Friday, March 22, 2013

The Thing. Or: where I was.

There is a passage in Time Traveler's Wife that I love. It says,"As I slide into sleep Clare says 'I feel like we're at the top of a roller coaster.' but then I am asleep and I forget to ask her, in the morning, what she means."

In October, time stood still. The days were long. I ran more miles that month than I ever have in my life. The weather was gorgeous. My second Halloween Half Marathon was the culminating event of the month for me. Blissful days, happy days, timeless days. I didn't know it, but looking back, we were on the top of a roller coaster. For a number of years, we had coasted up up up - jobs and moving and blessing after blessing coasted along with us.

But as we know, what goes up must come down. On the bus to the Halloween Half Marathon, Amy and I sat tucked together amongst runners and running paraphernalia. We traveled up the canyon toward the starting line, talking of what we often talk about: my hope for another baby. As the bus turned onto the steep mountain road we would soon run down, I told her that I was close to letting my hopes slip away. My kids were 11 and 7. So many years had passed - a new baby would grow up an only child, something I didn't want. I was over 37 - even if I got pregnant the next day, I would still be 38 before another baby could be born. And I knew Shane was ready to be done - I was just holding on to the hope that one day, he would want another one the same way I did and we could move forward together with the same desire and get pregnant again. I told her it was slipping away, and that I was almost ready to accept it.

You see,  me and Shane had spent almost 8 years in a head-to-head conflict over another child. I knew he didn't want another one and I was not willing to have a child without him wanting as much as I did. But from the moment that I had Ben I knew I wanted to have one more. I wanted to be pregnant again and go through labor. I wanted a girl to round out our family. I guess I shouldn't say conflict - we weren't fighting about a baby - it was more of a running joke - a banter of comments back and forth over the years that did nothing to change either of our minds. I couldn't deal with true conflict - so I instead just put it off put it off put it off always hoping.

The topic of a baby was like a dual dog collar, wrapped around each of our necks. A short leash chained us to that spot. No matter how hard we pulled against it, trying to stand up straight, trying to move out of that place, my hope kept us tethered to the ground. We could walk in circles around our bonds but that got us nowhere. Sitting down wasn't an option - any slack in the chain would have caused us to talk about the situation - which was something I avoided at all costs. Most of the time we pretended it wasn't there, holding steady, neither standing nor sitting, moving or deciding, just circling ourselves and our bonds and waiting for the other to find the key that would release us, like a chained up pittbull on a too-short leash.

Then suddenly, the day after the race the topic of a baby came up and we were catapulted into making the decision, once and for all. It came out of this month of perfection, this time-standing-still moment. Our moment at the top of the roller coaster was over - we were free falling into a searingly painful mutual decision that ultimately took us weeks to make, and then, for me, months to come to terms with.

Did you see Lincoln? That moment in the bedroom when Sally Field is kneeeling in front of Daniel Day Lewis begging him to notice her, to show some emotion, to acknowledge her grief over losing their son. He says to her that just because he didn't show it doesn't mean that it didn't hurt him. There were many, many moments where my marriage had just this sort of disconnect. I kept going over the events that led to our decision but my stake in the decision wasn't in firm ground. I hated the conflict and I hated the loss of hope and I hated that it was making us unhappy but I was stuck in a moment that I couldn't get out of (did you just start singing the U2 song?) In the end, it took us calmly sitting in the kitchen one Thursday night in February for a 15-minute conversation two months after we had decided not to have another baby, rehashing every step we took to making that decision, and then saying together that we weren't going to have another baby. It was the same decision we had made in the car in November, but it had a completely different feel and I had a completely different commitment and stake in the decision.  We made it, even though we knew it hurt both of us. Even though we knew one of us was not getting what they wanted and one of us was. Even though even though even though.

Because really, in the end, even if I had had another baby, I wouldn't have what I my heart wants. A daughter just a few years behind her older brothers. A child who (I wish) was now 4-7 years old, potty trained, with things like croup and roseola and teething and diapers in the past. She would hold my hand and walk with me while the boys and their dad run ahead, farting and laughing and boying ahead of us. Someone who likes pink and plays with dolls and does girl things that I relate to. Someone who holds her father's and brothers' heart in her hands with every smile and cry and blink of her eye.

I realize that is a dream. There is nothing that says that if I had another child, it would be a girl. My mom had one brother. My dad had two brothers. Shane's mom has two brothers and his dad was one of 5 boys. I have one cousin who has 4 daughters, but the rest of my cousins have had more boys than girls. Amy has one daughter. Shane's sister has one daughter and two sons. There seems to be a boy streak that is powerful. My third child would have likely been a beloved blond-haired, blue-eyed boy, just like his brothers. And to have had a child at any time in the past without both of us being in the same place would have been unimaginable for me. I would have gotten what I wanted, but I don't know if it would have made me happy in the end.

Throughout the time that we were deciding (November-January) I was following a challenge that I was given during October's stake conference: to read the Book of Mormon three times in three months. Even as I roll my eyes internally while writing this sentence, I know that my 18 pages a day were a saving grace during this time. Almost as if God's timing was impeccable: He gave me the challenge during beautiful October, when I was still strong, knowing it would be a lifesaver to get me through what He had planned for the coming months. I had a little bit of divine assistance each day. There is a part of me that wonders if that challenge came down just for me. (Geek note: I was super excited at the end of the challenge when my bishop asked me to speak in church about my experience. It was the easiest talk I've ever written. I loved that it so perfectly book-ended our struggle. October: challenge given. November/December/January: reading/deciding/coping. February: Final decision/talk in church. I do love a tidy ending.)

During this time, I learned more about myself than I have ever known. I said things that I never thought I could or would say. I read books and talked to a counselor and had a blessing and wrote in my journal and in my Book of Mormon and in blog posts that I would never publish. I'm pretty sure that all the emotional strain was part of what caused my back injury - a physical reaction to internal strife. (It didn't help the situation, FYI. Not being able to run was an additional burden. But, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.)

I am glad I am on this side of the roller coaster. I look back on those days and the pain in them is exquisite. They are cold and bleak and I think to myself: it's no wonder it was the coldest January on record. But in the end, we found the key to free ourselves. We are no longer circling our hopes, chained together in a dance of sarcasm and want and hurt and avoidance. We used our God-given agency and made a choice. It wasn't a choice that made either of us completely happy but it was one that we can both live with and move on in our lives with.

I wish this post was more polished but I've had it in my heart for a long time and I finally just had to sit down and write it all out and get it out. I'm okay. One day during it all, Amy said that "hope isn't the thing with feathers - it's the thing with chains." It's true. Endlessly wanting is a special type of hell. I still wish - don't we all wish for something - but I am ready to go on. I love what I have - my husband, my kids, my job, my life - and I am grateful.

Thank you, my wonderful friends, for sticking with me through this post. I love you and I wanted to share this with you. I'm not afraid to admit where I've been and what I've gone through. We all take our turn on the downside of the roller coaster, after all.


Amy Sorensen said...

You just made me cry SO HARD. Because even when you yank the chain out of the ground and unbuckle the collar...the bruises are still there. I confess that I wanted this to turn out differently both for you AND for *me*. Is that weird? I wanted to make one more baby blanket for you. Or perhaps a photo album. I wanted to come to the hospital and hold the baby. I wanted one more chance for a niece or a nephew to be attached to me.

All of which I'm saying so you know you're not alone. She was real for me too. And so you also know it's OK if you still feel sad about it sometimes. And also so you know how impressed I am with the peace you made. Look at you, being all grown up & stuff!


Britt said...

Oh, Becky! I don't have anything profound to say, but I am very fond of you and I always, ALWAYS wish you the best!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I liked what Amy said about hope is the thing with chains. It is so true. Sometimes when you hope or wish for something so bad you become a prisoner. I hope your discussion has brought you peace. Love you!

Isabel said...

Becky...reading this is like looking inside my own heart. I understand the farting boys and the desire for an ally. Just yesterday in church I watched the little girl in front of us (who is 2 weeks younger then my youngest) play with her little dolls. I actually asked her if I could see one because I so want toys like that around.

But, like you, I'm pretty sure if I did have another one it would be a boy.

Thanks for opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings. And for sharing your talk with me. I enjoyed reading it.

heidikins said...

This is so beautiful, and heartbreaking, and, in it's own way, hopeful. Not necessarily in the same way one would hope for a child, but hopeful in the way that there are ways around our struggles, ways through them, and sometimes they take a long while to sort out, and sometimes (most of the time) there is a lot of real pain involved, emotionally, mentally, physically. But, the hope is that sometime the cart will hit the top and the track will slope back down.

So much love,

Pam said...

I came here via Amy's blog. This post has special meaning for me as I was in your shoes 10 years ago. I was the same age as you with a seven year old son. I desired a little girl and my husband was turning 40 and really did not want another baby by then. I went through a grieving process. It's hard. But you do learn to accept it and move on. I still have days where I regret not having another baby. But then there are days where I can't imagine having a 9-10 year old at my age. I wish you nothing but the very best. (((Hugs)))

Lucy said...

Ouch. That was heartfully written and done in a way where your loss and sadness and frustration and acceptance were all clearly felt. I'm sorry that you've had that chain for so long. I'm sorry and glad that it no longer keeps you where you were. You have a stunning family and your boys are fortunate to call you mother.

Melanie said...

It makes me so sad that you had to go through those hard months. And that you've been hurting over this for much longer. I completely understand. It's amazing how many women can relate!

I'm so glad you were able to write about it and put it out there for all of us who love you to share your sorrow. Lucy's right on when she says your boys are so lucky to have you for a mom! You're such an amazing person! I wish I could have been there for your talk!

Ginger said...

The daughter we dreamed of since we were a kid is real. There is a real mourning when we lose her, the daughter we always knew we would have. With mourning comes acceptance and closure and we really can and do move on. You know this but also know you are not alone. I hear it is fun to buy sparkly things for grand babies. :)