It just recently happened that I put a name on emotions I’ve been feeling for the past few years. I slouched in the chair across from the man who taught me how to be a therapist and announced, “I think I’ve been grieving.” His response: “I know.”
Until I scrolled through my blog looking at past posts, I had no idea it has been three and a half years of grieving. Grief is funny like that.
In the Spring of 2011, Z came back after three years in Iraq. In the Summer of 2011, we found out that we couldn’t conceive our own baby. There were doctors and procedures and rolling waves of anticipation and disappointment. There were adoption seminars and background checks and financial wizardry. And there was a meltdown coming. I was on a mission and it took me too long to notice that Z was struggling to find his way back. Back to life at home. With me. With a kid that is already too much trouble.
2012 and 2013 weren’t good.
We at least had sense enough to know that you can’t bring a baby into that.
We fought for each other. We fought against each other. Foughtfoughtfought because it was uglyuglyugly. What wrung out after the sweat and exhaustion and anger was us, refortified.
And yet, I was sinking in the grief for the family that never was. There are two philosophies when it comes to therapy (well, there is more than two, but for the sake of simplicity…). There is the pro sports trainer version where you come to the sidelines with a sprained psyche, we wrap it up, give you some meds and send you back out into society to keep pushing. Then there is the deeper psychotherapy where you let the client come to their own realizations, in their own time, with your support. The first version is easier, but it doesn’t truly fix anything. The second version is more painful and you can sacrifice a chunk of your life to the greater good of your existence. That’s when you make the grand announcement and find out you were the only one that didn’t know.
In the midst, you have to live your life. You have to go to work, because the mortgage company doesn’t recognize existential crises. You have to make dinner. Do laundry. Be a wife, have friends, contribute to your community, when all you want is to be.left.alone.
I avoided babies. It’s embarrassing to admit now. I avoided babies like the plague. It wasn’t easy. While my ovaries were imploding, my friends’ reproductive organs were shooting off like fireworks. Why did I avoid your baby showers and first birthday parties? Because I didn’t want to be the weirdo crying in the corner. Trust me, it would have been uncomfortable for all.
I’m not even sure why I took it so hard. A blend of ego and mortality, for sure. Nothing like being told a major organ system has aged out to make you face your impending doom. And everyone was getting pregnant, why not me? What’s so wrong with me that the universe has decided to pass on me? How is it fair that I can’t have babies, but my job is still to sit down an 8th grader and explain to her that going to the doctor is kinda important when you are pregnant? Plus I really do think Z would have been a great dad. It’s my fault he doesn’t get that experience. Add guilt to ego and mortality, with a heavy dose of emotional exhaustion.
There’s not a good answer. There is only reality and how you face your reality.
And then someone goes and plops a newborn baby in your arms. I did not want to go on the family trip last summer. Babies were going to be there. In case no one was noticing, I avoid babies. Absolutely no respect for my neurosis. So here’s this baby, in my arms, wrapped up all baby-like, looking soft and sweet. I’m holding him at my shoulder level, presumably to chuck him back at his father the first second he threatens to expose me as a fraud. Instead he wiggled his itty bitty butt and settled in. Well, that’s unexpected. I tried to give him to other family members to hold. Nope, you hold him. He likes it. He slept. I relaxed my arms. Appears the coast is clear. I even fed him a few times. I told his mom that I hoped I was doing it right. She responded, “I’m never sure I’m doing it right,” and walked out of the room. Hmmm, how about that.
The second reality check came when someone asked me to write an article about being over 40 and childless. Hand to God, it shocked me that someone identified me as “over 40 and childless.” I suddenly had to focus and face the past three and a half years (that timeline still floors me). I haven’t gotten that article out, because this one needed to come first.
So I’ve been grieving. The sheer acknowledgment has made such a massive difference. Owning it makes a difference. Maybe the real difference is when a baby trusts you with their nap, you trust the baby. Thanks, baby.