tears and prevented me from falling asleep. Through our session I brought up these recently read blog posts: Strong Families Blog: To the mothers who never were and The Bloggess - Happy Whatever Through our conversation I acknowledged how deeply they spoke to me and how affected I was by them.

The grief I still feel about my inability to conceive quickly and traditionally surprise me. Perhaps, it shouldn't. After all, I have been a mother for less time then I actively spent trying to become one and the memories of loss and longing still radiate. However, I fully expected what I longed for that Mother's Day 5 years ago - once I became a mother I would forget all the pain associated with the failed attempts. Recognizing that this is not the case is important growth for me. Acknowledging that these seemingly conflicting emotions can coexist within, is a huge personal step. I can be Emeline's mother; deeply thankful I have a healthy, vibrant, miraculous daughter, and I can mourn and long for the "pregnancies, babies, and births that almost were." These realities exist and I need to honor them. 

To all the mothers out there - whether your children are living, breathing whirlwinds of activity, whether they are dreams yet to be realized, or whether they're memories that line your heart and soul, I honor you and your conflicting emotions. I honor mine.