A Mixed Bag

Life is always a mixed bag. I am trying not to live in a dualistic mindframe…but it’s sooooo hard. When my dog has lost a third of his body weight since almost dying last spring and there seems no clear way to get him to gain it back, it’s really difficult not to label that “bad.” When Adam’s due date is approaching and I can’t stop thinking about how he should be celebrating his first birthday and his first Christmas, I struggle with finding joy in that. When I come home to a sick, sad puppy and an email saying “no news” from Haiti, I struggle. Really, I am just tired of being sad and tired of worrying that anything living near me may be pulled from me sooner than I am ready.

That’s half of it. The other half is overwhelming gratitude. Last week my husband and I spent a week in Palm Springs for a work function of his. I spent my days absorbing the sunlight, running, and laughing more than I have in months, or maybe even years. I spent nights with more laughter, lots of dancing, and plenty of good food and drinks. I have complete flexibility in my life. I have inspiring people whom push me to keep learning and keep being positive…and, just show me love when I need that, too.

So, how can the worst times also be the best times? I guess I keep being shown that the “worst” times are really not the worst. The “best” times come with a fair amount of frustration or sadness on the side. This is life. I seem to be living it deeper in both “directions” (if we really want to label…or, if I can’t stop myself from labeling, I should say…). I don’t trust it will go back (to life being less complicated). I will have to keep changing, keep growing, and keep accepting the unstability. I will have to keep working on my patience. I will have to keep loving the seemingly unlovable days, and the gorgeous days, that make me question “why me?”.

I am so happy my loved ones still ask me to celebrate their pregnancies, their job successes, or just to spend some time with them road tripping along the Gulf Coast this next summer. When I want to scream and throw in the proverbial towel, I get to celebrate someone else’s joy or get a truckload of “oh my gosh my life is crazy good how is this my good fortune?” This is life. It’s the “good;” it’s the “bad;” it’s the lessons we take with us from the experiences. This mixed bag is mine, and I will reach my hand deep into the contents, not knowing what thrills or scares will grab me next.

Belated Thankfulness

I have so many swarming thoughts, but – a little belated – I want to write down many things I am thankful for this year:

1. My husband and my 9th anniversary. We’ve grown in our understanding of each other through each joy and setback. Our commitment to making each other’s life easier and more full of joy and hope continues each day. He is the kindest man I know and I am humbled to have him by my side every day. EVERY day. I am amazed at such a lovely truth.

2. I am not sure if I’ve put this into words before (maybe I have), but I often think how lucky I feel that our son, Adam Gabriel, got to meet nearly all of my most cherished humans when he traveled with me in my womb. We went to weddings of friends I’ve had for decades, danced all night with my huge extended family at my parents’ anniversary party, and attended girls’ weekend getaways. We met strangers on planes that wished us sincere happiness and even, in one instance, gave us a warm hug. We were glowing everywhere we went. These people he met, and the times we had, cheer me up from the inside out. I had more joy than ever before or since with late night milkshakes, deep conversations, and lots and lots of dancing.

3. Relief workers. On every continent, there are many who dedicate their lives to creating more good in this world with their time, talent, and treasure. As I grow in my compassion for life itself, I have a softer heart and true thankfulness for those who make sure others have clean water; housing; nutritious food; and maybe even education and equal rights. There are people who work really hard to keep families and support systems together. Humanitarians make me so happy and I have found that I am extra thankful for them in this season of my life.

4. Health. Whether it is being cold-free, cancer-free, or maybe just not having a doctor’s appointment on the schedule, I have realized how dependent I am on my good health. I used to take it more for granted, but just being alive and feeling well is such a huge gift. When the white noise lifts (poor work environments, difficult relationships, or other clutter we tend to collect and give more importance to than warranted), it is amazing what little, basic needs are vital to our happiness. A little sun and friendship can go a looonnnnng way.

5. And, finally, that leads me to connectedness. I have so many strong connections to people I’ve known almost all my life, to those I’ve known just a decade, or maybe even just a year or two. I have had friends who are more like sisters fly in to see me for an extended weekend. I have had friends with toddlers load up the car by themselves and drive many hours for nothing more than a great hang out session with walks, wine, and laughter on the agenda. I have spent half days lurking in coffee shops with soul sisters, pouring our hearts out about every interesting detail that has arisen in the last week, month, or year. I have people to unexpectedly cry in front of and not be embarrassed because I know they love me even though I am broken. I have a husband that often knows me better than myself. I am loved and connected, and anyone who knows me well, knows that connection is what I cherish above all else.

Mind Mania

When I go “into my head” too often, that’s always a sign I need to recenter, meditate, and find a way to rest my spirit. I feel a creeping in of my ego. I find doubt. Anxiety. Manic or half-thought thoughts. Catching it is one thing, but taming it is a whole other.

In the last few weeks, I have been sloppy with my words. Sloppy, or just not wise enough to choose better ones. I have been exhausting (to myself as well as others) with my repetitive focus, and I haven’t left enough room for deep breaths. The necessity of patience and comfort with ambiguity feels like a slow death….and I know that’s a result of a narrow perspective. There is openness and light here if I welcome it.

My husband and I went back to another specialist and genetic counselor and, once again, had it confirmed that we’ve had the supreme package of bad luck with our pregnancies. We are at the point of diminishing returns for any procedures/tests we would opt to have (results < effort), but – despite the lack of clarity – we felt a strange sense of relief, knowing that we are still “normal” in doctors’ terms.

However relieved, this new chapter of our life has reminded us that a long period of waiting is ahead of us. Many families have waited 3, 4 and 5 years to bring their children home from Haiti. We are open to building our family in so many different ways, but that kind of openness is not enough; there is much more patience needed. We need to be open to a timing that is divine and does not heed to chronological ticks and tocks. Although we are grasping at anything to aid in that preparation, there is much beyond our control, sight, and wisdom. In some ways it is very comforting because the responsibility doesn’t rest on our shoulders; in other ways it’s driving us nuts as we think we are ready for more purpose and responsibility NOW! (And, even as I typed that last sentence, I know I will look back at it, shaking my head, thinking, “Why didn’t I enjoy the quiet!”)

I feel a shift is actually upon us, though. This tension and rattling energy feels like we are at the top of the roller coaster’s hill, about to fly down the other side, feeling the wind blow our hair around with happy smiles and shrieks of joy. I don’t know what is on the other side of this uphill exactly, but I feel it’s just a breath away. I hope this really is the case.

So, I will calm my mind with prayer, exercise, good food, and connection. I will live purposefully, and I will anticipate the goodness that is upon us – now and that which is a moment away.

And Then There Was Just Sweet Relief…

As I clicked on a draft to write this post, my eye caught my last post titled, “Bittersweet Relief.” A few short days later, I am truly writing about something with nothing “bitter” about it. A dear friend and soul sister of mine just gave birth to a very sweet, very healthy, baby boy.

She has three beautiful kids at home and, now, this little one she will take home in a few days from the hospital. From the outside, we probably look like two very different people considering our geographical location, family structure, and day-to-day activities. What people passing her at a baseball game or at the park may never guess is her family didn’t come so easily. Last January, as I was acknowledging Adam’s due date at home, she was in the hospital, giving birth to a sweet little girl, little Olivia, born many weeks too soon.

When I heard about Olivia, I reached out immediately, trying to see how I might help her tackle this crazy sadness and overwhelming disbelief she undoubtedly was feeling; I wanted her to feel less confused, scared, and alone. We were old summer camp friends and hadn’t talked in over a decade, but that made zero difference. Our paths had lined us up perfectly to take care of each other through some of the darkest, scariest months we had experienced. As the months passed, we were able to connect through sharing our grieving processes, our pregnancy fears, and little details about Adam and Olivia, whom we both agree must be connected now in their own way.

As I struggled through more miscarriages, she had the experience and compassion to understand what that really meant. As she struggled with hope and trust as the weeks of her pregnancy flipped on the calendar, I was there to do the same for her. Although our journeys are somewhat different, they are very much the same, and – today – we get to celebrate the pure light that comes after the darkness.

Today, I am going to celebrate the miracle she has (we have) been given. I feel a great sense of relief and joy. In the not hopeless days I have been experiencing, this is a great chance to pause and – what else – steal a little nectar.

A Bittersweet Relief

Week 13. In most pregnancies, this is around the time mothers start to breathe a sigh of relief because their babies made it through the most delicate weeks. Now they can, more assuredly, trust their pregnancies, and maybe even make joyful announcements to family and friends. I am relieved for a very different reason: this week, my relief comes because I have been declared officially NOT pregnant.

This feels especially counter-intuitive since I so desire a healthy pregnancy, yet I know it is a natural feeling for my situation. After a full two months of knowing this was not a healthy pregnancy, I don’t have to worry anymore about the small probability of surgery, if the doctors will call with results before the weekend, or if my left arm will scar over like my right has, from all the blood draws in the last few months, leaving my phlebotomist having to find a nontraditional method for entry.

More than feeling like a victim, these situations just amaze me. Until I started having pregnancy complications, I have mostly felt on the healthier side of things. My “now” is opening my mind up to all people go through whom are actually sick. I have an acute sense of compassion I didn’t have previously. I just didn’t get it. Now I know…I get to walk away and heal; others aren’t so lucky as they undergo a lifetime of complications, medical bills, and friendships that can’t withstand the emotional toll required.

So, although my relief is bittersweet, my outlook is bright. In the past week, I’ve been lucky enough to have two dreams about adopting our little boy or girl. (One was about a little girl named Roberta and the other was about a nine year old boy whom I think was even Caucasian…?) I know all of my experiences are now encouraging me to refocus my energies on this beautiful adoption journey. I am thankful I am finally going to have full resources available for bonding and there is nothing bittersweet about that.

It Is All a Gift

Two methotrexate injections and three weeks later, I am still technically pregnant. Never would I have thought this blip of a healthy pregnancy would have turned into this – so far – 11 week journey. I haven’t known really what to write because I just feel a little stuck. Physically stuck, emotionally stuck, spiritually stuck. Exhausted.

All of this is okay, though. I am trying to accept the pain and the vulnerability I feel when more and more people are invited into my pain journey. If we don’t allow our stories to be told for the purpose of connection, what is the point of the pain anyway?

So, I am learning to let go. When my sister tells her friend at the gym, or my mom tells the woman I have never met whom has also gone through similar fertility pain, I don’t tell them to stop sharing. When the woman next to me on the plane asks bluntly if my husband and I have had trouble having kids since we don’t have any almost nine years into our marriage, I don’t mask the hurt in my eyes and my voice when I give her a simple, “Yes.” She may not understand my journey completely, but she understands struggle through her own lens, and she may understand another person’s pregnancy struggles better if I allow my story to be told.

I am not ready to offer my story up on say, my Facebook page, but I do want to use my experience to lessen another’s feelings of vulnerability, loneliness, and heartbreak. So, as uncomfortable as it is, I am fighting the reaction to control the sharing. I don’t think anyone actually wants to be the poster child for miscarriages, but – if this is a way I can help others – I will do my best to share in the moments that count.

As my family structure will most likely look different than I once imagined, my struggle will be easier to identify. I imagine wheeling a cart of groceries around in the store with my Haitian child and possibly another internationally adopted child. Once in a while, I am sure someone’s eyes will catch mine and I will get that look. The look laced with a little compassion and a little question, wondering if I couldn’t have biological children. The part that bothers me about this is that having adopted children is not a second choice! However, maybe the fact that people will identify a possible struggle more quickly will allow me to have more opportunities to connect and even possibly help others when they are stumbling around in the dark, confusing period I am in now. Maybe I will have more moments to share the pure joy and excitement I have for my uniquely crafted, god-given family.

To all of this, I pray to remain open, forgiving, compassionate, and honest. It is all a gift.

The Mystery of Miscarriages

Consistent inconsistencies. That might as well be the title of this chapter in my life right now. No, I wasn’t so surprised that I, sadly, found out I was miscarrying again. What is surprising is how I always need more patience than what I allot for an event. I am technically 8 weeks pregnant tomorrow, with no hope for viability of the baby, but my body can’t seem to acknowledge the fact that it needs to let go. In scientific terms, my hcg has been dropping and rising and dropping again…but will not take the plunge to “below five” which would make me clinically a non-pregnant female of pre-menopausal age.

People generally don’t know this happens – this process of miscarriage. This is definitely something that we have to learn through heart-wrenching personal experiences or loved ones’ experiences if we know at all. What I’ve learned, through sharing my miscarriage experiences, is that people generally think that a woman sees blood in the restroom and believes the fetus must be suffering, trying to survive, in that instant, and that the woman’s body must be failing. It becomes a poignant, emotional moment. This is often not true.

Many of us, sometimes unlucky enough to experience it a few times, find out our babies are measuring small in an ultrasound, don’t have a heartbeat, or simply haven’t been able to develop enough to produce healthy hcg numbers which hint at healthy pregnancy. (I say “hint” because my perspective has taught me that anything can happen at any time, especially with what seems to me as the miracle and delicate mystery that actually results in a breathing baby that leaves the hospital with you.) Miscarriage, instead, often happens through multiple trips to the doctor, weeks of anguish and prayers, and embarrassment in moments you have to look into the eyes of a stranger behind a desk and cancel an ultrasound appointment or hand over a sheet that is marked “threatened miscarriage” or “habitual spontaneous aborter.”

I wonder if my little son or daughter, seemingly stuck inside of me, developed a heartbeat. I wonder if this speck of a soul is still fighting or if he or she completed the journey on this side weeks ago. I’m not sure it matters, but it’s an uncomfortable thought with which I am trying to make peace. I mostly wonder why this happens at all because I can’t believe it just happens for me to evolve through the challenge or in order for my husband and I to realize adoption is the only way for us.

Jesus, the spirit of God’s son, was born to Mary in order to die on earth to transform us by showing us the way into connection with God. I believe my miscarriages are doing a similar thing for me – showing me a deeper way to connect with God and others – but I would love to know more about these little ones’ spirits. What is that perspective? What does this journey do for them? Is the purpose simply the rebirth, or transformation, of their spirits? Do they feel pain or are they spared that, even if scientifically they get to a developmental stage to have a nervous system?

The rambling of my thoughts could keep pouring out onto the page, but this has to be one of the great mysteries of life, death, and loss. Whatever the answers are, I do believe they all point to the progression of life and connection – on this planet and certainly beyond. What a wonderful, mysterious place this is.