Sunday, September 21, 2008

What we don't have

Some people seem to have a single goal, one task to accomplish, to make their lives complete. They think, 'when I _____, then everything will be perfect.' Weight loss is one example; I've known women (well, girls, back then) who believed that if they could get their weight to X pounds, they'd be happy. Everything would be great, everybody would love them. The fact that everything else in life would be the same-- same parents, same friends, same job, same house, whatever-- was always ignored, as though being skinny were a ticket to a whole different life. (If that were true, wouldn't all the thin girls they knew be endlessly joyous already, instead of having their own issues?) I've also seen it with school and work: once I get into this school or get that degree or get hired by this company or get that promotion, life will be grand.

I'm afraid, sometimes, that I'm doing the same thing with starting a family: thinking that once I have a baby (or the four children I wanted before I knew how hard this would be), life will be perfect. Because it's been so unexpectedly difficult, required so much effort and concentration and emotional commitment, it's made the whole issue my raison d'etre instead of the sideshow it started as. For at least a year, getting pregnant and staying pregnant has occupied an enormous amount of my psychic space and has become kind of a monomania: everything will be perfect once we have a baby... and by implication, nothing can really ever be OK until we do.

On the one hand, I'm worried that like so many others, I'll eventually achieve what I want, only to look around and realize that it was a hollow victory after all, and that life (and I) hasn't really changed, except now there's a baby, just like everybody that I know or have read about, who pinned all of their hopes on a single goal only to achieve it and still be unfulfilled. On the other hand, though, maybe it's because everything else really is OK, and the only thing wrong in my life is this whole infertility/ceaseless-miscarriages thing. I mean, I've been ridiculously, embarrassingly blessed overall in terms of parents, family, Don, health, jobs, friends, etc, and this is essentially the first time that I've had real difficulty with anything. I'm not expecting a baby to change anything else-- how people see me, how I see myself-- so maybe that's a difference.

Another thing I've been thinking about is this: a lot of the things I do right now, I do with the expectation that eventually this will all pay off re: babies. What if it didn't? What if I knew right now, that Don and I would never have a family-- what would I do? What would we do? I've been fairly unhappy at work for awhile, but I've stayed because I have my health benefits through this job, because looking for a new job when you're trying to get pregnant (and therefore possibly going to be leaving again soon) is silly. The health insurance is no small thing when you're regularly seeing a specialist, and the new-job-seeking isn't either, if you plan to quit should you have a baby. On a similar note, I've been fairly lazy about moving up even in the same company (it's just over a year now since my last promotion), for a couple of reasons. The first is that, as I mentioned earlier, the infertility stuff is taking up a ton of my time and energy and the thought of trying to master a new position at work is not a good one. The second is sort of bad but I'll come clean: I don't want to upset the income ratio. I'm afraid that if I start making too much more money, whether or not I should "stay home" would start coming under question and I don't want that. Stupid, I know. I didn't even realize that I was thinking like that until the other night. So you see, there are all of these decisions being made based on the theory that soon we'll have a baby. What if we knew we wouldn't? I'd quit my job, no question about that. Find something else, not worry too much about the pay or the benefits. Spend more, save less. Drink more wine, take fewer vitamins. I don't know.

It's just weird to have my life revolving around this center that isn't even a something but the lack of a something.

On a different note. I've been thinking about what the phrases we all insert into our conversations imply about how we feel. I have a friend that always exclaims, "...I'm serious, you guys!" when she's telling us something. Keeping in mind that we're not questioning it or laughing at her, I think it shows a real fear of not being taken seriously... She also uses the word "literally" all the time. I find myself constantly asking, "... you know what I mean?" or just, "... you know?" at the end of things, which rather hints that I'm scared of being misunderstood. Someone else, who consistently uses the phrase, "I'm the kind of person who ____" instead of just making a declarative sentence, ""I ___" What does it mean? That she needs to reassure herself that she's not alone in her viewpoints? Or that she doesn't have the self-confidence to just declare that she is x or y, or believes a or b. (I'm the kind of person who hates it when people claim to be the kind of person who...) I think we probably all have verbal tics that give away our social fears... personally I'm trying to drop the, "... you know what I mean?"


Bella said...

OK! My turn to share the "there-there" sentiments. ha!

I know you know this, but truly, I've never once thought of you as the kind of person who would use the birth of a child as a hollow victory. There are people out there who do (and TRUST me that when those children hit the "development stage" ours has hit, they crumble...and fast, if they didn't manage to crumble shortly after giving birth).

The commitment, stamina, selfless, and unrequited love that goes into raising a child is no short feat - and definitely NOT for those folks who have it added to the list of "loosing 10 more pounds, marry the perfect mate, buy the perfect house" and so on.

I think, the reason you are questioning all this is the fact that yes, you guys have had quite the crap hand of luck dealt to you, and that will always make moments like these that much more important, and demanding of your time and energy. As my grandpa has always said (and much to my own personal humor too) is that "nothing worth having was ever easy". And damned if it isn't true.

While our being able to get pregnant was pretty much a breeze - my pregnancy was hard. I've never been so sick and so miserable for SUCH a long freaking time, but because of what I knew the end result would be, I enjoyed every moment I could that didn't involve vomit. My C-Section started off with a botched bang and I can tell you for a fact that those tears of pain were even more bitter over my scrapped plans for a natural birth when the anesthesiologist proclaimed he "missed and would need to re-due the epidural". But again, the end goal was to bring my son into the world safely, and without regard to how much shit it put ME through, as long as HE didn't have to feel any of it.

And oh man... the roller coaster since then. It's almost been two years since our life (literally) started with a new direction, and even though there NUMEROUS moments where it became a startling realization that having a child meant it would never, ever again be about just me, or the frustrated panic because you don't know why they are still crying and you've tried everything you can think of but he's still upset, or for the LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY why won't he just go to sleep, or running away from you because you asked if you could have a hug... or screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of Target and pushing away from you so that every person within hearing distance thinks you are stealing someone else's kid because that is sure what it looks like, and those moments when they turn their head away from you when you go to kiss their tears away. All those moments, and so very many more are the kind of reality that put you in a moment of thought revolved around "wow - do I really suck that much?"

But it's amazing too because you'll forgot how hard it was to get and stay pregnant, you'll forget how painful and hard birth was, you'll forget about sleepless nights, and moments of fury; it may take some time, but you'll forget about the first time they say they hate you - but you'll never EVER for a moment forget that having that wonderful pair of eyes look at you, and see completely through you, or the feeling of those chubby harms wrap around your neck when they say "lub you mommie", was always worth it.

10 pounds will come and go, and come back again. You'll spend more time than you ever thought possible on all sorts of advancements at work, or buy this house or that...whether it's just thinking about such things, or actually putting the energy out there to do it - but a child isn't part of a "to do list", they're very make up and the fact that they are a commitment for the rest of YOUR life, takes away that consideration.

Nothing worth having in your life is ever very easy, and sometimes it may push you to the brink of insanity because of what it means to you - or how far you will go to make it happen. And though you may find yourself and Don not being able to physically bring your own combination of DNA into this world, your very conviction and ability to love others so deeply will assure that some child (or 4) out there will FINALLY know what it means to call someone Momma, and know how fiercely she loves them.

No matter how it happens or what the circumstance, real moms fold all children under their wings and kiss them goodnight.

Rachel said...

I get what you mean re: if I only get to xyz I'll be happy. It's learning to enjoy the journey along the way that has been of the most importance to me. And also the biggest emotional stop and really see the journey as part of the reward. Easier said than done if it's not going to end up how you want it to, but really how do we know when we start?

Elicia said...

I stumbled across your blog randomly on the MDC forums. I am alicewyf there.

Thank you so much for writing this. I got my period today and am going into my fifth cycle TTC#1 (nothing compared to some, I know) and I really needed to read something like this. Perspective is good.

MindfulMama said...

Ooooh, this is one of my peeves...the kind of people who need to explain what kind of people they are. Ack. Puke. *whack*

You have given me lots to think about...not only do I not know what my verbal tic is, I have no idea what my underlying fears are. I know I swear a lot.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing your blog. I've been reading it since July 07, when I miscarried at 10 weeks. We've been trying to get pregnant for 2 years: conceived once, miscarried once. It helps to read your thoughts. It helps to know that other people are facing the same issues, like how to - or whether to - live around something that may never happen. Good luck. We're thinking of you.

Steph said...

So I've got those four kids. All things considered, we didn't have much trouble having them. I've also got a great husband, loving extended family, and a comfortable home with food on the table.

It's hard to look back and remember the 'me' before I had the family I longed for. I can say motherhood is not exactly how I thought it would be, but I am more fulfilled as a human being for having the experience. But maybe not exponentially more fulfilled then by any other important role or experience I've had?

The mama bliss of having a pregnancy and a baby is pretty wonderful, but babies do (quickly!) move on. Then you have a new separate human person with his own desires, drives, personality quirks, etc to integrate into your life. Having a baby is a lovely, one-to-two year experience, but parenting children is more like nurturing any other human relationship except young humans are immature and selfish. ;)

You could almost ask yourself, would I be more fulfilled if I married a second husband or took in some short rowdy roommates and accepted them as family?

I think that it's part of human nature to never be fully satisfied. Even though I have the house, the kids, the minivan, I still wonder.. would I be more fulfilled if I'd had a meaningful career? What if we were independently wealthy and we could take long educational vacations to Europe? Should I have written a great novel or somehow contributed to the knowledge and prosperity of humankind?

You will be more fulfilled as a mother, however it eventually comes to you. You will have had a fuller human experience.

Steph said...

I hope I didn't sound like I was implying you don't expect the baby to become a child! That would be very condescending indeed and not at all my intent. I was trying to express that the fulfillment factor is different then I expected with my relationships with my post-babyhood children.

The baby relationship is pretty much what you'd think.. eat, poop, look adorable, cry, I take care of you. Fulfilling in it's simplicity and baseness of the experience??

The fulfillment/relationship with the older kids has been surprising to me because I don't think I expected it to be so much the 'same' as relationship with any other separate human being. In other words, relating to them sometimes isn't much different then relating to my husband or my sister in law or anyone else I care about. We argue, we make each other laugh, we get on each others' nerves. Sometimes they reduce ME to something akin to sibling rivalry! lol Fulfilling? Sure. Ugly? Sometimes. ;)

Mara said...

Steph-- no, don't worry, that's not how I took your comment at all! I really took it as, "it is what it is" with regards to parenting, which I needed to hear-- not that it's the be-all-end-all or that it isn't all it cracked up to be, but that it is what you'd expect. I appreciated it.

I'm very interested in the later part of parenting, probably because I have a really good relationship with both of my own parents, which is both promising and intimidating (a lot to live up to!).

Kelly Sue Kelly said...

i stumbled upon your blog thru mdc. and I don't even think we ever are in the same post forums but either way . I can't tell you how happy I am I read what you wrote. Where does that place of content-ness come from?
I don't even know you but I would say quite that job and drink that wine, you should enjoy the moment you are in because when you are up to your eyelids in diapers you can look back and say I treasured when it was just me and Don ( i think that's his name) I was in the same place you were in up until a month ago and I had to wake up and figure out that THIS life is it. It's all we get. So we might as well take that vacation, or start that hobby or whatever (so long as we don't endanger others) so that we are old and grey and our boobs are in our shoes we can say I enjoyed every step in this journey.
Best of Luck to you and thanks again for the reminder to just take in life. (blessings)