Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the corner.

you may have noticed that i have been somewhat quiet on the old blog as of late. and yes, there is a reason. and no, it really isn't one i can tie up in a nice burlap bow. i can't smear some chalkboard paint on it and call it a finished project. i've been taking a "holiday" because i've had nothing nice to say.

if i am being completely honest, then i would have to admit that the real reason i've been hiding has been because i've been depressed. not the sort of depression that comes from realizing i'm finished watching "the wire" or i misplaced a 30% off kohl's coupon that will surely expire before i discover it. not that temporary down-in-the-dumps sort of feeling that sometimes afflicts me after a big family celebration has come and gone. no, not even the depression that plagues me when i've had a way-too-busy week and start thinking about whether i can work this hard for the rest of my life. no, the past few months has introduced me to a new type of depression to which i was not accustomed. it slinked in slowly and non-nondescriptly. at first it was just a twinge of sadness or a feeling of not wanting to go to work. it lurked beneath the surface as i worked at my sewing machine, very late into the night, trying to ward off another sleepless night of unanswered questions and worries and anxieties. but soon, it became unmistakable. i was sad. and i wasn't getting happier.

it feels selfish and immature and ungrateful to admit that you're depressed when you are married to a man you adore, are mothering an amazing son who makes you treasure every moment you spend together, and are employed in a job you love. it seems like i should be able to make a list of the blessings that surround me and that perusing that list should fill me with so much happiness that there isn't any room for the sadness to creep in. the thoughts of this should be enough and you are selfish always linger. just below the surface they are bubbling up and boiling over, and i want to scream SORRY so loudly. sorry to my husband for crying so much over the past few months after jack went to bed. sorry to my friends for my distance. sorry to my mom for my lack of patience when she was only trying to be an optimistic cheerleader. i am sorry, so very sorry, for my behavior.

when i had my post-partum appointment with my doctor and she gave me the all-clear-"everything looks great"-two-thumbs-up report, i remember very clearly that she also said, "and i'm sure i'll see you in a year, pregnant with another little baby." and i laughed that rueful laugh like "oh-my-god-i-just-had-a-baby-eight-weeks-ago-i'm-totally-not-even-thinking-about-next-time-just-yet." but really? i was. i left the hospital thinking about when we would do this again. because, yes, birthing a baby was painful. in fact, the most painful experience of my life. but it was also the most beautiful thing in the world, and the feeling of having my son placed on my chest, even after two and half hours of straight pushing, was nothing short of a miracle. oh sure, there were difficult and trying moments. i do remember acutely the exhaustion of the first few weeks of being home with jack. it seemed like i was awake for twenty-four hours straight. it seemed like jack was nursing for 23 of those hours. was it time to feed him again already? it seemed like he just finished nursing 20 minutes ago. had i really not showered in 4 days? because i swear i had washed my hair just yesterday? or was it sunday? was it already 2 p.m.? but all i'd managed to do was watch tv and nurse jack all day... how was it that i couldn't even make it out of the house before 3? ahhh yes, breastfeeding was a challenge and easing into motherhood was a whole new adventure, but the learning curve was never enough to dissuade me from my pure and unadulterated joy over being a mother. i loved it. i loved it from the very start. being a mother just felt right. and true, i didn't have a diploma on the wall or a trophy on a shelf that gave me some peace that i knew what i was doing or that i would be a success at this, but i did have that satisfaction that came from holding my sleeping baby as he dozed on my chest. i had that contentedness that comes from having brought a miraculous little life into the world.

and so it was from that point of view that john and i decided, after months had passed, that we were ready to think about bringing another little bundle of joy into our lives. and i was on cloud nine. my job was going well. my husband was happy being a stay-at-home father and jack was healthy and good-natured. i was blessed and ready to add another blessing to the list. i wasn't naive enough to assume that it would happen on the second month of trying as it had last time, but i figured that in a few months, we would joyously announce that i was again with child. i daydreamed about an elaborate photo shoot to announce baby #2 to our friends and family. jack would wear a little t-shirt that said "big brother," and i'd casually toss the photo across the table to my parents who would delight over the impending arrival of another grandchild. i would be pregnant in the summer, and i'd happily don my maternity sundresses and stroll through the streets of dubuque at summer festivals, one hand holding my son's little one, the other on my growing belly. i'd become part of this club reserved for the mothers of multiple small children. i'd arrive at barbeques and events fashionably late, murmuring something about all the trouble BOTH of my children were giving me. i could join the chorus of, "oh, you think you're busy now?! just wait til you have another!" i'd revel in the chaos of another child, and my life would be better, richer, warmer, fuller. i went way, way, way overboard planning this new adventure on which john and i would soon be embarking. i was consumed by pinterest ideas of shared bedrooms. i was inventing my new pregnancy style, and i hadn't even conceived yet. i was so sure that it would happen easily and effortlessly. i was destined to a life marked by t-ball games and family vacations and books strewn around the house and beach towels hanging on the railing of the front porch. there would be family dinners around a big table, and everyone would be talking excitedly about their days and i would be the coordinator of all this chaos. and it would be robust and larger than life and absolutely wonderful. it would be the childhood i had had. jack would have many siblings and their days would be filled with games of imagination and tomfoolery and laughter. lots and lots of laughter echoing through the house and spilling out into the yard and every other corner of my life.

and as the months passed, my hopes and dreams for our growing family seemed farther and farther away. and where i had been consumed with kids' bedroom paint colors, i became obsessed with worrying about my body. was everything okay? would we be able to conceive again? my friends shrugged off my worries. "but you already have a perfectly healthy baby and you were able to get pregnant so easily!" they reassured me. "you're fine. it's going to happen soon!" my mom said. "just stop thinking about it and you'll get pregnant." and i really tried to believe. i faithfully, but hopefully, kept detailed notes about cycle length and my temperatures and symptoms. and i really believed that my mom and my friends and everyone was right. it would happen soon. i just needed to be calm and think happy thoughts. but the days passed. and the weeks. and the months. AND NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. and my goddamned period would arrive at the most inopportune times. at family celebrations. just after receiving news that yet another friend or family member was pregnant. and i would grieve the loss of my dream as if it were a real death. reality was too much to bear and i just wanted so desperately to get what i wanted.

i finally convinced myself that to quell the worries and anxieties swimming around in my head, i would arrange for some tests. it's hard to describe what i was feeling at that point. on the one hand i couldn't shake the nagging feeling that something was off. on the other hand, i was certain that the tests would say that everything was fine, and i just needed to relax. except that they didn't. the tests indicated issues i hadn't even thought about. and all of the sudden, a fog settled over everything. i felt like i was going through the motions, just trying to hold it all together. i would go to work, counsel clients, draft pleadings, create litigation strategies. i would come home, snuggle my sweet boy, share dinner with john, read books, play and tuck jack into bed. but at night? at night the sadness set in like an ominous approaching storm. some evenings john would head to the gym, and i would sit in his chair and stare at the family photo we had taken last october. the three of us, clustered together, smiling so happily. the tears would come, as i imagined that big dinner table, with the three of us sitting quietly around it. the dinners wouldn't be marked with laughter and conversation. they would be orderly, stoic events marked by the occasional "please pass the bread" and "would you like more gravy?" it was irrational. our dinners now aren't quiet or stoic, but in my head, i had received a death sentence that meant i would have one child and a sad and unfulfilled life. i imagined holidays spent alone with john while jack celebrated with his significant other's family. i thought of thoughtful conversations where jack would ask me pointedly why his friends had siblings but he didn't. i imagined discussions where my siblings would be talking about raising children, and my opinion would be quickly discarded because "i only had one child; what did i know?!" i cried crocodile tears over my maternity clothes that i had loaned to a friend during her recent pregnancy. surely i'd never need them again, and she'd need them back before i ever had a chance to wear them. sometimes at work, i'd look at the picture i have framed on my desk, the one where a five-month-old jack is sitting in a bucket, chewing on a finger. i remember the day, the way he smelled, the joy i felt as he smiled back at his mom who was always hiding behind the camera. "i'm never going to experience that again," i would think to myself as i opened my eyes as wide as i could to stop the tears. but they would come. they'd always come, unpredictably and hot on my cheeks, as i rushed to shut my door lest a colleague or secretary catch a glimpse of me falling apart. and there were more doctors appointments. i would announce to the receptionist at my office that i was leaving for a doctor's appointment, and i would see her gaze at my stomach, and i wanted to pound my fists and stamp my foot, "MY UTERUS IS EMPTY, OK? I AM NOT PREGNANT! I WILL NEVER BE PREGNANT AGAIN." no one had ever told me that i couldn't have another baby, just that i had issues that would make conceiving again more difficult. i never focused on the possibility, though. from that moment forward, i fixated on the loss of my dream for myself and my husband and jack and our family. i dwelled on it and i let it consume me. i thought of what others would think when they heard that i just had one child. would they think that balancing work and family had been too much for me, that i had chosen one child because i was career oriented and more interested in lawyering than mothering? would people think i had been selfish? i thought of sex and the city, the sitcom that had been so important to me in my early 20's, but had seemed so impractical and unrealistic post-children. i thought of the scene where charlotte receives the news about her fertility, or lack thereof, and how she yells, out of frustration, at miranda, "15% chance of ever having a baby!" i wanted to yell that at everyone i'd discussed this with over the past few months. "SEEEEE?! are you happy now? all the relaxing and positive thoughts in the world are not going to unblock fallopian tubes!" but mostly i suffered in silence. mostly i hated myself for feeling jealous of family and friends who were pregnant. mostly i berated myself for not being able to set aside my own sadness over what i was going through and concentrate instead on having more nieces and nephews. mostly i chided myself for my unwillingness to savor all that was good about my life and let go of all that wasn't so great. it was a real catch 22. i would lecture myself for feeling what i was feeling, but if i pushed through and avoided all that, i felt trapped and i would tell myself it was healthy to feel that way and i had to let the feelings come. it was confusing. i was up and down. through all of this, there were good things. there were family celebrations and graduations and parties and adventures with jack. there moments of thankfulness, of gratitude, of calm and serenity. but there were a lot of hard moments, many tears, sleepless nights and worry. just all consuming, encompassing fear. which translated into a sort of depression. a depression that stirred when my son was asleep and my husband was at the gym and i was alone with my horrible thoughts.

i am not sharing this because i want your sympathy. this is life. this has been painful and raw and unpleasant and uncomfortable and worrisome and real. and it comes along with all of the wonderful things that i am privileged to experience on a daily basis. a hug and a kiss from a man who loves me. cuddles with a little boy who smiles at me adoringly and waits at the door to greet me with a heartmelting "mama? mama!" a house that is not perfect, but is our HOME. happy, healthy, expanding families that shower us with love and support. friends with whom we share laughs and music and good books and good food. i am only sharing this because i have taken some comfort in writing it, and because i feel like i have turned a corner and there are some better days ahead. this weekend we traveled to ohio to visit my husband's family, and while sharing cincinnati chili and paddle boat rides and watching my husband laugh with his brothers and shotgun beers and watching jack cuddle with grandma, i felt like myself. i felt like i knew things were going to be okay, even if they weren't going to be the way that i pictured them. as we sat around the fire each night, and i watched the flames steadily devour the fire wood, i felt sort of hypnotized, hypnotized and content. peaceful. my husband's parents have moved to ohio. they lived near chicago before and it was a big transition for them. it was not one that they were expecting to make, and certainly not at this point in their lives. i remember it was sort of shocking for us to accept when they shared their big announcement. i remember john lamenting the distance between us and how much more difficult it would be to gather for family celebrations. as we all gathered this weekend in ohio to spend time at their new home, i realized that this was not the house we thought we'd be coming to, but it was the perfect place for the family to meet. grandma and grandpa's little piece of heaven on the lake. it wasn't the home that john grew up in near chicago. this wasn't the backyard where we celebrated my father-in-law's 50th birthday party or the home where i first met my sister-in-law. it was different. but it was better. and so it is with the past few months. i can't now, and i doubt i will ever be able to, accept that this was "supposed" to happen in the sense that i should be happy about it. i'm not. i don't want this for myself, and i wish it wasn't my reality. but in spite of it, i can be happy. and i can find peace. and my life can be wonderful and fulfilled... even if it doesn't look like the picture of it i had in my mind. i come back to that picture of john and jack and me that hangs on the wall above my couch. it's a beautiful picture that captured a wonderful moment i hope never to forget. if that's what this life is, it is okay. i am working on being content and accepting things and people for who and what they are. it is not a perfect process. i am not always successful. i do not always feel calm and collected. sometimes i forget and i am angry. i am human. i try not to bristle when someone says, "god gave you this struggle because you're stronger and you can handle it." because i do not feel especially strong or more well-equipped to deal with fertility struggles than anyone else. i don't like thinking that anyone or any being had anything to do with blocking my fallopian tubes to teach me a lesson about strength and perseverance. i don't like thinking that god is up there pulling strings and dishing out struggles to build character. because i do not think that's how it works... even if it makes other people feel better when they say it. and about that, i must remember that people are people. and the things they say... are just things they say. sometimes they mean a lot and sometimes they don't. i don't have to wage a war with myself based on an idle comment received. and i must accept that some people don't and can't understand this. and they say, "but you already have one child!" and look at me as if i'm disgusting for being sad about this. my mom said that after my brother died, people said things to her like, "at least you have other children." as if her pain over losing a son could be assuaged by replacing his memory with new ones made with her other children. i don't think these people meant to be so insensitive. i think they just didn't know what to say. and so it is with me. and i must accept it. i am working on letting go of feeling so defensive when someone asks me when we're going to have another child. in the past two weeks, six different people asked me about this. four different times, i laughed with a noise that sounded hollow and fake and i heard myself reply, "ohhh, we'll see. we're not ready to think about that right now. maybe someday." the other two times, i told the truth. and i felt better later. whenever i would share with people - friends, family, colleagues, anyone - about this, i would always divide the number of months we'd been trying in half. and then in thirds. so six months was three months and so on. i felt ashamed that it hadn't happened easily and effortlessly. that i was deficient and infertile. that somehow all the caffeine i'd drank and the beers i'd enjoyed had mixed together and caused all this and i was responsible. i was being punished. and i couldn't admit to anyone that we'd actually been trying much longer than i could admit to myself. but, as with everything else, i am working through this. i am accepting this situation for what it is and what it is not. it is not a commentary on choices i've made in the past. i didn't cause this and i can't fix it myself. there is no blame to be placed here, and besides, placing blame is not going to change anything. i can't make deals with god in order to achieve a pregnancy. god will not magically implant a baby in my uterus if i promise to faithfully attend mass on sunday. it is what it is. i don't believe everything happens for a reason. some things happen for no reason at all. babies are born to crackheads who would rather get high than hold a child. children are beaten and abused because their parents were beaten and abused by their grandparents. some people are addicted to drugs. some people are starving. some people are crippled by depression so strong and powerful that they can't see through it long enough to write a blog entry about turning a corner. not all of the pain and sadness and heartache of this world is deserved; in fact, i'd venture a guess that most of it isn't. i don't think there is a reason for what i am going through, but i do think i can resolve to take something from it. and that is what i am trying to do. and that is why i wrote this.

i can't sugarcoat this entry. it hurts to write it, it hurts to read it and it's been painful living it. but i have turned a corner and that is cause for celebration. from the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much to my friends and family who have held my hand, lent an ear or a shoulder to listen to me lament, ad nauseaum, the struggles of the past few months. thank you to my sweet son jack for the opportunity to be your mother. even in the darkest days of this journey, i had you to remind me to be grateful and happy. and most of all, thank you to my husband. five years ago yesterday, you asked me to be your wife. you were nervous and pacing and i wondered what the heck was wrong with you when all of the sudden you were on your knee, asking me if i wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. i don't know exactly what that life is going to look like and this experience has shown me that i shouldn't try to fashion some strict interpretation of my future in my mind's eye, but i do know that i am happy we're in this together.


  1. You captured it beautifully and honestly. Here's to what's around the corner!

  2. Brutally honest and beautifully put. There are no words of comfort that I will waste on your eyes. I love you and your family. You are an amazing woman and I am honored to call you friend.

  3. I hope wonderful things are waiting around the corner for you, in whatever form or shape they come in! You are strong and brave and because of that you will always find your way around the corner.