Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

and again with the motherhood angst

December 19, 2011

I read this lovely post from Stirrup Queens last night (or was it this morning?) and what is sticking with me, along with the metaphor of the Y representing the choices we make daily, was the phrase “they have all the tools.” Now that her children are in school, and she releases them each day into the world, she has to trust that she has given them the tools they need to navigate and manage that world and the people they will encounter in it.

It terrifies me, this responsibility to stock their toolbox. In some ways it is simple and obvious, and having two children means that we have a daily arena for teaching things like not hitting, and sharing, and taking turns, and acknowledging and honoring the humanity of the other (although we could achieve this also if we had a singleton by creating social situations where she was forced to interact with other children her age). But I am so afraid that I’m missing something big and huge and important that will become clear only further down the road as they descend into truancy and delinquency – or just simply unhappiness and self-hatred.

When my parents dropped my sister off at college, I went with my mom to a prayer meeting for parents that was scheduled as part of the orientation activities (yes, it was that kind of college) and my mom broke down in tears during the small-group sharing part, suddenly feeling that terror, that fear of having failed her daughter and it now being too late to make it right.

One time recently (maybe even last year) my sister said of our mother, “she’s been hurting me my whole life, why should it be any different now?”

During our hesitation before TTC, I thought about this a lot – I saw the tremendous conflict and pain between my sister and my mother, between my SIL and her parents – and I had to wonder whether having children was worth the risk. What if it should come to this, with my own children? This distance, this pain, this horrifying power and ability to wound each other to the core?

I think this fear has shaped my parenting style a lot. I err on the side of indulgence, rather than discipline. I know this is not always what is best for them. I don’t limit screen time as much as I should. I give in to too many of my toddler’s demands – or perhaps I should say commands – like when she doesn’t want any of us to stand and join in the singing at church, for example. I know that I shouldn’t let her control me, but sometimes I do. Of course there are non-negotiables – like holding my hand when crossing the street, or getting her hair washed, brushing teeth, and the aforementioned not hitting or pushing her brother.

When I was in grad school the first time, in 1999, it was a year after my cousin had committed suicide, and because I felt like I hadn’t done enough to help him during life I volunteered as a crisis counselor for a suicide prevention hotline. It was one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done. A major component of our training was on reflective listening, and it stuck in my mind when one of the trainers mentioned that this skill had made her relationship with her teenaged children much better. Her ability to reflect back to them what they were feeling diffused tension and opened the door to communication. So I try to do that with our children, and I think it helps them a lot, to understand and release their emotions. I remember what someone said to me once (was it my therapist?) that emotional needs that are ignored or suppressed will never go away – they’ll just come back, sometimes in difficult or even dangerous ways. I’ve also been holding in my mind what Lori said in an interview about being in the moment, about feeling and releasing the emotion over and over again, and how physical movement can help in this process as well. So this is a big part of what I try to do as a mother – build up their emotional health and their tools for coping with strong emotions in healthy ways. So it’s frustrating when my MIL tells my daughter “Now don’t get mad,” or “don’t cry,” because, well, I think this is actually pretty harmful. I tell Illyria, “it’s ok to be mad, but you can’t hit your brother.” Usually then she requests to go to another room and “have a little talk” with me or another caregiver – it’s her way now of removing herself from the situation that’s frustrating or stressing her out. So we go away, and talk about sharing, or about whatever pissed her off, or just play for awhile in a different space, until she’s ready to go back and try again.

I long to be the kind of mom whose house is a haven of clean and tidy peace and serenity, who has Montessori-ed her home, who can make cake pops, who just generally seems to be competent and well-organized (Raspberry Chip, I’d link to you but you’re PWP!). I’m just not that kind of mom. I’m too overwhelmed by the quotidian. And I think I set the bar too low.

I’m gonna rock at homework help someday though.

The thing is – my mom didn’t TRY to make mistakes. She didn’t set out to hurt my sister. My MIL doesn’t hate her daughter, she loves her. They both did what they thought was right; they did their level best. I don’t fully understand what went wrong, why my sister and my sister-in-law have felt compelled at different times to put as much physical and emotional distance between themselves and their parents as possible, and why for each of them in different ways this seemed to be a move for self-preservation. So how can I know that I’m not going to end up in their position someday?



October 17, 2011

Thanks for your kind words on the last post.

It’s hard being so far away. Feeling so completely helpless, unable to do ANYthing. I called yesterday, but my sister was nursing the 2 year old and unable to come to the phone at the moment. The time zone difference sucks too. She wrote me an e-mail later and filled me in on the details. All her symptoms are gone. And that detail just seems to me the saddest of all.

I’m not sure why I checked my e-mail right before we left the house for a picnic lunch yesterday, but by the time we got back home again for naps I realized how hard I’d been clamping down and compartmentalizing. I felt brittle and snappish. It was a gorgeous fall day, the light long and low and golden at noon, new grass underfoot from the return of the rains after a very dry summer. It should have been a perfectly peaceful and lovely time in the park – and it was, it was – but only half of me could be there with my own little ones. Who seem all the more beautiful themselves, now.

It’s hard to accept that there’s nothing, nothing I can do to make the sad go away.


October 16, 2011

My sister is bleeding and thinks she lost the baby.

oh my god (updated)

May 20, 2010

I just called my therapist’s office to cancel my appointment for Monday, and got the news that SHE PASSED AWAY.  The last time I saw her, three weeks ago, we actually had to cut our session short because she had a terrible migraine.  Apparently it was symptomatic of a cerebral hemorrhage, which caused her death then three days later.  I’m in shock, it doesn’t seem real.  She has a 7 year old daughter.  I can’t believe she’s gone, that I’ll never have a chance to talk to her again and tell her how much she has helped me.


And then there’s the little intermittent achy discomfort I’m getting just under my right-side ribs.  They said that if I should feel pain there, in the “upper right quadrant,” to call them right away.  (*Pain in this area is a classic symptom of HELLP syndrome)  I wanted to wait and see how it might evolve… because it doesn’t really feel like *pain* per se, but T. wants me to call them now.  So I guess I will.  I don’t want to, because I think they’ll send me to the hospital right away and I won’t come out again until the baby is born… and what about V.?  My little one, how will she be ok?  I can’t even begin to describe in words how desperately I don’t want to leave her.


Update: I just called, and the nurse said that since it’s not a sharp pain, and it’s intermittent, to just rest and wait.  She will let the doctor know that I called, however.  In any case, I’m going to go ahead and pack my bag for the hospital.  Because, really and truly, I don’t want to, you know, die.


April 22, 2010

Two years ago today, I checked into the hospital with hypertension and other signs of pre-eclampsia.  It was a scary time yet when I look back on it, there’s a sense in which it was a sacred time as well, as we waited for the birth of our daughter.  Three weeks and three days later she came out wriggling and crying with her worried little monkey-face and has been turning our lives upside down ever since.

The other memories evoked at this time are of my friend H., who took his own life last summer.  Tomorrow is his birthday (coincidentally also my ex-boyfriend’s birthday and St. George’s Day) and his friends still at the university are planning a memorial event for next week.  He was part of my support network during my third trimester especially when T. was out of town traveling.  H. came to see me in the hospital and drove me to campus when they let me go teach my class one last time; he took me to my apartment so I could retrieve some clean undies and my teddy bear on the way back to the hospital.  The last time I saw him was there.

I’m missing T. right now again as he’s out of the country for 3 weeks.  It’s just put me in a quiet mood today.


March 10, 2010

It’s that time of year again; March, spring break, my birthday, wedding anniversary – and now the 5th anniversary of my brother-in-law’s passing.  My sister is now remarried and has a little one with her new husband, but she’s an emotional wreck right now – clusters of issues in her relationships with her husband, her two daughters, her late husband’s mother.  I feel like so much of the current storm is an eddy from that disastrous day, March 17, 2005.  “And I’m so sad, like a good book, I can’t take this day back, a sorta fairytale with you.”


January 6, 2010

Thanks for all the comments ladies!  I’m blushing!

So I went to see my therapist this afternoon, an appointment I made in early December when I got tired of waking up every morning hating life.  I’m not feeling that way right now, but it still felt worthwhile to go see her since my head is swimming in the face of some of the decisions we have to make, some of them really soon.

1) Do we go ahead with our plans to go to Albania (or Colombia) next fall, or postpone for a year?

2) Should I try for a VBAC?

The first question is largely an intellectual one, to my mind, but we are dealing with so many unknowns that it’s hard to deal with solely on the basis of logic, even though that’s how I make most of my decisions.  Also, there is a strong affective factor in that T’s feelings about his current job are a huge motivation for us to leave sooner rather than later.  So it’s complicated.

The second question evokes a lot of emotion for me.  I’m still grieving the loss of the opportunity to have a “normal” birth experience the first time, and trying to process what it means for my sense of identity and self as a woman.  The facts are that the only OB group in town here who’ll do VBACs is the one with the midwives, and I had a pretty negative experience with them back when we were doing the initial IF testing etc.  I really don’t feel confident in their ability to provide me with competent care.  I do know a number of women who LOVE them and have had only positive experiences there, but I also have two good friends who were just as if not more so traumatized by the lack of, shall I say, professionalism there.  So I’m not going back.  My other option might be to go back to NY to the OB who delivered V., although that wouldn’t guarantee me a VBAC, just the opportunity to try.Which doesn’t seem worth it to me.

Having another scheduled caesarean at least gives me the illusion of control, in a way.  But I still cry when I think about being excluded from the tribe of women who all know what it is to be in labor, to time contractions, to have their husbands be in awe of their strength and fortitude.  I think it’s the last bit that is especially hard for me to let go of.  I wanted to impress T.  Oh well.

After the session this afternoon T. and I went to a coffeeshop to talk through everything together, and while I felt like we were largely just repeating the same conversation we’ve had over and over for the past few months, and are no closer to making any decisions, it did help me gain a little more clarity on what exactly is at stake for us, especially with decision #1.

Ok, I’ve rambled long enough and I think T. wants the laptop back.

Thanks for listening.  Y’all rock.


May 10, 2008

Between moments of calm, the sadness and fear still rise and fall. T. says “the worst case scenario is we get to meet the Critter next Thursday.” But the how still matters to me.

Another day of high BPs yesterday.

Taking the Bump to Church

March 24, 2008

T. and I had to laugh at ourselves yesterday – we went to church for the first time since Christmas, and even though the service started 45 minutes later than usual, we were still 10 minutes late. We had to sit on folding chairs in the aisle because the church was so full.

The day before, I was feeling self-conscious about bringing my bump to church – so T. suggested we wear T-shirts printed with the words, “Yes we had sex. But only once. And we didn’t like it.” A friend who is a single mom told me, “just enjoy it. I never was able to enjoy being pregnant because it was such an awful situation.” So I did. (Critter loved the singing, as always) 🙂 Only one person said, after the congratulations, “What took you so long?”

The youth pastor told us that there are 7 babies expected in the congregation this year. Of course that makes you happy, I thought. Keeps you employed! When did I become so cynical?

During the service, a lot of the songs we sang were ones I had learned at the church I went to during college – probably the one church I’ve ever attended that I participated in without reservations, without holding anything back. Singing the same songs yesterday peeled back part of my heart and exposed something raw and tender, and I didn’t try to stop the tears that slid down to drip from my chin. I thought about my late BIL, as we sang of resurrection. When my sister scattered his ashes on the beach in Hawaii, she saw a sea turtle surfing the waves nearby, and felt him near. What I have lost these ten years gone is the ability to find my rest in God, or in the idea of God – to find solace or consolation in that trust that I once had in him.

Driving back to NY in the afternoon, that rawness remained near the surface. My mind wandered back over other losses and griefs, though not (come to think of it) infertility. I guess it was a bit of emotional housecleaning.

Well, back to the weekly routine – I should get ready for class.

Three Years Ago

March 17, 2008

I haven’t moved since the call came
Since the call came I haven’t moved
I stare at the wall knowing on the other side
The storm that waits for me

In memory: Aaron K., 1974-2005
“The heart of him who truly loves is a paradise on earth”