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.
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.
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.