I (kinda) survived another Mother’s Day. It was our fourth go-round, so I suppose that helped.
In 2010, we’d only been trying a few months so I wasn’t remotely startled that I wasn’t pregnant yet. Surely, next Mother’s Day I’d be celebrating with our new bundle of joy. How exciting!
2011 was much the same as 2010. I’d gotten my thyroid and PCOS diagnoses a few months before Mother’s Day so was 100% confident that, with diagnoses in hand, 2012 would be my year.
2012 was my year alright, but a year of grief not gladness. We’d lost our first pregnancy in November 2011, and our second on May 5. Mother’s Day 2012 was the first I celebrated as an almost-mother. The one during which I mourned my dead children alongside my own dead mother for the first time.
This year? Well, this year I woke up having burnt myself with the heating pad I slept on to keep the awful leg pain at bay. This year I laid on the couch, watched endless sci-fi television with the hubs, and wallowed in my own 6-days-without a shower filth. This year I managed. On Mother’s Day, that is. The days before and after, however, were/are a slightly different story.
Mother’s Day Eve
On Saturday we threw a party. The semester has ended and the number of friends and colleagues we have with May birthdays is staggering. So, when a friend mentioned his desire to throw a party and his concern over his tiny 1 bedroom apartment, we offered up our great Victorian with newly purchased patio furniture and 1 remaining powder room. I have to admit I was pleased with the timing. A weekend spent planning for and enjoying our first large party in the new house would surely go a long way toward easing some of the pain of my dual motherless-ness.
And, it was true… for a while. Our house proved to be a brilliant party space, our friends (and even friends of friends) came out in droves, the food was delicious, and the alcohol was free-flowing. Then it started getting later and started getting louder. And I started getting nauseously concerned.
You see, I’m always the one that begs Mr. But IF to turn down the TV, to turn down the music, to stop talking so loud, out of the fear of annoying the neighbors. I can’t say exactly why it is that I get so totally overwhelmed when I think we are doing something that in some universe could possibly insult some person, but I know being the adult child of an alcoholic plays a very large role. I still remember the moment when I realized that my quirks, my foibles, my very sense of what it means to be me were in their entirety the list of characteristics of children of alcoholics. I was doing research in my undergraduate university archives, looking through issue after issue of student newspapers from the mid-1980s, when I saw a giant inset box on page 10 of the newspaper that listed characteristics I knew intimately. “Are you a perfectionist?” the paper asked. “Do you try to predict the words and feelings of others?” “Do you lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth?” “Do you constantly feel like you are playing at being normal?” As I followed the instructions at the bottom of the ad and turned the page I wondered what I would find. Would I find an application for MENSA? Would someone tell me what a good student I was being? Would I be invited to the campus’ 1980s over-achievers’ club? None of the above. That was the day that I learned that my sense of self was intimately connected to my existence as the child of an alcoholic. When I turned the page I was offered support at the nearby Al-Anon family group.
It’s a strange thing to realize that so much of your self is tied to childhood events outside your control. I don’t want to feel constrained in my life choices, to feel like I MUST behave a certain way because it’s what my own fucked up brand of nurture predisposed me to, but it is pretty damn helpful to have an awareness that many of my actions, including most of those that are so confusing to Mr. But IF, do have a root deep down somewhere that I need to respect in order to move beyond. In other words, only by embracing my crazy can I ever hope to walk away from it.
But, I was not nearly that composed and rational when my next-door neighbor finally walked over in his pajamas at 12:30AM and asked us to quiet down. I had been hiding in the kitchen since midnight fearing exactly this scenario. If I was found washing dishes instead of partying by the fire pit would my neighbor have more mercy? Would I be found less accountable? Would my
daddy issues psyche stay quiet? The moment I went outside to shut the back gate and ask for the party to move inside my neighbor found me. I felt immediately scolded and ashamed. As strange as it seems, I’m still not completely over it.
There’s another element here too. The neighbor pleading quiet has a gorgeous 2 year-old boy and I suspect he and his wife have another on the way. After years of IF I have finely tuned pregnancy-dar and can tell the difference between a belly bulged by too much pasta and too much sex. I wasn’t having fun at our all-night rager. By 11 I honestly wanted my bed. I feel grateful to have friends in this new town and I feel thankful our party was so well-attended, but, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I would have rather had a Sunday afternoon family picnic than a beer-fueled all-nighter. It all comes down to this: I had a vision of what my life would look like at this point in time. That vision included toddlers running awkwardly through the grass and our parent friends watching on holding their slices of birthday cake and a rare celebratory drink. It involved me making fun party snacks and cleaning up after dirty little hands. Instead, I watched adults cuss and smoke by a fire, I made mixed drinks, and I cleaned up beer spills. I want to be Donna Reed, but instead I’m feeling trapped in Animal House. I want to be the cranky neighbor asking for peace and quiet, not the one making the racket.
Post Mother’s Day
As I wrote, I survived another Mother’s Day. It was actually one of the easier ones. But, maybe it’s because it’s been book-ended by such despondence?
Today has been difficult. I’m still feeling embarrassed about our party. I’m feeling guilty that I allowed myself to totally zone out yesterday and, in the process, ignored the one woman in my life – my mother-in-law – who still deserves my wishes of a Happy Mother’s Day. I’m feeling gutted by an unexpected Facebook pregnancy announcement. And, I’m feeling incredibly on edge as I wait for my rescheduled rheumatologist appointment later this evening.
As Mother’s Day approaches, it really comes home to me what awesome children we have and how blessed we are to have them! When I read this, I realized that it sums up how special you are to both [father-in-law] & me. We love you!
My mother-in-law is a women of few words, but I’ve been around long enough that I’ve learned to read through those words and assess all the hidden meanings. This women gets it – she gets all of it – and for that I’m eternally grateful. She doesn’t try to replace my mother, but she acknowledges my loss and strives to add a little something back when and if she can. While she hasn’t experienced infertility, she did lose a pregnancy between my husband and his sister. Again, she doesn’t equate that experience with our own struggles – she’s acknowledged that as hard as her miscarriage was it was made easier by the fact that she could hug her son to bed at night – but she does use that experience as a guide into our world. I have an amazing mother-in-law, but I can’t find it in myself to celebrate her on Mother’s Day. It’s just too difficult.
While my mother-in-law tries to understand, it constantly feels like others around us make ignorance their mission. When I first “came out” about my infertility on Facebook, a number of casual acquaintances sent private messages my way opening up about their own struggles, their own miscarriages, their own diagnoses. A college acquaintance thanked me for my bravery and honesty and informed me that her husband and her had been “trying for a while” with no success. I found out through Facebook that her baby boy was delivered healthy and happy this winter. My best friend’s college roommate opened up to me about the “anatomical abnormality” she had that would make it nearly impossible for her to carry a child. I encouraged her to contact me any time she needed. I found out through Facebook that her baby shower was a roaring success and that her belly was enormous. My mother’s best friend hugged me through tears as she told me about her son and daughter-in-law’s infertility and recent miscarriage. I sent her information about their local RESOLVE support group, I told her to pass on my contact information to her daughter-in-law, and I ached for them. Today, the gender reveal cupcake photo posted to Facebook told me that their little boy is due on September 29 – a week after our due date for miscarriage #3. Last one standing is starting to feel like an understatement.
Finally, I’m so very fucking anxious for my rheumatologist appointment tonight. For what feels like the millionth time in the past 3.5 years I find myself viewing my infertility through a worrying lens of chronic health issues. As I’ve said before, all I wanted was to be a mother, but in turn all I’ve birthed are lifelong health complaints. Since Wednesday I’ve been grappling with the knowledge that my blood work was not all normal. That little bit of information combined with recurrent knee and elbow pain has me more than a little bit frightened. Having a family medical history that would provide more than enough drama for any daytime soap, I’ve morbidly joked about my own mortality since I was far too young. But, here I sit on the precipice of 30, seriously wondering what the future will look like. In the past months I’ve finally begun coming to terms with the possibility that that future will not include children, but as that revelation has been happening I’ve started having new worries. Will I be in pain for the rest of my life? How much pain? Will I know what’s causing it? Will Mr. But IF live life both without children and without a fully functioning wife? Will he… have me? I can’t believe I’m thinking these questions, let alone writing them down for all to see. I’m fine. I’m living, I’m working, I’m partying, I’m laughing. I’m maybe a little sore, a little tired, a little weary, but I’m fine. But, what will I be next year, in five years, in twenty? I hate that my mind is making me go there. I’m not even 30.
So, yea, I survived Mother’s Day. It’s just the rest of the days I’m worried about now.