Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Onward

When my mom died, for a time, all hope was lost. I had just turned 22, and my vision of my future without her was blurry at best, bleak at worst. I remember saying, “what good will it be to get married if the day is not perfect? And without her it won’t be perfect.” What kind of future and family and life could I hope for without her in it? It all seemed less than what I’d dreamed for myself, and I was lost.

And yet the sun still shines. And growth continues, even when you’d rather everything stopped. Even when you don’t want to live without her, life persists. And sixteen years later, I’m so glad for that. I’m glad that there is something beyond grief, beyond despair. In dark and desperate moments, that certainty remains.

I often think about what my mother would make of the life I’ve created. I think if she were here, she would remark on how many things I’ve done and accomplished that she didn’t. I volunteered abroad, earned two Masters degrees, had a fabulous wedding in Italy, started my own business. I think she’d be really proud. But the beautiful irony is that the thing I’m most proud of is the one thing that she did do – raise 3 precious children. And I’m doing that hard work every day, leaning heavily on the lessons she taught me and the example she set.

Here I am persisting, Mom. Even when I miss you. Even when I feel lost. Knowing that the light you left me with is enough to cut through the darkness.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Another year has passed

Every May, I have to pay about $175 to keep this blog active. And every May, for as little sense as it makes, I shell out the money. I’ve posted once in the last year, but I can’t let it go. And as unrelated as the two may seem, the one day a year I always post on my infertility blog is the anniversary of my mother’s death.

I’ve been thinking about why, and my guess is that it’s because they are two things that define me, two things that I don’t want to exist only in the past.

I am now pregnant with my third child, thanks be to God. But I don’t want to forget the pain of infertility, the deep desire in my soul to be a mother, the crushing devastation of loss and the fear that it might never happen. I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten it, because I’m sure I never will. I will always be an infertility survivor – a proud one, with a good story. (Seriously, when this baby is born, I will say that I’ve had 3 children in 4.5 years. Is that even mathematically possible? My cup runneth over…)

And today. Today marks 15 years since my life forever changed in a moment, and I became someone who walks this Earth without her mother. It’s another piece of me, the magnitude of which has not diminished with the passing of time. Similarly, I’ve grown and made my life into something that makes me proud and brings me peace. But having a place in the world is not the same as having a mother.

The closest thing, I guess, to having a mother is having a child. Unconditional, unbreakable, abiding love. The miracle of having shared one body. Feeling an invisible emotional and physical tether to the other, such that their presence or absence, their joy or their pain, is part of you. Knowing that you exist because of them, or they because of you. Maybe that is why these two are connected. My greatest loss and my greatest love. From where my heart began, and where it continues.

I wish the two could meet. I wish I could see my children in my mother’s arms. What a circle that would be. But for now (til we unite in Heaven), I will be the link. And this will be my story.

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Reflections

I feel my mother. When I press my lips against my son’s forehead and keep them there for an extra second. All of a sudden, my lips are her lips, against my forehead, and that intense mother-child bond is reignited within me.

I hear my mother. When my son does something so surprising and funny that I burst out in joyful laughter. I delight in him and tell him so. For a moment, I am my mother, delighting in me.

I see my mother. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, skin tanned from the summer sun, hair curly from the humidity. Frazzled at the end of the day, but still pretty. I imagine what it was like to be her, 30 years ago, after a long day of taking care of my siblings and me.

I sense my mother. When we walk into our children’s room and our 3 year old is standing on his dresser in front of a fully opened (second story) window. It is her mothering instinct that has drawn me in here at just the right moment and her presence, I believe, holding him back from taking one more step. Thank you thank you thank you.

These moments are fleeting, now, 14 years later. She is not part of my every hour or even every day. But the times when she comes back to me, I savor it. I remember how I was truly cherished, and I’m comforted that that feeling never fades.

My mother’s greatest legacy is this: her grandchildren will never, ever question how much they are loved, because that’s how she taught us – by example – to parent.

mama

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

What a wonderful world

As I was reading my favorite blog, Momastery, yesterday, I was struck by this insight:

“If you’ve experienced the world as loving and generous – that is how you will live, in abundance. But if you’ve experienced the world as uncaring and cold, then it only makes sense that you will continue to live with that world view.”

It made me think about my worldview, where it came from. What has shaped me.

The world I’ve experienced took away my mom – my true North, my tether to the Earth, my guiding light – at 22. I was set adrift, for a time, to suffer and to find my own path. While I was walking alongside my loving father, brother and sister, I still felt alone. It was an emptiness I never expected.

But later, this world provided me with an incredible husband and two angel-boys that set my heart on fire. They have given me passion and hope and a reason not just to live, but to better myself every day. Purpose, fulfillment, true love.

And the world didn’t stop at that. It gave me loyal and devoted brother- and sister-in-laws. An open, loving mother- and father-in-law. Eight (!) nieces and nephews that are literally my pride and joy. Friends that would do anything for me. Abundance I never could have imagined.

So there have been both – great loss and great love. My heart has felt so much pain and so much joy that I thought it might break.

On days like today, the 13th anniversary of her death, I take a moment to focus on the loss. But maybe because she was my mom, I can’t linger there long. Because I look around me and there is so much life. And while nothing, nothing will ever replace her, I can’t help but drink in the joy of what I’ve been given.

As my mom would sometimes say, with gratitude….
my cup runneth over.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Waiting for Motherhood – My Messy Beautiful

My son is a test tube baby. Remember when they used to call them that? Like they were a science experiment or an alien brought to life in some other-worldly way. Before I began IVF – really, before I became a fertility patient – I had no idea what those test tube babies were all about. Little did I know that they were among the most wanted and prayed for babies on the planet.

Since childhood, I have wanted to be a mother. Everyone who knows me knows that that was my life’s truest calling. So I assumed that my path to motherhood would be a simple one. Get married – check. Decide with husband to start “trying” – check. Get pregnant – check. It almost went that smoothly. Until. Until I lost my first baby and faced the utter devastation that comes with having your dreams come true for what feels like just a moment, only to be whisked away. We were in the doctor’s office for our first official prenatal visit, and then he couldn’t find the heartbeat. I said later that it was like having the best day of your life turn into the worst day of your life in the blink of an eye.

My first miscarriage stayed with me longer than I would have expected. It became a part of my identity, a measuring stick against which I assessed all subsequent losses and disappointments. My second miscarriage was termed a “chemical pregnancy” – over almost before it started. It was less dramatic than the first, but equally defining.

And then, for awhile, my life was a mess. On the outside, I was keeping it together. But on the inside, I was despairing. I was depressed. Nothing mattered to me so much as becoming a mom. And my self worth and satisfaction started to get wrapped up in the mission. Suddenly, I was only as happy as my ovulation kits or temperature charts allowed me to be. I was only intimate with my husband on a schedule. I didn’t enjoy being a young, married professional (my reality) anymore. All I wanted was a baby.

I realized I’d hit rock bottom one day when I was out for a walk and passed a pregnant woman on the street. As I passed her by, I reflexively rolled my eyes. (I am not proud to admit this). A moment later, I caught myself – “who are you?” I wondered. Had I become so bitter that I couldn’t even appreciate the gift of motherhood and the happiness it brought to others?

I knew right then that something needed to change. Resisting the mess, wishing it wasn’t so, only took me farther away from my true self. The one who loved pregnant women and big baby bellies and tiny little onesies. So I started praying for all the pregnant women in my life every night. I decided to turn my negative energy in another direction and focus instead on celebrating life.

When we decided to do IVF, I knew we had reached an important milestone. We were approaching the final frontier of “trying,” and with that I felt an urge to do something different. Instead of shying away from the truth, I had to embrace it. I had to shout it from the mountaintops. Surely for others there’s a middle ground. But for me, I had to be bold about it. I had to tell everyone I know.

So, that’s what I did. I started this blog, I posted it to facebook, and I held my breath.

Of course, the beautiful part of my story starts there. The outpouring of support was incredible. The prayers and well wishes that accompanied me on my journey allowed me to release fear and wear my hope on my sleeve. And, miraculously, I got pregnant. My friends and family followed my story, encouraged me, and used me to encourage others. Borne of my last-ditch effort was a new beginning.

It makes me wonder: what if, instead of resisting our truth, we all told everyone we know? That we had a miscarriage, that it was devastating. That we’re struggling to get pregnant and wonder if we’ll ever be a mom. That we did fertility treatment to get our baby and we’re SO happy and proud. What if we took the silence out of struggle and loss? What if we took the shame and fear out of fertility treatment? Who could we help and what kind of community would it create?

I envision an environment of self-acceptance and self-kindness. I see mothers being symbols of hope for not-yet mothers. I picture women caring for other women, long before the celebrations begin… and long after. Mostly I imagine that our honesty, transparency and openness would change the experience of waiting for motherhood for the better.

Everyone has a messy, beautiful reality to share. Mine is this: This beautiful baby was conceived in a “test tube.” And I couldn’t be prouder. He is mine.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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