My mother died 7 years ago this past weekend. She never made it to 60. This is typical in my family. Dying young. By today’s standards anyway. Fire Ant’s genealogy is made up of generation after generation of upper middle class Irish-French people who never catch so much as a cold and live well into their 90s. My family tree is spattered with disease and premature death. We laugh in the face of natural causes. Ha! Heart attack, stroke, cancer, alcohol, and accidents. Yep, that is how we roll out of this world. To make it to the grave past the age of 65 is a thing to be celebrated.
I can recall one great grandmother who made it to 88. She was notoriously smart, stubborn as hell, swore like a sailor, observed the sabbath, and I am convinced the last 20 years of her life she sustained purely on bourbon spiked tea and hate. In other words, she is a family legend and I loved her. Widowed at the age of 26 (when my great grandfather died in a mining accident and when I say died I mean he was decapitated by a coal car while working a 12 hour shift swinging a pick at a black wall of combustible energy) she refused to remarry, said she already had her 8 youngins and knew how to plow the land he had left her so what did she need another man for? She did not take shit from anyone and had a long held tradition of smacking every single newborn in the family across the face to instill in them a respect for their ancestors and preparation for the hard world they were about to embark. I was the last grandchild to receive this ceremonial smack. My mother refused to allow her to smack my younger sister 3 years later. Now, I am not a proponent of the elderly assaulting infants, but will say that I am superiorly more respectful and resilient than my sister. Just saying.
The older I get, the closer I inch toward almost over instead of just starting, the more I feel an urgency in my actions. To live. To do something with the next chapter of my life. A life that I feel is already half way done. A mid-life crisis? Or just to damn old to worry about what others think or bother with those things called consequences?
I do not like summer. I get antsy. It peaks around the end of July (around the time of my mother’s death anniversary) and rides hard through until my birthday in early September. There is an eagerness that I cannot seem to settle. A thirst that goes unquenched. Bouts of wanderlust. I think I am the only person who suffers from cabin fever in summer heat. Fire Ant has asserted many times that she knows if I ever do the proverbial “pack a bag and walk out the door” that it will be in the month of August. She may have a point.
It does not really surprise the people who know me well that if any spontaneous thing is going to come out of my typically well thought out and logical operating mind that it will be in June, July, August, or September. Wake up and set off on a day long hike. Jump in a pool fully clothed. Get a tattoo. Book a 10 day Alaska trip. Drastically change hair color. Inseminate yourself with a syringe of sperm.
Yea, go ahead and reread that last one.
Done with the “what the hell(s)?” All good now? Ok.
I did. I did it without telling anyone. Not Fire Ant. Not Vita. Not my best friends. I did it alone. Like I have my whole life. I did it without expectations. I did it without hope. I did it with full acceptance that nothing good was going to come of it. I did it and I immediately detached. There was no two week wait because I wholly was not waiting for anything.
Then last week I started my period and I was devastated.
I was devastated and I had no idea why. Because I knew better. I knew better and I let myself be deceived by false enthusiasm and illusions of fertility. By two years straight of periods showing up regularly. I charted every single damn one. By the return of ovulation pain. Stinging me on the left side almost every month around the 16th day of my cycle. By the perfect egg white cervical mucus escaping my body. By all the newborn babies that have been popping up in my social media network the last 6 months. By older moms. By lesbian moms. By moms I knew had struggled for years. And there they were, those absolutely adorable perfectly made babies with teeny tiny toes and big exaggerated yawns.
I felt the now familiar signs of ovulation. Knew it was close. I told Fire Ant. She casually said, “I do not want to have another baby, but if you want one it will be ok, I guess. Your choice. Do what you want.” She is so indifferent about things that do not require her to make a decision and I love that about her. I texted one of my best friends. We joked about the word mittelschmerz. Nothing more. Nothing less. I knew how she felt. We had discussed it before. That maybe right now is not a good time to add a baby. She is so rational and I love that about her. I texted Vita and told her I knew I was ovulating. She excitedly responded with “DO IT! DO IT!!! DO IT!!!” You CAN do it!” No matter how many times that I told her that I really could not and should not. She is so optimistic and I love that about her.
The tightening arrived that evening. It lingered. Longer than usual. It was taunting me. I laid in bed and drifted in and out of sensibility. I bargained with the universe. Okay, here is the deal, you gave me a shitty childhood and I still came through, look dammit, I made something of myself. I grew up hearing the N* word daily. And f*g. And to hate. Everyone. Even myself. Now I love everyone. Every damn human I meet I give a fair opportunity of earning my respect, my love. Even, some rare days, myself. My childhood god was a vengeful one. I am raising our children with a swirl of Buddhism, Judaism and Jesus light, but the greatest of these is love. I had a mother who could not take care of herself let alone her children and a father who only found love at the bottom of a bottle and see I still became a good, no no no, a great parent. To these children that you did not even deem fit to let me birth. There they are, nestled firmly in my heart. They are the air I breath. They are my world. I have stood by their other mother unwavering, through thick and thin and love and hate and laughter and tears and it is not perfect but we are a family goddammit. Then you gave me a best friend, a real kindred spirit even though we are exact opposites, and planted her hundreds of miles away. Then you gave me this soulmate and prodded me on, go ahead, all the signs are there, do not let this pass you by and every single functioning synapses in my mind whispered a firm, “No” and every single vessel in my pumping heart screamed back “Yes!” You in love now? Yep. Perfect, how about we throw in a strong dose of in a different time and place maybe but nope not now. Fine universe, fine. I have taken it all and I am still here. I am still standing. Waiting for the next punch. I have proven myself. How about throwing this old loyal dog a bone…or a baby. I said a prayer. Even though God and I are not exactly good friends these days. I started to believe in myself. I started to believe in my body. I was high on hope. The next day, I closed my eyes and leapt. Into the unknown.
I landed in that familiar place called heartbreak. With no idea on what to do. No one to talk to about it. As no one knew. I numbly went into my OB/GYN specialist. Urine. Bloodwork. I knew what they would say. Dr. Cutie asked if I was ok to have a look. Check and see what was going on since my surgery to remove polyps a couple summers ago. She shook her head as she came up. Sympathetically said the same things she has said each and every time I come in there with a glimmer of baby dust in my eye. Too much scarring. Not enough lining. Where would an embryo even implant itself? You have such short periods. Hardly any bleeding at all. Hot flashes regularly. All the arrows point to peri-menopause not pregnancy viability. We will look at your numbers. See if they have changed any…since the abysmal ones of last year and the year before that. Then we talked about pizza. And carbs. And sex positions. And middle age. And she hugged me when I cried.
I kept my secret a few more days. I am good at that. Pretending nothing is wrong while my world falls apart. Perks of being a survivor. Until the overpowering urge to write about it overtook me. As always, these words write themselves. I heavily considered not to. Aware of the high possibility for judgment. Judgment for not telling anyone. Judgement for trying. Judgement for being impulsive. Judgement for potentially creating a tiny human that would be born into a less than harmonious home. Judgement that I can usually take…but not today. Not now. I am too defeated.
I was reminded of a blog post from 3 years ago. That I have included below. Before so much had happened. Strange how it still resonates all this time later. Even though marriage equality has since passed and I did finally win the right to adopt the children that we created. Although each day that goes by of the current presidential administration makes me fearful of marriage equality being repealed and subsequently all the adoptions that happened as a result of those marriages being annulled. Yes, it CAN happen. Even though I have been working on the other dark stuff in therapy. The post was reverted back to a private post when I relaunched this blog a couple of years ago. When I thought I had put all this TTCing dreaming to rest. When I thought I had moved on. When I thought the desire had faded. When I thought the trauma and shame and guilt that is wrapped up in all of this want was well hidden. Dormant. I was wrong. So wrong. Thank goodness for therapy. Thank goodness for this space. Thank goodness for those fellow warriors who understand.
August 6, 2014
After another painful episode on Thursday, that brought on more bleeding after a day and a half of none, I am finally feeling a bit better. Physically speaking. Waiting on the 2nd round of bloodwork results to come back. I have an appointment with a gyno specialist in the beginning of October so that we can track what my body decides to do throughout this “cycle” and if bleeding occurs again through the next month. Waiting is no fun. But, I understand the purpose. They are trying to figure out if my body is TRYING to do something typical but the hormone imbalance is causing cysts or yet another gradual indication of pre-menopause or maybe PCOS or who knows? My doctor does not speak with confidence at all when it comes to all this. Which is very uncharacteristic. I do not think she is very comfortable with the uncertainty either. Usually Dr. OR is right there with an explanation and proposed solution and now she is forced to offer up a sympathetic “We just have to wait and see…” and, as frustrating as it is, in the end, I know that she doing her best.
Speaking of doing their best, I need to put out there that Fire Ant really is being supportive and caring through all this. Blogging is a funny thing where we usually tend to identify and associate with the one blogging. There is SOME reason that we read THAT blog. There is a familiarity. No, Fire Ant is not perfect. Neither am I. We need to work on us. We both know this. I also think we both are to the point of maturity where we recognize, rather than run from, our flaws. Fire Ant works. A lot. In a very stressful field. She spends all day dealing with people in crisis. I doubt very seriously that she wants to come home to a wife and household in crisis as well. I know that comes off like an excuse. Truthfully, it is not. Just saying, I understand.
Now, whether or not Fire Ant understands what I go through daily as a stay at home mom to an active and headstrong toddler and a VERY active and sensory sensitive almost 5 year old…and the pets…and the house….and anything and everything that HAS to be done in order to make this place a functioning home with happy and entertained children, appointments remembered, tball uniform washed, summer camp clothes laid out, evening pjs ready to put on, and dinner set on the table literally 2 minutes before she walks in the door EVERY DAY, is another story. She says she gets it. But, really, if you NEVER do it, can you really ever grasp the entirety? Maybe. Maybe not.
Then there are weeks, like last week, that are very very rare. When Mama is not up to par. And things slip. I slip. It was an effort to just get out of bed. I did it. But I did not want to. My body did not want to. My mind did not want to. For the first time all season, I skipped Little Monster’s tball game. I am one of the coaches. Today when he came home from summer camp, he asked, “Why are you still wearing your pajamas?” It was 12:30 in the afternoon. Boo got her leg stuck in the rails of her crib. While trying to climb out. Again. I heard her crying but I did not go “right away” to check on her. Because Fire Ant had a late appointment. I had parented, alone, for 13 hours. And I just needed 5 fucking minutes to myself. To sit down. To be still. To not be responsible for any living thing. Not even myself. If only for a moment. Then Boo’s cries turned from annoyed fussing to “Get the fuck in here now!” and I went. To find her stuck. Upset. Confused. Tears rolling down her cheeks. I dislodged her leg, swooped her up, massive cuddles on the couch….as we both cried. What is 2 or 3 more things added to the “Yea we are going to be paying for our kids’ therapy one day” guilt jar.
And here is the thing, I am a great mom. I am really fucking good at it. Almost everyone who knows me or our kids have commented at one time or another that I make it “look easy” and a couple have even joked that I need to “tone down” the “supermom” stuff because it makes others look bad. Sometimes I even shock myself with the creative things I come up with for our kids to do. Or decorating their bedrooms. Or designing an awesome playroom. Or putting together the perfect birthday party. Or just being their Mama. I am the patient one. The silly one. The organized one. The “if it needs done, it will be done” one. But, with all that, comes strong feelings that I am the ONLY ONE doing it. The parenting. On average, Kris is home for roughly 10 hours of “awake” time parenting throughout the week. What she does over a span of 5 days, I do in just one day. From wake time to little people bedtime. And our kids, as much as I love their spirited little hearts, are not easy kids, at all. Balancing their very different needs is a chore in itself. I do not want parenthood to come off like a chore, but, experience has shown me, in the early years that is really what it is. Keep them alive. Feed them. Cloth them. Bath them. Clean up after them. For goodness sakes, entertain them. Because, let me tell ya, children + idleness = trouble with a big T. It is hard. The things we want, or need, to do right. Parenting. Marriage. Life.
Okay, so WHY would I want to add to ALL that with another child? That is where the soul searching that I talked about in the last post comes in at. Yea, I am not entirely sure how to give a definitive answer. It is complicated. It is also riddled with thoughts and emotions that I know will be judged. And that is the most complicated part of it all. I can come to this blog and say what I please. Unleash. Process. Move on. Some people comment. Some people do not. Almost all people are supportive. If they are not, they do not say one way or another. And that is fine. Perfect really. However, in real life, judgment comes quick and unforgiving. I am constantly worrying that certain people will discover this blog and somehow access its words and use them against me. That is why I am so asshole like meticulous about providing the password. When I hit publish, there is always a tiny voice in my head saying, “What if ______ sees that?” Takes IT out of context. Tells others. Who also take it out of context. Put their own spin on it. Manipulate it. Twist it. Blow it up. It happens. That 2 minutes that Boo spent with her leg stuck, can become 2 hours in just one word change. Reality.
Here is a big reality in my life. These kids, the ones I love, adore, care for, would die for….they are not LEGALLY mine. In anyway. Every single day that I wake up, I do so to the chance that Little Monster and Boo can be taken from me. By my inlaws, any of them. By Fire Ant. By the state. Fire Ant could be in an accident. Power of attorney, living will, or not, her parents are the next of kin. Not me. It would take ONE grandparent sympathetic or patriarchal minded judge that thinks all kids need a “daddy” and just like that, our kids would be my inlaws kids. Every argument or maybe we should separate for a while discussion in our marriage has the “she is the REAL mom and CAN take them away if she chooses” fear hanging over it. Not that I think Fire Ant ever would. But, the point is, she could. I know many people who have thought the same thing only to be proven wrong. Because as I have said, divorce is ugly. Best intentions don’t amount to shit when legalities are concerned. It is just what it is. Perplexing to those of you that live in equal states, with equal rights, and second parent adoptions, and both moms on the birth certificate, and fucking utopia or whatever, but here, it is real. I know we are not the only ones that face this either. I belong to a face.book group for Non-gestational parents. A wonderful group. Truthfully, my favorite group. Supportive. Informative. Welcoming. Also, sad. Because in the time I have been a member of this group there have been quite a few parents go through losing THEIR child(ren) because of this “legal stranger” reality.
Before it gets said, NO, moving is not really a viable option. We own our house. Have gainful income. We are a part of the community. We have family. We have friends. Aside from shitty ass backwards laws, we have a nice life here. For that matter, how can the fight for equality really push forward, making it better for later generations, if all the oppressed just up and move to where they are not oppressed? Who will fight for us if we do not fight for ourselves?
If I give birth, that child can never be taken from me. It is mine. Forever. I want to have that feeling with Little Monster and Boo. I don’t. I can’t. Harsh. I know. To clarify, we are talking laws, not love here. And no, as much as it gets touted around, love does not matter in this world, laws do. Cynical? Yes. I have to be. I live it.
Not to mention that any child I give birth to, has zero entitlement that our other children do. Like benefits and insurance from Fire Ant’s employment. I am not even permitted to share these benefits. No child legally mine would be able to share them either. I receive ObamaCare. There was really no other option. Aside from paying thousands of dollars a month for ALL of our private insurance on separate plans. The end result would be 2 children on high end insurance policies, and the last on government funded healthcare. Yes, I could get a job that provides insurance. Then it will be a situation of, I stayed home and cared for Little Monster and Boo until kindergarten and Child #3 will HAVE to spend their early years in daycare. Just so we can pay for the very rights and benefits that their older siblings were born into. How is that fair?
Adoption puts us in the same scenario. Fire Ant works. I do not. Do state foster and adoption agencies look and see a 2 parent/2 child family with one income that can fully support the other staying home with the children? No. To the state we live in, I am a single and childless woman with no income. So any adoption would have to be Fire Ant adopting. Fire Ant’s legal child. Fire Ant’s legal children. No matter that I am the one caring for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from birth on.
Get the picture? Call me selfish, but it would be nice to experience parenting as a legal parent. To remedy this, I worked up the courage to ask Fire Ant what she thought about signing over parental rights of one of the children to me. Sort of a level the playing field type of thing. One is legally yours, one is legally mine, but they are BOTH ours. That convo went instantly to “You would be taking one of MY kids” instead of what I thought would be a “I am GIVING the legal rights of one of our children to their other parent.” So, I shut that talk down quick. To avoid the hurt that I knew was coming. One definitive thing I have learned about people, their first response is how they really feel. Anything after that is just whitewashing and sugar coating. Not that it would’ve worked anyway. For the above reasons I have already put out there. Which ever one made legally mine would be getting the shaft end of the deal as far as rights and benefits. Added to the fact that then it would be a Sophie’s choice type of shit going down as to which child to go through the termination of parental rights/adoption process with. Reality.
Finally, there is the dark shit. The stuff I am not even sure is going to make it on the blog. I guess if reading this then I said fuck it and let it fly. I will lead off with TRIGGER WARNING: SENSITIVE CONTENT COMING.
I know a large part of my medical issues are related to the sexual abuse from my childhood. Not entirely. Well, okay, yes, the majority. Because it is not just the residual affects of the physical trauma that occurs when a 7 year old is raped by a grown man, it is the emotional affects that lead to other physical issues. Mental issues. Like anxiety. Stress. Hypervigilance. Low self-esteem. That all can lead to unhealthy choices. Drugs. Alcohol. Over eating. Under eating. Self-harm.
For a really long time, I hated myself. As it goes, I didn’t take care of myself. Environmental circumstances did not help things along. Poverty. It is real folks. No health care. No mental health care. Preventative care? Ha! A joke. Growing up, I instinctively knew from as young as the age of 5 (yes it blows my mind that we are talking about the same age Little Monster is now), that hospital visits were for broken bones and stitches. Emergencies. Check ups? Yea right. Maybe once every 5 years.
I vividly remember sitting on the exam table at the rural health clinic. I was 12 years old. Alone. My mother was in another room with my younger sister. It smelled of bleach. Not real disinfectant. Just plain old bleach. Mandatory check up for all kids entering junior high. Health department ordered. To see who was up to date on vaccinations that had not been checked since kindergarten enrollment. Three doctors and a nurse entered. I now know enough to know, it was one real doctor and the other two probably medical students. Putting in required community service hours with us lesser than folks before moving on to patients that could actually pay. The main guy gave me a look over. Pointing out things here and there to the two minions. The nurse looked over my records and rambled off 3 booster shots that I needed. Only 5 years past when they were due. They shook their heads. One snickered.
“Before we finish up, we are going to look at your girl parts, okay?” (Shit you not that is how he said it)
I started to shake. This is it. He is a doctor. He is going to look and KNOW. The things we have done. The things HE does. Down there. They are going to know. Others are going to know. HE is going to be mad. 6 years I had kept it secret. HE told me to. Repeatedly. I obeyed. Completely. Now we’ve been found out.
I laid back. I clenched my eyes. I held my breath. I felt him enter me. I did not flinch. I floated away. I waited. The apocalypse of our secret was raining down. Only it wasn’t. Just as quick as it started, it was over. The main guy looked at the nurse and said, “Give her a pamphlet on birth control after she gets her shots.” And he left. They left. I got my shots. I got my pamphlet. My mom glanced at it as we walked out. Rolled her eyes. “You don’t even have a boyfriend, why did they give you this?” I didn’t offer an answer. I knew she wasn’t waiting on one anyway.
Just another could have been the turning point in my life journey. There were many. So many. Seriously, I could write a fucking book. Or a really long ass blog that people would avoid like the plague because it violates the short and sweet with lots of happy pics blogland dogma we have going on here. Sigh. I digress.
What does all this deep dark shit have to do with having a child? Okay, try and follow the madness here. HE took my innocence. My safety. My ability to trust. For a while, my sanity. When the first set of doctors told me over 15 years ago (following a massive uterine hemorrhage that landed me in the hospital for a week receiving 3 blood transfusions and undergoing 2 surgeries) that my reproductive organs were greatly damaged and the chance of me ever conceiving or carrying a child to full term was nill, my first thought, add children to the list of things HE has taken from me.
Then we had Little Monster. And then Boo. And yes, they completely altered my view on what makes a parent. What makes a family. The ties that bind. They do not have to be biological. Legal. We are nothing like what I knew growing up. But, nonetheless, WE ARE A FAMILY. I am, first and foremost, without hesitation, their Mama.
Deep down though, I feel this urge. A strong and primal urge. To reclaim my body. From HIM. I want to look in a mirror and see MY body. Growing MY baby. MY baby’s vessel of life. Ownership. Breaking the chains. Using the body HE abused, others neglected, I have hated, and creating something with a purpose, with beauty, with love. Natural and pure. In the end, something that HE, and no one else, can take away from me.
That is WHY the desire is there. And why I now have to accept that at times the universe forsakes desire, no matter how strong, and the journey of childbirth is simply not a part of my fate. Reality.