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Milestones

8 Jun

I’ve noticed something about myself and about a lot of the women I follow in this community. We have these milestones that we set for ourselves. For some it’s the first IUI, or the first drug you take when you’re gearing up for IVF. For me right now – it’s the HSG.

I’ve got a lot riding on this HSG. I’ve been thinking about it. Fantasizing about outcomes, doing math in my head about guessed due dates according to the results. I’m a woman obsessed.

Each milestone seems to spark a new hope. A new plan. Before the HSG, before my third loss, my plan was “take care of yourself and get healthy and then you’ll have a healthy pregnancy.” Before the second loss, it was “just get pregnant again as fast as you can.” After my third loss it was “get those betas down to zero”.  Now it’s become, somehow “the HSG will lead to a healthy pregnancy”. Each time a new milestone passes, and each time that milestone doesn’t bring relief, I shatter just a little bit more.

I’d like to share a story with you guys. I’m going to keep it a bit vague because I don’t want to break a confidence, even though I know the woman who told me this story doesn’t read this blog – what she told me was for her –  a darkly hidden secret. One that she hasn’t shared with anyone in her life, but felt compelled to share with me, because, I think, she saw in me a sort of kindred spirit. Despite the fact that she is more than 30 years older than me, I think she saw a bit of herself in me and felt compelled to keep me from going down her path.

This woman gave birth to a special needs child in the 70’s, at a time when it was unheard of to keep a child with this type of disability in the home. She insisted that the child stay home with her, and spent the next several decades caring for the child in a completely dedicated way. She is a pioneer when it comes to that, and for as long as I’ve been old enough to appreciate it – I’ve viewed this woman as a hero.

For as long as I’ve known her she’s had a bit of a tough shell. For as long as I’ve known her she’s battled with her health and with her weight. I always kind of guessed this was her defense against the world because of the hardships she’d gone through with her child. Yesterday, a conversation with her threw this guess into sharp relief.

She knows about my losses, and everything that I’ve been going through. So, in a catch up conversation I told her about the HSG and my hopes for it. Then I brought up this blog, and why it was so important to me. I told her “I feel like I am surrounded by women who speak my language, who understand what I’m going through in a way that other people can’t.”

Something about this sentence made her break down her usual tough-as-nails facade. She confided in me about her feelings toward her son, and how it was to raise him.

Again – I am going to refrain from going into detail because her story was so intimate, so raw, that I would feel like I was committing a violation if I were to betray it. But her conclusion felt so relevant to me – so completely true, that I can’t keep it to myself.

This woman has spent the better part of 40 years thinking about milestones. Fighting for them for her child. And she confided in me that she used to set deadlines. That every time she and her child didn’t make the deadline to reach this or that milestone – well – she would break. She described it as “losing another piece of myself.”

This happened for decades. Until she finally decided to reframe her thinking. Until there was no other milestone except “My child will be happy.”

When this milestone was reframed and reached, she became a different woman. She softened. She was happier. Her life became more fulfilling. She took better care of herself. But like she told me – the physical damage was already done. The decades of shattered hopes had taken their toll on her body – and there was no turning back.

She looked at me, with my fluctuating weight, my smoking, my overeating – all things she knows all too well – and said “please don’t be like me.”

This hit home. I was crying by that point. I asked her – “How do I hope without it being shattered?”

She told me – stop measuring it by dates. Stop speculating. Stop setting deadlines. No matter how you get there – eventually, you will hold a child in your arms. That is what you hang on to. Don’t put your hope in a procedure or a date. Just know that you will be a mother. Don’t set a deadline. Just believe it will eventually come, no matter how it reaches you.”

Marriage 2.0 recently posted about how the knowledge that she will most likely never be able to get pregnant, and is now pursuing adoption, have been freeing for her on a lot of levels. I immediately thought about her post when my hero said what she said.

Why is it that there is relief in adoption? Because the milestones are done. Your path is clear. There are no more spikes of hope followed by heartbreak. You have a long road to go – but it’s laid out for you more clearly than it ever was before.

But – why does it have to be that way only when we reach a conclusion?

My hero also told me  that I won’t want to reach motherhood as a broken woman. That if I continue to set store by these milestones that is what may eventually happen. I already know too many stories of women who suffered for years battling infertility, and became depressed once they were finally mothers. Because they were tired. Because they were broken. Because there were no more milestones or imaginary deadlines to be had and they didn’t know how to live on the “other side.”

My hero didn’t tell me to stop fighting. She didn’t tell me to “just relax”. I think she knows better than most people how much that sort of advice can sting.

But – she told me to reframe my goals – to let go of the milestones – to keep my eye on the final outcome: “I will be a mother.”

And really – the outcome needs to be beyond that – “I will be a happy, healthy, whole mother to my child.”

My hero told me she didn’t expect me to make a change overnight. That’s impossible. But just to think about it. To let her hard-fought life lessons sink in for a bit, and see where they take me.

Which brings me back to the HSG. A clear milestone. One that will determine our path from here. There’s no getting around that.

But perhaps – perhaps I can try not to put all of my hopes in that one milestone. Perhaps I can just look at it as another step toward one outcome:

I don’t know how it will happen, and I don’t know when. But eventually, I will be a mother.

Now let’s see if I can work on the “happy, healthy, and whole” part of the equation.

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26 Responses to “Milestones”

  1. Bear June 8, 2011 at 20:12 #

    This blog brought tears to my eyes. It gives me hope. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  2. Elphaba June 8, 2011 at 20:20 #

    You’re becoming so deep lately 😉

    • Mo June 9, 2011 at 17:53 #

      What makes you say that? Is it the talk of de-shlonging? oh, right – there’s this thing. Ahh well. I guess the prospect of getting stuff shoved up my uterus will make a girl contemplative. :-p

      • Marie June 10, 2011 at 23:19 #

        Yeah, let’s bring this back to conversations about giant dicks and food.

  3. teejay June 8, 2011 at 21:17 #

    A very good point is made here today. I set my first milestone as my 30th birthday. My next milestone was my 35th birthday. And believe me, there were lots of other smaller milestones in between. Your friend makes a very good point. You have travelled a very tough road to get where you are right now. Your journey is ongoing so I think it’s very sound advice that your friend gave you. And I think that you will be just fine…you are focused and determined and those are both very good traits to have when fighting the IF monster…and just plain good traits to have, period.

    • Mo June 9, 2011 at 17:53 #

      thanks hon. *hugs*

  4. me0me June 8, 2011 at 21:36 #

    I finished “The Kid” by Dan Savage a couple of days ago. It’s a book about a gay male couple that goes into an open adoption process, open meaning that the birth mother chooses the couple that will adopt her baby in her third trimester and will get to know her child (the three will agree on how many visits per year etc).
    When I finished the book (and it was, by far, the funniest, most touching, and incredibly well written book I have read in oh, maybe ever), I was thinking to myself that I would really like you to read it but feel funny telling you that- as though my sending you to a book that centers on adoption is a sort of cosmic leaving room for failure, if you will? (@TinaFey123, if you’re reading, I apologize for ending that sentence with a question mark. I felt the need. I know you disapprove).
    This post really touches that for me, and very much reinforces my wish that you read this book. There’s something about this specific book, since it’s SO gay, that might be easier for you- because it’s really and truly not about you and therefore isn’t about your control freak admitting defeat of the next 3 or 10 or 178 next milestones before adoption comes up.
    Mind you, the whole subtext of ‘I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to learn more about/get friendly with Adoption isn’t because I have some cosmic feeling or thought or something that you’re ‘set for failure’. That’s not it at all. I do think that it would be a way to go towards what you’re saying here – set yourself up to be a good, healthy, whole mother, no matter what.
    Not only that, but if you start making peace with the idea of adoption as a means of reaching motherhood in your system, it is from THAT place that you really can appreciate how fortunate you are if you do have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to your own child, something that I wish for you with all my heart and am selfishly (cause I’ll love the little bugger too!) looking forward to myself.

    • Mo June 9, 2011 at 17:56 #

      hmmmm…. I get your point. I’ll think about it. Though I’m not sure I’m ready to go there mentally yet. Love you!

  5. Kelly June 8, 2011 at 22:21 #

    Thank you for this blog entry! It’s needed! I’ve given up on setting goals – I’m a case study for ‘doing everything youre supposed to to be normal and it blowing up in my face’.

  6. Advocat June 8, 2011 at 23:22 #

    This is an epic post. You have put into words something that we all struggle with without knowing how to break the cycle. Thank you. [Slow clap].

  7. Shadow of My Former Self June 8, 2011 at 23:45 #

    This post has really made an impact on me. I’m not sure if I can grasp it yet, or even begin to implement the message, but for now, just knowing I don’t want to be a broken woman by the end of my journey, is enough.

  8. zygotta June 9, 2011 at 01:12 #

    beautiful
    and you know what made a lot of sense for me?
    yeah, there is no control over getting pregnant, staying pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy.

    but there IS control over being healthy, happy and whole. Or so I think. It is not always easy, but it IS in your hands. And I know you can do it.

  9. Christina June 9, 2011 at 02:01 #

    Can some one pass the tissues, please? This mentor of yours is so right! Most people are trapped in making milestones, be it birthdays, treatments, what have you. It sounds so freeing to have your goal not be some date or event, but a state of mind or lifestyle. I definitely think this is something everyone should do, at least for some aspect of their life.

    Here is to happy, healthy and whole!! And a non-horrible HSG.

  10. chon June 9, 2011 at 03:07 #

    Oh man you just made me cry.

    It’s so hard to not have a milestone or a path or some direction to heal the pain that is in our hearts. I want to give myself over to the whole trying thing and be relaxed and happy and cheerful but I can’t and no matter how I try the only thing that gives me some balance is giving myself a milestone or a task or something to focus on so that I stop focussing inwardly on me and what is happening and not happening.

    I love that she is your hero and you have such a wonderful person in your life.

    You are going to kick this HSG thing. xx

  11. BleedingTulip June 9, 2011 at 03:41 #

    This is really beautiful. I know I daydream a lot about that day, someday, when I will hold me child, raise them and love them. I have dreams to take them camping and hiking, teach them cooking and sewing. This idea of being whole, and happy.

    Perhaps instead of seeing the HSG as a milestone, just see it as a point on the road the motherhood. From this test you will learn which path to go down. It’s not a milestone, just a fork in the road pointing you in the right direction.

    I’m so glad you have such a great, strong woman in your life.

    Now I just need to learn how to incorporate this post into my own life, my own overeating and weight issues.

  12. Libby June 9, 2011 at 04:09 #

    My daughter is adopted. Yet, I still haven’t been able to give up the hope I will one day carry a child. It has nothing to do with her, it has to do with the fact I still haven’t let what I perceive as a failure go. I know I need to.

    Thanks for this post. It gives me hope that I can, and let’s me know I need to do it sooner than later.

  13. C June 9, 2011 at 04:24 #

    This is such a lovely post. It’s so true, it’s such wonderful, perfect, necessary advice, and yet it is advice that is so very hard to follow while you’re in the suck. It’s hard to focus on the end result of “I will be a mother” when, quite frankly, that may not be true. But regardless, I get what she’s saying. And I agree with it. That, in and of itself, is a good goal/milestone to aspire to: “Today, I lived my life like an engaged human being.” It’s something I’ve been trying to do myself lately, and I like to think I’m getting better at it. I definitely have relapses. Well, actually, it’s mostly relapses with an occasional foray into normalcy. But that’s still progress.

  14. Kristin June 9, 2011 at 04:59 #

    What a truly phenomenal lesson to learn. Thank you for sharing it.

  15. Mrs. Brightside June 9, 2011 at 05:23 #

    Wow, this really hit me: “That every time she and her child didn’t make the deadline to reach this or that milestone – well – she would break. She described it as ‘losing another piece of myself.'” I worry about the lasting effects of this horrible journey, what of me will be lost forever. And I need to resist the notion that the only thing that will “fix” or heal it is a successful pregnancy, because that seems so unsure right now.

    On my good healthy days I try to focus on “I will be happy.” Almost like a defiant rebellious middle finger to the universe, like F*** You, RPL, you will NOT win.

    I’m much better off when I ignore the calendar, ignore how far away a due date would be if I were to even immediately be pregnant. Every once in a while I look up and get knocked on my ass by a milestone, but I try.

    All good lessons today, lady. Thank you for sharing.

  16. jjiraffe June 9, 2011 at 06:08 #

    Wow: fascinating post. I always thought once I crossed the finish line, everything would be whole again, but now (5 + years after beginning TTC) I realize just how much the struggle cost my health. I seem to need bad food (sugar, caffeine, refined flour) more than others. There are missing parts of my heart that I worry will never return. My confidence is gone, maybe forever. I am a very grateful parent, that’s the upside.

    I hope my experience is not the norm. And I’m glad you’re thinking of these issues ahead of time.

  17. genevieve June 9, 2011 at 08:05 #

    What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing, and best of luck to you in your journey to motherhood.

  18. Mo June 9, 2011 at 18:01 #

    Thanks ladies for your awesome comments! xoxo

  19. eggsinarow June 9, 2011 at 23:06 #

    What a beautiful post. Thank you.

  20. marriage20 June 10, 2011 at 23:16 #

    Great post, Mo! And thanks so much for the shout out. I think your friend is right–you do have to stop putting yourself on a schedule. In my case, I made peace with possibly never getting pregnant again and possibly never knowing why first. Then, we started the adoption process and I got my diagnosis. I don’t think I would have felt as good about adoption and the diagnosis if I hadn’t let go of some control ahead of time.

    It’s tough, and I don’t really know how it happened, I just know that you can’t rush grief, and I had to go through mine in my own time, as do all of us. I know you’ll find your peace. Huge hugs.

  21. Kristen June 12, 2011 at 16:32 #

    This is such an incredible post…just what I needed to hear today. Wow.
    xoxo

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. You can’t rush grief « Marriage 2.0 - June 11, 2011

    […] to Mo for such a thought-provoking post on grief and milestones. And I’m not saying it’s thought-provoking just because she […]

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