The Paradox of June

An infertility survivor’s early summer musings

I had gotten through Father’s Day without much flinching.  These milestones, or non-milestones, depending upon how you look at it seem to, in me lately, provoke the question:  Does it get easier, or am I getting stronger? 

I speculate it’s both.  The sadness wanes in intensity, AND I’ve cultivated quite a capacity for it (go me!).  The shock and awe over our losses has dwindled to a degree, AND I’ve recalibrated myself to what these parent (and other) holidays will entail for us.  I still feel the void deeply where our children should be AND I’m slowly coming upon a phase where there are things percolating in my life, NOT replacements, but fulfilling things that exist in addition to that void.

One important thing I’ve learned on my path through trauma, life altering loss, grieving, mourning and healing, is that it’s not OR.  It’s AND.

The ghosts of what should have been have suspended their forward march into every crevice and square inch of my existence and seem to, at least for the moment, be finding their rightful place lurking in the corners of my day to day.

So I functioned pretty well on father’s day, getting things done around the house with sights set on how to spend my husband’s day off the following day and on our upcoming mid-week overnight in Long Island wine country.  Though it was no doubt lined in sadness (see beginning of paragraph 2!!), for the first time in years, father’s day partly felt like the “just another day” that it is in our lives.

Later in the day I found myself in a puddle of tears.  I was sitting cross legged on our bathroom floor, cleaning the dust collecting ridges on our vanity doors when the surge came.

The realization that the love I have for my children is transforming and has started to take flight engulfed me, a gentle thwack if there ever was one.  I wanted my children as people, in my HOME, but yet there they are – in the validation my husband and I show to the emotional pain of strangers, in the standards I’ve set for myself, in the way I care for myself and in flowers.  “When I see flowers, I see our children” I often say to my husband.  Needless to say, I now have six gardens.

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....and our white garden we just started working on. Our embryo photographs are buried front and center.

….and our white garden we just started working on. Our embryo photographs are buried front and center.

 

But this is not where I wanted my children, it is not where they should be.

It seemed I was not crying out of relief or sadness or anything recognizable.  And so I let the feeling go, let it float in to the bottomless bucket of “what the fuck was THAT?”, the bucket so standard for us grievers who experience the unimaginable almost on a daily basis.

While important information can be gleaned from our emotions, we honor ourselves by feeling them, not by analyzing them.  And we become more fully human by immersing ourselves in them, not by merely labeling them.

So, with the paralysis of the early phases of grief not present, I continued, cleaning the bathroom AND sniffling, experiencing the eventual movement of life that is inevitable when we engage in all of it.

Yes, life moves.  It is the good news AND the bad news, the exact ratio depending upon where one is in their process.  For me right now, I venture to say it’s both.  In the earlier phases of grief, there is so much movement you are often rendered still, catatonic almost.  You practically need to grow another body, or maybe seven, to meet the sky scrapering emotions and realities that have invaded your world.

Two years and five months out of our final loss, an indescribable amount of transformation has taken place.  AND there is so much left to go.  This is both tragic AND amazing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my tears came from the reality that my children are both closer AND farther away from me than ever.

This has always been my favorite time of year – the fiery explosion of plant life, the poignancy of endings and transitions, the little dance my soul does over flip flops, grilling, raw oysters and soft shell crabs – many of my favorite things come alive in June.  AND.  It is also a time of year rife with parenting milestones and banners – graduations, communions, proms, trips – conveniences that mark rites of passage and perhaps achievements, jobs well done in the face of life’s mostly conventional – and surmountable – challenges.

It is, undoubtedly, a time of year flooded with that which I lost and that which I will never have.

While this dichotomy was a touch less slicing this year, any embryo mama worth her salt has her limits (as does anyone who wanted children but couldn’t have them).

I allowed myself a look at a parent’s Facebook post on their daughter’s prom and the myriad of celebratory comments that accompanied it.  How nice it must be, I thought, to have an instant community at your disposal, a societal embrace responding to your life events freely in a mainstream forum.  How nice it must be.  I stop to imagine what it would be like to have this highly under rated trophy functioning in my life.  It is such an antithesis to my actual life experience, I draw a blank.

On the heels of a month of graduations, my ghosts of what should have been have officially become rattled.  Even my sacred space was not off limits as I came upon a mildly tattered graduation balloon lying on my side walkway – a remnant of someone’s real life child celebration amid the plants and flowers humbly representing mine that never got to be.

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And so here I sit in my backyard, lovingly engaged with a wave of sadness.  AND in appreciation of the wave of flowers that outline my June sanctuary.  One thing I know for sure is that my children will never be an “or”.

I love June here on the northeast coast of the United States.  AND I’m ready for it to be over.

 

26 thoughts on “The Paradox of June

  1. Wow. This is so beautiful and so true. Do you know who Richard Rohr is? He talks about “both/and” thinking all the time and it is so helpful to my healing to remember things aren’t “or” too. Your gardens are absolutely gorgeous and I love that you have a special place for your kids there. Even though I am actually pregnant now, my other 4 children will always be a huge part of my life. My grief for them did not leave with this healthy pregnancy. I think I will always identify stronger with loss than with life. I guess time will tell, but your words spoke deeply to me. Many June hugs to you.

    • Thanks for sharing, SN. Though it has got its painful aspects, I’m glad you’re in the “AND” of things. Your comment reminds me for some reason of something that was said at a widow/widower gathering attended by one of my friends. The key note speaker stated simply “you can’t un-know what you know.” Not all encompassing, but it does say a lot.

  2. Your post brought out my emotions that I’ve stuffed away all month long celebrating others. Your flowers are almost as beautiful as your heartfelt words! Yes, l can’t wait for June to be done and life to quiet down.

    • It’s really tough when there’s no balancing aspect, at least societally speaking. It’s so easy, or sometimes we don’t have much of a choice but to expend energy on the “celebration” of that which we were denied while there is nothing in the milestone department that speaks to our lives. My need to spend as much time as I can nourishing and feeding myself with things I enjoy and am interested in has definitely spiked over the past few years! This is how I cope, apparently.

      Wishing you a July that honors YOU!

  3. I saw your garden pictures on Facebook and I was immediately struck by their beauty (both in symbolism and physical beauty). I also quickly acknowledged that the majority of people viewing them wouldn’t get “it.” I love that this writing acknowledges the AND, and how it’s possibly to hold the equal weight of seemingly incompatible emotions. I so understand the bottomless bucket of “what the fuck was that.” In fact, I’m still trying to draw enough emotional reserves to write about an experience that smacked me pretty hard.

    • Rock on. I so love that at least you “get it” – yeah, hey that’s a total of about three people on FB getting it now! Three and climbing!

  4. “Two years and five months out of our final loss, an indescribable amount of transformation has taken place. AND there is so much left to go. This is both tragic AND amazing. I wouldn’t be surprised if my tears came from the reality that my children are both closer AND farther away from me than ever.”

    I think this too is another of the gifts of infertility. That we can see the level of transformation in ourselves, and that we can see there will be more to come. I think that level of self-awareness, and self-compassion, extends beyond our recovery from loss and inferility, and into many phases of our lives, in a way that it wouldn’t have if we hadn’t been through this. I’m grateful for that.

    • What you call gifts I refer to as “widened capacities”. I believe in the possibility that the self awareness and self compassion you mention will transfer to other aspects of my life…AND that though wonderful they may be, they don’t make up for my losses. (There’s that darned and again….). They are simply another piece of what is that I’m glad we’re both taking advantage of.

  5. Beautifully written. Your post speaks to those buried feelings I have toward celebrating everyone else’s parenting milestones. Add to the typical June celebrations a baptism I attended last week and I’ve about reached my limit. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Hope you enjoyed your visit to wine country. Do you live in NY? Wine country is near home for me.

    • Thank you! Yep, a baptism would break the camel’s back for me!! What timing.

      We always enjoy wine country here on Long Island. We live in Nassau county. Are you near LI wine country or the wine country upstate?

      I’ll wish you what I wished to Katie – a July that honors YOU!

      • Funny, we actually live in western Suffolk. Thank you – I wish the same for you. Maybe we’ll see you at the wineries some day 🙂

      • That would be lovely! We were just out there for a few nights. We ran into a nice couple at One Woman Winery (interesting wine there, we found) who we recognized from where we had just been (Sparkling Pointe). They were very friendly and informed us they were there to celebrate a wedding anniversary and to “get away from their kids.” Well, if THAT’S not a conversation killer…..I may be including this interaction in one of my next posts, we’ll see. We got out of town by Thursday as that’s when the stroller pushers seem to invade Greenport. Alas……

      • Stroller pushers…lol…I would love to know where you stayed out there. We were thinking of staying out there for a night or two. I hate it when you think you have something in common with someone you’ve just met and then they mention their kids and that’s all they talk about from that point on. It sort of kills the camaraderie you thought you were feeling. That would be a great topic for a post…can’t wait to see it.

      • We stay at the Greenporter in a pinch and treat ourselves to the Harborfront Inn when we can.

        The one good thing about this interaction was that, after they “joked” about getting away from their kids and we said absolutely nothing, they moved on to other things in the conversation, which I appreciated. But then again, it should be hard to miss my eye roll and exasperated expression…….yet so many do.

  6. “Embryo Mama”…. Omg I love that. You finally put words to what I have felt I have been for 6 years!!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Keep writing, keep sharing as it helps me more than I can begin to express!

    • Thank you so much for letting me know, Kristine!! I have the feeling there’s plenty more from where this came from, so no doubt I’ll keep writing. When my posts resonate with others it reminds me I’m not crazy – and believe me, I do appreciate that!

  7. What is it about cleaning that brings out these visitations of grief? I used to find this happening as well a lot in the earlier years. I think I put it down to the fact that my brain was ’in the zone’ – defragging, cleaning out, filing thoughts away, while doing the mindless chores and housework. Although it always hurt to let the grief surface, it always helped too.

    Your gardens look beautiful. I’ve been trying to name as many plants as I can while looking at the pics. I’m new to bromeliads, mainly because we have very little garden shade, but I’ve inherited a few surplus plants from my mum, so I’m determined to get them established and thriving. I love being in my garden, it gives me a gentleness, a calmness, a restoration of sorts.

    • Thanks – I’m not too up on the names of what I plant. That’s where I space out a bit. So glad you experience garden magic too – I find it very settling.

      And the cleaning, you’re probably right. This was the first time tears came to me while cleaning, but then again this is the first time I’m in a phase where I actually have the energy and where-with-all to clean on a day like father’s day. Go figure:-)

  8. I so like how you planted the pictures of your embryos in your garden. What a profound way of honoring your loss, Sarah. I also find that your embracing the “AND” resonates with me…so much of my experience seems paradoxical too. The parenting milestones you mention seem to serve as signposts of life’s progress, and heart tugs of what could have been. Thank you for another lovely and touching post!

    • Hi Ruby – So good to know I’m not the only one immersed in paradoxes galore! I find attempting to relay the complexities of my experiences to others is often met with resistance – the other day I just got “well I think everything is complex” as a response to my (apparently futile) attempt to share. Groan…..

      Thanks for acknowledging and validating my way of memorializing. On top of all we go through, it’s unbelievable we then have to create our own rituals too, but I’m determined.

  9. This: “While important information can be gleaned from our emotions, we honor ourselves by feeling them, not by analyzing them. And we become more fully human by immersing ourselves in them, not by merely labeling them.”

    Totally, totally true. I found this to be a huge part of the healing process. I had to feel what my emotions, not judge them, but just be with them.

    Beautiful post (and beautiful flowers. a perfect memorial.)

    • Love hearing from a fellow sister who gets this! When in conversation with those who haven’t had to abide with their emotions in order to heal, I notice I’m speaking a COMPLETELY different language than they are.

  10. Beautiful words and analogy. Life is like a garden, full of surprises and not always the ones we expected to happen. Thank you for being so honest AND for telling how it really is!

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