It's Winter Solstice today... Right now the sun is out, high in the sky, there's no sign of "winter" snow in sight, and it's warm enough to go sans coat. Well... For me and my flipflops at least... I have the common sense to put the kids in jackets...
It's a time of new beginnings... Of the birth of new things... A chance to change and to 'get it right'. Again. If we said good-bye to the old as we moved beyond the harvest season, then the rebirth of the sun gives us a chance to wake up again. To start a new year. To make resolutions (and try to keep them this time...) You know the deal.
Yesterday was the darkest, longest day. It was grey and rainy here. Overcast.
I dropped the kids at my in-laws with plans to meet Peter for lunch in between my cleaning. We met and, as the conversation ended and we were leaving, we found ourselves discussing that topic that most infertiles and orphaned parents with living children find themselves discussing: more children. And, suprising enough, the following words were uttered.
Me: You sound as though you want to try and have more children.
Peter: And you sound as though you want to try and never have more.
I have to admit. The comment struck me off guard. I couldnt really speak. We had to part ways anyway- he needed to go to work and I needed to get back home to finish up. But I didnt go home. I found myself driving the longest way home that I could think of (thanks GPS), through tree covered, windy streets, as rain pelted the windshield, the windows open so the wind could rip through my hair. Chill the tears that refused to cry. Was he right? Do I never want to have more children?
It plagued me for the rest of the day. And then, on the darkest night, as the kids slept and we laid in back, the dark thoughts that I've kept nestled in the pit of my heart gushed out in sobs... Horrible, gut aching wails that I buried into my pillow and Peter's arms. Words I never thought I'd say. Feelings I never imagined I'd have.
Funny enough, the question isn't "Do I want more children?" That answer is yes. It's simple. When Peter and I discussed our hopes and dreams, having a large family was one of them. In today's society, having more than one or two is seen differently, I realize, but for us, it was something that we dreamed of. Nothing like have 2 dozen, but we joked that having enough to play a good round of baseball would be nice. :) (I guess since we are such Giant fans, we should have said "football" instead...) In a way, we have that dream fulfilled, but there is an emptiness of not having a house full of living children. And it's hard, too, to see the other side. We are SO fortunate to have Bobby and Maya; many parents in our situation dont go on to having living children, just as there are many infertile couples who live childfree not by choice. I do recognize the gift that we have in Bobby and Maya, and there is a part of me that thinks having more children is pushing the envelope on luck. A second key point is that I never want Bobby and Maya to feel like they werent/arent 'enough'. That parenting them is something how; it's not. It never could. Having more children wouldnt downplay the gift of parenting them, and I would hope they would never see it as such. But now I'm rambling...
The truth of it is that my pregnancies and births have been awful. They've been traumatic. They've been horrific. The only beauty from my four labors were that I was able to hold 5 beautiful children afterwards. But even that is marred with death, fear, and intervention. Until last night, I dont think that I've ever said the words "I had traumatic births", "I'm afraid of being pregnant and having another baby", "I havent let go of the stress and the hurt". And, as I said it and I cried for that woman- that naive, innocent woman who lost her first baby to miscarriage... that excited woman who finally got pregnant- and with twins no doubt!- who had the notion and dreams of "natural" homebirth ripped from her grasp... that hopeful woman who prayed and lost again and again... that terrified but trusting woman who begged for just.one.more.day for the two lives she tried so desperately to hold inside- as I wept for her and mourned for all that she lost and the wounds that cut her so deeply that she wasnt healed years (and in one case, over a decade) later, I took it in. It's not a "she"- it's "me". That woman is me. That hurt, that pain- it's mine. I own it.
It wasnt my fault. It wasnt my plan.
I did everything "right". I ate well. I took my prenatals. I did yoga. I saw my doctor. And nothing I did changed the fact that my pregnancies and births were awful.
I believed in birth- and I still do. Yet, I dont believe in my birth... in my ability to birth.
What an awful things... To be trained in how to help women give birth naturally... To believe that birth is beautiful... To hate your own body and your own inability...
The last year, as I've read and trained as a doula and childbirth educator, I think the healing started without me know. As I read and worked, these feelings of hurt and trauma were working their way forward. The texts and assignments brought out dialogue- self conversations and talks with Peter- about conception, pregnancy, and birth. And last night, as I submitted my final doula assignment and evaluated the less than half dozen CBE assignments I have left, I think it all came to a head. And the longest, darkest night of the year became mine.
And wounds became scars.
And the anger, the pain, the loss of what I'd dreamed of and hoped for in birth became acceptance of what I have left.
It finally was clear that the choice is to accept what I have and to release what I dont... what I can never have... and to choose to be whole. To choose to let the wounds heal and become scars of where I've been... But not of who I am.
I cried. I wept. I was angry and hurt and afraid. I lamented the fact that I'll never have a normal birth experience... that I'll never give birth with a midwife at my side, with a doula holding my hand, with Peter catching our baby as he or she is born at home... It's gone. It's a choice that was robbed from me. It's a gift ungiven, a thing I am incapable of.
And, in those tears, I accepted it. I accepted that the only birth experience now available to me is a clinical, surgical one. That, if I am lucky enough to beat the 'infertility' odds and conceive a child and carry it beyond the first trimester, then the TAC will provide me with the ability to carry to term- something I couldnt do without it- and that I will have a surgical delivery, attended by a team of obstetricians, and with Peter holding my hand. I accepted that there will never be a surprise due date (because I'll schedule a cesarean) and there will never be a natural, drug fee labor (because I'll have a spinal for the surgery).
The darkest night of the year gives way to the birth of the sun.
I've accepted it. I could argue that there isnt a choice but to accept what is, but it goes beyond that. The shadow of those feelings- of the stress of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, traumatic birth experiences, infant loss, hospital and NICU stays- that bleakness and pain that overshadowed the possibility of having more biological children... It was lifted when the sun poured through this morning.
It's fitting that the day is bright and warm, I think. A confirmation that I'm going to be okay. It snowed when Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander were born; it rained a bit on Bobby and Maya's birth day. Precipitation. Tears. Frozen tears... wet tears... But then the sun came out. I remember being angry that the sun could shine like there was no problem as I cradled Nicholas's body that next morning... I remember the sunlight streaming in through the living room window as I collapsed into tears on the floor when I came home after saying goodbye to Sophia's perfect little body for the last time at the funeral home before she was cremated... I remember the first walk I took in the warm sun when I came home after Alexander was born and the way I felt him when I hear the first bars of "Hear comes the sun..." on the radio... I remember the feel of the sun on my face when I stepped outside for the first time in months after Bobby and Maya were born, of how it felt when we took them for their neighborhood walk when they first came home. And today: how it felt, warm and bright and new, against my skin when I stepped outside. How it felt like I could finally breathe again. Like a weight was gone.
Birth Trauma is real. And while I'd never thought to apply the term to my own experiences or to seek out help, there are groups like Solice for Mothers and counselors available to help mothers heal. If only I'd looked... If only I'd not taken the "be happy for what you have" and the "be grateful that Bobby and Maya are okay" comments at face value and as ways to bury my own hurt without speaking out... If only I'd talked about the nightmares I had after my births, of the numbness that I felt when thinking about my pregnancies and the disassociation I would have so that I could put a positive spin on my experiences when talking to others, of the panic attacks that I've had since having the TAC 2 weeks ago and contemplating the possibility of actually getting pregnant and carrying a baby and delivering by a planned c-section (even though I've read about positive c-section experiences)...
Months ago, I talked about the possibility of having a tubal ligation and I even wrote the words "I loved being pregnant". I loved the idea of having a baby, no doubt, but I can finally accept that I didnt love the stress and the worry, that the time was a time of deep trauma in my life that I can only now full acknowledge. Later, I wrote about the Church not granting us a dispensation for a tubal and, in talking about pregnancy said "My body just wasnt meant to do this." What a slap for someone who believes in birth... What a sign of just how much I was hurting even though I wouldnt/couldnt/didnt admit it. It was clear in our life that we couldnt go on the way we were... The fear of getting pregnant and losing another child had sent our sex life into a nose dive and, while we were still intimate in nonphysical ways, we love each other and a healthy 'marital' relationship is a natural expression of that love. So, we consulted with Dr. Haney and I wrote about going to have the TAC placed, which I did, two and a half weeks ago. Since then, I havent really discussed sexuality or intimacy.
But, since coming home, it's been something out there... The first week was all about healing. Then there was that tentative 'first time', the whole 'does this still work the same way' type of thing. And nothing since. Not that I want this to turn into a soft-core porn ranting or anything. But I think the last week and a half, since that trial run, turned my hidden fears into overdrive. Fears of pregnancy, nightmares, panic attacks. Thankfully things that happened when the kids were sleeping... I've never been more grateful for them keeping me busy and my mind off of things I didnt want to think about. But recently, my CBE assignements kept bringing me back to the "Birth Is Natural" philosophy... and there'd be the weight on my heart... and the fear of intimacy because, God forbid,... Yes, I was going to say it, God forbid I get pregnant. Not because I didnt want more kids, but because, deep down, the idea of the pregnancy and delivery scared the shit out of me. Something else I couldnt admit to myself... The lies we tell ourselves- I'm an expert in those.
And we are back to the longest night of the year... And the tears and the fears and the release.
And a return to intimacy.
And I didnt worry that I was CD17 or that I might be ovulating or that I might get pregnant. I didnt think about it all. I didnt worry about the pregnancy or the surgery or anything else. I just was. And it was nice to feel the weightlessness that comes with just being. With just being with the person you love.
I cant say that there will be future pregnancies in my future; I cant say that there wont be either. Only biology can say that. But I'm not yet 32 and my cycle seems to have leveled off at about 32 days. I'm healthy now for the first time in a very long time. So there's no reason to say it's impossible. And my IC is cured, which puts me on equal footing with the next girl for a full term pregnancy. As far as delivery: 1/3 of women deliver by c-section, so I'm not exactly alone in that. Is it ideal? What I wanted? No. But it's mine; just like the grief and the pain were mine, the possibility and hope can be mine too.
So I'll take it. It doesnt mean there wont be rainy days or dark days ahead. It doesnt mean a life spared from grief or worry. It doesnt mean that I wont wonder about Nick, Sophie, and Alex, and who they might have grown up to be or that I wont miss them. It doesnt mean that I wont ever have a nightmare about a traumatic delivery. But, just like I drove a car again after the car accident that nearly killed Peter and I in 1999 (and brought its fair share of serious emotional trauma about even being in a car), I know that I can own myself... And come out on top of it.
Here comes the sun...